Our Feelings Aside, Sex Work Is a Labor Issue

Melissa Gira Grant is a writer and freelance journalist covering sex, politics, and the internet. In past lives she has worked at a feminist foundation, been a member of the Exotic Dancers’ Union, and co-edited a book with me back in 2010. Her latest book, Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work, is not a juicy memoir, and it is not a debate about whether sex work should or shouldn't exist. Instead it challenges the myths we perpetuate about sex work, and examines how our 'feelings talk' and theoretical debate can be a distraction from the more immediate labor and human rights issues that sex workers are actually dealing with, and dying from, all the time.

‘It’s a sordid business, temping.’

I have temped on and off for about six years, utilizing the services of three different agencies. From two-day gigs moving office furniture to six-month trudges through thousands of digitized invoices, I have known intimately the feeling of temp-hood and have even emitted that sigh of resignation I now warn against: “A temp job is better than no job, right?” That’s how you know you’re hooked.

For cash-strapped millennials like myself, temp work is easy to fall into. You start off temping on summer breaks from college to earn some extra spending money, you work a part-time gig after graduation as a receptionist for a Japanese ad agency on the days when you’re not stuffing envelopes at your unpaid internship, and next thing you know you’re four years out of school calling your temp agency connect and pleading for whatever she’s got left: “It’s for a week? Ten dollars an hour? You bet I’m comfortable with Excel!” It’s a sordid business, temping.

In Jacobin, Rob Bryan discusses the problem with temp jobs, an industry that Bryan describes as being “fueled by desperation”—a “I’ll take what I can get” viewpoint that he says is the dominant ethos in the American labor market. Cobbling together temp jobs is increasingly becoming a way for people to earn a living in a tight job market, when it’s really meant for people to make some money to pay their bills while between jobs.

Photo: Sonny Abesamis

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