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Apr 26 2012

“Feminists have made sex workers’ work so much more difficult”: A Guest Post from Sarah van Brussel

“One thing I kept hearing over and over again was how feminists have made sex workers’ work so much more difficult.”

The following is a guest post from Sarah van Brussel.

*

I’m a regular reader of your blog and a big fan of your work. I’m a feminist and an atheist and I really appreciate what you contribute to both movements. I’m not much of a commenter, but after reading your post giving the floor to sex workers, I wanted to say thank you and share the context in which I read your post.

I work at a international women’s fund called Mama Cash, a fund with a long history of funding sex worker led organisations. To say I was horrified by Taslima Nasreen’s post about sex work would be an understatement. Your post came at a particularly poignant time for me. I just attended the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.

During the conference I had the opportunity to talk to sex worker activists who work on human rights issues from all over the world. One thing I kept hearing over and over again was how feminists have made sex workers’ work so much more difficult. I usually wear my ‘feminist badge’ with pride, but this shocked and shamed me. An activists from the Turkish organisation Kadin Kapisi said that when she became a sex worker activist she expected to be fighting with fundamentalists, traditionalists, bigots and other conservative people, but instead she spends most of her time fighting feminists and socialists. An activist from the English Collective of Prostitutes said it even more succinctly: “we live in fear of raids and ‘rescue’”. The experience of speaking directly with sex workers has made me even more determined to be the best ally I can be.

I know these activists women and men as incredibly passionate, smart and above all brave people, and it fills me with rage when people like Taslima Nasreen dismiss them as victims and deny them their agency.

One of the highlights of the AWID Forum for me was the launch of the first fund led by and for sex workers, the Red Umbrella Fund (Mama Cash is administratively hosting the Fund). The mission of this new fund is to “strengthen and ensure the sustainability of the sex worker rights movement by catalyzing new funding specifically for sex worker-led organisations and national, regional and global networks.”

The Fund was launched in the presence of at least 40 sex worker activists from all over the world, and it was a truly joyous occasion. Many veterans of the sex worker rights movement never expected to see this moment and they are thrilled to finally have a say in the kind funding that is available to them. The Fund embraces a philosophy of “nothing for us without us” and commits itself to putting sex workers at the heart of the Fund’s governance and of programs.

Sex worker rights organisations have a lot of trouble accessing funding, particularly if they don’t focus on rescuing sex workers. And a lot of the money that is available is donor driven, meaning driven by a donor’s agenda that doesn’t necessarily match their own priorities and needs. General support and capacity building grants are even more scarce. I hope the Red Umbrella Fund will make a difference and will help improve the sustainability of the movement.

So, thank you for your posts — all of them really, but especially this one. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

PS: If you’re interested you can read more about the Red Umbrella Fund here.

*

And now, Greta again.

I want to pull out this excerpt, and call special attention to it.

During the conference I had the opportunity to talk to sex worker activists who work on human rights issues from all over the world. One thing I kept hearing over and over again was how feminists have made sex workers’ work so much more difficult. I usually wear my ‘feminist badge’ with pride, but this shocked and shamed me. An activists from the Turkish organisation Kadin Kapisi said that when she became a sex worker activist she expected to be fighting with fundamentalists, traditionalists, bigots and other conservative people, but instead she spends most of her time fighting feminists and socialists. An activist from the English Collective of Prostitutes said it even more succinctly: “we live in fear of raids and ‘rescue’”.

I want every anti- sex- work feminist to read this.

I want every anti- sex- work feminist who thinks they’re “helping” sex workers to read this.

And I then want them to ask themselves: What kind of feminist “helps” other women without listening to what kind of help they actually want? What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them? What kind of feminist “helps” other women in ways that those women actually find harmful?

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  1. 1
    Martin Wagner

    One distressing thing I’ve noticed about some feminists is the condescending attitude they have towards women who don’t do the whole sexuality thing in ways in which they approve. I remember when I was in college, listening to an argument that erupted in the campus paper about a student pin-up calendar someone had published. Repeatedly from the feminists came the chorus that “the women in this calendar aren’t real, they aren’t women.” While I understand objecting to objectification, to decide you have the authority to strip women who choose to pose for these kinds of things of the right to belong to your gender at all (regardless of what was meant, it’s still how it comes across) is pretty freaking arrogant, and no less (if not incalculably more) demeaning than whatever you think a pin-up photo is doing to them.

  2. 2
    nathanwren

    Great post! Thanks for calling attention, once again, to how easy it is for people to assume a “protective” role when they feel they are on the “right” side of an issue affecting some group of people.

    Such an assumption of protective responsibility to protect must always be questioned; it immediately converts real human beings with voices and ideas into objects with no voice other than that projected on them by the “protectors”.

    Even if it were objectively true that all sex workers would be happier if the sex work market disappeared (an idea to which Greta’s recent comment thread has given a strong challenge), there would still be harm done by not putting the voice of the sex workers first in the conversation.

  3. 3
    scthinks

    If, like Taslima Nasreen, these feminists believe that sex work is inherently exploitative, it’s not surprising that they’d try to “help” like this. I think the challenge for them is in learning to distinguish the cases where sex workers are operating under duress from the ones where that’s not the case. Perhaps some kind of Idiot’s Guide to Evaluating Sex Work needs to find its way to more of these “helpers.” (Are you in the market to write a new book yet?)

  4. 4
    John Horstman

    And I then want them to ask themselves: What kind of feminist “helps” other women without listening to what kind of help they actually want? What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them? What kind of feminist “helps” other women in ways that those women actually find harmful?

    Bad Feminists™. Feminism is all about the recognition of women as full, equal human beings (be that legal, economic, social, etc.). Denying sex workers agency by universally painting them as ‘victims’ of circumstance or systemic exploitation denies them full humanity, and is therefore anti-feminist. Period. Some MAY be victims of circumstance who need help to escape, and they should be given whatever help they need to EXERCISE THEIR AGENCY AND NOT DO SEX WORK: they should be helped not because sex work is bad, but because empowerment is good. The same goes for women who like sex work and wish to engage in it, and criminalizing sex work denies women sexual agency by limiting the circumstances in which they may consensually engage in sexual activity (not when there is an exchange of money or other valuables).

  5. 5
    nathanwren

    “protective responsibility to protect” ugh. protect me from my own editorial skills!

  6. 6
    WilloNyx

    Excellent guest post. I have to bookmark this one for future reference.

  7. 7
    leftwingfox

    To be fair, this is not just a feminist issue, not just a leftist issue, but an activist issue in general. How do we be sure that our ideology and reality are aligned, so “helping” doesn’t wind up harming?

    I’m reminded of Steve Irwin noting how environmentalist causes ultimately had to be humanitarian causes; to prevent humans from destroying the environment, you had to create the economic conditions where they were not dependant on that destruction for their livelihood or a chance at bettering their own lives. Our disastrous drug war can also be seen as good intentions gone horribly wrong.

    This should not be a call to “inactivism” however. The fact that activist intervention _can_ potentially make things worse ignores the fact that activist intervention also has made things better in many areas around the world.

    Ultimately, policy must be made with the best scientific understanding of the issue, and social sensitivity to the needs of the people directly affected by intervention. There has to be a humility inherent in understanding that even our best understanding could possibly be wrong, and that we should remain open and receptive to new ideas and all voices, so we do not remain committed to fruitless, counterproductive or damaging actions.

  8. 8
    Sarah van Brussel

    Thanks again Greta, for posting this!

    I knew that not all feminists are allies to the sex worker rights movement, but what blew me away was how incredibly unhelpful, harmful and counter-productive some of their efforts are, just think about criminalizing sex work or customers:

    Criminalization increases the stigma attached to sex work and makes it harder for people who want out to leave the business. It’s much more difficult to get another kind of job if you have a criminal record.

    Sex workers are less likely to report crimes against them when they have to worry about prosecution. Similarly, customers are less likely to notify the police if they suspect trafficking.

    So it’s not just unhelpful for sex workers who choose to do sex work, it’s actively harmful for those who want out and victims of trafficking.

  9. 9
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them?

    A feminist doesn’t. Both the formulation of “radical notion that women are people” and “men and women are, generally speaking, mentally and morally equal and must be treated equally” are flatly incompatible with denying other women the right to make choices one does not agree with.

    A circle doesn’t have corners. A feminist doesn’t deny other women’s agency.

  10. 10
    xxxild

    This news made me cry, this help with funding, I feel happy but sort of mentally exhausted. A few years ago I did some research on the availability of grants for research and advocacy to combat sex trafficking and PEPFAR funding. I know that by definition, in my country, sex trafficking includes consensual transactions.

    The language in some of these grants, and specifically the “Anti Prostitution Pledge,” has changed over the years, until I believe it was recently taken out, at least from the PEPFAR grants applications. But the language got worse before it got better. My point is, those who are pro decrim are not even eligible to receive grants like the abolitionists are.

    I believe the first step to combating the problems in and around prostitution is to decriminalize the activity for everyone and focus on prosecuting those who are truly exploiting people. Then allow sex workers to organize and participate in the political process like everyone else can. Our opponents know they will ultimately lose if this is allowed to happen.

  11. 11
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    abolitionists

    *facepalm*

    Seriously, whose idea was it to adopt the term used for the pro-justice, pro-humanity side of the regular slavery debate as a label for people who are anti-choice with regards to sex work?

    Why not just call them “The Good Guys” and hang up your gloves, ffs?

  12. 12
    sunny

    Do you think the prostitutes in the Secret Service sex scandal would have spoken out if prostitution had not been legal in Colombia? I do not think so. At the same time I doubt that illegality would have stopped the accused Secret Service agents from paying for sex or from trying to exploit the prostitutes. In fact, they would have been able to get away with it.

  13. 13
    David Hart

    Azkyroth @11 “Why not just call them “The Good Guys” and hang up your gloves, ffs?”

    Or borrow the term from the War on People who use Drugs, and just call them prohibitionists?

  14. 14
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Right, except that actually makes sense, so it makes for poor hyperbole.

    “Anti-choicers” has a nice ring to it.

  15. 15
    tarian

    I’ve been following this without weighing in for a while, as I am not part of the affected class and am still evolving my own opinions on the subject. Generally speaking, I usually come down fairly hard on the side of individual right to self-determination. I keep tripping over a thing here, though: the people purchasing sex are not, at the present time, strongly motivated to differentiate between voluntary sex work and sex slavery. To what extent does the presence of the former promote the continued exploitation of the latter? If people are socialized to believe that sex is a thing that can be bought and sold, are they more likely to (unwittingly?) help perpetuate the nonconsensual end of the spectrum? What tools do we use to address this?

  16. 16
    geocatherder

    I’m kind of baffled by advocates for sex work… but that comes from my high school days in Oakland, California, ages ago, when Dad would drive me to school and we’d drive by shivering streetworkers on cold, drizzly mornings. My heart went out to those women, and I really doubt they were there by preference.

    One grows older,and I now know that sex work has a multitude of aspects, many of them quite profitable for the workers and without the negative issues.

    But I still remember the women in hotpants, tank tops, and platform heels, standing out on a January or February morning…

  17. 17
    Greta Christina

    But I still remember the women in hotpants, tank tops, and platform heels, standing out on a January or February morning…

    geocatherder @ #16: My heart goes out to these people, too. And that’s true for every sex work advocate I know. There’s not a single one of us who is saying, “Yeah, who cares about them.” We simply:

    a) disagree with anti-sex-work advocates about what kind of policies and attitudes about sex work will actually help the people who aren’t in the business out of preference;

    b) want to make sure the voices of sex workers who are in the business out of preference are heard, too;

    and c), above all, think that, when decisions about sex work policy are being made, the first people we should be talking with are sex workers. All of them. The ones forced into it literally; the ones forced into it out of economic necessity; the ones who choose it more or less freely and feel okay about it; the ones who love it and see it as a career and a calling. We are all tired of being treated like children, imbeciles, or helpless victims who aren’t capable of knowing what we want and what’s best for us.

  18. 18
    Greta Christina

    the people purchasing sex are not, at the present time, strongly motivated to differentiate between voluntary sex work and sex slavery. To what extent does the presence of the former promote the continued exploitation of the latter?

    tarian @ #15: To what extent does the availability of fair trade chocolate promote the continued exploitation of the child slave laborers in the mainstream chocolate industry?

    Doesn’t it have the exact opposite effect? Publicize the abuses that are so widespread in the industry… and give people a better choice?

    And do you really think that no sex work customers care if they’re participating in what amounts to rape?

  19. 19
    Lucy Montrose

    You don’t have to have racked up a criminal record as a sex worker to have trouble in the job market down the road. Look at Stacie Halas and, earlier, Louisa Tucks. Both of them lost their jobs (Stacie was fired, Louis resigned) working as teachers and/or with children because of their pasts. This is a direct result of our unhealthy attitudes toward sex in America… but more than that, it reflects an unwillingness to allow others to reinvent themselves and grow out of their pasts.

    Even people who grow up in fundamentalist Christian households and later leave their churches, don’t experience this kind of condemnation in perpetuity, where your past haunts you forever. Even criminals get to burn off the charges after a number of years. But sex workers are poisoned forever, deemed permanently unsuited to working with children. Because fear of others’ perceptions and guilt-by-association wins the day, as it almost always does. And we haven’t learned to be social beings without being ruled by this fear yet.

  20. 20
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    To what extent does the presence of the former promote the continued exploitation of the latter?

    ….why would you expect the correlation to be positive?

    If people are socialized to believe that sex is a thing that can be bought and sold, are they more likely to (unwittingly?) help perpetuate the nonconsensual end of the spectrum?

    Sex is already a thing that can and will be bought and paid for.

    What tools do we use to address this?

    Elucidating the steps from questionably sincere “what if” questions to asserting that sex work must be criminalized and stigmatized would be a good start.

  21. 21
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    And we haven’t learned to be social beings without being ruled by this fear yet.

    Some of us have. We’re usually diagnosed with something.

  22. 22
    Lee

    Great post. I think the best thing that can be done for sex workers is to de-stigmatize it. But I’ve noticed that this attitude is extremely controversial even in ordinarily liberal circles.

  23. 23
    Robert B.

    You know, this fund reminds me of part of your advice (at least I think it was yours, Greta) for how to comfort people who are grieving: just show up and ask, “How can I help?” No imposing values, or assuming you know all about it, just listening and offering support. Gee, it’s almost like the way to respect people is the same in any circumstance. Go figure.

    I wanted to say this in response to the sex-worker poll, but it wasn’t my space to speak there, so I’ll say it here, about this entire sequence of posts: Thank you, this is excellent. Even though you have your own experience in the industry to talk about, instead you’re choosing to bring in a wide variety of other voices and hear what they have to say. (Even the ones that don’t agree with you.) Listening to people, what a concept! It’s good ethics, because it’s fundamentally respectful, and it’s good rationalism, because it’s checking for evidence. Well done.

  24. 24
    heatherdalgleish

    Thank you for publishing this, Greta. Sincerely.

  25. 25
    Mahoe

    Ask the workers themselves and you will find a few realities; “…some sex workers find it offensive that they should be offered assistance to leave a job where they are quite happy.” p61 Report of the prostitution law review committee on the operation of the prostitution reform act 2003 – New Zealand Government.

    In a country where prostitutes can advertise openly, many work from home or in small 2 worker suburban brothels why experience the discomfort and dangers of street work? Another review looking at health and safety of street workers commented on the great feeling of family the workers experienced within their group.

  26. 26
    John Kruger

    Meddling is always a difficult moral issue. When can you really say that you know what is best for a person than better than they know what is best for themselves? There are extreme examples such as Stockholm syndrome or life threatening drug addictions where unwanted intervention is somewhat easy to justify, and then there are more difficult situations like suicide or voluntary burquas, and even very difficult things to justify like making alcohol or cigarettes illegal.

    I suspect most of the anti-sex-work drive comes from what some people think sex work is like. There are a lot of over generalizations that people buy into: no woman could possibly have self respect and be a sex worker, all sex workers are drug addicts, all sex workers are victims of someone that does not actually do the sex work, and more. What a person thinks about these things has to be linked to what they think about sex work and how permissive to be with it.

    I like to err on the side of greater autonomy and freedom, but it is not a stance you can take in all situations.

  27. 27
    kagerato

    What tools do we use to address this?

    By “this”, I presume you mean labor exploitation, violence, and other coercion generally. Well, we use the same tools that work to address any other case: anti-poverty measures, unionization, retooling police efforts to isolate and address the violence and serve the victim, public education to inform people from an early age what sensible boundaries are and how to respect others.

    What won’t work is trying to drive the entire issue underground so that it can be ignored. We’ve tried that for what amounts to centuries now, and all that happened was an increase in the stigmatization and marginalization of sex workers.

  28. 28
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I have always assumed that anti-sex-work feminists are a) terrified their significant other will cheat on them with sex workers, or b) secretly attracted to the idea, but tied up in the shame game over it. We cant deny that a good portion of anti-sex-work arguments sound a great deal like religious anti-everything-about-sexytime arguments.

    That said, I agree with Azkyroth upthread. These people aren’t “feminsts” in any true sense of the word. They’re feminists in the “feminists for life”/Sarah Palin sense of the word.

  29. 29
    Nathair

    I have always assumed that anti-sex-work feminists are a) terrified their significant other will cheat on them with sex workers, or b) secretly attracted to the idea, but tied up in the shame game over it.

    I guess that’s a lot easier than actually listening to the reasons and arguments of the other side, eh? After all, it works so well with “You Athiests are just angry at God” it should work here too!

    Is it no longer possible for people of good will to disagree?

  30. 30
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    That’s a cute story, Nathair. I guess it’s easier to pretend you can read minds and pretend you know all about random strangers on the internet than to simply ask “why do you think that”?

    Exactly how is that “good will”, again?

  31. 31
    msironen

    And I then want them to ask themselves: What kind of feminist “helps” other women without listening to what kind of help they actually want? What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them? What kind of feminist “helps” other women in ways that those women actually find harmful?

    Might be something to consider next time someone in your team is about to pull out the “brainwashed by the Patriarchy” trump card!

  32. 32
    Nathair

    I guess it’s easier to pretend you can read minds and pretend you know all about random strangers on the internet

    If you don’t want people to point out how intellectually lazy you are don’t start your comment with the words “I have always assumed that…” and then go on to explain what the people who disagree with you really think and why they really disagree. Or to put it another way to “pretend you can read minds and pretend you know all about random strangers“.

    As to good will, it evaporates pretty quickly when you offer ad hominem bullshit like you did.

  33. 33
    Greta Christina

    Nathair and Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle: Please dial it back on the nasty personal insults in the comments. Actually, please knock off the nasty personal insults altogether. Thanks.

  34. 34
    tarian

    Greta @18: That’s an intriguing analogy. The key distinction would seem to be that there’s a (flawed, not always reliable) way for an ethical consumer to differentiate between “free trade” chocolate and exploitation-dependent chocolate. Also the majority of chocolate buyers don’t seem to care all that much. (I rather hope the analogy doesn’t work there either.) Victims of sex trafficking may be compelled to claim they’re doing it voluntarily, making it difficult to be an informed consumer. There’s obviously no ethics grading agency involved. Something that could perhaps be fixed with a decriminalization/legalization approach… But then, there are definitely people who *don’t* care whether what they’re doing is rape. I guess where I’m going with this is: if you adopt a legalization strategy, how do you mitigate the problem of abusers coercing their “staff” into claiming they’re doing it voluntarily? What sort of a regulatory mechanism would you need in order to stick a “fair trade” sticker on a brothel?

    (Note: I’m not necessarily looking for The Answer from You Personally, this is more along the lines of thinking out loud.)

  35. 35
    Eristae

    I can’t speak for Taslima Nasreen’s post (I haven’t read it yet) but has been my experience that the anti-sex worker feminists don’t care if they are making the lives of sex workers more difficult. The ones that I’ve interacted with are of the opinion that sex work is harmful to ALL women (including the non-sex workers) via objectification. They charge that sex work puts all women at increased risk of rape, generalized disrespect, male-on-female violence, not being taken seriously, and so forth. To these particular feminists, any sex worker who isn’t doing it because she was kidnapped and locked in a basement isn’t just wrong or misguided, she is the enemy because she is furthering anti-woman interests. Even women who are solely doing it out of economic hardship are suspect, as “Why aren’t they working at McDonald’s or something if they are so desperate?”

    Even the ones who will initially insist that they are only doing it for the benefit of sex workers will start falling short if you push them. For example, if you ask them how putting a woman in jail and giving her a criminal record for sex work helps her, a chunk of them will start hemming and hawing about how we need to keep the well being of ALL women in mind and provide incentives to keep women from choosing sex work or some such shit.

    This has lead me to be incredibly weary of anti-sex work feminists. I’m hoping that the type I have encountered are atypical, but I don’t know.

  36. 36
    Eristae

    Oh, and I guess I’d like to amend my pervious post slightly: I have not JUST seen this attitude in self-proclaimed feminists; I’ve seen it in other women as well. It’s just that my brain was in gear towards the feminists, as this post is about feminists.

  37. 37
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Apologies. I wasn’t attempting to get personal, just annoyed at the hypocritical statement. But obviously it appearted that way, which is my failure.

    Erista – co-signed 100% on #35. That’s exactly my experience as well. I was once an active member of a radical feminist blog that said precisely those things. It’s not atypical, at least not yet. And, once pushed to explain beyond the standard “it endagers all of us” line was the “they are betraying other women by sleeping with their husbands” line. While I agree that they don’t seem to care if they are hurting sex workers, I also don’t think their faux concern for sex workers extended much beyond that.

  38. 38
    xxxild

    @Azkyroth @boselecta

    abolitionists

    Yes. Or, call them the Swedish Model proponents, which is a model based on abolishing prostitution, based upon a radical ideology which says that all women are coerced into the activity, they don’t know any better, etc. It’s the subject of this post.

    Typically, my friends call them “the antis.”

    But it’s a term many of them use with pride, so, it wasn’t hyperbole.

  39. 39
    Greta Christina

    Re the debate about the word “abolitionists”: Why not call them “prohibitionists”?

  40. 40
    Norm

    The privileged individuals whose agency permits voluntary participation in the sex industry possess the ability to end their participation on a whim. This is a basic requirement for voluntary participation in anything – if you would be made do it whether you desire to or not, it is not voluntary. These privileged minority are not entitled to dominate the discourse/propaganda concerning the sex industry.

    It’s the same principle that the economically privileged classes are not entitled to dominate the discourse/propaganda concerning capitalism. The most basic, Marxist analysis of capitalism relied upon distinguishing between the proles – who lack agency due to being systematically deskilled, cheap, readily replaceable labourers that *cannot escape from a contract on a whim – and the artisans that industrialisation crushed – who can escape on a whim, due to the privilege afforded them by the cultural arrangement as they are granted liberty off the backs of others’ oppression.

    Perhaps it’s my own naivete, but I thought Freedom-oriented, anti-institutional-abuse work meant that the least privileged, the most abused get the mic first. Why are people lending ears to those who can move around freely, rather than the people who struggled to exit, are still struggling to exit, and seek not ‘rescue’ but the systematic abolition of the sex industry – which exists only and entirely to provide city culture with a steady supply of cunt – because its fundamental structure as an industry requires a rapid throughput of bodies. This rapid throughput being what sustains the agency – the freedom of mobility – of the voluntary sex workers.

    Interestingly, a lot of the exited people and the people who are having a shit time because they are trapped in the sex industry – rather than being voluntary participants due to white/male/het/cis/etc privilege affording them freedom to leave – mention that – johns and pimps aside – it’s the pro-sex lot that are causing problems by DISMISSING their experiences, DENYING their own privileges (to leave), and advocating for rights but so quietly mentione dis the right to **get the fuck out** that I never hear it except as a caveat. To be fair, though, such a right would be completely inconsistent with the pro-sex-work position, because ending the abuse that traps people would cut off the supply of cunt overnight, resulting in the industry failing to meet demands.

  41. 41
    Greta Christina

    Norm @ #40: There is so much wrong here, I don’t even know where to begin.

    First of all: The sex workers who say that prohibitionist feminists are making their lives harder are not just the more privileged middle-class people. Look at the sex worker organizations in Cambodia and India, for instance.

    Second: There is a huge spectrum of freedom around participating in sex work, and feeling more or less free to leave it does not necessarily mean being free to leave it on a whim. You’re playing into the exact Catch-22 I was blogging about earlier: If sex workers say we experience economically pressure to get into the work or stay in it, we’re treated as victims. But if we say we’re free to leave it, we get treated as dilettantes and sluts.

    Third, and very importantly: The people in this industry who are relatively privileged and who feel free to leave it are not asking to dominate the conversation. We are simply asking to participate in it.

    Fourth: I have not seen a single pro-sex-work advocate — current sex worker, former sex worker, or other — deny or dismiss the very real abuses that are all too common in the sex industry. (In fact, in the recent discussion here in this blog in which sex workers were invited to talk about their experiences in the business — good, bad, and neutral — the only sex workers who insisted that their experiences were universal were the ones who had bad experiences, and who denied that anyone could have had good ones.) We are very much aware of the horrors that are common in the sex industry. We simply differ with the prohibitionists about (a) whether these horrors are universal and automatically inherent to the industry, and (b) what the best way to address them is.

    And finally: The moment you referred to sex workers as a “supply of cunt” was the moment that you revealed your real feelings about us — and the moment we stopped having to listen to a word you say. If you continue to talk that way about sex workers, you will be banned from this blog so fast it will make your head spin.

  42. 42
    Sheila

    This type of ‘help’, the type that the recipients of the help do not want and did not ask for, is in my mind exactly the same sort of ‘help’ that religious zealots give out. You know, the ‘you are lost and in a sorry state, but look here, I can HELP you’ types.

    You know them; the sorts that go door knocking, informing residents who never asked for assistance, that they are lost but hey, look here; I can HELP (you with a problem you never knew you had, and in fact, do not have).

  43. 43
    agodlessstrumpet

    Norm @ #40 Well, look who stomped in here with all their OWN privilege to put all the dirty whore in check for liking it. OK genius. OK, Mr. “I’m so much more in tune with the oppressed then everyone else” Answer me this:

    IF it is true that most sex workers on a global level go into sex work due to a lack of options; out of desperation…for survival what will abolishing prostitution do for them? You display the short sightedness of the privileged because you have obviously never asked yourself “what then.” See that’s as far as you antis ever think about this issue. To you it’s “well, as long as their not FUCKING!

    Right, let me break it down for you. If these sex workers’
    (who only do sex work because they have no other choices)economic ships are sinking and sex work is like the life boat they jump into to keep afloat and keep from drowning WHAT WILL DOING AWAY WITH THE LIFE BOATS DO FOR THEM YOU PRIVILEGED IDIOT!

    I say this motto of the sex workers rights movement once a day to morons like you and it never sinks in because people like you don’t really care but here it goes anyway:
    Fight poverty NOT prostitution

    People like you disgust me because somewhere in that thick head of yours you KNOW that the only other options for the desperate are pretty much working in sweat shops doing back breaking work for not even a fraction of what they make in sex work and to you that’s OK! Why? Well, because there’s no fucking. AS IF, women who work in those conditions aren’t raped by those who exploit their labor.

    You have the privilege to choose not to look past the penis because it’s not your hands getting stabbed with sewing machine needles and slowly gaining arthritis and carpel tunnel for which they will receive no medical help. NO NO NO NO NO You CAN’T look at that! WHY? Well because you may have to face the fact that you wear on your own BACK the fruits of that exploitation so you WANT to believe it’s better. You would rather know that they are getting stabbed with sewing machine needles then dicks because at the end of the day you don’t want to give up the adornments of your privilege.

    Your a short sighted, sanctimonious, privileged IDIOT that makes yourself feel better by publicly flogging the loose women…as if we haven’t seen a dozen of your types a day. You’re more transparent then the clean drinking water you take for granted that you have access to every fucking day!

    Learn something: http://youtu.be/RIAs6cf7ppY
    I won’t hold my breath!
    Sorry Greta.

  44. 44
    mattisironen

    I for one am very interested to learn how to defeat someone who has invoked the Power Word: Privilege, so let’s keep this going.

  45. 45
    Eristae

    @agodlessstrumpet

    That video makes me feel sad and helpless.

  46. 46
    agodlessstrumpet

    @Erista #45 I understand and I feel it too. It is harder to step away from the proposed panaceas of the antis and look at the full scope of the issue. It is the harder road to take.

    Concerning sex work; the best thing is to fully decriminalize prostitution so that harm reduction measures can be implemented to their fullest effectiveness and the workers can come together and openly utilize the strength of their numbers. The antis fear this. They fear that it would look like the “promotion” of prostitution rather then a promotion of the rights of the prostitute as a person. They so often conveniently ignore that this IS what sex workers’ rights is all about.

    If “”Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” Then sex worker’s rights is the radical notion that sex workers are people too…and that includes being able to speak for ourselves and decide for ourselves what is best for us because only we know the truth of what motivates each one of us as an individual to do sex work.
    Nothing about us without us!

  47. 47
    Andrew Hunter

    You can read and view the plenary speech of Kaythi Win from Burmese network of sex workers at the AWID conference mentioned above.
    Kaythi too spoke of the fear of rescue, she spoke of feminist fundamentalists and feminist extremists.
    Interestingly at the worlds largest women’s rights conference, over 90% of the audience stood up and applauded her and repeated with her “sex work is work”

    Janice Raymond and a number of the fundamentalist feminists instead of discussing or debating with us, instead made complaints to the board of AWID for allowing us to attend….

    http://www.nswp.org/news-story/kaythi-win-brings-the-house-down-the-awid-forum

  48. 48
    SallyStrange

    I for one am very interested to learn how to defeat someone who has invoked the Power Word: Privilege, so let’s keep this going.

    msironen is not arguing in good faith. He’s an anti-feminist with a straw version of “privilege” that he wants to knock down. One would think that if he went to all the trouble of inventing his own version of the privilege concept, he’d make it relatively easy to counter. Apparently even his own inventions defeat his intellect.

  49. 49
    agodlessstrumpet

    @#48 Hi, I don’t know you at all and I’m not nit-picking but I get called an “anti-feminists” by someone on the internet everyday just for supporting sex workers’ right, ijs. :P

  50. 50
    Mikey

    And if I may just add, there have been numerous incidents where putting people in power over a stigmatized group just ends up hurting the stigmatized group even more. It’s happened/happening to every racial minority group, every religious minority group and definitely happens to sex workers in every setting. It just doesn’t work but people keep pushing for it because it’s been the battle plan so far. It’s sickening.

  51. 51
    Mark D.

    So, what about women that claim that wearing a burka/hijab/whatever-the-hell-it’s-called (I’ll just call it a cloak) is a personal choice that they are making of their own free will? Who claim that it’s not about oppression, it’s about “tradition” or “respect” or some nonsense?

    What kind of feminist “helps” other women without listening to what kind of help they actually want? What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them? What kind of feminist “helps” other women in ways that those women actually find harmful?

    How can we be consistent with the above words, yet dismiss the above situation as the effects of a “mind virus”, as Dawkins might put it (or “brainwashing” if you want to be more direct about it).

    How do we justify listening to the women in one context, but not listening to different women in another? Any dismissal you apply to the cloak issue (using involving “patriarchy” of some kind or another) can be applied to sex work, with at least superficial plausibility.

    I am a man, have zero experience with sex work (as a provider or client), and have never met any Muslim people who were the “cloaks”. The nuances of this situation are entirely foreign to me.

  52. 52
    Mark D.

    @ mattisironen

    I for one am very interested to learn how to defeat someone who has invoked the Power Word: Privilege, so let’s keep this going.

    It’s easy: stop being a privileged idiot, and you won’t get called one.

  53. 53
    analog2000

    I can never understand how the anti’s think. 1) Their theory is that women (notice they never mention men or trans folk) who enter prostitution are in a terrible way. Poor, desperate, with no other options. So if prostitution is eliminated, will they stop being poor and desperate? Will the circumstances that led them to this horrible place go away?

    2) How will being arrested and sent to jail help? Even if every prostitute on earth was a sex slave, how would putting them all in the criminal justice system be remotely helpful? Won’t that just make it worse? And isn’t it kind of mean to even think about arresting “victims?” I just don’t get it.

    Wonderful posts, Greta! I was a huge fan before this week, now I love you even more!

  54. 54
    Susanna I Astarte

    As a long-time feminist, let me respond to this.
    I can’t say I will ever endorse sex-work (prostitution). I don’t think ANY little girl grows up thinking “hey, I wanna be a hooker.”
    There may be some who really are happy in their chosen field- those who were not forced or trafficked in from another country. But I will not endorse this line of work- not now- not ever.
    Far too many females are forced into this.
    If these happy hookers don’t WANT to be rescued – so be it. But they should not act as if forced prostitution and human trafficking does not exist.
    Do you want you want to earn a living- but don’t expect me to endorse something that is all too often a nightmare.

  55. 55
    Greta Christina

    I don’t think ANY little girl grows up thinking “hey, I wanna be a hooker.”

    Susanna I Astarte @ #54: Why is this relevant? I don’t think there are any little girls who grow up thinking, “I want to be Chair of the Federal Reserve,” either. Does that mean it wouldn’t be a satisfying career choice for some adult women?

    Far too many females are forced into this.

    And far too many children are forced into cocoa farming. Are you going to speak out with equal vehemence against chocolate? And if there are people who like working in cocoa farming, are you going to dismiss and shame and marginalize them, the way you’re dismissing and shaming and marginalizing consensual sex workers?

    But they should not act as if forced prostitution and human trafficking does not exist.

    Name me one pro-sex work advocate who acts as if forced prostitution and human trafficking do not exist.

    For the eightieth time: We get that forced prostitution and human trafficking exist. We get that it is a horror. Our hearts go out to the people who are forced into this industry, and we dearly want to stop it. We simply:

    a) disagree with anti-sex-work advocates about what kind of policies and attitudes about sex work will actually help the people who are forced into the industry or don’t want to be in it;

    b) acknowledge that there are also sex workers who are in the business out of preference, and want to make sure these voices are heard, too;

    and c), above all, think that, when decisions about sex work policy are being made, the first people we should be talking with are sex workers. Ignoring our experiences does not help any of us.

  56. 56
    FeministWhore

    People like Norm have gotten their information from multi-millionaire oil magnate profiteers. Seriously:

  57. 57
    Meena Saraswathi Seshu

    No Sex Work Please, We’re Feminists!
    Meena Saraswathi Seshu and Laxmi Murthy.
    What is it about sex work that arouses much passion amongst many feminists? From outrage over the exploitation of women’s bodies to pity for the hapless victims of male lust, it has been difficult to view sex workers as going about the daily business of earning a livelihood by providing sexual services for money. While victimhood and exploitation are easy to empathize with and mobilize around, money for sex has engendered not just noisy public debate, but quiet squeamishness even among feminists. Even feminists who advocate liberation from restrictive sexual mores have generally not viewed commercial sexual transactions as “work”.
    Feminists and sex workers have only recently begun to talk to each other. The dialogue has been difficult due to the awkwardness, hesitation and hostility from feminists towards sex workers and those working for their rights. The notion that sex work debases women and transforms them into objects of control and exploitation is premised on the belief that a cash transaction strips a supposedly intimate act like sex of its inherent worth. It is therefore believed that no ‘good’ woman would actually opt for sex work as a viable livelihood option and those women who ‘readily’ do so do not comprehend the inherent patriarchal sexual exploitation of their body and self and are therefore labouring under “false consciousness”. The growing recognition of male and transgender sex workers has not led to much rethinking or reframing of classic feminist positions around the “poor helpless prostituted victim woman”.
    The women’s movement has for several decades engaged with issues related to the body. The conflation of sexuality and reproduction, the reduction of women into uteruses and vaginas and the fragmentation of women in reproductive health policies demanded an engagement with the construction of the female body and ‘control’ over it. Where contraception and fertility control mark the intersection of female sexuality and reproduction, sex work marks the intersection of female
    Sex Worker Speak
     Morality, double standards, a discomfort with the erotic, accompanied by an unwillingness to listen to sex workers themselves has hindered alliances between what should have been “natural” allies.
     Sex work must be included in mainstream feminist analysis, challenging as it does several basic foundations of patriarchal control: sexual, financial and reproductive.
     Sex workers recognize the ills of trafficking and can combat it, when they are strengthened as workers with a right to fight against criminalization of the trade.
    Page26
    sexuality and work. This is a convergence that has demanded a complex response that is still evolving. Morality, double standards, a discomfort with the erotic as well as unease about multiple sex partners, accompanied by an unwillingness to listen to sex workers themselves has hindered alliances between what would have been “natural” allies. Feminist theory and practice – a powerful liberatory force challenging inequities in every sphere – seemed to have faltered, and even failed, when it came to the issue of commercial sex.
    The debates around trafficking further bolster the idea of sex work as violence. Anti-trafficking rhetoric holds that bodies are unwillingly ‘sold’ and transported across borders. Exchanging sexual services for money [sex work] is conflated with selling of a body to another [trafficking]. Feminist activists thus talk of prostitution as ‘female sexual slavery’ and ‘sexual victimhood’. These perceptions echo the early reformist discourse, which views women as needing to be protected, preferably by laws, from lustful men. The victim trope has engendered several positions on prostitution and trafficking.
    However, trafficking, in addition to the element of force and deception which doubtless is a serious issue, must also be viewed as an issue of poverty that causes many women to willingly enter into agreements with traffickers because they desperately seek better livelihoods, escape from home-grown violence, poverty, conflict, or displacement – in short, a better life.
    Sex workers are increasingly articulating sex work as work, as a business, and do not consider themselves as either criminals or victims. Because feminism posits prostitution as violence, this viewpoint forecloses any discussion over whether sex work can be chosen as a livelihood option. In order for the stigma of discrimination to end and fundamental rights to be extended to sex workers to pursue their livelihood in safety and dignity, societal perception must be transformed. Sex workers in the business recognize the ills of trafficking and child sexual abuse and are taking measures to combat these crimes. This is only possible if sex workers are strengthened as workers with a right to fight against criminalization of the trade.
    There is a need to examine the troubled relationship between mainstream feminism, the human rights discourse and sex workers’ rights in negotiating the knotty terrain of sexual politics. Over the years, collectivization, community mobilization and fighting for the right to a ‘voice’ has helped centre the debate on sex work by the people in sex work themselves. The women’s movement is not a monolith, and there is need to forge alliances between those working towards autonomy, dignity and fundamental rights, re-defining these to include the most marginalized of individuals and communities.

  58. 58
    Elle

    @51

    What about them? As with sex work, if that is a choice they freely make, I think that few would argue that they should be stigmatized or shamed for making it or that they should be legally prohibited from making it (though I have no doubt that they are in various places stigmatized and certain forms are outlawed in France). The problem with the burka isn’t that it is an inherently deplorable form of dress; the problem is when women are forced to wear it and suffer terrible consequences for not doing so. All women should be free to expose as much or as little flesh as they wish. To say that we should fight the burka and not the compulsory wearing thereof is to argue that there is a minimal amount of skin that a woman must expose regardless of how comfortable she may be with that.

    It is reasonable to point out that choices are guided and constrained by the culture in which they are made, but that is true of all choices made by all people. A woman who chooses sex work, a woman who chooses to wear a burka, a woman who chooses to wear lipstick, and a man who chooses to wear t-shirts with video game references are all making decisions that might be made differently in a different culture. If aspects of that culture are damaging or unjust, then by all means, let’s fight to change the culture, but don’t patronize women and deny them their agency just because they do what every single human throughout history has done: tried to make the decisions that are best for them in the context of the culture in which they live.

  59. 59
    Mark D.

    Thank you Elle, that’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

  60. 60
    Eristae

    @Susanna I Astarte

    You’re acting like your “endorsing” or not “endorsing” a person’s decision to be a sex worker should mean something. And I don’t see why it should. I don’t “endorse” the decision to become a professional athlete; professional athletics is incredibly hard on a person’s body, and people are often forced to retire young because they have damaged their bodies so badly that they can’t continue to play. To me, it is horrible that people damage their bodies so severely in order to play a game. Furthermore, I’ve seen the dream of professional sports sold disproportionately to young people from disenfranchised backgrounds. These people then set their hopes on becoming a professional athlete to the exclusion of all else, even when the chance of becoming a professional athlete is so slim; for me, it is incredibly sad to see a college athlete choosing to give preference to their sport over their schooling because they (falsely) believe the tale that has been told to them that professional sports is their way out of poverty.

    But I don’t think my lack of endorsement translates into some negative action we should take towards professional athletes. It doesn’t mean that professional athletes should be shamed, have their children taken away, be put in jail, be denied employment after leaving professional athletics, or anything else like that. I am firmly of the opinion that my personal feelings towards professional atheistic are just that: my feelings. To act like my feeling should forcibly dictate the lives of other people is absurd.

  61. 61
    karmakin

    Yeah the real problem with the burka is that I’m not sure how to make it illegal to put pressure on women to wear it. The truth is that it should be the male leaders punished for it.

    The problems of sex work are MUCH better addressed via battling poverty, and not battling sex work itself. I mean it’s not even close. Even something like trafficking, which is horrible, I think wouldn’t be nearly as big of a problem if legal sex work was more common.

  62. 62
    SallyStrange

    Hi, I don’t know you at all and I’m not nit-picking but I get called an “anti-feminists” by someone on the internet everyday just for supporting sex workers’ right, ijs.

    Fair point. What I mean is that msironen consistently shows up on any feminism-related thread to challenge feminism in general, and privilege theory specifically. He doesn’t pretend to be advancing a higher standard of feminism that other feminists are not meeting; he apparently just has a problem with the basic concept.

    I’d call him a troll, but he appears to be quite sincere.

    ————————–

    Burqas: they should not be criminalized for the same reason sex work should not be criminalized. The way to empower women is to give them more education, more economic opportunities, etc., not to throw them in jail or fine them, essentially for the crime of not having those opportunities.

  63. 63
    agodlessstrumpet

    @#57 Meena Saraswathi Seshu

    I just wanted to say what an honor it is to share space on this thread with you. You are on the front lines in India fighting for the rights of some of the most marginalized sex workers in the world through SANGRAM and I admire your work.

    If anyone is going to try and discredit sex workers’ rights advocates by saying we live the high life here in the west and ignore the voices and input of people like yourself, it makes their BS pretty obvious.

    Respect

    @#62 @~>~~

  64. 64
    julian

    What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them? What kind of feminist “helps” other women in ways that those women actually find harmful?

    Noted.

    Hopefully no one here plans to lecture anyone on the evils of patriarchal cultures (or raising children in them) any time in the future.

  65. 65
    julian

    Ok so my last comment was snide stupidity. Sorry about that.

    But I am honestly finding it hard to understand how a lot of pro woman activism (and rights advocacy in general) doesn’t fall under denying others their agency. We tell women who support and feel fgm is an honored part of their culture they’re wrong. We tell women who preach the virtues of obedience to your husband that they’re wrong. We dismiss people’s experience frequently whenever we try to do any ‘good’ on a global scale.

  66. 66
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Norm (@40):

    Aside from everything Greta said @41…

    The privileged individuals whose agency permits voluntary participation in the sex industry possess the ability to end their participation on a whim.

    …why do you assume this? Very few of us — even among those of us fairly high up the privilege scale — possess the ability to end our participation in work “on a whim” (or at all, for that matter); agency that permits us to voluntarily select what kind of work is a separate question.

    Your formulation seems to imply there are only two kinds of sex workers: those under coercion, and those who don’t really need money at all. That is, victims or dilettantes.

    Do you not make room for the possibility that some sex workers have concluded, uncoerced, that sex work suits them better than other ways of making a living that are available to them? Do you think it’s entirely impossible for anyone to rationally conclude that having sex for a living is better than picking crops or stamping out metal parts or waiting tables or cleaning floors? Hell, I have a pretty nice white-collar job, and if I could replace my current compensation by having sex with strangers, or in front of a camera, I’d have to give it serious thought. (No worries for my wife, though; I’m pretty sure there’s not much call for pudgy, middle-aged male rookies in the sex trade.)

    I don’t mean to promote a glamorized view of sex work here; I mean to point out that a lot of the work we humans do to provide for our material needs is not glamorous, either. Most of us make a living doing something other than what we would be doing if we didn’t have to worry about making a living. You may think that’s a shame (and I might agree), but if you think it’s automatically more of a shame when the work in question is sexual in nature, then I have to ask why. Is it possible there’s some magical thinking about the “moral” standing of sex itself buried in your argument?

  67. 67
    julian

    You may think that’s a shame (and I might agree), but if you think it’s automatically more of a shame when the work in question is sexual in nature, then I have to ask why.

    Why is it more of a shame when someone has to sleep with a roommate to have a place to sleep as opposed to painting the apartment?

  68. 68
    Sally Strange

    Why is it more of a shame when someone has to sleep with a roommate to have a place to sleep as opposed to painting the apartment?

    I think it’s the “has to” part that makes that wrong, not the sex part.

  69. 69
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    julian:

    Why is it more of a shame when someone has to sleep with a roommate to have a place to sleep as opposed to painting the apartment?

    I’m not sure roommates are a fair analogy to sex workers: Roommate has a wide range of definitions, many of which blur the lines between commerce and the interpersonal, and some of which inherently overlap with lover; sex work, OTOH, is always commercial by definition.

    But if you want to look at a roommate situation as a strictly commercial exchange of services for a place to live, then no, I don’t think sexual services are an inherently more shameful way to “pay the rent” than mopping floors or cleaning toilets or mowing the lawn… presuming (and this is always the key point) that it has been the tenant’s actual choice to make that arrangement.

    I anticipate the argument that sex is different from other kinds of labor because it’s so personal… and yes, it can be. In the right context, sex is maximally intimate, and a powerful expression of love for another human being. But in the right context feeding or grooming another person can be those things, too, and we don’t demand that chefs and hairdressers be ashamed of what they do for a living, do we?

  70. 70
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Or, what SallyStrange said, which is much more succinct.

  71. 71
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    What kind of feminist “helps” other women by treating them as if they aren’t capable of deciding for themselves what’s best for them? What kind of feminist “helps” other women in ways that those women actually find harmful?

    well, lots. Let’s not do a “no true feminist” here, shall we? I think the prohibitionist example is *excellent* – the prohibitionists were in many cases suffragists, who were motivated by the horrors they’d seen of domestic violence and abuse of children by drunken husbands. They mistakenly blamed the drink, but they were feminists and they were motivated by an idea of ending abuse.

    If you agree that women are human, and not angelic spirits of virtue, the you must accept that women can be just as dumb and mistaken and greedy and unpleasant as men. Their choices may NOT be for the best for themselves or others. Being a woman who makes a choice doesn’t make that choice automatically a good one.

    In my opinion, prostitution should be decriminalized. But the argument needs to be better than “women choose it so it’s OK”

  72. 72
    Greta Christina

    Alethea @ #72: I’m not saying, “Women chose it so it’s okay.” I’m saying, “Women chose it, so bloody well listen to them already.” And I’m saying “Women – and men, and trans people who don’t identify as one gender or the other – who are clearly smart and thoughtful and self-aware, chose this. Not just one or two, but thousands of them. So listen to them, and don’t reflexively and patronizingly assume that they’re making bad choices just because they’re choosing something you wouldn’t choose for yourself.”

    That’s the crux of what I’m saying. Listen to sex workers. Don’t create policy about sex work, or try to generate public opinion about it, without their input. This seems ridiculously obvious to me. I’m somewhat shocked at how much pushback it gets.

  73. 73
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Sure, Greta, I was more responding to the no true feminist thing. History is full of people trying to do good in misguided ways. Most women who are out there trying to interfere with other women’s agency believe they are doing good. And if it’s outlawing clitoridectomies, then they may be right, despite the fact that it’s interference with other women’s agency. I agree with your main point but disagree that this is a good argument.

  74. 74
    elizabeth

    I really needed to read this today. I was just reviewing my blogroll and discovered that one of my so-called feminist/skeptic links contains a large number of anti-prostitution posts. I just don’t know how to bring this issue up with other feminists who insist on conflating ‘prostitution’ with ‘human trafficking’ and ‘slavery’. I just can’t reconcile that view with the people I know who are sex workers, and every time I try to explain it I get a lot of hands-over-the-ears ‘lalalaI’mnotlistening’ and once, someone even brought my infant son into the discussion. It’s such a hot-button, emotional issue with some women, now I just disengage if it comes up.

  75. 75
    Greta Christina

    Sure, Greta, I was more responding to the no true feminist thing.

    Alethea H. Claw @ #74: I guess I should clarify. I’m not saying they’re not true feminists. I’m saying they’re not good feminists. (Or rather, that they’re not practicing good feminism. They might be good feminists in other arenas of their lives.)

    If you’re supposedly trying to help women, but your response when a whole lot of women tell you that you’re actually hurting them instead of helping them is to actively ignore and dismiss them — if it’s more important to you to hang onto your ideology than it is to listen to what other women say they want and need — then regardless of how good your intentions are, I don’t think you’re practicing good feminism. (Which is different from saying that you’re not a true feminist.)

  76. 76
    Maxine Doogan

    @Sarah van Brussel

    Congratulations Sarah van Brussels on the new fund to support sex worker organizing. Its welcome news and long over due as we’re way behind in our organizing ability to stand up for ourselves since we have little support beyond lip service from even fewer sectors of society.

    On the other hand, what I find it concerning that this new fund doesn’t seem to be available to actual sex worker led groups like ours in the united states. This lack of reach to the western groups like ours contradicts the idea of a global fund. I’m wondering who from the US was there to represent actual workers like myself at the I’m frustrated by this lack of inclusion in accessing funds for organizing for our rights since it is here in the US where the anti trafficking backed by feminist was crafted and implemented world wide.

  77. 77
    agodlessstrumpet

    #73@Greta “I’m not saying, ‘Women chose it so it’s okay.’ I’m saying, “Women chose it, so bloody well listen to them already.”

    Don’t you love the binary thinking of the intellectually lazy trying to be concerned with social justice issues? As If boiling the issues the marginalized faced into to two diametrically opposed and simply stated options:
    1. Women choose it so it’s all good.
    2. No women choose it so it’s all bad.
    …is actually helping to “raise awareness.” All it does is further contribute to their marginalization by over simplifying the complex issues they face every day to an insulting and harmful degree. No wonder it’s so hard to get shit done around here, ijs. =/

  78. 78
    thecalmone

    Is part of the problem simply an unacknowledged (maybe even unrecognised) adherence to simplistic ideology? It’s as if some people, no matter how engaged, aware and intelligent just can’t go the extra step – can’t shake off the vague feeling somewhere in the back of their minds that, I don’t know… sex is bad so prostitution must be bad, or something. That and a dose of puritanism.

  79. 79
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    thecalmone:

    It’s as if some people, no matter how engaged, aware and intelligent just can’t go the extra step – can’t shake off the vague feeling somewhere in the back of their minds that, I don’t know… sex is bad so prostitution must be bad, or something. That and a dose of puritanism.

    I agree, but I’ll go a step further: I think it’s not just “some people,” but we as a culture[1] who can’t shake off the not-so-vague feeling somewhere in the back of our collective mind that pleasure is bad, and that we fallen, inherently depraved mortals don’t deserve any. Sex-negativity — along with all the social ills that flow from it — is (IMHO) just a special case of the pervasive sense of human unworthiness that is (in the U.S.) the cultural heritage of actual, capital-P Puritanism.

    A coworker of mine who comes from old New England Puritan roots says her family adopted the old attitude of “first toil, then the grave.” She says it jokingly, but I think that parasitic worm is lurking with serious purpose somewhere in the back of all our minds.

    ***
    [1] By “we” here, I mostly mean the U.S., but I suspect what I say is more or less true in most of the cultures founded on Abrahamic monotheism… the so-called “people of the book.”

  80. 80
    Krista Fury

    Hi Greta,

    I have been reading your blog and enjoy your posts about atheism, but I really think you miss the ball on this subject.

    I think a better title for this article is:[Men] have made sex workers’ work so much more difficult”

    Once upon a time, I used to think “sex work” could be empowering and yeah, “ra ra ra” let’s go prostitution!. But then… I thought about it. I thought really long and hard and realized that this position didn’t really fit in with the whole feminism thing- you know- the quest for women’s equality. I thought that, maybe, just maybe, sex should really be about desire- for both people doing it. And, um, sorry, but buying someone’s consent just isn’t the same as desire to me.

    Greta, there is a really good blog I read called The F Word Media Collective. It is based in Vancouver (a city that has major issues with prostitution). I challenge you to read the posts about prostitution and respond to the arguments made by the writer because I don’t think you have done this adequately here at all!

    http://www.feminisms.org/4611/who-is-the-real-enemy-in-the-prostitution-debate-a-response-to-one-argument-against-abolition/

  81. 81
    Krista Fury

    Quote from “Who is the real enemy in the prostitution debate? A response to one argument against abolition”

    Earlier this month, rabble.ca published a response from a sex worker named Sarah M. to, not only the abolitionist argument as a whole, but to me in particular. Having written several blog posts, cross-posted to rabble.ca (as F Word blog posts are) on the topic of prostitution which address and challenge arguments for decriminalization and/or legalization, building on or using abolitionist and radical feminist arguments as foundation, the site, with good reason, felt it fair to solicit a response from a sex worker, as many of their regular readers suggested they do.

    I do question the recent efforts by some to focus this debate on individuals and on personal attacks. In essence, I am not convinced that this conversation should be specific to me / my work… While I do feel it is more productive to build an argument based on ideas, key issues, law, and of course, the broad spectrum of ways in which the sex industry impacts women, rather than to divert the argument into one focused on individuals, I also feel it necessary to respond to this piece in particular as the author has addressed my writing and arguments specifically.

    I should, at this point, make it it very clear that all of my arguments and writing are inspired by the work of other women – radical feminists, exited women, Aboriginal women, and those who work on the front line day after day. The ideas I relay here are not solely my own, but rather they build on the breath of knowledge and theory and activism done, for decades, by my sisters in the struggle. With regard to my response to the piece published by rabble, which I was initially unsure would be useful or necessary, I believe there are enough points made which are either debatable, fallacious, or deserve to be expanded upon, to warrant a response. As such, I am unable to avoid addressing the author specifically, though I will do my best to avoid individualizing the debate to the extent to which the argument becomes lost in personal attacks, assumptions, or critiques.

    I do not believe that, for the purposes of discussing this particular issue, it is useful or ethical to attack a progressive news site for publishing writing that some readers do not agree with. I support dissenting views and thoughtful critique, but not efforts to remove certain people or certain ideas from the debate. This is both a complex and difficult issue which has grown to dominate much of feminist discourse and, of course, has a very direct and dangerous impact on the actual, individual lives of women everywhere. Again, I believe this conversation can be had without personalizing the debate and without making assumptions about the interests and backgrounds of those involved in the debate. I am not particularly interested in engaging in arguments about who is more or less oppressed and which women do or do not have the right to speak.

    Prostitution is a feminist issue. Prostitution is a women’s issue. Period.

    I have never argued that, as the author claims, “anyone who disagrees with [me] must just need to experience more abuse ” nor have I depicted ” survivors as damaged goods, draw[n] caricatures of [their] modes of resistance, or refuse[d] [them] the dignity of defining [their] own experiences of sexual assault.” To argue such things is an abhorrent misrepresentation and is absolutely unproductive, as well as verging on slanderous.

    While this particular response was, many ways, much more thoughtful and intelligible than many other attacks or criticisms that have been made on me, my writing, my arguments, and on abolitionists as a whole, the author nonetheless appears to, in places, misrepresent my position and the position of many abolitionists and radical feminists. Very often, within this debate, there are concerted attempts to remove feminists from the left and to paint abolitionists as somehow engaged in oppressive or right-wing tactics in order to further our cause as well as to accuse feminists of actually being the perpetrators of violence themselves. This could not be further from the truth.

    Assuming that there have been points made in my writing which require clarification around my and many other feminists’ positions on prostitution, I am happy to clarify and to address some points made by this particular author.

    While yes, this is a divide that has existed for decades (though not “always,” as the author claims – rather I would argue that this debate stemmed from the “sex wars” of the 1980s), it has been reinvigorated by Bedford v. Canada, a case which could lead to the decriminalization of not only prostituted* women (which abolitionists advocate for), but also of pimps and johns (to which abolitionists are opposed).

    What is new, from my perspective, is a growing desire and solidarity among feminists and among progressive men to end a practice that reinforces, perpetuates, and normalizes female subordination.

    Who is the “Sex Work Lobby”?

    The first point made by the author addresses my use of the term “sex work lobby,” which the author argues “doesn’t exist” as “sex workers don’t have the government’s ear,” nor, according to her, do they have any collective power. The “sex work lobby,” it should be stated, is not limited to sex workers. The “sex work lobby” includes many people who hold considerable power in our society; such as pimps, johns, and pornographers. These groups also include many women who are not engaged in sex work. Many of those who aim to legitimize and legalize sex work are clients of sex workers as well as those who profit financially from the industry (i.e. pimps). The “sex work lobby” does not refer to specifically to marginalized women, though it does, obviously, include some women who engage in sex work,* and therefore does include the voices of some women who have been marginalized in our society in one way or another (in that some of those who are involved in these lobby groups are members of marginalized groups, such as women, racialized women, and poor women).

    Though there are some women and sex workers who are involved in the sex work lobby, it isn’t accurate to describe this work as the work of a marginalized or silenced population. The sex work lobby does not include the voices of exited women nor does it tend to include the voices of survival sex workers and it’s leaders are women and men who have relatively loud and prominent voices in the media. A reference to the “sex work lobby” does not equal a reference to prostituted women as, again, many of these lobbyists are not prostituted women. This isn’t to say that these people do not have a right to engage in debate around this issue, but that to frame these advocacy groups as somehow more deserving of voice than other women’s or feminist groups is erroneous.

    As for having “the government’s ear,” in Vancouver at least, many of these lobbyists do indeed have the ears of our local politicians which has and does have an impact on discourse and decisions made at the municipal level.

    All that said, a lobby group refers to a group who advocates for or works to influence legislation or government decisions. Seeing as decriminalization/legalization advocates are working to change the law and that the groups who are engaging in this type of advocacy generally describe themselves as either sex work/worker advocacy groups and/or decriminalization advocacy groups, I think that the descriptor of “sex work lobby” is applicable.

    The Sex Worker as “Transgressive”

    An argument commonly made by women who discovered feminism within the third wave or through post-modernism is that sex work is somehow “transgressive” – that somehow, sex work defies norms and challenges dominant ideology or cultural expectations of women. To frame sex work as “transgressive” presents the act of commodifying one’s sexuality as a radical act. But what is radical about the selling of sex? Isn’t “sex sells” one of the most commonly used defenses for sexist imagery and depictions of women of our time? Isn’t the objectification of the female body the easiest way for men, for advertisers, for corporations, and of course, for mainstream media to profit? Isn’t the simplest way to gain male approval to sexualize our bodies and to appear as though our very being exists for their pleasure and consumption? Haven’t men long used female bodies to profit or to sell products? Capitalist patriarchy is not radical.

    Sex work may well be necessary for many, many women. Many women must resort to prostitution in order to survive. There should be no judgement in this circumstance. We live in a world that doesn’t always leave us with many options. Survival is a priority.

    Sex work may even be a choice of sorts for some women. If you have a certain level of privilege, there is a great deal of money to be made in the industry. There may even be aspects of this work that some women enjoy on a certain level. But money does not equal freedom and an individual’s ability to profit from a misogynist industry does not equal collective empowerment. In truth, prostitution is a “choice” largely determined by class / poverty.

    As such, sex work is not transgressive. It is something that exists because we live within a system that thrives on inequity. Put women in a world where many cannot survive comfortably, where men, at large, hold more social, political, and economic power, where they are taught from day one that the most important thing about them is their sexuality and their ability to attract male attention, and where male pleasure is prioritized over female pleasure and well-being and see what happens.

    The Location of the Debate

    I agree that the location of this debate should not necessarily be between feminists, meaning that I don’t see how pitting feminists against one another could possibly be productive for the movement.

    What has always been clear to abolitionists and to radical feminists is that this is a fight between feminists and the patriarchy.

    Prostitution is not something that exists because of women’s power. It exists as the result of a lack of power and a lack of choice. I am as disappointed as the next woman that this debate has caused many of those who identify as feminists to call abolitionists their “enemies” (as well as a host of other, much less pleasant names). I am disappointed that this debate continues not be to centered around the perpetrators of violence – that is, the men. I am disappointed that we continue to blame feminists rather than an exploitative, violent, misogynist system that allows women suffer and die without a second thought.

    Yet those who advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of prostitution often claim that it is not men who are their enemies, but rather it is feminists.

    I am in complete agreement that we need to re-focus. Abolitionists have done just that; turning the lens onto those who are doing the exploiting and onto those who are profiting from women’s lack of power and lack of real choice. In the end, we are primarily concerned with stopping those who are doing the violence, that is, the men, as well as changing the system within which this kind of exploitation is allowed and encouraged.

    Neoliberalism as the Enemy of Feminism

    The author points out that which we are all (sadly) aware: “[if] the enemy is neoliberalism, then feminists are losing spectacularly.”

    As Rahila Gupta wrote, back in January: “neoliberal values created a space for a bright, brassy and ultimately fake feminism,” going on to say that “if the culture of neoliberalism had something to offer women, it was the idea of agency, of choice freely exercised, free even of patriarchal restraints.”

    What neoliberal ideology (that is, the work to privatize everything under the guise of providing more choice and freedom for individuals) has done for feminism is to provide a basis for a kind of individual empowerment which rests on a supposed “freedom” to choose. What the individual woman chooses is, of course, not relevant. That she is making a choice to get breast implants, to get onto a stripper pole, or to, yes, sell sex, is enough to frame this choice as potentially empowering. Gupta elaborates on this idea by referencing a concept discussed by Clare Chambers, called: “the fetishism of choice,” arguing that “if women choose things that disadvantage them and entrench differences, it legitimates inequality because the inequality arises from the choices they make.” Making a choice does not, in and of itself, empower anyone. Particularly when it is made within the constructs of an oppressive framework.

    Within the context of neoliberalism, “choice” can work against us. We have convinced ourselves that by choosing to emulate that which has been sketched out for us by oppressive systems of power such as capitalism and patriarchy, we are actually empowered. Inequality, within this context, is overcome by choosing to frame said inequality as empowerment.

  82. 82
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Krista Fury, the following is what I got from your argument. Please explain what is wrong with this assessment:

    Sex work is bad because patriarchy. Sex workers who say they like it don’t count because patriarchy and neoliberalism.

  83. 83
    llewelly

    I do not see anyone defending actual neoliberals (such as Christina Hoff Sommers) , so it’s difficult for me to see how Krista Fury’s founding premise has anything to do with the debate. In fact, if her argument differs significantly from “you people are all neoliberals, therefor freedom is slavery”, I cannot see how.

  84. 84
    Krista Fury

    Setár, self-appointed Elf-lord of social justice:

    You have completely oversimplified the arguments of the article. (And I apologise for having included so much of it- I simply wanted to copy and paste the part about pitting feminists against each other, but somehow I included almost the entire article.)

    But since we’re on the topic anyway, let me clarify the other points the author makes.

    1) Prostitution exists because we live in a society where men have more money and power than women. If we were to eliminate this inequity, there would be few if any women working in prostitution. Take a look at countries that do have more gender equality and what you find is fewer women involved in prostitution. Well, I mean fewer women who are natives of the country. Do you think it is a coincidence that in countries like the Netherlands most of the women working in prostitution are not Dutch women?

    2)I did not say the voices of women who say they like working in prostitution don’t count. I just don’t understand why their voices are the loudest and take precedence over the majority? Most women want OUT of prostitution, so why aren’t we listening to them instead of a tiny minority?

    3)I think there is a major problem with framing the issue of prostitution as all about choice. And I think neoliberal ideas are responsible for such a view. As the writer of article points out, how can real choice exist within an oppressive framework? If a woman has to choose between starving or working as a prostitute, how can we say this is a real choice?

    I seriously entreat you to read more about abolitionist feminists and what they stand for. The site I linked above is a good start, but if you want to read about it from the perspective of exited women, here is another good link.

    Ultimately, I think it is a shame that feminists are fighting each other, when we should be fighting against those who are really responsible for making the lives of prostitutes difficult: the men that buy them.

  85. 85
    Krista Fury

    Sorry, I forgot the link:

    http://www.educatingvoices.ca/

  86. 86
    SallyStrange

    Prostitution exists because we live in a society where men have more money and power than women. If we were to eliminate this inequity, there would be few if any women working in prostitution.

    Few. But unless we transition to a money-free economy, the number will not be zero.

    Still, this is not an explanation for why we should outlaw prostitution. Outlawing prostitution will not create an equal society. Create an equal society, and there will be no need to outlaw prostitution, according to you.

    You have not made your case.

  87. 87
    Dianne

    I thought that, maybe, just maybe, sex should really be about desire- for both people doing it. And, um, sorry, but buying someone’s consent just isn’t the same as desire to me.

    Ok, but the same could be said for lots of other situations. Friendship and someone who listens to you and takes an interest in your problems is something that surely can’t be bought: the people involved must have a genuine interest in each other. Yet you aren’t calling for an end to psychiatry and therapy of various sorts because the therapist is being oppressed by having to “pretend” an interest in a random person. (Pretend is in quotes because a good therapist is in the field because they are interested in people’s psychiatric complaints and often become genuinely attached. But are also capable of helping care for people even if they feel no real attachment to the person.)

    The same for other areas. Surely people shouldn’t be expected to touch others, even in a non-sexual way, if they don’t have a desire to do so. Yet that’s what paramedics, doctors, nurses, medical technicians, etc are asked to do all the time. Even when there are very strong reasons to NOT want to touch the person (i.e. they’re covered in blood and bile) a paramedic is still required to touch the person, render aid, and take them to the hospital. Are EMTs oppressed by their jobs?

    So it seems to me that you’ve created a double standard: it’s ok to offer listening or non-sexual touching after you’ve “bought” consent of the person hired to do the particular job for you, but not ok for sex. Why is sex different? Maybe there is a case for sex being different, but you can’t simply say it is and leave it at that.

  88. 88
    Dianne

    If a woman has to choose between starving or working as a prostitute, how can we say this is a real choice?

    No. If a woman has a choice between starving and telemarketing how can we say this is a real choice? Or flipping burgers or…You get the idea. No one should be forced into work they hate and possibly find unethical because of fear of starvation. But that requires adequate social protection against starvation and other forms of deprivation (homelessness, inability to access medical care, etc), not illegalization of one specific potentially distasteful and unethical (to some women) form of employment.

  89. 89
    Greta Christina

    somehow I included almost the entire article

    Krista Fury @ #86: “Somehow”?

    Posting comments that are the length of entire articles is a form of comment hogging. I do not take kindly to it. Please do not do it again. Thanks.

  90. 90
    Sarah van Brussel

    @ Krista Fury
    I disagree strongly with a lot of what you say, but I’m going to focus on two of your points.

    I did not say the voices of women who say they like working in prostitution don’t count. I just don’t understand why their voices are the loudest and take precedence over the majority? Most women want OUT of prostitution, so why aren’t we listening to them instead of a tiny minority?

    It seems to me like you’re implying that the interests of those who want out and those who are happy to stay in the sex industry are opposed. I don’t think that is the case. All sex workers benefit from being able to exercise their rights. All sex workers benefit from less police harassment, access to justice, health care, financial services and less stigma and less violence. These things will make it easier for those who want out.

    Criminalizing sex work doesn’t help women who want out of sex work. It doesn’t help women who turn to sex work as a last resort either. It doesn’t help counter the violence against them, and it doesn’t make it easier to get out of sex work.

    Making life increasingly difficult for all sex workers by criminalizing their livelihood, making it harder for them to earn a living and actively adding to the stigmatization they face doesn’t seem like a particularly empowering strategy to ‘help’ women get out of sex work.

    If you want to fewer people working as sex workers, fight poverty. If you want to do something about the potentially oppressive and exploitative circumstances in sex work, support sex workers standing up up for their rights. As sex worker activists say themselves: Only rights can stop the wrongs.

    Finally you seem to dismiss a large group of sex workers who may not be exactly happy to do sex work but who are doing it because it is the best option for them at this time for whatever reason.

    Now to the second point:

    Ultimately, I think it is a shame that feminists are fighting each other, when we should be fighting against those who are really responsible for making the lives of prostitutes difficult: the men that buy them.

    First of all, clients don’t buy sex workers, they pay for their services. BIG difference. I think it’s telling you phrased it this way. And not all sex workers are women and not all clients are men.

    Clients are not by definition the problem. Violent and abusive clients are a problem, but not the only group of people who make their lives difficult. In my conversations with sex workers the police was mentioned repeatedly as one of the groups of people that made their lives more difficult. This includes police violence and harassment (f.e. sex workers being fined over and over again for offenses like ‘littering’ – which means that they need to work more to make up for their lost income).

    A second group of people that came up repeatedly, like I said in my post, was feminists. Think about that.

  91. 91
    Krista Fury

    Greta Christina- Yes, it was an honest error of mine to have posted almost the entire article. I am not the most computer savvy person out there.

    Dianne- Thanks for bringing up the friendship example- I think that is a good one. But I disagree with you that a psychiatrist is like a friend. To me, a psychiatrist is a professional who helps others solve their psychological problems/issues. Friendship is not the same. I doubt most people would call their psychiatrist a “friend”. And if they did become friends with their psychiatrist, they would separate their professional relationship with their friendship. This is because, as I believe with sex, money muddies the authenticity of the friendship. I am pretty sure most people would agree that there is something not right about someone paying someone to be their friend. Friendship should be its own reward. So should sex.

    Sarah van Brussel- Abolitionist feminists do not advocate for the criminalization of sex workers. Again, I urge you to read the articles that I linked. We advocate for the criminalization of johns and pimps and the DECRIMINALIZATION of prostitutes. It is called the Nordic model, a model that also includes social support and programs to helps prostitutes to exit. What I like about the Nordic model is it turns the focus around to the johns.

    And perhaps I was wrong in saying that this issue should not just be focused on choice. Perhaps we should look more closely at the CHOICES of johns to buy sex. Some good questions might be: Why can’t they find someone to have sex with them for free? If they are married and/or are in a committed relationship (which is often the case), why do they need to buy sex in the first place?

  92. 92
    agodlessstrumpet

    @Krista Fury #93 “Sarah van Brussel- Abolitionist feminists do not advocate for the criminalization of sex workers. Again, I urge you to read the articles that I linked. We (very telling)

    “advocate for the criminalization of johns and pimps and the DECRIMINALIZATION of prostitutes. It is called the Nordic model,” (As if she hasn’t heard of the Nordic/Swedish model before! Are you trying to insult her intelligence?)

    “a model that also includes social support and programs to helps prostitutes to exit.”(But not if they DON’T want out. If they DON’T want out then they can just suffer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1gXFD4CAT4

    What I like about the Nordic model is it turns the focus around to the johns.” (You ARE trying to be insulting! Insulting in your divisiveness of her. You completely ignored EVERYTHING she said about poverty! You know what you are? You’re one of those people who pretends to be nice and want a peaceful dialogue and then politely ignores ALL arguments against your position because you’re here to parrot propaganda and convert rather then engage. You’re disingenuous. You’re the William Lane Craigs of this issue. You don’t care about the facts. You don’t care about the arguments. You’re here to appeal to the intellectually laziest lowest common denominator who can’t look past the stigma that they view the world through. You may try and take advantage of the kindness and respect the other sex workers’ rights advocates are trying to so you BUT I SEE YOU!)

    “And perhaps I was wrong in saying that this issue should not just be focused on choice. Perhaps we should look more closely at the CHOICES of johns to buy sex.” (AGAIN ignoring the poverty argument. AGAIN completely fucking ignoring that she said not only MEN buy sex and not only WOMEN sell it. Do you need proof? Nah, you’ll probably ignore that too but here goes anyway: http://bit.ly/KvquyV )

    “Some good questions might be: Why can’t they find someone to have sex with them for free? If they are married and/or are in a committed relationship (which is often the case), why do they need to buy sex in the first place?” (None of that shit is any of your business! Here’s some rhetorical questions I have for you. Are you the fidelity police? Is it the aim of prohibitionists like you to herd people into committed monogamous relationships just like the Christian Dominionists? If you’re more concerned with these issues then with poverty how can you honestly expect anyone to believe that you’re here for the good of sex workers and not just to make sure that YOUR man isn’t fucking one? That would fall right in line with your disingenuousness so far imo. Well, as a sex workers rights advocate I don’t care why someones client is paying them for services. I care that that client AND the police can not get away with raping and murdering that sex worker. And NO the Swedish model doesn’t ensure this protection. Here’s a link. Go ahead and ignore it: http://rightswork.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Issue-Paper-4.pdf

  93. 93
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Krista:

    SallyStrange has already made my first point, but maybe it bears reinforcing:

    Prostitution exists because we live in a society where men have more money and power than women. If we were to eliminate this inequity, there would be few if any women working in prostitution.

    This stands as an argument for bending our efforts toward gender equity in economic and social power. If your assessment is correct, prostitution will wither away in a more equitable society; if not, we’ll have a more equitable society… and more confidence that those who remain in sex work are there by choice. Either way, this is not an argument in favor of prohibitionist or restrictive approaches to sex work per se.

    Also, since you don’t like Dianne’s analogy between friend and therapist, let me go back to a similar point I alluded to in an earlier comment: Lots of personal-service labor — cooking and serving food, grooming services such as hair styling, massage therapy, etc. — involve interactions that have deeply personal, intimate counterparts in the context of interpersonal relationships. A chef doesn’t have the same motivations or depth of feeling when xe cooks you a meal as your lover might… but that doesn’t make what the chef is doing immoral. The fact that sex can be a mutual, deeply personal act doesn’t, by itself, prove that other sorts of sex can’t (or shouldn’t) exist.

  94. 94
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Another thought on the friend/therapist analogy:

    Friendship is not the same. I doubt most people would call their psychiatrist a “friend”.

    I think the fact that the psychiatrist isn’t a friend is exactly the point: The therapist does some of the same things as a friend, but gets paid and isn’t actually a friend. Similarly, a sex worker does some of the same things as a lover, but gets paid and isn’t actually a lover.

    If the “pretense” in the former case is well accepted, why not in the latter case?

  95. 95
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Krista Fury #86:

    You have completely oversimplified the arguments of the article.

    Why did I expect something more than a condescending Courtier’s Reply? -sigh-. Okay, fine, game on. I’ll take you seriously from here on out.

    Prostitution exists because we live in a society where men have more money and power than women. If we were to eliminate this inequity, there would be few if any women working in prostitution.

    This is not an argument. It looks like begging the question, but it’s not even that because you haven’t included a second premise…or even a conclusion, really, because you effectively make the same claim twice.

    Lacking anything else, [citation needed], otherwise whatever argument you meant to follow up with fails because one of the premises is not necessarily true.

    Take a look atcountries that do have more gender equality and what you find is fewer women involved in prostitution.

    Making bare assertions like this indicates that you aren’t taking your opposition seriously. This is not only poor form in discussion, it’s extremely insulting.

    Please treat me with some dignity by backing up your assertions. Acting like everything you say is automatically right is not a good way to convince others of your rightness.

    Well, I mean fewer women who are natives of the country.

    Nice trick. Problem is, it doesn’t work when you admit to foreseeing the objection before it even comes — you’re supposed to wait until after I object to the broad claim to revise it. All you’ve done is lay it out in the open for everyone to see that you’re willing to prime the audience by making sweeping claims only to redact them the minute someone with a brain objects.

    Do you think it is a coincidence that in countries like the Netherlands most of the women working in prostitution are not Dutch women?

    Again with the bare assertions. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that only one of us is taking this discussion seriously — you, quite obviously, seem to think that I’m a gullible fool who doesn’t know the meaning of fact-checking or burden of proof.

    2) I did not say the voices of women who say they like working in prostitution don’t count. I just don’t understand why their voices are the loudest and take precedence over the majority? Most women want OUT of prostitution, so why aren’t we listening to them instead of a tiny minority?

    Okay, I’m not getting it in words, so I’m going to try to break this down into pure logic and variables.

    So, we have this set S, representing all sex workers. This set is comprised of the subsets {V, N} where V represents voluntary sex workers and N represents non-voluntary sex workers (for sake of simplicity, we’ll include those who wanted to initially but regretted their decision later in N).

    You are saying that subset N comprises a majority of S. We’ll assume this is true; so for the set {V, N}, N > V.

    You are also saying that S needs to be banned, something that will affect both N and V. You appear to be saying this on the basis of the existence of N, but you have not as yet provided anything concerning how your proposal will affect V, or even any indication that you have considered how your proposal will affect V.

    As such, I do not see where in this argument you are considering V, other than your admission that V exists even as a minority. Please explain.

    I think there is a major problem with framing the issue of prostitution as all about choice. And I think neoliberal ideas

    Okay, stop, seriously. You keep talking about neoliberal “ideas” (you probably mean “ideals”). I don’t see anyone here defending them. I fucking hate neoliberalism, I hate it with an undying passion, and I fight it wherever it crops up.

    Who is defending neoliberal ideals, and which neoliberal ideals are being defended?

    I seriously entreat you to read more about abolitionist feminists and what they stand for.

    From what you’ve given me, I don’t see the point. You don’t appear to be taking sex-positivity seriously at all; why should I expect more from your superior fellows when one is supposed to lead by example?

    And why should I take you seriously when it’s already bloody obvious that you’re not taking me seriously?

  96. 96
    Sarah van Brussel

    @ agodlessstrumpet #94

    Thanks for posting the paper on the Swedish model and saving me the trouble! I saw Krista Fury’s comment rather late at night (I’m on Amsterdam time) and decided not to answer her comment right away because I didn’t want to go to bed angry.

  97. 97
    agodlessstrumpet

    @Sarah van Brussel #98 Respect @~>~~

  98. 98
    agodlessstrumpet

    Correction on my comment #94 “(You ARE trying to be insulting! Insulting in your divisiveness of her. You completely ignored EVERYTHING she said about poverty! I meant to say “Insulting in your dismissivness” mu bad :P

  99. 99
    dianne

    Friendship should be its own reward. So should sex.

    I’m sure Krista Fury didn’t mean it this way, but does anyone else feel like there’s a bit of an “outraged John” sentiment behind this statement? I can imagine a man who frequents prostitutes finding out that the woman he bought sex from enjoyed the sex too and saying, “Hey! How come I have to pay if she liked it too?”

  100. 100
    Krista Fury

    @agodlessstrumpet

    We“ (very telling) -What is telling? That I share the views of other abolitionists and so decided to express this by using a collective pronoun?

    As if she hasn’t heard of the Nordic/Swedish model before! Are you trying to insult her intelligence?-No, actually I was not. Since I have never met her before (in person or virtually), I do not know the full extent of her experience and knowledge.

    But not if they DON’T want out. If they DON’T want out then they can just suffer -When did I say this? When did any feminist who advocates for abolition say this? Read the constitution of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres for example- their members represent those who work on the frontlines of the violence. Are you suggesting that because they don’t agree with proponents of legalization, they don’t care about protecting women from harm? http://casac.ca/content/constitution#Prostitution_is_violence_against_women

    You completely ignored EVERYTHING she said about poverty! -Not true. I have already discussed that prostitution is the result of poverty, gender/racial inequality, etc. No, I did not use those exact words, but I said that “If we were to eliminate [economic] inequity, there would be few if any women working in prostitution”. I also said that an effective policy needs to include “social programs” for which I meant financial aid, job seeking assistance, etc. So who is ignoring whom?

    you’re here to parrot propaganda and convert rather then engage- Actually, my original intention was to simply post the link I did above in hopes that Greta would read what I think are some excellent arguments against those posed in this piece. I would be interested in seeing her debate Ms. Murphy (who is also an experienced and eloquent writer like Greta). But then…

    You’re disingenuous. You don’t care about the facts. You don’t care about the arguments… etc, etc, yadda, yadda… -What do these statements expressing your supposed knowledge of my character and motivation have to do with arguments and facts?

    BUT I SEE YOU! Really?! So what am I wearing?

    http://bit.ly/KvquyV – Still does not negate that the majority of johns are MEN. Using gender neutral language in this case hides the relationship between gender inequality and prostitution.

    Is it the aim of prohibitionists like you to herd people into committed monogamous relationships just like the Christian Dominionists? – Never said anything about people having to be in committed monogamous relationships. I just think that sex should be about mutual attraction and desire- even if it’s only for one night. Despite that we live in a capitalist system, some things should still have intrinsic value and thus not be for sale.

    you’re here… to make sure that YOUR man isn’t fucking one?- This is too funny. How do you know that I am in a relationship – or that I am even heterosexual for that matter? Is this another one of the facts you will accuse me of ignoring later?

    Well, as a sex workers rights advocate I don’t care why someones client is paying them for services. I care that that client AND the police can not get away with raping and murdering that sex worker. -Well, frankly, I think ignoring the reasons why men visit prostitutes explains why the violence continues. After all, it isn’t abolitionists who are raping and murdering these women; it’s their “clients”. Perhaps you might like to read Victor Malarek’s book, The John’s or this study: http://www.eaves4women.co.uk/Documents/Recent_Reports/Men%20Who%20Buy%20Sex.pdf Here’s a gem: “Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with.”

    Go ahead and ignore it: I didn’t. Here’s one that discusses some of what this paper critiques:http://www.stopdemand.org/webfiles/StopDemandNZ/files/Waltman_2011_Prohibiting_sex_purchasing_and_ending_trafficking_-_the_Swedish_prostitution_law.pdf . Pay particular attention to the part about Petra Ostergren’s research- a major source of the report you posted. And here’s one that discusses failure of legalization: http://sp.oxfordjournals.org/content/17/2/210.short But I’m sure you can find papers that criticize these reports and I can find ones that criticize those and on and on… while the punters keep on raping…
    Anyway… I’m outta here. These hostility and personal attacks have really turned me off.

  101. 101
    Jurjen S.

    Proponents of the “Swedish Model,” in my experience, rarely have (or if they do, don’t give) the full picture, which is that the 1999 law outlawing hiring a prostitute isn’t the only law Sweden has on the books. There is a pre-existing “law against procurement” (as the aforementioned Petra Östergren terms it) that “renders it illegal to work indoors, work with others, to profit from the sexual labour of others, and advertise.”

    Let’s imagine something that would make prostitutes’ activities immeasurably safer for them: the ability to band together, collectively rent or buy space to operate as a worker-owned brothel, and employ an accountant and some security. Every single step in this process would be a violation of the “law against procurement.” Under this law, Östergren describes, it has become extremely arduous for prostitutes to maintain a normal family life, as so much as giving a partner some money to buy groceries, if that money has been earned via prostitution, leaves the partner open to criminal prostitution. In practice, prostitutes who have children may find themselves declared unfit parents and have their children made wards of the state. In short, as I put in my own (now in effect defunct) blog five years ago, is that:

    Swedish policy has been, and remains, to eradicate prostitution primarily by making prostitutes’ lives as hellish as possible. Apologists might argue that this is simply “tough love,” doing what is necessary to compel sex workers to leave the trade, but such an argument only works if one regards prostitutes themselves as willing actors. This is, of course, in direct contradiction to the dogmatic assertion that prostitutes are victims of the sex trade.

    In other words, for all the purported humanitarianism of the “Swedish Model,” it is ultimately founded on the perception that sex workers are themselves deviants, rather than unwilling victims.

  102. 102
    Bryan

    This post is surely an eye opener! Thanks.

  103. 103
    constance

    And far too many children are forced into cocoa farming. Are you going to speak out with equal vehemence against chocolate? And if there are people who like working in cocoa farming, are you going to dismiss and shame and marginalize them, the way you’re dismissing and shaming and marginalizing consensual sex workers?

    And how often would those pointing out the problem of children forced into cocoa farming, and the connection between the market for chocolate, economic and power differentials, and the consumption of chocolate be dismissed and marginalized by calling them anti-capitalist prudes?

  104. 104
    constance

    We get that it is a horror. Our hearts go out to the people who are forced into this industry, and we dearly want to stop it.

    Do you? Dearly? How dearly? Because as I continue to work my way through the breathless prose you’re trafficking in here, I’ve yet to see you pay anything more than lip service to it. I see you very, very anxious to reverse the impression of prostitution as something seldom willingly engaged in, as if the existence of the privileged few are what matter, not the millions whose experience is otherwise. And as if those privileged few should not examine in any way whether their participation in an industry that literally enslaves millions is not contributing to the market for…let’s see, what is it? Oh yes, chocolate. Because just as chocolate was made to be consumed, so are girls. And boys, because I know you haz a sad when people are not fully committed to equal access.

  1. 105
    On My Personal Sex-Positive Theory & Sex Work | AGodlessStrumpet

    [...] piece has been used as politely worded well-poisoning material against people like Greta Christina who have shown sex-workers the respect of allowing them to tell their OWN stories. An invitation I [...]

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    The Sexist, Discriminatory UN "Status of Women" Promoting Bias and Hate, World-Wide - WMASAW..

    [...] “Feminists have made sex workers’ work so much more difficult” [...]

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