Femen was founded and is controlled by a man. Exactly zero people are surprised

Femen, aka, CLASSICAL FEMINISM IS DEAD ALSO LOOK AT OUR BOOOOOBS, turns out to have been founded and controlled by a man named Victor Svyatski.

Outed by Australian film-maker Kitty Green, she says: “It’s his movement and he hand-picked the girls. He hand-picked the prettiest girls because the prettiest girls sell more papers. The prettiest girls get on the front page… that became their image, that became the way they sold the brand.”

I swear I don’t want to go all “I TOLD YOU SO SUCKERS” but seriously. We talked about this.

We talked about the fact that the whole point of Femen was to capture the male gaze, thereby capturing the attention of the media. We talked about the fact that we should be skeptical “anytime anyone makes reference to a “new face of feminism” and that face is either lingerie, something about pole dancing, or boobs.” We talked about the fact that “if a dude posts a photo of boobs and tells you it’s feminism, it’s not.”

All feminists who are smart and unfooled by the self-objectification-is-empowerment crap and who haven’t come down with a bad case of burlesque-brain like the rest of the third wave also knew better than to fall for the Femen garbage. So now is the time we all join together and rub this news obnoxiously in the faces of every dumbo who fell for this crap. WE TOLD YOU AND WE ARE RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING FOREVER AND ALWAYS. Oh do we sound gloaty? Do you not like that? DON’T CARE. Feminism needs smarty-pants gloaters more than porn-loving FEMINISM IS ABOUT LOOKING HOT AND SEXY AND DOING WHAT WE WANT FUCK YEAH mush-brains. Also! Feminism isn’t here to give you a boner. If it is giving you a boner you may want to question whether or not that’s because this “feminism” is actually porn in a very sexy nurse outfit shoddy disguise.

Green recently made a documentary about Femen (which is currently screening at the Venice Film Festival); leading her to discover Svyatski’s influence over the group. He sounds like a real gem, too.

The Independent reports that “Initially, Mr Svyatski refused to allow Ms Green to film him but she was determined that he should feature” and quoted Green as saying: “It was a big moral thing for me because I realized how this organization was run. He was quite horrible with the girls. He would scream at them and call them bitches.” “He is Femen,” she said.

Svyatski admits, in the film, that maybe somewhere in his “deep self-conscious,” he started Femen to “get girls” and seems to think the women are incapable of doing feminist activism without his leadership.

Creepily, one Femen activist in the film is said to have compared the relationship between the women and Svyatski as being like a kind of “Stockholm syndrome.” You know, like when a bond forms between victim and abuser? Or like how people who have been kidnapped develop an emotional connection to their captor?

COOL, RIGHT?

New headline: “Abusive man sells new brand of feminism under banner of boobs. All media falls for it, as per usual.”

Subhead: “Dear media, stop selling us out. Love, actual feminism.”

Pay close attention to this one, defenders of “Go Topless Day,” Slutwalk, “feminist porn,” burlesque, and sex-work-is-an-empowering-and-sexy-choice-for-sexy-empowered-women. Feminism isn’t a sexy thing to look at. Nor is it a brand. Feminism isn’t fun and sexy despite the fact that many fun and sexy feminists exist. The fun and sexy part is maybe a sidebar, but it isn’t the main event. The main event is a lot of decidedly unsexy activism and law-changing and fighting and hard conversations. The main event is about ending violence against women and rape and incest and objectification and harassment and the practice of men paying to abuse women and girls under the guise of free speech and all that very, very unsexy stuff that dudes don’t like taking pictures of or jacking off to.

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

  • MLM

    “Feminism needs smarty-pants gloaters more than porn-loving FEMINISM IS ABOUT LOOKING HOT AND SEXY AND DOING WHAT WE WANT FUCK YEAH mush-brains”.

    YES! Though I have to admit I feel like a bit of a mush-brain myself – I actually bought into the idea that FEMEN, at least, started out as woman-led group of activists with feminist goals, for all that I may have disagreed with about them… unbelievable.

    Dear Third Wave,

    Feminism needs to be standing up firmly for women, not down on all fours in a porny dickpleasing pose to make dudes like it.

    Love, feminists who are brave enough not to be the fun kind.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You are not a mush-brain! Many of the non-mush-brains believed they had good intentions, albeit misguided ones. The mush-brains are the ones who bought (and tried to sell) this as THE NEW HOT SEXY FEMINISM, hook, line, and sinker.

      And you are so right. It does take courage not to be the fun kind of feminist. Everyone wants the sexy feminism to be the real feminism because it’s easy and unchallenging and titillating. TOO FREAKIN BAD.

      • riv

        Yes, we blogged about this, although not naming the dude, we knew it had been and was connected to the other group using women in such disgusting ways, stuffing supermarket chickens publicly up their vaginas, in full site of a child of one of them, on camera with the man giving her instructions how to do it. She was so obviously drugged, and constantly seen to be seeking direction and affirmation from him.

        One of the anarchists on the periphery of our movement parted company with us over our assertion this was pimping and abusing the women, not heroic nor radical. (Since, anarchists generally have outed themselves as the women-haters and users they are — DGR men).

        His cartoons are still used by some online feminists who apparently don’t know what Rancom is, or don’t care.

      • Vouchsafer

        What I think would be funny would be a ‘real’ radfem protest running along side one of these topless fun fem fiascos. I don’t know what it would be, a flash-mob-style street acting troupe that popped out of the crowd to stage a one minute live vignette depicting the foolery of the whole, “Tee hee look at my boobies” depiction of women in a caustically intelligent way, perhaps running alongside a Maxim photoshoot for the old compare and contrast, but I would love to be a part of shoving that one into mainstream society’s face.
        Once again, some capitalist making money off of convincing women to act in a manner that corroborates thier portrayal of us as brainless nymphos is no surprise to me.

  • Pingback: Femen, un paradoxe sur deux seins | feminada()

  • sporenda

    Love it, a joy to read, pure, unadulterated ball busting feminism (as it should be!:-) Thanks Meghan.
    And yes, I am going to gloat and rub it in, it was all so obvious.
    Femen had “male guru” written all over it.

    The pro-Femen feminists’ take was that these girls was that the Femen were a breath of fresh air in old musty Second Wave feminism, that they managed to make feminism visible in the news again, that men finally paid attention, that they were arrested by Putin’s henchmen, so they had to be doing something right, etc.

    But …
    Only a male could organize a major propaganda operation around the idea that young pretty girls showing their boobs amounts to a feminist manifesto.
    From what I have heard, there are also males (porn producers) behind some of the slut walks.
    Only a male could send bare breasted women to face dangerous police forces in a remote place of a dictator run country, with no concern whatsoever for their safety and the various harms they would be exposed to.
    Pure commando tactic, militaristic approach, women treated as “canon fodder”: the likelihood that it could be conceived by a female is near zero.

  • lizor

    It’s hard not to be hoodwinked into embracing this bullshit, given that we don’t have a template for navigating this new frontier of web 2.0 where it is far more difficult to obtain concrete fact and much easier to construct our own personal comfortable version of reality.

    I just finished reading my last Fay Weldon novel – I used to really enjoy her writing in the early 1980s and have not read her since then. It seems she has taken a staunch and, sadly, enticingly written position that all that feminism is too hard and not fun and women should just lighten up and give into male supremacy, what with being a good servant and prostitute getting you more in the immediate than living in resistance to the immense and ubiquitous pressures to do just that.

    Thanks again Meghan, from my heart to yours, for holding up the torch for us. I am so relieved to hear about this filmmaker and her work.

    • lizor

      This comment was meant to be in reply to MLM above.

      Question for riv 4:47am; are Pussy Riot and Femen connected/the same group? I understood the chicken stunt (and others to triggering to mention) were Pussy Riot demos.

      • riv

        They are connected but not the same, both groups are/were run by “anarchist” males. I contend the women in both are prostituted, shell-shocked and stockholmed. They are probably doing it for food and shelter as much as to please some pimp/boyfriend until eventually, doing it to survive male “anarchist” (what pukes anarchists are) violence.

  • riv

    http://www.vice.com/read/A-Russian-Pussy-Riot

    This, among other sexual exploitation anarchist apologist posts linked from Rancon (Facebook). Complicated! But awesome and inspiring! “These girls have really got it”.

    http://www.vice.com/read/A-Russian-Pussy-Riot

    “Our opinion on Femen is a complicated story. On one hand, they exploit a very masculine and sexist rhetoric in their protests—men want to see aggressive naked girls attacked by cops. On the other hand, their energy and the ability to keep on going no matter what, is awesome and inspiring: One day they are in Switzerland scaling the fence of the World Economic Forum and the next day they are in Moscow attacking the HQ of Russia’s biggest Natural Gas producer. And even after they were tortured and humiliated by KGB agents in Belarus, they vowed to keep on fighting even harder. Energy is very important these days; Street groups in Europe and America often lack power, but these girls have really got it.”

  • Kate Zen

    Thanks Megan – for your very entertaining post. Yes! FEMEN’s demonstrations have been very unconvincing, to say the least, as a form of “feminism.” I wonder if the hand-picked FEMENists included those outside of Europe, some of whom seemed to identify with the cause. In particular, I wonder about Amina Tyler, from Tunisia, and her message about the repression of Muslim women. Was Amina hand-picked by Victor Svyatski as well? Or did the phenomenon of boob-activism begin to snowball with a life of its own? Who was recruited, and who were the people who became attracted to this form of demonstration, and joined on their own? How does this speak to the strategies of FEMEN as well as the spirit of the times, which is different for women living in different contexts?

    (I wrote a little about Amina here: http://www.policymic.com/articles/30856/amina-tyler-tunisian-girl-outrages-islamic-authority-with-nude-facebook-photos)

    I also wanted to comment on your very anti-sex-work stance. I’ve listened to some of your previous podcasts and read your previous blogposts condemning sex work. Interestingly, you and FEMEN have the same stated objective of ending the sexual exploitation of women by opposing sex work. I identify strongly as a sex work activist and a feminist, though like you, I am troubled by “mushy-brained” “feminism” that caters to a male gaze/sexuality. However, I think that your understandings of sex work are limited by some of your judgments, which may not be fully conscious of the ways in which sex workers/prostitutes/people in “the life” make use of sex work as a way to empower themselves in much more oppressive economic situations. Sex work is not sexy – sex work is work. And for those of us who do sex work, we may be just as angry at the “male gaze” and sense of entitlement, and even hate the sex industry, but what we hate more is the exploitative system of wage slavery that is so unequal in different circumstances. And criminalising sex workers or our clients only makes conditions worse for the people involved – it is not the solution to the aims that you claim to have.

    The sex worker activist community has been very critical of FEMEN for quite some time now. It would be interesting to speak further with you about the differences between FEMEN and porn/burlesque Third Wave politics, and the more nuanced arguments of sex work as labor.

    • scaldingmay

      ” And for those of us who do sex work, we may be just as angry at the “male gaze” and sense of entitlement, and even hate the sex industry, but what we hate more is the exploitative system of wage slavery that is so unequal in different circumstances.”
      You obviously don’t know anything about the Nordic Model, which Meghan has written about extensively. It offer exiting programs for prostituted women to make a living. And no one here has argued that prostitution isn’t work, only that it’s not “just a job like any other.” I don’t understand your point, are you saying that male violence is bad but there are worse things to worry about and we shouldn’t have women centered activism?

      “which may not be fully conscious of the ways in which sex workers/prostitutes/people in “the life” make use of sex work as a way to empower themselves in much more oppressive economic situations”
      “Sex work” (which is a craptastic term because it masks how prostitution et. al is a sex based oppression against women) can never be empowering under a patriarchy, because all women are considered whores. Seriously, we really need to get away from this idea that all prostituted women, no matter their level of poverty or history of sexual abuse, really enjoy “sex work” and prefer it to other jobs. This so called empowerment is trauma bonding and once again indicative of sex based oppression.

      • Felicity

        Actually, sex work can be enjoyable. You do not get the right to speak for all sex workers. I was in the industry for many years, by choice. I had other careers and chose to return to sex work as well. I also worked in NZ, pre and post decriminalisation.

        Decriminalisation works very very well. The so called Nordic model doesn’t work for sex workers or their clients, it just makes it more dangerous and wrongfully punishes them.

        Trauma bonding??? Oh please. What rubbish. How about taking on board the idea that as a feminist I have the right to choose what I do with my body without your ignorant ideaology intefering.

        • Meghan Murphy

          As someone who has experience with trauma bonding, I assure you, it is not “rubbish.”

        • lizor

          Felicity:

          1) Where did Meghan claim to “speak for all sex workers”? Nowhere. Quit making it up.

          2) Please cite a concrete example of how Meghan’s “ideology” has interfered with your choice of what to do with your body.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s amazing how much power bloggers have over other women’s bodies. #Bloglaw

          • Felicity

            “Pay close attention defenders of sex-work-is an empowering-choice-for-sexy-empowered-women”. That pretty much covers all sex workers.

            Since I don’t live my life around Meghan’s ideology it hasn’t interfered with my body.Also I’m lucky enough to live in NZ. But there are plenty if sex workers in Scandinavia whose lifes are significantly more difficult because of the Nordic model which Meghan enthusiastically espouses.

            Some people may experience trauma bonding. It isn’t an inevitable effect of sex work.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ah, New Zealand — a great example of how legalization has failed horribly.

            And the “trauma bonding” referenced in the article had nothing to do with sex work — it was a quote from a Femen organizer. What are you talking about?

          • Felicity

            Failed horribly? How exactly? I worked here pre and post decriminalisation and it was much improved post. Even before, it was a mostly safe environment. It is now one of the best places in the world for sex workers.

            What are you talking about?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Prostitution and trafficking have gone up — including child prostitution. Violence has not decreased. There is still a HUGE “underground” (illegal) industry. It is certainly not “one of the best places in the world” for prostituted women — particularly poor women/girls, brown women/girls, and immigrants/illegal immigrants. http://www.equalitynow.org/sites/default/files/Does_Legalizing_Prostitution_Protect_Women_and_Girls_EN.pdf

          • MLM

            This change of heart by Georgina Beyer, who pushed for the current legislation in NZ, seems significant too…

            “The world’s first transsexual mayor, former street prostitute Georgina Beyer, admitted yesterday she was naive when the trade was legalised.

            At a passionate public forum in Papatoetoe yesterday, South Auckland residents berated MPs for not addressing the notorious street prostitution problems around Hunters Corner.

            MPs from National, Labour and New Zealand First spoke. Beyer, a former Carterton mayor and Labour MP who championed the push to decriminalise sex work a decade ago, said lawmakers glossed over the issue. “We thought, naively, that with the liberalisation of prostitution, that it would not be desirable necessarily to be a street worker.”

            http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10875922

          • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

            There is no arguing with the “I’m all right, Jack” position, of course, but still, some facts speak by themselves:

            (March 27, 2013)- “Prostitutes as young as 13 are earning up to $600 a night in South Auckland, says an MP who will be at a meeting called by community leaders to discuss an “outbreak” of underage street workers in the area.
            (…)
            The increasing number of underage prostitutes on the streets in Otara from Thursday to Saturday nights has shocked residents in the area.
            http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10873870

          • Felicity

            That source is heavily on the side of getting rid of all sex workers in the guise of stopping trafficking. It does not cite the demographics it spoke to when canvassing opinions. So if they chose as interviewees only people who had sought police or medical help, of course the views would be negative. This is a common tactic for gathering ‘accurate’ statistics’ on sex workers.

            Show me figures that demonstrate trafficking has increased. The last ones I saw said there has been no increase whatsoever. As for an increase in sex workers, how is that negative? If you support people who choose to enter the industry and they are doing so because they no longer face legal repercussions, that’s not a problem.

            Georgina is talking about one area of the industry- streetwork-as opposed to the alternatives. She is not saying sex work is all undesirable.

            The sex industry is like any labour market. Some people do really well, some love the job, some just want the money, some would rather do something else. Some people are trafficked, same as domestic or farm labour. It does not make the job or industry in itself a bad thing.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Getting rid of all sex workers”? How do ya figure? Are you referencing the Nordic model? Because that model is focused on criminalizing the johns and holding men accountable for their actions. Not “getting rid of sex workers.”

            “As for an increase in sex workers, how is that negative?” Again — you’re manipulating both what I’ve said and what the research shows. Prostitution increases because of demand, not because suddenly there are more women dying to be prostitutes.

            The sex industry is not at all like any other labour market. In what other “labour market” are there such high rates of rape, assault, abuse, addiction, mental trauma, PTSD, and death?

            Here are some articles that explain/show why trafficking increases in countries that legalize: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/legalized-prostitution-significantly-increases-human-sex-trafficking-study/
            http://www.fairobserver.com/article/prostitution-human-trafficking-inescapably-linked

            Essentially these places become destinations (for johns, but also traffickers/pimps) http://tvnz.co.nz/content/1831498/423466/article.html — obviously because it’s easier to sell women in places where selling women is legal…

          • stephen m

            @Felicity: “The sex industry is like any labour market. Some people do really well, some love the job, some just want the money, some would rather do something else.”

            That should read “some just want[need] the money”.

            Would you please break that down by percentage for me? Your source too please? New Zealand and worldwide.

            I would predict that you will find the groups “Some people do really well” and “some love the job” combined is less than 1 percent.

            Tail trying to wag the dog?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yeah, the whole “some just ‘want’ the money” statement is quite an ignorant/offensive one… People need money to survive (unfortunately).

      • Erin

        Just to put things straight, there are no exit programs in Sweden or Norway. Just therapy and social wellfare……

        • Meghan Murphy

          Yes there are: http://www.sccjr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Briefing-Law-and-policies-on-prostitution-and-THB-Sweden-Gunilla-S.-Ekberg-130704.pdf

          “In contrast to those countries that seek to regulate or legalise prostitution, Sweden have adeptly managed this complex and controversial issue and have had successful results. In the six years that the law has been in effect it has dramatically reduced the numbers in prostitution. It has deterred buyers and deterred traffickers as “the number of foreign women now being trafficked into Sweden for sex work is almost nil”. Furthermore it has had a significant positive effect on women involved in prostitution as “sixty percent of the prostitutes in Sweden took advantage of the well-funded programs and succeeded in exiting prostitution

    • Meghan Murphy

      “However, I think that your understandings of sex work are limited by some of your judgments, which may not be fully conscious of the ways in which sex workers/prostitutes/people in “the life” make use of sex work as a way to empower themselves in much more oppressive economic situations. Sex work is not sexy – sex work is work. And for those of us who do sex work, we may be just as angry at the “male gaze” and sense of entitlement, and even hate the sex industry, but what we hate more is the exploitative system of wage slavery that is so unequal in different circumstances. And criminalising sex workers or our clients only makes conditions worse for the people involved – it is not the solution to the aims that you claim to have.”

      I’m not sure that you do understand my position on sex work.. It is work, of course, in the sense that it is labourious — but it is also something that exists because of patriarchy and male entitlement. It isn’t simply a job like any other and the “conditions” are bad for prostitutes because of violent men. Criminalizing clients is the only solution that seems to have worked, in terms of reducing demand (and, therefore, violence). I advocate to decriminalize prostituted women. The arguments for sex work as labour cloud the reality of prostitution — as though it’s simply like a visit to the dentist’s office. Did you listen to the interview I did with Rachel Moran recently? I wonder how you would respond to her arguments/experience? You should check out her book if you can…

      • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

        Megan, I would agree that “sex work is not like a job like any other.” I don’t think any sex workers argue this either. Dentistry is not a job like any other; being a cab driver is also not like a job like any other; neither is being a construction worker; each line of work demands different health and labor protections, as does sex work.

        Regarding the inherent patriarchy of sex work and pornography, and the ways in which individual workers seek to subvert that patriarchy, I would implore you to read Martha Nussbaum’s “Whether from Reason or Prejudice” and Ronald Dworkin’s “Women and Pornography.” This is an interesting and important ideological question, and I sit somewhere in the middle between Debra Satz and Gayle Rubin in my positioning – I’d love to discuss further, and will write a lengthy post that would better do justice to this question than this comment box.

        Regarding Rachel Moran, please read my previous response.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Can I ask why we are talking about this here? What does this have to do with Femen or anything I’ve argued in this post?

          • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

            “Pay close attention to this one, defenders of “Go Topless Day,” Slutwalk, “feminist porn,” burlesque, and sex-work-is-an-empowering-and-sexy-choice-for-sexy-empowered-women. Feminism isn’t a sexy thing to look at. Nor is it a brand.”

            FEMEN has nothing to do with sex work activism. FEMEN activists have assaulted and harrassed sex workers. I brought this up because this conflation was troubling. I also thought that your assumption that all FEMEN activists were hand-picked by Victor S is simplistic, since you did not consider global contexts, and the motivations of certain FEMEN activists like Amina Tyler in Tunisia.

            The derailment can be annoying. But it’s the internet. People respond to things, sometimes bitterly and abusively. It spirals.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You’re missing the point. The point is that all of these positions/”movements” do not address the root and are misguided in terms of their activism. They are superficial and reinforce the very oppression/ideologies promoted by patriarchy.

          • http://titsandsass.com Caty Simon

            I don’t feel like you’re even addressing Kate’s point, Meghan.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t feel like Kate is addressing any points. Stop trying to derail. You want an echo chamber, do it on your own site.

        • Ash

          Except cab-drivers & dentists are not gendered occupations; in fact, they’re highly male-dominated jobs. Sex work, however, is terribly gendered (even when considering men & trans folks who are sex workers)

        • Ash

          Porn came from somewhere. You can’t “subvert” patriarchy with patriarchy.

    • Ash

      Luckily, Meghan does not condone criminalizing sex workers.

  • http://femspective.blogspot.com Jennifer

    This was awesome.

    I KNEW something was up.

    Thank you SO much for sharing. Everyone needs to know this.

  • http://feministsources.blogspot.co.uk/ Noy Noga

    Megan, my thinking exactly, I love every word of this article and have reblogged it.

    I know so many ‘pseudo’ feminist who run around naked doing ‘burlesque’ and then are in abusive relationships, because having a guy buying you ‘sexy’ underwear or just paying the rent makes it all worth while. I know at least two dozen burlesquers very well and all but one have a mental health problem: eating disorders, self-harming, addiction, depression, bi-polar disorder, PTSD and most of all low self-esteem. The truth behind burlesque or sex working is very different.

    This might be a bit of an insight: http://aformersexworker.wordpress.com/

    • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

      The women who do burlesque generally do not have bodies that fit what the patriarchal “male gaze” would consider attractive. I think you may be misunderstanding the spirit behind contemporary burlesque. For many women involved, it is a way to celebrate all bodies, and express feminine sexuality SEPARATE from the male gaze. It is often a form of “fat feminism,” fighting the very male-centric gender oppression that you are opposed to.

      There are many people who have mental health problems who are not burlesque dancers. (I would even guess there are a greater percentage women who have eating disorders who are NOT burlesque dancers, than those who do burlesque!) However, many of the burlesque dancers I know FORMERLY had eating disorders or were uncomfortable with their bodies, and then turned to burlesque as a way to celebrate their bodies, and make peace with themselves in a world that is extremely fat-phobic. For two of my friends in burlesque, it was burlesque dancing that helped them stop their eating disorders.

      Burlesque is not a “sexy” performance for male eyes, contrary to what Christina Aguilera may tell you – pop culture has completely distorted burlesque in a terrible way. Burlesque recently re-emerged with the queer movement as a humorous and clever way to celebrate oppressed female bodies and female sexualities, and defy oppressive beauty regimes. It is not a strip club, and nobody does it for the money.

      Similarly, there are many people with mental health issues (the politically correct term is: “neuroatypical”) who started sex work because it is very difficult/near impossible to hold down a typical 9 to 5 job with mental illnesses; and doing sex work is preferable to collecting disability benefits. You are being rather unkind/discriminatory against people who are neuroatypical and have PTSD, bipolar, addiction, or other socially marginalised ways of being. For many in the sex industry, sex work has been a way to earn a living and empower ourselves, IN SPITE of hidden mental or physical disabilities; it helps many cope with these situations. Though it’s true that some of the conditions of some parts of the sex industry only worsen mental health or re-traumatise some people who have PTSD related to past sexual traumas; there are also others who have found sex work to be helpful and empowering in dealing with these same past sexual traumas, and regain a sense of control once again over our bodies and our lives.

      Yet those who are privileged to be “well” dismiss all voices from sex workers because of mental illness – without question the correlation of sex work and mental illness: what is the direction of causation? Does sex work CAUSE mental illness, or is sex work a way for people do deal with the financial effects of their mental illnesses? What is the actual effect of engaging in sex work on existing mental illness conditions for different people in different working contexts? It’s hard to do a fair sampling of a criminalised population, and many previous researchers (like Melissa Farley) have done a great disservice to sex workers, feminists, and all women with shoddy research.

      The person whose link you put up is known in the sex worker community, and her post AGAINST the Swedish model, and the criminalising rulings in Ireland, is actually not supporting what you might think it supports. You may want to look more closely at her writing to look at the more nuanced ways in which she addresses the law and social conditions around sex work.

      Violence against sex workers is often dismissed because some feminists want to call all of sex work “violence against women,” and insist that violence is inherent to sex work. These feminists are silencing sex workers and condoning violence in the sex industry, as well as state violence that criminalises sex workers and clients. They do not distinguish between different work environments, or look at how health and labor rights (in places like Germany and New Zealand) has actually changes some of these environments, and reduced/eliminated violence on the job. There are more innovative ways to support the rights of people who choose to do sex work, and eliminate coercion/violence/exploitation in the industry, than criminalising ALL sex work.

      It is ironic that many of these do-good feminists who are silencing sex workers, really genuinely believe they are protecting us from harm. Sex worker feminists, and sex worker allies, who take the time to research and think more deeply into these problems, also take the time to listen to the voices of sex workers before passing facile ideological judgments.

      • Meghan Murphy

        These “do-good feminists” you speak of are exited prostitutes, women who work in shelters and transition houses, and friends and allies of women both currently in the industry and exited women. It seems you may be very selective about the voices you choose to listen to — perhaps that makes it easier for you to sleep at night, but it doesn’t change the reality of women still trapped in the industry.

        Re: burlesque — I’ve been to lots of burlesque performances (both accidentally and intentionally — it seems to be an unavoidable sideshow everywhere you go nowadays) and it’s not subversive in the least. Which isn’t to say there AREN’T subversive performances, but the vast majority is same old same old. Boring, conventional, and performing for the male gaze (just because there are women in the audience doesn’t mean the male gaze is subverted, either, ftr). Objectifying imperfect bodies doesn’t seem to change that reality either.

        • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

          As someone who has also done outreach and work with shelters and transition houses, I absolutely support people exiting the sex industry when they choose to, on their own terms. I also support creating employment alternatives and training programs to help transition into another line of work, who desire to do so. What I don’t support is cherry-picking the voices of those who are not happy in the industry and using their stories to suppress the voices of those who PREFER to work. That kind of silencing of people (women, trans sex workers, and men in sex work) – is oppressive and unfair.

          I also do not support certain “do-good” “rescue organisations” that go into foreign countries, like Thailand, and force their ideologies upon sex workers there, neglecting to differentiate between those who are “sex slaves” and those who do sex work because the economic alternative is worse. People have literally committed suicide trying to escape from the detention programs that rescuers consider to be helpful alternatives to sex work; and the sewing machines that middle-class feminists from the Global North bring to try to incorporate forcibly “reformed” sex workers into the globalised manufacturing economy of wage slavery – isn’t a convincing solution to me.

          I actually spend a lot of time reading the narratives of sex workers who have experienced exploitation, violence, and trauma in the sex industry, and you’re right – it’s hard to sleep at night after reading these stories. I respect their voices and more than anything, want justice for their hardships, but I disagree with you in terms of how that might be achieved. According to some of the papers I have read, the Nordic model has not achieved the aims it claims to have achieved – criminalising clients also pushes the industry underground or elsewhere. However, legalisation has not produced perfect results either. I’d be happy to debate the merits of different policy approaches in another, more suitable, forum.

          Re: burlesque – I agree that there has been an explosion of burlesque recently after the pop culture movie that came out with Christina Aguilera. I agree that many of these performances are not subversive. But the images/values they borrow come from the mainstream pop culture, not from the older burlesque community. I also think that this can be problematic when people are making/viewing these performances uncritically. It’s an unfortunate effect of the mainstreaming of burlesque. But I think we should not be blaming individual burlesque performers for this, as many ARE subversive and conscientious about their feminist message (which is anti-patriarchy, anti-beauty regime) – instead, we should be thinking about the structural sexism of pop culture imagery, and how that becomes reclaimed in various ways by certain individuals, who (successfully or not) try to make their own interpretations and embodiments of these social values.

          I have, in fact, listened to your previous podcasts, and read what Rachel Moran has written. I sympathise with her narrative, and wish her all the best. I think that it is important that certain people are speaking out about their experiences. However, I think it’s unfortunate that Rachel’s voice is taken to be representative of all voices in the sex industry, and used to silence others. As you have also mentioned, there is a diversity of experiences in very different working contexts throughout the sex industry – recognising how the intersectionality of privilege/oppression across different contexts impacts sex workers and allowing for these experiences to emerge, and speak for ourselves, is a better form of feminist practice – I think – than going with one (often sensationalised, powerpoint-and-fundraising-friendly) narrative. Meanwhile, the 157 sex worker organisations around the world that are part of NSWP, and the 65,000 sex workers unionised in one collective in India – who practice our own collective anti-trafficking, anti-exploitation, anti-violence activism and mutual aid services – are largely ignored by the feminist movement. I wonder why that is. It seems so antithetical to everything I’ve read and written about in the feminist movement.

          Just my two cents, as a sex worker who has also experienced violence and exploitation in my line of work, and also engage in outreach and services for some who choose to exit and some who choose to stay in different areas of sex work. From my research, readings, and discussions with other sex work academics/activists/workers: criminalisation, including the Nordic Model, is not the best strategy to tackle these problems.

          Of course, on your blog, Megan, I don’t expect a very receptive audience. We live on different parts of the internet. But I’m happy to engage.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “As someone who has also done outreach and work with shelters and transition houses, I absolutely support people exiting the sex industry when they choose to, on their own terms. I also support creating employment alternatives and training programs to help transition into another line of work, who desire to do so. What I don’t support is cherry-picking the voices of those who are not happy in the industry and using their stories to suppress the voices of those who PREFER to work. That kind of silencing of people (women, trans sex workers, and men in sex work) – is oppressive and unfair.”

            Cherry-picking, my ass. This is EXACTLY what the sex work advocates do — find someone who is sufficiently privileged to tout their tidy, “empowered sex worker” perspective and ignore and silence the thousands and thousands of girls and women trapped in the industry because they have no alternatives, support, or can’t escape.

            I’m so bored of having the same conversation over and over again… It never seems to go anywhere. Pardon me if I sound jaded, but I’ve done this so many times…

          • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

            Yes, we are all tired of these same debates, Megan. I’m glad that neither of us are silencing each other in this exchange, which we’ve both had many times in other forums – often in more vitriolic and dismissive ways. When tying FEMEN to sex work, the response and comments will sometimes revolve around eliminating the conflation between what FEMEN is doing and what sex worker labor activists are demanding.

            People outside the sex industry often make assumptions about privilege/non-privilege and try to dismiss any activist who speaks about empowerment in sex work as being simply “privileged” – in binary opposition to those “others” who are oppressed sex slaves; thus concluding that any sex worker feminist is not “representative of other sex workers” and not worth listening to. Actually, the reality is much more complicated than that binary, and most people work somewhere along a spectrum of coercion, circumstance, and choice. There is so much diversity in the sex industry that no single sex worker/prostitute/whore can claim to speak for any others. In my own activism, I have made a point to talk frequently about sex workers who are working because they have no other alternatives, support, or feel trapped in sex work; and even as we talk about these situations, we have to acknowledge the stigma and criminalisation that furthers harms people in this line of work. As a former runaway engaged in underaged sex work, and someone who has endured violence and exploitation, I have not been one to tout the “privileged” “happy hooker” narrative. I have made violence (http://www.policymic.com/articles/30812/why-are-sex-workers-left-out-of-the-violence-against-women-conversation) and “subverting patriarchy/the male gaze” my focus in my activism and feminist thinking (http://katezen.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/la-femme-qui-nexiste-pas-pole-dancing-in-the-desert-of-the-real/). Nevertheless, I think that the Nordic Model and other forms of carceral feminism that employs state violence and the prison system to enforce their notions of right and wrong – is harmful to the very people they purport to want to help.

            Furthermore, I think the sex worker movement in the United States, as a whole has evolved from its earlier “happy hooker” rhetoric to a point now, after the 2013 Desiree Alliance, where we do not all feel coerced by feminist critics to only talk about the good points of sex work for fear of reenforcing the age-old social stereotypes/stigmas. There are many sex worker activists now who write openly about how much they sometimes hate being a sex worker, but still they demand their labor rights and recognition of bodily choice. Lori, a self-defined “unhappy hooker” who “hates the sex industry” and the “privileged/respectable happy hooker” narrative, wrote this poignant critique of the Nordic model, about how anti-prostitution feminists can work alongside sex worker activists to end some of the violence in the sex industry: http://titsandsass.com/what-antis-can-do-to-help-part-one-aiding-those-still-in-the-industry/

            I think there is some room for more critique and participatory discussion about these policies than the same old Nordic Model sex slavery vs. rights-based decriminalisation bitter sputterings. Neither legal structures have been perfectly successful, and all sex workers (across a spectrum of opportunity and lack thereof) have had to bear the brunt of the harms. From both sides, the amount of ignorance and vitriol in these debates is quite toxic, and unproductive. It’s not about being “tidy” – it’s about presenting the facts and practicing intersectional feminism, which can be messy at times, but is considered to be an important process, according to the core values of Feminist thought. I appreciate the space for dissent and discussion that you have created here.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “People outside the sex industry often make assumptions about privilege/non-privilege and try to dismiss any activist who speaks about empowerment in sex work as being simply “privileged” – in binary opposition to those “others” who are oppressed sex slaves; thus concluding that any sex worker feminist is not “representative of other sex workers” and not worth listening to. Actually, the reality is much more complicated than that binary, and most people work somewhere along a spectrum of coercion, circumstance, and choice.”

            Again, you should listen to Rachel Moran’s interview/read her book. She addresses all these issues articulately and without apology. We all know there’s a spectrum. That doesn’t make it ok for men to use and abuse women.

          • MLM

            I read the article linked to by Lori. Where was this “poignant critique” of the Nordic Model exactly?

            I saw tired old tropes about who “antis” are and what they’re like – check.

            I saw her deciding that they haven’t listened to all sex workers because they’ve reached a different conclusion about the situation from the one she’d like them to – check

            I saw her advising them to do things they already do like advocate for hate crime laws e.g. Merseyside Model – check

            I saw her ticking them off for not using her preferred terms over those of exited women who have made it very clear that use of such language is offensive to THEM – check

            And then her conclusion just blows my mind…

            She doesn’t support the Nordic Model which provides comprehensive support and exiting services for people who want to leave prostitution (so they DON’T become homeless/financially destitute etc). BUT then she wants “antis” to “set something up” for her “in the first place” so she isn’t homeless and thus would be able to exit prostitution?? She also insists on use of the term “sex work” which promotes the “sex if just work” idea – which undermines efforts to provide exiting services by making them less of a priority in people’s minds and thus making them harder to fight for.

            This is not a “poignant critique” of the Nordic Model it is a huge logic fail. And the article is so laced with the usual divisive bs that her “call” to “work alongside” seems hollow and disingenuous, along with yours for critique and participatory discussion given your comments here.

        • Ash

          Also, why is “doing good” considered a bad thing?

          • Meghan Murphy

            That is an excellent question, Ash.

        • gxm

          “Re: burlesque…Boring, conventional, and performing for the male gaze (just because there are women in the audience doesn’t mean the male gaze is subverted, either, ftr).”

          Yep. It’s not like they have an equal number of male performers entertaining the other half of the audience members. Whenever I am thrust into the unintentional position of having to sit through one of these objectifying routines, all it does is piss me off. I don’t find it sexy or funny or subversive. I find these performances pathetic and humiliating.

      • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

        I respectfully decline to respond to this comment. I find the tone to be rather abusive. Please rephrase.

        • Meghan Murphy

          You don’t have to reply to anything you don’t want to. But the tone is fine and please don’t demand my commenters rephrase simply because you don’t have a response. We’re all tired of these same old arguments. No one seems to ever bring anything new to the table and simply regurgitates the same old lies, misrepresentations, and general b.s. It is, as bounce says, tiresome.

          • LeelaBinx

            Meghan,

            A comment like the one below from ‘bounce’ has the tone of someone who condones death or harm coming to someone – how are you ‘fine’ with this to prove your point?

            “Frankly I’ve got to the point if it takes a few lives like yours to save one eleven year old, or a 24 year old who’s been forced to choke on it several times a day, I’ll deal. ”

            Personally, it is deeply disturbing to read that women who claim to have the interests of women at heart would let something like that slide?

            Some women are more equal than others it would appear.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think you’re misunderstand/misreading bounce’s comment. I didn’t read it as “condon[ing] death or harm,” I read it as, like, you can find another job… Maybe bounce can elaborate on what was meant by that comment?

          • LeelaBinx

            I quote again:
            “Frankly I’ve got to the point if it takes a few lives like yours to save one eleven year old, or a 24 year old who’s been forced to choke on it several times a day, I’ll deal. ”

            How is this related to finding another job?

            Please clarify that you are not actually in favour of harm coming to sex workers in order to save one eleven year old or a 24 year old.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m not going to speak on another’s behalf so I’m also not going to guess the meaning of the statement. Bounce will have to clarify what they mean.

            And do not put words in my mouth. Of course I am not “in favour of harm coming to sex workers in order to save one eleven year old or a 24 year old.” No feminist is. Stop trying to twist this around to serve some kind of sick/convenient narrative wherein ABOLITIONISTS WANT TO MURDER PROSTITUTES.

            All that said, reading the comment over again, it does sound like a fucked up thing to say, so I’ll delete it unless bounce wants to explain further/clarify that they aren’t actually advocating for violence against prostituted women. Ok?

            Apologies for not paying closer attention to, or addressing that comment, earlier.

          • Meghan Murphy

            OH GOOD. I see that you all already have. Way to prove y’all don’t desperately seek to reinforce the same misrepresentations you like to perpetuate over and over again. Love to see y’all acting in good faith, as per usual: https://twitter.com/pastachips/status/377043470910644225

            I find it really frustrating that people would take an anonymous commenter and frame it as somehow representative of abolitionists/feminists. It makes the lot of you seem illogical and uninterested in engaging in a productive way and with intellectual honesty.

        • scaldingmay

          I find your tone to be abusive actually. You’ve used words like “blame,” “coerce,” and “silence” with regards to radical feminists who want to abolish the sex industry, completing ignoring the fact that it is men who do all those things.

      • lizor

        “The person whose link you put up is known in the sex worker community, and her post AGAINST the Swedish model, and the criminalising rulings in Ireland, is actually not supporting what you might think it supports”

        Please correct me if I’m wrong but Rachel Moran specifically addresses the Swedish Model in this interview. So can you please spell out, with specific examples, how and where she does not support that model and where Meghan has supposedly missed the “nuanced ways in which she addresses the law and social conditions around sex work”. You claim to be a “deeper” thinker and reader than the person who runs this blog. Please, give us some evidence of this, so it does not just come off as an asinine insult.

        Also please explain this:

        “Violence against sex workers is often dismissed because some feminists want to call all of sex work “violence against women,” and insist that violence is inherent to sex work. These feminists are silencing sex workers and condoning violence in the sex industry…”

        WHERE in this blog have you seen anyone dismiss violence against sex workers? Where has anyone “condoned violence against sex workers”? Your charges are insupportable, insulting and intellectually ridiculous.

        • Meghan Murphy

          You are right, lizor. Moran supports the Nordic model in her book and in the interview.

        • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

          Not Rachel Moran, but the blog post you linked, by a well-known sex worker activist.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Which link/blog post might that be? Sorry, not sure what you’re referencing here..

          • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

            Re: Link – one of your commentators linked to this blog to criticise the mental health of burlesque dancers:

            QUOTE:
            “This might be a bit of an insight: http://aformersexworker.wordpress.com/

            But I thought perhaps this commentator misunderstood what this well-known sex worker activist stands for.

            It was NOT in reference to Rachel Moran – and yes, I have read her book. Please refer to my other comments here, re: Rachel Moran.

          • Meghan Murphy

            All you’ve said, with regard to Moran, is this:

            “I have, in fact, listened to your previous podcasts, and read what Rachel Moran has written. I sympathise with her narrative, and wish her all the best. I think that it is important that certain people are speaking out about their experiences. However, I think it’s unfortunate that Rachel’s voice is taken to be representative of all voices in the sex industry, and used to silence others.”

            I have to say that, had you actually read Moran’s book, I seriously doubt your response would be “I sympathise with her narrative, and wish her all the best,” unless you’re some kind of sociopath.

            Her voice is not used to silence anyone. And I don’t think that “sympathy” for her “narrative” and “wishing her the best” really accomplishes anything, now does it. It also seems odd that you would accuse abolitionists of adopting a “binary” perspective — it seems to conveniently ignore the arguments being made, which are that, regardless of individual experiences, prostitution exists because of gender, class, and race inequality and that violence against prostitutes happens at the hands of johns. No one is trying to stop the few women who truly want to sell sex from doing so — they are trying, rather, to support the thousands who want to leave and who are suffering in the industry and to create alternatives/other options. They are also, of course, trying to point to the behaviour of johns, rather than talking incessantly about the “choices” of sex workers. What about men’s “choice” to buy sex? And their “choice” to rape and assault and abuse women? How about we talk about that for a change?

          • Felicity

            Ok what about mens choice to buy sex? What’s the problem? It’s a consensual commercial transaction. Like you buying a coffee.

            You forget women buy sex too. Or is that ok? Or am I a monster too in your eyes because I’ve paid for commercial sex?

            If you truly have no problem with ‘the few women who want to sell sex’ your starting point would be realising they are not just a few, they are the majority of sexworkers.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Paying a woman for a blow job is just like me buying coffee? UUUUUMMMMMMM bullshit.

          • Ash

            Didn’t you know you could get beaten up/raped/verbally assaulted by a barista? Didn’t you realize you risk getting HIV/AIDS and various STIs from buying coffee? It’s not like prostitution is gendered or anything – women = coffee! BRILLIANT.

          • scaldingmay

            Why is it so hard for you to sympathize with women victimized in the sex industry? Not everything is about you. Feminism is not a cheering squad for you and your empowerful choices. I would advise you to stop and think of the real pain prostituted women face, like the millions of missing girls in India. But that’s not as fun as the image of the insatiable nymphomaniac that the sex industry likes to advertise right?

          • G.T.

            I would imagine the majority of sex workers “want to sell sex” for the cash rather than some deep love of banging men they’re probably not attracted to. And come on, women in foreign countries certainly are doing it for the cash or in necessity rather than enjoyment.

          • lizor

            Yeah right, a twelve year old aboriginal kid being fucked by a forty year old middle class white dude is just like buying coffee. Felicity’s comments are so extremely detached from material reality I’m guessing he’s a John.

          • Felicity

            Actually I’m a previous sex worker and Pro Domme. 20 years in the the industry. Google My Lady Felicity.

            Sex work is not all negative, not all coerced, not all trafficked. Those are the minority examples. Yes that is unacceptable. It’s also unacceptable for you to deny my lived experience of a fantastic career that was only difficult prior to decriminalisation.

            Women are doing sex work for many reasons. The continual denial if those nuances is not helpful.

          • Meghan Murphy

            These are certainly not “minority examples” — who do you think are the most prostituted women in the world? They are brown and poor. This does not mean there is no nuance, but you do not get to erase violence against women/women’s lives simply because you happen to currently feel ok about your PERSONAL experiences. Refocus on systems of power/systemic oppression — if we talk only about individual experiences as though they exist in isolation, we aren’t having an honest conversation and will never be able to effect change

          • riv

            She didn’t criticiae the health of the sexually exploited women, she pointed out a truism of their lives. Pathetic manipulator.

            Unfortunately and entirely predictibly, this thread has become that other subject, you know the one, with the sex who enjoys sexual exploitation — providing it and buying it — taking over the comment thread.

            So sorry that your good work is never allowed by men to be about women and women’s lives and women’s needs.

            We appreciate your efforts so much. xxx

        • Ash

          don’t you know? it’s feminists who hurt sex workers – not violent, entitled males.

      • vouchsafer

        The problem with sex work is that it devalues the female class, making us less human because we are sold as commodities, making it a perfectly valid practice for non sex working, “do-good” feminists like myself to have an opinion on. I want to abolish the sex trade because I have hope that our daughters can grow up in a world where selling access to their bodies is the only choice for no one.
        Thanks for the derail. Once again the radfem momentum is impeded by the ill informed bleating of someone that can’t be bothered to read.

        • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

          You do not represent the “female class.” We – women, trans people, and men – are not less human for trading a sexual service, just as those who purchase sexual services are not less human for giving money to someone in exchange for such a service. We are not necessarily sold as “commodities” any more than actresses, wives, or construction workers are sold as commodities. There is an economics of sexual relations between the genders which has historically been unfavorable for the rights of women; prostitutes/whores have historially lived outside the marriage institutions that have enforced much of that gender oppression – that long-standing stigma contributes to the horrible conditions under which many sex workers live, and at this point in history, is contradictory to more liberalised sexual mores. I advocate for the changing of these stigmas, as this slut-shaming whorephobia has been historically used to control women in subordinate and dependent relations to men. It is time that the feminist movement celebrated the history of sex workers/courtesans/mistresses outside of marriages who have used the trading of sexual services to gain opportunity and self-empowerment within social constrictions on women’s agency. I also invite you to think whether in this world of globalised Capitalism, of travelling nannies, care workers, and feminine “emotional laborers,” whether the wage oppression experienced by so many women and men around the world that pushes people to migrate for better opportunities, both internationally and domestically, is really so different from historical conditions.

          Sex workers are not devaluing YOUR privileged “female class.” We are females and males and trans people, and we are feminists, demanding our space within the movement for social justice. When a statement is published in a relatively public forum that maligns us, silences us, and abuses us – we do have a right to respond.

          Efforts to abolish the sex trade have been as successful as the Prohibition and Temperance Movement – allowing for organised crime to take charge of the sex industry instead of supporting the collectivisation and unionisation of workers. The derail was due to the conflation of FEMEN with sex work/porn/burlesque, which the author ventured, and subsequent comments here like yours, that furthers such derailment.

          The loud, obnoxious statements of FEMEN, devoid of substantive political critique, is simply not a style that I personally have a taste for. However you choose to respond, please feel free to do so, dear feminist sister.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “We – women, trans people, and men – are not less human for trading a sexual service, just as those who purchase sexual services are not less human for giving money to someone in exchange for such a service.”

            Way to misunderstand/manipulate the argument, Kate. Feminists argue against dehumanization — hence their arguments against buying/selling/exploiting HUMAN BEINGS for profit/sexual pleasure.

          • Vouchsafer

            “I also invite you to think whether in this world of globalised Capitalism, of travelling nannies, care workers, and feminine “emotional laborers,” whether the wage oppression experienced by so many women and men around the world that pushes people to migrate for better opportunities, both internationally and domestically, is really so different from historical conditions. ”

            Holy fuck! of course it’s no different. it’s the fucking same old capitalism. It’s just that it’s now reaching critical mass. Do you not see that porn/strip clubs/ the sex industry are making billions of dollars for everyone but the dehumanized ?

            The patriarchy is capitalism, and by taking the view that a person’s ‘right’ to participate in sex work is something worth working towards, you’re accepting the capitalist status quo that depletes resources and wrings dollar bills out of the tender young bodies of the vulnerable.

            That’s all very well and fine if that’s what you’re into, but it isn’t RADICAL. I want a revolution that wipes out capitalism AND it’s vehicles of oppression, now, before it’s too late. That’s why I’m RADICAL. It isn’t particularly revolutionary to work towards indoctrinating or enshrining within legality an industry that’s already firmly ensconced within society as it is.

            It’s revolutionary to think that another way is possible, and to seek to go about taking steps to enact those changes that will subvert the resource-and- humanity-depleting bullshittery of the capitalist patriarchy.

            If you’re hell bent on accepting the status quo and solidifying sex work into a unionized trade, fine. Aim low. I have no objection to that. But don’t call me your sister, because all i hear from what you’re saying is that you’re ok with the commodifying of the less fortunate, and I am not too down with that.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “The patriarchy is capitalism, and by taking the view that a person’s ‘right’ to participate in sex work is something worth working towards, you’re accepting the capitalist status quo that depletes resources and wrings dollar bills out of the tender young bodies of the vulnerable. ”

            Word.

            And yeah, we’re all anti-capitalist here, Kate… Which is part of the reason we oppose the commodification of women and girls and the BILLION DOLLAR sex industry, as Vouchsafer points out.

          • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

            Meghan,

            I have agreed not to further “derail” your blog, but I want to address your last comments.

            I think that the attempt to eliminate the sex industry through criminalisation of clients or sex workers, is short-sighted – it may be “radical” to think that the sex industry can be eliminated in this way, but like drug and alcohol prohibition, these methods do not historically work, and have been proven to harm people, especially the most marginalised and vulnerable members of society; for example, in the case of U.S. drug laws and racist policing methods, or the U.S. Temperance Movement. Much anti-trafficking legislation have been used to police borders at the expense of migrants, and have directly harmed those “victims” they purport to help. Criminalising clients impacts all sex workers: both the willing and those seeking exit.

            The billion dollar sex industry thrives on the inequality between nations, and between classes within nations. This global inequality within Capitalism is what we are all seeking to address in our social justice movements, whether for domestic workers, farm workers, or other often-exploited workers. The tender, young bodies, which summon a lot of empathy, as well as the not-so-tender, older, less abled bodies in the sex trade – often/usually enter the trade as a way to gain more economic opportunity to relieve immediate poverty, and seek other options in the future.

            A risky choice, this temporary, and usually secretive, tryst with sex work creates other opportunities that may not be attainable in any other way; it is unfortunate that there are not greater opportunities for all people, which does not involve trading in one’s social capital (stigma) for economic gain. Truly radical feminism should seek to eliminate these conditions of global inequality – by advocating for open borders and other ways of combatting the human violations within policies of globally exploitative Capitalism.

            However, to fail to acknowledge that sex work is often seen as an opportunity by many people within even more oppressive economic circumstances, and to actively eliminate that opportunity in the name of saving people from their own choices – even believing that “human beings”, rather than discrete sexual services by human beings, are being sold – is reducing female persons to their sexual organs and sexual behaviors, as well as conforming to patriarchal notions of what “sexual exploitation” means in the context of feminine propriety; and using these standards to define what kinds of bodily services constitute “work.” What about all the trafficked farmers, miners, male workers, and forced soldiers, whose bodies are also appropriated under a discriminatory gender regime? What about forced marriage, child marriage, or the historic economic dependency of wives that continues to this day in many parts of the world? What is it about selling acts of sex that disgusts you so much more than other forms of bodily labor, much of which is gendered?

            Anti-prostitution “radical” feminists often talk about male entitlement, and use the fact that men can use money to trade for sex as proof that prostitution is “degrading” and based on inequality. They don’t talk about “female entitlement” to men’s money, or the equating of male worth with financial success, as demonstrated by female sexual attentions. Is this a commodification of male labor/identity as mere fiat for female appropriation and use? What status quo are YOU accepting when it comes to gendered relations within Capitalism?

            I only wish there were more of such services for women – straight or queer. What is unequal about sex work is that women do not have as easy a time in finding men to buy sexual services from; that there is not an equally accessible market of sexual services for women. Why is this the case? An unattractive woman can go to a bar and “get ass” if she wants to, whereas an unattractive man while have a much harder time. Could it be that the social mores around female sexuality, and the way that some women make themselves more “valuable” by restricting sexual access, is just as commoditising of their own long-term sexuality as selling short-term acts of sexual services? Or that the more restrictive “erotic capital” regimes of male attractiveness, as commoditised through their social and financial success, make female contact untenable for some men who find feminine sexual labor to be the preferable source of contact – a situation, which is not the case for most women, due to different valuations of feminine worth?

            Even in a hypothetical society where there is no gender inequality or distinction between gender roles correlated to sexuality, there will still be differences in “erotic capital” between people in a dating market. Men or women who are less attractive and who desire a more attractive partner, who they would normally not be qualified to date, may find temporary entertainment of their desires through the purchase of sexual services. Whether this happens within an overtly Capitalist system where fiat is exchanged, or in an Anarchist commune where bartered work/labor is exchanged, the fact is: even animals exchange labor/food for sex. Radical Utopia would only have a different currency for valuing labor.

            However, I would agree that the recent expansion of the global sex trade is indeed incorporating human sexuality more overtly into Capitalism, which depletes resources in an unsustainable way and allows certain people to live luxuriously off the back-breaking labours of others – in an ideal world, we might all get rid of Capitalism. But would you advocate criminalising all Capitalist exchanges? How would you police exploitation and inequality, globally? Whose side are the police usually on? How would you compensate the police?

            It is extremely unfortunate that there are people who are “sold” in the sex industry completely against their will, or who enter without knowledge or consent – and we are all paying a lot of attention to these stories, with different ideas for strategies to combat these conditions. As a labor activist, the strategy that I believe in is the collective organising/unionisation strategy I have mentioned, in which sex workers, given the right to speak and organise on our own behalf, work to eliminate coercive practices in our own communities. These strategies have created notable changes in India, and are the model for sex worker activism in other countries. What I don’t believe in is using policing and state-sanctioned violence to address the problems of Capitalism, because the prison industrial complex is part of the problem. Believing that this is the solution is settling for the status quo.

            I commend you for your radicalism, and also consider myself a radical (though perhaps not a “RadFem” on this issue). However, I personally prefer best practice policy frameworks for addressing sex work. And I just don’t see the Nordic Model to be an example of best practices in policymaking.”

          • Meghan Murphy

            Kate – If you send me one more tweet or email harassing me about taking longer than two minutes to approve your comments I’m blocking you on Twitter and from further commenting here. Got it?

            It’s obsessive and creepy.

            Furthermore, you are not entitled to publish comments here and if I do choose not to publish comments, that doesn’t count as censorship. Certainly it doesn’t count as “censorship” if I don’t spend every waking moment jumping into action every time you grace us here.

            For the record, I often approve comments from regulars here before strangers. Because I know them and trust them. I neither know you nor do I trust you and you would have to put in a great deal more time here in order to gain that same trust. What that means is that I have to read through comments from newbies more thoroughly than comments from regulars before approving them. Which takes time. This is not paid work I do here, which means I need to balance it with my life/other work. Please try to have some perspective and respect for me/my time/life/work. Thanks.

          • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

            No problem! Just taking note that Martin, below, a male defender of FEMEN, had a couple of comment exchanges with you approved by you, while you ignored my post. That’s fine – your blog. I’ll stop “harassing” you with further comments, and make my own radio show.

            Best of luck!

            Kind Regards,
            Kate

          • Meghan Murphy

            Martin is a longtime friend and ally. Dissenting opinions are welcomed here, so long as they are well-intentioned and logical.

            Good luck with your show. But, please leave me alone. Your faux-sucking up here doesn’t mask your creepy obsessive and harassing behaviour. Your “allies” are deeply troubled people who seem to spend their days harassing, trolling, and attacking me. Ally away. Birds of a feather…

          • MLM

            @ Kate Zen
            I’m not sure you actually understand what radical means if you describe your own analysis as ‘radical’. Radical means “to the root” which is why radical feminism is concerned with trying to address the deepest root of the problem – patriarchy/sex based oppression, and the system which gave rise to other types of oppression e.g. race, class etc – in order to achieve liberation for women, and ultimately conditions of equality. Capitalism is both a system built upon economic inequality and one that reinforces existing hierarchical inequalities.

            The Nordic Model is ‘radical’ because it addresses this fundamental power differential by criminalising the buyer, who fuels demand for an institution that which exploits gendered and economic inequality. (And it is gendered – apparently police in Sweden have not arrested a single woman for soliciting in the 13 years since the Nordic Model was introduced). Challenging the notion that it is normal and acceptable for men to sexually exploit women’s historical sex based oppression, which has greatly informed cultural attitudes and, therefore, the status of women, and which so often also translates into economic inequality, is an important part of reshaping societal dynamics.

            There is a gendered nature to poverty all over the globe. This is missing from your analysis. The billion dollar sex industry thrives not just on inequality but on patriarchal (and rape cultural) ideas about what women are ‘for’. This is missing from your analysis. In fact the gender hierarchy at the roots of women’s oppression – both social and economic – is virtually absent from your analysis.

            “What about all the trafficked farmers, miners, male workers, and forced soldiers, whose bodies are also appropriated under a discriminatory gender regime? ”
            Who says we don’t care about those people? But considering sex based oppression is at the root of the problem for women, and 79% of all human trafficking is sexual exploitation, yes it’s a priority.

            “What about forced marriage, child marriage, or the historic economic dependency of wives that continues to this day in many parts of the world?”
            Honestly, if you don’t think that radical feminists care about and campaign against these things you’re fairly clueless about radical feminists. Especially radical feminists based in countries where these things are going on.

            “They don’t talk about “female entitlement” to men’s money, or the equating of male worth with financial success, as demonstrated by female sexual attentions. Is this a commodification of male labor/identity as mere fiat for female appropriation and use?”
            Seriously? You sound like an MRA now. “Female entitlement” to men’s money (read economic dependence on men throughout most of history, and still the case for many women globally, also read the sex industry would not exist if it wasn’t the case) has the same root as male entitlement to women’s bodies – patriarchy! Ta dah… We do not want to accept the status quo – we want to change it radically. That is the point.

            What is unequal about sex work is not that there aren’t an equal number of male sex workers for women. What is unequal about “sexwork” is that the reason it exists at all is because of historically entrenched patriarchal ideas about sex and a woman’s sexual role, and it has it’s historical roots in slavery+women’s sexuality being viewed/used as a resource.

            Furthermore, in (far less common) situations where women buy men for sex e.g. sex tourism, it is still fuelled by economic deprivation tied to race and class.
            http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2013/08/meet-middle-aged-women-who-are-britains-female-sex-tourists

            “Even in a hypothetical society where there is no gender inequality or distinction between gender roles correlated to sexuality, there will still be differences in “erotic capital” between people in a dating market. Men or women who are less attractive and who desire a more attractive partner, who they would normally not be qualified to date, may find temporary entertainment of their desires through the purchase of sexual services. Whether this happens within an overtly Capitalist system where fiat is exchanged, or in an Anarchist commune where bartered work/labor is exchanged, the fact is: even animals exchange labor/food for sex. Radical Utopia would only have a different currency for valuing labor”.

            Actually, there are historical examples where sexwork has virtually disappeared:

            “During the Chinese Revolution, for example, prostitution withered away. This was not because the revolutionaries banned prostitution but because: a) they banned pimps and brothels; b) they provided women with property rights; c) they pursued an agenda of womens equality that, regardless of some of its failures, was still far ahead of anything else in the world at that time and even today. And because of these practices, women eventually no longer wanted to be prostitutes because the necessity of prostitution––the necessity to exchange one’s body for money––no longer existed. Interestingly enough, prostitution (just like drug addiction) began to return when China slid back into capitalism.”
            http://moufawad-paul.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/limits-of-sex-work-radicalism.html?m=1

            “Erotic capital” is an idea that derives from capitalistic thought processes. The name tells you that. In a society where there is genuine equality if you want something and somebody doesn’t want to give it to you, they don’t give it to you and you deal with it. Remove the ability to economically coerce and you start to find out a few things about people’s “choices”…

            Furthermore your point that “even animals exchange labor/food for sex.” in support of the idea that prostitution is somehow natural/inevitable is not really true (and is one I have addressed in a longer comment on another post/thread, which disappeared because unfortunately this website had some tech issues a little while back, but I can repost it if required to support this point) Basically only a handful of species have been observed making any type of “exchange” that could be construed as one for sex, and even in some of these examples, acceptance of such interpretations of as transactions for sex is not universal. Cannibalism, on the other hand has been clearly observed in 1500 species including our own, but clearly it is not “inevitable”. In fact, it is considered to be an aberration within most human societies. Prostitution is a cultural phenomenon not a “natural” one.

            “It is extremely unfortunate that there are people who are “sold” in the sex industry completely against their will, or who enter without knowledge or consent”
            Actually, I’d imagine most radical feminists or empathetic humans generally would say it’s completely unacceptable. Your conception of “human rights” seems to be a pretty odd one if you merely consider it to be “unfortunate”.

            The idea of sex worker unions has been previously discussed on this site.
            The http://feministcurrent.com/7468/why-doesnt-anyone-talk-about-unionizing-arms-manufacturers-on-the-idea-of-sex-worker-unions/

            It’s interesting that you bring up India as “a model for sex worker activism” in light of this article I read recently:

            “While a debate to legalise sex trade has been raging in India for decades, a recent study has put a question mark on such a proposal. A study conducted among sex workers in Kamathipura —India’s biggest red-light area, revealed that only 6% of the women joined the trade on their own. The rest were coerced, trafficked or forced into prostitution”.

            http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/1876358/report-only-6pct-of-kamathipura-s-sex-workers-willingly-joined-flesh-trade

            “Unfortunate”, indeed.

            “I don’t believe in is using policing and state-sanctioned violence to address the problems of Capitalism, because the prison industrial complex is part of the problem. Believing that this is the solution is settling for the status quo.”

            I’m not sure what this could be referring to (as surely you’re aware that johns pay a fine or maybe go to “john school” if arrested under the Nordic Model which, if anything, seems to be reducing violence committed by the johns).

            Again, I think your decision to deem yourself “radical” seems to be based of a misunderstanding of the word. Concerning yourself with the effects of the problem without tackling the roots is not radical.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Prostitution is a cultural phenomenon not a “natural” one.”

            Thank you.

            “‘It is extremely unfortunate that there are people who are “sold” in the sex industry completely against their will, or who enter without knowledge or consent’
            Actually, I’d imagine most radical feminists or empathetic humans generally would say it’s completely unacceptable. Your conception of “human rights” seems to be a pretty odd one if you merely consider it to be ‘unfortunate’.”

            Kate’s language around all of this really throws me for a loop — she doesn’t seem to understand or actually relate to/empathize with women’s lived reality…

            For the same reason, I didn’t quite buy that she had read Moran’s book, when asked — I can’t imagine that anyone who read it would come out saying “Oh I sympathize with her narrative, but…” It strikes me as so cold. That said, perhaps it’s simply representative of how most people in this world see and feel about prostitution — “Oh well that’s a sad story… Back to business!”

            Thanks for your thoughts and perspective, MLM. Such valuable information/arguments, as always.

          • lizor

            Yes, thank you MLM. I am now really starting to wonder if Kate is an MRA of some form. Besides all of your erudite points, “her” whole “it’s so much easier for ‘unattractive’ women than it is for ‘unattractive’ men” just smells.

          • MLM

            “Kate’s language around all of this really throws me for a loop — she doesn’t seem to understand or actually relate to/empathize with women’s lived reality…

            For the same reason, I didn’t quite buy that she had read Moran’s book, when asked — I can’t imagine that anyone who read it would come out saying “Oh I sympathize with her narrative, but…” It strikes me as so cold.”

            Couldn’t agree more with this. To me she sounds like a politician trying to win voters – trying to make the right noises but her level of detachment/lack of empathy is still apparent. This, for example…

            “…and we are all paying a lot of attention to these stories, with different ideas for strategies to combat these conditions.”

            In other words, we’re not going to make the situation a priority in any way, and preventing it is certainly not what we consider to be most important, but we don’t want to sound like we think it’s unimportant either.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It does sound rather like politican-speak, doesn’t it. “WE SYMPATHIZE WITH THE POOR AND WILL BE SURE TO CONSIDER THEIR BEST INTERESTS WHEN IMPLEMENTING POLICIES AND OTHER SUCH THINGS”

          • http://www.nswp.org Kate Zen

            Hi MLM,

            Thanks for your thoughtful response. It is refreshing to read your well-reasoned arguments instead of the previous abusive and dismissive mud-slinging that resorts to direct personal insults and deaf accusations, which hampers meaningful exchange. I hope that I will be allowed to continue to respond to your comments on the thread, as I had not checked back sooner on this site, believing I was blocked.

            I think our fundamental disagreement regarding the sex industry lies in our differing belief on this point: you, Meghan, and others on this site have said that “at the root of prostitution is a fundamental inequality between the genders.” And thus, you include that prostitution is gender oppression.

            Yet, the example that you gave of the New Statesman
            article shows that white female sex tourists in the Caribbean are also consumers of male sexual services. What this article shows is that general economic inequality and power disparity is at the root of prostitution. The directionality of gender oppression is not necessarily set in stone, nor is it the most important factor. Therefore, if you want to change the oppression of women under prostitution, first work on changing the social and economic oppression of women in general.

            Historically, and still today, women have been economically and politically subordinate to men, and more often than not dependent upon husbands and fathers for property ownership and basic citizen rights. This inequality of rights has led some women throughout history to choose prostitution, who do not have adequate protections from some male relation (also often in exchange for sex/domestic servitude) – The historical stigmas around prostitution are based on oppressive sexual mores designed to control wives’ sexuality for husbands’ convenience and security. That patriarchal system of values is the system that gave birth to whorephobia as well as slut-shaming, and it pits woman against woman, and I think THIS attitude is “at the root” of Patriarchy – and THIS is what the sex worker movement, slutwalk, burlesque, and other sex-positive movements aim to change. Dismissing it as “looking sexy for a man” is just sadly missing the point.

            Your historical understanding of prostitution under Chinese Communism is a bit off. I was born in Communist China and spent my childhood there. The CCP is very proud of its eradication of the scourge of prostitution, and for that alone you might think to lift an eyebrow. The sweeping arrests of “1286 prostitutes and 434 owners, procurers, and pimps arrested in the space of 12 hours by an estimated 2400 cadres” (quick stats off of Wikipedia) is not to be celebrated as a human rights glory. Today, the treatment of sex workers by the Communist Party is in clear violation of basic human rights, and these violations are often committed in the name of gender equality through abolitionism. This past May, Human Rights Watch featured the violations of sex workers in the following report, which supports sex worker rights in the interest of human rights: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/14/china-end-violence-against-sex-workers

            Furthermore, the idea you brought up about prostitution being “eliminated under Communism” is untrue. There is a fair bit of writing about the “invisible prostitution” of women exchanging sex for political privileges as a “distinctive feature of Maoist China” – according to Pan Suiming, Chinese expert on prostitution. This is in accordance with my own theory on sex as mode of power bargaining that is pervasive in society, regardless of whether the exchange is denoted in fiat currency or other privileges and protections.

            And it flows in different directions across gender/class lines: wealthy widows who are patrons of poor male artist-tenants for sexual favors are a common trope in 17th-19th Century Europe. But we don’t call that “prostitution” because we have defined “prostitution” along whorephobic value systems. THIS discrimination and stigma against female sexuality and possibility for self-empowerment via sexual exchange, is at the root of our lack of political bargaining power, and the reason prostitutes who are socially marginalized are also more easily made subject to violent crime.

            You assume that I don’t have “real” experience of some of the bad conditions of sex work, and that your researched narratives are more real than my own lived experiences. But I grew up in poverty, moving with my domestic worker mom as an adolescent to the government projects of Spanish Harlem, and I chose sex work over the kind of demeaning treatment I saw my mother go through as an immigrant domestic worker. I have felt far more empowered in sex work than I felt when I cleaned toilets and kitchens, and I’ve done a fair share of that too. That said, I’ve also endured a lot of exploitation and violence in the sex industry; the first night I did it, I made $400, which was more cash than I’ve ever held in my hands at a single time, and as a 16-year-old I was ecstatic at having liberty and personal freedom away from a home I didn’t want to be in; but the second night, I was raped, beat up, and driven to a suburb where I was left half-naked without money to get back into the city; and this was followed by several other incidents over the years, including being deceived and transported to Texas for the purpose of prostitution. I have very real experiences of poverty, racism, and trauma, and with these experiences, I have also come to know the difference between sexual trauma as a violent act in ADDITION to sex work, as opposed to the prophesized “trauma INHERENT to sex work,” the personhood-destroying and numbing qualities of the job itself.

            I’ve been writing zines and thinking about sex work/prostitution debates for almost 10 years now, both at Anarchist bookfairs and for University sociology classes. Much of my early (and even current writing) is actually about how much I hate so much of the sex industry – for its poor working conditions, and its sexism; the way workers ARE sometimes treated as objects by managers and clients. And in NO WAY am denying the experiences of those who have endured exploitation or violence in the sex industry. I also even agree that much of the imagery in the sex industry can be degrading for women. I’ve experienced men’s attitudes towards me in a strip club and massage parlor: generally, one of condescension, which can at times feel extremely degrading. I can also see how this may carry outside of the strip clubs and brothels into men’s regard for women in general. However, I believe these whorephobic and anti-woman attitudes can and DO need to be changed; not through eliminating the sex industry, but rather through recognizing and uplifting the dignity of people in the sex trade.

            Many sex workers may hate our jobs from time to time – and all of us have to exit some time. We’re certainly not against voluntary exit programs and any help provided in helping certain people who desire it, to transition to a different line of work, in the time frame that we choose, without shaming or criminalizing us if we choose to stay longer than what you think might be best, if we need to save more money and are willing to tolerate some of the risks.

            Many sex workers believe strongly that many of the conditions in the global sex trade are unacceptable and need to be changed. No sex worker is in favor of human trafficking, or any kind of non-consensual sexual activity. That said, we want to be part of the conversation and action alliances for making changes in the sex industry. (When I used the word “we,” it is not “as a politician” or whatever else – I mean the sex worker rights community, in North America and globally, of which I am a member.) Through our grassroots organizing and alliances, we want to push for legislation that give workers, rather than the managers or clients, more power and control. Many sex worker organizations in Canada do great outreach work to streetworkers, and provide much needed support against exploitative and violent working conditions, including Maggie’s and Stella.

            But we don’t want to eliminate the sex trade altogether. Because in spite of some of the negative experiences, the money has provided opportunity for us to improve our lives in various ways; we recognize the diversity of experiences in the sex industry, and don’t believe in silencing certain VOLUNTARY sex workers out of a moral panic to save non-sex workers – (and I agree! Trafficking victims are NOT sex workers. If they have been coerced into any kind of labor, they are victims of violent crime).

            However, recognizing sex work as work does NOT take a way from the anti-trafficking movement, by any means! If anything, consciously identified sex workers (We exist! Please stop pretending we don’t!) demonstrate the clear difference between coerced labor/sexual exploitation and the possibility of true female sexual autonomy; sharing sexuality as a valuable and healing social service, and celebrating the body – many long-term sex workers have this kind of therapeutic relationship with their clients, in which the sexualities and whole beings of both are nurtured. Why do you choose to deny that these people exist, and their lives and experiences also matter? If they experience what they do as WORK, why do you refuse to call it labor; and why would you deny them labor rights and basic social protections?

            The terrible prostitution conditions you are describing are the conditions of POVERTY and global inequality. Sex work in these conditions is like other types of conditions for the poor: unjust, often abusive, and largely silenced. But you need to be treating the conditions of poverty, not seek to eliminate the entire sex industry. Through sex work, I have also kept myself OUT of poverty, and have built better living conditions, paid for higher education, and created enough flexibility in my life to volunteer and contribute to causes, organizations, and people I care about. While initially, sex work had been a very negative experience for me; after meeting other sex workers, and learning how to access better working conditions, it has been extremely empowering, and has given me a lot of joy and freedom.

            One problem with criminalizing clients by sending them to John Schools and forcing them to pay a fine, is that the overwhelming majority of people sent to John Schools are poor people of color, often immigrants, who are targeted for prostitution just as they are racially targeted for other types of crimes. These are not generally the oppressive white politicians and investment bankers who frequent high-end escorts, but the kind of inner city working people who might walk down the same streets as streetwalkers, and say the wrong word to an undercover police officer dressed as a stereotypical street walker. According to surveys of Toronto John Schools, the people sentenced to John Schools were overwhelmingly poor people of color, who could ill afford to pay the fine or miss work, and many didn’t even have sufficient English skills to understand the lecturing, of statistically incorrect propaganda about how all prostitutes have STDs and are violently exploited by pimps. The study is below:
            http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/cjccj44&div=31&g_sent=1&collection=journals

            Furthermore, there are many due process rights abuses in the arrest and convictions of johns, as explained in this law journal:

            https://litigation-essentials.lexisnexis.com/webcd/app?action=DocumentDisplay&crawlid=1&doctype=cite&docid=20+B.U.+Pub.+Int.+L.J.+79&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=03829e8abdfddfa5664e803175b0bbc3

            If you have not already done so, I would also recommend reading these critiques of the Nordic Model and the criminalization of clients in the Cambridge Social Policy and Society Journa, by Julia O’Connell Davidson: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S1474746403001076

            Thanks for your time, and best regards.

            Kate Zen

          • Meghan Murphy

            Just blocked on Twitter so far!

          • MLM

            @ Kate Zen

            To be totally honest with you, if “meaningful exchange” is what you sincerely want you might need to reconsider your approach somewhat.

            Some suggestions are:-

            1) Don’t deliberately derail/misdirect an existing conversation to suit your own agenda and make sure the conversation centres on YOUR subject of choice, especially when requested to refrain from doing so by the person running the blog. Your “sometimes it spirals” excuse was actually just another way of saying “I’m refusing to respect your request, and deciding it’s fine for me to basically drive the conversation where I want it to go”.

            2) Realise that writing massive walls of text for every single comment can read as an attempt to dominate the conversation rather than “engage” in it. (Especially if you then harass the blog moderator to publish your essays the nanosecond you have submitted them).

            At least some degree of the hostility you encountered here would seem to stem from the fact that you demonstrated a repeated disrespect for boundaries, which can be extremely triggering for some people. So please examine your own role in the dysfunction if you honestly desire a different response in the future.

            There have been any number of articles written on this blog which would have provided a more appropriate place for this debate Some suggestions are:

            http://feministcurrent.com/7758/arguing-against-the-industry-of-prostitution-beyond-the-abolitionist-versus-sex-worker-binary/

            http://feministcurrent.com/7684/a-ruling-class-vs-revolutionary-response-to-prostitution/

            http://feministcurrent.com/7401/the-nordic-model-is-the-only-model-that-actually-works-duh-says-sweden/

            As already pointed out by others, many of the commenters here also have “real” experience in the sex industry, and have participated in the discussions about this subject many, many, many times in the numerous conversations specifically relating to the sex industry that have taken place here. Much of what you raise has been addressed numerous times before and I’m sure many people do find it incredibly annoying to keep having various other topics/threads/conversations hijacked or derailed in favour of virtually the same discussion time and time again.

            That said, I did wish to respond to some of what you wrote and I think Meghan has been incredibly tolerant about the way this tangental conversation has taken over. However, in an effort to allow the conversation to refocus on the original topic, I will draft and post a response to your comment on the article/comment thread below

            http://feministcurrent.com/7758/arguing-against-the-industry-of-prostitution-beyond-the-abolitionist-versus-sex-worker-binary/

            It may well take me a couple of days, though, as there is a lot to address in what you’ve written and, unfortunately, this is a particularly inconvenient time for me to being trying to do so.

            In the meantime, is it possible for you to supply links where I can access the last two articles you linked to without paying for them? (The Julia O’Connell Davidson document you linked to is nearly ten years old and, I’m afraid, if I need to pay for articles I do really need to prioritise more recent ones)

            Thank you,

            MLM.

          • Missfit

            Okay. I was reading this thread and refrained from commenting because I don’t feel repeating again what I and others have said here numerous time before; as mentioned, it is tiresome. And I know sex work, from a practical level. But then here, in this comment, from the 6th paragraph…. did I really read the words ‘female entitlement’? In a discussion on sex work?? This is MRA rhetoric, really! And then, to continue with that rhetoric, you go on mentioning the MRA cliche that any unattractive woman can go to a bar and get sex… What a woman may easily found is being used as a masturbatory device, yes. Your ‘sexual market place’ patriarchal theory, which bases any male-female relations on the prostitutional model, would better fit on an MRA site than a radical feminist.

          • lizor

            Oops. I posted before reading your comment Missfit. Sorry for repeating your point.

          • lizor

            vouchsafer – that comment is so clear and dead on. Thank you so much for writing it. By the time I got to the end of the “capitalist patriarchy is inevitable/acceptable so lets all get on the commodity bus and get empowerfulled because working the system is the same/as valid a form of resistance as dismantling it” my head was really hurting.

            “There is an economics of sexual relations between the genders which has historically been unfavorable for the rights of women; prostitutes/whores have historially lived outside the marriage institutions that have enforced much of that gender oppression – that long-standing stigma contributes to the horrible conditions under which many sex workers live, and at this point in history, is contradictory to more liberalised sexual mores. I advocate for the changing of these stigmas, as this slut-shaming whorephobia has been historically used to control women in subordinate and dependent relations to men.”

            See, it’s not capitalism that’s the problem. It’s the stigma we RF’s impose on people like those aboriginal children being sold onto St. Laurence River freighters for the use of the workers there. If we weren’t stigmatizing them for subverting the institution of marriage [which I also reject – in case anyone is tempted to twist my words], their lives would be so much better! What those kids need is a trade union!

            http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2013/08/23/aboriginal_women_exploited_in_great_lakes_sex_trade.html

          • https://twitter.com/SexAngelsUnited Laura

            Speaking of slut-shaming, what about it towards women who purposely have sex for free? Here’s a sample of the stuff we get: we’re literally “too risky” to date; we’ll fall in love with you and ruin your marriage and/or relationship (this 1 willfully ignores the fact that some of us won’t date married men PERIOD); we have no self-esteem and self-respect or too little of both; we’re literally and/or willfully too dumb to charge money for sex; we love home-wrecking; we’re not brave enough to be full-on sex workers (the fact is it takes bravery to find people to have sex with if you charge or not) and we’re full of STD’s. I’m so sick of the above. Unfortunately, it isn’t just sex workers that get this kind of thing.

      • Mary Smith

        What crap. The research clearly shows that so-called sex-work — aka being sexually abused for money — destroys women, body and mind. There is nothing empowering about developing a fistula or a rectocele and permanently needing diapers or a stoma when you’re forty-five. There’s nothing liberating about developing PTSD from the chronic emotional abuse that comes hand in hand with prostitution. There’s nothing freeing about HIV, HPV, herpes, chlamydia, etc.

        There is nothing feminist about encouraging young women to think that allowing strange males to destroy you for their pleasure in exchange for money is “just a choice”.

        Going into prostitution is not like deciding between going to junior college or getting a job as a barista. It’s like deciding between Drano and cyanide.

        • Felicity

          Please explain then how I managed to be in the sex industry for 20 years without developing any of those conditions?

          I am in a happy relationship with wonderful children, a career I love, no health problems whatsoever.

          How am I destroyed exactly? Must be a strange anomaly. Likewise all the other women I know like me.

          • Mary Smith

            If you are who you claim to be, what was your age when you entered prostitution? What is your age now? How did you enter it? Were you sexually abused as a child/young person before entering it? Were you ever beaten by a john? Raped? Have you been evaluated by health professionals for long-term ill effects? Ever contracted an STD? Are you sure? (i.e. HPV status?) What is the condition of your rectum and the fibrous wall between your rectum and your vagina? Any issues of prolapse? Incontinence? Lack of control? You may discover that things start falling down/out when you’re a little older. Are you able to achieve orgasm? Do you have nightmares? If you have no long-term ill effects then you are vanishingly rare — singularly lucky. Heck, you’re lucky to be alive.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I understand your point, but I’m not sure Felicity should have to divulge the “condition of [her] rectum and the fibrous wall between [her] rectum and [her] vagina”….. Perhaps that’s a little personal….?

          • Mary Smith

            Sometimes, when discussing the impact of a practice like prostitution on the female body, it is necessary to be medically explicit. Of course, she is free to not answer and I would understand if she did refrain from answering.

            However, the damage to the anus, rectum, perineum, vaginal wall, etc. and incidence of prolapse, fissures, rectocele, fistulas, etc. in people who have been repeatedly sexually abused (especially if the sexual abuse started when the person was very young/small) is well-documented. Human bodies did not evolve to withstand repeated assaults to the genital/rectal area. We’re not engineered by evolution to service dozens to hundreds of males at any age, much less when we’re 12 to 16, the age range when many (most) prostitutes are “introduced” to being sexually abused for money.

            I seriously doubt anyone who claims that they are “fine” after spending years experiencing having their bodies abused in this way.

            The proliferation of porn on the internet has mainstreamed the idea that the anus is a sexual organ (it’s not designed for that and is very, very fragile), which gives people, especially male people, the false impression that there is no difference, physiologically speaking, between occasionally making love that way with a careful, trusted partner versus a prostitute or porn actress servicing many, many, many men in that way.

            There will be a lot of women wearing Depends and feeling suicidal when they hit 50 and their rectocele starts falling out of their vagina. I think it’s important for feminist women to educate themselves, tamp down their natural squeamishness and warn other women of the danger.

            We’re not rubber dolls. We’re not sex toys. We’re flesh and blood human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and to make a living wage without destroying our bodies, minds or spirits.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I agree.

          • gxm

            I’m bookmarking this comment for easy reference. Beautifully and effectively stated, Mary Smith!

          • Felicity

            I was 21 when I first started working and 40 when I retired. I entered the industry because I wanted to pay off my Triumph bike quickly. I worked in the industry on and off from then on, while also having a career as an interpreter and teacher.

            I have no health issues related to working. I find your question re being sure of my sti status insulting. I had regular checks during my entire working life and always practiced safe sex. Your assumption I would not do so is incredibly rude. Ihave a great sex life, complete with orgasms.

            I was never abused, beaten or assaulted by anybody. I don’t have nightmares, unless you count about the PRA being repealed.

            Singularly lucky? A quick canvas round other 20 other sexworkers today gave me similar answers. The variations were in age and reasons for the entering the industry. Everyone I spoke with was incredulous at both your assumptions and your ideas about our health.

            I was not ‘abused for money’. My colleagues refute that terminology too. Yes, it may apply to some people but to apply it as a blanket term for every sexworker denies our agency as women to make labour and sexual choices. I would have thought that agency would be something feminists support.

            Megan-thank you for realising how incredibly invasive these questions are. I chose to answrr them in the interests of truth.

          • Mary Smith

            “A recent study of 854 women in prostitution in 9 countries reported that 70 – 95% of the women experience physical assault, among which 60 – 75% had been raped. Similarly in Korea, where prostitution is illegal, prostitutes experience sexual and physical violence. In a study of 100 Korean women in prostitution, 96% of respondents answered that they experienced physical danger from weapons, physical violence, and injury from rape.”

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2615337/

            “Fifty-seven percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted as children and 49% reported that they had been physically assaulted as children. As adults in prostitution, 82% had been physically assaulted; 83% had been threatened with a weapon; 68% had been raped while working as prostitutes; and 84% reported current or past homelessness. ”

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9698636/

          • Mary Smith

            “We interviewed 100 women prostituting in Vancouver, Canada. We found an extremely high prevalence of lifetime violence and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fifty-two percent of our interviewees were women from Canada’s First Nations, a significant overrepresentation in prostitution compared with their representation in Vancouver generally (1.7-7%). Eighty-two percent reported a history of childhood sexual abuse, by an average of four perpetrators. Seventy-two percent reported childhood physical abuse, 90% had been physically assaulted in prostitution, 78% had been raped in prostitution. Seventy-two percent met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. Ninety-five percent said that they wanted to leave prostitution. Eighty-six percent reported current or past homelessness with housing as one of their most urgent needs. Eighty-two percent expressed a need for treatment for drug or alcohol addictions. Findings are discussed in terms of the legacy of colonialism, the intrinsically traumatizing nature of prostitution and prostitution’s violations of basic human rights.”

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16114585

          • Missfit

            I think no one is denying that stories like yours exist. It is just that we do not think that a woman’s choice to choose prostitution over another accessible career (teaching for example) and men’s orgasms supersede girls and women’s rights to be free from sexual exploitation. You may think your story is the norm, our readings/observations/life experiences tell us the contrary. Legalization increases trafficking and this is a consequence we think is not worth it. Men’s orgasms are not worth it. And no, I won’t call men’s orgasms ‘sex therapy’. Prostitution is basically about women catering to men’s needs (emotional too; men like to direct their rage or whining at women) and sexually servicing them. And that there are some (very few) women who buy sexual services from men do not change that – it is too marginal, unnoticeable (are there any boys trafficked to sexually service women? Women pimping men? Men advertised for sale?).

            Women sexually servicing men is one of the oldest patriarchal tenets. When I hear women talking about sex work as empowering, it makes as much sense for me as a black boy saying he feels empowered by being on his knees, shining white men’ shoes. Being a dominatrix is not what most women in prostitution do; it is mostly about being on your knees, sucking any man’s dick. How is that empowering? Of course, someone can feel whatever they do and make any choice they want. A woman can say she chooses to wear a burka and feels empowered by it but it will not change the meaning of the burka, why it was created and what for. The normalization of prostitution and the accompanying pornification of society also work towards promoting a meaning of heterosexuality where women must service men and works against sexual equality. It sends the message that women’s bodies are merchandise for sale. People can say that it is not a woman’s body that is for sale but her services, but when women are advertised for prostitution, it is not their services that are marketed but their bodies: age, weight, breast size, ethnicity. Women’s bodies as commodities, that’s what it is.

            All this to say that there might be individual women who choose prostitution over other accessible work and like it but their right to do that without any hindrances (and more importantly, the right of men do buy sex without any hindrances) do not supersede the rights of a larger number of girls and women to be free of sexual violence.

      • https://twitter.com/SexAngelsUnited Laura

        For those who have mental illnesses the FMLA program can possibly help them work. I’ve been on it for many years as I have post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder. My doctor fills out the paperwork once a year and you then get a certain number of hours to cover your absences. It protects your job, i.e., keeps you from getting fired for attendance problems. It’s a US government program that truly helps people stay employed. It also protects the jobs of those who take medical leaves such as for pregnancy, etc.

  • Missfit

    If the the ‘new face of feminism’ is about women stripping, includes being called bitches, male leadership… can someone tell me the difference between this and patriarchy?
    Oh, and the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ thing; that is quite cool because it is so BDSMy!
    And just leave the theory behind because that is so second-wave and too serious; it is more fun to have your picture on a magazine.
    Bravo for this article, it is closing the loop (with a predictable twist) on the whole Femen phenomena.

    • Henke

      dear Missfit, Thank you for opening up the simularity between Stockholm syndrome and BDSM. I have never though about that for one second but I sure am now.
      Thank you.

  • Ash

    Never bought it…this is so unsurprising but very glad you published this, i’ll share it around as much as i can. What a scumbag that man is…

  • Patricia

    What a relilef to know that my BS-detector isn’t broken after all. While I never dove into it, Femen just never quite seemed right, ya know?

  • Teresa

    This is the idea of feminism in my town and it went viral. I just wish for one day that women and men could honestly learn to have empathy for each other and learn true value. I would love to have a world where people were equal, every race, religion-non religion, and gender. Where hate, fear, cunning and abuse were non-existent. Anyway to say the least I am disappointed in this because she is actually a smart strong active voice in my community and it feels like she sold out for ratings to get her video viral [over 3 million hits] and she only showed her boobs to one man, in support even. http://www.onabrighternote.ca/topless-in-kelowna/

  • Teresa
  • everydaywhorephobia

    I am amazed at the conclusions drawn here,and the lack of knowledge of femen. They were opposed room all formsf sex work and reguarly attacked, harassed and abusto do thed us. The even physically assaulted a sex worker, proudly filming themselves doing so. The hypocrisy od this when. they werwere paid to do their topless protests is staggering. The author has created a set of strawman arguments so they can attack their. own personal targets

    • Meghan Murphy

      We all know they were anti-prostitution. So what? I don’t agree with their tactics or ideology. Same reason I don’t ally with the religious right. They aren’t feminist. Also, what “strawmen arguments”? Please do feel free and encouraged to back up your comments/arguments with logic and facts.

    • lizor

      “The even physically assaulted a sex worker, proudly filming themselves doing so.” which reads, visually, like mud wrestling.

    • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

      “The(y) even physically assaulted a sex worker, proudly filming themselves doing so.”
      Just to clarify this bit of rhetoric, the “sex worker” in question was in fact the interruption of a simulated sex act by a man and a woman on stage during a commercial pornography fair (“Salon de l’érotisme”) in March 2013. Both were shoved aside (and retaliated by attacking the FEMEN women along with male bouncers) when these jumped on stage to confront the male audience with strong anti-pornography statements (Judge by yourselves: http://www.spi0n.com/les-femen-au-salon-de-lerotisme/). Like all FEMEN actions, this was documented to extend over the Web and newscasts their political activism.
      Presenting this demonstration as an “assault on a sex worker” reminds one of the old “chicks up front” male strategy.

  • Henke

    Woha, Nice article Meghan!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks!

  • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

    I have been searching for what I could find on the Net about Victor Svyatski and I am noticing a few things. First, that the people gloating about Kitty Green’s revelations are not all feminist. A lot of woman-haters are running with the notion that no women could have done all these actions by themselves and that FEMEN women were really just dumb puppets being jerked around by this “founder”, “father”, etc.

    Another is that Kitty Green’s information may be dated. FEMEN spokeswomen stated yesterday in Venice that Svyatski has been expelled from their movement. My translation from a Belgian feminist website:
    “Viktor Sviatski is not longer part of FEMEN: “When we realized we could no longer bremain under his crazy power trip, we had to fight against him. Today we are finally ready to work together.” They still adamantly assert:” We would never have been able to create such a strong ideology if we had not seen from up close this crazy example of patriarchy. I am grateful to have known such men, whom I hate for they ruin the life of the woman. There are millions of men like this in my country, France, Italy or at home. So we must keep this picture in our minds of Victor to become stronger and more aggressive against the patriarchal system.” – (http://www.terrafemina.com/societe/international/articles/30305-viktor-sviatski-un-documentaire-revele-la-personnalite-du-fondateur-des-femen-.html)

    This could strictly be damage control, of course. But there is no indication that
    Svyatski is presently in control of FEMEN, just as there is no indication that Voina men were in control of the Pussy Riot action that landed women in jail. If female anarchists manage to break the bonds that manarchists would like to keep them in, this ought to be acknowledged, not denied.

    Finally, some FEMEN actions were undoubtedly courageous confrontations of the pornstitution system, interrupting sex industry functions and denouncing complicitous politicians at great personal risk. Quite the contrary of the pro-prostitution positions taken by most Slutwalk organizers (such as Hugo Schwyzer). This seems a significant distinction.
    Contrary to the “burlesque” fad and the sex industry in general, both groups seem to me to have had, up to now, a mostly critical interaction with the male gaze – subverting, identifying and confronting it, even if malestream media constantly try to reduce these feminists to “boobs”, just the way antifeminist commentators used to focus on “bluestockings”, “bloomers”, “burning bras” or whatever physical traits to attempt ridiculing and discrediting angry women.

    • riv

      Both groups? There are three groups Martin, with interchangeable members: Voina, Pussy Riot and FEMEN, all run by men, calling sexual exploitation “radical”. No chickens were stuffed up men’s asses.

      They are all vile women abusers Martin, as are men who defend them.

      http://animalnewyork.com/2010/voinas-latest-action-is-fowl/

      How to Snatch a Chicken

      On 20 July 2010, Voina staged one of their more notorious actions in the Nakhodka supermarket in St. Petersburg. A female Voina activist removed a frozen chicken from the refrigerated section of the supermarket, then laboriously stuffed the entire chicken into her own vagina, while being filmed by other Voina members. She then shoplifted the chicken by leaving the supermarket without paying, with the chicken still inserted, and rejoined protesters outside the store.[29] The activists held signs spelling out the word “bezblyadno”, which translates roughly as “without whoring”, a reference to the group’s rejection of paid employment and preference for stealing food, and a pun on the word besplatno, “free (of charge)”.

      • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

        By “both groups” I meant FEMEN and Slutwalk.
        As for Voina and Pussy Riot, you may have different information but I have read that only one (female) member of Pussy Riot used to be in Voina some years ago.
        To my knowledge, there is no documented link between FEMEN and either Voina or Pussy Riot.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “To my knowledge, there is no documented link between FEMEN and either Voina or Pussy Riot.”

          Mine neither…

          • riv

            Yes, there is between PR and Voina with some members moving from one to the other. And ideologically, they are the same: male anarchists willing to exploit women.

          • riv

            “for the cause” not just individual exploitation. Women are not part of these movements, they are used by them.

  • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

    Jezebel.com is on to this story (bad sign), with quotes from a 2009 Russian interview (http://bit.ly/19kd5ri) that gives indications of Victor Svyatski’s mindset. (http://jezebel.com/the-man-behind-femen-is-no-friend-of-the-movement-1251310779)
    Still, I wonder whether Kitty Green’s film is really all that much about him. So far, it’s malestream media that are using what she said about him to discredit FEMEN women by association.
    I’ll have to see the film to verify whether that reduction is warranted.

  • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

    More distinctions in today’s issue of LIBÉRATION, Paris neo-liberal daily. On the one hand FEMEN leaders denounce Svyatski as part of their past in Ukraine; on the other, the (male) journalist tries to give his piece a Svengali angle, suggesting that Svyatski still “pulls the strings”, and concludes with dire pronouncement of a “severe credibility crisis”.

    Translated quote from the article:
    (…) Inna Shevchenko said that “Viktor Sviatski did not create FEMEN, he was a friend of Anna Hutsol [the founder, editor’s note], but it’s true: he joined the movement and began to take up more and more room.” “We come from Ukraine, a very patriarchal country, we did not know how to resist him, we had never learned.” She says that his presence is one of the reasons that led her to leave Kiev. “Ever since I have arrived in Paris, I have been able to build the real Femen, which has become an international organization, and Sviatski has no influence on all the things we’ve done”, she claims.

    “In the year since I’ve joined, I’ve never seen Inna speak to or of him,” says Marguerite Stern, one of the activists imprisoned in Tunisia in June, contacted by LIBÉRATION. “I only discovered his existence a few days ago when Inna told us of him. For us to learn that a patriarchal structure had inserted itself into Femen was a bit hard to learn, “she says. But she is adamant that “FEMEN is free of him. I see how things go today.”

  • Hecuba

    Martin says this:

    Contrary to the “burlesque” fad and the sex industry in general, both groups seem to me to have had, up to now, a mostly critical interaction with the male gaze – subverting, identifying and confronting it, even if malestream media constantly try to reduce these feminists to “boobs”, just the way antifeminist commentators used to focus on “bluestockings”, “bloomers”, “burning bras” or whatever physical traits to attempt ridiculing and discrediting angry women.

    Martin you fail to see that the actions of Femen and Pussy Riot in no way subvert or even challenge mens’ misogynistic view that women aren’t human but merely disposable/interchangeable sexualised commodities. Women protesting half naked in public is not ‘subverting’ it is reinforcing mens’ belief that women are just ‘sex.’ Likewise Pussy Riot filming a female member as she engages in a sexually degrading act which is identical to mens’ pornography industry is not remotely ‘subversive or even radical!’

    It is yet more of the same old same old ‘conformity to male claims that women aren’t human and look here’s the evidence because Femen has women protesting half naked in public and Pussy Riot has a woman reducing herself to a dehumanised sexualised object.

    Remember Feminism is about Womens’ Liberation from male domination and it is not about women conforming/promoting mens’ vile misogynistic claims that women aren’t human but merely exist to be mens’ disposable/interchangeable sex objects/slaves.

    • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

      You are conflating Voina and Pussy Riot. Two different groups, years apart. It was NOT Pussy Riot but Voina males who filmed pornography using Russian women.

      • lizor

        OK. Hecuba misnamed Pussy Riot in that action. Two members of Pussy Riot were also members of Viona, so clearly the distinction between the two groups is soft and there is cohesion between the philosophy/strategies of the two.

        What is beyond me entirely is that anyone in their right mind thinks that performing abusive penetrative sex or that displaying and/or defiling women’s bodies is in any way radical, subversive or progressive. It was abusive conformist patriarchal bullshit when Andy Warhol was doing it half a century ago and it is abusive conformist patriarchal bullshit now.

    • resisting woman

      Hecuba-thank you for your comments, spoken as a true radfem.

      I would ask Martin in what possible way does he think that a woman stuffing a chicken into her vagina subverts male beliefs that women exist as their sexual service stations …..
      It doesn’t of course, as in all pornography, it is women doing what men tell them to.

      • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

        I would respond by calling your straw argument. I was referring to FEMEN and SLUTWALK’s male gaze efforts, not male-controlled Voina’s chicken-in-vagina pornographic stunt. Even Pussy Riot did not sexualize their performance in the Russian cathedral.

        • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

          P.S.: Muissing word. I meant *male gaze subversion efforts*.I am not equipped to pass judgment as to whether these are a complete failure or not but using Voina to slag FEMEN women is clearly obfuscation.

          • vouchsafer

            Yes because it’s so male gaze subverting to show your tits. Oops, I mean”use the magic of your body to gain attention”. (From their website)

            And how is the slutwalk male gaze subversion?

            Both femen and the slutwalk are dickpleasing organizations. Do they have any fat ‘activists’ at femen?

        • scaldingmay

          I don’t understand how drawing parallels between “male gaze subversion efforts” and male pornographic stunts is a derail on a feminist blog. Why are you so invested in Voina’s reputation? It’s telling that you’ve made no comments on the nature of some of their stunts, especially the one with the chicken. But of course I’m sure it’s a lot easier to slag on a well meaning radical feminist who used the wrong name of a group (which btw doesn’t make her points any less valid) instead of calling out misogyny and losing your super cool anarchist cred.

  • https://www.facebook.com/martindufresne martin dufresne

    I certainly don’t wish to dominate this discussion but peep might want to know that French feminists have also been discussing these news reports, and I have translated a strong response from a woman with a few decades of experience with media backlash:

    Conversation started today

    11:23
    Martin Dufresne
    Bravo pour votre statut – relayé sur FB par Caroline Fourest – sur la démagogie misogyne des médias face aux FEMEN.

    12:07
    Martin Dufresne
    J’ai traduit vite fait – merci Google! – votre merveilleux coup de gueule. Je le copierais à l’intention des féministes nord-amércaines dont certaines, et pas des moindres, ont “avalé tout cru” la version média de la déchéance des FEMEN. Je peux le diffuser?
    Martin D.
    Rose PRUDENCE: “I have not yet seen the movie but still, really, one only had to read their book to be aware of Viktor’s presence close to the group – and then what? So there was a guy with FEMEN women, and he was a tad autocratic, and just a bit temperamental, and somewhat of a megalomaniac in attributing to himself full responsibility for their actions? But a “dictator”, a “macho”, a “mentor “, a “founder”, you name it – with the media rushing as one man (emphasis on man) to decree that, since there was a (single) guy with them – or behind or in front, no matter – this meant that he also singlehandedly invented everything – directed, masterminded, written, “engineered” every single action – and, therefore, the unavoidable conclusion becomes that the FEMEN are dumb blondes, almost Viktor-patented inflatable dolls. ARE PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR MINDS? Do you imagine that the feminists of the seventies did not also have buddies? And that plenty of other guys and media attributed to these men responsibility for all our actions (we were of course deemed completely unable to have thought of these by ourselves!)
    And if instead of cries of outrage because of the macho/exploitative/dictator/mentor, etc., we were to take a look at what have been FEMEN actions? What they have set in motion here and there, in people’s minds (and not only among Ukrainian or Belarusian secret services)? And if we were to stop swallowing without a second thought the spin given to this film by the media – who were only waiting for this. But no, it is enough to go “OMG, there was a guy in FEMEN” and everything else collapses! And the magnificent “Amina Akbar” at the Tunisian Embassy, and the three European women who flew to Tunis in support of Amina, and the protests against Putin and against the Muslim Brotherhood, all of these are deleted in one deft pen stroke because… Oh the horror! There was a guy hanging out there! And we are supposed to settle for that 100% macho fairy tale? God knows that I was (am) not thrilled with every action or writing of the FEMEN, but to deny all of what they have achieved under the pretext that there is a drop of sperm alongside, what a strange vision of “feminism”!

    • lizor

      Sorry Martin, but Rose’s contention that Viktor was nothing more than “a drop of sperm alongside” is specious, as is the positive comparison with the relationship that second wavers might have had with their male allies.

      The new hot feminists who are going to lead us RFs out of our activist darkness just happen to hang out with dudes who are “a tad autocratic” – no biggie!

      Give me a small break.

  • sporenda

    Here are more details found in this movie about Femen, really amazing stuff:

    Svyatsky is the one who planned and organized most of Femen’s “shock commando” operations, he even paid some of these women to perform in the scenarios he wrote–like for the happening that took place during the Ukraine/poland match of the Euros 2012 (football).

    In the movie, he declares “I am the patriarch of an organization that fights patriarchy”. It’s paradoxical, he underlines, but “Marx and Lenin were bourgeois”. And he he adds “I am the father of new feminism”.
    He acknowledges that the was attracted sexually to the Femen, and cherry picked them on the basis of their physical attractiveness to perform in his happenings.
    From what I understand, he was the boyfriend of one of the Femen, that’s how he infiltrated the group.
    He might have had sexual relations with other women, it’s sort of alluded to in the movie but not clarified.
    One of the Femen is quite clear: “Victor is a man who wants to control women”

    At the end of the movie, the women say he is no longer part of the group, that it was a learning experience for them, and they swear to never let a man come between them.

    With this guy, we are very close to the classic pimp figure, as illustrated by Linda Lovelace in her autobiography: a power hungry, megalomaniac, mysogynistic mastermind who exploits women sexually and financially, use them as pawns and props to make money, and gets off controlling them and turning them into his slaves.
    With an added twist, which makes the manipulation all the more exciting for him: Lovelace’s pimp did not pretend to be defending women’s rights when he put a revolver to her head–he was a straightforward womanhater.
    Svyatsky must get a kick out of leading women on with his pretense of being feminist.

    This is all pretty unbelievable but at the same time it’s part of a general trend we are seing at work now: since feminism is not going away, the plan is to disqualify authentic feminism as passé and out, and to advertise a new feminism as cool, fun, pro-sex, pro-men etc.

    I have seen this trend rearing its ugly head on a few feminist blogs lately; recently, on one of them, one guy was pontificating about the fact that “the best feminists support trans” (mansplaining alert, and who is he to grant medals of “best feminists”).
    And that feminists should absolutely unite forces with any and all anti-capitalist, anti-specist, anti-racist anti-anything groups, that feminism should be all inclusive and essentially nothing more than a form of benign humanism.

    Major bs, all the red lights are blinking.
    When you read “new feminism”, be leery: it’s a code word for “new patriarchy”.

  • http://musteryou.wordpress.com Jennifer Frances Armstrong

    If you need to know about hidden motivations and hidden motivators, you are still not thinking with your critical mind. The pros and cons of Femen should have been evident to you from the outset, not after you learned about some kind of moral impurity of motivation lurking behind the scenes.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Pretty sure you’re not talking to anyone here, Jennifer? Or you missed the whole point of this article?

  • MLM

    “When you read “new feminism”, be leery: it’s a code word for “new patriarchy”.”

    (Nodding) ForMenism.
    http://feminspire.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/xoj4.png

  • sporenda

    ” Viktor’s presence close to the group – and then what? So there was a guy with FEMEN women, and he was a tad autocratic, and just a bit temperamental, and somewhat of a megalomaniac in attributing to himself full responsibility for their actions? But a “dictator”, a “macho”, a “mentor “, a “founder”, you name it – with the media rushing as one man (emphasis on man) to decree that, since there was a (single) guy with them…
    Do you imagine that the feminists of the seventies did not also have buddies? And that plenty of other guys and media attributed to these men responsibility for all our actions ”

    I strongly disagree with this comment, in fact I can’t believe what I am reading.
    This airy casual dismissal of the creepy role played by Svyatsky in Femen muddies the waters , creates confusion where clear distinctions should be made and in fact —EXCUSES THE INEXCUSABLE.
    Yes Second wave feminists had boyfriends, nothing wrong with that, and yes it may have happened that the media tried to discredit some of their actions by insinuating they were teleguided by men.
    It may have happened–I am not aware that it did but let’s take that at face value.
    But the movie SHOWS Svyatsky expressing misogynistic and sexist views about the Femen; his abusive, gurulike behavior is documented in the movie BY WHAT THE GUY HIMSELF SAYS; we are dealing with concrete, visible facts here, not vague rumors or slander.

    And it’s two very different things for a feminist to have a boyfriend, or to have buddies, and to let these guys not only join the movement, but take the lead, make decisions for the women, speak in their place, and more generally let them define what feminism is, and what its agenda and strategies should be.
    The megalomania of this guy might make him overstate his real importance in Femen but “a tad autocratic, and just a bit temperamental, and somewhat of a megalomaniac” males should have no place whatsoever in feminist movements, period.

    What blows my mind is that the author of this comment not only says that there is nothing wrong about guys exercising power and leadership over feminists but she seems to consider that the insults, scorn, misogyny and sexual harassment that Svyatsky unleashed on the Femen are no big deal.
    Hello ??!

    Not to mention the fact that Svyatsky sent these young women on dangerous “shock commando” missions, without any concern for their safety or freedom, while himself stayed prudently behind: send chicks first on the minefield.

    Feminists have fought for decades against society’s indulgence and tolerance toward abusive despotic men.
    That a feminist can excuse such abusive behavior in Svyatsky is proof that this condoning of abuse is everywhere–including among those who are supposed to fight it.
    In any case, well done Svyatsky: you have messed up western feminism (somewhat).

  • Mary Smith

    Exactly. If males are jacking off to it, it isn’t feminism. Sheesh.

    • sporenda

      “Exactly. If males are jacking off to it, it isn’t feminism”.

      This is the golden rule to tell apart feminism from faux feminism.

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  • http://exposingantifeminism.wordpress.com nlibertusonline

    They should call this FAUXminist Bullshit. Hey everyone. There’s a documentary out about FEMEN, Anna Hutsol and Nina N. are and have always been the leaders of FEMEN.

  • Cormac

    Thanks – given me a lot to think about and shifted me from the legalisation point of veiw to abolition/ilimination