White supremacy & sex work

Juniper Fitzgerald has a wonderful long-form review of the meeting point between white supremacy, white feminism, and sex work:

The inherent racism of white womanhood escapes notice precisely because doing white femininity entails curbing accountability. Eschewing agency, especially sexual agency, is essential for the performance of white womanhood. It’s why so many white feminists harbor disdain for sex workers—sex workers put a price on performances of femininity which are typically demanded of femme-presenting people for free and without full consent. Think of it this way—there is a reason Christian Grey is not a Black man. Rape fantasies like 50 Shades of Grey appeal to white women because doing white femininity means abating all culpability. White womanhood fetishizes submission to white men because it allows white women to skirt responsibility for all things unbecoming a “good girl”— namely, again, sexual agency. The toxicity of white womanhood is evident in TERF and SWERF feminisms; I’m sure I’m not surprising any Tits and Sass readers with my analysis thus far. What receives far less attention, at least in circles of predominantly white cis sex workers, is how we—white cis women—propagate the institution of white womanhood at the expense of marginalized sex workers.

It is perhaps unsurprising that white cis sex workers exhibit racism, sexism, transmisogyny, and whorephobia, even while rejecting the ethos of TERF and SWERF feminism. In fact, it is precisely in times like these, when we face the potential for extinction itself, that people are likely to salvage what little privilege they have left, and always at the expense of those without it. In her 1984 essay “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality”, Gayle Rubin argues that in times of great social unrest, particularly in times of war, people become dangerously obsessed with sex. This obsession mirrors classic projection—scapegoating others assuages one’s own fear of demise (or at least serves as a momentary distraction). When you live in a society that criminalizes sexual behavior, behavior that is believed to be incongruent with white supremacy and patriarchy, there is no better scapegoat than a sexual “deviant.” And when you’re busy raiding a pizza place on account of unsubstantiated evidence of sex trafficking, you don’t have to think too deeply about fascism.

White womanhood is essential to this equation—through institutions of white supremacy, we measure sexual value and bodily worth by its proximity to whiteness. Black women “fail” at femininity because the institution of white womanhood needs a barometer of respectability. Sex workers “fail” at femininity because the institution of white womanhood is reliant upon free sexual labor and the way that labor is constructed as virtuous. Trans women “fail” at femininity because the pillar of white womanhood rests on the currency of genitals.

I thoroughly recommend the piece. Read more here.



  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    The Rubin piece is also good. I read it ages ago and it still affects how I think about justice. “Pervert Justice” as a name is a recognition that there is always a “pervert” (in academic language, a sexual deviant) who can be thrust outside the protection of the law. Until the pervert receives justice then (as Dr. King might remind us) none of us is assured of justice. That recognition, though it comes from lots of sources and even (I hope) some actual original thought on my part, is in some small part traceable to Rubin’s essay.