Sex Work Stigma, Motherhood, and my Daughter on Social Media

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There is a lot of debate in parenting communities about whether they should (or shouldn’t) post photos of their children on social media platforms. When it comes to babies and toddlers specifically, some parents believe posting photos of their children violate their child’s consent. They believe it invades their privacy and potentially harms their future.

Others believe parents should be able to post photos of their children as they please.

Personally, I believe our job is to balance the potential cost to our child with the benefit to us, as parents, before we post photos on social media. We have to mitigate risk, both real and perceived, as much as possible.

As a parent, it’s my job to protect my daughter to the best of my ability. I believe there is a compromise to be made where I’m mostly happy, sharing what I want to share, and I’m also mitigating future risk for my daughter by posting photos and commentary intelligently, respectfully and tastefully

Over the past two years of my daughter’s life, I have occasionally posted photos of her on Twitter.

Twitter is a platform I use for a plethora of reasons. I’ve used Twitter to market my services to potential clients, connect with existing clients, reduce isolation by reaching out to and connecting with other sex workers, and as an advocacy platform for sex workers’ rights. I’ve also used Twitter during moments of hardship, moments when I’ve needed to reach out into the void and feel seen and heard in my experience of life and motherhood. It’s difficult, and lonely, and Twitter has given me a voice to share my experience as a mother who works in this industry. My Twitter account as Nathalie Lefebvre is multifaceted in that sense, with many goals and purposes, some personal and some professional. Anyone who has been following me for some time will know this.

Earlier today, I posted the following photos on Twitter and received this response.

Asha attempted to shame me, and failed. Let me explain why.

She’s absolutely correct: my minor child did not consent to being on my sex worker (SW) Twitter Page. Her comment raises some really important issues I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about. Specifically, what responsibility do I have to protect my daughter from sex work stigma?

Ah, it breaks my heart to think my daughter may, some day, experience vicarious stigma for being the daughter of a whore. More on this later.

I have seen countless parents post images of their children on platforms that are primarily used for marketing purposes. For example, I’ve seen hairdressers post photos of their children’s haircuts to advertise their services to other parents. I’ve seen consultants post photos of themselves and their children on websites and social media platforms to demonstrate their adherence to traditional family values. I’ve seen children photobomb tattoo artists trying to take photos of their work. The list goes on.

Parents who operate small businesses are constantly thinking about how they can market themselves to provide for their families.

Simultaneously, not every post on social media is about marketing, nor should every post on social media be perceived as ‘selling something’. Sometimes, people just want to be real and share parts of themselves to the world. This is especially the case for small business owners such as sex workers.

In my case, there is the added layer of sex work. I’m a sex worker. I’m also a mother. The two intersect because they are both part of who I am.

In my podcast with Sienna Hunter on The Escort Deconstructed (click here to listen), I discuss why I’m not “out” as a sex worker. Sienna asked me why I didn’t show my face on social media and I explained that while I want to show my face, I worry about the impact it could have on my daughter. What if someone at her school finds out, and my daughter is teased or bullied because her “mother is a whore”?

However, and this is a big fucking HOWEVER, if I’m outed and there is a negative impact on my daughter, I will NOT be shamed for the choices I made to care and provide for her. The issue is not that I am a sex worker. The issue is the stigma, discrimination and criminalization faced by sex workers in this country. The negative impact of my career on my daughter will not be a result of my choices, but a direct result of how our society views and treats women. If there is a time when these photos come to haunt our family, I will probably blame and shame myself. I also hope I am strong enough to turn that blame and shame into rage, rage for me, rage for her, and rage that our society continues to shame women in this way.

Did Asha have a problem with me posting a photo of my daughter on social media? Probably not. Her issue was that I did so as a sex worker. Asha’s comment demonstrated that she does not view sex work as a form of legitimate labour, as a form of work. Instead of attempting to shame mothers who are sex workers, and attempting to shame mothers for the choices they make, we need to work towards normalizing sex workers and the work they do, and decriminalizing sex work to reduce stigma experienced by workers.

I’m here to say that I’m a proud sex worker, and a proud mother, and I look forward to telling my daughter about all of the ways I’ve cared for her using my mind and body.

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