By Annie Temple Before I had kids of my own, I noticed something about my colleagues kids. And not just other strippers, but my friends in the escort business too. By and large, their kids were kind, considerate, helpful, and seemed to be incredibly well-adjusted as teenagers.
Up till that point, I believed that all teenagers were a headache to their parents. Teens and strife went hand-in-hand. No parent could avoid the dreaded teen years. They were a fact of life.
Apparently, I was wrong. In front of my face, were several examples of chill teens raised by sex industry workers.
Was there a correlation? How did this happen?
Social wisdom would have us believe that sex industry workers are terrible parents who routinely jeopardize their childrens’ safety by bringing “perverts” around, leaving them to raise themselves, and setting an example of depravity.
Social wisdom is INCORRECT.
Children of sex workers that I know are more likely to be level-headed, socially aware, critical thinkers. Rather than putting their parents through a lot of grief, they are strong allies of their parents. Gutsy, confident, young people who speak their minds and care about others.
I was impressed. I made it a hobby to notice similarities in parenting styles among the parents of these stellar teens. I asked myself, what about their environment? How and why would their environment differ from a typical square parented home?
As a youth, I was far from chill. I fought daily with my mother, felt depressed and alone a lot of the time, and made bad decisions around boys and money. I wanted to learn how my colleagues had raised their kids so I could apply their techniques when I raised children of my own, in hopes that my kids wouldn’t have the same experiences I had.
I am happy to report that the following tricks are tried and true. I’ve built my parenting styles around the ones listed below and my kids are as chill as you can get.
In Real-Time: Whore Stigma and Motherhood
Ironically, while I was writing this article, I posted this Facebook status (seen below) and experienced the same stigma I am trying to dispel.
A few hours after posting, while I made dinner for my family, my 15-year-old daughter appeared in the kitchen. “Check your Facebook, Mom,” she said. “I hope you’re not mad but I told off someone on your page because she insulted you.” The woman who “insulted me” posted this:
My daughter, upon seeing the above post, jumped to my defense providing a perfect example of how a sex industry worker (me) has raised a confident, socially-aware teen who defends rather than attacks her mom. I couldn’t be more proud. Here is my daughter’s response:
The proof is in the pudding. The following ten reasons sex industry workers are great parents could be said of parents with square jobs too. However, I rarely see square parents using these techniques.
Any parent can follow these tips to build better relationships with their children. Certainly, not all sex industry workers are terrific parents, but most of them truly are. And for good reason, as you will see below.
Ten Reasons Sex Workers Are Great Parents
#10. We have more money.
Like everyone who works, sex industry workers do it for the money. The money isn’t always great but it’s better than most of us would earn at other jobs. And sometimes it truly is great.
Because we are self-employed, we can choose to work more when needed to pay for extra curricular activities, financially support our kids passions, keep them in food and clothes, and manage extra costs as they crop up for field trips, bus passes, and other typical costs.
Single parents who rely on social assistance live in the worst kind of poverty you can imagine. Social assistance does not cover the most minimal, essential requirements – such as healthy food and weather-appropriate clothing.
Similarly, working a full-time job at $25/hour, after paying for childcare, travel costs (transit, parking, gas, car insurance), and other work-related costs such as business-wear is equivalent to being on social assistance…except that you don’t get to raise your own kids.
The financial rewards of sex work are appreciated by all members of the family.
#9. We have more time.
Because we make more money in less hours, we have more time for our kids. Time that other parents spend catching up on housework or winding down from work, we can spend helping with homework, playing games, going shopping, and otherwise being present in our children’s lives.
Being self-employed also allows us to schedule work around our kids needs. For instance, we can choose to work only when the kids are at school, or we can work nights while our spouses work days eliminating the need for childcare.
If our kids have special needs, we can work around their appointments. We can choose to work during a time that would be least stressful for our children. For instance, we could make sure we’re home every night to put our kids to bed or make sure we’re home every morning to see our kids off to school.
Sex worker parents have the gift of more time with their kids.
#8. We respect boundaries.
If there’s one thing that sex workers know about, it’s boundaries. A distinct part of our work is knowing our boundaries and enforcing them.
We have to set our price, lay down the rules of engagement, explicitly state our guidelines, and penalize those who attempt to cross our boundaries.
Because our work is sexualized, the crossing of boundaries can get very personal depending on the infraction.
Sex industry work sensitizes us to the importance of self-determination. We demand our right to provide sexual services, while also demanding our right to set boundaries.
We also recognize that boundaries differ from person to person. Our children are persons. They also have boundaries, whether they are physical, verbal, or mental. They have a right to privacy. They have a right to stand up for themselves.
In fact, as sex industry workers who are also parents, we most definitely have taught our children to advocate for themselves.
It’s a wonderful skill we acquire, to set and respect boundaries, and we want to make good and damn sure our children are also skilled at standing up for their rights.
#7. We are compassionate and non-judgmental.
Of course we are! We know firsthand what it is like to be stigmatized, criminalized, and discriminated against.
For sex industry workers, stigma is a fact of life. Even so, it still astonishes me after spending a lot of time among colleagues to be faced with standard social dogma.
It’s easy to forget we are looked down upon so intensely when we’ve been among our people.
I shouldn’t be surprised when stigma slaps me in the face again and again. Yet, I am surprised. Every time. Why am I surprised? Because I am a whole lot of things…really great, wonderful things.
I am the same as everyone else except for what I do for work and some of the cultural traits that go along with it (like speaking my mind).
Being the subject of deeply entrenched stigma and discrimination enables us to recognize it when it’s directed at others.
When most parents simply jump on the judgmental bandwagon, sex industry workers often do the opposite. We are more likely to express concern for the person who is being judged. We might even defend them.
What we are teaching our children in these moments is that we shouldn’t make assumptions or generalizations. Too many false assumptions and generalizations have been made about us. We don’t want to fall into the same judgmental patterns that have hurt us.
Through our example and our defense of others who may be deemed “deviant,” our children learn that it is not their place to judge. And when it comes down to it, they know that we won’t judge them either.
#6. We set an entrepreneurial example.
One of the most common personality traits among sex industry workers is the entrepreneurial spirit.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit means being a self-driven, risk-taking, resourceful, creative, business owner.
I find there are two kinds of workers in our world. People who are happier in a secure job with a dependable paycheque and people who prefer to work for themselves.
Sex industry workers, for the most part, prefer to work for ourselves. Otherwise, we might not have gotten into the industry in the first place.
I dare say that most sex industry workers aren’t very good with authority figures. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
I have a desire to create my own destiny. Putting up with condescending, controlling, or otherwise micro-managing managers is not part of the destiny I want to create.
You might think that a parent who sets the example of going to a good job day-in and day-out who receives a dependable paycheque and says things like “In the real world, you just have to work with horrible people sometimes, so get used to it,” is a better role model for children than I am.
But I disagree. I believe that having such a defeatist attitude limits your child. In my adult life, I have not had to just “get used to” working with horrible people. Hell no! If I am working with horrible people, I am finding another job or dumping that person as a client or doing whatever I have to do to stop working with horrible people.
We all tell our kids, “you can do anything you want to do.” Telling them they have no choice in certain matters, like putting up with horrible co-workers, is sending mixed messages.
Conversely, setting an entrepreneurial example inspires children to shoot for the stars.
When our children become adults and run into a financial crisis, they won’t cry in their beers while they look for new jobs. Our children will build their own businesses while they look for new jobs. The new jobs might even be turned down if their businesses are thriving.
I’m not saying a dependable job isn’t a wonderful thing, and I know many sex industry workers who’ve found their places in rewarding square jobs post retirement (myself included).
I’m saying that entrepreneurs live the philosophy of building your dreams, which is a wonderful example for children to have. And sex workers are entrepreneurs.
#5. We have a different definition of success.
When most people think of success, they think of prestige, financial wealth, and political power. But sex workers know that success is not measured by how high you are on the social ladder.
After all, sex workers are “lower classed” citizens by most social standards due to stigma and criminalization. But we are living a life we have created for ourselves – one that makes us happy.
In the sex industry, we may have really hit the big-time. We might even meet some of those more square ideals of success among our own people.
The thing is, we had to piss a lot of people off to get here. It’s not fun having your parents disown you or your best friend break up with you.
Being a sex worker opens us up to a lot of criticism from our loved ones on top of all the discrimination we experience from strangers.
Many people wouldn’t be able to go against their families.
Unsurprisingly, most sex workers don’t tell their parents what they do for a living. But they still do it. Amidst the fabrications and double-life, sex industry workers still choose this work.
So why do we choose it?
I will tell you why we choose it. It is because our definition of success is “happiness.”
Oh sure, sex work is a job and I promise it’s not always fun and wonderful. But what we get out of our work is what makes us happy.
Having learned from experience that sometimes you need to break from the “road most travelled” to find happiness, we are much more likely to support our children in their pursuits.
We are not under the illusion that you must graduate from highschool and earn a university degree to be successful. Most of us have those degrees yet did not find success through them.
No, success is not about academics or sports. It is about an individual’s passions, interests, and talents.
If stripping was the best job I ever had and I went against everyone to do it, then who am I to stand in the way of my child’s happiness when he chooses something I don’t approve of?
Sex workers know this to be true: You don’t have to be accepted to be happy. But it’s nice to be accepted too. (Just ask our kids.)
#4. We can laugh at life’s little blips.
Shit happens. If I became devastated by every little blip I experienced in the sex industry – like the time I went on stage without doing a cookie check to learn later that I had a massive piece of toilet paper stuck to my crotch (and how it glowed brightly under black lights) or the time I banged my head on a speaker – I would have to hide away for an eternity.
Sex work is intimate. It is personal. Ass zits and cellulite are there for the world to see when you’re on stage.
Every sex worker I know has stories of “life’s little blips” when things didn’t go according to plan. Invariably, they are the funniest stories we have and we can only share them with each other because square folks just don’t get it.
First, they don’t know how we can stand being naked in front of other people, then they don’t know how we can laugh off our most human moments, which cannot be avoided when working in the sex industry.
But laugh them off we can. And we do. Sex workers know that you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself. My first time up on stage, no one showed me how to shave… And the rest is herstory, very funny herstory.
So, when our kids hit those inevitable bumps in the road, we can teach them how to deal with devastation…or we could laugh it off as one of “life’s little blips.”
When choosing between taking things too seriously or too lightly, go with lightly. It will bring more laughter into your life. Your children’s laughter. A most beautiful sound, I know.
#3. We tell it like it is.
If you want something sugar-coated, don’t ask a sex industry worker. We are recipients of brutal honesty and we give it as good as we get it.
A sex industry worker will tell you if your clothes make you look fat. A sex industry worker will tell you if you have something in your teeth, or toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or sequins missing on your underwear.
Want an honest opinion? Ask a sex industry worker.
I actually think this is one of the reasons men see sex workers. It must be refreshing to know exactly what a person is thinking because we tell you straight out.
We will tell you straight out that we did not invite you to sit down and you’d better move along before we do something about it. We will also tell you straight out how to be a good lover, that is, if you’ve asked and we feel moved to share it with you.
Our candid way of speaking doesn’t end at “the strip club doors” (or other sex industry workspace). It is a part of our culture, and I think that most of us were this way before we even got into the industry. It takes an open kind of person to do this work.
Consequently, when it comes to our children, we are likewise candid.
There’s no beating around the bush. The penis goes into the vagina but the outer part is the labia; other girls only call you a slut because they’re jealous; and don’t sit in front of that computer too long or you’ll get pudgy and pale.
My kids appreciate the direct approach. They don’t always want me to talk so openly about sex. But too bad for them! “Sex” is not a dirty word. I repeated the word “sex” until I’d undone the conditioning my kids received in our sexually repressed society.
The result is that my children ask me questions I would never have asked my parents.
They share their ups and downs with me, never fearing that I will judge or criticize them. This is the relationship I wanted to build and being a sex industry worker prepared me for it.
Whatever the values of individual sex workers, you can be sure they’ve passed them onto their children. We tell them what’s up, and in return, they tell us what’s up. The fun part is when we are getting schooled by them.
#2. We are excellent communicators.
Not only are we charismatic, endearing, and incredible conversationalists, but we are also very good at getting our message across. Only sex workers can tell a person to “go fuck yourself” in such a way that the person feels honoured as he walks away.
Our communication abilities don’t get left at work. We bring them home. We use our skills to make our kids feel listened to, valued, and understood while also “getting” why we cannot always give them what they want.
We are also very good at de-escalating conflict. Part of being great at communication is recognizing subtle changes in a person’s body language or tone of voice. Being aware of moments of sensitivity enables us to “talk them down” and avoid potential blowouts with co-workers and clients. Likewise with our children.
Being in the sex work business makes no subject taboo. Kids learn pretty quickly what they can and can’t talk about around their parents. If their parents are sex workers, they learn that there is nothing they can’t talk about around their parents.
Knowing that anything goes conversation-wise gives kids permission to talk about whatever pops into their heads. When we talk to our kids about the things that are on their minds, we offer them context. They will refer to this context when faced with applicable situations in the future.
Finally, being a sex worker and having either imagined or experienced explaining what we do for a living to our parents, we know what it’s like to fear the telling of it. When our children come to us with “unpleasant” news, we do not freak out. We don’t want them to fear talking to us. Our kids know they can talk to us about anything.
Communication is key in any relationship and sex workers kick ass at communicating.
#1. We give unconditional love.
If you’ve ever been rejected by a parent, you know what unconditional love really is.
One thing it is not is rejection.
Sex workers I’ve talked to about this agree with me that they would never want their child to feel the way we felt when our parents rejected us for becoming sex workers.
I knew my mom would be upset but I held onto a memory from childhood when my mother told me that she would love me forever no matter what. Even if I was a murderer? I asked. “I would visit you every day in jail,” she replied.
Apparently being a murderer is better than being a sex industry worker.
When my mom learned I was a stripper, she yelled at me, cried at me, accused me of doing it to hurt her, threw in my face the most painful moments of my life, and finished with, “I don’t know you anymore.”
And that was that. She didn’t know me anymore. She didn’t call. She didn’t visit.
She would speak civilly to me when I called her, but she made no effort to keep me in her life. If I was going to run a business that she didn’t approve of, then I was as good as dead to her. Worse, because she would have mourned me had I died.
That was not a little blip in my life. I was devastated. Almost 20 years later, I can still conjure up those old feelings of betrayal.
My mother and I reconciled and now she says she is proud of my sex industry activism, but the pain will never truly go away. I will never truly trust my mother’s love ever again.
I knew when I became pregnant with my first child that my number one priority would be to make sure she never felt rejected by me in her life. Never. No matter what.
Because you know what? People make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes aren’t even mistakes, they are just perceived as mistakes by those doing the judging.
Becoming a stripper was not a mistake for me. My life has been positively enriched by the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met in the sex industry. Some are friendships that will last a lifetime.
I’m not perfect. Although stripping was not a mistake, I do make mistakes. My children have said to me in moments of despair, “I feel like you don’t love me.”
Those words are like pushing a button in my soul. I want my children to know without a doubt that my love is unconditional.
Those words light a fire under my ass to give my love more abundantly, apologize for actions that would make them feel that way, and remind them that my feelings for them will never change. No matter what they do in life. Murderer or stripper.
Sex industry workers have learned what unconditional love is.
It is love that embraces you even when you’ve let your loved ones down. It is love that lets you know that you can choose your own path, make your own mistakes, and shake the very foundations on which your relationship is built – and it will still be there, strong as ever, embracing and accepting you.
I’ve probably missed some other fabulous reasons why sex industry workers are great parents and I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments below. But mainly, I want to leave you with this:
The whore stigma that casts sex industry workers as bad parents is an intensely false and deeply damaging stigma that impacts sex industry workers and their children to their detriment.
We know there is much to be feared by others knowing what we do.
Abusive spouses win custody cases. Narrow-minded parents cancel playdates. Children are apprehended by social services. And all for the simple reason that our work involves nudity and for some of us, touching.
Nurses’ jobs involve nudity and touching, but they are not assumed because of their jobs to be bad parents.
Some people would never know what it’s like to be touched if it wasn’t for sex industry workers.
Some people would not be able to feed their children if not for sex industry jobs.
So you see…Sex work is work. Our business is your pleasure. We want rights, not rescue. And all the other slogans we’ve created to educate the masses.
And I’d like to add one more because #BeingASexWorkerTaughtMe that…
Sex industry workers make GREAT PARENTS.
(I can provide references, but they’re under-age.)