Turns out my friend is not whorephobic. I freaked out over some poor wording. Now we’re reconciling and I find myself in my default state — embarrassed and pensive.
I’ve been doing some soul searching about why I assumed the worst. I always tell people to give people too much credit, because everyone I know can afford it. I know I can. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is my mantra.
What I think it comes down to is that I projected my own insecurity onto her.
The thing I want most in the world is to love and be loved.
The worst thing about stigmatizing cooperative behavior is that it separates people on dumb and arbitrary bases. It limits the number of people we can love and be loved by, for no good reason.
“Othering” is a word used to describe the ways in which we make it clear that people aren’t in our group. Asking someone where they’re “really” from is othering them. It loses some of its potentcy if you don’t realize that the issue isn’t pointing out that someone is different. Diversity is good. The thing that sucks about othering is that by making it clear that you consider someone to exist distinctly outside your group you are rejecting them from that group. The pain of being othered isn’t that that person necessarily wants to be in a group with you. The pain is in being rejected from inclusion based on something dumb and arbitrary.
Stigma doesn’t just separate people who are bigoted from their targets. It actually gets in everyone’s way.
When you see a lot of stigma you come to expect it.
This is actually true of all rejection. The great book Rewiring Your Brain for Love explains the neuroscience behind why when we feel rejected we go on high alert for rejection and start interpreting every unclear signal as rejection.
Please, Lord, let me be the very last person to tell sex workers they’re making up whorephobia. God knows POC are constantly told that racism is in their heads and it makes me so angry. BUT. When you see something a lot you start to see it even when it’s not there. That’s how the brain works. Sex workers shouldn’t be subject to so much stigma that they see it everywhere. It shouldn’t require Herculean mental fortitude to go into a conversation. But at the same time, for me, personally, loving sex workers means I feel hurt when they’re hurt but being a mentally healthy person requires admitting that I’m going to see rejection where there is none sometimes.
This is just one way it takes tremendous amounts of strength to buck the status quo. Not only are many people telling you you’re wrong and rejecting you for your choice, but you also have to try to interpret people as being well-intended when your brain is screaming that they’re just like all the others.
I don’t identify as a sex worker, but I feel similar othering about other choices I’ve made which fall outside the mainstream.
I make a lot of choices that many people find quite questionable. Most of me loves this. I gave up on normal early and learned to like being different and weird. Makes me feel special. But when I’m unhappy and questioning my choices, I can’t help but wonder if they’re right. Luckily I’ve tried a lot of what is “normal” and been too weird to make it work for me, which cuts down on self-doubt considerably.
But not completely. When people other you it’s impossible to not wonder, at least when you’re at your lowest, whether they have a point.
I am terrified that my choices are making me miserable and alone and everyone can see it but me. Which is both true and false at the same time.
To what extent victims of stigma make up their own oppression isn’t even close to important. Oppression exists. And it sucks that people reject other people for something as inconsequential as who they fuck and under what circumstances. It’s tragic, and impoverishes everyone, from the sex workers themselves to the bigots and innocent bystanders who are deprived of their company.
I have to call out bigotry where it exists and also take responsibility for owning my choices and assuming the best. I will do this not because I owe it to anyone, but because I want to have a happy life.