North American society continues to send mixed messages when it comes to sex, it seems. As Canada works on new laws that will hopefully help ensure the health and safety of prostitutes to a greater extent than it ever has, there are current and former sex workers coming out of the woodwork to mixed reactions. All of the mixed messaging that is coming from everyone from university officials to government bodies to psychologists only seems to signify one significant message: attitudes about sex and sexuality need to change.
While there are many who would not advocate a life in prostitution or in the pornographic film industry for their children, there are those who continue to tell their children and other loved ones to be open about their sexuality. While sex and sexuality are different, why is it one of the biggest industries in North America is pornography yet it continues to be one of the most taboo subjects? Certainly, pornography should not be representative of what sex between two consenting adults should be like, nor should many of the sex scenes that are shown in movies, but rather than encouraging dialogue, it continues to garner disdain and rebuke.
Duke University porn star Belle Knox – not her real name – has been quite open that she considered a career in the pornographic film industry because she liked sex and needed to pay the bills, which is something she has no issue doing now. She has been rebuked and vilified by peers for her attitudes about sex, yet hers is likely one of the most honest attitudes about sex that many have seen in the 21st century. In fact, she has gone so far as to demonstrate that there is no real shame in the porn industry, as she says she has been well respected by her colleagues and she is doing something she enjoys. However, North American attitudes about sex being enjoyed continues to be something that is discussed in secret, even with some reticence between spouses to discuss what is enjoyable in the bedroom and what is not.
There are other former sex workers coming out of the proverbial closet as well. Writer Melissa Gira Grant, herself a former sex worker, suggests in her book Playing the Whore society as a whole should focus on the “worker” part of “sex worker” and acknowledge sex workers as employees like any other group who require protection, good health care and freedom from abuse and exploitation. To be sure, this is going to be hard, as prostitutes and those who work in other areas of the sex industry are often viewed as victims or as those who are designed to corrupt the purity of North American society.
According to Internet Filter Review, $13 billion yearly is being spent on the pornographic industry, which boils down to $3,075.64 a second. If that was not shocking enough, a new pornographic film is being made every 39 minutes. It is clear, just from these numbers alone, that sex is a hot market and continues to be so, even though the pornographic industry is certainly one of the most vilified.
Dr. Doug Powell of Kansas State University notes, however, that the porn industry tends to be a lot more responsible than even the food safety industry, as when a recall is issued by the food safety industry, many are simply told to cook meats thoroughly, or whatever the case may be. He likens this to telling people to use a condom if a set shuts down over reports of a positive test result. This would seem to imply that the porn industry tends towards being quite proactive – something one may not expect given the prevailing attitudes about the industry.
There should also be some consideration made to the reaction many have when someone comes out of the closet about his or her sexuality. While society tends to be very accepting about women coming out, there are still men who struggle more than their female counterparts, and people who are transgendered continue to be looked upon with suspicion. This runs completely contrary to North American attitudes with regards to the very enlightened opinions that sprout up throughout the media about the bravery involved with coming out and how society is becoming more accepting of those who acknowledge they are not heterosexual. However, each story about someone’s coming out – and everyone who does it has a story of some sort – would not be deemed as brave if society was truly as accepting of different sexualities as the media would lead society to believe.
Society’s attitudes about sex and sexuality need to change. Sex and sexuality are not things to be hidden in closets, and while there are many who would not endorse shouting sexual delights from the rooftops, it is important to recognize that sex and sexuality are healthy parts of anyone’s existence. Prostitutes and pornographic workers do have victims in their fields, but there are also those who go into the professions for reasons unknown. They should not be vilified, but acknowledged for the fact that they are workers who seem to embrace both sex and sexuality. It is time for attitudes about sex and sexuality to change, and for society to acknowledge that sex workers – troubled or not – need to be acknowledged for the contributions they make to the North American lifestyle. Maybe then people would feel more comfortable in discussing sex and sexuality rather than stuffing those topics to the back of the closet to be ignored because they are uncomfortable topics.
By Christina St-Jean