Monolithic Terminology

RenegadeEvolution's picture

There seems to be one very simple (or not, as it were) problem standing in the way of uniting various groups who have sex work as an interest, and it is a problem of semantics and how often the sex industry, and the people in it, is dealt with in a monolithic fashion. For example:

Sex Worker/Prostitute/Prostituted Person/Provider/Performer

Erotica/Pornography Hobbiest/Client/Consumer/John

All of these terms have different connotations in people’s minds, and perhaps for many of us, very different meanings. They are part and parcel with the over all problems of looking at the sex industry as a monolithic institution, because it is in fact incredibly diverse and made up of people, on both the supply and the demand sides, who are vastly different. To look at the industry as a monolith is to deny a great many people in it, no matter what light you view the monolith in. Thus, I have always felt it is very important to make distinctions between forms of sex work and the people doing it. There are, after all, worlds of difference between the contract porn performer and the underage street worker. These people might be in the same “business”, but one is a performer, the other is a rape victim, and painting them with the same monolithic brush and applying the same terminology to both of them is an insult to both of them.

However, I have found it neigh impossible to convince our opponents that these distinctions do in fact exist, unless they use them on occasion to dismiss us. So I suppose my question is…

How do we go about making distinctions, demystifying the monolith, and seeing that the correct terminology for the various strata of people involved in the sex industry is put into place and used? I feel it is an important step in humanizing those in the sex biz, and I feel it is important to refer to them using the terminology they apply to themselves. The term “Sex Worker” is an insult to people who have been/are prostituted people, yet the term “Prostituted Woman” is an insult to a sex worker… and on and on it goes. In what contexts, and where, do people feel the use of these various differing terms are appropriate? And how do you draw distinctions?