I remember the first time I caught of a whiff of the concept of The Whorearchy. I was posing nude for websites like GodsGirls and RazorDolls—competitors to Suicide Girls and Burning Angel, one of which had specifically sprung up in response to Suicide Girls’s well documented dodgy labor practices. Some of the other young women on one of the sites were referring to themselves as models in a way that seemed, well, uppity.
As in, “I’m not a whore, I’m a model,” or “I’m not doing porn, I’m a model.”
I thought, what the hell do we think these website customers are paying something.99 a month for, then? RazorDolls had hardcore, definitely-porn next to the photosets, something I later participated in for work. GodsGirls was at least indirectly funded by a traditional porn company, which was an open secret at the time.
I started asking this question out loud.
Someone—who knows whether it was a stripper, burlesque dancer, pro-domme, fetish model, softcore model, art model, or porn performer from Philadelphia, or someone online from one of these communities, or even a fellow GodsGirl or RazorDoll, filled me in: society treats us like garbage. The easiest way to feel less like human trash is to pass the judgement on to someone further down the ladder. It doesn’t help the problem, but it helps the individual human in a toxic band-aid sort of way.
My point here is that I have no date for the coining of the term or concept of whorearchy, but that it predates my own career in the naked human business, which started in the mid 2000s. Perhaps the second wave of politically active sex workers remember where it started. Perhaps attribution of credit and date of coalescence are recorded in some book from one of those second wave women that I haven’t yet read.
For the unaware, the whorearchy centers around the idea that sex workers and sex-adjacent workers can be ranked into a hierarchy, the least vulnerable and least judged at the top and the most vulnerable and most judged at the bottom. I encourage you to do a web search yourself, since different people have different opinions about who belongs where.
Here’s the problem: It isn’t that simple, and it currently serves to justify in-fighting.
Most of us who stay in sex-related work for more than a couple of years end up working in more than one kind of job. Escorts go into camming or stripping when they need a break or to diversify in the wake of something like FOSTA. Porn performers dip their toe into professional domination, escorting, or working at one of the legal brothels when they need a break or when scene work dries up. Strippers become porn performers because the celebrity associated enables them to become feature dancers, earning more and using their bodies less.
This is further complicated by the global nature of the internet and the national and local nature of laws. Societal judgement and legal status are tangled up with each other. Is a legal brothel worker in Nevada or New Zealand higher or lower in the whorearchy than your average porn performer based in California? How about Florida, which has less infrastructure and no definite legal status? Where does a high profile cam performer rank next to a brand new porn performer without industry status or a good agent?
You may notice that I’m only speaking about the middle and upper class of sex work. That’s because I’m limiting myself to the areas around my expertise, and if you’re noticing: good. Maybe you’re starting to see us as a complex group with differing concerns and interests.
Meditating on the privilege of people you feel are above you, especially when you have no concept of the issues they face, can easily turn into objectification and occasionally flat-out hatred. Hatred doesn’t attract allies. Gentle, direct critique changes minds.
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
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Also published on Medium.