Unpacking the shame and stigma around Black women in sex work

After this summer’s viral 'Scholarship Prank,' pro-domme mistress Nicky Valentine shares a glimpse into her world on theGrio’s 'Cleared Up' series 

Earlier this summer, in a viral TikTok ‘Scholarship Prank,‘ students tricked their mothers and grandmothers into thinking they were recording a touching video tribute for a scholarship. But those warm and fuzzy feelings quickly turned to outrage as the students falsely shared that their loved ones had once engaged in sex work.

Pro Dominatrix Mistress Nicky Valentine, a.k.a recording artist Quanna Mc, told Cleared Up host Tatianna Mott, that “the overarching thing is the criminalization of sex work. It creates the taboo…this idea that if you are a sex worker of any of the forms it’s something bad.”

“[But] is it such a bad thing?” she added. “Or is it a thing that gives people who are looked at at the bottom access to luxury and things that people feel like they shouldn’t have access to?” 

The relatability of the scholarship prank and common phrases such as ‘I’m just trying to keep my daughter off the pole,’ shows how these taboos and stigmas are not only tied to sex workers who are presently in the life, but those who have worked in the industry in the past and extends to those who may work in it in the future.

“There’s this idea of the wholesome woman versus the wh-resome,” shared Valentine. “The same people who are tearing this person down for showing their a– is the same type of person that doesn’t want you to get a raise at the job you’ve been working on for 10 years. It’s the same concept because it’s where in that realm they deem you not worthy.”

While joking about sex work may seem like harmless fun, it perpetuates the stigma of unworthiness which can have dangerous and even fatal consequences.

“The fact of the matter is a lot of people engage in sex work, whether it be on a small scale or a high scale,” Valentine said. “Whether you’re going to the strip club, looking at an OnlyFans, [watching] porn, [looking] at a magazine or seeing a domme. But it’s always the men —or the masculine beings — who get to benefit from engaging in it, and it’s the women who face the brunt of it.”

Historian and curator of the Heaux History Project, Rebelle Cunt, wrote in a piece for Autostraddle, “Black sex workers are deemed less valuable, creating environments where they are expected to perform more emotional, physical and erotic labor for less compensation than their non-Black peers and colleagues. This places them at the bottom of the heauxarchy/ wh-rearchy pyramid and aids in developing environments where harm and violence are oftentimes overlooked.” 

Organizations such as the Black Sex Worker Collective have been created to provide current and former Black sex workers with resources such as education, legal assistance, healthcare, and affordable housing referrals in order to successfully leave and maintain a life outside of the industry if they choose to do so.

“Together, if we have our allies and we’re working on being safe,” said Valentine, “then we could move to a new era.”

Watch the full episode now.

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