Red Insight: an interview with a journalist dedicated to changing the face of sex work

Pic: Courtesy of Red Insight Media

Translated from Italian.


“We envision a world where our labour is recognized, where sex workers are respected and our rights are upheld. We envision a world of gender, racial, social and economic equality, where freedom of movement is a reality, enabling individuals to start, continue or leave sex work safely, and free from violence and coercion”.

So reads the about page of Red Insight, the first web portal for sex workers made by sex workers. Jules James is the editor in chief of the magazine. We had a chat about intersectionality and fight against discrimination.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, what does it mean to be a feminist and sex worker today, in the Netherlands?

Yes, I do. My experience is not that of everyone, but I think that many colleagues from Red Insight consider themselves feminist. People who fight for sex workers’ rights usually are. It means, today and in the Netherlands, to fight for recognition of our work. And to fight to eliminate stigma.

Do you think your experience is a symbol of intersectionality?

No, I don’t think I am enough representative of intersectionality. I am a white, cis woman who fits the current beauty standards. Moreover, my choice to do sex work was a free choice, among other options. Other people cannot choose: sex work is the only job they can do, even if nobody forces them. And those people usually undergo many forms of oppression being migrant, person of color or trans.

Do you think in sex workers deserve more space in feminist communities, in pride, in activism?

Yes. Sex workers are discriminated inside the feminist world, too. For example, the existence of SWERFs (Sex Worker-Excluding Radical Feminists) implies that we are marginalized. They think we don’t serve the feminist cause because of our job. On the contrary, sex work is strictly related with women rights and human rights. It has to do with  self determination, emancipation, free choice over one’s own body.

Today most people are forced to work in order to have a dignified life: do you think that sex workers’ emancipation could help the feminist fight?

It does, because deconstructing the narrative about this work is useful in the fight against other kind of oppression. Sex work is related to migrants rights, workers rights, LGBTQIA+ rights.

Red Insight wants to tell stories about your field of work from the perspective of sex workers. Why did you make the site and what’s wrong in the mainstream media narrative?

They are always sensationalistic when dealing with the topic of sex work. Sex workers are always depicted as victims. Mainstream media don’t care about our version of the story. They are more interested in using our sentences to endorse their vision. And they never talk about how much diversity there is in our community.

Do you feel included enough in society? In labor, politics, health, education?

I feel discriminated because I am not able to do my job as I would like to. If you are a sex worker in the Netherlands, you have to choose between being legal or being independent. You cannot be both: if you want to be independent, you’ll probably have to work illegally. In Amsterdam especially, it’s very hard to get a license. On the other hand, to work legally means to work in a brothel or in a escort agency. This means you cannot choose you clients nor your prices, and you cannot work from home.

This is why I don’t feel represented in society. As regards for politics, there’s only one party (BIJ1) that included the issue of sex work in their programme.

You talked about diversity. How much diversity is there within your community?

There are migrants, people with migrant backgrounds, people of color, trans, men. Some have chosen this job, others embraced it as the only option. All these voices are at the margins, but they should be included in public debate. This is Red Insight’s goal: to make everyone’s voice heard. Our latest story is an example of that: written in Arabic by a person from Lebanon. It is an emblem for diversity in our collective and in sex workers’ world in general.

Is there discrimination among sex workers? Within the community?

We use the term ‘whorearchy’ to describe it. There are different levels of discrimination. One is based on your appearance. On the top there’s the stereotype of a white, thin, cisgender woman. I could fit in it. At the bottom there are migrant or trans people. The further from the stereotype you fall, the more invisible you are. There’s another hierarchy which is based on what kind of service you offer. Usually escorts and sugar babies are on top. These hierarchies are dangerous, they contribute to marginalise some individuals inside the same community.

Is there any difference between being a male or a female sex workers? Who is the most discriminated?

For men, I cannot say it’s better nor it’s worse. It depends. They find it more difficult to work legally, since brothels and escort agencies mostly employ women. And they often face homophobia from their clients. They are also not very represented in activism

[Jules James is an invented name]



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