by anna saini
Amongst her six sisters my mother was the undisputed champion of sari tying. When it was time to put on a sari for a function I would play mannequin for her to drape and wind the fabric through the maze of her hands to produce the delicate design of pleats and cloth waterfalling across my body. It wasn’t until I moved away from Toronto that I realized I don’t know the first thing about how to tie a sari. I never needed to learn.
I can’t tell you what is more annoying: the exotification requests I received from clients when I worked as a sex worker or the exotification requests I receive from non-profits now that I am an “out” former sex-worker turned community organizer.
From clients the most common request was that I wear a sari for the session. If they would think for a minute with their otherwise seemingly well functioning brains rather than their greedy penises they would realize it was unreasonable. These motherfuckers had no clue the time and skill that went into tying a sari, much less what it all means.
Non profits fetishize me as a sex worker at the fringes of feminism. They ask me to sit on their panels and at their workshops talking about why feminism should allow sex workers the right to exist. If they thought for a moment with their seemingly functional brains rather than their greedy program budgets then they would realize people in the sex trade do not want to do the unpaid labor of educating so-called non-profit workers who profit of of our struggles while claiming that we are at the center of their work. These motherfuckers have no idea how what they’re discussing really impacts the lives of sex workers, much less what it means to me to play emissary for our industry.
When these ignorant non-profit workers ask me to lecture on the plight of my people it brings me all the feelings of tokenism. It makes me want to hide from my past. Not for the reasons they assume, because I am ashamed and saddened by what I did to survive, but because they treat it like a beacon for their blubbering and patronizing sympathy.
When these loser clients asked me to wear a sari for them it brought me all these feelings of cultural anomie. It made me miss my mommy.
But what more could I really expect of them, these men, many of whom were contacting me at the very point that they were too horny to act in their better judgement. Admittedly, my branding positioned me to receive these requests. I was after all, the Asian Sensation, Saffron Singh – Metro Detroit’s only authentic Indian upscale girlfriend experience.
And what of the steady stream of request from non-profit industrial complex bureaucrats looking for a real, live sex worker to illustrate their pseudo-academic arguments. Amongst the “Nothing About Us, Without Us” decries of our movements, reaching out to “one of them” is the non profit worker’s best interpretation of how to respond. Here I am a vocal sex worker activist telling the world that we are experts of our experience, branding myself and my sex worker song and dance for non profit consumption.
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