The Spook Who Sat By the Door The Spook Who Sat By the Door

Friday, February 17, 2012

Former Sex Worker Can’t Find New Job Since Being Fired From Teaching Gig After Writing About Slangin’ That Thang On Craigslist

There’s a reason some folks grow old on the pole… Cuz you can’t exactly climb off of it and start teaching kids without people being up in arms.

Melissa Petro has spent much of her young life writing about the plight of sex workers: The stigma and shame, their treatment as victims or villains. Now Petro has been trampled by the forces she was trying to fight. After writing about her own experience as a sex worker, Petro was forced to resign from her teaching post. With two master’s degrees, five years’ experience in nonprofit work and three years as a teacher, as well as a litany of published writings, Petro is skipping meals. No one will give her a job.

In a Salon feature, Petro details the catastrophic fallout from a Huffington Post op-ed she wrote back in the fall of 2010. She was criticizing Craigslist’s censorship of its “er*t*c services” section, and because she had made a point of battling the shame of sex work, she confessed that for a handful of months she had sold her own services on the site.

The media swarmed. She was the “H**ker Teacher” on a New York Post cover, and “a reason to end tenure.” She was a “disgrace,” and in the words of a blogger for women’s site, The Frisky, Petro was “disgusting” for her “media-savvy plan to get publicity for her upcoming memoir.”

Petro began stripping when she was 19, on her semester abroad in Mexico. From a working class home, and the first of her family to attend college, Petro had a string of grueling low-wage jobs. She entered the sex industry for the same reason as hundreds of thousands of American women: the money.

She says that she has never considered herself a victim, though. In her HuffPost column, Petro calls herself one of the “free thinking, entrepreneurial human beings with choices and responsibilities” who sold sex through Craigslist. Ultimately, she found her experiences “physically demanding, emotionally taxing and spiritually bankrupting,” and quit trading sex for money on her 27th birthday.

After receiving a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction, she was selected for the highly competitive New York City Teaching Fellow program, which brings “high-quality, dedicated individuals” to struggling classrooms. Petro had been teaching art and creative writing at an elementary school in the Bronx for three years, when she became the H**ker Teacher.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for her removal from the classroom, and she was removed, immediately. Petro was soon formally charged with conduct unbecoming a professional. She was fired from her two after-school jobs, and the Department of Education threatened that if she didn’t agree to resign, it would contest her unemployment. Petro left the job that she says she loved.

Petro wishes her story could have raised issues like the legality of prostitution and the constitutionality of her speech. Instead, she describes herself as being treated as a monster, vanquished, now left to hand out resumes, and scrounge desperately for cash — the same bleak circumstances that lead so many women to sex work in the first place.

“I was being idealistic,” she writes about that HuffPost op-ed. “I was being provocative. I was naive. I picked a fight that I thought I could win — and I was wrong.”

SMH. Sounds like somebody tried to have her cake and eat it too. Sex work might go both ways but the same can’t be said for teachers who want to keep their jobs.

Melissa you might want to get crackin’ on that book, or go work as a consultant on “Secret Diary Of A Call Girl” or something, cuz you look like if you miss any more meals you might disappear

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