Beyond sex, what the sex industry sells is fantasy.
When I think back to my 19-year old self, in many ways, I was very naïve, yet I exhibited a pattern of behavior that I learned in the strip club that would have made most people think otherwise. I watched the older women and learned to move like them—to walk like them, laugh like them, dance like them—without giving much thought to why. All I knew was it worked because I went home with a wallet full of money.
Recently I was talking to somebody who suggested the role that the Jungian concept of archetypes plays in the sex industry. His theory was that the consumers are not relating to the women themselves but to the perception of who they want them to be based on the archetypes they emulate. The Madonna, the femme fatale, the school girl.
This concept really resonated with me as I have often thought about fantasy as being the projection of who we want someone to be rather than who they truly are. Fantasy drives the sex industry.
When I was in the industry, I was Monique. Monique was a persona I created that helped me to feel separate from what I did in the club. I created the persona based on what behaviors made the most money.
Monique was the product of consumer demand for a fantasy archetype. She was also a mask I hid behind. But the problem with spending so much of my time as “Monique” was that I began to lose myself in the fantasy of who other people wanted me to be. Nobody knew who I really was. Even I lost touch with my true self.
I have a friend who left porn a number of years ago. Because of how popular she was in the business, she still has quite a significant following…if you want to call it that. Every day, she gets emails and letters from men…proposing to her, pining after her, begging to “rescue” her, begging to be “rescued”. I have read several of the messages she receives and what strikes me is that although they are all different men from around the world, they sound very much the same. It’s as though these words are coming from one man.
It occurs to me that the reason for the similarity among them is that they aren’t writing to my friend, they are writing to the archetype. They are attracted to the particular “brand” of woman she projected while she was in the industry.
It makes me sad because I realize that the whole process is so disconnected from reality and none of it has anything to do with who she is. It is all about fantasy and who they want her to be.
Before I start throwing too many stones, I have to look at myself in the mirror. How often have I been the one with the fantasy, projecting my wants onto other people?
Have I projected my desire for a knight in shining armor archetype onto someone? Have I held people up to a “best friend forever” or “the mom I never had” archetype and in doing so, negated who they really are. Perhaps the times I have found myself disappointed with people not living up to my expectations has as much to do with them falling short of who I wanted them to be as anything else.
Fantasy says, “This is who I want you to be”. Intimacy says, “I want to know you and be known by you.”
I want to be in reality. I don’t want to relate to the people around me like they are characters in a play I am narrating. I want to know my friends and loved ones for who they are, not for who I want them to be. And I want to be known by them.
How about you?
Harmony Dust founded Treasures in 2003 while completing a Master’s in Social Welfare at UCLA. To date, she has trained outreach leaders that have gone on to establish more than 97 sex industry outreaches on 5 continents. She has been featured in various media sources, including Glamour Magazine, The Dr. Drew Show, and The Tyra Banks Show. She is a sought after speaker and her memoir, Scars & Stilettos, gives an account of the journey of going from working in strip clubs, to leading an organization that reaches women in the sex industry on a global scale.