The exact definition of “whorearchy” will be discussed below, but it’s first important to state that stigmatizing one type of sex work over another, does the entire industry a disservice
The “whorearchy” is the belief that different types of sex work are more elite than others. Each type of sex work is, generally, ranked according to how close the sex worker comes (physically) to their customer and to law enforcement.
This scale also directly dictates how legal and “acceptable” each type of sex work is considered to be – placing sex workers at higher levels of physical risk lower on the pyramid. In other words, the less socially acceptable your profession is considered, the greater criminalization you will likely face for doing your job.
At a general overview, cam girls and phone sex operators are at the top of the Pyramid, followed by porn actors, strippers and escorts, those who work indoors and find clientele online, and at the bottom, sex workers who find clientele outside (they refer to this as “street-walking”.)
Why the whorearchy exists, and the complications of and problems with its existence, are the main focus of this article. Let’s unpack this societal construct that’s disenfranchising our community and weakening our ability to make great change for all who practice our profession!
Why The Whorearchy Exists
We live in an innately classist society. Whatever group we find ourselves within our culture, profession, or community, we have a natural instinct and tendency to rank – in order of looks, class, race, ability, intellect, the list goes on. The sex industry is no different.
This need to identify ourselves in relation to others is biological. It comes from an instinct to assess our safety within a group of peers or adversaries, but doesn’t serve us well in a society where rights and respect are afforded to those who operate in larger, collective numbers to advocate for change.
In short, dividing our community is how we continue to be oppressed.
Problems with the Whorearchy:
- It’s Arbitrary
What everyone within the sex work industry can agree on is that the whorearchy exists. What very few can agree on, is where each profession (or person) sits.
We self-identify and assign ourselves a rung on the ladder. Are dominatrixes at the top of the ladder, or are phone sex workers and cam girls? And there’s an intersectionality at play when considering the race of each type of sex worker that comes from looks, class, race, ability, intellect.
- There are Many Gray Areas
Individuals can do more than one thing within the industry and occupy more than one rung on the ladder. For example, a cam girl may also do escort work through an agency, or someone who works through an agency may also “walk the streets”, and be treated very differently from one night to the next.
- It is Intersectional
Those of us who work outdoors face greater dangers than those on “higher” rungs of the ladder.
They are often leaving abusive home lives, and may be younger upon entry than those at other rungs of the ladder. They are also at greater risk of substance exposure and abuse, and are often preyed on by pimps, clientele, and law enforcement.
Those of us working outside are often people of colour and gender non-binary, which further complicates our ability to “improve” our stature. Much like any other societal position we inhabit, individuals operating any rung on the ladder find it hard to “move up”.
Whether it be societal and social discrimination, access to wellness resources and income benefits, or every day concerns of safety and police bias, each rung of the ladder is one we are judged for occupying.
The whorearchy leads to division and disenfranchisement within our community.
The disagreement over each rank, occupation of multiple levels, and addition of intersectionality to the whorearchy itself further weakens any collective power it may already be jeopardizing.
Were our community to strengthen instead of divide, we could work together to gain universal legalization and legitimization of our careers.
We have a responsibility to advocate for those on the lower tiers so that we all may enjoy the safety and security afforded to those operating behind a camera or telephone.
It’s just common sense – operating as a community is far more powerful and effective than within our niches, and we do harm to each level by remaining segregated. Sex workers of all levels need to work together, if there’s any possibility of law reform and societal acceptance.
If we can’t see each other as equals, then we’re fighting amongst ourselves instead of for our collective rights.