Letting a Whore Have Her Say

A close friend of mine  linked me to a character study that appeared on the NYTimes.com ,  profiling a 52 year old sex worker in Hunts Point New York.   The  short profile story and video (after the jump)  ,in my opinion, was a rare change of narrative that most are used to when it comes to sex work in America.


Most of the time, there’s a very narrow view of sex work that is mistakenly interchanged with human trafficking  and child abuse.  The narrative usually follows a “normal” white woman who is seduced or captured into sex work and lurred into drug addiction.   A few times sex work will be seen as something that heartless brown and yellow children are forced into by adults they can’t take care of. The new sex work meme is the affluent and educated white women doing sex work to pay for her second masters or so she can get a book / record deal.  Its very seldom that journalist trust their subjects to tell their own stories, in their own words forcing all sex work to be packaged as victimization, trafficking and child abuse.  A narrative notably absent when discussing male sex workers.

A good example of this was Diane Sawyer’s 2008 Prostitution in America  which features 90% Blond white women as subjects offering soundbites. The series was mostly narrated by Sawyer and if the viewer were to believe this report almost all prostitutes in this country are Blonds , pill poppers or really good at staring off into the distance while melodramatic music plays.  I’m not a fan of moral plays paraded as journalism  even less so when the journalist doesn’t trust her subjects not to tell the story she wants to hear.

In the NYTimes piece its refreshing to see a woman, of age , of color completely own her choice to engage in sex work.  She comes off sincere and human because she is, she’s not being propped up as what she represents or a parable. She’s a woman talking about her life and how she chooses to live it.

Its hard for journalist to cover the varying levels of sex work, especially when it comes to prostitution. For the most part its illegal, its pushed as a moral issue and unearths a lot of ugly truths in our society concerning social class, race and gender. But its a journalist prime obligation to report the truth and a big part of that is striving to shed light on those speaking in their own voice about the issues that effect them, especially when they don’t reflect the image others have made for them.

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Author: N'jaila

N'jaila Rhee grew up in north New Jersey and graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communication media from Rutgers University in 2009. Rhee began exotic dancing while attended classes at Rutgers, and still dances at special events. Currently working professionally in media in the NYC metro area, she enjoys writing erotica, eating Nilla wafers and giggling at the word "balls".

  • I like her attitude. She’s so realistic, but not at all self pitying. She has pluck and dignity, not the usual sex worker “fallen woman” trope