Postfeminism

This article was originally posted at Manyfesto and has been republished with permission from the author, Emma Quangel.

 

What is postfeminism? Allegedly it is the space where we can move past feminism, where feminism no longer holds appeal to women and where it can even be harmful to women. As Melissa Gira Grant writes: 

The patriarchy’s figured out a way to outsource hatred of prostitution. They’re just going to have women do it for them.

Grant, who has two last names and is a former sex worker (to be specific: a prostitute, not a pimp) claims that patriarchy, an amorphous “they” not rooted in material reality, has outsourced the oppression of women to women themselves. This is an argument made by many who claim that women are the ones who cut other women in other parts of the world, who participate in forcing early marriage or abuse other women in the family. Then Grant gets more specific:

I wouldn’t advocate for a feminism that’s buttoned-up and divorced of the messiness of our real lives. Your feelings are your feelings, but you’re not going to litigate your feelings about my body. The feminist ethics that I signed up for were respect for my bodily autonomy, that my experience is my experience, and that I’m an expert in my own life.

What is postfeminism? It is a desire for control over one’s destiny. It is the hope that someday, no one will call you any names or discriminate against you based on your sex. Yet, when this individual oppression ends – the oppression against prostitutes, against trans women, against my right to choose, against me, will this have achieved female liberation?

The postfeminism of today is deeply rooted in neoliberal atomization. A single female’s experiences are just as valid as any other female’s experience. A wealthy white woman who “makes the choice” to become a prostitute – her choice is equally valid as the poor woman of colour who “makes the choice” to become a prostitute. Postfeminism promises the liberation of individual women, but not females. These individuals are fighting against “patriarchy”, a concept that is not individualized or even rooted in material manifestations. Rather, it is as amorphous as its own concept: a male slapping a woman, a man cat-calling a woman, or a man who makes a sexist remark at work is patriarchy rearing its ugly head from the aether. Yet a culture of objectification, where women are plastered up like slabs of meat for sale in phone booths, where women dance for money, where women continue to make $.70 on the dollar; this is not considered a war against women. After all – a woman may now make the individual “choice” to engage in these acts, in these careers, may make the individual “choice” not to bear children to get ahead in business. Acts of violence against my body are crimes against women – but larger systems of oppression suddenly become more complex, more bogged down in uncertainty as we must learn to understand that these systems are made up of individuals who have the capacity to make “choices”. 

It astounds me that leftists who might otherwise deride the idea of free choice under a capitalist system make all sorts of room for women like Grant to write privileged accounts of the system of oppression called the “sex trade”. Broader women’s movements such as the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network  might feel as though an abolitionist stance on prostitution is right and good, but, as Grant would say, they are “privileged” in that their voices are louder than hers – the voice that enjoys prostitution believes that sex work is feminist work. Indeed, the other voices aren’t heard as loudly as the abolitionists “because they’re working”. This amorphous group of women who are pleased as punch to be working as sexual objects for sale are quiet, a silent majority cowed into silence by angry groups of feminist women who claim that 90% of women want out of prostitution.

If the voice of a “queer woman who dates women in her non-sex-work life and has sex with men for work” is not heard as much as the loud majority of feminists who want an end to prostitution, this is because women who “choose” sex work, who come at it from a political perspective of “empowerment” are in the extreme minority. But the individual reigns supreme over the masses in postfeminism just as it does in neoliberalism. When a woman demands her “right to choose”, she is demanding her right. She is situating feminism in a sphere where she does not feel fettered by her sex, where she personally has the ability to pursue whatever she wants. If she is a stripper and a man touches her inappropriately, this is a battle in the war against male domination – but the very institution that shapes his thinking is not in and of itself oppressive. Male domination is boiled down to the individual, becomes a question of one human exerting his will over another’s in an unfair way. It is no longer about systems of oppression, cultures of abuse, or industries of suffering. We are boiled down once again to our individual experiences.

A single person cannot change the world because change is the prerogative of the people. There is no such thing as a mass movement of individuals – they might all be walking in the same direction, but they are checking their smartphones and turning off onto a side street the moment they are required to check their egos at the door.

Melissa Gira Grant’s views are not just dangerous because they blame women themselves for their own oppression –  either as angry sex-negative feminists or individuals who just make “bad choices”. They are dangerous because they shift the blame away from male violence and domination and continue to trump the experiences of a privileged few over the many. Why won’t these leftist blogs and magazines run a counter article to this kind of perspective?* Anything else would be hypocritical. Perhaps it is simply not what leftist men want to hear: that their individual enjoyment is not the purpose of female liberation.

 

Emma Quangel is a writer in New York City.

 

*Editor’s note: This article is written from an American perspective and it should be noted that there are some leftist and progressive publications in Canada who publish diverse, feminist perspectives on the issue of prostitution, such as rabble.ca

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • Hecuba

    Why then do left wing men claim class is an issue whereby wealthy men supposedly oppress working class males? After all working class males are merely enacting their individual choices and it has no relation whatsoever as to how men in powerful political positions oppress other men. It is just individual men enacting whatever they wish!! Men who undertake work for poverty pay are not being exploited by other more powerful males. No these men are merely enacting their ‘free choice’ and their actions affect no one else apparently.

    Likewise men who undertake forced labour are merely enacting ‘individual choices’ and there is no systemic forced labour. See everything is about individualism and everyone – that is men of course, are freely enacting their individual choices!

    But left wing men have never claimed ‘individual men are enacting their individual choices’ because left and right wing men know issue is not about individuals but systems of male power.

    However, men and their female followers continue to claim male supremacist system doesn’t exist; men collectively do not benefit from having the male pseudo right of sexual access to females; men do not benefit from pandemic male sexual violence against women. Women are so fortunate – in fact their situation is better than mens’ because women are all freely enacting their individual choices, because the political male supremacist system is focused on males oppressing other males – men collectively have never oppressed women!

  • Wode

    Terrific breakdown of how modern anti-feminist ideology operates.

    In the USA, Republicans and Democrats have a long history of flip flopping progressiveness on social issues and neither of them have consistently supported women and minorities. Phyllis Schlafly’s job was to halt the feminist progress train of the 1970s, not to offer her party’s own solutions to sexism. Feminists were trying to pass the ERA and when that went down and the status quo was upheld she faded to the fringes.

    I have only ever seen Melissa Gira Grant try to halt the momentum of feminist progress on sexual slavery made through the 2000s and offer the unacceptable status quo as an alternative. Schlafly was given a rare public podium by Republican men to squash the ERA, and Grant is given hers by Democrats to slow the spread of the Swedish model.

    Thank the goddess most people don’t seem to be swayed by the argument that if children feel “survival sex work” and living with their pimps is their best option we should respect that in the name of harm reduction and labor rights.

  • copleycat

    Is Melissa Gira Grant not in favor of the Nordic model?

  • Sarah

    I am grateful to writers like Meghan Murphy and now Ms. Fivek who write intelligently about the struggle for the majority of women dependent on survival sex instead of these individualized me-me-me accounts of the sex trade. Keep challenging the forces that be and good luck with more great work.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you, Sarah!

    • http://www.manyfesto.net Taryn

      Thank you!

  • Carolyn

    Do you actually know that “survival sex” actually comprises only about 10% of all sex work (try reading actual academic research outside of Farley). The majority of sex work is ‘hidden’ and freely chosen (which to anticipate your attack: every choice is done within a constraint of choices. There is no such thing as unfettered free will (Foucault). This discourse that we need to “save” sex workers is paternalistic. It also discounts the fact that many MEN work in prostitution and no one feels the need to save them. It is also extremely patriarchal to suggest that a woman’s genitals are any different or more special than any other part of her body. Why do we conceptualize female sexuality as sacred? An artist sells the use of their hands. An academic the use of her mind (an argument cogently made by Rubin I believe). To say that sex work (or selling sex) is anti-feminist is to suggest that all a woman is, is her genitals – essentializing womanhood to a sex act – which is itself patriarchal and anti-feminist. It also suggest that there exist a thing called “proper” female sexuality, in that, every woman should be attracted to (emotionally or physically) the person she is having sex with – which is not true as many women engage in consensual recreational sex. Or that sex is something that is never exchanged – again not true. Women exchange sex all the time: when their partner has just give them a gift, or as a gift on holidays, or for an emotional connection.

    Should we live in a society where sex is not sold (either by men or women). Sure. But is the answer to purposely conflate trafficking with sex work or to lie and say that all sex work is survival. No. When we start condemning other professional for engaging in survival occupations (survival doctors, survival lawyers, survival teachers) in order to finance their drug use, consumerism or pay rent/mortgage – then we will can start to talk.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Who said anything about ‘saving’ anyone? “Why do we conceptualize female sexuality as sacred?” Um, WHAT are you responding to?? Let’s not be putting words in anyone’s mouths, please.

      Also, please just don’t with the ‘what about the men’. Just don’t.

      • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

        No one ever says anything about “saving” anyone – total derail.

    • Sarah

      Thanks but I’ll start to talk wherever, whenever I please.

      “Women exchange sex all the time: when their partner has just give them a gift, or as a gift on holidays, or for an emotional connection. ”

      You’re sick. Equating gifts with an emotional/physical expression of love? All women are just whores to you.

      You don’t address the post at all, I notice. You talk about saving women which no mentions here. Please get a life and some appreciation for the majority of the people serving up sex in the worldwide sex trade, those would be women by the way.

      • Tea for Two

        Conceptualizing sacred sexuality? Essentializing womanhood? Foucault???

        These words are irrelevant to the prostituted woman I accompanied to the hospital so her rectum could be sewn back together. She now lives with a tiny machine inside her so that every time she needs to pass feces she has to press a button 30-40 times for the machine to slowly coax it from her shredded internal organs.

        Take your essentialized Foucauldian conceptualizations of sacred womanhood and shove them up your fully functioning asshole.

        • Lela

          “It is also extremely patriarchal to suggest that a woman’s genitals are any different or more special than any other part of her body. Why do we conceptualize female sexuality as sacred? An artist sells the use of their hands. An academic the use of her mind (an argument cogently made by Rubin I believe). To say that sex work (or selling sex) is anti-feminist is to suggest that all a woman is, is her genitals – essentializing womanhood to a sex act – which is itself patriarchal and anti-feminist.”

          This statement makes *no sense whatsoever* and is not reality-based. Perhaps the point is to blather on at such length and in such absurd terms that we all throw up our hands and go, “Okay! Okay! Just make it stop!” (?)

      • Carolyn

        I’m sick? You are the one calling all women whores.

        It is just a matter of looking at exactly what actions are – it is the context and societal labels that defines them as such. For instance, murder is only the act of killing someone else. That act is not always considered murder and punishable by prison (i.e., when soldiers do it, for instance). It is the same thing. If you just look at the context in which sex is given/shared it is always an exchange. both partners get something out of it. Why is it that money devalues the act of sex more than a diamond ring? Or the promise of an ‘I love you’?

        • Meghan Murphy

          “You are the one calling all women whores.” NOOOO. No. That did not happen. You are breaking comment policy rule #5 . Abort! Abort!

    • http://www.manyfesto.net Taryn

      How do you think Johns see women “practicing their craft for survival” if not parts to fuck, objectified subhumans? Check the studies – you’re not changing minds on how to view women by drilling on feminists.

      • Carolyn

        The studies (again actual academic studies…not those done by Farley) on clients actually talk about men wanting an actual emotional experience. That is why ‘the girlfriend experience’ is so popular. The most common activity requested is fellatio. Sex workers and clients alike report that many clients (a) just want to have no-strings attached sex due to being too busy in their careers to have girlfriends/wives or (b) are considered outcasts by society in some way and feel this is the only way to get female sexual contact. Sure there are horrible men that use women – but these are not exclusive to sex work clients – these men exist in society and treat all women in that way. Criminalization only serves to scare the “good” clients who don’t want to get in trouble…leaving all the jerks/abusive men. Like I said before. Is it a great job that people should aspire to? I don’t know. I can’t answer. Many men and women every day do this as their career. Are people victimized? Yes. But people are victimized every day in all sorts of jobs – sex work is not unique in that. We simply treat it as different because it uses genitals. My question/point is that why do we accord female genitals such a prominent place? Are women only defined by their genitals? No. In every career we only use 1 aspect of our bodies at a time. No one is crying out that “oh that poor academic. Look at that university using her for her brain only…don’t they know she is a multifaceted being? Why is she letting herself be used for her brain. Why is selling giving away great ideas/thoughts for money?” To me, I still haven’t received any cogent reason why we should treat sex any different – all the reasons go back to patriarchal and paternalistic notions that sex for women = emotional + sacred + intimate + purity + monogamy, etc. This is not true. Sex can just be sex. And is just sex for countless individuals who engage in recreational sex everyday.

        The point shouldn’t be to pit sides but to acknowledge the myriad of voices/experiences. Saying that all sex work is survival sex is just wrong and factually incorrect, as only 10% of sex work is actually street prostitution.

        • Meghan Murphy

          What is not academic about Farley’s study, exactly? Re: All the malicious efforts to discredit Farley’s work, I’d like to quote this comment from a silly blog I won’t link to:

          “Sandi Pierce February 26, 2013 at 10:28 PM

          Enough of the bullshit over who is qualified and who is not. I have a doctorate in sociology from a major U.S. university, I teach research methods at the graduate level, and I am a survivor of sex trafficking. I am a vehement prohibitionist, and my reasons for opposing legalization are completely imbedded in my own experiences in prostitution and the research evidence that my experiences are the norm, not the exception. I have had far too many academics and pseudo-academics expound on some bullshit “we have to allow free expression of sexuality” theory. The primary thing I learned in the life, and in my doctoral program, is that any theory that ignores human experience is useless at best, and profoundly dangerous at worst. The non-survivor voices in this discussion are completely ignoring the experiences of hundreds of survivors who are fighting against the oldest oppression.
          Regarding research, yes, it’s true that Farley’s studies have small sample sizes and are based on convenience samples–meaning that she interviewed anyone that showed up. And yes, as research goes, these are relatively weak samples. But, how many of you have ever tried to get more than 20 prostituted people to line up for 2-hour interviews when you cannot pay them for their time because no one is willing to fund the project, and you cannot protect them if their pimp disapproves?
          Farley makes no secret of her sample sizes or her sampling method. The only reason her sampling matters at all is that her findings are not generalizeable to the larger population of women in prostitution. Period. Well, neither are anyone else’s in studies of this population. Melissa and I have had our differences and I can’t call myself a whole-hearted supporter, but the fact remains that her work is endorsed by every survivor-led organization in the U.S. The key question here is, “Why attack Farley in particular?” Because what she finds confirms what prostitution survivors already know? And, since she has found almost identical patterns in all of her research over many years in many regions of the world, she may have identified global patterns that if we had the data, might actually prove to be generalizable?”

        • http://www.manyfesto.net Taryn

          You’re strawmanning me and your argument is disingenuous. Your understanding of sex as “work” though is interesting, something I’ve considered writing on before. In a typical labor relation, there is a boss or many bosses. Generally, the emancipation of labor does not occur when the rest of society decides that labor is not exploitative. It happens when the workers own the means of production. As the means of production in this case is generally considered the woman’s body, that being the way in which she makes her living (not by giving emotional warmth), the idea of women owning the means of production is very little different than her having the completely unfettered choice to fuck for money. This is basically an absurd concept. Women are coerced by capitalism and misogyny, threats to their bodies and their sense of security. Just as others in the capitalist system are exploited for their labor, women are exploited by engaging in prostitution.

          Those who seek to overthrow capitalism are seeking to overthrow the unfair conditions in which they live, work, and reproduce society more generally. The leftist’s solution is not to make labor less exploitative in the eyes of society.

          So how is prostitution a special case in these capitalist conditions? How does it differ than factory work or academia? Well, first off, these professions are not equal either in income or in occupational hazard. An academic probably makes more and has less to fear from getting killed or hurt on the job than a factory worker than a prostitute. For sure, there are ways of making it safer for factory workers – but why not particularly for prostitutes? In countries where criminalization of soliciting prostitution is low or not existant, conditions are still deadly and exploitative for women. They have been lifted from 120% hell to 90% hell, and then hit a “glass ceiling”. For sure, there are outliers in every profession, but trends are worth always worth studying, not the individual case studies. In any situation, we can find either the Harvard Department Head or an adjunct at a community college. The trends are what are worth studying.

          Is there a reason for the trend of occupational hazard and level of income being as it is among prostitutes in both criminalized and decriminalized countries? There must be something in common in all cases. That commonality is probably misogyny, the idea that you can buy a woman to have sex with. No matter if the woman thinks she is selling sexual therapy or her pimp is selling her against her will, johns poll the same: they are paying to have sex with a woman. The conditions of purchase on moral grounds are not particularly important to them. This air of misogyny necessarily is part and parcel of a culture that is hostile to women. Can we destroy, smash this culture by telling ourselves that prostitution is an empowering profession? Can we smash capitalism by telling ourselves that it is a sustainable, fulfilling system in which to live? Can we end violence to women by legalizing and accepting it culturally? Big questions.

        • http://www.manyfesto.net Taryn
          • marv

            What a refreshing feminist makeover of marxist sexism, Tayrn, whether you intended it or not. Workers’ bodies within male capitalism produce and consume commodities and services. They must work and shop to sustain the system and themselves. Because workers don’t control the means of production they are exploited as you said. You also inferred that in prostitution women’s bodies are connected to capital flows in ways within and beyond the processes of production and consumption. Their bodies themselves become the objects for male sale, purchase and use. These bodies are made to absorb the violence of men which can manifest as penetration of orifices (with or without injury), smacking, bruising, fractures, disease, wasting, hunching, psychosis, murder, suicide, etc.

            In my view other capitalist entrepreneurs benefit as well by selling pharmaceuticals to prostituted women to alleviate some of these harms. Merchants also gain by selling stylish attire, breast implants, cosmetic surgery, botox, make-up and waxes to those who can afford it. What we have then is a convergence of male dominance, profit oriented businesses and biomedical treatment for fixes (not to forget the funeral industry to handle the dead bodies or at least the ones that are found). Lawyers, police and judges are paid to intervene too which would be worthwhile if it was to end demand for prostitution. New bodies make new rounds of accumulation possible in an endless cycle of use, abuse, death and profit. There seems to be no limits to the growth machine. But there are limits to what women can do to stop it without men’s solidarity.

            Simultaneously the political economy of prostitution is reinforced by a civilization of rape and vise versa. Sex work advocates prefer to resolve these indefensible contradictions by promoting sexual agency via reforms like enhanced health and safety regulations or women owned sex cooperatives. The obvious solution though is to eradicate the inequalities that have constrained women’s choices to begin with and to break the system of embodied economic exchange for those within prostitution and for workers in general. A guaranteed livable income for everyone would be a step in this direction.

        • MLM

          Here are a couple of other studies about men who buy sex which were not conducted by Melissa Farley …

          http://g.virbcdn.com/_f2/files/22/FileItem-276524-FinalWeb_OurGreatHobby.pdf

          “Researcher Lara Janson worked with the CAASE for more than two years on this report, ‘“Our Great Hobby”: An Analysis of Online Networks for Buyers of Sex in Illinois.’ Janson focused her research on the exchange of information among men who post on a website called the USA Sex Guide. Some of the findings include:

          They discuss buying sex from women and girls who are potentially minors, victims of trafficking or under pimp control.
          There are many descriptions of violence perpetrated against women and girls in the sex trade, either by the johns themselves or by pimps or others.

          http://streetgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The-Schapiro-Group-Georgia-Demand-Study.pdf

          Executive Summary
          “This report details a first-of-its-kind study to quantify, describe, and understand demand for CSEC in Georgia. It paints a clear picture of the adult men who exploit adolescent females by paying for sex with them. The study involved an innovative survey methodology that yielded 218 completed useable surveys over a 2-month period in fall 2009.
          • Almost half these men are the age 30-39, with the next largest group being men under age 30. The mean age is 33 and the median 31. The youngest survey participant was 18, and the oldest was 67.
          • The data clearly debunk the myth that CSEC is a problem relegated to the urban core. Men who respond to advertisements for sex with young females come from all over metro Atlanta, the geographic market where the advertisements in this study were targeted.
          • Not only are 65% of men who buy sex with young females doing so in and around suburban metro Atlanta, but 9% of men who buy sex with young females in metro Atlanta gave their location as near the airport. This finding is consistent with advocates’ claims that travel and tourism play a major role in sustaining CSEC.
          • The numbers are staggering — 12,400 men each month in Georgia pay for sex with a young female, 7,200 of whom end up exploiting an adolescent female.
          • Craigslist is by far the most efficient medium for advertising sex with young females; ads on this site received 3 times as many responses compared to identical ads placed on other sites. (See Appendix)
          • These men account for 8,700 paid sex acts with adolescent females each month, which means that each adolescent female is exploited an average of 3 times per day.
          • Over 700,000 men have bought sex with females in Georgia, including both “young” and “not young” females. With approximately 3 million adult men in Georgia, this study finds that 23% have purchased sex with females, and 20,700 men do so in any given month.
          • While many of the men who exploit these children are not seeking adolescent females per se, the study also shows that just under half are willing to pay for sex with a young female even when they know for sure she is an adolescent.
          • Local, state, and national lawmakers need to be made aware of the magnitude of the demand for CSEC, as well as the nature of the demand. Advocates need to debunk the myth that CSEC is perpetrated by a small number of “sexual predators.”

        • Missfit

          ‘Sex workers and clients alike report that many clients (a) just want to have no-strings attached sex due to being too busy in their careers to have girlfriends/wives or (b) are considered outcasts by society in some way and feel this is the only way to get female sexual contact.’

          Sorry, but no, I don’t belive that. I worked for an escort agency and the overwhelming majority of my clients were married men twice my age and more. What they want is a nice young body to play with and to be served by. And from what I know, my experience was not atypical for those who worked under the same conditions. And I guess that the woman working on the street, struggling with a drug addiction, probably also has a different experience. To say that clients are mainly outcasts, or ‘shy men’, is wrong. Many women are shy and emotionnaly alone and ‘outcasts’ and sexually frustrated; they don’t buy men’s services, because men are not sold as commodities to serve them.

          Emotional experience; give me a break. They want a compliant woman to boost their egos. So you laugh at their bad jokes and acquiesce with everything they say. I see huge entitlement. They are not intersted in dealing with women on an equal footing.

          And don’t worry, no one considers women’s genitals as sacred. They’re just a commodity to be used by men. I guess men’s genitals are more sacred since they are not advertized for women’s buying and society actually cares a lot about their enjoyment!

          • Carolyn

            This response totally neglects the fact that men’s genitals are also sold. Countless men work in prostitution (I can’t remember the source but I believe it might be 35%). Also, women can and do purchase the services of men – they hire ‘dates’, go to strip clubs, engage in the Carribean sex tourism industry, even (gasp) hire male and female sex workers. Not to the same extent – but that is perhaps that we continue to construct female sexuality as intimate and emotional and that women can just get sex whenever they want so it is outside of collective societal imagination that a woman would actually have to pay for it.

            And again I see you made the mistake of equating prostitution with drug addiction or survival sex. When I keep reiterating that survival sex is really the minority (cf. Shaver, Lowman, Lewis, Brock, Bruckert). As well as the fact that countless professions from doctors, lawyers, academics, teachers, etc. are also drug addicted. Drug addiction (or addiction to anything really) is not unique to prostitution.

            I guess for me I do not see the difference between commissioning out my sexual labour as opposed to any other labour. All service work entails emotional labour (Hochschild). You think your hairdresser really cares about your inane banter? Not really. But they are they to serve you at that moment. Let’s not pretend that we do not use women’s bodies in other fields. Live-in caregivers? House cleaners? Retail workers? We do not care about the totality of someone’s humanity when we are paying them for a service. Honestly, I would feel more degraded scrubbing someone’s toilet and getting paid minimum wage than $50 for a 20 min act of fellatio.

            The problem is that we commodify ALL bodies. This is capitalism. We all use our bodies (or specific body parts) in labour – we are never 100% complete beings in terms of capitalistic labour. We are all alienated from our bodies in the pursuit of money. Someone renting the use of my hands so that I can paint a portrait of them, is the same as someone renting the use of my body so I can pose in an advertisement. Why do we accord so much significance to sex? It is not (and has never been outside of white, middle class Victorian values) only an intimate, monogamous, loving act. People engage in recreational sex all the time. Sex is just an act – it is the context that provides meaning. So sex with along term partner may be intimate and loving, but sex can also just be a release or something fun.

            All of our alienated body parts are a commodity in capitalism. We all have a price. We also all work to support ourselves. Many people even work in jobs as a result of a constraint of choices (i.e., lack of education, lack of transportation, geographic location) Again, what is the reason why sex is seen as so different? And not only sex, but female sex?

          • MLM

            “Countless men work in prostitution (I can’t remember the source but I believe it might be 35%).”

            Can’t remember the source? Then FIND it. SUPPORT your argument. Sorry but “I think therefore it is” will not pass when citing a statistic like that.

            I’ve also never heard anybody on this site argue that women who buy others for sex are necessarily any less exploitative than men who do it, but they account for nothing close to the same percentage as the men who do.

            The rest of your comment has already been addressed by numerous other commenters and also the links provided to the words of survivors (some of whom were call girls, and not street prostitutes at all).

            It seems to me you are not even reading or engaging with other people’s comments in a considered way. Just running off on entirely your own agenda.

            “Honestly, I would feel more degraded scrubbing someone’s toilet and getting paid minimum wage than $50 for a 20 min act of fellatio”.

            You know this how? An idea of something in your own mind can be profoundly different from the reality. There is no study that I know of claiming high numbers of people who clean toilets for a living have PTSD either.

          • Missfit

            ‘And again I see you made the mistake of equating prostitution with drug addiction or survival sex.’

            I did not make that equation. I myself never was a drug addict.

            I do not go to my hairdresser to have an ’emotional experience’.

            And nobody here never said they belived that sex should only took place in a committed monogamous relationship, so I don’t know where that argument comes from…

          • Vouchsafer

            wow, I can’t believe what I’m reading.

            Carolyn. Your claim that using women’s genitals for the purposes of prostitution is in no way different than using their brains for the purposes of academia is preposterous. Are you secretly a dude?????

            No one on this site has ever suggested that women can be reduced to their genitals. Quite the contrary, in fact. The argument here is that women in this position have minds and have intellects and have hearts that must be silenced in order to endure the commodification of their genitals.

            This is what it means to be sub-humanized, to subdue your soul’s human responses in order to make of yourself an object.

            The reason using a woman’s body for childcare is different from using it for prostitution: In the role of caregiver, the woman is standing upright, is in a position of authority (albeit over minors but a nonetheless worthy role) and is selling her consciousness and attention.

            In the role of prostitute, the woman most often is supine, powerless, with her legs and her body open. She is naked with no voice other than as Missfit has quite rightly pointed out, to appease her purchaser.

            I feel sorry for you.

            You have swallowed the whole capitalist dogma of patriarchy and you don’t even realize it.

          • http://www.manyfesto.net Taryn

            “Honestly, I would feel more degraded scrubbing someone’s toilet and getting paid minimum wage than $50 for a 20 min act of fellatio.”

            Please, tell us what you REALLY think of cleaners

          • copleycat

            ” We do not care about the totality of someone’s humanity when we are paying them for a service. Honestly, I would feel more degraded scrubbing someone’s toilet and getting paid minimum wage than $50 for a 20 min act of fellatio.”

            Two things here, one,people’s lack of concern for each other’s humanity is something we ought to be working to lessen not exacerbate. Two, are you or have you been prostituted yourself? And even if you have been maybe you can disconnect from your body (and not be concerned about the long term effects of recurrent dissociation), and not be worried about disease or a violent john but most of the rest of us can’t.

          • http://www.freesoil.org Aletha

            Carolyn, it seems there are a lot of differences you do not see. How convenient for your reductionist theory. Willful blindness is so notorious among your allies. I wonder if you mixed up this 35% you believe the proportion of males in prostitution might be with the proportion of males employed in pornography. I also wonder if you mixed up this 10% you claim is the proportion of prostitution done for survival (which you conveniently conflate with street prostitution) with the approximately 10% of prostituted women who would not jump at a chance to get out of the sex trade.

          • Carolyn

            Also, who cares if they are married? Married people cheat. Cheating is actually quite common. Married people use sex workers, go to strip clubs, have sexual desires, still find people attractive.The problem is that our definitions of sex and appropriate sexuality is still so intertwined with victorian discourses that people feel the urge to seek outside of their relationships. The fact that the most common service requested is fellatio is quite sad.

            The problem is monogamy which enables another person to hold someone else’s sexuality hostage. (i.e., I really like fellatio, but my wife won’t do it…do I just go without? What if I really love her and don’t want to end our marriage over this?)..

            If you have issues about married men – then blame them. It is not sex workers fault. They are not causing the breakdown of families. I am not concerned about married men using these services – I also don’t tend to blame the ‘other woman’ when a man strays.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Holy derail, Batman! Keep this up and I’m going to start deleting your comments, Carolyn.

          • MLM

            “If you have issues about married men – then blame them. It is not sex workers fault. They are not causing the breakdown of families. I am not concerned about married men using these services – I also don’t tend to blame the ‘other woman’ when a man strays”.

            Yet another argument that you having entirely in your own head, Carolyn. The “Victorian values” about sex that you describe are your own projection. This whole comment is irrelevant to the discussion.

          • Candy

            A.) “The problem is monogamy which enables another person to hold someone else’s sexuality hostage. (i.e., I really like fellatio, but my wife won’t do it…do I just go without? What if I really love her and don’t want to end our marriage over this?)..”

            We can’t always get what we want, when we want it. In this situation I would wonder why the woman is so vehemently against fellatio considering well, when you love someone you tend to want to give them pleasure and if she felt undesirable, stressed, bitter, or he didn’t reciprocate in the past. This requires communication. Long-term communication problems are a valid reason to break-up/divorce someone. You make choices in life, you have to compromise. If hypothetical man wanted sexual variety so much, explain to me why he didn’t just stay single or marry someone interested in an open marriage. Not that fellatio is really “variation” in any way, but you’re removing that he made his choice.

            B.) “If you have issues about married men – then blame them. It is not sex workers fault. They are not causing the breakdown of families. I am not concerned about married men using these services – I also don’t tend to blame the ‘other woman’ when a man strays.”

            It takes two to tango. Such a simple concept. You’re right that it’s not just that causing a breakdown though. Something had to lead the married man toward the sex worker.

            Also, once again taking away responsibility- surely the sex worker knew before she started working that her clientele would be full of married men. It shows her lack of morale to comply to fucking men who have wedding rings or talk about their wives, and it shows the man’s lack of morale as well. I’m confused why you don’t think there’s a problem- should people who take marriage vows willingly be allowed to break them at their every whim?

            C.) Cheating is actually quite common.

            So because something is common, it should be standard operating procedure.

            You’re entirely removing emotion out of this. If two people want to be in an open relationship or marriage, okay, fine. But make that clean BEFOREHAND. But most people don’t for emotional reasons. If people would communicate more, there would be less sexual problems, and if sex was made less awkward to talk about, maybe people would communicate more!

            D.) “When one engages with retail staff, baristas, etc, usually one doesn’t treat them like a machine.”

            That’s what I mean by the problem is the attitude toward it, not the prostitution itself. People who view them as less than human fucking machines are the problem. Hell, if you want a literal “fucking machine” they sell those! People need to get more empathy and less entitlement in general over pretty much everything, but I suppose in theory, prostitution is selling a service, selling a service just like hard labor, and selling a service is not wrong. It’s the context, that I agree with Carolyn about. It’s the very real issue of *why* someone would want to become a sex worker when

            E.) “Sex is no more special than anything else our body offers.”

            NEUROCHEMICALS. You tend to feel more connected to someone you have sex with repeatedly thanks to oxytocin. Having sex as a prostitute might require a certain amount of dissociation from your situation. Dissociation is second-nature for someone with past traumatic experiences. And even if a woman is just doing it because she likes the cash, how much of her own sexuality does she have to compensate? At the same time, how much of our own free will and opinions do we have to give up working a retail job? I believe there’s similarity there, but unfortunately the sort of men who buy sex are the sort of men who probably don’t respect women and want to do things to them they otherwise couldn’t to their significant other. I’m sure some are respectful, but once again, the rampant attitudes of many men who buy sex are disgusting.

          • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

            I’m getting so tired of Candy’s male-biological-reductionist bullshit. Biological determinism has no place in feminism. Ever.

          • Missfit

            You are the one who said that clients are mostly men who do not have time for a girlfriend/wife or men for whom prostitution is the only option for female contact. I was just correcting the facts!

            Nobody here has raised monogamy beside you.

        • Melissa

          If “sex is just sex,” then why aren’t you servicing 50 men at your job? Oh, and giving half the money you make to a pimp (which happens to both “survivalist” prostitutes and “happy hookers” alike).

          • Melissa

            The above comment was for Carolyn-sorry for any confusion.

          • Carolyn

            Any Canadian research that looks at the totality of sex work and not just the 10% indicates that pimps are not as common as believed nor are they as parasitic as conceptualized.

            When people are employed on the fringes of legality the will have to come up with their own forms of protection – and for many sex workers boyfriends and managers function just as that.

            Why is it so hard to acknowledge that we are only concerned with the 10% of street prostitution. That you can’t really speak for all sex workers. To state that some sex workers see their work as work does not deny any violence or exploitation that occurs. It in facts helps identify these. The problem is violence and exploitation not the work itself. Sex is no more special than anything else our body offers. The fact that we are only concerned about female prostitution – is proof of paternalistic and patriarchal views of female sex. Women sell and buy sex. Men sell and buy sex. There have been numerous accounts of women who actually turned to sex work after being in a ‘professional’ career (policing, teaching) because of the autonomy, monetary potential, service-orientation and what they viewed as artist use of their bodies.

            Choice feminism is problematic. But the opposite it not “you must all abide by my choice…all other choices are wrong”. It is wrong to speak about sex workers without including their voices. ALL of their voices – not just the ones that support your own conclusions (which is what is problematic with Farley’s work…she only speaks to the one’s that want to leave, that have been arrested, and that are at the bottom rung).

          • MLM

            “Any Canadian research that looks at the totality of sex work and not just the 10% indicates that pimps are not as common as believed nor are they as parasitic as conceptualized”.

            Cite some then, please. And please provide links to what you are specifically referring to. What is this “10%” figure you are referring to and where has it come from? Sources, please.

            Give people here the chance to evaluate all these studies, which are so much more credible than Melissa Farley’s research, for themselves. Surely, its only reasonable that they should be held up to exactly the same level of scrutiny as her work.

            Also your characterisation of Farley’s work is inaccurate. She does not only speak to “the one’s that want to leave, that have been arrested, and that are at the bottom rung”.

            Her interviews have been conducted in a numerous countries in both hemispheres with those currently active and recently exited from prostitution, and they have not actually been confined to street prostitutes, but also those working in strip clubs and in brothels, both legal and illegal. And as pointed out earlier she has also spent time interviewing the johns in her twenty years of researching this subject.

            I believe the comment Meghan quoted by Sandi Pierce February 26, 2013 at 10:28 PM (from another blog) gets at the heart of the real reason Melissa Farley’s research is “problematic”.

            “Farley makes no secret of her sample sizes or her sampling method. The only reason her sampling matters at all is that her findings are not generalizeable to the larger population of women in prostitution. Period. Well, neither are anyone else’s in studies of this population. … “Why attack Farley in particular?” Because what she finds confirms what prostitution survivors already know?”

          • Missfit

            ‘Women sell and buy sex. Men sell and buy sex.’

            Good try at erasing the gender dynamics involve in prostitution. This is exactly like saying ‘but women rape too!’.

            ‘The problem is violence and exploitation not the work itself.’

            The problem is that this work is particularly prone to violence and exploitation. I can say that I have not been subjected to violence while working as an escort. Because a man forcing his penis down your throat is not violence, it is just sex, right?

            Most prostitutes are so when they are young, many when they are still minors, and not after a career teaching or policing. I feel like you are the one trying to push the voices of a few above others. Don’t worry, we heard ALL the voices. The sex industry make sure that we hear the ones they want to push forward while attempting to silence the others. And that is without accounting for those who do not even have a voice.

          • Vouchsafer

            Carolyn, please stop bringing the subject of prostituted men into this discussion.
            I’m sure they have their own specific struggles and traumas, but here we are discussing something specific as well:
            the prostitution of women who end up in that role due to the entrenched female oppression in our society.

            And as for your claim about pimps not being ‘parasitic’ – I am the advocate of one former prostitute. Her story began with an ectopic pregnancy and the ensuing operation for which she was prescribed oxycontin.
            She became addicted and when the script ran out, she had to find a dealer. Her dealer was also a pimp.
            He fed this girl pills in the beginning to ramp up her dependence, and then he presented her with a bill for what she owed him. By then she was unemployed. (hard to hold down a job when you’re so wired on oxy’s you don’t sleep for five days at a time.)
            the pills also made her skinny (perfect!! that much more ‘marketable’ to men) and kept her numb to the pain of losing her children and losing her selfhood through prostitution.
            She is now in recovery, and has flashbacks of the things that she went through during her time under her pimp’s command. Things that she supressed at the time in order to get through them.

            Hers is the prostituted voice that I am most familiar with. I advocate on her behalf. I help her write letters to the childrens’ aid society and to judges in her many court appearances because of the charges she accrued. She finds all of these interactions intimidating and tends to put her head down and remain silent through the proceedings.

            Oh, and the length of her addiction? Nine months. From the day of her surgery to her entrance into the methadone program (also a problematic and capitalist institution but that’s another story) it only took nine months of enslavement to a pimp to destroy her self worth and lose her children to the system.

            This is a perfect example of how capitalism and the opression of women go hand in hand. Big pharmaceutical company figures out a way to ‘hook’ people on a substance so addictive they can’t stop taking it at all costs. *Great for business!! think of the sales!!* – capitalist exploitation of humanity.
            Pimp gets a hold of said substance and figures out that he can use it to literally enslave women, using the pills as a holding cell trapping the woman within the needs of her own body to feed the addiction. She will do anything for the pills.
            *handshakes all around, high five, we’re all making so much money, an excellent partnership*
            And the only one who ends up with charges or a criminal record is the prostituted woman. And the ones who end up most vulnerable are the two female children who have entered into the system.

            You suck Carolyn. Go fuck yourself. it’s only your genitals.

    • Candy

      “Women exchange sex all the time: when their partner has just give them a gift, or as a gift on holidays, or for an emotional connection.”

      But to exchange is to give something FOR another. If a woman gives a man sex BECAUSE and only because he bought her a gift, sure, that’s essentially prostitution. But the women could also just be happy and sharing a moment. Also, how do you “exchange” an emotional connection? That’s not even close to prostitution because it’s mutual, both are receiving an emotional connection.

      “We simply treat it as different because it uses genitals. My question/point is that why do we accord female genitals such a prominent place? Are women only defined by their genitals? No. In every career we only use 1 aspect of our bodies at a time. No one is crying out that “oh that poor academic. Look at that university using her for her brain only…don’t they know she is a multifaceted being? Why is she letting herself be used for her brain. Why is selling giving away great ideas/thoughts for money?”

      I entirely agree with this, and this is why the objectify argument loses of its steam with me. You could say I objectified the last waiter I was served by because I merely saw him as a waiter and wasn’t thinking of, gee, he could be really smart! He could have a family! Maybe he’s avidly religious! No, in the moment I wasn’t thinking of that, but I still acknowledge it in basic human decency. We “objectify” people for various reasons all throughout the day. My problem with prostitution isn’t the prostitution itself but its clientele. Married men, anyone? Men with whore/madonna complexes? Also, women who are prostitutes are essentially catering to the whims of their male clients, which could be problematic if they feel coerced into doing so because of harassment or for financial reasons.

      And obviously there will be misogynistic males who want to degrade prostitutes, see them as easy targets and inferior whores to be used. This is a cognitive problem. I also would question the motives of a woman who wanted to be a prostitute- low self esteem, craving consistent “ego boosts”, abuse. It’s not a strictly feminist act, no more feminist than working a retail job, but it’s a sexual job in a patriarchy so of course it’s going to get ripped to shreds. There’s room for criticism, but the attitudes toward it are the real problems. Wide acceptance of prostitution could lead to a devaluation of sex, but I think we have mainstream porn to blame for that.

      “If you just look at the context in which sex is given/shared it is always an exchange. both partners get something out of it. Why is it that money devalues the act of sex more than a diamond ring? Or the promise of an ‘I love you’?”

      Probably because people think it’s pathetic that some people pay for sex when so many other people get it free, and because you have to pay the person you have sex with didn’t specifically choose to have sex with you, eliminating the ego gratification element of it. Then there are people who say it’s barely removed from marriage. I feel bad for people who see sex and use as an exchange for anything but mutual pleasure, but there’s truth that some people use it for manipulative reasons. But how many people just have sex for the “I love you”? “Wow, the sex sucked but he loves me!” Right, write me your poetry in motion.

      • Lela

        “It’s not a strictly feminist act, no more feminist than working a retail job, but it’s a sexual job in a patriarchy so of course it’s going to get ripped to shreds.”

        Is it completely lost you two that the vagina, anus and mouth are *sensitive mucous membranes* and not perpetually-receptive holes? That women who do “sex work” are asked to make said membranes available for penetration to the general public and everyone talks circles around this as though it were totally unproblematic? Do men stick their dicks into the brains of academics? Are waiters expected to have anoreceptive intercourse before receiving a tip?

        • Melissa

          Exactly Lela! I also have a problem with the examples Candy cited above about objectification: it’s not objectifying a waiter to order food from them. When one engages with retail staff, baristas, etc, usually one doesn’t treat them like a machine. Most of the time (except for really entitled asshole customers), both parties will say hello, how are you?, and speak like equals. Furthermore, discussing the very real sex that prostitution involves is not the same as claiming “women’s genitals are sacred.” I’m sure johns appreciate the female form so much (anyone else get sick when any man says that?) that’s why they only walk away with orgasms while the women suffer vaginal and anal tearing, bruises from rough sex, and the constant fear of pregnancy and STIs.
          Are some people so steeped in postmodern bullshit that they can’t see the difference between asking someone to get them a coffee with being paid to be a receptacle?

        • Carolyn

          I don’t know about you, but my vagina or mouth doesn’t know when there is money involved. How does your vagina know that it is a different penis repeatedly going in there? I mean, is it not possible that a woman could have sex multiple times a day with her partner, or give her partner fellatio multiple times a day. I know I have.

          Although you don’t say it…you seem to be evoking (although perhaps unintentionally) the idea that all penetration is degrading or oppressive.

          I have been more offended, working in service jobs, at the people that expect me to smile at them. No, I do not HAVE to smile at you as long as I am providing you the service you are seeking from me. Why do we expect service providers to be perpetually happy…it is a selfish request: I am giving you minimal money to give me something that I find beneath me (and yes, I have had customers make this point before that they have ‘real’ jobs) and you should do it with a smile.

          • MLM

            I second Bushfire’s comment below that you should read Rebecca Mott’s blog (linked in the comment).

            And also Free Irish Woman’s blog
            http://theprostitutionexperience.com/?p=33

            And Stella Marr’s blog
            http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/terrible-beauty-survivor-angel-k-on-prostitution-the-inadequacy-of-language/

            And XLondon Call’s blog
            http://xlondoncallgirl.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/sex-work-there-is-no-such-thing.html

            Your comment displays a ridiculous level of ignorance.

          • Lela

            Okay, in addition to inane po-mo ramblings about “sacred” female sexuality, etc., etc., now we’re talking about our body parts as though they have a separate consciousness from the rest of us? Vaginas and mouths don’t necessarily “know” or “remember” things, but the *people* attached to them do.

            Nice try Carolyn, but I have never believed that penetrative sex is “inherently degrading” and like many women I have been known to voluntarily engage in vaginal intercourse.

            Feel humiliated by your service jobs? Imagine having to do the very same thing, but in a sexual setting with a man you might feel no attraction or perhaps revulsion toward, while also having to fake exaggerated sexual pleasure at actions which bring discomfort or pain. That you would say this is somehow better than having to “smile” at people betrays the depth of your ignorance on this issue.

      • Carolyn

        Probably every teenager in existence has had sex in exchange for that promise of love. I have also known many women to stay with their partners because they were sexually compatible and the sex was good and the relationship was beneficial (i.e., can’t afford to live on their own, the partner truly loved and cared for them) – even though they admitted to falling out of love.

        This myth of monogamy and that sex is always a wonderful, loving act of two committed people without ulterior motives is a joke. You have never had unplanned sex after your partner gave you a gift as a thank you? It is consensual and emotionally charged, but there was an exchange.

        • http://lolliguncula.wordpress.com ibleedpurple

          Carolyn,

          I am terribly sorry that you cannot imagine a relationship without transactional dynamics. Luckily, there are still people out there who fall in love and happen to experience that the greatest reward of a relationship lies in itself.

          It is transparent that you neither trust nor love, hence the need to understand the continuity of relationships through exchange of services and goods. Indeed, you cannot even think of one example where this is not true. Please refrain from projecting your essentially commodified view of human sexuality and relationships onto everyone. It is not necessary to remind us that people who are unable to relate to others on a completely emotional basis exist.

          Homo oeconomicus does not triumph over all. Some of us want more than being forced to ape economic transactions with people we are close to.

        • Grackle

          “You have never had unplanned sex after your partner gave you a gift as a thank you?”

          No, I have never done that. That is insane. I have sex with my partner when we’re both interested, not as some kind of bizarre reciprocation for goods and services. WTF is wrong with you and why do you keep harping on this ridiculous idea?

          It’s even more absurd that you insist that paying cash for access to a woman’s genitals is the same thing as someone wanting to have sex after their partner has told them that they LOVE them.

        • MLM

          “Probably every teenager in existence has had sex in exchange for that promise of love’.

          I actually doubt “every teenager in existence” has had sex “in exchange” for the promise of love. Though teenage relationships can have potential for much difficulty, and even coercion, they generally involve strong attraction. Why would they hope somebody fell in love with them if it wasn’t because they had their own level of desire for the person concerned? This is not remotely comparable to a situation where a women’s sole motivation to have sex is the payment she will receive for it.

          “I have also known many women to stay with their partners because they were sexually compatible and the sex was good and the relationship was beneficial (i.e., can’t afford to live on their own, the partner truly loved and cared for them) – even though they admitted to falling out of love’.

          A woman having sex – good sex by her own admission – with one man that she trusts and has developed a bond with, even in a situation where she no longer loves him and considers the relationship to be convenient, is not in the same stratosphere as a woman having sex with multiple men she is has no attraction to, and would not have sex with unless she was being paid to, having to sexually perform for them and meet only their sexual “needs”, even at the expense of her own psychological and physical (I refer you to Lela’s comment March 8. 2013 at 7.25pm) welfare. You are engaging in some fairly wilful denial/delusion here.

          “This myth of monogamy and that sex is always a wonderful, loving act of two committed people without ulterior motives is a joke”.

          This actually has nothing whatsoever to do with what was being talked about. Nobody else made this claim, not in the blogpost or previous comments. Arguing against the idea that submitting to sexual exploitation is an “empowering choice” is not the same thing as championing monogamy and who (else here) has suggested it is?

      • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

        “We “objectify” people for various reasons all throughout the day. ”

        My recommendation would be for you to stop doing it, instead of trying tom rationalize and normalize it… Talk to people once in a while, get to know them a little bit, be nice to them.

  • Sam Berg

    The differences between USA and Canadian media cannot be overstated.

    As a newbie activist I volunteered with an international anti-poverty lobby group. One of our goals was to generate media in the form of articles, letters to the editors, etc. At the big conference in Washington DC, the Americans spoke of how difficult it was to penetrate our corporate media. The Canadians were having a much easier time. For being a fraction of the lobbyists, the Canadians generated enough mainstream print media that when the pages were pieced together and laminated it went 3/4 around the auditorium like a thin paper Chinese dragon.

    Media censorship is stronger in the USA than most people can fathom, and the evolution of feminist movements in Canada, the UK, and the USA reflect those varying degrees of corporate control over information. Reporting on Hugo Chavez’s death brought it into stark contrast the past few days, and the footnote at the bottom of this essay reminded me of the same frustration Fivek expresses with US media being more fascistic than that of its northern neighbor.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Indeed. And not to say Canadian media is perfect, by any means, but the neoliberlist and libertarian undercurrents are so much stronger in the US, alas.

  • http://blamerbushfire.wordpress.com Bushfire

    If it’s “paternalistic” to help people escape from abuse, Carolyn, then are you also against women’s shelters, children’s aid societies, homeless shelters, and social workers? There are lots of people in this world trying to help others escape abuse, and I don’t see anyone attacking them. There’s only people attacking those who want to end the abuse known as prostitution.

  • Pingback: An answer to Carolyn | m a n y f e s t o()

  • Missfit

    ‘Choice feminism’ only works on an individual level and only if you are privileged and the choices you make are patriarchy-approved. It is not because a woman choose to prostitute herself that that makes prostitution a feminist act as prostitution is based on women’s sexual subordination to men. It is men who sexually buy women, not the contrary; we can’t ignore the sexual politics behind that fact. Prostitution is more than an individual, isolated act. It is a system based on the premise that sexuality is something women perform for men’s enjoyment. And that performance knows no boundaries, no limits. The fact that an individual woman claims she enjoys doing so does not erase the premise and its consquences. The sex industry as a system (not individual women who end up prostituting themselves) works against women’s equality. Feminists understand that some women end up prostituting themselves. For various reasons. I did it myself. However, I never believed that I was empowering myself and still waiting for someone to explain me how sexually serving men is empowering. You can choose, or not, to endorse and promote the values, and the lies, of the rulers of the sex industry. But in the end, people’s choices have impacts and pushing for the normalization of prostitution have impacts for those who are victims of, or at risk of, sexual exploitation.

    Living in a patriarchal world where men, from religion to pornography, are sent the message that they are the default human beings whose desires and power dominate, that women are second class citizens and sexual commodities, has consequences for all women that goes beyond an individual woman’s choices. It is not enough to ‘tell men not to rape (please?)’ if the message they (subconsciously or not) absorb is that women are sex objects. An object is to be used, you don’t need to respect an object. It has been demonstrated that men who consume violent pornography tend to be more acceptable of what we call ‘rape myths’. As violent porn becomes more and more mainstream, rape culture risks only proliferating. Individual choices are not immune to the influence of culture; on the contrary, it shapes them.

  • http://blamerbushfire.wordpress.com Bushfire

    Carolyn you seem to be really clueless about what happens to women in prostitution. It’s painful to read. I suggest reading Rebecca Mott’s blog: http://rmott62.wordpress.com/

  • sporenda

    ” Why do we conceptualize female sexuality as sacred? An artist sells the use of their hands.”

    No, an artist doesnt’t sell the use of her hands; SHE uses her OWN hands, nobody else uses them –and certainly not like a john uses the various orifices of a prostitute.
    An artist sells the use of her hands figuratively, she sells what she creates WITH her hands; a prostitute sells the use of her orifices literally.

    And you say that lots of men who visit prostitutes are looking for an emotional experience.
    Either you are terminally deluded, or you think we are blithering idiots.
    Do you ever visit “eval” sites? These sites are run by and for punters, they are about evaluating the performances and fees of the available prostitutes in a particular area.

    These guys discuss these women in detail, they rate them, they mock their physical flaws, they criticize their techniques, they specify if they accept unprotected sex, sodomy , fisting, BDSM, facial ejac, etc.

    Reading the content of these sites is deeply disturbing: you realize how much some men despise and hate women and derive a sense of superiority and pure joy from debasing and hurting them.
    In any case, it tells you something about the typical john’s psyche:
    A farmer talks about his cattle with more affection and respect that these guys talk about the prostitutes they visit.

    In books dealing with traditional marriage, I have read that there is his marriage (she cleans and cooks for me, I can f…k her any time I want and I can go elsewhere if she doesn’t satisfy my needs) and her mariage (he protects me and takes care of me, he loves me, I can count on him);

    If you really believe that lots of johns want to get emotional with prostitutes, it would indicate that there are similar differences of vision between punters and prostitutes: HIS trick and HER trick.

    • Grackle

      “No, an artist doesnt’t sell the use of her hands; SHE uses her OWN hands, nobody else uses them –and certainly not like a john uses the various orifices of a prostitute.
      An artist sells the use of her hands figuratively, she sells what she creates WITH her hands; a prostitute sells the use of her orifices literally.”

      Well said.

  • ame

    One of the most glaring problems with a lot of pro-sex lobbying is that it does what it accuses of abolitionism of doing: silencing and erasing women in the industry .

    Women in the industry are on a spectrum. Not every woman in the industry is being trafficked (many of them are), and not every woman would choose to do it. What does not change is that collectively, women are still oppressed. If prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, why has nothing changed fundamentally? Why is it that women can only rely on selling sexual acts as a way to live in this world?

    Prostitution is more than just selling sexual acts, in some cases it is the exploitation of those who can not make better choices. The results in the reports that MLM (thank you by the way) posted were egregious, most of the violence aimed at the women in those reports were women who did not choose to be there. Marginalized women, women of color, women of foreign descent. And the “clients” are on some level fully aware that they are exploiting these women and girls. Some of them don’t even care and some can’t even bother to push past their cognitive dissonance to see how they are so privilege they assume the right to another human being’s body. Criminalize the buyer, not the women. Make them known, protect the women.

    I grow tired of pro-sex lobbying because many of it is by white women who have a fighting chance in patriarchy (the same can not be said for woc). Yet pro-sex lobbying tends to glamorize the sex industry as if empowerment comes from spreading your legs. If it was so empowering and such a lucrative option, to use the terminology of the MRA’s “what about the mens???”

    Oh that’s right, because men are not commodities.

    I worked in the industry, and I had “chosen” to be there. Granted, I did have some options but not enough. Money spurred my decision to go into the sex industry fueled by the promise of “fast, easy cash” and I really did believe I could make a lot of money, I am still poor. If I didn’t have education as the light end of the tunnel and people who cared about me, I would still be there for many other women they don’t have these resources, and that is part of the entanglement.

    While in the industry I begin to see the women around me constantly revamp their notions so they could not feel victimized or denigrated by what we are part of.

    Its SOOO important that the lot of the feminist movement remembers that women in the sex industry are women and are human beings. Women with hopes, dreams, families and a life. So often, both sides get so buried in outwitting the other that they forget the women. Not all women in the sex industry can come out and say how they truly feel, and the damage of silence is a spirit crusher, but coming to terms with the idea that you’ve been damaged is another.

    Also, another thing to consider, most women if you were stripped of options and poor, prostitution would be an option for you and the question then becomes what would you do?

    I am strongly against prostitution because I have seen firsthand what it does to women and girls and it’s abhorrent. No woman should have to consent to a man treating her as his personal machine for projecting desires and his body onto.

    For the women who choose sex work, fine, I’m happy for you and I hope that your experience continues to be positive, I really do. Watching women suffer is something that takes a toll on you. But to these women, I also say, in your need to assert your difference from our trafficked sisters and women who are simply trying to survive: get out of their way if you will not help them , if you will not spend time and energy to make a world better for them or offer resources for them. Get out of their way and let those who are genuinely interested in assisting these women. Because, why is it such a bad thing for feminists to want to “save” women? Historically women have saved each other. In the case of marginalized women, woc specifically they are all they have. Don’t you dare use your individually empowered rhetoric to direct the limelight away from their struggle and experiences. Feminism is not about choice because every human being has that right, and choice does not exist in a vacuum.

    I have yet to feel empowered by my experience in the sex industry and I still don’t see it. Empowerment would be for women to feel safe walking down the streets, empowered would be feeling as if they could openly voice their opinion, wearing whatever clothes they want without fear of any negative attribution. There is so much feminism has to take to task.

    Selling sex is not like any other job, that is such an illogical statement. Artists sell art work, they produce it, they are control in of it. When an artist decides they don’t want to do it anymore, that’s that, its not usually a life crisis type of predicament. Academics are respected in our society. Waiters are given at least the human decency of required tipping (women in the industry can’t even begin to ask for tipping without the fear of ‘clients’ losing their calm).

    Lastly, feminists…I understand why women in the industry are so reluctant to deal with feminism. I don’t think of sex work as a feminist act not a feminist enterprise but when I think of how other women helped each other (with resources, food, shelter, clothing, legal options) to me that is feminist, and many of them did this in the face of disgusting circumstances, and while some were also complicit in this (sex workers are not monolithic as we all know) the ones who showed empathy should be an inspiration and should help all to make sure that women have options that are worth a damn and not the choice to participate in Bad idea 1 and Bad idea 2.

    They need solutions now. Some of these women can not wait for all the back and forth debates, the rhetoric, they need something now. We all do.

    Thank you.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you so much for this comment, ame. Am sharing it everywhere I can.

  • sporenda

    “One of the most glaring problems with a lot of pro-sex lobbying is that it does what it accuses of abolitionism of doing: silencing and erasing women in the industry”

    Absolutely, another case of patriarchal reversal.
    But the silencing of women is not just what the industry does, it’s what it’s about, what it sells:

    pornographers claim pornography is free speech, but in porn movies women can’t speak: either they have a penis in their mouth or they are gagged.

    • Carolyn

      I find the anti-sex lobbying group also silences women. So far this is what I have noticed:
      (a) When I have said something in response to a point being raised, I have been told by Meaghan that I have gone against some rule.

      (b) I have provided countless sources (via names in paragraphs) but everyone is blinded to them.

      (c) the anti-sex lobbying group, from what I see here, relies on anecdotes. Tragic stories, are just that, tragic stories. Every occupation has its tragic stories. Anecdotes are not data.

      (d) There is a complete lack of understanding of research methods. When participants for your research come from those engaged in survival sex, those that have been arrested or those that want to leave, well that is the data you will get. Why not read some research that is not biased from the outset. That actually gets a sample and lets the participants words shine through (without applying your own understanding of it? Unlike Farley’s latest piece, when after one participant said she didn’t mind her work, Farley interpreted it as internalized misogyny). There is nothing wrong with Farley’s work, or other anti-sex work, but it is not a complete and accurate picture of the industry.

      (e) Debasement, humiliation and degradation is subjective. Many people hate their jobs and think it is the worst ever. The majority of people only work because they are getting paid. Every job has risks. The fact that we shame and stigmatize sex workers is what puts them at risk. Perhaps if sex wasn’t so shamed we could start changing cultural/men’s views of sex. Not everyone feels an emotional connection to sex. What would account for the recreational sex and hook-up culture? (Which although given a current name, is not new, there was never a point in history in which people didn’t engage in extra-marital sex).

      (f)The comment regarding marital vows. No, an outside party has not made those vows. Therefore there are no issues of loose morals there. Again, if we could get around this shame around sex and thinking that it is somehow special and emotional – would be the best thing for society.

      (g)Chocolate also releases feel-good neurotransmitters. This is not a valid reason why sex is any different than any other service provided. Just because you find it reprehensible to have sex outside of intimate relationships, doesn’t mean every one else does.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “When I have said something in response to a point being raised, I have been told by Meaghan that I have gone against some rule.”

        I explained to you what the rule is. You were saying things that weren’t true/saying that other people had said things they had not. You must follow the rules outlined in the comment policy if you want to participate. This isn’t a free for all.

        You HAVE NOT been silenced here despite the fact that you have broken comment policy rules and derailed in ways that are decidedly unproductive. Even in saying that “anti-sex lobbying group also silences women” without providing any evidence for this statement, to me, counts as breaking the rule of ‘say things that are true’.

        Back up your statements. Say things that are true. Otherwise you won’t be allowed to comment here because it wastes people’s time.

      • Candy

        “(f)The comment regarding marital vows. No, an outside party has not made those vows. Therefore there are no issues of loose morals there. Again, if we could get around this shame around sex and thinking that it is somehow special and emotional – would be the best thing for society.

        (g)Chocolate also releases feel-good neurotransmitters. This is not a valid reason why sex is any different than any other service provided. Just because you find it reprehensible to have sex outside of intimate relationships, doesn’t mean every one else does.”

        I don’t find it reprehensible to have sex outside of intimate relationships IF the couple had made a mutual decision to have an open relationship. I made that clear in my comment. No problems with hook-ups, one night stands, group sex, or friends with benefits either.

        Are you justifying that a married man, a man who DECIDED to get married on HIS OWN VOLITION, has the right to fuck whoever he wants, despite exchanging wedding vows that NO ONE PUT A GUN TO HIS HEAD TO SAY, and despite his wife not knowing his double life? Explain to me how there aren’t loose morals there, please.

        And plenty of things involve neurotransmitters, exercise, you name it. That doesn’t change the fact that sex is a slightly different thing to sell. I do believe people should have the right to sell their own bodies, because their bodies are their own and what right do I have to say “you’re not allowed!” I’m just acknowledging that someone who gets paid day after day to have sex probably has to dissociate themselves from emotion, which is why I made the comparison to workers having to dissociate from their own opinions and free will at their jobs. Prostitution can be a valid job, but at the same time, for most, sex is more emotional, even if just a one night stand, than selling chocolate. And chocolate releases serotonin, phenylethylamine, and endorphins, not oxytocin, the bonding chemical that is inevitably released during orgasm. That’s not to say orgasms = love though, the defensiveness will kick in afterwards, you probably won’t become a ball of mush. I just wonder about the mental states and defense mechanisms of those who would willingly allow men they’re not attracted to fuck them.

        • Candy

          “No, an outside party has not made those vows. ”

          I misinterpreted this comment, but at the same time, you’re advocating for no morality from the prostitutes? So because the outside party didn’t make a commitment, a woman who sleeps with her sister’s husband did nothing worthy of contempt despite knowing his marital status? And why the hell should I respect that?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yeah no. It’s not a woman’s responsibility, prostitute or not, to keep men monogamous. That’s his responsibility and his alone. Prostituted women aren’t lacking in morality, they need to make a living.

          • Candy

            I can agree somewhat toward the prostitute’s situation but toward the sister on sister’s husband situation? Is she not responsible as well?

            And what about the women who already have money but decide to work as prostitutes for supplemental income?

      • MLM

        Who the fuck says somebody is “anti-sex” just because they disagree with your convenient and idiotic conclusions? Honestly, your ignorance is astounding.

        • MLM

          In case there was any doubt, that comment was @ Carolyn.

      • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

        You have to be a troll. I took you seriously until this point, but how can you actually argue that the sex-neg people are censoring you?? They have no power in our society. They don’t have the mass media on their side. And yet you try to portray yourself as the victim? Wow.

        You are shameless. Shame on you for using women’s suffering for your own petty personal interests.

  • sporenda

    The best thing I have read about postfeminism:

    “I’ll be postfeminist in a postpatriarchy.”

  • ELF

    Wow, what emptiness. Let’s break it down:

    What IS postfeminism? There’s a whole literature about the topic, which Taryn ignores in favor of a book cover.

    Who is Melissa Gira Grant? Taryn leads with her name and prior profession.

    Who is the “amorphous they”? MGG names names, including Murphy’s. Whatever happened to “name the perpetrator” as a tenet of radical feminism? How often do radfems answer this invocation with “patriarchy”? Consider Meghan:

    “Feminists know that naming the act and the perpetrator is important lest systemic inequity and the fact that we live in a sexist society disappear into the ether. It’s hard to address misogyny if we refuse to acknowledge that it exists and shapes our lives. Language matters.”

    For Meghan, the answer was “misogyny”. But misogyny is not an actor. How many other so called radical feminists answer the call with “patriarchy”? But “patriarchy” is no actor, either. It’s a theory. Language matters, yes. But you can’t mock postmodernism at the same time you turn your back on reality. You want to be a theorist, go ahead. You want to be an ideologist? good for you. You want to be a caricature of a right-wing demagogue? Whatever. But don’t play these games in the name of feminism.

    Back to “postfeminism” Taryn defines it as “a desire for control over one’s destiny. It is the hope that someday, no one will call you any names or discriminate against you based on your sex.” Um, NO! Consider reading books and not just looking at their covers.

    Taryn writes: “These individuals are fighting against “patriarchy”, a concept that is not individualized or even rooted in material manifestations.” – Yet her article is ALL theory. “Neoliberal atomization”? Hey, the nineties called, they want their sense of anomie back!

    Or worse, all the “scare quotes”: “patriarchy”, “choice” (x too many to count!), “sex trade”, “privileged” – do you have a concrete argument to make. Or anything meaningful to say? On the other hand, Taryn gets points for “aether” – nothing like an ancient ligature to underline one’s artfulness!

    Taryn uses two quotes to leap into a groundless rant, all in the name of lambasting a person who is actually making substantive arguments. Its as bad as the tyee drivel about “angel” – using that poor murderess as a foil for a one-sided policy promotion. I can’t tell what’s worse – treating angel as a token and a means, or treating mgg as a token and a scapegoat. One with two last names, no less! The HORROR.

    Oh, wait, maybe there’s something grounded in that number: the 90% – Nope, she refers to a blog which in turn refers to fictions debunked by courts and academics alike, the work of the hate-monger known as Farley. Theory slides into fiction. Proof positive this kind of feminism has lost touch with reality, gladly leaving women behind in the process (except when they’re in the crosshairs).

    If there’s a feminist argument here, it’s been reduced to a mime or a meme: shadows on the wall made of victims and scapegoats, devoid of all substance. Radical feminism needs its redstockings back.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “MGG names names, including Murphy’s.”

      What are you talking about? What are you referencing?

      Part of the problem with Grant’s argument is that she does exactly that which you are complaining about here. She claims ‘feminists’ are doing certain things (which we are not, in fact, doing) — aligning with the Christian right, criminalizing sex workers, etc etc (listen to the interview, if you can stand to, and you’ll see what I mean: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/84248 ) and NEVER. NOT ONCE does she explicitly say who these ‘feminists’ are.

      She makes claims she doesn’t back up.

      “For Meghan, the answer was “misogyny”.” No. The perpetrator, in the case of WHO perpetrates violence against women is MEN. Not women. Not feminists. MEN. Got it?

      “Its as bad as the tyee drivel about “angel” – using that poor murderess as a foil for a one-sided policy promotion.” Seriously? Go fuck yourself, dude.
      (For those who don’t know what ‘Elf’ is referencing here, it’s this piece: http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/03/04/Aboriginal-Sex-Workers-BC/ )

      OH AND FINALLY — “the hate-monger known as Farley.” — Oh yeah. She’s a real hate-monger. Take your slander and anti-feminist bullshit elsewhere.

      • ELF

        MM: “What are you talking about? What are you referencing? … NEVER. NOT ONCE does she explicitly say who these ‘feminists’ are.”

        Um, have you read Melissa’s articles? In an article that you’ve responded to, she refers to Norma Ramos, Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, Melissa Farley, Jessica Neuwirth, Jesse Helms, Andrea Powell, Linda Smith, Donna M. Hughes, Phyllis Chesler, and Sonia Ossorio. “Never. Not once,” you say. Well, that’s eleven reasons (from just one article) that you are simply wrong. On the other hand, to be fair, you’ve only come up on her blog.

        MM: “The perpetrator, in the case of WHO perpetrates violence against women is MEN. Not women.”
        Thank you for making my point. True colors it seems: If the best you can offer is gender stereotypes, maybe you are part of the problem. Many men oppose violence against women. Some women perpetrate violence against women. Whose refusing to name names??? In this case, it would be you: Meghan Murphy, offering categories instead of names. Again.

        MM: “Seriously? Go fuck yourself, dude.”
        Right. Very mature. Why the outburst? Can’t think of an argument? Just because the article agrees with policies you agree with doesn’t mean it’s not exploitation. “Angel” is the sensationalist bait for the abolitionist switch. And yes, I do mean the pun.

        MM: (re Farley) “Oh yeah. She’s a real hate-monger.”
        As for Farley, you’ve surely seen this base humor from her web site: http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/WhyIMade.html – at best, she makes fun of your own research subjects (one of many violations of APA ethics, of course). Or her bigoted attack on BDSM (http://www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Melissa-Farley-Ten-Lies-About-Sadomasochism.pdf)

        So tell me: where is my slander. You’ve made your bed: prove the allegation, lest you be in violation of your own comment policy. Same with anti-feminist. Your policy says “5) Please say things that are true. … If you argue that something was said in the post at hand or by other commenters that was not actually said, your comment may be deleted.” Yes, please: back up your words.

        • Meghan Murphy

          She claims, in the interview I link to, that feminists are allying with the Christian right. Which feminists? Please provide a reference.

          She names all these names. Yes. To what end? What she accuses Steinem of is manipulative and unclear. Steinem went to India to speak against trafficking and to advocate for ‘a third model’ (the Nordic model) http://feministcurrent.com/4814/gloria-steinem-supports-the-nordic-model/

          “The old polarization into legalization and criminalization is giving way to a more practical, woman-centered and successful Third Way: De-criminalize the prostituted persons, offer them meaningful choices, prosecute traffickers, pimps and all who sell the bodies of others, and also penalize the customers who create the market while educating them about its tragic human consequences.”

          Sure sounds like she’s engaged in a ‘war’ against sex workers, doesn’t it!

          She ‘names’ Robin Morgan, yes, but says nothing:

          “Feminist fights over prostitution and pornography are old news. But anti−sex work feminism has come a long way from the magazine store picket lines of the 1970s and the campus anti-porn revivals of the 1990s. “Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice,” wrote feminist author and activist Robin Morgan in 1980. She is still around today, hosting a radio show on D.C.’s 1580 AM for the Women’s Media Center.”

          So what? What is her point? She’s outing Morgan as a feminist? Good work, detective!

          I have no idea what you mean about her mentioning me in her blog. Feel free to provide a reference, though I can’t say I really care.

          Saying that it is men who are committing violence against prostituted women, not women/feminists, is not a stereotype. It’s a fact.

          You called Angel a “poor murderess” – so yes, please go fuck yourself, you insensitive prick.

          You also imply that Angel telling her story equates to abolitionists ‘using her’. So what are you saying? Her aunt is ‘using her’? That Angel had no desire to share her story? What?

          And re: Farley — you’ve linked to/provided no reference to anything that shows she is a ‘hate-monger’. Keep up the slander and you’re banned. This is a warning.

          I realize that in your insular anti-feminism land, the claims you make seem legit because about a dozen of your Twitter friends back you up, but in the real world you need to do better than that.

          • ELF

            First off, you don’t link to an interview, Taryn Fivek does. Your article links to MGG’s Reason piece, “The War on Sex Workers.” Therein, she mentions specific feminists and specific conservative people on the Christian right, and I’m not going to trace every single connection. On the other hand, what about your own support of Joy Smith and Ben Perrin? I’ve no idea about his religion, but Smith claims abolitionism as a calling from God (http://www.christianweek.org/stories.php?id=392).

            As for the blog mention, the best I can do to link to it is http://melissa.tumblr.com/image/43591722241 … it’s on page 2 of her blog. But then again, you don’t care, so.

            Ok, so “poor murderess” is perhaps unintentionally patronizing. But she did murder, and under duress, and “poor” was meant to suggest sympathy. If you’re going to do “feminist ideology,” you need to understand ideology. Look at the article, both in content and in form. Angel’s the hook, and that’s about it. Only to left behind for Melissa Farley and the generic abolitionist boilerplate. It’s a well-trodden trope of the right. Sensationalize. Then slip in the real agenda. Just like Taryn’s article. Melissa’s the hook. The rest is sloppy nonsense about “neoliberal atomization”. As for Angel, I’m sure she wished to share her story. And it’s being used for ideological ends. Ugly stuff.

            As for Farley, if you can’t see the offensiveness in the pieces I linked to, I have to ask why? If you think either of those things are acceptable feminist rhetoric, I must really question your judgment. Either its ok to reduce this all to comedy and pastiche, or these are crass caricatures of people you and she would appear consider to be victims. Not cool. We don’t tolerate men “making fun” of rape, or assault, or women in general. Which means we don’t tolerate it from women, either. Meanwhile, you know how you have that policy statement, “No comparing feminists to Hitler and/or fascists.” –so it’s ok for Farley to compare BDSM practictioners to Hitler and fascists?

            “Insular” anti-feminism land? Yeah, right. What do you think I was getting at with the redstockings reference? Again, I implore you: live up to your own policy. Prove my slander. Reveal my anti-feminism. Name my twitter friends. You say, “Keep up the slander and you’re banned. This is a warning.” First off, prove the slander. As per your own policy. Show me that you’re telling the truth. Show your readers that you’re telling the truth. Don’t just repeat the accusation: show us evidence.

            As for banning me, thank you for the threat. But, ban me for what? I’ve given you substance where you’ve asked for it, and I’ve asked you for the same where you’ve made your accusations. It’s your turn to deliver. Stand on principle, or shirk principles for sophistry, as you wish.

            I leave you with OUR roots:

            `We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman.

            We repudiate all economic, racial, educational or status privileges that divide us from other women. We are determined to recognize and eliminate any prejudices we may hold against other women.

            We are committed to achieving internal democracy. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that every woman in our movement has an equal chance to participate, assume responsibility, and develop her political potential.”

          • Meghan Murphy

            Wow. You’re incredibly full of shit!

            “First off, you don’t link to an interview, Taryn Fivek does.”
            – I link to it in my commen/response to above. Here it is again: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/84248 Pat attention, please.

            “Your article links to MGG’s Reason piece, “The War on Sex Workers.” Therein, she mentions specific feminists and specific conservative people on the Christian right, and I’m not going to trace every single connection.”
            – I quoted from that piece in my comment/response to you. Did you miss that? She names feminists, yes. And specifies nothing. You have no legs to stand on. Neither does she.

            “On the other hand, what about your own support of Joy Smith and Ben Perrin? I’ve no idea about his religion, but Smith claims abolitionism as a calling from God (http://www.christianweek.org/stories.php?id=392).”
            – I support who now??? Joy Smith is a CPC member. I’ve never supported a CPC member in my life and I never will. I have no idea who Ben Perrin is. May I refer you back to my earlier comment regarding your being full of shit?

            “As for the blog mention, the best I can do to link to it is http://melissa.tumblr.com/image/43591722241 … it’s on page 2 of her blog. But then again, you don’t care, so.”
            – Um. Ok. Got it. Someone posted a question that wasn’t a question on her Tumblr that mentioned my name but that actually had nothing to do with anything I said? And doesn’t actually specify what it is and who it is that they are referencing (though it’s clear it isn’t me)? Is that what you mean by ‘naming names’? Again, neither she, nor you have any of the legs I mentioned earlier. The ones for standing on. You’re trying to pretend as though there are points to be made but then are incapable of making said points because the points don’t actually exist.

            “Ok, so “poor murderess” is perhaps unintentionally patronizing. But she did murder, and under duress, and “poor” was meant to suggest sympathy.”
            – Oh yeah. You sounded really fucking sympathetic.

            “If you’re going to do “feminist ideology,” you need to understand ideology.”
            – I have a BA and a Masters degree in Women’s Studies. Get a life. (or an education)

            “Look at the article, both in content and in form. Angel’s the hook, and that’s about it. Only to left behind for Melissa Farley and the generic abolitionist boilerplate. It’s a well-trodden trope of the right. Sensationalize. Then slip in the real agenda. Just like Taryn’s article. Melissa’s the hook. The rest is sloppy nonsense about “neoliberal atomization”. As for Angel, I’m sure she wished to share her story. And it’s being used for ideological ends. Ugly stuff.”
            – I didn’t write the story.
            – Angel’s story is a real, common, story. It’s not sensationalism. If you want a happier, tidier story, go ask Melissa Gira Grant.

            “As for Farley, if you can’t see the offensiveness in the pieces I linked to, I have to ask why?”
            – specify what it is in the links that constitute ‘hate-mongering’ or GTFO.

            “Insular” anti-feminism land? Yeah, right. What do you think I was getting at with the redstockings reference?”
            – You made a pun and therefore you understand feminism? Ok. Got it.

            “Again, I implore you: live up to your own policy.”
            – the policy applies to YOU. Not to me. This is my website. The comment policy applies to COMMENTERS.

            “Don’t just repeat the accusation: show us evidence.”
            -SHOW US THE EVIDENCE. SHOW US THE EVIDENCE. SHOW US THE EVIDENCE.

            “I leave you with OUR roots:

            `We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman.

            We repudiate all economic, racial, educational or status privileges that divide us from other women. We are determined to recognize and eliminate any prejudices we may hold against other women.

            We are committed to achieving internal democracy. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that every woman in our movement has an equal chance to participate, assume responsibility, and develop her political potential.”

            -What in the name of fuck are you talking about? Your point is what, exactly?

          • ELF

            Just to clarify: Ben Perrin is the author or co-author of Bill C-268, which Joy SMith sponsored, aka National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking which is the closest thing to a formal proposal for the Swedish Model. I thought I once heard an f-word podcast that featured a speech of hers and an inteview with him, but I could be mistaken as to wether that was you / f-word. As for which link is which, it’s probably doesn’t matter as much as who is saying what, in general.

            About angel I support people’s voices being broadcast / heard. But when we translate one person’s voice into else’s politics, that’s a problem. Notice how Angel expresses a desire to leave prostitution but she suggests disagreement, rather than agreement with her aunt. Angel said nothing about abolition, but 2/3 the article is about the abolitionist position. In that way, she really is personal-emotional colour presented as a leadin to an advocacy piece for abolitionism.

            You know what Angel actually needs? MONEY translated into programs that protect women from poverty and provide housing, along with job support, social support, psychological support. That is so much important than a law that will just distract further from the real issues as its battled out in ideology and in court. Prostitution laws pro and con do not address the cause: sexism is an important part of it, but the real push factors, the cause factors, are poverty, drug addiction, homelessness. Alongside so many histories of particular abuses. But the solution isn’t criminalization its well-funded socialeconomic support systems. And the people who should be fighting hardest for that are obsessed with scandinavian policy. We need our own policy. Look at it like this. How much is abolitionism worth? And how much does it cost that so many organizations and people are turning the important issues into footnotes. Look at CASAC March 8 statement “Equality Seeking Women’s Groups WANT MORE FOR WOMEN”. One sentence in the entire piece (last paragraph) about the big issues: its all about prostitution. We’re sacrificing the cause to address one ugly symptom. This is not a good idea. Women in prostitution need programs for their needs and infrastructural protection from poverty (ie real welfare living wage etc) to make sure every woman actually does have a real choice. Prostitution is an important problem but its being obsessed over in a way that distracts from the real issues.

            The redstockings thing is not a pun its an allusion to a moment when much more solidarity was available to our activism.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok. You’re breaking a lot of rules here. I’ve already warned you, so just to be clear: You must say things that are true. i.e. If you say things like “You support so-and-so…” and that is in no way true, that counts as breaking the rules and your comments will be deleted.

            If you make claims, back them up.

            I don’t want to get into debating an article that most folks here haven’t read, as it’s on another site, but I will say this: YES, what Angel needs is: “MONEY translated into programs that protect women from poverty and provide housing, along with job support, social support, psychological support.”

            My support for the Nordic model is because it’s a socialist model that addresses the need for social safety nets and support programs (retraining, therapy, etc.). It isn’t simply a change in law. Full decrim/legalization does NOT address these issues, rather it relies on a short-term ‘harm-reduction’ model. Abolitionists want harm-reduction but also have long term goals involving creating an egalitarian world.

          • MLM

            Oh, yeah, she’s one hell of a “hate monger” that Melissa Farley.

            “For the past fifteen years I have worked side by side with survivors of prostitution and trafficking. Without a doubt, survivors are people whose voices should be heard and whose unique perspectives on their experiences should be respected. It is disheartening to read other contributions to this blog and to discover that pimp-controlled organizations are still attempting to silence the survivor’s voice. In my opinion, individuals only react this way when they feel threatened. Please don’t let their threats silence you and please continue to let your voices be heard!

            This blog is a call to action for survivor/leader voices to be involved in policy-making in the public sphere within international, national, regional, state and local government entities. Survivor-informed public policies are critical to ensuring that policies work in practice on the ground level and to ensuring that front-line staff have the tools to assist victims in transforming their lives from victims to survivors and potentially leaders. Adding the survivor’s voice will help to avoid the pitfalls of unintended policy consequences and waste of limited resources”.

            http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/blog/the_survivors_view/

            You make an “unintentionally patronizing” comment about “the tyee drivel about “angel” …poor murderess” and expect to have some kind of moral high ground about people making “crass caricatures”??

            If you really gave a shit about preventing violence and sexual abuse then survivor stories would MATTER to you. You wouldn’t be trying to minimise and dismiss them. It would be unacceptable to you that what they’re trying to tell people about happens to ANYONE. You would LISTEN to survivors, and realise that what we learn from them is probably the most useful information to prevent what happened to them from happening to anyone else. What they had to say would be of the utmost importance, not something you had to downplay and quash to push your own idealogical agenda. Say what you like about Melissa Farley, she IS listening to survivors and the people who have been most harmed by the sex industry. And it only stands to reason that the people who have experienced most harm can best inform policies that will prevent harm.

            “We don’t tolerate men “making fun” of rape, or assault, or women in general”.

            Since fucking when? What world do you live in?? Did you watch the Oscars a few weeks ago? The “We saw your boobs” song? Some of the “boobs” alluded to belonged to actresses who were playing rape victims. And at the same time The Onion made a “joke” calling a 9 year old black girl a c*nt.

            If you want to call this stuff out, fantastic. But why don’t you start where it matters most – with other men. That would take far more guts than criticising women, which entails virtually no risk at all.

            Quite honestly, I can’t see the gross offensiveness in the pieces you linked to. But, who knows, maybe I’m just completely desensitised. Maybe I’m just confronted with stuff worse than anything I saw there just about every single fucking day of my life.

          • ELF

            I have no problem with survivors voices, everyone needs to be heard, and that’s not what my point is. She was never asked what she thinks about the issues that the article spends most of its time on: abolition. We leave her story to talk about that. But what does she really need to get out? A law that will take forever to fight for, won’t make a big difference to anything, and then will be contested in court for years? All at the expense of energy that could be put to more fundamental issues. We need two decades of significant increases to social and economic programs for poor women (and everyone). Money in their pockets and support for their lives. if that’s not the number one argument our priorities are upside down. What I really want to know is what Angel would think of that. If it’s important that “the people who have experienced most harm can best inform policies that will prevent harm” wouldn’t you like to know what Angel thinks too?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m just going to cut this off here, Elf. We aren’t talking about someone else’s work here/another site’s article. Please stay on topic. Thanks.

          • vouchsafer

            @ELF : Lead with the thesis, then back it up with concise arguments. I have no idea what your point is.
            But I do think it’s funny that you condescendingly point out taryn’s use of the word ‘aether’ while yourself use ‘anomie’ and ‘pastiche.’
            Perhaps you and our friend Carolyn are both suffering from the same ‘dearth’ of attention span that leads you to not follow a thought process to its fulfillment.
            Perhaps you are both so acclimatized to living in the virtual world of your wireless devices that you’re losing all sense of what it’s like outside of them.
            perhaps that’s why you, who claims to work to “eliminate any prejudices we hold against other women” would visit this site and condemn, mock, and villainize the objectives of the women here. Perhaps that’s why Carolyn views sex as disembodied transactions.
            Well it isn’t for me to judge.
            If you want to have a conversation one day we are here
            (of course then you would have to boil down your spiels to a kernel of truth.)
            one woman to another, mouthing empty platitudes and linking does not the basis of an argument make.
            Speak your own truth.
            Offered in feminist solidarity,
            Vouchsafer.

          • copleycat

            Awesome reply Vouchersafe!

          • Grackle

            “We don’t tolerate men “making fun” of rape, or assault, or women in general. ”

            What wonderful planet do you live on and how can I get there? Jesus, you lose all credibility when you say something like that.

          • ELF

            I’m sorry, do you tolerate these forms of wrong? It was a descriptive statement about our peers and a prescriptive statement toward the world.I never said these things don’t happen. My point is that if its wrong its wrong, for Farley or you or me or anyone.

          • MLM

            “My point is that if its wrong its wrong, for Farley or you or me or anyone”.

            I think the problem is that your original point was “Melissa Farley is a hate monger”. And what you linked to in support of that argument fails to demonstrate that. This is what undermines your credibility. “Hate monger” is an extreme accusation and requires some serious and substantive proof when made. If your claim had been “Melissa Farley makes inappropriate jokes about the subject she researches”, that may arguably have been a more credible claim and along with your attempt to support it with the evidence you linked to.

            If “more solidarity” is really something you hope for, then hostile and unsubstantiated rhetoric like “(insert name) is a hate monger” and “(insert group name) are causing a war” has no place in discussions about these subjects. It will only provoke hostile responses and combative debate, not productive conversations. These discussions can be emotive and divisive enough without effectively throwing a verbal petrol bomb into them.

            Meghan has requested, quite rightly, that this discussion stays on topic so I won’t get into the points you made about the article you linked to, beyond saying that I agree with her response to you (re: the Nordic Model) for similar reasons.

            And also because from all available evidence full legalisation does not succeed in keeping women safer (and in many cases has made them more vulnerable) and it seems to result in increased trafficking – even according to researchers who are not in favour of banning it, and see “potential benefits” of legalisation (in spite of none actually demonstrated in countries where it has been introduced) and feel that prohibition raises “tricky “freedom of choice” issues”.

            “Does Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?, by Professor Eric Neumayer of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Dr Seo-Young Cho of the German Institute for Economic Research, and Professor Axel Dreher of Heidelberg University, is due to be published in the January 2013 edition of the journal World Development…

            “The researchers used a global sample of 116 countries. They found that countries where prostitution is legal tend to experience a higher reported inflow of human trafficking than countries in which prostitution is prohibited.

            http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2012/12/Legalised-prostitution-increases-human-trafficking.aspx

          • marv

            I think ELF is in a stupor or a thick dark fog. Reading this person’s remarks is like walking through a MRA mental graveyard , a space of the living dead where zombies roam.

            Thanks for your posturing and dumbing down the site. Remember, when you’re up so high you have further to fall back into the hole. Make haste.

          • sporenda

            “. True colors it seems: If the best you can offer is gender stereotypes, maybe you are part of the problem. Many men oppose violence against women. Some women perpetrate violence against women. Whose refusing to name names??”

            Gender: this word is associated with lots of BS lately.
            Saying that the vast majority of violences against women are committed by men is not a gender stereotype, it’s a fact.
            Sorry to repeat such truisms, but it’s men not women who rape, it’s men not women who are punters, it’s men not women who harrass sexually, and it’s men who beat up to death their female partners.
            Feminism is a theory built on the recognition of these facts and more generally on the notion that access to power and use of violence are on the side of men.
            Arguing against all evidence that there is as much violence and abuse on the side of women is the core of masculinist ideology .

            Regarding your statement that many men oppose violence against women:
            if it’s true, how come that violence against women is so widespread and so rarely prosecuted in court?
            How come so many women are raped and so few rapists are in jail?
            Taking a verbal stance against violence against women and doing something about it one thing.
            Taking and enforcing steps to curb this violence is another.
            Officially, modern society condemns violence against women ; in reality, it tolerates or encourages many activities, such as prostitution and pornography, that are about glamourizing and selling violence against women.

          • vouchsafer

            @sporenda, that was fucking awesome!!!!
            Slam-DUNK!

            seriously though, the truth has a ring to it when you hear it. I have something to suggest: these girls are the grown-up version of the first generation of early porn exposure. I’m assuming they’re young anyway.
            If there was any doubt that it was conditioning them in a certain direction, I’d say it’s erased now.
            Its important to remember that they’re not lost causes or anything like that.
            I think that when we’re arguing with them, we’re actually butting heads with their conditioning, which explains the impasse.
            I think if we are to reach them we need to find ways around their conditioning. There’s real souls inside them who if you think of it, (bullying) they’ve never been allowed to show deviation from the norm.

          • vouchsafer

            The norm being pornsickness.

          • Lela

            “I think that when we’re arguing with them, we’re actually butting heads with their conditioning, which explains the impasse.”

            This is so true, Vouchsafer. The unfortunate fact is (in my experience, anyway) that often nobody is there to convey the right messages and to reassure; we are left to the manipulations of an mass culture that fills us to the point of over-saturation with its senseless misogyny. As Taryn points out in her piece, we are driven to accept the individualizing of collective social ills, there is simply no alternative on offer. Watching this younger (and not even *that* much younger) generation grappling with these same issues that recur ever-more acutely, is like deja-vu crossed with watching a train wreck in slow-motion. How incredible, but sadly predictable in this situation, that women are so alienated from one another.

            How to communicate when the logic of pimp-speak has clearly been embedded in their consciousness, as it is embedded in our culture at large? I think we need to remember how we were, and go from there. We must continue to expect resistance, share facts, survivor accounts and relevant analyses, and leave it up to them to process that information.

          • Missfit

            This is why blogs like this one are so important. To give voices to those ideas and feelings. To know we are not alone. I am glad it is there, finally easily accessible through the internet; it gives me hope for the future. I thank the internet for having discovered radical feminism. It gave back authority to the inner voice I used to ignore while trying to figure out how to fit into the patriarchal framework. I feel like my life would not have been the same if I had access to such material before (unless I was not ready for it then?). I was rebellious but without knowing exactly where to direct my anger. I am now able to arrange my thoughts, to see more clearly, to put words on my feelings, to forgive myself. When I finally connected the dots together, about what it implies to be a woman in this world, I felt cheated. And when I think about what girls are exposed to nowadays, I think that when they are going to come to the same realization, when they are going to ‘wake up’, they are going to be full of rage. Well, that is what I hope for.

          • Lela

            Absolutely. With mass-media culture bursting with pornified, anti-woman garbage, I can’t help but think that we are approaching some kind of critical mass of patriarchal bullshit in this culture. Here’s hoping that more and more young women are going to fall off the bandwagon as time goes on.

    • copleycat

      “– do you have a concrete argument to make. Or anything meaningful to say? ”

      Do you? Let’s hear your account of what postfeminism is.

  • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

    So what’s the difference between this “post-feminism” and good ol’ funfems?

  • Laur

    In response to the comments about retail/service work being degrading, I agree that it is. I’ve worked at several big box stores, and many of the customers did treat me like an object, not an actual human being. I know other women who have worked other retail positions and feel the same way. Clearly, the way goods are sold at big box stores does need to be changed, as does the service sector more generally.

    I did not, however spend all day thinking I needed to numb out and give blow jobs. I did not end up with post traumatic stress disorder. I am not unable to interact with men because of the job. I did not get STDs. I was not given the message my only worth in life was to ring up goods (or be a fuck object). I did not have to dissociate from my body. I did not have pornography of me made from this work, pornography that is still out there. Need I go on?

    • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

      I think the point, Laur, is that while all jobs can be exploitative – I also worked in retail for years and hated it — there is something particularly gendered, particularly patriarchal about the sex industry that makes it not *just* “work” like any other “work.”
      Personal experiences and anecdotes aside, why does the sex industry exist and why is it that the only job women can make more than men (like in some porn) requires her being willing to not only have oral sex but basically *do* whatever type of sexual act a stranger dude wants? Why does it exist and why is it so normalized that men think they are beyond all questioning by feminists? Would the end of patriarchal capitalism see an end to the sex industry and other forms of exploitation?

      • Laur

        We’re in total agreement, BK.

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