Racial Fetishism and Sexwork

    Alexandria Fox · February 25, 2016 · Sexwork: Past and Present · 0 comments

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    “I’m surprised at how smart and well-spoken you are. No offense, but I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with you upon meeting you. I just saw your ad, what you were offering and figured why not?” This is basically a direct quote from a newbie I saw recently and is not all that uncommon actually from those new to the hobby and those new to seeing a Black woman who is well-educated, well-spoken and who is not afraid to ensure that her brain takes equal part in encounters with clients as much as her anatomy does.

    I have been working my way through several academic degrees as a sexworker for a few years now and I hear this statement several times a year in various forms. The other form is: “Wow! You speak so well and without an accent and are very different from other Black providers I have seen. Are you sure you’re from the South?” Extrapolate from that statement what you will as it is a very complex statement that is simultaneously a compliment and a put down to a race and a region. I get it that the vernacular of English spoken by the average Black Southerner is one that can be hard to understand. When I first moved to Atlanta, GA from Texas I had no idea what the people around me were saying and found myself asking them to repeat themselves all the time (I still do it) and this was not limited to Blacks in the South either. My journey in sexwork as a Black woman has given me a peculiar insight into the minds of the people who elect to see me and I am sure that many other Black women can state the same. As sexworkers we do have some unifying experiences with our suitors in a great many areas and as the old saying goes: Pussy is pussy and for the most part a woman is a woman whether she is White, Black or any race/ethnicity, however; the experiences of women of color (WOC) are worlds apart in a great many ways.

    Racial Fetishism

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    According to a wiki on the topic, “Racial fetishism involves fetishizing a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group that is not one’s own—therefore it involves racial/ ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped, and oftentimes their cultural practices. This can include having strong racial preferences in dating, for example, fetishization of East Asian women in Australasia and North America is quite prevalent” We have all heard the terms “Yellow Fever”, “Jungle Fever” or some lesser terms such as “Desi Desire” (East Indian women) and “Traveling South of the Border” (Latina women). It’s no secret that women of color are often fetishized by the men who seek us out. White women are also often fetishized by men of color also. Men of Middle Eastern and Japanese backgrounds love themselves some blondes!  Some women of color try to ignore this and/or steer clear of it and brand themselves as “I am just like any other white provider” and never use descriptive terms that speak of their race or ethnic background. Others play it up; I have seen ads that openly state that if you have one of the above “fevers” check her out as she is sure to scratch that itch for the “other” and more “exotic”. I see nothing wrong with either approach in a woman’s choice of marketing but what I do think is disrespectful on the part of many suitors is thinking that the aforementioned quotes are somehow complimentary to a sexworker or to a WOC. I understand that the media has drilled into everyone’s brain that sexworkers are all victims–we either have pimps, a criminal record a drug problem or all three, that we are a major public health concern and that we all look scraggly, malnourished and probably have a gaggle of kids spread out across the city’s foster care system that are in equally dire shape. So I somewhat understand when a newbie is shit shocked to discover sites like Eros.com or P411.com and that all the beautiful girls there are real and available for dates, often educated at the Master’s Degree level and that they do not have all the stereotypical “problems” of sexworkers the media propaganda machine loves to crow about. What I don’t get is the colorism/racialized nature of the comments—as if POC cannot be more than the promulgated stereotypes seen in rap videos, movies or tv shows. But then you say, “C’mon, Alexandria, I walk around (insert US city name) and see plenty of pants hanging off asses, bad weave, crude behavior, loud, obnoxious and horribly spoken English coming out the mouths of Black people sounding like the uneducated people they are [<–see what just happened there]…I know you see this too, right?” And to this I say yes, I see these things but 1) I don’t make the assumption that every one of them I see is uneducated 2) I am not about to judge the content of someone’s character off clothing and hair choices and 3) I am also not going to lump every other person I see of the same race into the same category and make broad generalizations as to how “they all are”. Sexwork has taught me a lesson on the damaging effects of racial/cultural stereotypes. It is also these encounters that happen over and over as a WOC in the business of sex that aid me in understanding better why some WOC seek to distance themselves from their race. There are a ton of “bi or multiethnic” Black women advertising as sexworkers and what I think many fail to realize is that none of that matters…you are still just a Black woman as far as 90% of your clients are concerned and for some you’re a fetish item. Furthermore, if you are from the Americas–United States, the Caribbean Islands, Central and South America–and are “Black/African” most all of us are “multiracial/multiethnic due to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I recently got results on my DNA ancestry through 23 and Me and results show that I am 23% Anglo-European, 10% Castillian which is Spain and 67% of my genes trace back to West Africa but my skin is a smooth cocoa brown that hides beneath it all the genetic geographic complexity that is me. Could I say that I am “multiracial”? Yes. But would I? No. While it is interesting as a curious student of the sciences, finding out about my genetic makeup is not something I want to monetize nor do I seek to escape into being multiracial.

    Acceptance of Racial Fetishism

    Personally I don’t care about being fetishized. Most of my suitors (90%) are outstanding White gentlemen who arezygmunt-bauman-other honest with me about their taste for the occasional piece of chocolate. Those who are not Black (7%) run the gamut from fetish to “familiarity” and I am fine with all of it because I believe that as an intelligent WOC who engages as a sexworker that allowing someone freedom of expression and racial curiosity breaks down the barriers erected by society that causes us to see one another as “other” due to race, national origin and culture. I hope that when they walk out the door and carry on with their day that they might view others around them in a less xenophobic/racial stereotypical light.

    But then again this all is most likely wishful thinking on my part and the guy may just be happy to have had a date with a girl who has been giving him hard-ons for the past few weeks or days!

     

    One can hope,

    Alexandria Fox

    Alexandria Fox

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