queer femmehood, trans womanhood & theorizing an inclusive proheauxism
blackness(brownness)+queerness+femininity+trans rights+sex worker rights+sexual freedom+critique of mainstream sex positivity
*Please check out the glossary tab for explanation of the bolded terms*
A little over a year ago I began seeing the term “pro-hoe” pop up on social media sites. I loved it and latched onto it quickly because I thought it was a term that totally described my leanings as a feminist sex worker. Over time I began to see the term being used in both positive and negative ways. I also saw women who claimed to be sex positive and pro-hoe sex-shaming side chicks, sugar babies and “free” or “paid” hoes (whorerarchy). I researched the term but couldn’t find its originator, nor a distinct definition. So I decided to create my own working definition in hopes that others could build on it.
I never felt completely welcome in the mainstream (mostly white) sex positive community, nor in the more visible: white sex worker rights community. There is an almost overwhelming focus on positivity and empowerment on one hand, which does not fully resonate with me (for various reasons I’ll discuss in another post). On the other hand I noticed that most of the voices i was hearing (and still hear) were cis feminine white women. I didn’t feel like either of these movements really fit women like me, who are sex workers and feel conflicted (but not ashamed) about it, who are black and poor and for whom the words “choice” and “freedom” carry a lot of weight. (However i felt more welcome in the sex worker rights community than in the sex positive community, black or white). As a black woman i encounter different stereotypes than a white woman, i navigate the world differently. And because of this i carry a lot of ambivalence about being an “out” sex worker. I understand that i am viewed differently than a white woman who is the standard of femininity. The main reason i am afforded any modicum of femininity at all is because i am slender, medium brown, and somewhat conventionally attractive. (I am also straight passing but even so my bisexuality is viewed as a “bonus” by cishet men because it means I’m an anything girl.)
There was a black feminist space that I used to be a part of on Facebook before I left. It was great group for plenty of issues, but I often encountered or witnessed hostility there as a sex worker, because I empathized with both cishet [non sex worker] women and side bitches/sugar babies/hoes. (Often the former would try to clarify what they meant by hoe-shaming women who have sex “for nothing.” I find the idea of home wreckers to be misogynist & silly, but to each his own ridiculousness.) A lot of sex worker clients are married or partnered. Such is the reality of cultural sexual repression, misogyny and capitalism. However checking your biases is easier in theory than in practice at times, especially when it comes to infidelity or other monogamous mores. A lot of women identify as sex positive to the exclusion of a certain type of woman, or excluding certain situations. What I experienced in that group helped lay the framework for my theory of proheauxism (link to article), a sex positive manifesta geared toward black and brown women and femmes that is deliberately and decidedly also focused on sex worker rights and queer/lgbt rights, particularly trans women. I wanted something that:
- focused on both collective and personal sexual freedom;
- allowed sex workers personal agency instead of painting us as oppressed victims without proper context;
- highlighted the economic realities that create an environment where marginalized women and femmes (particularly black, undocumented, and indigenous women in a US context) are more likely to choose sex work to support themselves or their families;
- focused on black and brown women and femmes;
- specifically addresses [trans-] misogynoir and the issues we face;
- is entrenched in pro-blackness and based in womanism;
- sex positivity sans antiblackness and sexual whorerarchies.
Proheauxism focuses on black/brown women and femmes, who could identify as women, men, trans, bi, nonbinary, or any number of alternative identities. I chose this because often the reason we are targeted and denigrated beyond our blackness is because of our femininity. Queer boys and feminine men are denigrated by cishet males and masc gay males alike. Toxic masculinity hates women, queerness, and femininity. (Note that nowhere did i claim that all masculinity is toxic. I support healthy masculinity and progressive manhood.) Black trans women are in very real danger. Their womanhood is constantly questioned and the transphobic proliferation of the notion of “deception” is literally killing them. Their femininity is why they are the most visible part of the trans community, trans womanhood is viewed as a “performance” and trans women are treated like spectacles, constantly fielding invasive questions about their bodies and sexual proclivities. Black trans women and poor women [of color] are less likely to be able to afford hormones or surgery (not that they should even have to) or name changes. Their identities are constantly scrutinized and dismissed. Transmisogynoir is an ever-present danger.
I understand that for some this may seem very broad. (It is and it isn’t.) I also understand that this doesn’t quite cover everything. Already I am seeing that I need to expand my knowledge on global issues that affect non-American black and brown women and femmes, so that I can better articulate how proheauxism can benefit them as well as me, an American cis, queer (bisexual), poor black woman. Proheauxism embraces our similarities as well as our differences, and promotes a healthy, intersectional and nuanced view of black sexuality.
1. I owe a great debt to Trudy, without whom i never would have thought this blog or creating my own theory was possible. Her blog Gradient Lair introduced me to Moya Bailey’s term misogynoir, and encouraged me to move forward. Before her i questioned the validity of my own work, not just because of my blackness or relative anonymity but because of my lack of academic credentials compared to so many of the women i admire. (I also thought that this would have to be a book which presents a whole nother set of obstacles.)
2. This blog was also inspired by Virginie Despentes King Kong Theory. She’s a French sex worker/filmmaker/writer.
If you like what you’ve read here consider donating to my Patreon or my cash.me/yayarose, because I’m awesome and a single mother, and I’d like to stop stripping for cash by the time I’m 35. You can also follow me on Twitter: @suprihmbe or Instagram: @mymphisbae