Sex workers and adult film actors spoke out today as Rudy Giuliani doubled down on comments he made about Stormy Daniels, saying she has no “reputation” or “credibility” because of the work she does.
“I’m sorry I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who … isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation,” Giuliani said during the conference in response to a question about whether President Trump respects women.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex with Trump once in 2006 and was later threatened to keep quiet about it. Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen, had Daniels sign a non-disclosure agreement about the alleged affair days before the 2016 election. Trump has denied the affair occurred.
On Wednesday, Giuliani took aim at Daniels during the “Globes” conference in Tel Aviv.
“So Stormy, you want to bring a case, let me cross-examine you. Because the business you were in entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight. And secondly, explain to me how she could be damaged. She has no reputation. If you’re going to sell your body for money, you just don’t have a reputation,” Giuliani said.
The comments sparked a massive backlash on Twitter. But sex workers and advocates say such comments are nothing new — and reinforce negative stereotypes and long-standing misconceptions about adults who choose to do such work.
‘Sex work is not who they are, it’s what they do’
Jenna Torres is the program coordinator for the Red Umbrella Project, a nonprofit focused on education and outreach by and for sex workers based in New York. Torres, 22, said she has also done sex work in the past.
“Giuliani’s is not an uncommon position to have on people in the sex trade. But unfortunately, he couldn’t be further from the truth,” Torres told ABC News. “I think that standpoint comes from fear, fear that they wouldn’t want their children to be involved, or fear because they don’t know anything about the sex industry. They’re misinformed.”
“Sex workers are regular people. Sex work is not who they are, it’s what they do, so their credibility has nothing to do with their industry,” Torres said. “I think his comments are absurd.”
Too often, Torres said, sex work is conflated with human trafficking, which, while a serious issue, is not the same as a man or woman entering into the sex trade by choice.
‘I love what I do’
Alana Evans, an adult film actress and the president of the Adult Performers Actors Guild, told ABC News she views Giuliani’s remarks as just the latest attack on sex workers.
“For me, it’s an overall attack from every single angle right now against adult film actors, against sex workers, against prostitution. So honestly, Giuliani’s comments are falling right in line with the attitude that people have, and it’s unfortunate,” Evans told ABC News.
“But it is something that, for women like myself and Stormy, as long as we keep speaking and being the voice of reason for women in our industry, I think we can fight back against the mentality that’s happening right now,” she added.
Selling sex is illegal in most of the U.S., although Nevada allows brothels to operate in some counties. But adult films, like the ones Daniels stars in and directs, are legal. Torres criticized Giuliani’s assertion that Daniels is not a “career woman.”
“She absolutely is a career woman, and porn is not illegal,” Torres said. “To me, everything you learn in the sex industry is transferable skills. Like if I am able to sell panties or movies or whatever, then I am able to sell anything.”
Evans said the narrative that all sex workers are victims or are forced into the industry is both untrue and harmful.
“I put myself here, and people aren’t listening to the porn stars, to the sex workers, to the prostitutes who are hitting the streets and marching and demanding that acknowledgment. Stop labeling us victims,” Evans said. “You have women like myself are coming forward and saying I love what I do, I love the empowerment that it gives me, and it does empower me as a person, as a woman.”
‘A real crossroads in our culture’
Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, called Giuliani an “absolute pig” in an interview with CNN Wednesday.
“Mr. Giuliani is an absolute pig for making those comments, he’s basically stating that women that engage in the adult film industry and other forms of pornography don’t have reputations and are not entitled to respect,” he told CNN.
But even within the feminist movement, there is a schism over how sex work and pornography are viewed. Barbara Brents, a professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, used to be on one side of that divide — and now counts herself on the other.
“I started out as a radical feminist. I started out believing that all sex work was exploitative and any kind of sexualized entertainment was exploitative to women. But after 30 years of doing research on this, it’s just become super clear to me that that is just not the case. It’s far more complicated, and women and men who work in this industry need to have the same rights as any other job,” Brents told ABC News.
A Gallup poll conducted last month found that 43 percent of Americans now believe pornography is “morally acceptable,” the highest number since Gallup began asking about it in 2011.
“I think we’re at a real crossroads in our culture because adult and sexualized entertainment is increasingly acceptable in our culture at the same time as there is this huge backlash,” Brents said.
Ultimately, Brents said the misconception that all women who engage in sex work are exploited needs to change.
“If you don’t like pornography and you don’t like the way that gender is portrayed, you don’t need to watch it. But people are voicing their opinions when they say all women are exploited in the industry. That’s just empirically not the case,” she added.
Giuliani’s comments about Daniels are not the first time he has taken aim at the sex industry. As the mayor of New York City, he pushed to close a zoning law loophole so that the city could close some sex shops and go-go bars in the early 2000s. A New York State Supreme Court judge ultimately ruled against the move in 2003, citing First Amendment concerns, the New York Times reported.
For his part, Avenatti called for Giuliani to be fired over the comments.
“If any atty for any Fortune 500 co. made the public comments that Giuliani did yesterday (which he affirmed this morning), they would be immediately fired. Giuliani must be fired by Mr. Trump NOW. Otherwise, it sends a message to the world that the comments are acceptable,” Avenatti tweeted.
Evans, who considers Daniels a friend, said a light has been shined on the work they both do.