Rudy Giuliani's smear against sex workers is more common than you think. Let's fix that.
Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, went off on Stormy Daniels in a recent interview.
Appearing at a summit in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 6, the former mayor of New York City fielded a question about Daniels by saying she's not a credible person and suggesting she's lying about having had an affair with Trump.
"Because the business you were in entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight," he says, referencing her work as an actress in adult films. "I'm sorry, I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who ... isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation."
"I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance." GIF via AP/YouTube.
Naturally there was some immediate backlash, with people slamming Giuliani's comments as misogynistic and demeaning.
Giuliani doubled down. "If you're involved in a sort of slimy business, (that) says something about you — says something about how far you'll go to make money," he told CNN's Dana Bash. "Our real point about her is that she's not just generally un-credible, she's un-credible from the point of view of wanting to get money. She's a con artist."
On the June 7 edition of "The View," hosts Meghan McCain and Whoopi Goldberg explained exactly what's wrong with saying someone lacks credibility because of a career in sex work.
"A lot of [sex workers] have put their kids through college; they have had incredible lives and gone on to do all kinds of stuff," Goldberg said. "So, the mere fact that you [Giuliani] would make such a blanket statement about someone you don't know, who does something you seemingly know nothing about, seems kind of shocking. ... I feel like you need to grow up. Grow up."
One of the better deconstructions of Giuliani's comments came from porn performer Sydney Leathers.
In a sarcasm-laden blog post for Washington Babylon, Leathers took jabs at Giuliani for talking about women as though we've traveled 50 years into the past.
"A porn star can still be a career woman/woman of substance," Leathers wrote. "To imply otherwise is narrow minded and misogynistic. Rudy and Trump are not men of substance so I'm not sure where they get off judging others on this."
Giuliani's views are, unfortunately, pretty common. But they don't have to be.
Sex work is work. Whether or not a job is "glamorous" or not is beside the point. Imagine applying that standard to any other industry, asking accountants how they can take part in an industry that doesn't have "glamour" or chiding someone for taking a data entry gig "just because they need the money." But misconceptions of sex work — that porn must be bad because it doesn't live up to some arbitrary standard or assuming people involved in the industry are unsuccessful, unsophisticated, and uneducated — are pervasive in our culture.
"It's not only common for people in the sex industry to be underestimated, our deaths are routinely used as punchlines," Leathers says. "Literally right now I'm sitting here watching season 4 episode 1 of 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' and they kill off a stripper for a cheap laugh."
She goes on to list Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Patton Oswalt as ostensibly progressive comedians who've used the death of sex workers as punchlines.
"Imagine if these jokes were made about the deaths of any other group of people," Leather says, frustrated. "And we are a group that is killed at an alarmingly high rate, so it's really not a joke, and it's not funny. It's unacceptable."
She adds, "I'm sure some people will read 'sex workers are murdered at alarmingly high rates' and think, 'Wow, women shouldn't get into sex work then!' But maybe men just shouldn't kill us? It's like the 'don't wear a short skirt if you don't want to get raped' argument."
Photo courtesy of Sydney Leathers.
Changing this culture of condescension begins with the media we consume.
"I think the biggest thing people could do [is] stop laughing at those kinds of jokes. Stop retweeting those jokes. And tell the writers of that type of content that it's not funny and it's not OK," Leathers says.
"The View" segment gave her a bit of hope. It was just five years ago that Leathers was one of the women involved in a political scandal people were talking about on TV, and when she made the decision to pursue a career in porn, the reaction was negative.
A few years ago, she notes, that segment wouldn't have happened. "Thomas Roberts called me batshit crazy live on MSNBC for deciding to do porn, and no one said a word," says Leathers. "So there is a cultural shift starting to happen now — even though there has been recent legislation targeting sex work. We just need to keep standing up whenever people are being blatantly disrespectful and damaging."
There's nothing wrong with porn or the people who work in the industry.
Giuliani's statements are sexist and he's using his platform to diminish sex work. We'd also probably be a lot better off if we could stop making "dead hooker" jokes. Easy enough, right?
For more reasons for why porn is actually OK, we've published a whole list.