As a female sex worker, I'd like to propose my own Google-style gender equality manifesto

Science tells us that men are just not very good at sex. This explains why there are so few of them performing the reverse cowgirl in hotel rooms in Mayfair on any given Saturday night. But things can change

Holly Lang
Monday 14 August 2017 14:04
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'Why are men so underrepresented in my industry? Let's look to biology'
'Why are men so underrepresented in my industry? Let's look to biology'

I work in the most female-dominated profession in the world. This week’s diversity crisis at Google made me think about the gross imbalance of representation in my workplace. Applying the same sort of logic as the writer of that piece, I’ve come up with a similar manifesto for the sex industry.

Estimates put the relative number of women in the sex industry at 80 per cent to 94 per cent, making the male sex worker a rare bird indeed. Prostitution is also one of the few professions in which women are paid more – nearly twice the hourly wage of men, in fact. Male sex workers, on average, see far fewer clients than their female colleagues.

In the arena of sex work, then, men are hugely underrepresented, offered fewer opportunities, and get paid less for doing the same job.

How did this massive gender imbalance come about? And what could, or should, we be doing about it?

Queer Muslim sex worker on her everyday life: 'I'm a science experiment'

To answer this, we could start with the historical background. We could talk about the fact that for long dark decades of human history, prostitution was the only route by which women could achieve financial independence – and one of the few kinds of employment available to women at all.

We could have complex discussions about power dynamics and patriarchy.

We could celebrate change and progress; the fact that in the UK, at least, sex workers can now work legally and in relative safety, while acknowledging the work yet to do in ending trafficking and violence. And we could speculate about the role of sex workers in an increasingly egalitarian society, and how men’s role specifically may or should change.

We could do all of these things. But that would be a massive waste of time. Because there’s a much simpler explanation – and solution.

Why are there so few male sex workers? The answer has been there all the time, in the form of biological differences. Simply put – and, while I realise this is contentious to even say – women are just better at sex than men.

Sounds ridiculous? Let’s look at the science.

Women, on average, are more interested in people than men are.

Women have more empathy, a vital quality when it comes to performing well as a sex worker. (Prostitution, after all, isn’t just about satisfying lust – it’s also satisfying the need for human connection, often to people who might have a disability, trauma or illness that makes it otherwise hard for them to connect with others.)

Women are better at communication, and are more intuitive thinkers (they don’t need to refer to a manual to initiate a hand-job.)

All of these natural qualities make women innately good at sex.

'Sex Workers Opera' a show performed by those in the sex industry - London Live

Men, on the other hand, are more interested in things like data and logic and numbers than they are in people, making sex with a man the equivalent of blundering against a robot with a hard-on.

I realise this may be hard to hear. It may seem unfair, and discouraging to men who hope to launch successful careers in the industry. But the disparity we can't help but observe is most likely an unfortunate, but true, representation of natural differences.

Like it or not, we have to be willing to accept, or at least discuss, the possibility that the underrepresentation of male sex workers in the sex industry isn’t due to complex sociological, historical and biological reasons. It’s not because men may have greater desire for the kind of experience that sex workers offer, and certainly do possess far more of the world’s wealth to spend on that experience. It’s not about the lack of equal opportunities for women in other sectors, or about the right of women to sell their bodies if they choose. No, it’s simply because men are bad at sex.

Of all the stories we could tell ourselves to fit the facts, the one that equates biological difference with the extent of ability is the one that we should choose, because it’s the most scientific.

There’s proof of this. Men find it hard to get women to have sex with them. Since men are, on average, worse at sex, a woman is less likely to be willing to pay for a sexual encounter with a man than a man is to pay for sex with a woman. This contributes to, and helps explain, the lamentable dearth of men being highly paid to perform a reverse cowgirl manoeuvre in a Mayfair hotel on any given Thursday night.

“Wait a moment!” I hear you say. “Did you just use the lack of men in the sex industry to justify your assertion that men are worse at sex – and then use the supposed awfulness of man-sex to explain why there aren’t more men in the industry?”

Yes, but that’s just one of the apparent circularities that vanishes when we take innate biological difference as an explanation for – well, everything. And we can surely agree that, all other things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the best.

Which brings me to the $100 question: is there a fair way to equalise the representation of men in the sex industry?

The UK’s best-paid sex worker - London Live

With full understanding that, on average, they are just not as good at sex as women, can we encourage exceptional men to step up to bat, while gently keeping out the majority who can’t bone for the big leagues?

We don’t, after all, want to mistake population-level trait distribution as a measure of individual worth. We want to reward the rare man who can do the job by providing him with equal opportunities and equal pay.

But we also have to keep in mind the best interests of the industry, which means that some difficult decisions must be made. On the one hand, more balanced gender representation would give the sense that the industry cares about humanity, and values the skills that men can bring. There would probably be benefits around legislation and safety for the industry if more men experienced life as a sex worker. But there would be an overall loss of quality, generally speaking, because the experience of punters would suffer from all these sub-optimal workers.

Even if we wanted to change the current balance of representation, we’d find it incredibly hard. Because most men are so rubbish at the pants-off dance, and stereotypes are so damn hard to change (and are often right anyway), the only surefire way to increase representation of men is to incentivise women to hire them.

The industry could incentivise women by paying them (for example) to have sex with male prostitutes. Paradoxically, this affirmative action would only contribute to keeping men disenfranchised, by placing their security in the hands of a small, artificially motivated group that doesn’t particularly believe in their ability to do a good job. This can in turn lead to an unstable, even hostile, workplace for men.

Rather than forcing men to stuff the muffin in this kind of stressful environment (probably resulting in even more terrible sex, erectile dysfunction, and performance anxiety), men could be encouraged to do jobs that make better use of their man-skills, like chopping wood and eradicating fruit flies. People are generally happier when doing something they’re good at, rather than something that doesn’t come naturally to them.

I have a degree and am a sex worker - London Live

So here’s my (radical, contentious) proposal – and this time I’m being serious.

Men and women are biologically different. The nature of my work makes me keenly aware of this every moment of the day. We can, and should, be able to talk about those differences without fear – including the fear that simply acknowledging them will plunge us into vulnerability, put us on the defensive, cost us the steps toward equality that we’ve taken so far, and end in unjustified assumptions about our abilities.

This should be the case whether we work in the sex industry or the tech industry – whether we’re male or female or non-binary, trans or cisgender.

The experiences of other people are an Area 51 of unknowability that can’t ever really be entered. But we try. We tell each other what it’s like to be in our skins. We do sensitivity training and focus groups and write stories and make art and even, God forbid, use satire to say: this is what it’s like being us. This is how it feels.

We do this until we get it right. We do this over and over until we understand each other – or at least understand each other well enough to make a society that genuinely represents and rewards the abilities of the people who make it.

We’re not there yet. But we can only get there together.

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