Cathy Keen, our Events Manager, just appeared on the MTV show True Love or True Lies with her husband and his girlfriend. A former sex worker and longtime advocate for sex positivity and sex worker rights, here is Cathy in her own words.
For the past 10 years I’ve been actively supporting the normalisation of sex positivity, consensual non-monogamous relationship structures and the legitimacy of sex work. My advocacy work includes support for the unionisation of the striptease industry and Decrim Now, a group in dialogue with MPs and other political allies for decriminalisation of the sex industry.
I was born in Manchester but grew up in Yeovil, a working class, rural community in Somerset; the daughter of devout Christian parents.
My parents did well to keep up appearances but I could see they had needs, things they wanted to discuss and resolve. Eventually lack of communication and the fear of having to admit what was wrong drove them apart. Later in life, whilst working as a lap-dancer, I must have spent hundreds of hours giving my customers a space to openly talk about their painful moments, knowing full well how rare but valuable those opportunities to speak openly were.
It helped me understand the critical importance of communication in relationships.
I’ve always viewed my experience with sex work as one of the greatest tools in exploring my sexuality and femininity. I worked as a lap dancer for 16 years and was surrounded by other women who were on a similar journey of self-discovery. Taking your clothes off for money and learning how to engage someone enough to invest their hard earned money in such an experience can be empowering and crushing in equal measure. Often clients would come armed with their negative experiences, looking for someone or somewhere to offload, and without experience you can easily become an unlucky recipient. What became very obvious to me was how clients always seemed to value genuine connection over visual stimulation and regardless of whether they found you attractive or not, you could be sure they would at least respect you if you gave them your time and consideration.
A lap-dancer, or indeed a sex worker of any kind, is often a care-giver, a guide that can help clients navigate the grey area between their professional and personal lives. Often seeking the services of a sex worker is the most acceptable form of therapy.
As a choice, it is often burdened with shame, marginalisation, and trivialisation of one’s hard-won choices.
However, sex-positive spaces and open-minded communities are proving to be a crucial element to shifting collective perception.
Just like online dating and digital communities have been widely shared fixtures of everyday life, so sex-positive communities and spaces are beginning to thrive in places where they previously were not able to.
Besides cultivating a community with Feeld, as well as with fellow activists in London and online, I wanted to share my own experience with a wider TV audience and continue forging a new path towards talking openly about sexuality and non-monogamous relationships in a healthy and constructive way.