Psyche of the Sex Worker
One of the topics that I want to examine in relation to sex work is the psyche of the sex worker. Every attempt that I make, I feel, was intrusive, assumptive and grossly generalizing. So I stopped, because I felt no right to comment on the topic. I am not a psychologist and not the spokesperson of a whole industry.
Recently I came across Carol S. Pearson’s work in The Hero Within – Six Archetypes We Live By (Harper San Francisco, 1998). Her work is heavily influenced by Carl Jung’s studies with archetypes, dreams and interpretations. Without dulling my blog with academic theory, I’ll briefly explain what this all means and relates to. Archetypes are the primordial personality types and traits that everyone potentially encompasses, as do the characters of familiar myths and stories that we derive personal meaning and significance from. We are all archetypes, or overlays of archetypes and in Pearson’s work, she analyses the archetypes and relates them to life experiences or stages.
Using this model, I decided to attempt to apply it to sex workers, to help understand the psyche of the sex worker without being presumptuous or all knowing. People of the public often have a hard time justifying or understanding why the sex workers do what they do. Consequently our intentions, morals and characters are misinterpreted. When analysing this table please consider that no one person is a whole archetype, they are identification of the stages within life, and they overlap in most circumstances. I hope this blog post helps readers understand who we are and possibly who they are.
There are six archetypes explored by Pearson: Innocent, Orphan, Martyr, Wanderer, Warrior and Magician. If you’d like to understand the full definitions of these archetypes please have a read of her work, as I will only relate them to sex workers. There can be hundreds of archetypes across our worlds many cultures. I have recreated this table to help summarise each archetype and its connection to sex work. The Innocent is excluded because the Innocent represents paradise, the time before and after our journey in life. When one is in paradise there is ‘no need for goals, fears, tasks or work’ and so therefore the Innocent cannot represent a journey, it is literally a state of absolute peace.
Please note that the *dragon represents any obstacle, hardship, struggle and test by the individual which can originate from outwardly appearance or from within.
My table is a replication of Pearson’s and full credits to her for the structure. I have merely reconstructed this model to fixate on sex workers.
|Goal||Security and safeness in life (the immature sex worker)||To be good, caring or responsible (the motherly/feminine sex worker)||To be independent or autonomous (the student, growing sex worker)||To be strong, operative and influential (the assertive, strong, independent, and opinionated sex worker)||To be authentic, original and having a complete balance of every inner component (the all-round at ease, freedom loving, expressive sex worker)|
|Worst Fear||To be abandoned or exploited by others||To be selfish, rough, uncaring, irresponsible or cruel||To give up, obey or conform||To be fragile, feeble, convincible or naive||Superficiality, rejection by others and one’s self|
|Response to Dragon||Waits for rescue or assistance by others or denies existence of problems (puts head into sand)||Will sacrifice themselves for the good of others or to save others from Dragon. Will often give themselves to protect others||Flees, runs away or evades||Will defeat or slay any obstacle. Intolerant to defeat or any signs of weakness||Finds growth within understanding challenges. Welcomes hard times to learn from them. Befriends challenges|
|Spirituality||Seeks a deity for resolution and religious counselling for spiritual answers||Their sacrifice or suffering is regarded as pleasing to God. Appeases their spiritual identity by believing they are doing the right thing for others||Seeks their own interpretation or understanding of spirituality||Is overzealous and strong within their beliefs. Will convert others to what they believe||Respects different methods of spirituality or considerations to god. Understands that everyone experiences sacredness differently|
|Intellect or Education||Seeks intellectual knowledge or education through authority figures – not enthusiastic of seeking knowledge for themselves||Will often learn for the sake of others or to help others how to learn or teach||Attempts to explore ideas within their own way. Is enthusiastic interpreting education to their liking||Will learn lessons by confrontations or fights. Achieves competitively. High achieving||Appreciates differences in opinion and encourages intellectual relationships and discourse. Allows curiosity within groups|
|Relationships||Seeks caretakers, often searches for others who are willing to care for them and with little responsibilities to the relationship||Wholly determined to care or look after others, whatever the price may be||Looks after themselves and self-sufficient. They are their first priority, they are themselves in the relationship||Will influence others or change others to suit their own needs. Manipulates others to quench their own needs||Encourages peer relationships, differences and understanding. Promotes healthy give/take relationships|
|Emotions||Often out of control, unstable, insensitive and numb||Exhibits positive emotions and represses negative emotions, so others don’t worry or are hurt||Are tolerant or stoic of their own emotions and deal with their own issues by themselves||Very controlled and full oppression of emotions||Learns and extends emotional understanding by looking within themselves and others|
|Physical Health||Seeks instant fulfillment or solutions for their health problems or goals||Pursues to be aesthetically beautiful and will often punish themselves to achieve this i.e. diet||Seeks alternative health care and distrust professionals. Will engage in isolating sports i.e. surfing||Enjoys sports with teams, regimes, austerity and seriousness||Conscious of health, good food and exercise|
|Work||Is not enthusiastic about working and would rather have easy routes for pay||Works hard for others sake even if they feel it is tough or tiresome||Works for themselves and are enthusiastic to work for their own needs||Works with the expectation that they’d yield rewards. Hard working and achieving||Regards work as self-fulfilling and as a true vocation|
|Material world||Often feels poor or like they never have enough money. Is enthusiastic for quick money or materialistic possessions||Believes they are sufficient or satisfied with what they have. Feel adequate having any materialistic things||Sacrifices money for materialistic things as a symbolically representation of their independence||Works to be rich, identifies being rich through material world||Will not take materialistic things in excess, respects little or a lot. Overall feels prosperous|
|What they must accomplish||Overcoming refutation or unrealistic hopes and innocence||The ability to give up and give away – a lack of self-sacrifice and a change of focus to self||Achieving an identity that they are comfortable in. To be unafraid of a lack of identity. Self-confidence and self-reliance||Courage and assertiveness without fear. To regard the world around them without feeling the need to be oppressive as the means to control.||A feeling of abundance, bliss, acceptance and faith. Complete understanding of one’s self and others around them|
To understand what this table means, I will use it to reflect some of my characteristics as a sex worker. I appeal to be a Magician, the one who completely understands themselves and is considerate to understand others. But I’m not the Magician, no matter how hard I try, because sometimes I fight like a Warrior, or am self-sacrificing like the Martyr and more often than not, I exhibit hide in solace like the Wanderer. I can be the Orphan and wrenched by own inability to cope and at the same time be the Magician and invite discourse that’ll make me uncomfortable. I am all these archetypes and my accomplishments, I feel, are still unsustainable in all categories. I am still full of refutation, I lack self-focus, and I feel I am without identity; I am oppressive when being assertive and I lack inner-peace and acceptance. I am all of the archetypes and more. As is all sex workers. As are you.
We are all trying to make things work within the present time as best we can. Every sex worker sits somewhere on this table but so do non-sex workers and our humanity is not so different. I believe we all work to eventually evolve and become the Innocent we once were, before our physical death. All we want is paradise here on earth, paradise within ourselves. After careful consideration one finds the psyche of sex workers and non-sex workers are not so different after all.