Who Cares If Melania Trump Was Maybe A Sex Worker?
Donald Trump is so terrifying that it’s tempting to use every tool in the box to fight him and everyone around him — including his wife, Melania Trump. It’s tempting to mock her for her appearance, or to lambast her for allegedly breaking the immigration rules. And it’s tempting to add to the howling din of people who allege, based on a report in the Slovenian tabloid magazine, Suzy, that Melania Trump was a sex worker, an escort working with wealthy businessmen, when she first emigrated to the United States — and that this is how she met Trump.
But when you share those allegations, pointing and laughing, saying “Look!”, calling her a liar, calling her a whore, saying that she is unfit for the White House because she was photographed sexually, you are stepping on everyone who does sex work in this country every day — most of whom are much more vulnerable than Melania Trump.
Meg Vallee Muñoz, a former sex worker and trafficking survivor who works as an advocate and activist, is furious at liberals who are forwarding the reports with a sense of gleeful schadenfreude:
“For some reason, it’s still acceptable public practice to shame people by perpetuating the idea that sex work is the absolute lowest you can go. But who does that really hurt? It doesn’t hurt high-end escorts who work indoors, rarely get arrested, and charge $1,000 an hour. It hurts women of color, runaways, LGBTQ, those being trafficked, street-based sex workers, and sometimes all of the above. That’s who is at the most risk for violence, arrest, police harassment and abuse, rape, health-related issues, and sexual/labor exploitation. When we amplify that shame, what we’re doing is not only sexist, but racist, homophobic, transphobic, and classist as well.”
I know this feels like a subtle point to a lot of liberals. But Melania Trump isn’t a liar for covering up sex work, if it is true that she was a sex worker. Covering it up is necessary for survival in a country where selling sex is illegal and where it is so stigmatized that it can get you fired from your “mainstream” job, get your kids taken away, and destroy your reputation for life.
Doing sex work, or hiding it, is nothing to be ashamed of.
The story goes like this: Allegedly, after moving to New York, Melania got a job as a model for an agency whose models carried two photo cards — one with their modeling information, and one for escorting, listing preferences and skills in the bedroom. “It is no coincidence she got a rich husband,” the Daily Mail quotes the Suzy article as saying.
As a sex worker I hold no disapproval for someone who uses their looks, sexuality, and performance of femininity for financial benefit. I know that sex work is painstaking, arduous, and emotionally difficult — and that it is, indeed, work.
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump’s reaction to the allegations have only intensified the stigmatization being perpetuated by those on the left who are joyously sharing this story. His lawyers — including Charles Harder, who spearheaded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker for publishing a sex tape — are undertaking an effort to have every mention of the allegations of sex work scrubbed from the internet. Donald Trump is tweeting the retractions triumphantly; as we know, he hates the media, and loves to defeat it.
Melania has every right to combat the allegations if they are false — but unfortunately, this response, and Trump’s crowing, only reinforce social whorephobia and sexuality shaming. It advances the damaging and false narrative that an escort is something that it is not okay to be, and a good husband like Trump can feel rightly proud of setting the record straight, protecting the reputation of his delicate wife.
Meanwhile, other sex workers are hit by the shrapnel. I work independently as a dominatrix in Britain, where my work is legal, but when I see liberals sharing posts about Melania’s past with glee or feigned concern — perhaps best captured by liberal America writer Andrew Bradford, who posted, “Personally, as a progressive, I could care less what the current Mrs. Trump used to do in order to earn a living. But this is the woman who is the potential First Lady of the United States” — I know that it is still not safe for me to come out to my American family. The stigma is still too strong.
When liberals aim at Melania for alleged sex work, they hit me with their bullets of shame. More importantly, they hit sex workers in far more precarious positions than mine — sex workers facing police violence, rape and raids, predators posing as clients or managers, and the constant risks of disclosure, assault, robbery, rape, and death. A report by the Sex Worker Organising Project noted a study out of New York showing that 80% of sex workers reported experiencing violence or threats in the course of their work; another study they cited noted that people doing survival sex or street-based sex work are most likely to face violence.
Liberal shaming hits multiple marginalized sex workers, such as people of color, trans women, drug users, street-based sex workers, and disabled sex workers hardest, simply because of their vulnerability; inundated by violence from predators and cops who hate them, they are also patronized as agencyless victims by many who claim to be on the left or radical. Shaming makes our fight as sex workers for recognition of our dignity and rights that much harder. It hits sex workers who migrate for work, or who work on the street, or who travel for work, facing risk and stigma daily. They, and all sex workers, are being hit by those bullets of shame, and it really doesn’t matter that it’s friendly fire meant to destroy Trump.
The full decriminalization of sex work, which is opposed by Clinton and Trump alike, would give sex workers the chance to organize, to fight for our rights, to demand dignity. It’s the first step toward a society where a presidential candidate or their spouse could speak openly, or even proudly, of their sex work.
Unfortunately, when sex workers are spat on by liberals and conservatives alike, even that first step is an uncrossable chasm away.
Lead image: Wikimedia Commons