Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore: Humanizing Sex Work

Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore was a wild ride.

I don’t think I am doing Walter Mosely right. This is the second book I’ve read by him (the other one being John Woman) and it seems like they are a part of a larger universe, a complex social and family system that are interconnected among books. Stand-alone, it just seems like it’s missing something. But, according to the Wikipedia and his website, these are classified as “other” novels not a part of a series.

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Maybe there are just cameos I don’t understand unless I read all of his other books. I was hoping for Game of Thrones level social complexity.

Anyway, I liked this book, but I also had feelings about it, the major one being a man writing about the perspective of a Black woman as a porn star. There were times when I forgot that the book was written by a man because I listened to the audiobook (and I will listen to anything narrated by Bahni Turpin). But then I would remember when he would say something that didn’t quite sound like a woman would say it.

The novel also gave off some strong anti-sex work themes. I feel like we get pushed the same tired message about the dangers and moral failings of sex workers, particularly women. The whole story was about a woman getting out because her soul felt dirty. There were just all of these negative highlights about sex work and so many calls for the porn stars to just leave the industry while they can still make it alive.

I definitely understand not everyone chooses and freely engages in sex work; I understand that this is a undesirable form of survival for many people. But what we’re not going to do is act like porn stars and other sex workers have a moral affliction and that they are only productive thing they can do with their lives is get out.

The book did touch a little on how sex workers are more than the use of their bodies, but only in the sense that Debbie/Sandy liked to read and wanted to be a mother to her son. She spent the entire book trying to build a life outside of porn, but sticking with the crime novel genre, it was a very limited experience. I did not see sex workers painted as humans.

This book would have been much more interesting if the main character was a man leaving the industry. Instead of a woman with daddy issues who finally seeks to end the oppression she is subjected to by men, I would be much more fascinated by a man who seeks to reform his part in oppressing the women in the industry. That would have been more feminist to me than this BS.

The more I write about this book, the more I actually feel like I didn’t like this book after all.

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There is nothing inherently wrong with sex work. If you think there is, let’s think more about what is failing in society for these people, often young, runaways, LGBTQ, and people of color. Let’s look at how little regulation of their profession leaves these folks vulnerable because they don’t have health care or protection should they be subjected to sexual assault (money does not equal consent and it’s freaking stealing). Let’s think about the market that persistently demands this work.

Bottom line: Sex workers are people too and deserve dignity and respect, regardless of if they want to leave their profession or not.

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