The sex industry is too white for my liking

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Selling sex is illegal, but selling toys isn’t.
Selling sex is illegal, but selling toys isn’t.

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I’m a sex worker and I talk about sex toys on various media platforms. It started as a personal healing process and has turned into a space for black women to talk about and buy sex toys. I would like to believe that I’m building a space that, in the next three years, will turn into an online store.

I dream of having a bricks-and-mortar store in five years ... which brings me to my assessment of the industry I operate in.

The sex industry, from street sex workers to sex toy retailers, is layered with black women and queer people at the bottom doing the most work and making the least money while facing the biggest dangers. I can buy sex toys at a store or online, however, standing on a street corner is illegal.

Decriminalisation needs to filter down to the street, where the sex workers are still unprotected.

The criminalisation of sex work it is motivated by the desire to control sex workers’ autonomy; it’s also a case of misplaced morals. We are fighting for all sex work to be decriminalised so that we can start owning all parts of it.

In reviewing the sex toys that I purchase online, I have come to realise that all the store owners are white – white men, white women. Sex toy retailing is all white, like my favourite brew of coffee.

I would be lying if I said I knew a black sex toy store owner in this country. If you do, please link me with them.

I’ve had black middlemen approach me to “work” with me. Usually, they don’t own a store and it’s mostly a side hustle started out of a curiosity about sex toys and the misconception that it’s fast and easy money. They aren’t able to afford the capital needed to own a store.

My dream is to own a store where I sell sex toys to others and help them make money to survive. They would then be able to have options about the kind of sex work they want to do without fear of arrest.

READ: Lockdown ‘hell’ for sex workers

The sex industry being too white speaks to the boardroom guy who brings the toys into the country.

We can’t talk about the whiteness of the industry and not talk about how it costs at least R2 million to start and run a sex toy shop.

I don’t have R2 million lying around and I don’t have anything that I could take to the bank as a guarantee, so, by virtue of my blackness, I’m out of the game.

The whiteness of the sex industry means that, even if we were to consider being inclusive, the ground stompers who do the most work could never raise the money to invest in something like that, which is unfortunate, because the sale of sex toys should be more inclusive – the opposite of what’s happening now.

If we want to have a more stimulating conversation about pleasure, we need to talk about who owns and profits from our pleasure, and we need to figure out how to change that narrative.

Any chance anyone has R2 million lying around to lend me?


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