I’m not a bigger whore than you. Stop with the Whorearchy!

I found an amazing story today on Medium that someone wrote last December about the whole concept of the “whorearchy” and I wanted to share it with you because it’s important we understand that there is no difference … we are all the same. No one type of sex worker is better than another.

Trust me when I say, no one whore is somehow magically better than another. We are all one in the same. Please stop trying to put one type of sex worker ahead of another. We are all the same and trying to say otherwise only hurts us all.

What Is the Whorearchy and Why It’s Wrong? Sex workers are stronger when we’re united.

The  is the hierarchal system by which sex workers too often order themselves from “elite” to “inferior.” The woman who walks the streets is always at the bottom of this hierarchy. Who’s on top, though, is contested.

White, “high-class” escorts like myself often see ourselves at the apex of this hierarchy. But wait, it’s the sugar babies, who have relationships with their sugar daddies and don’t charge an hourly rate — they’re at the top of the heap. Hold up — phone-sex operators don’t even have to have sex to make money, so they’re the “best.” But no, cam girls don’t meet up with their clients either but earn even more money than phone-sex operators — so they’re at the head of the pack.

“The whorearchy is arranged according to intimacy of contact with clients and police,” writes Belle Knox, a porn star and sex-work advocate, in . “The closer to both you are, the closer you are to the bottom.”

This is why the streetwalker is always on the lower rungs of this hierarchy and sex workers like cam girls and phone-sex operators often see themselves as being at the top. (Phone sex and cam work are legal and don’t require physical contact with the client.)

However, I’ve met quite a few dominatrixes who believe they’re at the pinnacle of this pyramid. Instead of pleasing men, they torture and humiliate them, and still earn a lot of money for the service. They’re “top dog.”

So you can see why this is a problem. The whorearchy is entirely arbitrary. Maggie McNeill, an escort, author, and sex-work advocate, jokes that while all sex workers agree that the whorearchy exists, “nobody agrees on anything  that system.”

Besides, this hierarchical way of viewing sex work presumes that a sex worker’s job is fixed. A stripper never does escort work and a streetwalker never works for an agency.

This simply is not the case.

Rachel Moran, the author of , a memoir about her time working as a prostitute in Dublin, Ireland, explains how she witnessed many women occupy multiple sectors of the sex industry simultaneously. Moran did this herself.

She worked for an online escort agency while also doing street work and describes how the men who slept with her through the agency “were paying me several times more than I’d been paid for the same service the day before” (while streetwalking).

In Moran’s opinion, the “high-class” escort is nothing more than an image. She has seen brothel owners repackage their businesses as “high-class” agencies to cater to a wealthier clientele. But that’s all it is: packaging.

But as Moran’s experience shows, the difference between high-class escorts and streetwalkers is often a question of semantics.

Not only is the whorearchy fallible but it’s ultimately bad for sex workers. When we place boundaries between ourselves, we can’t join forces to fight the issues that collectively affect us.

Even the high-class escort has to worry about law enforcement and even the phone-sex operator has to deal with social shunning and even the dominatrix has some misogynistic clients who wear her down emotionally.

But we can’t advocate for better working conditions, decriminalization, and less stigma if we’re worrying about which one of us occupies the highest rung of the sex-work ladder.

In an interview with , Tilly Lawless, a sex worker, activist, and creator of the #facesofprostitution hashtag, said: “We are not deserving of rights and respect because we are high class, but because we are human.”

In essence, the need to dismantle the whorearchy is a human-rights issue. But will sex workers ever stop subscribing to it?

Why does the whorearchy exist?

First off, we need to understand why we have a whorearchy. It exists because the society we live in is hierarchical. Our society is classist, racist, ableist, and lookist — so obviously we will use the same social stratification to organize ourselves in the sex industry.

Though Moran asserts that streetwalkers are also found advertising as “high-class” escorts, the truth is that women who work the streets face the most danger. They are often escaping abusive homes. The precariousness of street life makes them more prone to developing a chemical dependency. This puts them in a disadvantaged position to be abused by pimps, customers, and law enforcement.

When they try to move up into the higher echelons of sex work, they find the doors closed to them. It should surprise no one that many street prostitutes are people of color and gender nonbinary.

According to Lawless, “Trans WOC [women of color] often won’t be hired in brothels and so have to do street-based sex work.”

White, cis-gender escorts, on the other hand, often come from middle-class backgrounds. They grew up with access to higher education and proper health care. This puts them at an advantage, period.

Because they get hired by the “high-class” agencies, this allows them to earn more money. They’re able to get ahead. The street-based sex workers fall further behind.

Why the whorearchy is bad for all sex workers.

 asks the high-class call girl, 

That’s the thing: dismantling the whorearchy isn’t just about helping the most disadvantaged sex workers. It’s about helping  of us.

We all suffer from the same social stigma and ostracization. Word gets out about how we make our money and each one of us is going to face problems.

We all have trouble finding vanilla jobs after we quit the sex industry. Whether it’s too many years unaccounted for on our resumes or someone recognizing us from our pasts, we’re screwed.

We’re often shunned by our families. Our families don’t see a difference between high-class escorting and street-walking. They don’t see a difference between porn and phone sex. For our families, it’s all bad.

We’re all in this together — so why can’t we see it? Because our jobs function in the shadows, we’ve all felt what it is to be ripped off by the owners of the clubs where we work, the advertising platforms we depend on to find clientele, and, of course, the customers themselves.

We can’t do anything to stop our exploitation because we’re divided and weak. When we see ourselves as different and therefore better than other sex workers, we’re unable to see our common interests.

McNeill writes that by creating coalitions, queer-rights groups have been able to defeat the exclusionary laws and policies that still plague sex workers.

“In the ’60s, prostitutes and homosexuals were in roughly the same place legally; both of us were treated as criminals for our private sexual behavior,” McNeill explains. However, McNeill writes, “gay men and lesbians, two groups with almost nothing in common, banded together.” As a unified force, gay men, lesbian women, and later bisexual and trans people were able to fight for their equal rights.

Sex workers instead have remained separated, and that has only paved the way for what McNeill calls the “sex trafficking hysteria.” This hysteria fuels a “moral panic [that] paints all prostitutes as pathetic, childlike victims suffering from mental illnesses which render us unable to make decisions for ourselves.”

Separated, we’re defenseless. The whorearchy makes us feel more respectable in the interim but ultimately drags us all down.

Instead of viewing the passing of FOSTA/SESTA as our call to action, we continue to uphold an imaginary caste system. Now we’re in a pandemic that’s left many of us unable to work but also ineligible for unemployment because our jobs aren’t recognized as legitimate.

If we’re lucky enough to live in a state where the clubs we work in are open, we’re still considered “independent contractors.” Our employers don’t have to ensure we have health insurance and they can send us packing whenever they want. They can even charge us just to work in their establishments while also making it near mandatory that we tip out the bouncers and bartenders.

And this is if we are even on record as employees, such as strippers are. Escorts, dominatrixes, and street prostitutes work underground, illegally.

And still, even in the legal sectors of the sex industry, exploitation is rife. When we differentiate ourselves by using the same classist, racist, ableist, lookist rules that the rest of the society uses to neatly categorize itself into castes, we continue to make this possible.

We have to stop. No sex worker is truly legitimate in our society. The only way to fight for more legal protections and less social stigma is to stop seeing ourselves as separate and different. We have to stop believing some sex workers are “respectable” or simply “tolerable” while others are “dirty” and morally reprehensible.

Buying into this stratification doesn’t just hurt other sex workers; it ultimately hurts every one of us. For the whorearchy to end, we need to stop consenting to it.

There is humanity in every sex worker. For the world to ever see this, we have to quit fighting so much amongst ourselves and start fighting more for each other.

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