Ceyenne Doroshow joins The Oldest Profession Podcast host Kaytlin Bailey in this episode about addiction, desperation, and radical feminism. After deconstructing their attraction to people with substance use disorders, both women take a deep dive into the life and work of an unrepentant hustler, author, and attempted murderer: Valerie Solanas.
Valerie Solanas is best known as the woman who shot Andy Warhol. She is also the author of SCUM Manifesto, an influential and radical text that calls for the creation of a feminist utopia. She is a complex person and has exerted an immense amount of influence on the history of sex work, feminism, and mental health.
Born in New Jersey in 1936 she was raised in an abusive, chaotic, and poor house. Despite these challenges, she was awarded a scholarship to go to college and eventually moved to New York City to pursue a career as a writer. In New York Valerie Solanas became a survival sex worker to support herself and often found herself struggling to make ends meet. She also became involved in radical feminist circles, and wrote what would become her most famous work.
Valerie Solanas hated her clients as a sex worker, and she came to see prostitution as an inherently exploitative industry that reinforced patriarchy and the objectification of women. She also depended on sex work to survive and understood that the cops were just as much a part of the problem as her clients.
She often spoke out against societal norms and expectations, advocating for radical change in society. Her experiences as a sex worker and survivor of abuse undoubtedly shaped her advocacy.
Valerie Solanas’ legacy is complicated by her mental health struggles and spectacular act of violence, but she remains a fascinating and important figure. While remaining controversial, her writings and advocacy continue to shape feminist discourse and inform activists today. Her writings and advocacy have inspired generations of activists and continue to influence feminist discourse today, despite much of what she wrote being lost.
Valerie Solanas’ sex work history is just one aspect of her complex life and legacy.