Disclaimer: Before we get into this subject— which for many of us is complicated, fraught, sensitive, and deeply personal— I want to make a few things clear. First and foremost, regardless of what I say, remember the source. I’m not a sociologist, anthropologist, or any other -gist. I’m an escort who writes a blog that regularly features doodles in marker, so you shouldn’t exactly be expecting a works cited page at the end of all this. Additionally, the observations I’ve made are my own, based on personal experience and anecdotes from a bunch of random strangers and some incredibly smart friends (Hi, Nico!). I asked a big, vague question on Twitter and read about a million answers of different levels of relevance. There’s zero science to any of this, it includes absolutely no statistics (except for the ones I made up), and is meant to be a fairly lighthearted take on a very serious subject. TL;DR: Spare me the nitpicky fact checking and links to dictionary definitions of racism. Thanks!
When it comes to discussing almost anything in the Sex Work industry, no matter what your opinion, no matter how logical or moral you may feel it is, you have to remember one thing: Their body, their choice. Heard about a woman offering unprotected sexual contact with her clients? Their body, their choice. Met a gay male escort whose screening process calls for nothing but a dick pic and a Twitter handle? Their body, their choice. Whatever the decision, however much it may make you uncomfortable/angry/skeeved-the-hell-out, it’s their body and their choice. Now, I’m not saying that some of these choices aren’t unequivocally terrible choices, just that they’re entitled to make those unequivocally terrible choices because it’s (say it with me now) their body, their choice. So while I’m discussing a person’s decision to only see white clients or providers, or their refusal to see any clients of a certain race, I am not trying to tell them that they should do anything other than what makes them feel safe and comfortable. If an escort only feels comfortable seeing Asian men between 30 and 35 who are left-handed with green eyes and no tattoos, that’s their choice and happy hooking to ‘em.
So why am I writing this piece? To challenge people to look at their own assumptions and preferences with a more critical eye than they might have before. To pick apart some of the exhausted old arguments and excuses that we use to justify problematic behaviors. And, perhaps most importantly, to have another excuse to draw some goofy ass cartoons. What are some of those arguments and excuses, you ask? Well based on my research (three days of endless Twitter notifications, six years of sex work, and a lifetime of commiserating with other women of color about the bullshit with which we’ve dealt), the majority of people who express some kind of strict preference along racial lines— things like, “I don’t see African American ladies,” or “I only see white men”— when asked, have one of three responses. Let’s start with the first one:
1. “I’m just not attracted to (insert race here)”
Note: All the mind-blowing logic that I’m about to throw at you can really be applied to any race of people. But since it’s so heartbreakingly common to see “No African Americans” on provider websites and dating profiles, I’m using that particular group as an example.
This is, far and away, the most common response when I’ve asked someone why they’ve written off an entire race of people. Probably because it’s the most socially acceptable answer. “I have nothing against black girls, it’s just that I’m not attracted to them!” sounds a hell of a lot better than, “Black girls are trash”. A variation on this is everybody’s favorite false equivalency. It usually goes something like this, “What’s the big deal? Some girls don’t like short guys, some girls don’t like redheads, and some girls don’t like black men. It’s the same thing!” Umm… no, actually it’s not. See, height, hair color, weight, those kinds of things are single physical traits. “Black man” is not*. Pop quiz! What do all Black men have in common?
A. They’re ghetto
B. They’re dark skinned
C. They’re muscular
D. They identify as male
The answer is D. The only thing that all black men have in common is that they identify as male. That’s it. Well that and the fact that they identify as black. They are not a monolith of negative traits and stereotypes. Black men come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and— Hang on! I think it’s time for some visual aids:
Black Folks are Not a Monolith: A Story in Collage
(fig. A) Check it out— those are all black men. From your creamy pale Wentworth Miller to that rich, dark chocolate model on the end, black men come in a huge range of skin tones far beyond the six I’ve picked out here. And look at this:
(fig. B) These are also all black men. Their hair comes in variety of textures, styles, and colors (just like white people— go figure!). Wait, want to have your mind blown again?
(fig. C) Boom! Every one of these dapper gents is black too! Okay, I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain this one. It’s literally just clothing! Black men are just like the rest of us, they can have different clothes and vastly different styles, and are not relegated to wearing Timbs and saggy jeans** every day— or ever! While we’re on the subject of black diversity, guess who else is not a monolith? Black women! See for yourself:
(fig. D) From fair and freckled to glowing onyx, these are all indeed black women. Are you starting to get it yet? What’s that? You don’t like black girls because you just don’t like that kind of body? Not into “thick” girls?
(fig. E) Well would you look at that? Not all black women are built the same. One might even say that there’s no such thing as a “black” body type. Neat! You know what else every black woman on the planet doesn’t share? A hair type:
(fig. F) If the eight million “ethnic hair care” products available on the shelves of your local Target didn’t tip you off, black women have a lot of different kinds of hair. From straightened, to natural, to wigs, weaves, and everything in between, black women have a nearly unlimited range of hair types, styles, and colors.
We could do this all day, me showing you the endless ways that black men and women are different from each other and you getting to ogle all of these beautiful people, but I think you get my point. When someone lumps all black people together and decides that they’re not interested in a single one of them, what exactly are they saying that they’re turned off by? If you’re one of those people (Hi! No judgment! Thanks for stopping by!), are you challenging yourself to figure out exactly what physical features you’re not into? Is it that you’re not that into very dark skin? Or braids? Or urban street style? Those are totally okay preferences*** because, again, you aren’t throwing together an entire group of very different people and treating them like they’re one indivisible, uniform entity. So when you’re thinking about your preferences, put a little more effort into being specific, instead of relying on stereotypes about a race to make your point.
❌ “I don’t like black women”
✅ “I’m not particularly attracted to braided hairstyles ”
See how easy that is? You can avoid the kinds of things that you don’t like in a date/client/3 am Tinder match and you don’t look like a gross racist in the process. “Okay fine, Ava. Not all black people are physically unappealing. But it’s not just that! It’s that….”
2. “(Insert race here) people are just so (insert negative trait here)”
We’ve all heard it from friends, colleagues, blurbs on Seeking Arrangement profiles, hell– we’ve probably all been guilty of doing ourselves at least once or twice. How familiar do these sound:
“I’m not into Asian guys because they’re just so bad in bed”
“I don’t see Indian men because their accents are so heavy”
“I’ll never date a black girl because they’re just so ghetto”
“I won’t accept a Middle Eastern client because they’re just so pushy”
It can also go in the opposite direction where the blatant stereotyping is the same, but it’s meant to be a positive trait (“I prefer Asian providers, they’re just so submissive!”), but fetishization is another topic for another day. Either way, again, when you lump people together like this, you’re failing to account for the incredible diversity among them. Are there Asian guys who are bad in bed? Of course there are; but there are men of all races who are terrible in the sack. Just like anyone can be unhygienic or pushy or literally any other negative thing. “Yeah, but I was with an Indian guy once and he smelled terrible!” Okay, maybe so. But that one funky fellow does not represent every Indian man that you will ever meet.
Now this might make some of my white readers squeamish, but just stay with me for a minute. White folks, in general, have the privilege of being accepted on an individual basis. Every white person is generally understood as being responsible for their own actions and when they do something negative, it’s not seen as indicative of white people on the whole. For example, despite the fact that so many mass shootings in this country have been carried out by white men, you don’t really hear anyone talk about a “white culture of extreme violence” on the nightly news. However, every time a black man shoots a cop, there’s almost always some public discussion about the “culture of violence in the black community”. The white shooters are considered lone wolves with mental illness– it’s an Adam Lanza problem or a Dylann Roof problem, not a “white” problem. But black criminals are considered to be part of a “black” problem. See what I mean? I’ll give you another example. When I spoke to women on Twitter about their reasons for not seeing clients of a certain race, one of the most common things I heard was that they had had a bad experience with a client of that race. Now, I find it hard to believe that those same women have never, ever, ever had a bad experience with a white client. It’s almost a given that at some point in their career some white guy did something rude, dangerous, gross, or unacceptable. BUT I have never seen a provider website that states, “No Caucasian Men”… have you? Why not? Because the white guys who were terrible clients were considered a fluke, a one off, an anomaly; whereas the terrible African American/Indian/Middle Eastern clients were made to represent their entire race.
❌ “I won’t see Indian men”
✅ “I insist that my clients have exceptional hygiene and speak clear, fluent English”
It can be a hard habit to break, this kind of stereotyping, but it’s worth it to try. Too many awesome people get inadvertently tossed out with the trash. Again, the key is in being specific about the traits you find undesirable. “Great points, Ava. I totally understand. But the other problem is…”
3. “My (insert relationship here) doesn’t like me to see (insert race here)”
As if the stigma surrounding Sex Work wasn’t hard enough to navigate already, some providers are in the tricky situation of having to also concern themselves with the baggage that their other clients (and oftentimes their partners in their personal lives) bring to the table. Here are just a few examples, taken straight from conversations with other women on Twitter:
“I’ve never actually been able to convince a client to do a double with me and a black provider, even when I’ve specifically asked! It’s really frustrating.”
“When I first started providing, though, I had a significant other who actually got angry with me for seeing AA clients! He really had no good reason for this, just pointed to the policies that other providers had. When it came up, there was a lot of conflict around it.”
“The only thing I have to say is that nothing triggers the white cis man’s fragility like the idea that their little white princess has had their socks rocked off by a black gentleman. I believe that the stereotype of the well endowed, amazing in bed black man drives their delicate masculinity off the roof, and they rather shame white women who service MoC rather than admit their insecurities.”
“In my personal life, I have dated/fucked a couple white guys and Mexican guys that asked me if I have had sex with black men in the past. They asked in a way that suggested I would be tainted in some way if I had. I have lived in hick towns where I had my life threatened for dating a black man. It’s ridiculous.”
Oof. Think about that. Imagine being so disgusted by the idea of a group of people (for surely it’s not the actual people, the vast majority of which you’ve never met) that you can’t even stomach the idea of sleeping with someone who slept with one of them. Are they worried that blackness is contagious? Is the Transitive Property of Black Cock a thing?
If a black client fucks a white provider
And then the white provider fucks a white client
Then the white client has basically fucked a black guy
If that looks dumb as hell to you, it should. With the exception of sexually transmitted diseases (from which we should all already be actively protecting ourselves and our clients) there is no way to be “tainted” by your sexual partner. I know it’s an emotional issue and not a logical one, but think about it logically for a minute. What physical changes does a person undergo after enjoying consensual, safe sex with a person of color? What horrifying consequences await the woman who dares taste the fruit of the darkest berry….?
The whole idea is as deeply ridiculous as that drawing. If you have someone express concern about the race or ethnicity of the people you’ve slept with before them, please recognize that there is ZERO validity to what they’re saying. If you’re concerned about the race or ethnicity of the people your partner has slept with before you, immediately examine them for any of the symptoms depicted in the drawing above. If you suspect that they may be affected, rush them to the nearest hospital, they’re probably dying. Also, you have a shit ton of internalized racism that you need to deal with.
❌ “Have you ever had sex with a black guy?”
✅ “Are your sexual health screenings up to date?”
Whew! We made it to the end! Well, at least for today. I’ve actually got a few more things I want to cover, but that’s going to have to wait until Part II. How you feeling? A little woozy? A little unsure of yourself? That’s normal. Unpacking our baggage and examining our own prejudices can be a little (or a lot) uncomfortable. The important thing is that we’re doing it at all.
Next Week: “Great, So I’m Kinda Prejudiced… Now What? Tools, tips, and techniques for making Sex Work (and real life) a little less fucked up for everyone”
* Ok, so let me step back a minute so we’re all on the same page. You guys know that race is a social construct, right? “Black” is not a real, clear, scientific category of people. I know some of you are scratching your head and looking at me like I’m crazy right now, but rather than go off on a long tangent trying to explain it, I’m just going to point you towards this piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates who’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am. Go read it (it’s short) and I’ll meet you back up there when you’re finished.
** Except for in New York city
*** Actually, there’s probably some subconscious baggage here to unpack regarding your aversion to dark skin, but I’ll let your therapist dig into that one.