Are you an essential worker?
You have probably seen plenty of memes on the Internet that highlight the fact “essential” can mean different things at different times. If you asked your boss for a raise in January, you might have been told to either stop asking or to look for a new job.
Even though in the heart of hearts we are aware that we are not irreplaceable, no one enjoys feeling less than important.
And then COVID-19 rolled around and all of a sudden, many of those “non-essential” workers became very essential. They had to show up at work at the eye of the storm, while others got to stay safe at home. Funny how things change on a dime… I hope this pandemic teaches us things that we will remember for longer than just a couple of months, albeit doubtful.
While we were all focused on our new heroes (i.e. healthcare workers), sex workers were largely overlooked. One of the first articles that I read about the impact of the coronavirus on people’s careers was one about a female escort. I have been unable to find that piece since, so I will just sum it up for you. A young woman was complaining about not being able to perform her duties and therefore not earning any money due to the virus. The reason why I was not sympathetic towards her cause is that she is a college student and only uses the money to supplement what she already gets from her parents.
It even angered me because I was fully aware of people being laid off and having to figure out ways to support their families, while this girl was complaining about not being able to buy yet another pair of shoes or other accessories. Yet another example of how “essential” can mean different things to different people. For some, a roof over their heads and some food is a must-have. Others cannot live without the newest addition to their favorite purse line.
Escorts quickly found themselves out of work when COVID-19 hit because they could no longer meet with their clients who fall into a high-risk group (i.e. elderly). Moreover, with everyone told to stay at home, it had become increasingly difficult for people to sneak out and meet with their non-partner.
Aside from escorts, we also have strippers, who had to put their jobs at the club on hold due to closures of such “non-essential” establishments. While I am aware that not every dancer earns the same amount of money, I still shook my head when I read about one of them being used to earning “anywhere from $5,000 to $26,000 in one month working five nights a week at the club.” After the place was closed due to state protocols, she had to make do with the money she was able to bring in through her YouTube channel (Christina Villegas). Not everyone is as lucky,
Thankfully, someone came up with how to help dancers earn their money during the pandemic. Cue virtual nightclubs. @OnlyFans partnered with Demon Time to create a place where women could dance and strip while men could pay for it and watch without either leaving their house.
While many who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic applied for unemployment, not everyone is able to receive what they think is owed to them. A stripper from Japan admitted that most of what she earns comes from tips, which means that she is unable to prove to the government how much she had lost due to the virus. That is what happens when some people under-report their income for tax purposes during “normal” times. They pick and choose when to say that they earn more or less.
In Australia, a woman who earns her money as a dominatrix was caught between a rock and a hard place. While what she does is legal, to be able to apply for unemployment benefits, she would have to register as a sex worker, which she prefers not to do due to the stigma associated with it.
A prostitute from Italy is complaining about the virus taking an emotional toll on her. At first, her johns wanted to see her no matter what, but she refused. Then came the video requests, which she did not agree to, either. Now, her clients opt to text or call her… to talk. The woman lives with her partner and child and prefers not to do her work around them. She does, however, answer the calls when she is able to be alone. Do you know how much money she earns for emotionally connecting with her clients? Nothing. I would assume that she is trying to provide exemplary customer service, because otherwise, she might lose her clientele forever.
Since lockdown restrictions have been slowly lifting, some strippers were able to go back to work. In Wyoming, a club (The Den) opened with a “Masks on, clothes off” party. It was what it sounds like. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it is to dance in a mask. At least you only have to do makeup for half your face. Right? While many places applied for Paycheck Protection Program, adult-oriented bars like that were unable to do so.
Apparently, money is not the only thing strippers have been missing. The lack of attention they normally get bothered many. “They are, after all, performers” – a quote from the president of the International Entertainment Adult Union. Did you know there is a union like that? I had no idea.
Now, we know that the pandemic put a financial and emotional (mental) strain on the sex workers. But what are some of the other things an average citizen does not think about that such a worker has to?
- When there is more supply and less demand, prices need to be adjusted (oral sex went from $60 to $30 in Seattle).
- Clients become more violent and coercive. (Since they are risking a COVID-19 infection, they see no point in using a condom.)
What would you recommend a sex worker do so they never fear not being able to work?
Would you put away your shame and register as a sex worker to obtain unemployment benefits?
Do you think sex workers will be able to go back to “normal” soon?
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