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The Dominatrix and the Whore: My Thoughts on the Whorephobic Hierarchy

The stigma and discrimination against sex workers existing in contemporary society, is nothing new. This prejudice, known as ‘whorephobia’, is deeply ingrained in societal attitudes and cultural norms, and has a long, complex history spanning centuries. Rooted in patriarchal structures, it appears in various forms and doctrines, all of which, in essence, originate in the demonization of sexuality and the policing of women's bodies. 


At its core, whorephobia is a devaluation of worth. Through a spectrum of negative attitudes, stereotypes, discriminatory practices and moral judgments, whorephobic narratives portray sex workers as immoral, lacking agency and ultimately unworthy of respect and rights. This stigma often intersects with other forms of oppression, such as racism and transphobia, exacerbating the challenges faced by marginalised communities within the sex industry.


Prior to getting into sex work myself, I had a basic and generalised understanding of whorephobia and how it appears in today’s culture. However, it was through my personal experiences of whorephobia, specifically as a Pro-Domme, that I came to understand the complexities and hierarchical nuances of this long-standing phenomenon.


With discourse around sex work and sex worker’s rights gradually building momentum in the public sphere, I think it’s important to draw attention to these nuances and give those wanting to embrace this topic a chance to accurately reflect on biases they might not even know they have.


To put it in very simple terms, within sex work as a whole, there exists a whorephobic hierarchy. Sex workers are organised onto a scale of moral and social acceptability, based on the type of sex work they engage in. This ‘scale of acceptability’ uses archaic moral value judgements to decide the degree of respect different types of workers are assigned.


At the bottom of this hierarchy, we generally find full service sex workers (FSSW) - those who engage in full sexual activity with clients. At the other end of the spectrum, and where I have found myself placed, we often find the Dominatrix - the most socially accepted and culturally palatable form of sex worker.


And why is this? Well, it seems to me that even within the neo-liberal, anti-patriarchal perspective, even within those that acknowledge the agency of sex workers, there exists an extremely deeply rooted misogyny in relation to female sexuality. People feel inherently uncomfortable about women sharing their bodies in a way that doesn’t align with traditional moral views of female sexuality as private and sacred, or riddled with shame. Women who give full access to their bodies for sexual services, are (whether consciously or unconsciously) deemed less morally sound than those that don’t, and as such, are awarded less respect and value.


In contrast, Dominatrix’s offer liberal society a form of emancipated female sexuality that still retains a degree of virtue - basically, they don’t fuck for money. Because we engage in a power dynamic that positions the woman as ‘taker’ instead of ‘giver’, and are perceived as denying sexual access to our bodies (which, by the way, is an entirely inaccurate assumption), we are seen as an embodiment of some kind of advanced, liberated womanhood, in which we embrace our sexuality whilst retaining our core feminine value.


One of the most common questions I get asked by vanilla people when they find out what I do, is whether I “do anything sexual” with clients. While the asker may not be aware of their motivations in asking this, they are essentially requesting information to help them form a moral judgement of me. Before finding out the answer, I’m straddling a line of ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’, and my response helps them place me on one side or the other of that line. They can accept that I might whip a naked man’s ass, but they simply cannot envisage the touching of genitals, let alone penetration, and still consider me a respectable person.


In total honesty, for a long time, I used this bias to my advantage. I would reassure people that “no, no, it’s not sexual, I just beat people up for money”, in order to minimise judgement and maximise respect. Whether this was a defence mechanism, a reflection of my insecurities or internalised whorephobia, it always made me uncomfortable. I realised that I was abusing my uniquely privileged position and perpetuating whorephobia against other types of sex workers. By presenting the supposed ‘lack of sex’ in Pro-Domming as a positive thing, I was essentially framing FSSW as negative, even though this was not my intention at all.


Before starting as a Pro-Domme, I worked as a cam-girl, performing sexually online for live audiences. When I reflect on my move from this into Pro-Domming, I can see quite clearly an unconscious attempt to bypass the whorephobia that exists within sex work, in order to feel more valued and accepted. With the increasing popularity of kink-positive and sex-positive culture, I have noticed that this move is becoming more common. The image of the Pro-Domme as being at the top of the sexual food chain, is drawing more and more people into the industry, with very little recognition of it’s fundamental categorisation as sex work.


Now, I am absolutely not criticising people for choosing this route - obviously I myself made the same choice, but even more than that, I understand and sympathise with women desiring the path of least resistance and needing to protect themselves against the very real threat of whorephobia. What I do want to see more of, however, is Pro-Dommes understanding the privilege they receive and using it to champion their peers and their community.


You don’t have to look for very long through ‘FemDom Twitter’ to encounter Pro-Dommes spouting whorephobic rhetoric or diminishing the value of other types of workers. The idea that a Dominatrix exists in some kind of separate, superior realm of the sex industry, is very common indeed. You see Dommes criticising other Dommes who let clients touch them. You encounter the shaming of Dommes who show tits or pussy in their content. There are the numerous FinDommes who claim not to be sex workers and actively try to distance themselves from the community of ‘actual workers’. The industry is rife with discrimination from the inside as well as from the outside.


In order to combat and dismantle structural whorephobia, there needs to be a united, holistic and inclusive approach to the politics of sex work. It requires ALL of us to confront our biases, challenge societal norms, and advocate for the rights and dignity of ALL individuals, regardless of their specific occupation. We all must examine our conditioning, and pick apart the moral fibres of our political standpoint. 


The term ‘sex work is work’ has become a bit of an overarching slogan in the fight for the liberation of sex workers. While this does somewhat address the issues of labour rights and bodily autonomy for sex workers, which are vital parts of the argument, I think there also needs to be a focus on the misogynistic moral framework, within which that ‘work’ functions. Until FSSW, strippers, cam-girls, porn stars, adult content creators, escorts and indeed, Dominatrix’s, are judged on an even playing field, we don’t have much foundational security from which to argue for the ethical and moral legitimacy of sex work as an industry.


I choose not to distance my sex work from other types of sex work, particularly those facing the most discrimination and judgement. Instead, I stand in solidarity with other sex workers and offer my utmost respect to them - being a sex worker is hard, and I admire anyone who has the strength to exist unapologetically in a world that condemns them. For others who also find themselves positioned higher up in the hierarchy, I urge you to do the same.


For the rest of you, I hope that your support of sex work is entirely inclusive, and you are also able to identify the biases that have been baked into us through existing in an inherently misogynistic society. If you cannot accept all types of sex work as equal, you’re fighting for the wrong team. If you don’t respect all of us, you don’t respect any of us.


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