Mothers, Mothering and Sex Work: Interview and Review

motheringsexwork

In Mothers, Mothering and Sex Work (Demeter 2015), editors Rebecca Bromwich and

Monique Marie DeJong have curated a unique collection of scholarly research, first-person narrative,

fiction, and visual art about motherhood and sex work.

Jean Hillabold, a former sex worker, BA, MA, and current instructor in the Department of English at

the University of Regina, says this about Mothers, Mothering and Sex Work:

The book will undoubtedly be a great resource for current and former sex workers who need to

see themselves represented somewhere in the culture they live in, as well as for sensitive

outsiders who would like to gain more reliable information about sex work than any mainstream

television documentary or magazine article is likely to provide. A short review can’t do justice

to this book. You’ll simply have to read it yourself.

Demeter Press spoke with the editors about their reasons for creating the book and ongoing

controversies around writing and research on sex workers.

 

Demeter Press: Why did you create this book?

 

Rebecca Bromwich and Monique Marie DeJong: In our society, motherhood and sex work are often

placed in opposition; they are framed as mutually exclusive. But they are not. Many sex workers are

also mothers and all sex workers have a mother (some of whom are also sex workers). In the book, we

explore Andrea O'Reilly's concept of “outlaw motherhood” to look at the ways societal structures

create and maintain a division between motherhood and sex work.

Rather than provide answers, we hope to raise political, policy, and philosophical questions in the

minds of readers. How are women and mothers who work in the sex trade viewed in mainstream

Canadian society? How do sex workers—particularly mothers who are sex workers—view themselves?

How do dimensions of social identity such as race, ethnicity, and social class affect sex workers'

choices and experiences? What sort of social activism and law reform is required in light of the

ongoing realities of sex work, prostitution, and human trafficking? We feel that readers, policymakers,

theorists, and the media need to understand sex workers as subjects with agency, not simply objects of

abjection or rescue.

 

DP: What makes Mothers, Mothering and Sex Work unique?

 

RB and MMDJ: This is the first collaboration that specifically focuses on the intersection of

mothering and sex work, with special attention on the legal regime in Canada. It explores not only what

is done to sex workers who are mothers under governmental regimes or by exploitative traffickers, but

also the agencies of mothers who are sex workers. In other words, the book is not simply about sex

workers, it is also by sex workers.

 

DP: Why is it still controversial to talk about—and research and write on—sex workers and their

rights?

 

RB and MMDJ: The recent blog post “Why You Shouldn’t Study Sex Workers,” published on Tits and

Sass, went viral. We fully support the arguments in this post—primarily that sex workers, like

everyone, lead complex, diverse lives (they are not just sex workers) and are often capable of

articulating their experiences directly, without the help of academic researchers.

Indeed, Mothers, Mothering and Sex Work falls outside of the type of work criticized in this blog post.

Our book includes chapters by sex workers, women speaking as subjects rather than objects of study.

From the Call for Papers to publication of this book, we asked sex workers for their opinions, their

writing, and their art—not to be research specimens. Some of our contributors have written

anonymously or through fictionalized narratives. But our intention was to create a space for a diversity

of experience and dialogue and to avoid highly polarized debates that might drown out individual

voices. We hope this book will open a space for insightful and empowering conversations with and

about mothers who are sex workers.

 

DP: What's next for you?

 

MMDJ: I've recently acquired a self-publishing business and am really excited about my upcoming

project to promote its relaunch later this summer. I'm designing and creating a pictorial

map/infographic detailing the various publishing and marketing "ports of call" a book journeys

through. This project will inspire and empower authors and help them to understand publishing

timelines, such as when to begin laying the marketing foundation, what it really takes to create a

successful book, how much each phase costs, how to save money, and the differences between

traditional versus artisanal publishing. There's nothing out there like it, so it will be a really useful tool.

 

RB: I have a new book coming out in October. Looking for Ashley (Demeter Press, forthcoming) examines the 2007

death of Ashley Smith, who died in prison by self-induced strangulation. I argue that the Smith “case”

is read most accurately not as an isolated system failure but an extreme result of routine, everyday

societal and bureaucratic brutality.