I've had many exotic dancers confront me on using the term “sex worker” when I refer to exotic dancers. I’m not offended. I used to feel the exact same way. I was not offering sex in exchange for money and I was offended by anyone who suggested I was.
It is an issue that comes up in a few areas of the sex industry - some bdsm workers don't consider themselves sex workers either because they don't have sex with their clients (just shove dildos up their asses, lol).
I agree that, as exotic dancers, what we do is very different from escorts. Just like it's really different from being filmed or modeling. When I refer to sex workers or sex industry workers, I'm using a term to refer to all workers in the sex industry. (dancers, dommes, escorts, adult film, etc) So, I'm trying to be inclusive.
I realize that a lot of exotic dancers (and like I said, bdsm workers, etc) don't identify with this term. I use it because it was coined by a sex worker, rather than a name put on us by others (for instance, prostitute - the word "prostituted" is used to imply that all sex workers are forced into the work).
I also use the term "adult entertainer" but to me it's the same thing as sex industry worker and sex worker. It's just someone who works in the sex industry. For some reason, people get confused by "adult entertainer." lol
I am a part of a worldwide group of activists who use the term sex worker to refer to anyone working in the sex industry, including exotic dancers. Because this is the common term globally, I get used to hearing and reading it all the time in the literature that we send to each other through listserves and such.
There are hundreds of other dancers who do consider themselves sex workers - largely due to the fact that they are a part of this movement and recognize that the stigma that casts prostitutes is the same stigma that impacts dancers, bdsm workers, adult film workers, and more. Even we don't want to be hookers because it is so terrible to be hooker! You see what I mean? We are feeding the stigma by fearing to be put in the same category.
Some adult film workers don't think they are sex workers because they are getting paid to have sex on film and not being paid by several different men. Some only have sex with their partners or do same-sex films, so they don’t consider it sex work.
I was actually scolded by an adult film business owner for using the term "porn star" because he thought it was derogatory. I think the term “porn star” is rad but I’m not one. So really, language is so subjective. And no one wants to be the lowest of the low - the whore.
Sex worker is actually meant to be a term that unites us as one group that society generally views as whores. All us girls and boys in the sex industry - who get naked for a living, or do webcam, or domme, etc. When actions are committed against anyone of our group, it affects us all because the stigma grows deeper.
If we could somehow persuade people and society that sex is not such a bad thing and neither is paying for it - via fantasy a la strip club or reality a la massage parlour - then we could maybe stop having to hide what we do for a living or lose our children for doing it or be abused by the people and systems that are supposed to protect us because of it.
On the other hand, if the stigma towards whores (and sex industry work, in general) was lessened, it would be easier for us to differentiate between each other too. The lines would be drawn more clearly for everyone. A dom(me) does not have sex for money, but will do things to stimulate a person sexually. An adult film performer does not have sex for money, but does have sex on film for money. A webcam performer does not have sex for money but will masturbate for a set rate per minute online. An exotic dancer does not have sex for money, but will dance naked standing between your legs for $40 per song or get up on stage and perform a striptease for your erotic viewing pleasure. Lol
I think it is important to draw those lines and stick to our personal boundaries. I believe we need to stick to our “roles” too. For instance, if an escort is also an exotic dancer, don’t do escort work when dancing. Although, dancing during escorting is fine. ;) And if a bdsm worker is also exchanging sex for money, then she or he should be clear that this is not what is usually expected when visiting a bdsm worker.
Anyhow I just wanted to post a note about this and hopefully get some discussion going. I know this is a very sensitive topic for many people and I would like you all to know where I’m coming from and why I use the language I use. xox