Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

In Defense of Amber Rose & Sex Worker Feminism

Here we go again. Amber Rose, a black former sex worker, has said something that is a cornerstone of our society, and yet gets vilified. What did she say? Women should seduce men to get what they want.

In a TIME interview, she said: “As women, we’re fortunate enough to use our seductive skills in order to be able to get money from our significant others.”

Come on, people. This idea is neither new nor shocking. But she didn’t offer it in our society’s usual sugar-coated terms. Plus she’s a black woman, a former sex worker, and therefore is getting dragged for it.

Let me be clear: I don’t think this is the ideal advice to give to all young women in all situations. But it’s not the worst advice for a woman who came up facing some of the challenges that Amber Rose faced. She told Curve magazine, “I grew up with a single mom. She was a waitress. We were really, really, really, really poor.” At fifteen, Amber began stripping. “It was a survival tactic.” As a curvy young lightskinned black woman, she quickly figured out that she would be sexually objectified regardless of what she did, and decided to make the most of it. I never blame a woman for making lemonade out of lemons. She’s sharing her survival strategies, and I respect that. As opposed to blaming Amber Rose, I would say WTF is going on with our society that her family had no safety net?

And while I’m at it, I would also say that this is a direct result of the pay gap. If women can’t get paid what we’re worth when we do the work ourselves, it makes sense that some women seek to access wealth through male partners.

Let’s notice other places throughout history and in contemporary culture where women get the same message:

Old school: Lady MacBeth. One of the most famous women in literature, who had to live out her ambition through her husband. Screw my courage to its sticking place. You know she put it on old boy but good that night before he went out. But you don’t see anyone slut-shaming her…

The pulpit: Reverend Pat Robertson recently encouraged women to give their husbands sex in exchange for doing the dishes. Yes, people, he said that. But you don’t see the masses of people giving the old, conservative white guy a hard time for advocating for the same thing. Maybe because he was encouraging women to sell themselves too cheap.

Advertising: Every kiss begins with Kay. How many diamond ads have you seen that clearly imply: give her this ring and you will get sex. A sparkly rock, soft lighting, a delighted woman’s face, and white people singing in the background sounding like a Mormon choir don’t actually water down the message: your female partner is for sale. Give a gem and get lucky.

It’s the same thing I keep saying about sex work. Yes, there are some things about the sex for cash exchange that are clearly rooted in male domination. But there are plenty of other types of exchanges that are based in sex as currency. I want to see the end of the whole system of male domination, and not just cleaning up the parts that are messy and lack pretense. I’m sick of sex work and sex workers getting blamed for a dynamic that is at the core of our culture.

Also from the Curve interview:

“Because I was a stripper at 15 years old, I think a lot of people look at that and they think I was a prostitute and I was a whore and I did dirty things for money. When really, I was very young and I did what I had to, to survive at that time. It’s not like I was a little girl thinking like, Oh when I grow up I want to be a stripper! And I want everyone to treat me like shit.”

And as black women are consistently objectified, told our bodies are the only thing about us that is even interesting to the society, barely even valuable. “I was in like, the hood, and I did what I had to do to survive,” she told Curve, “and I constantly get ridiculed.”

I’m writing a sex worker heist novel because I’m sick of our culture dismissing the wisdom of women who learn lessons about money and labor through sex work. My protagonist came from an economically similar situation to Amber Rose. She doesn’t come to the exact same conclusions. She prefers to rob wealthy men than partner with them. But she uses her own brand of seduction as part of the heist. In a patriarchal society, women of color who fit objectification criteria are pushed to trade on that sexual currency and then blamed for it.

Amber rose is walking the talk of her particular brand of feminism. Respect, sis, respect.

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One comment on “In Defense of Amber Rose & Sex Worker Feminism

  1. ayandamzilikazi
    November 15, 2015

    I never blame a woman for making lemonade out of lemons. She’s sharing her survival strategies, and I respect that. Because I was a stripper at 15 years old, I think a lot of people look at that and they think I was a prostitute and I was a whore and I did dirty things for money.

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This entry was posted on November 12, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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