John Whittingdale And The Sex Work Stigma

Recently, it has been uncovered that Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has had a relationship with an escort. Shock horror, people spend time with sex workers. This news has really divided the country, with many people, including Labour party members, calling for him to step away from any decisions involving press regulation, and a few believe he should step down completely. Why? Well, it is all to do with the sex work stigma and the fact that this news could have influenced him in some way.

An image showing the sex work stigma

For whatever reason, people seem to believe that his relationship with a sex worker means that he should exclude himself from some of the types of decisions he has been making in the past… but why? How does him spending time with an escort change how he will do his job? Here on the Escort Scotland blog we take a look at the case and how the sex work stigma is getting worse as time goes by.

A relationship with a sex worker

John Whittingdale, who has been the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport since May 2015, has come forward about a relationship he had with a woman… who just happened to be a sex worker. In an interview with BBC’s Newsnight he said that “between August 2013 and February 2014, I had a relationship with someone who I first met through Match.com”.

However, the woman in question, it was later revealed, worked as a dominatrix. She was a sex worker, although Whittingdale states that “at no time did she give me any indication of her real occupation”.

She never revealed to him what she did as a job, probably because of the sex work stigma that surrounds the industry, but that didn’t mean others were unaware. When the relationship ended, Whittingdale was made aware of her job, as someone tried to sell the story to a tabloid newspaper.

When speaking about the matter he said that “as soon as I discovered [her occupation], I ended the relationship.” So, they were just two people having a relationship. One just happened to be a sex worker, but that didn’t have any impact on their relationship… so why is everyone up in arms?

So, what is the big deal?

It seems that Whittingdale ended the relationship because he was made aware of it being used against him. He might have even felt upset that she hadn’t disclosed her work to him, but can you really blame her? The sex work stigma is damaging. Ask most people what they think of sex work and they start to talk about those forced into the industry without any real idea of what sex work is really about.

However, people seem to be kicking off about this for a number of reasons. For a start, it seems that some newspapers were aware about the relationship, but chose not to publish the story on it. It has been dubbed a “media blackout” by some. Actor and comedian John Cleese had a lot to say on the matter, taking to Twitter to speak him mind. He felt that enough was enough, tweeting “BBC still sitting on the biggest scandal for 50 years. Weak jobsworths”.

They also feel that this “scandal” makes him biased and no longer fit for his role. The timeline, and the fact that the relationship ended before he became the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of people. They believe that, since the press had some information on him, they could have then manipulated him… even if it happened a long time ago.

Of course, for a lot of people out there, that isn’t the biggest problem. Others are becoming so focused on the fact that she was a dominatrix that they aren’t seeing the bigger picture, feeling that this and this alone is the big news.

The papers and social media reacts!

Once the story began to spread, there was no stopping it. People love a good scandal, and when it involves politicians and sex, most newspapers sit there, rubbing their hands together with glee. It is the kind of big story they will have been waiting for. Papers such as the Daily Mail published the story with fanciful titles like “Top Tory & The Dominatrix”, while others decided that the best way to react was to take to Twitter.

One user said that “John Whittingdale didn’t need to date a dominatrix for abuse. Most of the public would have done it for free”, completely missing the point that Whittingdale had no idea that she was a sex worker. Another user found it hard to believe that he was unaware of her job for the seven months of their relationship, stating “you didn’t find out for 7 months? Pull the other one!”

Comments such as “some things don’t change MPs being with certain people” and “was the fee claimed on expenses?” have begun to surface, showing just how little the general public understands about sex work, and this case in particular. He wasn’t paying her for sex. They were just two people in a relationship. Her job shouldn’t be a factor here, but it is. Unfortunately, the sex work stigma is a hard one to shake… and this latest news story might have knocked any progress we were making back a bit.

Fighting the sex work stigma

A lot of people still don’t see sex work as real work. They imagine that all an escort does is lie back and close their eyes with their legs open. That isn’t the case. They don’t see all the other work that goes into sex work, and that it isn’t just a case of waiting for it to be over. Sex work is real work, and the fact that people are so worked up about this is ridiculous. Neil Wallis, who edited The People and was also the deputy editor of the News of the World, had some valid points to say about it.

Upon speaking about the newspapers attacking the press for not publishing the story, he said that “a single man, who was not a minister at the time, had a relationship with a woman he didn’t know was a dominatrix.” He went on to say that “on the bottom line, what we have here is single man dated single woman before he was minister.”

It was last year that a member of the SNP surprised others by stating that they had visited sex workers in the past, and while it should have been a way for people to come forward about the industry and show what it was really like, it was instead twisted so that people could go “this is why it shouldn’t exist”.

That seems to be the case again here… but why? Should it really matter that a woman Whittingdale dated a few years ago was a dominatrix? Does the fact that she provides companionship and her time to others for money somehow make this a bigger deal? Let us know what you think by using the comment box below.

Lara Mills
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Lara Mills

Lara Mills is a writer who has four years of sex industry expertise behind her. Since she entered the adult industry, she has worked on the Escort Advertising forums, before moving into her current role three years ago.

Since then she has gained a fine reputation with her blogs on sex advice, sexual health and amusing news stories from around the globe. She is also a campaigner for the rights of sex workers from all over the world.

In her spare time, Lara keeps herself active by going running, and is something of a film buff. She also loves to go travelling.
Lara Mills
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One thought on “John Whittingdale And The Sex Work Stigma”

  1. The only stigma is the assholes and pimps that cause the girls issues. People wish to make sex work illegal, but this would cause more harm than good. Sex work would go underground, prices would rocket and many escorts would be force to work unwanted hours and will not be able to keep the money they make, maybe a small percentage.

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