A ruling class vs. revolutionary response to prostitution

A New York Times article published on May 22nd reports on how the economic misery inflicted on Greeks has forced many into prostitution in order to survive. Here is an excerpt:

With the country heading into the fifth year of economic depression, and unemployment near 60 percent for young people, greater numbers of women and men are offering their bodies for next to nothing to get any scrap of money. According to the National Center for Social Research, the number of people selling sex has surged 150 percent in the last two years.Many prostitutes have been selling their services for as little as 10 to 15 euros, a price that has shrunk along with the income of clients afflicted by the crisis. Many more prostitutes are taking greater health risks by having unprotected sex, which sells for a premium. Still more are subject to violence and rape.

There are two ways to respond to what is happening in Greece and reported in the above article. One way, the way I respond, is to cite the fact that people are being driven into prostitution by economic hardship as evidence that we need to abolish the economic inequality that leads to this economic hardship, because being forced into prostitution is a terrible social injustice akin to slavery.

Abolishing this economic hardship does not entail making prostitution illegal or supporting the terrible working conditions of prostitutes. Nor does it entail stigmatizing people who are driven into prostitution. In fact, I propose that we refer to prostitutes as “People Unjustly Driven by Economic Hardship into Prostitution” or, for short, “PUDEPs” in a manner analogous to the way academics refer to categories of people such as Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) or People With AIDS (PWA). Keep this in mind in what follows.

The other way to respond is the way that Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey and George Soros (who founded the “Open Society Foundations” mentioned in the article cited below) respond. It is the way that the liberal ideologues of the ruling class respond. It is the way that the people who are causing the economic hardship in Greece and elsewhere and who are imposing savage austerity that drives people into prostitution, respond. This response is discussed here in “Sex Workers, Oprah, and Hillary: Women Who Deliver.” The ruling class response to women being forced into prostitution is to say essentially this:

There is nothing wrong with being a prostitute. We should stop stigmatizing prostitutes by calling them prostitutes. We should call them ‘sex workers’ in the ‘sex worker industry’ and we should view occupation in this industry as no less legitimate and respectable than occupation in any other industry and we should view sex workers the same way we view teachers and electricians and hairdressers and autoworkers etc.The only problem in society in this regard is that sex workers don’t have good enough working conditions and they are wrongly oppressed by police who arrest them for prostitution when prostitution should not be a crime in the first place.

Aside from these problems, there is, with respect to the rise of prostitution in Greece, nothing bad happening at all. In fact, it is fortunate for the Greeks that the new and growing sex worker industry is thriving and offering employment to so many people who need jobs. This shows that the economic system we have is wonderful because it creates new industries to provide employment when necessary.

The liberal ruling class response is designed to deflect attention away from the wrongness of the economic inequality that causes the economic hardship that drives people into prostitution. The liberal elite hope that their support for better working conditions for prostitutes and their opposition to making prostitutes criminals under the law and their concern for not stigmatizing prostitutes will make people forget about the wrongness of the economic hardship that drives people into prostitution. They hope it will make people forget that the vast majority of prostitutes in the world do it only to survive, that they would otherwise never offer their bodies to be used for sex by strangers, and that they feel humiliated by having been forced into prostitution and don’t want their children to ever know what they do for a living.

The ruling elite are making an alliance with “sex worker activists” with an implicit deal: The elite will support making prostitution legal and improving working conditions for a minority of prostitutes, and in exchange the “sex worker activists” will never talk about the wrongness of the economic inequality of our society that drives most prostitutes involuntarily into prostitution.

What the ruling elite is doing is as if slave owners in the time of slavery in the United States had insisted that people call slaves “agricultural workers” in order not to stigmatize them, and insisted that there was nothing wrong with slavery, now called “agricultural work,” insisted that it should not be made illegal, and asserted that the only thing that needed to be done was to ensure that working conditions of “agricultural workers” be improved. How would the abolitionist movement have responded to THAT? The same way we should respond to the ruling elite’s “just call them ‘sex workers'” ploy.

Like the abolitionists during slavery, we should focus on abolishing the fundamental wrongness, which today is class inequality including its economic inequality. We should respond, in other words, as revolutionaries. This is precisely what the likes of Hillary Clinton want to prevent. They want us to think that the only choice in this context is between a) making prostitution illegal and keeping economic inequality or b) making prostitution a legal “respectable” occupation and keeping economic inequality. The revolutionary approach is to reject both of these ruling-class endorsed terrible alternatives.

What would “sex with strangers” be like in a genuine egalitarian society as described in Thinking about Revolution? Here’s what I think. People, first of all, would enjoy equally, according to need, all of the fruits of the economy–a “sharing economy not based on money”–if they contributed reasonably to it. What is a “reasonable contribution” is determined by their local assembly at which all who support equality and mutual aid are encouraged to attend and, as equals, make policy decisions such as what is a reasonable contribution. Some local assemblies might (who knows?) decide that offering sex to strangers, so many times a day, is a “reasonable contribution to the economy” and approve a certain number of people doing that. In such a community people who wanted to contribute this way could do so, and thereby share in the economy equally to all others. In a community that did not consider “sex for strangers on demand” to be a reasonable contribution to the economy but did not make it illegal, people could offer sex to strangers if they wished, but it wouldn’t be for money (there is no money in a sharing economy) but only because they wanted to do it, for free, as a “hobby” or whatever; their membership in the sharing economy (and right to take what they need from it) would be based on making some other reasonable contribution to it. In communities where people made sex with strangers on demand illegal it would be illegal. We may disagree about which kind of community we’d like to live in, but I hope we agree we wouldn’t want to live in one in which, like today, the powers-that-be tell certain people, “You must provide sex for strangers on demand or else you will starve.”

For more discussion of this issue, please go here and here.

 

This article was originally published at newdemocracyworld.org and was cross-posted with permission from the author.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan 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.

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  • BK

    Oh my god….”Aside from these problems, there is, with respect to the rise of prostitution in Greece, nothing bad happening at all. In fact, it is fortunate for the Greeks that the new and growing sex worker industry is thriving and offering employment to so many people who need jobs”

    This is just…so upsetting, so totally fucked up that my jaw is still on the floor. How do people convince themselves of these delusions? I don’t understand….

  • Morgan

    From the link with Oprah and Hillary in the title, one commenter asks to have the focus put on solutions to enable women to get out of prostitution, and the author of the article responds along the lines of that’s impossible, so why bother.

    Because there’s too much poverty, you can’t fix that, so might as well just make the existing inequalities easier to ignore, right?

  • sporenda

    The revolutionary response to prostitution has been the same since Marx: only a revolution can make it disappear.
    Unfortunately, many revolutions took place since Marx, and guess what: in most socialist countries, the situation of women was as bad, if not worse, than in capitalist countries. Prostitution thrived due to the poor economic performance of these regimes, wife beating continued, rape continued.
    The bottomline is, most socialist regimes were as lousy about women’s rights as about human rights.
    Socialism is a dudely concept, and no social utopia conceived by male brains is likely to solve female problems.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree that a purely economic solution won’t solve the problem of patriarchy, but I also agree with the point that a liberal solution is just to make the ‘best’ of a bad situation, excusing them of having to make any structural changes.

    • Vouchsafer

      there’s never been a truly socialist economy that’s been allowed a chance to develop. In every case its been prevented by things like trade embargoes and corruption.
      the opposite of capitalism isn’t socialism, anyway. It’s choosing to stop purchasing things that arent’ 100% essential to your own survival. meals in restaurants, cinema outings, thousand dollar coach handbags, all these purchases funnel money upwards to the capitalists, and this has allowed them the wherewithal to create the current global economy that oppresses and exploits so many, most of whom are women and children, and which is also decimating the environment.
      it also gives them the financial ground to stand on in order to lobby for things like legitimizing porn and prostitution and everything else that undercuts the dignity of human life. they want us to feel devalued so that we don’t take a stand in defence of ourselves.

    • Socialism is a dudely concept? How is the abolition of private property and worker control of the means of production “dudely”?

    • BK

      lol, huh? in the USSR, women were encouraged to become doctors when capitalist countries were still keeping women out of the workforce, particularly the professional workforce, and largely out of formal education. i’ve actually spoken with a woman who grew up in the USSR and she shared a very different opinion…which i’m sure is common as cold-war propaganda lingers on in north america

    • Sporenda, did you know that some of the ideas attributed to Marx and Engels were originally from Flora Tristan? There have been women socialists from the inception of the idea.

  • lizor

    This is a terrific piece. I like the way he unpacks and presents the current argument(s).

    However, I am tripping up over the “sex with strangers” wording, especially in his hypothetical scenario.

    Voluntary sex with strangers happens now and I suspect it always has. There is a vast difference between having sex with a stranger because you want to and having sex with a stranger that you do not want to. The latter is the “service” he proposes in the sharing economy. It’s still coercive sex if a person feels they must “provide” sex to people that they feel no sexual desire for, so it’s still prostitution.

    I suppose it’s possible that a person would feel that sex with people they find unattractive is the only or the best choice of contribution to one’s community. I’m just having a difficult time wrapping my head around it.

    • Laur

      I also had problems with that part. I am glad this piece got published; however, the author did not discuss sex inequality at all!! Men are getting hit by the economic crisis, but they’re still not prostituting themselves in anywhere near the numbers women are. It’s not just capitalism that needs to be dismantled; it’s inequality between the sexes.

    • As the author of the article in question, let me say, just for clarity, that the scenario of “sex for strangers” as one’s contribution to the sharing economy would entail a person saying (completely of their own voluntary accord, of course) to their local assembly, “I want to do such and such as my contribution to the sharing economy [they spell out whatever they have in mind] and the local assembly decides if they agree to have that count as one’s “reasonable contribution” to the sharing economy–everything is mutually voluntary, no coercion at all. I will add this to my article online.

      Also, I would like to point out that I agree with the comments here pointing out how ugly Communist and Socialist revolutions and societies are. In Thinking about Revolution that I link to in my article, co-authored by me and online at http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/thinking.pdf, I propose a sharing economy and a democracy that is based on entirely different ideas and values than those on which Marxism is based. I urge readers of this blog to read this document to see how revolution can and ought to be framed as having a goal very different from that of Marxists.

      –John

      • vouchsafer

        Halfway through reading Thinking about revolution, and coincidentally I’m in the process of writing up a business plan for a not for profit community service agri business designed specifically to give low income moms an opportunity to make money (childcare provided) with out having to resort to prostitution while at the same time providing them with healthy chemical free produce to take home to their families.
        Do you have a paradigm for the way your idea for assembly-run businesses would function? Would be interested in checking that out, or maybe it’s covered in the last half of the document

        • stephen m

          @vouchsafer: This may be of interest/help depending on your location. There is a nonprofit urban food coop in London, Ontario, Canada that has been active for over 40 years (very impressive!):
          The London Co-op Store
          http://londonfoodcoop.org

          There may still be some founding members who could help you with the issues involved with the teething pains of starting the type of operation you have in mind. Their charter may also be of help for a model.

          • Vouchsafer

            Thanks,

            I’ll look that up. cheers!

        • Hi Vouchsafer,

          I wish you the best in your non-profit effort. In reply to your question, I can’t add much more than what Dave Stratman and I wrote in Thinking about Revolution as far as how assembly run businesses would function. No doubt there would be a lot of trial and error and differing approaches over time and in different places, but within the general guidelines (I would hope) that we try to state. The key to making it work is to keep in mind that the good and decent people who take the Golden Rule seriously and therefore value equality and mutual aid need to take power and not let the selfish anti-social “Greedy Gusses” take power. Having the confidence and determination and clarity of purpose to do this is key; no formal “constitution” or anything is a substitute for that. When decent people (who I believe are a majority) have the actual power, they make decent decisions. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be trying to change the world. 🙂

      • stephen m

        @John Spritzler: Sorry, but I just can’t accept it on a real level. It just seems like the rhetoric of il-conceived revolution updated. Are there any pilot communities? How long have they been in operation? What problems have been encountered? Changes made to the doctrine through evolution of pilot communities?

        So as not to take up unnecessary space here, links are fine. Thanks

        • stephen m

          @John Spritzler: One other thing that bothers me a bit about your site newdemocracyworld. In the “Articles from the past” heading there are 60-70 articles and only *one* (1) is written by a woman!

        • Hi Stephen,

          I assume you don’t believe we should just give up and accept things as they are. But to build a movement to remove the plutocracy from power and end a system based on exploitation, people need to have a vision of what they are for. Merely knowing what one is against is not enough. As my adult son says, “People don’t get on a bus if they don’t know where it is going.” Thinking about Revolution is about key principles that make for a better society worth fighting for. If you think they are bad principles, then I probably cannot change your mind because they are about basic values. But people who share those values need to fight to shape society by them. As for examples in history, the bibliography has some good books about the Spanish Revolution, which is, to my knowledge, the best effort in modern times of working people to make an egalitarian society on a large (4 million or so people I believe) scale.

          Regarding gender of authors, my web site is one that was really just a place for my good friend, Dave Stratman, and me to post our articles. Only rarely did we post articles (not counting links to other web sites now) by others, and frankly we didn’t care if they were by a man or a woman.

          • stephen m

            @John Spritzler:

            “frankly we didn’t care if they were by a man or a woman”

            John this is a big problem and you may want to rethink this. You _should_ know that history has shown that women have frequently joined forces with other causes, then when the group action is over the women are ignored, abused and worse. Quite frankly they will not fall for this kind of arrogance again. They must be equal members with equal status throughout the whole process and after.

            Formenting a revolution is very much like building a plane. If it crashes some or all may be killed. So I am not likely to hop onto a plane (revolution) that has not been put in the windtunnel, prototypes built, tested, refined and then best of all shown that it can scale to much larger and more complex conditions, and of course proven to fly better than all the other planes. At the very least show me the refined prototypes that will fly better than the others.

    • Me

      I though the suggestion was strange too. It seemed like trying to force sex into an economic/commodity paradigm where it doesn’t belong. Economic justice is terribly important and the rest of the article was good, but not everything should or can be sensibly considered from an economic point of view. Exploitation of women in prostitution is largely made possible by economic injustice, but that doesn’t mean economics needs to be attached to sex beyond eliminating the exploitation and ensuring women can’t be coerced or pressured economically in their sexual relationships.

      Economics is a bit like the concept of production, which mostly in my view should be abandoned. Most things in my view are better conceptualized as something else than products and the relationship of people to them as something else than production. I think it would be perfectly well and good if most people didn’t “contribute to the economy” at all. Sure, one could argue that depends on one’s definition of economy, like if the economy meant one’s neighborhood and one’s community and immediate society of nonhumans as well as humans, then it would make some sense. But I think that’s a bit antithetical to economic thinking, so why not use better, more accurate words then that reflect the complexity of what we’re talking about? I think the value (to some) and power of economics as a belief system is that it enables exploitation by cutting out complexity and concern for anything other than the bottom line and a maximization of power and how it accounts for and fetishizes cost/return.

      • lizor

        I agree, Me. I think that a great deal of contemporary exploitation comes from the mind-set that sees complex relations as discreet commodities.

        I appreciate John’s clarification (thanks!), however I still don’t get the piece of a utopian imagining where someone makes that offer of “contribution to economy”.

        The more I think about this, the more I see how deeply fucked up, how socially unhealthy how just plain bizarre and twisted is prostitution as a social interaction. Offering “sex with strangers” I assume means, for the most part, offering to allow men one is unacquainted with to penetrate one’s body to enable their own orgasm. Then there are the other “services” provided by prostitutes, like “I contribute x number of hours pretending to be interested in someone who bores me; pretending to be aroused by someone who repels me; to be enthusiastically subservient to someone because they want to pretend to have power over someone.” and on and on. I can’t find a frame through which I can look at this that does not look profoundly toxic, so offering such “contributions” is not and never will be a part of my utopian vision.

        • Me

          I agree. I think there would have to be at first an unexamined–or much more likely, a misogynist–assumption and acceptance that prostitution is desirable. Then it could be further validated as “contributing to the economy” as well. It also contributes johns to the community which I really dislike.

          When I think of the things people in my neighborhood do to help each other, insofar as that happens, the help is not framed in terms of economics and economic contribution. Usually economics is pushed as far out of the picture as possible and anyone insisting on a money or clear economic value of the help risks standing out as odd or greedy. (Of course, there are deceitful greedy people who know how to play this way of “leaving money last” to bill dishonestly so to speak.) Instant reciprocation isn’t such a good thing. People who do the helping typically keep telling the one who’s being helped to think nothing of it, that they’re incurring no debt. To try to pay your way out of or otherwise “quantify” or measure the extent of your indebtedness and gratitude for the help you’ve been given is a form of insult. So the one who’s been helped sets out to creatively find ways to reward and help the helpers in turn (which turns attention back out to the community), always insisting just the same, that they’re acting out of their own kindness for no particular reason. I really like that arrangement. It feels natural, yet there’re commonly understood and unspoken expectations to it. It defies economics and it’s “inefficient” in a very good way. The further the global economy tanks, the further I’d like to see people and communities move in that direction. I think it would be a good adaptation to learning to live by less. I’ve had to learn it myself, and I find that newcomers often don’t get it at first as I didn’t. Another group who don’t get it are the dangerous hotheads who are looking for ways to integrate into the greater economy and further sell away “natural resources”, which I believe is the category slaves would come from. (No slaves to sell (or to pimp)? No prob! Just create the category and look what you have!) This is what I think setting eyes on economy leads to. Resources, efficiency, GDP, all that, followed by growth. All of which is not to say that inefficiency and idleness and “uneconomy” in things like trying to abolish prostitution is a good thing, but that they have their place in my vision of a healthy society.

        • Morgan

          In order for these to exist, an assumption of one’s entitlement to them would have to exist as well. No one would offer themselves up if there were not a practice of those willing to take such offers; and if it were a truly non-misogynist society, no man would feel entitled to a woman’s body. So the idea of *offering* your body as a service to the community would be completely absurd.

      • Izor, Me and Morgan,

        The scenario I described assumes the sharing economy described in more detail in Thinking about Revolution ( http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/thinking.pdf ) which 1) is not based on money and 2) is not about producing commodities (i.e. products or services that are sold for money. So when I described how “sex for strangers” might take place in this sharing economy I was not inserting “sex for strangers” into an “economic/commodity paradigm”; I was in fact EXTRACTING it from such an economy by inserting it, instead, into a “sharing, moneyless, no rich and no poor equality paradigm,” which is what is revolutionary in my response to prostitution.

        In other words I was trying to imagine what it would be like for a person who wanted to have routine sex with strangers in a truly egalitarian non-capitalist commodity economy society. None of the scenarios involve anybody having sex for money, or having sex in order to survive (since even in the first scenario a person is free to contribute to the economy in any way they wish; they would only do it by having sex with strangers if they wanted to) or having sex because somebody made them. It is indeed very likely that nobody would want to have sex with strangers routinely, in which case nobody would in the scenarios I described.

        If somebody did, however, want to have sex with strangers routinely (among billions of people there would probably be a least one such person, no?) then how do YOU think it should be for that person? My scenario allowed for some local communities to make it illegal and some to make it legal, depending on how people in those communities felt. What would YOU say?

        • Me

          I don’t think any community should sanction prostitution. It needs to be opposed whether abolitionists are in the minority or not. “Sex with strangers” is an entirely different matter. I thought the economic perspective you took at the end of your article muddled that.

          I’m not opposed to people trying to run the industries and businesses they work in, but I still think the industrial machine needs to be stopped entirely. So long as fossil fuels and electricity are available as they are, their production and use are going to wreck the planet and will kill us off. We don’t seem to be too far off human extinction anyway, probably happens in my lifetime unless we make a miracle of stopping the machine yesterday. I still hold as an inspiration the things I’ve read of the Spanish Anarchists, I still like a lot of the ideas behind Michael Albert’s Parecon model, but I’m convinced the exploitation is inherent in civilization itself, which I’m not interested in saving. It’s not a question of whether there are decent people running it–running it they can’t be decent in their actions. Decent people can’t run an institution like prostitution either. I don’t want a kinder prostitution in prostitution’s place, I want it out. It seems no matter what we do, we are going to devolve into some form of lower-level living anyway and that’s a good thing. The question is what and whom are there going to be left here to live and also for us to live with? I’m also really worried that the change from as of now a somewhat falling apart economy into a non-functioning one is going to see a lot more migonyny as men try to make women pay through things like sexual and domestic slavery, battery and rape. That’s a big one, because that’s where men’s anger is going to turn. Even at a lower level we’ll still be living under patriarchy that needs to be stopped. So for me revolution isn’t the goal, stopping the industrial patriarchal machine is.

        • lizor

          John,

          Now I am more confused than ever. Some questions:

          In your column you wrote “Some local assemblies might (who knows?) decide that offering sex to strangers, so many times a day, is a “reasonable contribution to the economy” ”

          Then you in your earlier comment you explained that “sex with strangers” may be offered and “the local assembly decides if they agree to have that count as one’s “reasonable contribution” to the sharing economy” which you now claim is not “an economic/commodity paradigm”.

          Just because cash is removed from the equation and “the assembly” rules on the value of this “contribution” does not de-commodify it. It’s still an economy with value assigned by the group, just like capitalism.

          It’s not at all hard to image a person who would like to have sex with strangers. I have met more men than I care to think of who want to have sex with strangers. Bro culture is rife with this trope of not knowing or wanting to know her name. Many johns have sex with prostitutes in part because they don’t want to have to deal with all of that grown-up shit of actually knowing and therefore being responsible to the person whose body they are using to get themselves off. “Sex with strangers”, as you call it, is as common as dirt, not some mythical possibility within a rich template of community contribution.

          I also see a bit of a conundrum here. I ask you John: once a man you do not know has penetrated you with his penis and had an orgasm inside you, is he, by definition, still a stranger?

          Also, how does this “contribute” to the group? If I want to only have sex with people I’ve never met, how does that contribute anything to anyone except me and possibly (but not necessarily) the person I have sex with?

          What exactly is being “contributed” to the community in your proposed scenario?

          • Me

            Not trying to answer for John, but I keep thinking of contributions like the shattered psyches of the prostitutes, predatory male behavior and the whole patriarchal male/female gender hierarchy.

          • Morgan

            This is so much better than any response I could come up with.

            I’d also add that “sex with a stranger” is a very different experience to a man than it is to a woman, since a woman bears all the consequences (socially, biologically, physically, mentally, etc.), even if we lived in some sort of utopian society. Women’s biology makes them more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, and if PIV=sex then pregnancy is a constant risk/threat, because no birth control is 100% safe. (In my idea of a utopian society PIV=/=sex, and hormonal contraceptives would be a hell of a lot safer ie. no side effects. Funny how messing with hormones can mess you up, almost like we shouldn’t be messing with them.)

            So as much as we’d like to pretend everyone would be equals in some post-revolution society, we can’t erase reproductive differences NO MATTER WHAT. We can’t erase that women always get the shit end of the stick with PIV sex, even if the woman orgasms that way (which to my knowledge, without also stimulating the clitoris, is not the majority of women). I cannot ignore this when looking at “sex with strangers.” Women are burdened with worrying about contraception because men don’t get pregnant, men are not the primary caretakers of children, men are not the ones primarily blamed when children are neglected or otherwise not taken care of, men are not the ones expected to stay at home and raise a child if one parent must do so. Women’s lives are far more impacted by pregnancy than a man’s; I can’t see men suddenly stepping up because of a revolution, because they never, ever have after past revolutions.

  • Ivan Sorensen

    It’s worth noting that as much as the soviet societies were still rooted in old social conservative sentiments, the status of women improved unimaginably in all of them. From the old peasant society, to a society where women could get an education, hold jobs, could initiate divorce, where daycares were everywhere and where society actively attempted to even things out.
    This doesn’t mean they were perfect countries,and noone wants an authoritarian government, but considering how poor they were, we simply have no excuse.

    A poster up-thread mentions prostitution still existing, but this, at least for the USSR, was a phenomenom brought about in large by the fiscal reforms that introduced concepts like unemployment, inflation and job losses.

    Looking at other implementations of socialism, such as the social democracies of Scandinavia, it is again, no wonder at all that women hold far more equal roles in society.

    Capitalism is based absolutely on a hierachy of owners and workers,and the nature of women as unpaid workers in private and underpaid workers in public is an absolutely essential part of maintaining that hierachy.

  • sporenda

    ” that a liberal solution is just to make the ‘best’ of a bad situation, excusing them of having to make any structural changes.”

    Structural changes are needed, but one has to take into account the reality of socialism once it’s implemented concretely in a particular country, and not just a bunch on theories and lofty words on paper.
    In reality, socialism has always created worse economic conditions than capitalism. I am not a worshipper of capitalism by any means, but that’s a fact.
    Another fact is the disastrous human rights record of socialism (not in its watered down capitalistic version of social democracy of course)and the number of bloody civil wars, gulags, police states, and general curfew on basic freedoms like freedom of expression etc (freedom of expression is not an absolute but still.
    Historically, what you get in socialist regimes is a new elite in power, just as tyrannical and oppressive as the capitalist elites. Socialist elites are bureaucratic, capitalist elites are ploutocratic, that’s the main difference.

    Male ideologues have promised equality to women’s for decades, womens rights being supposed to m following the Revolution. Well, modern socialism is now nearly 2 centuries old, and wherever it was implemented, it never changed a darn thing in women’s condition.

  • sporenda

    Sorry, wrong move:

    Male socialist ideologues have promised equality to women’s for decades, as womens rights were supposed to happen magically following the Revolution.

    Well, modern socialism is now nearly 2 centuries old, and wherever it was implemented, it never changed a darn thing in women’s condition.
    This is how generations of women were dissuaded to support women’s movements, and pressured into supporting men’s movements instead: they were told that they did not need a feminist movement of their own to further their aims, the Socialist Revolution would take care of everything.

    And in the meantime, they were required to invest all their energies in those male movements and to wait patiently: their turn would come but men’s goals had to come first.
    Behind all the lofty, pie in the sky verbiage, socialism has been just another way for males to divert female energies and to extract more free work and logistic/emotional support from women.

  • Ivan Sorensen

    Sporanda – capitalism has had 300 years to eliminate patriarchy. Let me know how that is coming along.

    Let us know how liberalism plans to end prostitution and unpaid housework, how the free market will stop pornography, how rich men in the senate will end the rape culture.

    • Missfit

      Neither capitalism nor liberalism in themselves will end that. Only feminism can.

      • What exactly is the “feminist” vision of a good society in which prostitution will be ended, and how is it different from capitalism or actually existing (or formerly existing) Communist or Socialist societies? How also is it different from what is discussed in Thinking about Revolution (www.newdemocracyworld.org/thinking.pdf )?

        • Before you ask this question you should first explain how you would go about abolishing the nation state since this must be achieved first before any communities can take care of the needs of their members.

        • Missfit

          Whatever the economic system in place, inequality between the sexes can quite still persist. Whatever the economic class a woman belongs to, she can still be oppressed, by family, culture/religion, language. If women receive the message that a contribution expected of them is to sexually service men (‘have sex with strangers’), if community decisions end up falling mainly in the hands of men, women will still end up being second class citizens, subservient to men. I did not read the whole of Thinking about Revolution (I’ll do so with pleasure when I’ll have more time); I liked the ideas it contains. I did not see that gender relations were specifically discussed though. Patriarchy will not magically disappear if some of its assumptions are not directly addressed. This is why feminism is essential whatever the revolution.

  • riv

    I don’t read articles written by men who blame women for the problems affecting women. Oprah and Hilary Clinton eh. Sure.

    • Christine

      I cannot agree: just because Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton are women doesn’t mean they’re not neo-liberal shills. Besides, the author isn’t blaming those two for the questionable aims of Half the Sky. He levels the blame more directly — and rightly so — at Goldman Sachs.

      I share stephen m’s disapproval of the dearth of women authors on newdemocracyworld.org (brought up earlier in this thread). Nevertheless, I found the Half the Sky article incisive and worthwhile reading. Of course you don’t have to read it if it annoys you from the outset, but IMHO, you’re missing out.

  • Hecuba

    Typical male-centric views of what supposedly constitutes an ‘egalitarian society’ one wherein men would continue to demand and expect sexual access to female bodies.

    ‘Sex with a stranger’ is euphemism for prostitution or rather prostitutors because prostitution was created by men for mens’ sexual benefit.

    This male writer presumes that all women were specifically created for male sexual consumption and hence in a male-defined ‘egalitarian system’ men would no longer have to purchase women’s bodies because women would supposedly be sexually available to men 24/7.

    Men who supposedly advocate a more equal/egalitarian system consistently ignore/refuse to accept that if the male dominant system were to be eradicated this would mean elimination of male pseudo sex right to female bodies. No longer would women believe and accept mens’ lie that we are merely ‘sex’ whereas men are ‘human.’

    Why would women wish to engage in male-centric ‘sex’ with a strange male? Answer because this is what all women are ‘just sex to men’ not autonomous human beings. So let’s reverse the situation what if women were to ‘engage in sex with a male stranger but wherein it is the woman’s sexual pleasure which is paramount and the male body merely exists to service her sexual pleasure.’ Why that would be outrageous because men aren’t dehumanised sexual service stations. Why would any male submit to be sexually used by a woman, given he is an autonomous human being. Note I say ‘sexually used’ because men believe ‘sex’ is only ‘sex’ when and if the male initiates and controls exactly what sexual acts will occur and they are always ones wherein the male sexual pleasure is paramount. This is ‘sex’ according to the male mindset.

    So therefore this male’s claim that ‘sex with a stranger’ would continue is a lie because this male like most males believes all males have the right, if they choose to engage in phallocentric sex with a woman whenever they wish. This is why men cannot even begin to imagine what an egalitarian system would look like because it would mean elimination of male pseudo sex right to female bodies and that is something men cannot even begin to imagine!

    I have no doubt it is Greek women and girls who are the ones being forced into prostitution not men and boys. I have no doubt men are involved in prostitution but they are the pimps and brothel owners not the ones having their bodies penetrated by innumerable other males. So the claim ‘forcing many into prostitution’ is deliberate male speak because it is essential how the dynamics of male socio-economic power over women must always remain hidden. Whilst Greek males are being affected by Greece’s socio-economic situation; it is always women who are the ones ‘forced into prostitution in order to earn a pittance to survive.’ Men are commonly the ones controlling women in prostitution not the reverse but that fact must never be openly stated. Instead ‘egalitarianism supposedly exists wherein men too in vast numbers supposedly sell their bodies to other males in order to survive!

    • Hecuba writes, “”sex with a stranger’ is a euphemism for prostitution…” and writes as if the circumstances in which it happens make absolutely no difference–it’s still prostitution no matter what.

      But according to this logic, whenever a person wishes to have sex with a stranger he or she is wishing to be a prostitute. What if a very rich woman, a billionaire let’s say, wanted to have sex with a guy she saw whom she didn’t know personally at all. Let’s say she does in fact have sex with him, just because she wants to, and it has absolutely nothing to do with her needing or wanting anything at all that the guy will or might give her (except the sex itself, I guess.) Is the woman then a prostitute? Or is she just sexually promiscuous?

      Doesn’t the concept of prostitution involve having sex with a person with whom one would not choose to have sex _except_ for the fact that one needs or wants the payment that one will receive in exchange for having sex with the person? If there is no expected payment, is it prostitution?

      In the sharing economy I describe (see http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/thinking.pdf), there is no money, and no payment for anything; products and services are given freely. In the society I describe it is a democracy based on local community assemblies of those who support equality and mutual aid making the laws. There is no higher body telling local communities what laws they must or cannot make. The only exception to this is that if some communities (the A communities) judge other communities (the B communities) to be counter-revolutionary because they are doing something that attacks the principles of equality and mutual aid (e.g. enslaving some people or carrying out child abuse, etc.) then the A communities may, if they judge it appropriate, forcibly–even violently– prevent the B communities from doing the bad things. But other than this, the communities rely on voluntary federation and each community makes its own laws.

      So, Hecuba, what would you do if you found out that another community (call it B) allowed (not demanded, but ALLOWED) a person to be a member of the sharing economy on the basis of his or her “reasonable contribution” to the economy being to have sex with strangers for free, within parameters mutually agreed upon by the community and the person offering sex with stangers? (Keep in mind there are lots of OTHER ways a person can make a reasonably contribution to the economy. The question is what if a person wanted very much for “sex with strangers” to be their way of contributing?) Would you urge your community to use violence if necessary to prevent the B community from adopting this policy? Would you insist that if a person in the B community did in fact do what the community allowed them to do, they were being forced into prostitution?

      I think I would vote in my own community to not accept “sex with strangers” as a “reasonable contribution to the economy”; but I don’t think I would go to war against another community if they did accept it. Would you?

      I don’t think it is a good idea to have sex with strangers. But if a person wanted to do it on their own time (not as part of the sharing economy) I don’t think I’d make it illegal. Would you?

      You can say that there is not and would never be a person who genuinely wished to have sex with strangers aside from any “payment.” But I met “sex worker activists” at the International AIDS Meeting last June who insisted that they loved having sex with strangers. What if one of them was actually telling the truth?

      • Me

        I think these examples you’re giving are completely ridiculous.

        If you cannot distinguish prostitution as an institution of subordinating women and enforcing patriarchal gender oppression–this prostitution that is also a system of turning women’s bodies into economic resources which we have also been critical of–from the sexual lives of liberated women, why should we think our abolitionist vision is in any way accounted for in your model?

  • sporenda

    “Every econmic system designed by men–wether capitalism, communism or socialism–is designed to defend male ownbership of the bodies and labor of women”.
    John Stoltenberg, “Refusing to be a Man” (recommended reading for any committed radfem!) .

    Whether the ownership is individual/capitalistic, or state/collectivist doesn’t make any difference: in socialism as well as capitalism, it’s still males that are the dominant class, wether they rule as heads of states or heads of companies.

    • Ivan Sorensen

      I agree that every model is based on the lived experience of those who create the model, but if you reject both capitalism and socialism as economic models, what do you propose as an economic model for an egalitarian society?

  • marv

    Though capitalism exacerbates prostitution it did not invent this form of violence against women. Patriarchy did, thousands of years ago, making it older than capitalism. Granted, economic inequality was always a causal factor of prostitution from the start but so was the sexual abuse of girls by males. As well many civilizations greatly valued prostitution as an integral part of high culture: sacred prostitution for instance (see The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner) and upper class prostitution. Moreover, colonization and racism were primary causes of indigenous women and women of colour in prostitution, not capitalism alone.

    No matter how little or much the Left sympathizes with women’s sex and race class interests it does not treat them with the same status as economic class. At most, feminism is perceived as a movement within the primary cause of economic justice – an uneven marriage so to speak like the institution of marriage itself.

    The Nordic method for eradicating prostitution and porn along with a Guaranteed Liveable Income for everyone are concrete and practical steps toward ending patriarchy and capitalism. Nordic policy (which involves substantial financial support for former prostitutes) has been quite successful in countries like Sweden in reducing women’s human rights violations. It and a GLI should be the thin edge of the wedge in anti-capitalist movements to bring about a more inclusive and realistic equality revolution. The Occupy Movement failed entirely in this respect. The potential for Nordic abolition and a GLI to have a radical ripple effect globally cannot be over estimated. The former teaches that women are not sex objects for men. The latter undermines capital’s doctrines of competition, value, merit and defining work. It would give people in groups the option of dropping out of the economic system’s oppressive production process completely so that they could determine their own definitions of labour, rest, recreation and economies. Therefore it is not a bourgeois remedy. Most other approaches to social transformation are deficient and esoteric because they are conceived by men instead of rad-fems’ collectives with pro-feminist solidarity.

  • sporenda

    As usual, Dworkin says it all:

    “Virtually all ideologies are implicitly antifeminist in that women are sacrificed to higher goals: the higher goal of reproduction, the higher goal of pleasure, the higher goal of a freedom antipathetic to the freedom of women, the higher goal of better conditions for workers not women…”

    • marv

      Exceedingly so! You remind me of her. Maybe there is something to reincarnation after all 🙂

  • wiley

    From a meta perspective, normalizing prostitution without challenging the inequality and patriarchal privilege that makes prostitution a perennial institution is important and very valuable; but it’s also important to recognize that women who engage in prostitution often have a choice between making money by selling access and living on the streets where they would surely experience forcible rape and the threat of it as a normal and unrelenting experience. I once read that a woman living on the street is statistically likely to be raped within three days.

    Criminalizing the women adds an additional burden on women who could more easily work their way out of prostitution without a criminal record. The record essentially pins a scarlet “P” of “W” to their chest for all time. Also, once a person is homeless, finding employment or a safe place to stay becomes extremely difficult— especially when that person is a woman who would be dismissed as a woman of low moral character, justifying discrimination toward her and “treating her like a whore”.

    A lot of women only prostitute as long as they need to until they find another way of supporting themselves. As long as the economic deck is stacked against women, it makes sense for some women to make higher wages than they’d get for doing anything else until they can find a better way to support themselves. When survival has been brought to that level, it’s understandable that an individual woman would value the pragmatic over the political. In that regard, I think it is valuable when women in powerful positions express the desire to decriminalize prostitution and to give women who are prostituting full protection under the law. The two different perspectives can be considered simultaneously as short and long-term solutions.