Jade Vixen Is the Victim

Why must we villainize sex workers?

I knew it was going to be too good to pass up. Several weeks back I was reading the obituaries because I’m a morbid person who thinks a lot about death. I spotted one about a guy, Peter Stelzenmuller, who allegedly died while testing SCUBA equipment in his home. I forwarded the story to a friend who just started diving lessons. “Careful!” I wrote in the email. But looking closer at the obit, I got a strange feeling, which sometimes happens. (I’m the Obit Whisperer.) I started digging around. I quickly found what showed up on the front page of the increasingly salacious Daily News yesterday: that Stelzenmuller’s female companion was a dominatrix-turned-fetish model by trade, and this was the second time a boyfriend of hers had died under distressing circumstances.

It was a curious discovery, but my first reaction was: Oh my god, that poor woman. Her first boyfriend got killed by a jealous client of hers, which I’m sure she felt incredibly guilty about as well as dealing with the grief of losing her partner. When she finally rebuilds her life and finds someone to care for, he dies too. What could be worse?

Being on the cover of the Daily News, that’s what.

I’m not going to pretend I’m not a craven journalist. It did occur to me that it had some elements of a compelling narrative. But then I thought, well, what exactly is the story? What makes it news?

There are many women in this city, unfortunately, who have seen more than one lover or husband die violently in Philadelphia. Do their faces grace the pages of a daily? No. I used to work with a woman whose boyfriend was shot to death on the street while they were walking and holding hands. She had already seen other men in her family die violently. No one ever thought she was a news story. Nor did anyone suggest she was culpable for the tragic deaths of the men she loved.

But this poor woman, Edythe Maa, is apparently fair game because she has been employed as a dominatrix and model. She is a victim here, but people won’t see her that way. Sex workers are always seen as predators or sluts. Do the people who make such editorial decisions even understand what a dominatrix does? Perhaps people who think the whole thing is funny would be interested to know that most doms have work spaces, keep regular hours with appointments, can choose how far to go in terms of sexual involvement and legality, are open about their profession to friends, and basically feel it’s a job like a lot of other jobs.

As with any profession, people in the sex industry are a varied bunch. Their jobs do not define them. Edythe Maa is a woman whose life has been torn apart by violence and tragedy—twice. Now she’s all over the web with headlines suggesting she’s a man killer. It’s extremely offensive. There is no story here. There’s just a woman who’s being mocked because she lives an unusual life. If everyone who’s giggling over her story can be said to represent the norm, I’d rather be abnormal.