Sex Workers And Mental Health
To survive in the world and live a happy life, a person must be more than just physically healthy. They should be mentally, emotionally, financially, and sexually healthy.
The last one can be ensured by finding a partner they can have sex with. Or, they can buy products such as sex dolls. Also, people may find sexual satisfaction from watching porn or webcam models’ streams. Speaking of these sex workers, they are humans too. Therefore, they share the same needs as the general population. In fact, they are likely in the industry so they can achieve financial stability. However, as told by performers in the adult industry, most people don’t see them like this. And unfortunately, these misconceptions about them restrict their access to health services.
The Sad Case Of August Ames
August Ames was an award-winning porn actress. Was. The 23 years old adult entertainer took her life in December 2017 by hanging. And of course, what thing would cause someone to commit suicide aside from depression?
The tragic incident happened a week after she posted a Tweet. On the Tweet, Ames wished luck for the lady performer replacing her in the scene she was supposed to star in. She refused to perform after finding out that the man has shot gay porn in the past. Now, men performing in gay porn – despite being straight – is common. They earn more from these scenes than in straight porn. With that said, Ames’ Twitter post garnered backlash. From that, we can extrapolate that it can be cyberbullying that caused the star to end her life.
August Ames has talked about her depression in the past. In the interview with her friend, she also publicized how she struggles to find support on top of that.
If anything, the therapist themselves have made her feel worse about herself. Ames said that their reaction after she tells them her profession made her feel bad. It was like, “Oh, you are a porn star? Then that’s why you are like that.”
Now, let us put things together. Ames is already depressed – but her work is not the primary reason for that. However, that’s what people assumed. Then, she chose not to do something she is not comfortable with. For that, she received backlash. It’s as if she does not have the right to do that. That she should not be selective with her performance partners because she is a porn star. People only saw her as a porn star and not as August Ames. That caused her mental health – which was already not in the best condition – to suffer.
Why Sex Workers Can’t Get Mental Health Care
The widespread cultural misconception about people who do sex work prevents them from getting the mental health care they need. Mental health professionals automatically assume they are drug-addicted, riddled with STIs, and victims of sex abuse. While Ames admitted that she was molested by her grandfather, those are not always true. This has been proven by a study in a study in the Journal of Sex Research. The study surveyed 177 women performers. It revealed that sex workers are not any more likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse than members of the general population. However, they had their first sex at a younger age than the rest, and they had more partners.
Still, even with legitimate studies like this existing, experts tend to generalize. The stigma turns the sex workers off from seeking mental help.
“Starring In Porn Is A Mental Condition In Itself”
According to many porn stars, the therapists they have talked with treat participating in sex work as a mental condition. They do not view it as a regular job. Instead, they view it like it’s a symptom. They treat participating in sex work as an indication of an underlying issue – says porn performer Ela Darling.
Again, a common reason why sex workers entered this kind of life is to make ends meet. Though a little unorthodox, it is a viable method to make a living.
Now, content creators on OnlyFans and webcam models could earn a fortune for their profession. Porn stars are not lying about their job being just like other regular jobs. They also do not earn much. Furthermore, part of what they make is spent on STI tests. That takes at least $400 twice a month. Webcam models don’t have to do this since they only have sex with their sex dolls on camera. Meanwhile, porn stars have sex with actual people. They can’t skip testing unless they don’t want to book a job.
Then come the bills and other expenses. After subtracting all of these from their earnings, they would not have enough to afford mental health therapies. And considering how therapists view them, they don’t find it worth it.
While uncommon, we cannot discount the therapists who genuinely try to help sex workers. The Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (SWOP) provides a network of sex worker-friendly therapists. The organization tries its best not to let sex workers feel ostracized and alone.
SWOP finds how many therapists treat sex workers disheartening. Their first goal is to pull the worker out of the industry. While they are doing it with good intention, that’s not the way to get rid of the client’s mental problems. Even more, for some, leaving sex work is not an option.
The network SWOP made is called PROS – standing for Providers and Resources Offering Services to sex workers. Every individual and organization in this network has signed a contract. It says that they understand the needs of sex workers.
SWOP board member Katherine Margaret states that “it’s about meeting people where they’re at.” Rather than plucking the workers from the sex industry, their work provides “resources necessary to engage in what they’re doing safely.”
Sex worker or not, your mental health matters. No matter what you do, you matter. So, if you or anyone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately.