Mourn what could have been and not what is now ended: Harlots is over
What a reeking disappointment!
Rather than a live blogging (I just wanted to get it over with by the end), this will just be my response to the series as a whole and the finale in particular.
Here’s the thing about being a sex worker. Being a whore.
It can indeed be awful, and often is, but not for the reasons civilians and clients think.
This client discovered my real name. He stiffed me on our second appointment, haggled me down to MOST but not all of what he owed me, and then still underpaid me by one dollar. One dollar! He turned his back to me to go through his wallet and after much shuffling tells me he’s only got $99. As if it isn’t 2017 and google wallet doesn’t exist. (He’s emailed me multiple times btw, asking me to explain google wallet to him. If he’d spent half as much time researching google wallet as he did ferreting out my legal identity, I’d have that goddamn dollar by now.)
He’d spent some time researching my real identity, and joyfully told me all about it, ending with a request that we role play daddy/stepdaughter sex.*
The things that make sex work awful are the same things that make this world awful: the institutional misogyny of our world; the brutality of capitalism; the indifference with which all sexual assault is treated but especially the sexual assault of sex workers; and these things are compounded by the isolation we’re forced to live in for making a living in a criminalised or simply frowned upon way. My family doesn’t want to hear about my life, not the amusing bodily grotesqueries and certainly not the brutalities. I could (and have in the past) lose my home because someone knows what I do.
Our lives are lived on the margins, and that makes sex worker media or media about sex workers all the more important, and this makes it all the more important that the media producers try to get it right.
We don’t need big bad villains and villainesses. We already know that anyone with the slightest bit of power can and probably will abuse it.
We don’t need a fictional Lord Fallon, creepy murderer and connoisseur of sad teen girls: sexual assault was already rampant, Hellfire clubs abounded, life was treated lightly and wife beating was just another thing that happened.
These narratives that create over-the-top, fictional villains who conspire to murder innocent young girls as a fun hobby – they conceal the reality that male violence, violence against women, and women coconspiring in that violence as a way to re-direct it away from themselves is no uncommon thing: it doesn’t take a Mrs Q for a series of young women to be raped and have the rape ignored. It doesn’t take a Lord Fallon wielding threats to get the courts to turn their heads and refuse to punish rapists and murderers of women.
It didn’t then and it doesn’t now.
All it takes is a culture that churns out Aaron Perskys, Brock Turners, Steubenvilles, Daniel Holtzclaws, the Oakland Police Department, Mark Ciavarellas, Jeff Sessions(es), and yes, Donald Trumps.
I don’t need to go all Hannah Arendt for you to follow my point.
The Harlots writers did whores, sex workers, Charlotte Hayes, civilian viewers, and themselves a disservice when they chose to indulge in fictional baroque evil rather than the brutalities of poverty and misogyny in early capitalism. The small and successful backstories don’t compensate for that (although I am grateful Harriet has her children, Fanny has her daughter, Margaret has William and Jacob back). They did us a disservice and they let themselves off the hook by writing Charlotte into Mrs Q’s with the mission to take her down.
The idea that an hour of beating a bag has cured Lucy of her trauma and turned her into a domme (as if beating the tar out of men is what makes a domme rather than listening to what they want and then carefully giving it to them in a way that doesn’t threaten them overmuch) was a cheap fix to the broken storyline that was Lucy.
All we wanted to see was a semblance of our lives, a semblance of the truth, the hilarity, the ribaldry, the callous offensiveness with which we are treated and the subtle ways we get revenge or release.
What we got was only slightly less manipulative pap than Hot Girls Wanted 2.
And we deserved better.
*And, while the solipsism of our clients is often their saving grace (my hernia client who fondly fancies that he gets me off with his grey furred tongue ten times in an hour with very little effort at pretense on my part!) sometimes, as in this case, their solipsism makes the work infinitely harder.
No one, ever, wants to role play daddy/any sort of child with a client. We know far too much about familial abuse from listening to you guys to want to do that. If you’re thinking of asking your paid companion to indulge in this, offer her several hundred dollars extra.