Sex Workers Make Great Therapists – But They're Locked Out of the Job
September 20, 2019 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Worthy read, thanks for posting. Best of luck to these workers.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:13 AM on September 20, 2019

Interesting article and I can see several sides to this. Fundamentally I don't see why someone who has worked as a sex worker should be excluded from training as a therapist and fulfilling the requirements that could lead to licensure. That said, one function of the various licensing, training and related entities is to protect the field and those currently working in that field. I have a friend who worked as a dance therapist and LPC and it was incredibly difficult to get licensed in the first place, and perhaps even more difficult to get licensed in a new state even after having worked in the industry for 20+ years. This was undoubtedly partly due to the fact that there were only so many jobs to go around and the state licensing organizations had a somewhat self-serving interest in keeping the number of working therapists low so they could all continue to make a living. This is not unusual. Plenty of people have complained that the AMA, for example, works to limit the number of doctors in order to keep incomes high.

Unfortunately, psychological therapies of all kinds are still viewed as "frou-frou bullshit" by a lot of people, and I have little doubt that there are many unenlightened members of the public who already view the therapies practiced by COSRT members as a kind of sex work. This can lead to reduced numbers of clients as a result of stigma against both therapists and patients, and it can lead to difficulties in billing insurance for the therapists' services. These are the sorts of things the licensing, training and related entities take into consideration, and so it's unsurprising that they seek to distance themselves from any association with sex work. The last thing they want is for companies, etc. to decide that sexual and relationship therapists are simply sex workers trying to skirt around the law and/or bill insurance for their services. Certainly I don't see COSRT ever being okay with someone working as a sexual and relationship therapist while continuing to work as a sex worker, and absolutely not ever countenancing any mingling of the two in any way. I agree with the quote from Pamela Gawler-Wright that the licensing, training and related entities may have the mistaken view that sex workers would be conducting sex work with clients who were also their psychotherapy clients. But I think it's likely the case that therapists working in this field fear a negative impact on their industry if some of their colleagues were to begin appearing in personal ads or on "gentleman's club" marquees.

Unfair? Sure. But not too surprising.
posted by slkinsey at 1:15 PM on September 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

i mean the short version of that comment could be “psychologist organizations exclude sex workers because they’re afraid to get sex worker stigma on them.” that is not a healthy or good stance to take; one can understand how they arrived at that reasoning but one is obligated to nevertheless acknowledge that the decision to reïnforce sex worker stigma by excluding sex workers from the profession is both morally repugnant and a disservice to their clients.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:28 PM on September 20, 2019 [30 favorites]

I would think sex worker as a resume item would get you shunned from most professions.

At least here in America 2019...
posted by Windopaene at 1:51 PM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: Agreed on all points.
posted by slkinsey at 1:54 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

my queendom for some actual compassionate harm reduction and less moralizing in the field of medical science.

I need someone to teach me how my body has sex. I don't want it to be romantic because that is dangerous as fuck for me. I could get killed trying to date a man in order to learn how to use my body as a thing that fucks. I need actual sex therapy and right now that means I'm looking at paying a sex worker who will come to my house and teach me. The alternative is cruising for dudes on tinder? as a trans woman? are you fucking kidding me?

I would love for there to be an actual sex therapy practice with a good consent model and credentialing process.

I hope to see decriminalization of sex work in my lifetime. It will change the world for the better.
posted by nikaspark at 1:55 PM on September 20, 2019 [49 favorites]

in this thread: people observing that whorephobia is a socially acceptable prejudice that is not okay.

also in this thread: people arguing that whorephobia is a socially acceptable prejudice, and so is therefore okay.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:59 PM on September 20, 2019 [13 favorites]

Some states permit “sexual surrogacy” but I don’t know much about it, I’m probably dimly remembering articles posted here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:55 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

THANK YOU. I didn't know this was a thing!
posted by nikaspark at 6:51 PM on September 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

this wasn't about sex workers learning to be sexual surrogates, it was about sex workers learning to be psychotherapists. whether specializing in sex therapy (not surrogacy) or not. there should be no more stigma to current or ex-sex-workers becoming therapists than there is for current or ex-baristas becoming therapists, but neither resume item has any bearing on what you can expect your therapist to do for you in session. it is retrograde and super disrespectful to sex workers to talk as if having held this particular job fits you for one specialty only.

much less to suggest that a therapist who's done sex work is somehow a natural for surrogacy. this is like assuming that women who've both borne children and gone to medical school are perfectly placed to be gestational surrogates. sure, they could do that, but of all people, why should they be the ones who want to?
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:26 PM on September 20, 2019 [19 favorites]

Yeah I get that, the connection I didn’t explicitly make was that we’re not even at the point that people who have been sex workers can be therapists and there’s even more need beyond that point. I should not have left that connection implied.
posted by nikaspark at 9:55 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

The thing is that sex workers have boundaries. There is a ton of work that goes into sex work, and it's dismissive to say that there isn't. One, getting paid for services many people expect quite frankly for free and a subset that doesn't even think consent an issue is hard. There is navigating plenty of spaces while being a sex worker as a normal human being. Because one engaging in sex work does not mean dysfunctional sex lives. It due not mean they have sex with anyone at will. There is refusal . There is saying no to clients who want things one cannot or will not do. If you don't think some professions, especially exotic dancers do not navigate with people who want to push boundaries all day long you would be wrong.

Yes, there are people who have unhealthy relationships with sex, and plenty of therapists end up having sex with clients which is why it is so repeated as a boundary one cannot break . People lose their licensure every year for that. I don't think screening out sex workers solves that problem or that it is an effective screen. It's discrimination. It is ignoring very real economic and social justice issues that every psychotherapist regardless or religion or practice area or therapeutic background should be aware of.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:02 AM on September 21, 2019 [15 favorites]

Being a former sex worker, yeah, that's a red flag there that the gatekeepers are going to pay attention to.

What, exactly, are the ethical standards that you believe former sex workers are incapable of adhering to? Informed consent? How to place mental and emotional boundaries up between themselves and clients? Respecting the privacy of their clients?

I only ask because, if there's a ranking of any serious experts on the types of jobs that place a high value on those kinds of ethics, I'd bet that sex workers would be at or near the top.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:04 AM on September 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

[ One deleted. Just saying that the American counseling Association has a code of ethics and thus “sex workers would not make good therapists” doesn’t make sense and isn’t really engaging with the discussion or posted article at all. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:37 AM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I think it's also important to understand where sex work comes from. Not all sex work is entered in the same way with the same motivations and trafficking is a very real thing. And people psychological responses to trafficking are also a very real thing. There are economic reasons and social reasons and forced reasons. Regardless , sex work is real work. And all kinds of sex work are judged as equally offensive and criminalized in the same way. That is terrifying. It is important that theraputic professionals can realize and understand the nuances of this, because many people in the profession will work with all kinds of people.

There are also many reasons why people become therapists, some of which is that people forced them to emotionally regulate others, and all kinds of other dysfunction that therapeutic professions don't screen for in any formal way. There is informal screening during education and people are quietly asked not to continue though it isn't talked about in any real way outside quiet academic meetings.

To screen people for sex work at the door, without screening for a variety of other factors is concerning. To understand that not all people view the human body or sex in the same way is very important to be able to be a good therapist. In the end,
there are licensing organizations that are institutionizing that some ways people view and utilize their bodies is dysfunction abesent of actually discussing motivations and reasons. That is discrimination and one the profession should never be engaging in.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:40 AM on September 21, 2019 [11 favorites]

I hope to see decriminalization of sex work in my lifetime.

Here in civilization, sex work has been legal for some decades now.
posted by flabdablet at 7:33 AM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

This policy is like saying, "we can't hire novelists to write our technical documents - they might put fiction in the middle of the machinery operations instructions!"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:51 PM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.
posted by flabdablet at 5:00 AM on September 22, 2019

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