I am an ivy educated PhD candidate and the best asset I have for making money is still my boobs. Does that surprise you?

We tend to think that women who are strippers or pose naked or are webcam girls are debasing themselves and have no other way to make money. Why don’t they get an education? Why don’t they make something of themselves? Why are they using their sexuality to make money? The simple answer is because in 2016 the easiest, fastest way for women to make money is still through their sexuality and their bodies.

I grew up in a middle class family with an English professor for a mother and a photographer for a father. Both my parents have college educations and my mother has a PhD. We were not rich but my parents had enough money to live in a good school district. I was exposed to education and opportunities. I was able to attend Barnard College, a premier women’s college attached to Columbia University. At 28 I am a 4th year PhD candidate. This means that I have a college degree from a well-respected institution and have the qualifications to teach adjunct college courses while I finish my dissertation. I have had various skilled jobs and a resume to show for it. Yet, at 28, with all this education, I still struggle to make rent. All appropriate jobs that will allow me to also write my dissertation pay barely enough to scrape by.

In moments of fear about my finances I have considered all kinds of jobs that are involved in sex work at various levels. Could I be a stripper? A webcam girl? Could I stoop to being a sugar baby through a website? The answer for me personally has always come back no. However it is not out of personal honor or feminism that has kept me from these jobs. It is out of the fear of judgment from the rest of the world. What if someone I knew saw me? What if a professor saw? What if a future student dug up old pictures? And so I continue to worry constantly about feeding myself, paying rent, and having time to continue with my academic work. Every time rent is due I have to pray I’ve made enough babysitting that month to cover it. If I took one of these less respectable jobs rent would be a much easier proposition.

So why do we judge women who have engaged in these types of work? This work is only so lucrative because patriarchal objectification values it so. Is it fair to judge women who use their best assets to get ahead because they have participated in this patriarchal objectification? Are they objectifying themselves or are they empowering themselves by using whatever means are at their disposal to make money and support themselves? This is a long argument among feminists and I don’t expect this article to answer it once and for all. However I would ask that we not further oppress women who are already objectified by men.

So what if after all this education I still don’t find a job? What if I do stoop to using my greatest asset (my boobs) to make money? Is it my fault that society values my body over my mind? If I use my greatest asset to support myself am I encouraging patriarchal objectification and oppression or am I empowering myself by using what I have to stay independent and support myself? Unfortunately my boobs will only be an asset for a few more years so I better decide quick.