Watch me Work: A Chat

Bloggers Kristina Hens and Tea Hvala met in the City of Women chat room to discuss Liad Hussein Kantorowicz’s performance Watch me Work that took place on Saturday, October 4th at the Old Power Station. We would like to point out that we are not sex workers, and cannot speak in their name. However, we have seen Liad’s performance that featured real-time erotic conversations with real clients (Liad works at an Israeli erotic chat website, where clients pay money by the minute to see her conduct live intimate performances and one-on-one erotic conversations with them). The audience at the Old Electric Plant could switch between three views on erotic labour: the client’s perspective (video), the behind-the-scenes perspectives (screening of the chat and the artist’s entire work place, not merely her body) and the non-mediated perspective of a live audience, whom Liad invited to ask questions about the inner workings of the sex industry.You can check the video and photos to get a better impression. Below is our favourite chat from the performance, followed by our own chat.

Client: You look like the artsy type.
Liad: Really? Is there such a type?
Client: Yeah … I can tell.
Client: By your look.
Liad: OK, and what do you do?
Liad: And I am actually an artist.
Liad: A stage artist.
Client: I am depressed banker.
Liad: How depressed is depressed?
Client: Desperate for sex.
Client: I'm out of time units, but I'll be right back.


COW2014 Chat Room

<COW2014chat> Kristina just entered the chat room.
<COW2014chat> Tea just entered the chat room.

K: Hi Tea.

T: Ojla! Wie gehts?

K: Good.
K: How did you like Liad’s performance at Stara elektrarna?

T: I liked it a lot, including the boredom :)

K: I liked it too. I think it’s highly important that a performance on sex work was included in a festival that presents the work of women artists. What do you mean with boredom?

T: Yes, it’s great it was included, considering the festival’s theme – survival tactics.
T: Boredom was part of it because it lasted for almost 2 hours, during which the audience had to wait – together with Liad – for clients. The waiting shattered the myth that sex work is something highly exciting, an idea that seems to be quite wide-spread (judging from the Q & A).

<COW2014chat> Ognjen just entered the chat room.

O: Hi, I see you are talking about Liad’s show.
O: It was great, especially her answers. I just wish she had spoken more about her activist work with sex workers in Berlin …

K: Yeah, but she made it quite clear that she only wants to discuss the sex work, not the activist work.

T: Yes, same with the personal questions. It’s amazing how personal it would get: people did not hesitate to ask about her nationality, if she is in a relationship, etc., as if that had anything to do with her work.

O: That’s true. I loved the question whether her work, making the clients satisfied, would lessen the Israeli agression on Palestine.

T: Haha, yeah, optimistic, make love not war! Only this has nothing to do with love ....

K: I agree.

O: Uf, I have to go to the airport now, to pick up another artist. Was nice chatting with you, bye!

 K: Bye, Ognjen, safe travels!

<COW2014chat> Ognjen left the chat room.

 K: I think Liad’s performance showed that sex work is actually just a job like any other. And I guess jobs can be boring at times.

T: Only at times??

K: You know what I mean. And as sex work is – as far as I know – the only field of job where (white cis) women averagely earn more than (white cis) men, it is, as you said, an important part of tactics of survival. We shouldn’t forget that non-white and non-cis people usually are placed even lower in the job market and salary hierarchy.

T: Unfortunately, because of racism and stigma carried by people outside the gender/sex binary, these people often stand no chance in the job market – and are economically forced to do sex work. And because sex work is so stigmatized, it is not seen as any other job.

K: I agree. The question is though, which job is or can be voluntary at all? Society never seems to ask this question outside of the sex work sphere. It is assumed because sex workers are offering sexual services that they have to be oppressed and were forced to do it. Not all sex workers are victims of human trafficking and need to be freed. This is what Liad showed on stage.

T: Yes. I sometimes use the term “intellectual prostitution” for my commissioned work in order to point out the false dilemma between “choice” and “force” - by force I mean the work you have to do in order to make money, even if you don’t want to.
T: But the division between “intellectual” and physical labour is also a false one, legitimizing and maintaining the moral superiority of intellectual work – in opposition to less paid physical work, or non paid-emotional work, care work, etc.  

K: And as Liad pointed out during her performance this is also still not widely acknowledged in feminist circles. Being a feminist does not mean you understand sex work. In fact there is a large part of anti-sex work feminists who fight for the abolition of all forms of sex work, because they see it as degrading, always forced and as maintaining the subordination of all women.

T: Yes, sex-workers shout “We don’t need to be saved” for a reason. As Silvia Federici said at her seminar, the feminist debate on sex work – as well as trafficking – is blinded by morals. Who are we to decide which form of exploitation is ok and which one is not?

K: True. The other widely spread feminist assumption is the notion that sex work is empowering and emancipatory. But it is hardly ever seen as what it mostly is: a job and a way of making money - something most people have to do to survive. As Liad said, sex work will only be seen as a regular job, if sex workers have the same conditions and rights as all other workers. And this is something we as society have to change, not the sex workers.

T: Yup. Btw, did you have time to check Liad’s blog

K: Not yet, I'll do it now. Until soon, Tea. 

T: Bye bye!

<COW2014chat> Kristina left the chat room.
<COW2014chat> Tea left the chat room.

Related project: 
Evening of Performances