Even just the proximity of association with sex workers is too much to be borne. A popular article detailed Ann Winblad’s experiences of being a woman in tech a few decades ago. She mentions that one conference she attended had so few female attendees that she was forced to room with the stripper. Can you imagine? The stripper. I hear the intended message about her isolation from her male peers. But to treat a stripper a some sort of pariah is to push her down in an effort to be respected. If she’d been roomed with a woman in a different career path—say, food prep—she would hardly have been so outraged. The true discomfort in Winblad’s story stems from the idea that sex workers are dirty, unimportant, and worlds away from a respectable woman like herself.I don't want to make too much fun of this line of thinking because it does not reflexively recoil at the idea of human sexuality — unlike the TechCrunch "Disrupt" event at which women were made "comfortable by removing any mention of sex work from the conference". It's positively refreshing, therefore, to contrast Gantz' relative clearheadedness against TechCrunch's Victorian prudery.
A similar sentiment is echoed in Liz Keogh’s “I am not a Pr0n Star: avoiding unavoidable associations.” Keogh’s piece responds to the infamous CouchDB presentation “Perform like a Pr0n star,” which featured (you guessed it) softcore porn. In no way do I feel the presentation’s inclusion of nude women was warranted, and I agree that it had no bearing on the subject matter of the conference (Ruby). But Keogh’s argument rests on the idea that if women in tech are viewed even in the same space as porn performers men will instantly see them as porn stars, too. Not only does this insult the intelligence of men, but it also furthers the idea of sex work as contagion. “Don’t get too close, or it might rub off on you.”
Hat tip to Maggie McNeill.