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Bethany St. James  Headshot

Stereotyping and Prejudice Is Alive and Well in American Society

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All powerful, career driven women are single and lonely. All Latinos are here illegally. All Muslims are terrorists. All White people are racist. All Gay Men are feminine. All Christians are bible thumping, gay bashers. All African Americans are on welfare. All New Yorkers are rude. All politicians are crooks.

I'm certain that as you read those statements, your skin crawled just as much as mine did when I wrote them. Although every single one of those statements is ridiculously untrue, many Americans habitually lump all people of a certain race, class or occupation together in one category. As much as we would like to believe that we, as a society, have moved away from forming blanket opinions of each other -- we haven't. Although, much progress has been made throughout the years, prejudices and stereotypes are still very much a part of our American culture. This fact was made abundantly clear to me when I recently appeared on a daytime talk show to discuss an article that I wrote titled "Sexuality vs. Sensuality: The Steady Decline of Affection in America".

I was shocked to find that it was nearly impossible for the men and women in the audience to stick to the topic. They simply could not fathom that a woman who works in the sex industry could be educated, happy and goal driven. The stereotype that all prostitutes are drug addicted women with sad childhoods who've been reeled into a life of shame and disease was, and remains, prevalent. No matter how I attempted to explain that just as in all professions, there are a multitude of factors and variables, my words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

I'm often confronted with opinions that cause me shake my head and stare out in disbelief that anyone could fail to see that every one of us is an individual with different backgrounds, personalities and lives. The fact is that each person should be respected for what they have to offer as a person and not simply lumped into a category based solely on opinion and fear. Not all sex workers and adult entertainers are the same, just as not all people within the same ethnic background are the same. Although many women in the adult industry have problems, couldn't the same be true of every profession? I've known my fair share of people and I can attest that there are college educated professionals with problems far worse that any prostitute I've known. Job description alone should not be the sole factor when forming an opinion of a person.

My parents were amazing people. They taught me from a very early age that everyone you meet in this life has the ability to teach you something. If you receive good advice, it doesn't matter where it came from -- it's still good advice. Each person we encounter deserves to be heard for what they have to say and what they can teach us. Without opening ourselves up to the idea of learning from others' varying life experience, how can we grow as society?

Both of my parents worked in the adult industry. With that said, it's important to mention that I was also raised in a fully functioning household, free from addiction and abuse. The only strife that I ever recall enduring was that of cruel insults and judgments made by people who never took the time to ask questions about our family. Many of the women employed within the adult industry, women who I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years, are excellent mothers -- always happy to guide their child down a path to success and instilling a high self-esteem. Many of those women who were college students working their way through college have now since graduated and are now the same people teaching your children, nursing the sick and working on Wall Street.

It may be hard to believe but just because someone is paid for sex doesn't mean that they have less to offer society. In fact, aren't some of the best counselors and mentors those who have walked a path somewhat different than the norm? Doesn't it stand to reason that those who think and work outside of the box may see the world differently and have the ability to teach from a different perspective? Women work in the sex industry for a multitude of reasons and those reasons are their own. I love my work and I enjoy having the opportunity to share my knowledge of intimacy and sexual relationships with others so that they may have a better understanding of their own encounters.

We are often cruel and quick to point a finger at things we don't understand. The ability to move forward as a society is hinged on understanding one another and breaking down societal barriers. We must open ourselves up to the possibility that life lessons are sometimes hidden in the least likely of places.