In the world of Harry Potter, wizards refer to non-magical humans like you and me as “muggles.” It's not an insult: It simply denotes that the person in question does not have a magic wand with which to cast spells and does not wear robes on the regular, nor play Quidditch.
In the world of sex work, we use that same word when we talk about people who don't regularly fuck strangers for money or get naked on camera.
Like Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, my parents are muggles, as are many of my childhood friends and extended family. Most, if not all of them, support, love, and empower me in my career in the adult industry.
But muggles just say the darndest things sometimes. They have also, on occasion, been known to forget their manners.
Unless you have lived it, or loved someone who has, it's difficult to fully grasp the reality of being a sexual outlaw in this society. Here's a short list of things I never want to hear a muggle say to a sex worker ever again:
“How much do you charge?”
The only people who should be asking about my rates are potential clients.
I hate this question, because I know as soon as I answer, the persons who asked are going to do a silent calculation in their heads about whether I'm worth it. They will wonder to themselves if they would charge more or less. But then they remind themselves that they don't do what I do, and that will always make them better than me (albeit substantially more boring).
“I would want to make [insert amount equal to or more than anyone has ever charged] if I were going to do what you do.”
Some people weren't raised with manners and forget to do these calculations silently, and instead they feel like the sex worker they're talking to is an appropriate sounding board for speculation on the potential commodification of their own sexuality.
“Doesn't your vagina get sore?”
Podcaster Sandra Dougherty of the Sex Nerd Sandra show asked award-winning, plus-sized porn performer Kelly Shibari this question earlier this year. Dougherty said she had wanted to ask a porn performer this question for a very long time. A sly smile crept into her tone, like she was fairly pleased with herself for having thought to ask it.
Shibari gracefully responded with, “Well, my vagina doesn't get sore because we use plenty of lube, but my cervix gets super sore. … It feels like cramps.” Shibari described her post-shoot regime, including hot compresses and lying in bed, similar to if she were menstruating.
I think Dougherty had hoped Shibari's answer would be funny or zany, but Shibari's response was stone-cold sober and way too real for Dougherty, who responded with a groan.
Discussions of sexual labor needn't be accompanied by nervous titters and sly smiles. It may be a sexy business, but it deserves to be taken seriously.
“Wow. You don't look like a porn star.”
I was getting a mani-pedi the other day before a big porn shoot, and an older woman was seated next to me. She asked me if I got my nails done often. I told her I did, because my job necessitated it. When she pressed me for details, I conceded that I was a model, neglecting to tell her what type.
She looked me up and down and said, “I thought models had to be 90 pounds and 7 feet tall — that's not you.”
While this may just be proof that some old ladies don't give a single fuck and will absolutely tell you you're too fat to be a model, it points to a reaction that many have when they learn a woman's body is commodified: They want to appraise and pass judgment in order to ease their own insecurities.
Many muggles don't realize there is no typical look for a sex worker, and most of their perceptions have been informed by racist, classist, whore-phobic representations in the media.
Emily Post didn't have a chapter on “How to navigate the subject of sex work with a friend,” and these rules certainly aren't universal. But I hope muggles consider this short list the next time they are compelled to play 20 questions with a sex worker — or a wizard, for that matter.