Monday, 24 November 2014

Respectability vs RESPECT: Part Three

So.  Sex work.

I shared some personal history in that regard, but not everything.

On the street where I grew up, there were few stay-at-home mothers.  It was a working poor neighbourhood. Franco-Ontarians. Lebanese and Portuguese immigrants. Everyone worked. Dads. Moms. Kids too, when we turned 14.

A lovely and very elegant lady moved into a small 3 et 1/2  in the building next door to our rented house.  She was a widow with her daughter. They lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment.  Francine* and I were 12 years old; we became fast friends.

Unlike my Mom who worked at several part-time retail jobs, Madame L.  had her hair done every week and wore beautiful new dresses.

Madame L. was a "kept" woman. She had fixed appointments with different men friends who would take her out to dinner then on to a hotel. Although she didn't bring her clients back home, my Mom would never let me spend the night in Francine's home.

One day Madame L. asked my Mom if Francine could stay with us while she went away for a week in Florida with her "boyfriend".  (My father had seen this man arrive in his car, wait for Madame L. while she finished getting ready then drive away with her.  He knew that this man was a married police officer.)  My mother was aghast.  She told me that Francine's mother was immoral and that I couldn't be friends with her.  I disobeyed of course.  Francine and I stayed friends, but secretly.  Soon after that, she and her mother moved to Montréal.

My parents, in fact the whole neighbourhood where everyone knew everybody's business, did not consider Madame L. to be respectable.  She had a child.  She wasn't married.  She had sex with different men.  They "gave" her money; in reality they paid her for sex but nobody expressed it thus.  If only she had exclusively "entertained" one man and advanced the illusion that she was his mistress. But she was a call girl, a profession that was in the news of the era because of George Hees, Pierre Sévigny and Gerda Munsinger.

I have no idea if Francine also became a sex worker.

Many, many girls grew up in families where women, consensually or grudgingly, explicitly or implicitly, had sex with men - husbands, other family members, neighbours, landlords, storekeepers, employers - for benefit.  It's a wonder we're not all sex workers - or perhaps we are, and should recognize to what degree we might be, in order to obliterate the stigma attached, as it is with abortion.  Patriarchy certainly games the system to encourage girls and women to engage with men in such manner.

As I pointed out to a jerk on Twitter grousing about women _using_ men, if you're NOT trying to attract women who see you as a wallet attached to a penis, don't act like a prick with cash to burn on a pretty woman ... if she's _nice_ to you.

And, don't forget to send your letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, with regard to the vile sexwork re-criminalizing law the Harper government passed.  If you need inspiration, here's @kwetoday's own letter.

*Francine is not her real name. 

1 comment:

Beijing York said...

Seems we grew up in a similar time and neighbourhood. I was too young to know the ins and outs of what neighbourhood friends' single mothers did for a living (a category that didn't include the rare widowed mother). But my mother and her friends certainly had "the attitude" about a number of them. They were big on slut shaming and re-victimizing women who had been abandoned or abused (as if holding on to their much maligned "treasures" of husbands was some sign of respectability). There was definitely a pecking order in how respectably bartering your sex was or not with a seemingly happy marriage at the top of the heap.

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