I'm Not A Slut; I'm A Whore - The Reykjavik Grapevine

I’m Not A Slut; I’m A Whore

I’m Not A Slut; I’m A Whore

Published September 8, 2016

Photos by
Auður Lóa Guðnadóttir

We have made huge progress with slut-shaming. Movements such as Slutwalk Iceland are making sure of this, allowing women and other non-binary people to discuss our sex lives and sexualities like men have done for many years, without being degraded and told we’re easy and dirty. But Iceland still has a horrific and frankly shameful whorephobia problem, both in the media representation of sex work, and in society at large.

We Icelanders pride ourselves on being a great country for women. But as soon as you add money into the mix of this sexual liberation, we become dirty and easy and we should be ashamed of ourselves, again.

The most aggressive altercations I have had in Iceland in relation to my work have involved “feminists” who tell me me over and over that my work is rape, that I just don’t understand it, that I’m “too traumatised” to realise what is happening and that by “selling” my body I’m moving women’s rights back decades.

I understand that it is a loaded topic, especially due to the confusion in this country between sex work and sex trafficking, but none of the people who have said these things to me have experience of sex work, all they’ve done is read articles and make assumptions. I believe strongly that no one has a right to shame me or my fellow workers for our work choices.

Choice

I, like many people, choose to do sex work because it suits my needs. I chose it because I have severe anxiety as well as other mental health issues, which makes the 9-to-5 work market inaccessible to me, and I am not eligible for benefits. Camming from my bed as well as flexible in-call hours works incredibly well for me, so I made a conscious choice between sex work and debt—a choice most working-class people who have rent and bills to pay will recognise and understand. Maybe their choice is not about sex work, though. It could be between severe debt and cleaning, café work, or long underpaid shifts in the tourist industry.

Sex work is not for everyone, I understand and respect that, but it is very frustrating to have your agency completely taken away from you by the people you thought would be the first to express solidarity with you.

Clients

An issue that comes up time and again for sex workers is the misconception that clients are the worst part of any sex worker’s job.

Yes, clients can be rude, entitled, and disrespectful and in some cases violent and deadly—I am not going to hide this, but those terrifying and negative aspects are hugely aided by the Swedish Model (which criminalises the buying, rather than the selling, of sexual services, a policy many of my fellow feminists adore and push for), as well other laws with criminalising aspects.

I, and many sex workers like me, feel that decriminalisation is the safest way to go if harm reduction and worker safety are really the goals. Decriminalisation can ensure our safety, our right to unionise and to create better and stronger work environments for ourselves.

The current law in Iceland, based on the Swedish Model, makes sure we can’t do that. It makes sure we can’t work together for our safety and that we can’t properly vet our clients like workers in some other countries can, as clients are too scared of being arrested to give any personal details at all.

Language

Something that bothers me greatly with regard to the politics of my job, apart from how obviously ineffective the Swedish Model is at preventing sex trafficking and ensuring consensual sex workers’ safety, is that there is no word for “sex worker” in Icelandic. All we have is “vændi/vændisfólk” which translates to the degrading slur “prostitution” and “prostitutes.” These words in Iceland are associated with shame, coercion, violence and trafficking, because many people here don’t seem to know, or want to acknowledge, that sex trafficking and consensual sex work are two completely separate issues that need different approaches.

Stigma and Politics

I’m not a huge fan of the sex industry. But then, I’m not a huge fan of any industry because of how capitalism exploits labourers and workers.

Sex work is not for everyone, I understand and respect that, but it is very frustrating to have your agency completely taken away from you by the people you thought would be the first to express solidarity with you.

The author is an Icelandic-born sex worker and an anti-client working class anarcha-feminist.

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