The H-Word presents first-person stories from current and former sex workers across the U.S. Maria is a 48-year-old hairdresser and artist who supplements her income selling sexual services to clients that she meets online. She talks about how petitions to shut down adult classifieds sections on sites like Craigslist and Backpage affect real women working in the industry.
The forces behind the censoring of Craigslist clearly know little of the real world. Now, they’re after Backpage. To assume that removing the Adult Services ads sections of our newspapers would magically eliminate the abuse of anyone is absurd. The fact is that there are people who post on Adult Services that are of legal age and independent. I should know—I am one of those women. If Backpage and the many other adult services sites were to be removed as an option for these many men and women, I fear we will be forced to the streets, where the most abuse occurs.
I choose to do this. Everything I do is consensual. I am not coerced by anyone nor am I compelled by any tragic issues other than the need to pay my rent during this fierce economy. Like many other sex workers, I do this as a side job to help offset the losses felt in our other work. I have a regular career, but times are tough and I can’t survive on what that brings in alone. Should I get a part-time, low-wage job instead? Of course, there are so many jobs available, so why not? Trust me, I weighed all the other options before choosing to do this.
I rely on sex work for my income. My landlord, PG&E (my local electric company), AT&T, Trader Joe’s, CVS, and many more rely on my income from sex work. So does the art supply store I use, the movie theaters I attend, the local farmers markets I support, and yes even a shoe store once in a while. These and many more businesses rely on the income they garner from those of us who can still participate in the sex industry. I prefer to participate. My having this job is good for the economy.
In the chase to be seen as some form of crusader of the innocent, our “advocates” wreak havoc on the world of independent sex workers. They don’t stop for a minute to consider the entire story and the negative repercussions that are possible for those of us who are just trying to survive. I’m a mature, intelligent woman who chose an option that made the most sense to me right now. I’m old enough to make my own choices, clearly of sound mind, and right now I live in a bit of fear for what I will do next if this option is taken from me. I may be forced into far more dangerous and uncontrollable circumstances if they take away this choice.
Maria is currently working on a graphic novel about her experiences in the industry.