Feminist opposition to the sex industry has little to do with women's 'choices'

I feel quite certain that the reasons feminists oppose prostitution and pornography are clear. We have gone over the arguments many times and left little room for confusion.

In short, the sex industry exists because we live in a capitalist patriarchy that places men, as a class, in a position of power over women, as a class. Within this system women’s bodies are seen as and treated as existing “for men” — for their use, for their pleasure. Men’s desire is prioritized above women’s well-being. Men will often hire prostitutes to do that which they “can’t” do to their wives or girlfriends, thus creating a class of abusable women, dividing us into worthy or “good” women and unworthy or “bad” women. At the same time, these systems make all women into things that are publicly accessible — we are to be groped, looked at, cat-called, fucked. Pornography serves to sexualize inequality and the degradation of women. It turns violence, gang-rape, and abuse into maturbatory tools. It teaches the viewer that male power and female subordination is “sexy.” It sexualizes incest and pedophilia. Both prostitution and pornography are deeply racist — creating, sexualizing, and perpetuating racist stereotypes about women that are then attached to misogynist practices. The prostitution of women of colour is, as Alice Lee explains to Chris Hedges, “an extension of imperialism” and “built on the social power disparities of race and color.” The prostitution of Indigenous women and girls, in Canada, is directly connected to our history of colonialism.*

Despite all that, when liberal feminists or leftist men who have chosen to avoid criticism of the sex industry in favour of “women have agency,” “sex work is work,” or “my body my choice” -type arguments, they tend, more often than not, to erase our actual critique, instead creating caricatures that can more-easily be dismissed or trashed.

We see this in Pandora Blake’s recent piece in New Statesman. She writes:

Porn is one of the least marginalized jobs within the sex industry, but it still suffers from the same fallacy as every other discussion about sex work — the idea that it is only a legitimate choice if it is ‘empowering.’

This characterization always strikes me as odd when I come across it because I’ve yet to encounter a feminist critique of pornography that mentions anything about “legitimate choices.” Blake goes on to repudiate the notion that a job must be “empowering” in order to be viewed as a “legitimate choice,” noting that we don’t ask the same of film, in general, or really, of any job.

“Why do we only expect ’empowerment’ of sex work, and not of other jobs?” she asks.

Well, I think we do hope for “empowerment” in other jobs and don’t wish for anyone to be degraded at work, for starters… Feminists have fought sexual harassment, assault, and abuse in the workplace for decades. But also, the question of whether or not an individual feels “empowered” by sex work isn’t one we pose — rather, it’s a position taken by those who believe the existence of the sex industry is fine and good and justifiable because some women claim it can be experienced as empowering in certain ways. Now, whatever is inside your head belongs to you, but whatever a person believes or chooses to believe about their own sense of empowerment doesn’t change the fact that the sex industry does harm individual women and does impact all women.

Needless to say, feminists don’t “expect empowerment of sex work” nor do we ask whether or not a woman’s “choice” to enter into the sex industry is a legitimate one. The question of “legitimacy” should, rather, be asked of this imagined debate.

We see another example of this in a recent post by Anne Thériault, who says that “white feminists” need to stop “thinking that all sex workers are all miserable wretches who hate their lives.” She writes:

Like, this is literally what you’re saying: “I believe women have agency and can make decisions about their lives except for when it has to do with sex work, at which point I will assume that either someone is exploiting them or else they are self-hating gender traitors only interested in the male gaze.”

So just to clarify, you think that women can make choices except when it’s a choice you disagree with, at which point you’re pretty sure she’s being coerced. You also think that sex workers need to be “rescued,” even if they’re happy with what they do. You would rather see women further marginalized by anti-prostitution laws than find ways to keep sex workers safe.

Again, explain to me how this is a pro-woman stance?

Hmm, no… What we literally are not saying is that women in prostitution are “gender-traitors” or that we “disagree” with women’s “choices” to enter into the sex industry. Literally no feminist I know says that. And I know an awful lot of the women who fight, within the feminist movement, against the sex industry… Not only does Thériault erase all of the women of colour who are opposed to the racist, misogynist sex industry, but she chooses to erase our actual arguments, developed over decades and waves. To pretend as though only white women are feminist, fight sexual exploitation and abuse, and can see and care about the harm and abuse that happens in the sex industry is an appalling — but deliberate — attempt to dismiss the work and efforts of thousands and thousands of women, over decades, across the globe, and I think it is reprehensible.

It is only necessary to invent untrue and insulting caricatures if you are not willing or able to engage with the actual critiques and analysis at hand. I might ask how willfully misrepresenting the work, ideology, politics, arguments, beliefs, intentions, backgrounds, lives, and experiences of women as a means to justify telling them to shut up is “pro-woman?”

Feminists do not judge women who enter into prostitution — whether they have made some version of a choice (within the context of capitalist patriarchy) or not. Certainly we don’t see them as “gender traitors.” There is no “them,” for that matter, as many of “us” (feminists) have been involved in the sex industry in one way or another, and all of “us” live in this world. There is no clear dichotomy between “us” and “them.” Certainly we don’t want to see women further marginalized by sexual exploitation, considering that it is the most marginalized women (and also considering that women are marginalized as a group, under patriarchy, and therefore it is “us” who are affected) who already are most vulnerable to exploitation in prostitution.

We are largely concerned, though, with the choices men make to consume pornography, to buy sex, and to exploit and profit from the sale of women’s bodies. We are also largely concerned with the fact that we live in a culture that treats women as objects to be bought and sold. We are largely concerned with the fact that most women and girls grow up believing that their existence is legitimized by the male gaze and that we then internalize that gaze. This is a problem that hurts women — all women. Therefore it makes no real sense to “disagree” with women’s “choice” to be impacted by this gaze and the larger systems at work, since we (women) are the ones who are suffering under said systems. We will certainly disagree with and challenge women who defend these systems or who pretend as though they are good for women, but prostitutes are not to blame for prostitution and women aren’t to blame for the existence of porn. In short, the fight isn’t about women’s individual choices — it is about the fact that women’s choices are limited and shaped by patriarchy and, of course, that many women and girls have no real choice when it comes to the exploitation, abuse and violence they experience in this world.

What should be clear, at very least, is that we are feminists because we care about women. To say that we want to see women further marginalized is an incredibly bold fabrication. What could our motives possibly be except the well-being, rights, and liberty of women? These representations ignore and erase the truth of our movement. They erase the fact that women in this movement come from all sorts of backgrounds, are marginalized, have been prostituted and abused, work with and for women on a daily basis, and not only are impacted by the sex industry on a personal and systemic level, but care about the impact on all other women and girls as well.

Blake writes:

If you truly care about empowering porn performers, start by reducing poverty. Fight to improve our welfare state, for a citizen’s basic income, for more flexible working options for parents and people with disabilities, and for decreased tuition fees for students. It is possible to work full time in this country without earning a living wage, while others who want to work full time may not be able to. If you want to make someone more empowered, you need to give them better options, not fewer options.

Indeed. As the women (and men) I ally with are somewhere over to the left (whether or not they identify as socialist, as I do), these issues are of primary importance. But because we are fighting for a stronger welfare state and free tuition and a living wage does not mean we drop our fight to end violence against women and the dehumanization of women and girls.

A woman can “choose” to do sex work, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s ok for a man to buy her. A woman can “like” or “dislike” performing in porn, but that doesn’t make porn “good” for women, nor does it negate the fact that the sex industry reinforces male power and entitlement.

Part of the reason feminists fight prostitution and pornography is, yes, because of the violence and abuse so many women and girls suffer within it. But it is not those women and girls’ “choices” we disagree with… Prostitution and pornography are social problems that exist on a larger spectrum that includes objectification, rape culture, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, body image, self-esteem, sexual assault, incest, and more. The way we understand heterosexual  relationships, the way we understand sex, the way women and men relate to one another, the way we understand marriage and beauty and our value as human beings — it’s all connected and affected. Pop culture, film, television, advertising are all affected too. The connections are palpable to anyone willing to see.

If the point, in terms of this debate, were whether or not any individual felt they were being empowered by porn at any given point in time or whether or not one person “liked” another person’s “choice” to do sex work, then we could simply argue back and forth about who feels personally empowered by what and who personally “liked” or did “not like” any given thing or idea, divorced from a larger context, political movement, or ideology, for eternity, and get nowhere. Oh wait…

I honestly don’t know how a person can be a feminist and fail to understand all this, but if they truly don’t, the least they could do is represent our arguments fairly. Otherwise it simply appears as though you are unable to engage with the ideology at hand, cheaply resorting to red herrings and sexist tropes, which not only detracts from your argument, but does the feminist movement no good.

*Editor’s note, 03/11/2015: This paragraph was added in to clarify the arguments for those who might be unfamiliar with the feminist analysis of prostitution and pornography.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Naida

    as always excellent and thorough analysis from a much needed normative point of view instead of the same old “do women enter prostitution by choice”-drivel. I’m really in love with you, from a platonic point of view. There, I said it. Must be annoying, however, to write all of this over and over again when so many people even don’t WANT to understand it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ha. Thanks Naida!

  • anne cameron

    Darlin’, they only write that drivel because they get paid to write it. They don’t really believe it. To believe that claptrap a person would have to be too stupid to tie her she laces… and nobody who was that stupid would be able to get and keep a job…

    Those who write advertising pap for breakfast cereals probably don’t even eat the stuff, certainly it’s not their ONLY food group. And those who write these bullshitteries are doing it to cement their job; they know if they wrote the truth the (male) editor or publisher or Big IYam would pink slip them immediately.

    Prostitution USED to be an honourable profession. Pre-patriarchy, of course. That it has been used to degrade women isn’t the fault of women, it’s just another way the boys wave their danglybits. Porn has no such history, it has always been shite. I won’t get started on my opinion of porn, you don’t have the time or the space! It’s a handbook in the war against women, particularly against feminists.

    You’re doing fine. Just fine. Keep it up and be sure to take some time for YOU. What you are doing is important, but it is exhausting.

    • Rebecca Mott

      Prostitution has never been an honorable profession, that is a very dangerous myth. It has always been about making the prostituted class sub-human and into goods. The myth comes from the false belief that prostitutes are some kind of goddesses and worshipped. So-called whore-goddesses were mainly slaves or women kidnapped during wars. By naming them as goddesses, it made these women supernatural – so cannot feel human pain, so can used by endless men. I think we should be very careful about imagining some Golden Age for the prostituted class – remember the history of the prostituted was written by the sex trade and its supporters.

      • Rich

        “I think we should be very careful about imagining some Golden Age for the prostituted class – remember the history of the prostituted was written by the sex trade and its supporters.”

        Indeed. But the idea of a pre-patriarchal golden age has a tremendous fascination for many, who, IMO, see what they want to see in the limited and difficult to interpret evidence that we have.

  • Lydia

    I’m gonna have to echo Naida here – you always do a wonderful job taking on these pro-industry “thought” leaders (if I can even call them that). I have to ask though, how do you find their pieces? I generally stick to the mainstream American news sources, so maybe I just need to step out of my comfort zone. Though I might not like what I find, if the excerpts you’ve presented are anything to judge by.

  • Meghan, you’re from the US. Can you explain this “sex is taboo” thing I keep coming across on the internet? It seems to have a huge effect on how people (esp. in the US) talk about prostitution/porn etc., and I keep feeling like I’m missing half of what people mean.

    Like, maybe people emphasize “empowering” because they think sex is taboo? I don’t know. I’m just guessing.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m from Canada! But yes, I think Americans approach feminism/sex/politics from that ‘sex is taboo’ angle because they have to deal with the religious right in such a very intense and extreme way. So they react to that by going to the polar opposite — all sex is good! Anything, that is critical of anything associated with ‘sex,’ therefore, Americans often construe as ‘prudish,’ ‘conservative,’ and/or ‘moralistic’ (in a religious sense).

      • Aaah! I don’t know why I thought you were from the US. Must have been another poster and I wasn’t paying attention. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being from the US.)

        And that’s a good explanation. I will copy it to my desktop and see if it helps.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I have dual citizenship, in fact! But was born and raised in Vancouver… 🙂

      • Jonah

        The most bizarre thing about that approach is that, in reality, American men have been having massive amounts of violent, degrading, abusive sex since the colonial days. This idea that the Leave it to Beaver purity of the 1950’s was ever actually real, and therefore possible to react against, is so stupid. The modern “sex positive” movement is what you get when people create an image of the past that is almost completely incorrect and then attempt to do the opposite – which of course, pretty much perfectly resembles the *actual* past of men abusing women for pleasure with impunity.

        Great article! Shared shared shared!

        • Meghan Murphy

          Thanks Jonah! Agreed. And like, those religious extremist men may well appear to oppose ‘sex’ (or even porn and prostitution) but that never stopped them from raping and abusing and treating women and girls as objects that exist for men.

        • This.

        • Nicole

          I totally agree with you Jonah. You are spot on.

          My ex boyfriend used to say that he got so into the sex positive movement because he believed the neoliberal idea that “sex is taboo” and that society is “repressed”. So therefore he took it upon himself to wear shirts with literal porn images of women on them in public to help make “sex more acceptable.” Oh, and he also made stickers to put in public as “street art” that were cropped images of perfectly waxed plastic looking bleached genitals engaging in penetration. He really showed society!

          Yeah…we aren’t together anymore. He wasn’t very intelligent.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Gross! But that’s the message they’re getting both from the mainstream AND from ‘sex-positive’ feminism… Ugh.

          • Amanda

            Hello Meghan! I love your blog- keep up the great work! There is nothing wrong with being “sex positive,” but what these sex pos feminists should but do not understand is that being sex pos and a paid prostitute or porn actress are completely two different things. I am a radical feminist, and am also sex pos, but I entered prostitution because I was on the brink of homelessness, not because I thought it was “empowering!!” I tried so hard to get a straight job, and my options were running out..fast. I, in order to survive in that industry before I made enough money to get out, mindfucked myself into THINKING it was “empowering.” Every time I reluctantly took my clothes off and had to pleasure another abusive prick, I told myself “well your tricking this jerk into thinking you really like him. Your getting over on him..ha ha..how empowering..” When in reality, if I didn’t keep up my end of the bargain (sex for x amount of money), I could get beaten up, or even killed. How EMPOWERING is THAT?? If being a porn actress is so f-ing empowering, how come my friends and I had to be high as hell from drugs to perform?? If prostitution is so empowering, why did I catch a drug habit that cost me over a grand a week? If prostitution is so damned empowering, why was I raped one night by a “client?” See my point? Thanks for letting me share my story..

          • Derrington

            I have a bit of diessent with the pro sexism fauxminists, i think with equality goes accountability. Selling your sisters down the line for your own personal power/money/ego whilst pretending to be their sister is deeply hypocritical to me and lacks any authenticity. I dont hold people in prostitution to account for their position, but if your promoting it whilst pretending it will do you good, that sticks in my throat. Particularly from pandora blake who doesnt even tell her parents what she does and promotes to other women. Its deeply hypocritical.

      • I don’t think the problem is just an American one. I hear the same “all sex is good” rhetoric here, in Australia, where religion is far less influential. Obviously such rhetoric serves the interests of the pornography industry, which is why it is being preached all over the West (and nations influenced by the West, e.g. China).

        Like other powerful ideologies, sexual libertarianism has the ability to invent enemies in order to convince people that it is necessary and thereby promote itself. In this case, the enemy is not completely fabricated (“sex-negative” feminism and conservative religion really do exist) by its influence is exaggerated. Some sex liberals think that governments that adopt Nordic Model type policies are somehow under the control of sex-negative feminists, who hate sex for no reason. Liberals don’t want to face the fact that the Nordic Model has succeeded in reducing the number of women in prostitution and that people see this as a positive thing.

        With regard to this post, I see nothing wrong with disapproving of the choice to enter prostitution/pornography. I understand that for many women, particularly (though not only) those in the third world, it is not really a choice. They are tricked or coerced into it or they enter it because the alternative is going without basic needs (e.g. food, water and shelter.)

        However, the conventionally attractive, fluent in English, usually white and economically better off self-proclaimed “sex workers” strike me as the sorts of people who do, or at least did, have alternatives to working in the sex industry. They decided to take on a job in which their butts and boobs would be valued far more than brains and (metaphorical) hearts. Of course these women grew up in a society that told them that their butts and boobs were super important, but every decision people make is shaped by their society. So you cannot categorise decisions as “society-influenced” and “non-society influenced” and I don’t believe think we should be buying into the liberal view that all genuine choices are good choices. It makes far more sense to simply label them as good, bad and neutral.

        Categorising a decision as bad is not necessarily a personal attack on those who make it, but having interacted with self-proclaimed “sex-positive sex workers” (i.e. public representatives of the sex industry) online, I find it difficult to sympathise with them. Their values are so superficial and capitalistic. The fact that their way of thinking is a product of the kind of society they live in does not make it any less infuriating. I don’t think we should hold back from criticising these women’s values and decisions, just because they are the result of social norms. We should however, acknowledge that the general culture and the capitalist class that created it have far more capacity to influence how people think than any individual “sex-positive” woman does, so our primary focus should be on changing the culture rather than on changing individuals.

    • andeväsen

      Fundamentalist Christianity (or Christianity) seems to have a much bigger role in USian society than in Europe. However European anti-Nordic model liberals still characterise any challenge from feminists to the sexual exploitation industry as coming from “right wingers”, “Christians” and “prudes”. Myopic at best, disingenuous at worst.

  • Radvark

    I’m a WoC, to use the parlance. When I was a fledgling feminist, the concept of ‘intersectionality’ appealed to me for a short while. I soon noticed, though, that the term is abused. Saying “white feminists are X” or “white feminists should not Y” is a silencing technique; very slightly different from saying “WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SYRIA AND INDIA ARE DYING AND YOU ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT PORN/PROSTITUTION??!! ALSO CHOICE!!!”

    Thank you for writing, Meghan. I discovered this blog a year ago and it was my first window into radical feminist thought. Your posts about the pornstitution industry were among the first I read here. Thank you for articulating, always, all the things I have been uncomfortable with but never been able to express why. And finally, thank you for being awesome.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you, Radvark! So glad to have you here!

    • andeväsen

      Radvark, my WOC feelings exactly. “White feminist” is almost the new TERF, but more bizarrely inaccurate and more unrepresentative.

  • Thank you so much for responding to that painfully offensive post by Anne Thériault that’s been making the rounds. I saw that a few people who I know to be otherwise intelligent and thoughtful were posting it. It’s truly depressing.

    The rest of the piece, including her dig at Patricia Arquette was willfully disingenuous. At least I hope it was, because otherwise it’s a piece of ignorant, dumb and destructive anti-feminism. It boggles the mind that this crap passes as feminist discourse.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It was incredibly bad and dishonest. The whole thing. It comes off merely as an attempt/excuse for white people to pat themselves on the head “oh noooo, I’m not like that! I’m one of the good white people!” It’s self-congratulatory and contains zero analysis of actual systems of oppression — race, class, and gendered systems. Lazy as can be.

  • Philip Rose

    I read this a couple of times and became confused.
    I guess you would like to see an end to sexwork and bad porn, but is that a possibility? If, to a certain extent, we take Prohibition as an example, things only get worse when people seek to ban them. Many people argue that it is the criminalisation of prostitution that causes so many of the problems.
    Don’t we have to accept that, like so many things, prostitution is something that will always exist but something which we can seek to ameliorate? by encouraging more control by women?
    From what I have seen regarding pro-sexworker feminists, (Lyndsay Kirkham?) they seek to ’empower’ (I hate that word) sexworkers by taking away the stigma attached and to allow them to work as if it’s a normal job – controlled by them, for them. Isn’t that an admirable aim?
    I have encountered sexworkers socially, and there is a broad spectrum. For many, it funds a drug habit. That is a real, real problem. The reason they end up being controlled by men is that they need protection from the ‘punters’ – most of the men act as bodyguards. Another problem is unemployment. In certain areas of the UK where jobs are scarce, it’s tempting to earn money that way. Yes, we would all like a world in which there are no drug problems and perfect job opportunities, but to suggest that as the solution is naive.
    However, there are a significant number of women who do it as a life choice.
    I asked one of them how on Earth she got involved. She met a man who paid her. It was no big deal for her, and, as she told me, she earned a week’s wages in one night. Her view was that working for a living was almost demeaning – sexwork gave her a much better standard of living, earning (in her instance) more than £50,000 a year – 95,000 Canadian dollars. Bear in mind that I earned £28,000 a year in a full-time skilled job, and the average UK wage is about £26,000, the suggestion that well-paid work might stop sexwork doesn’t ring true.
    I didn’t quite understand your statement ‘A woman can “choose” to do sex work, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s ok for a man to buy her’. Surely that must mean you disapprove of both sides of the transaction? The woman is a ‘seller’ and the man the ‘buyer’. Both have made choices. And really, he’s not buying her in the same way one might buy a slave. He doesn’t own her. He’s buying what she provides – he doesn’t possess her.
    For an insight into prostitution, I recommend the film ‘Personal Services’ – the story of Cynthia Payne.
    The same type of criticism that can be levelled at prostitution apply to porn. There are the same types of people – damaged people (male and female) earning money to fund drug habits and so on – but also women who are very much in control of their careers (Jenna Jameson springs to mind), but I believe that it is the proliferation of porn that is a problem. Whereas sexwork (in certain countries) can be confined to special areas or is – for the most part – kept away from young people, porn is just a click away. My own opinion is that it’s this proliferation of images in which women are mainly shown to be simple sex objects that is the real danger.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I am tired of addressing the same arguments over and over again…

      “I guess you would like to see an end to sexwork and bad porn, but is that a possibility? If, to a certain extent, we take Prohibition as an example, things only get worse when people seek to ban them. Many people argue that it is the criminalisation of prostitution that causes so many of the problems.”

      Prostitution is growing, not shrinking. Trafficking increases in places that legalize. Criminalizing buyers does not make the problem ‘worse,’ no. See: the Nordic model.

      “Don’t we have to accept that, like so many things, prostitution is something that will always exist but something which we can seek to ameliorate? by encouraging more control by women?”
      No we do not. Unless we are also prepared to accept that patriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism will always exist and we just have to make the best of a destructive, abusive situation.

      “From what I have seen regarding pro-sexworker feminists, (Lyndsay Kirkham?) they seek to ’empower’ (I hate that word) sexworkers by taking away the stigma attached and to allow them to work as if it’s a normal job – controlled by them, for them. Isn’t that an admirable aim?”

      Lyndsay Kirkham is an idiot with an inflated ego and a frightening obsession with me. She aims to please men in her ‘feminism’ and her analysis is empty liberal rhetoric, not feminism. In places that have legalized, ‘stigma’ remains. Stigma doesn’t kill prostituted women, men do. Regardless of anyone’s efforts to make ‘prostitution’ a ‘normal job,’ women and girls continue to be used and abused and murdered within it and regardless of whether some would like to imagine it as a ‘normal job’ it continues to uphold male power and female subordination.

      Please try to read up on these issues on the site before commenting again. Thank you.

      • purple sage

        You pretty much just have to keep this response on your desktop so you can copy and paste it like three times in every single comment thread. There seems to be no end to people coming along and saying the same boring, tired old argument that’s been debunked a million times.

      • Dave Shark

        I’m interested in the idea of whether or not harm reduction in the sex industry is possible. During the Industrial Revolution, working conditions were barbaric, and factory workers suffered horribly–maimed and killed by the machines, especially women (as in the Triangle Shirtwaist inferno), machines that made rich men richer. Not so different from the atrocities of the flesh trade today.

        But factory work got better. Workers formed unions to demand healthier workplaces. Safer machines were developed. Things are still pretty bad in the Third World, and factory owners cut corners where they can, but overall, we’ve managed to make industrial work survivable.

        We didn’t demand the abolition of factory workers and an end to industrial society; we analyzed the hazards, and resolved them so the work could be done with safety and dignity. And I believe we can do likewise with sex work.

        Prostitutes and porn stars need the right to organize. Legal frameworks need to be established so that dissatisfied johns will take their providers to court instead of beating them. An airtight referral network needs to be in place to prevent STI patients and known abusers from participating.

        We won industrial safety. We can win sex work safety.

        I know this idea will meet with opposition here; it goes against the idea that men use sex work to hurt women and therefore porn and prostitution are intrinsically misogynist. I agree that patriarchy and poverty combine to make sex work incredibly dangerous. I just don’t think that johns are essentially violent, or courtesans essentially enslaved. I believe those toxic qualities are like any other sexist aspect of an industry: defects to be corrected by equality. Equality means that porn stops being about buying women and starts being about paying performing artists, just like we do with actors and musicians.

        • marv

          Patriarchy brought prostitution into existence, capitalism as well. Arguing for fair prostitution and capitalism is parallel to opting for a reformed monarchial, feudal or slave system.

          You have to think outside the structural box to overcome mindless conformity and oppression.

          • Philip Rose

            Yes, we need to think outside the box. But I am still unclear about what path to take.
            Do you seek to ban sexwork entirely? As I stated in my first comment, that is likely to be an impossibility – just based on human activity, all that would happen is that it would be even more secretive and dangerous.
            So do you encourage some reformation of the industry? Or hope that sexwork will eventually disappear? I’m just unsure what the plan is.

          • Meghan Murphy

            What we advocate for is the Nordic model, which criminalizes the buyer and decriminalizes the seller. Our goal is an eventual end to prostitution, though not through an outright ‘ban’, it’s more complex than that and requires a change in culture as well as in legislation.

          • Just based on human activity, it is impossible to ban rape and murder completely, either, but we can still keep them illegal, on the grounds that less is still better, since we don’t want people going around hurting other people.

            Paying for sex hurts far too many people, so that is why we want it to be illegal. To discourage it as much as possible, with no penalty for the workers.

          • Laur

            “As I stated in my first comment, that is likely to be an impossibility – just based on human activity, all that would happen is that it would be even more secretive and dangerous.”

            You can say it is “like to be an impossibility” that incest stops, or murder. Or that we stop global warming. That doesn’t mean that these things are A-okay and should be celebrated. IProstitution is not comparable to the drug trade, because it is very gendered and involves paying for intimate access to another human being.

            I do think it is possible for the number of men who seek to buy women to be greatly, greatly reduced. This means legislation criminalizing buyers and pimps, decriminalizing women and other prostituted persons, and, very importantly, a living wage for all.

          • Dave Shark

            What does industrial workplace safety have to do with capitalism? The Soviet Union had factories. A post-capitalist system will still be industrial, unless you’re talking about a return to pre-industrial agrarian society, or hunter-gatherer, or something like that.

          • marv

            >What does industrial workplace safety have to do with capitalism? The Soviet Union had factories. A post-capitalist system will still be industrial, unless you’re talking about a return to pre-industrial agrarian society, or hunter-gatherer, or something like that.<

            Workers have to own the means of production in order to control occupational health and safety policies not only to minimize injuries but to make the worksite an equitable hospitable environment, e.g. no sexual harassment or assault. Capital and the State are compromised in protecting workers because profits are paramount. Safety and green measures extract from the bottom line.

            If planetary ecosystems are to be conserved industrialization and consumerism will have to be wound down by a confederation of workers and consumers at the helm. Unlimited growth is incompatible with sustainability and equality. Whole industries like fossil fuels and nuclear will have to be dismantled to avoid runaway climate change, pollution and hazardous waste.

            We don't need to revert to the past. Soft and renewable energy technologies can provide us with a comfortable standard of living not based on overconsumption. With the elimination of patriarchy the population would also decline because women wouldn't be so defined as mothers or forced into motherhood. Men would no longer be consumed with virility and passing on their genes to posterity. Prostitution would wither away as an institution since masculinity would be in decline.

            Whereas conservatives demand respect for tradition and liberals lobby for reform, we proclaim abolition, a stumbling block and madness to them both. Our foolishness is wiser than their wisdom.

        • dss

          Here’s where you went wrong:
          “We didn’t demand the abolition of factory workers and an end to industrial society; we analyzed the hazards, and resolved them so the work could be done with safety and dignity. And I believe we can do likewise with sex work.”

          Who is the “we” here? This quote makes it clear that you identify with liberal reformists and the history they and their leaders have been able to author. But don’t assume that the rest of us are included in that “we”–in fact I would say that one main reason many people cannot wrap their minds around the anti-prostitution stance is that they are not anti-capitalist.

          You need to be anti-capitalist (and feminist) to get this critque fully. And being anti-capitalist and feminist entails, also, an understanding of how industrial civilization is damaging (and patriarchal and genocidal).

          I don’t think you’ve got a firm hold on any of these three crucial threads, which is why you’re unable to understand the radical feminist critique of prostitution.

        • Everyone here wants safety for all women and men who comprise the commodities sold by the sex industry. We want safety for all people.

          However, to speak of “winning” safety for the sex industry entails ignoring the fact that the sex industry itself perpetuate unsafe conditions for women in the broader sense. The logic becomes a gordian knot: you cannot work for safe conditions inside of the trade in human beings that is, itself, powerful propaganda that promotes violence against women. You can’t both acknowledge that patriarchy and capitalism equal violence against women and pretend that these things are somehow separable from “the work” which you [rather insultingly] conflate with artistic craft.

          Your argument is contradictory and ultimately boils down to the self-serving “happy hooker” fantasy that anti-feminists parade ad-nauseum.

          • Dave Shark

            >the self-serving “happy hooker” fantasy that anti-feminists parade ad-nauseum.

            Liberal feminists take this approach too, right? Or are you saying that liberal feminists are anti-feminist?

          • Laur

            Ummm….you’re a dude who buys sex, not a liberal feminist.

            And actually, liberal feminists typically aren’t concerned with the sex trade one way or another. They focus on things like wage equality, ending rape outside of prostitution, anti-war stuff, and lesbian rights.

          • Sabine

            “Dave Shark”: Does it look like this is a Lib Fem blog to you? Go find some funfem sites to offload your simplistic drivel to a sympathetic audience and don’t try manipulating commenters here into “attacking” other women for your own entertainment. You are a troll and you are way, way out of your intellectual depth here.

          • Dave Shark

            Also a question about this:

            >the sex industry itself perpetuate unsafe conditions for women in the broader sense

            I agree that the sex industry as it stands now is rife with unsafe working conditions, e.g. STI’s, chronic pelvic pain, and pelvic inflammatory disease. But those are all problems that can be solved by regulating the industry as follows:

            -regular health screenings of both clients and providers (or performers, in the case of porn)
            -limiting the number of partners, similar to how unions limit the number of working hours
            -prohibiting abuse by making the penalty for assaulting a sex worker more severe, and destigmatizing the process by which sex workers report attacks

            Can you tell me more about problems that will not go away no matter how safe we make the industry? Or direct me to a link? All of the online resources I’ve looked at so far only describe medical problems that result from the sex industry being unregulated and criminalized, so I’d like to get better information if it’s out there.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Dave. You are (once again) intentionally avoiding the arguments we are making about the sex industry in favour of focusing on reform (i.e. it’ll be safe if we just give women condoms, etc.) We are not talking about a ‘safer’ industry, we are talking about the fact that the industry, itself, represents the subjugation of women (and will never be ‘safe’). If you want to talk reform or how to make the best of a bad situation, find another forum.

          • Dave Shark

            Well, it’s your forum, not mine, so I’ll defer to you on that. If you don’t permit advocacy of harm reduction, I won’t post about that.

            To be clear, when talking about “the industry”, are you just talking about men buying women? Or does abolition extend to gay porn and lesbian prostitution?

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s not that I won’t “permit advocacy of harm reduction,” it’s that you’re having a conversation we’re not having. It’s not productive because you’re not responding to the arguments people are making and keep trying to redirect the conversation to one you want to have. It will just go in circles forever.

          • Dave Shark

            Ok, I appreciate you letting me know what your concerns are regarding the way I’m approaching this topic. In future comments, I’ll make an effort to directly engage the argument of the person whom I’m responding to. Please continue to let me know if you’re dissatisfied with my content.

          • Sabine

            You are not bringing anything worthwhile to the table here and this faux “concern” about your approach is fooling nobody. Every single comment you’ve made on this blog, whatever the subject is, is ignorant and argumentative with a thin veneer of fake sincerity. You repeatedly fail to respond to other commenters arguments. Classic trolling. Boring.

          • Advocating for clients to be able to sue prostitutes instead of just beating them up is not advocating for harm reduction.

            As a principle, harm reduction recognizes that (1) some people are sex workers, regardless of what the law says, (2) sex workers are subject to dangers above and beyond the exchange of sex for money itself, (3) these dangers are created and faciltated in part by the state and society, and (4) these dangers are preventable. Done right, harm reduction puts responsibility on the state to not deny sex workers basic safety equipment (e.g., denying sex workers use of condoms by using condoms as evidence of prostitution) and to not condone “extra” violence against sex workers by acting as though it is just an expected, acceptable part of the job.

            Harm reduction is a pragmatic approach to improving the lives of sex workers. Research tends to suggest that harm reduction is more easily practiced under decriminalization, but that doesn’t make it incompatible with the Nordic Model. I think it’s irresponsible to consider implementing any kind of lesislation without including some element of harm reduction for those who remain in the industry, even if the goal is the eventual end of the sex industry.

            We have a version of the Nordic Model — abolitionists need to take up the challenging of figuring out what additional laws, policies and practices are needed to make things better for sex workers and for women in general. Not just harm reduction for those still doing sex work, but family law, health care policy, welfare reforms, etc. I don’t like seeing feminists shy away from that challenge, as if the Nordic Model of criminal law is all it takes to undo the harms faced by sex workers.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t know that feminists are against harm reduction, per se… I think they are against the idea that harm reduction, on its own, will resolve anything or keep women ‘safe’.

          • Guaranteed annual income would be nice. It would solve a LOT of problems. Some countries already have it!

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes that would make a HUGE difference.

          • “abolitionists need to take up the challenging of figuring out what additional laws, policies and practices are needed to make things better for sex workers and for women in general. Not just harm reduction for those still doing sex work, but family law, health care policy, welfare reforms, etc. I don’t like seeing feminists shy away from that challenge, as if the Nordic Model of criminal law is all it takes to undo the harms faced by sex workers.”

            Who in [the real world] are you talking about?

            What makes you think that those who advocate for criminalizing johns and decriminalizing the women who have to service johns don’t think anything else should be done to improve women’s safety? That is simply not accurate at all. The women on the front lines of fighting for criminalizing pimps and johns are people like Lee Lakeman who have dedicated their lives to improving conditions for women worldwide, particularly those who have experienced sexual violence.

            No one is campaigning to remove harm reduction. Many of us disagree with the position that legalized prostitution along with harm reduction is the best scenario to improve conditions for women inside and outside of the industry.

            Also, who is advocating for clients to sue prostitutes?

          • Dave is saying clients should be able to sue sex workers, and he is claiming that his position is “advocating harm reduction.” Laur rejected harm reduction as a way of putting responsibility for safety on women, which would make it inconsistent with the Nordic Model and impossible to use at the same time. If harm reduction was what Dave suggests it is, I would reject it out of hand, too. But it is not. It is frustrating to see feminists treating harm reduction as though it can only be done *instead* of other policies. This is how we end up endlessly debating decriminalization vs abolition and forgetting about the people for whom changing criminal law in any manner will have little or no immediate positive effect.

            In terms of the real world, current Canadian law came with no harm reduction strategy, and certainly no harm reduction funding.

          • Laur

            Dave, I think the reason some women here are irritated with you is that it doesn’t feel like your posts are in good faith. You’re trying to tell women, some of whom have experience in the same trade, others who have family and/or friends in the industry, that it must exist. That you *want* it to exist. That it doesn’t matter that women come out of the industry deeply wounded, and even we must provide “proof” of the harms of the industry that are to your satisfaction.

            Question: Are you open to changing your mind about the sex industry, and arguing for abolition? I get the feeling you’re totally closed-minded which is why it’s so irritating to read your posts. It takes an incredible amount of entitlement for a man with no experience of selling sex to tell women we don’t no what we’re talking about.

            Harm reduction means the onus is on the women to keep themselves safe. If a man decides to put a gun to her–not uncommon–oops, she should have looked under the bed. Better be more careful next time. Seriously, some of the harm reduction guides read like advice given to people in hostage situations.

            Dave, the sex industry is the industry that currently exists. This is mainly men buying men, but it does include men who buy men. And women who buy women. Almost all women in prostitution would much rather their clients be women (gee–wonder why that is??), but women just aren’t interested in doing that. By and large, we don’t feel entitled to other women’s bodies. If by “lesbian prostitutes” you meant lesbians who sell sex to men (due to lack of women clients), a good many women in the sex trade are lesbians. Not sure what your point is, really.

            I think one reason women who have experience in the sex trade are so hesitant to be honest with others about their experiences is that it is very hard for people who have not “been there” to understand. That is, describing the harms is hard and involves a certain amount of vulnerability. PTSD is one of them. PTSD at levels comparable to state torture victims and soldiers returning from combat. There seems to be little difference in the level of PTSD between indoor and outdoor workers, as well as those who are subject to more overt violence than others.

            And when we talk about physical harms, being physically invaded while thinking how much you loathe that person and how disgusting they are IS a violation. Women may not be turned on, and the sex itself will hurt like hell. But an even bigger violation, in my opinion, is having to pretend you just LOVE having sex with Mr. Dude, when you are constantly thinking how much you loathe him.

            Can you imagine life without the sex industry, Dave? Women in it can. That’s why almost all think of prostitution as something they are doing temporarily.That’s why they don’t join unions. That’s why they wouldn’t want their daughters to enter the sex trade and go through what they went through.

            I don’t find, “the sex industry is always going to be here, so I might as well stop for paid sex tonight,” to be an acceptable line of thinking. If men stopped purchasing sex, the industry would disappear, overnight. Men are the ones saying that there’s always going to be an industry, and they also are the ones who have the power to stop the whole thing. But they don’t actually give a damn.

          • Laur

            sarah m,
            I don’t see a way to reply to your post, so I am replying to mine.

            “Laur rejected harm reduction as a way of putting responsibility for safety on women, which would make it inconsistent with the Nordic Model and impossible to use at the same time. ”

            I don’t see how harm reduction is impossible to use along with the Nordic Model at all. Women have always practiced harm reduction.

            I agree with what you are saying. I’m not sure what the problem is?

          • I don’t think writing harm reduction off as victim-blaming is the best way to engage with it — it seems to set harm reduction and the Nordic Model up as an either/or scenario. But the reason I brought it up again there was to answer Lizor’s question about which content in the thread I was responding to when I first commented. I didn’t see much of a disagreement either, except with what Dave was claiming was “harm reduction advocacy.”

          • Dave Shark

            Laur, thank you for posing these questions to me in this way.

            I wrote up a long response about how I feel about abolition, what I think should be done, etc. I wanted to keep in mind Megan’s recommendation that I engage with you about your arguments instead of just derailing the discussion. Then I realized I didn’t know anything about what prostitutes really go through, and I deleted it.

            This isn’t a world that I’m familiar with. I don’t buy sex. I practice abstinence. I’ve been forcibly penetrated by men several times, but I’ve never been paid for it. So I realized that I can’t speak with any expertise on what is right or wrong here until I get better educated about how these problems are affecting the women around me.

            I’ve never talked to any prostitutes or porn stars about what they want and need to make their lives better. I’ve never read any books about this. You’ve raised great points about the suffering that prostitutes go through when they have these traumatic experiences with unpleasant and dangerous clients. Anemone made a comment about how impersonal sex is tiring and draining, even aside from the physical risks of the job. I should find out more about these and other challenges that women in the sex industry face, learning real hard facts about what is involved here.

            So it’s time for me to stop telling you how I think things should be done. It’s time for me to start listening, learning, and asking questions that will help me understand what is really going on in the sex trade. Thank you for the wakeup call.

          • Laur

            I was pleasantly surprised by your reply, Dave Shark. I’m glad you are going to take more time to read up on the reality of prostitution. It’s one part of a male supremacist society. If you need ideas of where to get started, feel free to ask.

          • Philip Rose

            Your last paragraph is true. If men stopped buying sex, sexwork would cease overnight.
            But that applies to everything – if people stopped taking drugs, if people stopped drinking to excess, if people stopped smoking, if people didn’t drive dangerously, if people stopped murdering people, if people stopped thieving.
            It’s the downside of human nature. Humans are human.
            OK – I’ll put forward that it is all down to men. That makes it easier. As in the cases above, society makes murder illegal – it goes on. In all cases of prohibition – it still goes on. People are educated – it still goes on. Look at the failures of the war against drugs.
            As well as aiming towards a Utopia in which all people have some sort of ethical codes, I believe we should, meanwhile, also look at steps to make the current situation better as a way of progressing.
            Because all moves to ban things have failed throughout history, I believe we need to address the sexwork problem not from a ‘ban it, criminalise it’ approach but on a ‘how do we at least improve the situation’, and I believe that the pro-sexwork lobby has some valid points.

          • Meghan Murphy

            There are laws against murdering people, driving recklessly, and smoking around non-smokers. This is to say there are laws against harming other people.

          • EEU

            Oh, yes. We should also make murder legal. I mean, we can improve murder! If we legalize murder, we would improve the conditions under which the murder happens and the people being murdered will feel less pain. (sarcasm)

          • It’s sex (or a power trip, depending) for one person and money/survival for the other. It’s inherently unbalanced.

            Impersonal sex is not something most people can just do whenever someone else wants. If nothing else, being that exposed that much is really tiring. How many times a day could you have impersonal sex, with how many people, how many days a week, etc.? And if you were the one being penetrated, would that make it even harder?

            Feeling dirty and used is part of the job description for far too many prostitutes. That has nothing to do with STIs or violence.

          • Dave if you cannot see how accepting the purchase and use of women by men for their entertainment is not harmful to all women we have nothing to discuss. And frankly, the mindset it must take to achieve that indifference to women’s well being makes me wish that I could prevent your contact with any female humans entirely.

          • Sabine

            “Can you tell me more about problems that will not go away no matter how safe we make the industry? Or direct me to a link? All of the online resources I’ve looked at so far only describe medical problems that result from the sex industry being unregulated and criminalized, so I’d like to get better information if it’s out there.”

            Hahahahaha! Oh yeah, of COURSE you’d like to get better information. And by the way, I just fell of the Christmas tree. TROLL.

          • #

            Dave, you should really check out the book Being and Being Bought by Kajsa Ekis Ekman.

        • Laur

          “We won industrial safety. We can win sex work safety.”

          Who is the we? Sex buyers are not on the same side as the prostituted here.

          “it goes against the idea that men use sex work to hurt women and therefore porn and prostitution are intrinsically misogynist. ”

          I don’t believe the majority of men buy sex thinking, “I want to hurt women,” but the result is still the same. Likewise, most rapists of women who are not in the sex trade are not thinking, “I committed rape,” when women say that they clearly just did. Men who commit sexual harassment almost always think they did nothing wrong, and the woman is making a big deal out of nothing.

          In places where there are sex workers’ unions, very, very few people join. Most women think of prostitution as something they are doing temporarily to get by.

          “I’m interested in the idea of whether or not harm reduction in the sex industry is possible. During the Industrial Revolution, working conditions were barbaric, and factory workers suffered horribly–maimed and killed by the machines, especially women (as in the Triangle Shirtwaist inferno), machines that made rich men richer. Not so different from the atrocities of the flesh trade today.”

          Harm reduction is something women in the sex trade do, and have always done. Women have warned each other about johns to watch out for long before “harm reduction” orgs officially gave out ugly mug sheets. They have arranged to call a friend at a certain time before this was a suggestion listed on harm reduction websites. There is nothing wrong with harm reduction. However, when the state adopts it as a policy, it is adopting the status-quo.

          “Equality means that porn stops being about buying women and starts being about paying performing artists, just like we do with actors and musicians.”

          Thanks for telling women what equality for us looks like. You’re right that we’re not going to agree with you, because women don’t benefit from the sex industry. Men do.

      • Philip Rose

        That’s a strong response to Lyndsay Kirkham.
        Again, it’s one of the things that frustrates me about the current feminist situation – there seem to be too many schisms. Ms Kirkham and others argue that she is right and others say the opposite, and women argue about the definition of feminism. It makes it look as if the feminist movement is in disarray.
        I am fully aware of the problems in sexwork but to a certain extent you didn’t answer my questions – do you seek to ban it entirely?
        I have read about these issues – that’s why I find it confusing. We have a pro-sexwork spokeswoman in the UK, and she puts forward a good case for changes in the Law to allow women to take control as a move to try to eliminate the problems you mention.
        I agree with all you say about the problems, but I am still not sure of what a viable solution might be.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I honestly have no idea who Kirkham is apart from her fanatic Twittering. Is she somehow an important figure in feminism? I think not… That said, based on what I’ve seen, she has no analysis. I guess you could call that a schism? But let’s move on from her.

          Some believe feminism is simply about women making choices. I do not. I believe feminism is about ending patriarchy and violence against women.

          We seek an eventual end to prostitution through changes to culture and legislation. Not an outright ‘ban’.

      • ArgleBargle

        Meghan, despite how repetitive it must be, thanks for addressing the same argument over and over again. This blog and ones like it are so important to counteracting the constant blare of the pro porn people.

      • Pippa

        Thank you, Meghan, for being awesome, and for saying these things as depressingly often as they need saying.

        ‘Stigma doesn’t kill prostituted women, men do.’

        Brilliantly said.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Thanks Pippa!

  • purple sage

    Thank you so much for writing a response to that awful blog post, Meghan. I was so enraged when I read Thériault’s claim that the abolition of prostitution is some sort of mistake of “white feminism” that we should be ashamed of. This is so far removed from reality it’s unbelievable. In Canada, many individual Native women as well as the Native Women’s Association worked on passing the prostitution law, and the Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution worked on it too. Native women and Asian women are over-represented in prostitution and contrary to popular belief, they do NOT want to be prostituted. Asian women do not want to be marketed and sold using racist stereotypes like geishas, “sexy asian nurse” and sweet little submissive immigrant. Native women do not want to play Pocahontas and John Smith with gross white rapists. These women are working hard to end the system that exploits them. I believe Thériault is white, correct me if I’m wrong, and I can’t help but see some irony in the fact that she’s claiming that “white feminism” is erasing women of colour by opposing “sex work” when in reality Thériault is erasing women of colour by pretending that WOC are not abolitionists and are not fighting for their own liberation.
    The fact that this blog post was reposted on Rabble shows what kind of publication Rabble has become—one that lacks the integrity to fact check and print material that reflects reality.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It is, indeed, deeply ironic that Thériault, a white person, would intentionally erase women of colour from this movement in her efforts to paint herself as someone who has boldly transgressed white privilege.

  • “A woman can “choose” to do sex work, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s ok for a man to buy her. A woman can “like” or “dislike” performing in porn, but that doesn’t make porn “good” for women, nor does it negate the fact that the sex industry reinforces male power and entitlement.”

    Very important point.

    Some feminists do oppose women’s choices, though, e.g. myself. Feminists, like everybody else, are not obligated to support every choice every woman makes, and choices pertaining to the sex industry are no exception.

  • Sabine

    It’s like reading Lib-Fun Fem 101; painfully uniformed and lacking any genuine intellectual critique or substance. It’s toe-curlingly simplistic. And it’s NOT feminism in my book. I don’t know if there is any getting through to people who are seemingly incapable of seeing ANYthing from a broader and more complex perspective. These women are blindly obsessed with “individual choice” and cannot see beyond it. Moronic.

    So a few women manage to make prostitution and porn “work” for them within the patriarchal society that has conditioned them from birth to buy into the cultural “norm” of women as fodder? Well woop-de-woop! Lucky them, eh?! Does that mean those “choices” should be celebrated and used to defend the whole rancid system? A sizeable number of people profited and benefited from the holocaust. Capitalism “works” for the 1%. Enough said.

    • dss

      it’s not just “individual choice” that is blinding them, though, what is blinding them is the neoliberal capitalism that unfortunately rules the globe right now. “Individual choice” is simply a trope and fetish of neoliberalism.

      You can’t expect people who are not politically radical to understand radical feminist positions. People who are not committed anti-capitalists almost to a man don’t understand wtf we’re on about, and people who are not feminists (but may be anti-capitalists) don’t get it either. I feel like we need a venn diagram to illustrate this, but you get the idea.

      • Sabine

        The notion that recognizing porn and prostitution as harmful to women and children is deemed “radical” is profoundly depressing…

  • Mark

    Thanks for this Megan. I literally just read an article/interview on the Guardian Australia website, on Fiona Patten (leader of Aus sex party) and was fuming. (So this article is perfect to post there). She was just spouting all this liberal nonsense about ‘choice, agency’ blah blah.

    She states “I’ve worked in brothels, I’ve been on outreach to hundred of brothels, I’ve met thousands of sex workers, I’ve met hundreds of adult performers,”

    . “I’ve yet to see someone as damaged as other people purport them to be … the adult performers that I’ve met have all done it actively and willingly. I really haven’t seen another side to it – no doubt there is, and that probably has less to do with the industry and more to do with the gender imbalance in our society.”

    She also States that sex work is just like any other job blah blah.

    What annoyed me the most, were the commentators below the article. Patten is considering changing the name of her political party, ‘Aus sex party’ to something else.

    Commentators were all like, ‘call it the progressive party’.

    I don’t know if it’s because:

    a) people don’t understand their terms
    b) Australia is just so ultra conservative atm, that they perceive this as ‘progressive’
    c) Aussies are just dopey and Australia is a half arsed outpost both geographically and ideas wise
    d) all of the above

    But come on Australians, we can do better than this.

    Thanks for the rant! Bring tha noize, what whaT (drops mic).

    link to article- http://gu.com/p/46gax

    • Meghan Murphy

      I do think people equate ‘progressive’ with pro-all-sex, meaning that they think that an ‘anything goes’ mentality when it comes to sex = progressive. It isn’t ‘progressive’ these days to critique porn, prostitution, BDSM, etc. It’s progressive to talk about ‘agency’ in sex work or to look at it purely as a labour issue.

      • Yeah. It’s an incredibly dumb knee-jerk reaction to that particular manifestation of sexual repression under patriarchy – sex is dirty, sex organs are dirty and all of that. It’s just the other face of it – all sex and sexual displays (which are still dirty, of course – that’s why they’re so exciting!) MUST be acted out.

        It’s a deep quagmire of non-thought fuelled by narcissism.

  • Markus

    “A woman can “choose” to do sex work, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s ok for a man to buy her.”

    Except he’s not buying HER, he’s buying her SERVICES. Do you buy the hairdresser whenever you get a haircut?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Do you feel that getting a haircut is the same as putting your penis inside another human being’s body?

      • Markus

        No, but it’s still the purchasing of a service.

        • Meghan Murphy

          No, it’s paying for the use of a woman’s body.

          • Markus

            If that is what a woman wants to do (because yes, that is sometimes the case), then who are you to say they can’t? Like I said: you’re buying a service, not a person. Do you think that having sex is just “using someone’s body”?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I haven’t said they can’t. No one has said they can’t. They can. The Nordic model makes it legal to sell sex.

          • Markus

            I am actually from one of the Nordic countries, and I’d like to ask: How does it make sense that the selling is legal but the buying is not? I mean, doesn’t that just make it a lot more difficult for the seller to make a living? It should be completely legal, taxed and regulated. Two consenting adults can do whatever they want – that includes having sex, and that includes having sex when money changes hands.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It makes sense because men do not have the right to buy the use of women’s and girls’ simply because those women and girls need to survive. Women should be able to survive without have to sexually service strange men.

          • Laur

            Markus–way to go changing the subject. We’re focusing on the choices of men who buy sex, and you and the other johns here are trying to turn it back around, as if men have no agency and if a woman is selling sex, have no option not to sell. It’s easy to see what you’re doing, and we’re not going to have it.

            You haven’t interacted with the material that’s been posted in response to your questions and comments. For example, I asked you to describe what “service” a man is buying when he goes to have intercourse and then anal sex with a prostituted woman. I can describe the service I get in fast food, hair cuttery, going to the post office, etc. So, how would you describe to a stranger what kind of service said man is getting?

          • Markus

            I am actually NOT a john, thank you very much, but thanks for the prejudicial assumption about me.

          • Laur

            Marcus,

            You’re a dude who is staunchly in favor of men having access to women’s bodies with money being the force used. You’ve come to an abolitionist site and argued again and again in favor of this. Of course, we’re going to think you’re a john! You clearly have some sort of stake in this.

            Have you been to a strip club and had a lap-dance? To many women, that would make you a john.

            If you don’t have a problem with the sex trade, then why be offended that you were mistaken for a john? If you’re not a john, you’re shilling for johns and pimps, as another commenter put it.

          • Markus

            I have never been to a strip club either. I was offended because you were implying that I’m someone who has directly victimized women in my life.

          • “you were implying that I’m someone who has directly victimized women in my life”

            It was implied that you are a john. Period. You’ve been defending the buying of sex continually. Now you conflate victimizing women with being a john. You are being a weasel – changing your position, contradicting yourself and deliberately misconstruing what has been said to you.

            If you can’t engage with some intellectual integrity, please just go away.

          • I thought you had no problem with johns. Why would the assumption that you participate int he trade that you doggedly defend be a problem?

          • Markus,

            marv has addressed this and you have not had the integrity to answer him. You just keep spouting the same shit.

            Here it is again:

            “marv – March 12th, 2015 at 1:07 pm

            Marckus you need to put your theory into practice by taking a dick up your ass or down your throat daily for months on end, and then become a hair stylist for a living. Otherwise you have no tangible evidence for your presumptuous and pompous claim.”

            Respond. What experience do you have supplying such a “service”? Are you so mealy mouthed that you can stick with this appalling lie that having this done to you – to YOU Markus – is no different from serving meals at a restaurant?

          • polarcontrol

            Exactly, the use of a woman’s body is key here. When you pay for a hair cut you pay for a hair cut, the body of the hairdresser is not violated, actually his/her body is not relevant at all as long as s/he can perform the act of cutting your hair.

            When sexual services are bought, the body of the woman is integral to the transaction.

            (Or when you go purchase sexual services Markus, do you simply look for the best blowjob, or whatever, without caring about the (qualities of the) person doing the job, man, woman, young, old…? )

          • C.C.

            It’s not the least bit surprising to me that work that entails perceived youth and beauty as selling points is the domain of women. We’re hyper-sexualized as it is.

          • Markus

            I have never purchased sex. However, she is not being violated as long as she consents. Why does sex automatically become violation when there’s a monetary exchange?

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Sex automatically becomes a violation” when a person is having sex with someone who DOESN’T WANT TO BE HAVING SEX WITH THEM.

          • Markus

            When did I ever say anything about that?! What are you talking about?! You’re talking nonsense.

          • You asked the question. Meghan answered it. Please try to keep up, Markus.

          • Markus

            My question was “Why does sex automatically become violation when there’s a monetary exchange?”. Meghan’s answer does not in any way answer that question. Why does it become rape as soon as one party pays the other? That makes no sense at all.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Stop playing dumb, Markus. Men pay these women to sexually service them specifically because these women do not wish to be with these men, sexually. If they did, they’d do it for free. That’s how sex *should* work. It should be mutually desired and enjoyable for both parties. When it is only desired by one party on not the other, what does that make it? (Hint: starts with an r…)

          • Apparently, this needs to be spelled out. Prostituted women are not having sex with johns because they want to have sex with them. They are doing it because they need money.

          • Markus

            They are still giving consent. Not every sex worker has been forced into it. If she gives consent, it’s not rape, even if he pays her.

          • vagabondi

            Markus: if he’s holding a gun to her head, and he says fuck me or I’ll shoot you, is that rape? After all he’s giving her a choice, and she’s consenting, right?

            So why is it different if the choice is fuck or starve, fuck or watch your baby starve?

          • Laur

            Markus, you still haven’t bothered to reply to my question, or anyone else’s replies to your questions and comments.

            Do you even believe patriarchy exists, or are you of the opinion we’re all pretty much equal nowadays??

        • laur

          What is the service?

        • hak

          “purchasing of a service”

          Oh look a liberal rhetoric: everything is just a “service”, the demand is unconscious and irresponsible, and the abuse is just “shit happens”.

          If all services were the same, they would be INTERCHANGEABLE. But in fact, they aren’t. If they were interchangeable, men would buy a bread instead of a woman’s body but they would never do that.

          Because you know what? They don’t WANT a “service like any other”, they KNOW what they want, they know that women are humans and that breads aren’t. They want to dehumanize women. Period.

          #StopRelativism2k15

          • Laur

            Really good points. Also, if prostitution were really “just a service,” men could get the same thing by going to a man or a woman or a transgender person. The person’s anatomy wouldn’t matter.

          • ^ Yes, I often think this also. Body shape, body hair, age, skin colour, adherence to conventional attractiveness standards etc. would also not matter, if this were really just a service.

            No-one has a right to sex with another person. Men don’t have a right to have sex with women.

            If only wannabe ‘nice guy’ ‘good guy’ male leftists actually agreed with this. Imagine the progress on womens’ human rights could be made, and the reduction in mind-bogglingly clueless comments made by said men on feminist blogs.

    • marv

      Marckus you need to put your theory into practice by taking a dick up your ass or down your throat daily for months on end, and then become a hair stylist for a living. Otherwise you have no tangible evidence for your presumptuous and pompous claim.

      • Thanks marv. I was to find words to that effect before I saw your reply to markus.

        Perfect!

        • marv

          You and the other abolitionists are my teachers. I only learn from the best.

          • Laur

            You’re awesome yourself, Marv! Always enjoy your comments, and the comments of all my fellow feminists here. 🙂

    • Laur

      Funny you should use giving a haircut as analagous to the sex trade. Sex trade survivor Rachel Moran wrote in her book Paid For, that her life would have been very different had her only option been to cut people’s hair. There’s no PTSD from cutting hair, for one thing. Haircutters cut both men and women’s hair and are not called degrading, sexualized names as part of the job. Prostitution is not just a job for the women who do it; it called “the life,” not “the job.”

      “Except he’s not buying HER, he’s buying her SERVICES. ”

      What other work involves using the inside of one’s vagina and anus? None Only prostitution.

    • Sabine

      Are you fucking serious????

      • Sabine

        P.S. Aimed at Markus’ pathetic troll comment.

        • Philip Rose

          Comment threads shouldn’t become places where people are criticised for putting forward what they think. Markus’s opinion – however invalid it might appear – wasn’t a troll comment.
          We have a problem here. There ARE women who think they are providing a service.
          Earlier in this thread, I was asked to become more informed. Just a quick scan led to this:
          http://prostitutescollective.net/
          from this http://rt.com/uk/239729-legalise-prostitution-groups-call/
          Markus comment is therefore not as shocking as it might first appear.
          As with everything, it’s easy to provide argument and counter-argument. For every pro-sexwork article it’s easy to find an anti-sexwork article (very similar to the drugs debate). That’s why these types of debate seem endless, because it ends up as a simple ‘yes it is, no it isn’t’ exchange.
          So – here’s my view again.
          The current sexwork scenario does have appalling aspects – more bad than good – but surely there’s some middle path, rather than turning into a trench battle?
          I always thought that feminism was meant to be about sisterhood and women helping each other out, yet, to a certain extent, I tend to see the opposite occurring here, with female sexworkers being stigmatised by their fellow females.
          Please – don’t take this as a troll comment.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No feminists are stigmatizing prostituted women.

          • ArgleBargle

            However, I have no problem at all stigmatizing johns.

          • Laur

            Well, I see the brotherhood is standing up for each other here.

            Phillip, see my reply to Marcus above. He isn’t interacting with the responses others are giving him and is changing the subject to women and their choices. (Because he has no responsibility for his own choices, I guess).

            Every woman I’ve met who has ever been in the sex trade says she likes it and gets really mad at people who have tried to say she’s being bad. Yet, a great deal of people five or ten years out of the sex trade are clear on how horrible it was. This makes it hard for me to take these women at their word. They’re not going to be honest with outsiders, certainly not men. There are several well-known pro-prostitution bloggers who I happen to know…and they’re leaving a lot out of what they are posting on the ‘net and sometimes outright lying. An exited women I know says that when she, as an exited woman, talks with women currently in prostitution, they ALL admit how bad it is, every single one of them.

            The thing is, though, it doesn’t really matter whether some women say they like it. If you believe that women really, truly love being fucked by dirty, smelly men, what percentage of women in the sex trade is that 5%? 10%? 1%? Most people who believe there are women who “like” being dependent on fucking strangers for a living believe these women are less than half of the prostituted population. The other women are there due to a combination of the following: survival sex, drug money, re-playing childhood trauma, physical coercion (trafficking). Let’s say a man tries to be an “ethical” prostitution consumer, an oxymoron if every there is one. How is he going to know which women are there freely and which aren’t? Answer: he’s not. He can ask the woman why she is doing this. But the answer is quite often a lie. She needs the money, so she’ll say what they want to hear. Even if there was a woman that a man somehow knew was there by free will, by going and seeing her, he will be setting an example for other men that paying for sex can be A-okay. Furthermore, even women who do start off with more of a level of choice than other women are still at risk of extreme PTSD and other harms that come to a more coerced woman. It can still be difficult for her to get out, and she has no way of knowing for sure what she is getting herself into.

            In general, woman and men experience sex very differently. When a woman says she is raped, men often genuinely believing she is lying or had regrets about the sex she did “consent” to. What makes you think that men are going to understand the reasons women get into prostitution? If women in prostitution love it so much, why do woman at strip clubs, brothels, dungeons, and so forth, spend their free time talking with one another about how much they can’t stand their clients? And why do the men who come to this site think they are the 1% of clients the prostituted don’t hate, while simultaneously annoying the hell out of the woman on this board?

            Have you read through the old threads related to prostitution on this site? There was another one rather recently. You will find a lot of answers to your questions there, so we don’t have to keep repeating ourselves…that is, if you’re really open to learning.

            One last question: how are radical feminists stigmatizing women in the sex trade? There are a number of women who post here who were formerly in the sex trade themselves. And the ones that don’t have that experience tend to have friends that were in the sex trade. I would say the behavior of johns, including male patrons of strip clubs, is the most stigmatizing, hateful, behavior that has real-world impacts on women.

          • Philip Rose

            Hmmm…I was tempted to drop out of the comments simply because, as you say, things get repeated over and over.
            I’ll try to answer some of your points (in no particular order).
            The amount of material available on line makes research a lengthy process. But what makes it even more difficult is the vast spectrum of opinions – from outright banning, through the Nordic model, to complete liberalisation – and each campaign gives a convincing debate.
            I would like to add that I don’t consider myself to be part of the ‘brotherhood’ (it’s a long story). I try to be simply a human being taking no sides. Maybe people will argue that, as a male, my views on prostitution are invalid. But that would imply that only women are prostitutes – I note that the exploitation of young boys and the existence of rent boys has been excluded. And I didn’t say that in a ‘what about the menz’ way – it’s just that discussions should cover all aspects.
            The Markus comment was in response to the ‘buying her’ aspect in the article, so it was relevant to the thread.
            Whether women ‘like’ it or not will go on forever. However, perhaps to say that some of them are lying is unfair. If someone expresses a contrary view, it’s not enough to simply say they are liars.
            You say ‘dirty, smelly men’. That’s a generalisation. Not every sexwork encounter is as sordid as that.
            I agree with all the problems you mention, but to sort of assume that every person in the sex trade is there for drugs money, coercion or survival is wrong. Unfortunately (in some cases) the amount of money involved just makes the option more attractive – 200 bucks for a week working in a shop or 200 bucks for a couple of hours work.
            Men do understand the reasons why women get into sexwork. Men are fully aware of trafficking, coercion, economic survival, psychology and a myriad of other reasons. We are fully aware of the pitfalls – the violence, the diseases.
            But we are also aware that it’s an industry that won’t go away, however much we would like it to – like drugs, drink, smoking.
            As far as stigmatizing goes, it’s there.
            Sexworkers have always been under attack. To a certain extent, you yourself have implied that pro-sexworkers are liars and wrong. If that approach continues, the debate will become even more difficult.
            The peculiarity of criminalising the buyer and not the seller also adds to stigma as essentially it makes the sexworker some sort of accomplice in a crime, doesn’t it?
            I repeat my link:
            http://prostitutescollective.net/1997/03/04/this-is-what-the-international-prostitutes-collective-stands-for/

          • Laur

            @Phillip Rose,
            Reread your piece imagining you are a survivor of the sex trade, one who had a really bad experience. Can you see how your comments are adamantly defending the sex industry?

            I’ve never seen anyone here say b/c you’re a man, your opinion isn’t valid. What I would say is that all of our beliefs are shaped by our experiences, as well as who we identify with. Women are more likely to experience rape and sexual harassment than men, for example. We’re also used to hearing misogynist comments that men don’t realize our misogynist. Men hear these comments, too, but they’re about *us*. It’s tricky, but how we come to know what we know and believe is partially formed by attributes like our sex, race, and class.

            I think every person here is aware that some men are prostituted. Of course we want prostitution to stop for them, too. But to be used for sex by men is socially considered the role of a woman. For experience, a male survivor of Abu Grahib said they tried to “make him feel like a woman.” When men are prostituting themselves, they are in the social position of women, being used by other men for sex. Also, it would get a bit tedious to repeatedly write out “men and women,” “his and hers,” when the majority of people prostituted are women, and the ones most vulnerable to being prostituted are women. This is also a feminist blog, so the focus is the well-being of women.

            “You say ‘dirty, smelly men’. That’s a generalisation. Not every sexwork encounter is as sordid as that.”

            Do you see why a survivor would have problems with your comments? I know a number of women that call prostituion “paid rape.” That’s what prostitution is to them. Furthermore, I never said every john was dirty and smelled bad. That still doesn’t mean the woman wants to have sex with this man, or likes or respects him. It’s rather hard to respect someone who is *using* you.

            My own experiences with men show me exactly how clueless men are when it comes to what women are feeling.

            “The peculiarity of criminalising the buyer and not the seller also adds to stigma as essentially it makes the sexworker some sort of accomplice in a crime, doesn’t it?”

            That’s not the way the Swedish law works. There is *no* penalty for the person who sells sex.

            “I agree with all the problems you mention, but to sort of assume that every person in the sex trade is there for drugs money, coercion or survival is wrong. Unfortunately (in some cases) the amount of money involved just makes the option more attractive – 200 bucks for a week working in a shop or 200 bucks for a couple of hours work.”

            Most women in the sex trade have a lower-middle class income with no health insurance or other benefits. The women who it’s going to be most appealing to to go into prostitution for financial reasons are the ones who have an alternative of doing a minimum wage job or slightly higher. And women as a whole are paid less than men. So, these are women who are financially vulnerable. I know of one woman who works two full-time jobs and still doesn’t have enough to pay rent every month (she is a single mother of one child). She ends up prostituting herself, which she loathes. The money *is* the force. Financial considerations aside, it still tends to be women with a history of abuse who end up prostituting themselves. It’s not a simple economic equation.

            Finally, the cases of women making 1,000/hour are very rare. And those women are some of the most traumatized women I’ve met.

            The comparison to of prostitution to drugs and alcohol prohibition is not a good one. Drugs are inanimate objects. A better comparison is to rape (outside of prostitution), murder, and incest. All these things are still happening. Does this mean we should argue to make them more humane? Or that there shouldn’t be laws against them?

            If you really think prostitution is a job not so different than say, construction, would you say to a construction worker, “hey, I know your job has hazards, but all jobs do. I mean, prostitution has hazards”? Point being, the comparison doesn’t work.

            I have not said any women in prostituion are lying. What I have said is what many exited women have written in their blogs and books, and said in speeches: that they used to also get very angry with people who told them prostitution wasn’t good for them and insisted they were incorrect. I know I would say the same thing, as I have been in similar situations. It’s hard when you don’t feel understood and people want to “save” you.

            It’s really very maddening when men come onto this site and insist they know that not all prostitution experiences are bad, some women do it and enjoy it, or whatever other nonsense. I want to say–how in the hell do you KNOW??

          • Philip Rose

            OK.
            I’m not sure what you mean by parochial, but I guess you mean I’m talking of the UK.
            This thread has mentioned the ‘Nordic model’, which I guess is parochial in Sweden.
            I don’t think I’m clinging on to beliefs. Like I’ve said before, I’m trying to keep an open mind, and that makes it confusing when trying to research a subject in which both sides – pro and anti – argue so convincingly.
            I certainly don’t cling vigourously to things – the patriarchal influence you write of, since the time of Buddha and well before, sexwork and sexworkers have been seen as ‘evil’ and their customers equally so. If I listened to Judaeo-Christian opinions: ‘”For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell” (Proverbs 5:3-5 NKJV).’ (the patriarchy at its best) I would simply condemn it all. You’ll see a lot of that already – many people, following traditional patriarchal views, simply turn their backs on it all, convincing themselves that it’a all to do with immorality, evil, and so on.
            It is only by breaking free from all these preconceptions that we can progress.
            Like I’ve said – I ‘see’ the worst sides AND the better sides. I have no hatred of any kind. If I hated it all, I would just be like so many others – I would shrug my shoulders uttering a ‘meh’.
            I think that there are valid arguments on both sides of the pro and anti campaign, but it’s becoming polarised warfare.
            Is it not radical to suggest that women should at least try to support other women in making attempts to take control of it all?

          • Philip Rose

            Thanks for taking the time to reply.
            I’ll try to answer s well as I can.
            Firstly, I am totally against sexwork as it stands. It needs reform.
            I understand that there are victims, but I am then immediately confused by the quite given here from Fiona Patten.
            I try to avoid ‘beliefs’ though it would be more convenient – I try to see the whole thing if I can.
            I hear what you are saying, and agree with nearly all of it.
            However -your statement about men being clueless about women can apply in reverse. It looks as if women think that all clients of sexworkers are proud of it, but that’s not the way it works. All the men I know (OK, that’s anecdotal) will laugh at any man involved. It’s sordid, dirty, and the idea that a guy has to pay for someone is seen as the lowest most shameful admission ever.
            Yes – you will get the idiots who go over to Amsterdam as some sort of dumb rite of passage, but those people are seen for what they are – idiots not worth knowing.
            My comment about stigma was trying to say that, if the client is a criminal, and the seller not, that still implies that the woman is engaging with a criminal, therefore feels part of the crime.
            The health benefits thing doesn’t apply in the UK and other parts of Europe, where it’s free, but I can see it’s a problem in North America.
            The main reason I mentioned alcohol and drug prohibitions was to show that all attempts – Draconian or otherwise – to seek to resolve issues by banning have failed. That’s not to say that laws don’t help, but they don’t cure. I feel that most actions to ban or control sexwork have failed, and there needs to be a revision of how it’s tackled.
            You can see how laws regarding drugs are changing to liberalisation. My own feeling is that giving power to sexworkers is the answer.
            Someone wrote here: ‘they’re leaving a lot out of what they are posting on the ‘net and sometimes outright lying.’ That’s why I referred to lying.
            Hmmm….your mention of murder, incest and rape widens the debate somewhat. The drug, drink and sexwork issue should be kept seperate (given that so many debaters argue that drugs can be a harmless choice, drink is OK, sexwork is OK, yet nobody will ever argue that rape, murder and incest is OK. Nobody wants to reform those laws.).
            Sexwork IS a different job, but similarities can be drawn. Construction work in the UK has a ton of laws for safety and people are kept safer; in poorer countries, construction workers are dying from poor standards.
            I guess you don’t see sexwork as a job, but as far as I know there are women who do. I have provided links already. Surely we can try to make that ‘job’ as safe as possible?
            Lastly. I try to ‘know’. I’m not insisting anything. All I have to go on is what I can find out through research, and that has shown two differing approaches.
            I did my best. I can only assume that information from the Prostitutes Collective is honest, and I can only assume that Fiona Patten’s observations have validity
            So I have to assume that all aspects of the debate have validity, which I have done. Therefore it’s impossible for me (at the moment) to say which side is the better side and, as usual, try to argue for some sort of middle path.

          • Laur

            “However -your statement about men being clueless about women can apply in reverse. It looks as if women think that all clients of sexworkers are proud of it, but that’s not the way it works.”

            I don’t think that most men who purchase sex are proud of it. So, you’re wrong about that.

            Who is Fiona Patten?

          • Morag

            “Comment threads shouldn’t become places where people are criticised for putting forward what they think.”

            Oh, it’s the old ‘all opinions are equal and equally valid.’ Those nasty feminists, exercising their critical faculties! Too funny!

      • Markus

        I’m very serious. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t make it a troll comment.

        • marv

          The fact that you are determined to shill for the pimp and john trade illustrates you have a vested interest in keeping a steady supply of women stock for sale/rent in the marketplace. How do you sleep at night? Patriarchy has substituted your humanity with the menace of manhood. You have the choice to remake a soft mind and hard heart into something intelligent and loving . If you refuse to change why bother living. I urge you to find the courage to make this life or death decision.

    • Quinn

      A hairdresser wouldn’t feel “internally violated, used and dirty” if her client skipped out without paying. If a hairdresser took a customer to court for not paying would the judge liken it to rape? “In handing down the sentence, Justice Hilary Penfold said consent for sex that was obtained by fraud constituted rape.”
      http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/prostitute-felt-violated-after-man-tricked-her-for-free-sex-20150206-137q6z.html

      • Markus

        Sex workers tend to ask for their money upfront.

  • What other lines of work require women to repress their gag reflexes, learn to inhibit tears, tolerate hair-pulling, and drive narcotics use? Oh, and STD risks. The romanticizing of pornstitution is simply maddening. The only thing I can think of to compare to this is sweatshops, the main difference being the pay levels, but abuse is abuse, no matter what the pay.

  • JP

    “Everyone has agency and chooses everything they do/want/have/will have” is basically Neoliberalism in a nut shell. It’s feminism operating under a neoliberal hegemony, which assumes all people are born equal and have equal opportunity, and that everything is accessible if one “chooses” to “do the right thing”. It’s “The Secret” and the “Law of Attraction”. Systems don’t exist, only personal choice exists, and everyone has equal power.

    “Blake writes:

    ‘If you truly care about empowering porn performers, start by reducing poverty. Fight to improve our welfare state, for a citizen’s basic income, for more flexible working options for parents and people with disabilities, and for decreased tuition fees for students. It is possible to work full time in this country without earning a living wage, while others who want to work full time may not be able to. If you want to make someone more empowered, you need to give them better options, not fewer options.'”

    Basically, Blake says that systems of oppression aren’t the problem, but that people’s ability to navigate through systems of oppression are the problem. That is, Blake chooses Neoliberalsplainin’

    • Philip Rose

      I’m not sure what the ‘system of oppression’ is.
      Here in the UK, the system does all it can to stop sexwork. We have a benefits system that does what it can to ensure that people have options (despite recent criticism, it does its best). That benefits system was partly introduced to stop people having to resort to sexwork to live.
      Depending on their circumstances, women get benefits payments. If the woman has a child, she is not obliged to seek work until the child is older. The system does everything it can to deal with these problems (even though there are scandals like Rotherham). Education is offered, protection is offered. Basically, the system does not practice oppression. Indeed, the current political debate is tainted by the ease with which people can live off the State.
      We have a poverty problem, but there are many things in place to try and deal with it. And, as you probably know, all health issues are dealt with free, so no one needs to think about medical bills. In short, women aren’t pressured into sexwork for economic reasons. Many other options are available.
      If you’re looking for evidence of oppression, it usually comes from the authorities in their efforts to stop the sexwork. Women are arrested, fined, then go out on the street again to cover the fine.
      Even if the buyer is made the criminal, the law works to penalise the woman – if they suspect you are using your house as a place of ‘work’ (e.g. it is a brothel), that’s illegal. A woman can’t own up to her earnings, meaning that, to a certain extent, she remains an outsider. It makes for a situation which is open to exploitation.
      If you’re looking for oppression, it usually comes from the general public who view sexworkers as some sort of inferior human beings to be cleansed from society. The vast majority of people in the UK view all people involved in sexwork – buyer and seller – with utter disdain. A UK man is very, very unlikely to admit to being a buyer due to the rejection and shame and possible prosecution.
      In the UK one could argue that there is a broken system, a faulty system, but compared with even some of our near neighbours, it’s pretty good.
      Your remark about systems of oppression might well apply elsewhere, but certainly not in the UK.

      • Laur

        Male supremacy and white supremacy are real, for starters. Sexual abuse of girls and women is rampant and a large part of how this system functions.

        “In short, women aren’t pressured into sexwork for economic reasons. Many other options are available.”

        Try being a teenager running away from an abusive home.

        You are so far removed from the reality of prostituted women that I barely no what to say. May we all be so lucky.

        • Philip Rose

          In each of my comments I have acknowledged the problems around prostitution.
          Sex abuse is rampant for both males and females.
          The UK has come a long way. There are many, many support systems for runaways – anyone over the age of sixteen has a right to leave home and there is a statutory right to be housed.
          As in nearly all places, it’s not all rosy, of course, but the support systems are there.

      • ArgleBargle

        Ah, yes, Rotherham. Oxfordshire. Sheffield. Perfect examples of why, despite child protection laws, no child is safe living in a country where laws are not in place that clearly state that it is not OK to pay to rape people.

        • Philip Rose

          All the necessary laws are in place in the UK.
          The cases like Rotherham were, to a certain extent, due to incompetence. And please note – the person in charge of child care was female.

          • ArgleBargle

            The child rapes in Rotherham, Oxfordshire and Sheffield and other towns in the UK were due to johns and pimps.

      • marv

        Laur has painstakingly and laboriously revealed to you the lamentable plight of women in prostitution displaying oceanic awareness of male dominance. In return you vigorously cling to the parochial beliefs you inherited from patriarchal culture. I have the impression that even if prostituted women rose from the dead to confirm feminist consciousness you would reject them.

        What does it take to open a recalcitrant man’s eyes short of a miracle? You better hope there is no life after death because you will be in for one hell of a time for spouting benevolent hatred of the oppressed living on your own UK soil. That’s really your condemnable crime: professing you SEE what’s there when you don’t.

        • Philip Rose

          OK.
          I’m not sure what you mean by parochial, but I guess you mean I’m talking of the UK.
          This thread has mentioned the ‘Nordic model’, which I guess is parochial in Sweden.
          I don’t think I’m clinging on to beliefs. Like I’ve said before, I’m trying to keep an open mind, and that makes it confusing when trying to research a subject in which both sides – pro and anti – argue so convincingly.
          I certainly don’t cling vigourously to things – the patriarchal influence you write of, since the time of Buddha and well before, sexwork and sexworkers have been seen as ‘evil’ and their customers equally so. If I listened to Judaeo-Christian opinions: ‘”For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell” (Proverbs 5:3-5 NKJV).’ (the patriarchy at its best) I would simply condemn it all. You’ll see a lot of that already – many people, following traditional patriarchal views, simply turn their backs on it all, convincing themselves that it’a all to do with immorality, evil, and so on.
          It is only by breaking free from all these preconceptions that we can progress.
          Like I’ve said – I ‘see’ the worst sides AND the better sides. I have no hatred of any kind. If I hated it all, I would just be like so many others – I would shrug my shoulders uttering a ‘meh’.
          I think that there are valid arguments on both sides of the pro and anti campaign, but it’s becoming polarised warfare.
          Is it not radical to suggest that women should at least try to support other women in making attempts to take control of it all?

      • Oh look everyone: THE UK HAS NO CLASS DIFFERENTIAL, NO RACISM, NO SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND NO SEXISM!

        AWESOME!!!!

        I had no idea! I’m packing my bag right now! (Except they have a serious problem with people being critical of the sex industry and the wonderful things it does for women, but we’ll deal with that when we get there.)

        Hang on…. unless Philip Rose is a deluded fantasist (or garden variety narcissistic creep, or a garden variety misogynist predator, or * fill in the blank*) who is deeply invested in protecting his right to blow jobs on demand…

        • Philip Rose

          The UK has a class differential, it has all those problems you mention. But it does have – compared to many other countries – a massively supportive system.
          From what I’ve seen of North America, we are way, way ahead as a civilised nation. It puzzles us that free healthcare is something to argue about. But never mind.
          I have no vested interest, for Pete’s sake. I have no need nor ever will. Phrases like ‘deluded fantasist’ don’t encourage sensible debate.
          All of the things I have mentioned in most of my comments have been gleaned from pro-sexwork sites – they are not the product of a fantasist. However, you’ve won. A semi-aggressive, rude attitude puts me off. Well done.

          • Philip Rose

            To the moderator:
            Feel free not to allow my latest comment.
            I found it (rightly or wrongly) offensive and I have no idea how to respond, really.
            To a certain extent, I feel that I took the bait because it made me angry.
            As it passed moderation, I can only assume that you agreed with it.
            To avoid further unpleasantness I will – resentfully – not be making any more comments, but I will leave you with one last remark.
            Allowing males to be called names and to allow rudeness doesn’t help the feminist cause.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I approve all sorts of comments I don’t agree with… Please stop whining. It’s unproductive. We aren’t interesting in arguing with you about tone.

          • Morag

            “To avoid further unpleasantness I will – resentfully – not be making any more comments, but I will leave you with one last remark.
            Allowing males to be called names and to allow rudeness doesn’t help the feminist cause.”

            Look at that one last remark — it was dramatic. He was a good one, and we almost tricked him into becoming a husband to the feminist cause. Alas, he got away. Next time, Meghan, you should bat your eyelashes more or play with a lock of your hair as you intently listen to him hold forth. You know, even if he’s dead wrong, make him feel important and appreciated. For the feminist cause.

          • Hahahaha!!!!!

            Oh thank you for that!

          • Laur

            Phillip,

            If you seriously think racism, sexism, and classism are not problems in the U.K. then, yes, you are seriously deluded. It completely erases people who *are* victims of these oppressions to say that in the U.K., they don’t exist. Thus, it makes a lot of women here including myself, very angry when you say there are no systems of oppression in the U.K.

            Since you don’t think male dominance exists, at least not in U.K., there is really no more reason to talk with you. It’s nice to know there’s at least one country where women don’t get raped.

            Seriously, I had no idea you were this out-of-touch. I wrongly assumed that since you are on a site called FeministCurrent, you believed there was a need for feminism.

            I agree the U.K. is far better than the U.S. in terms of its health care system. You keep writing, “North America”, which includes Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Canada does have a type of universal health care. I’m not sure if you realized this. From what I know,I do think the health system in the U.K. is superior to the one in canada, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here, is it? A good health care system doesn’t stop male dominance (I wish).

            I cannot seriously have a conversation with someone who is this out of touch with the reality of so many people. So, I do not plan to respond to you any more, if you do post again.

          • Actually Laur, sections of healthcare in the UK have been and continue to be privatized. They have closer to the 2-tiered system that the conservatives who would have our health care system dismantled entirely are currently lobby for.

            As for calling names, I am truly appalled that anyone could demonstrate such callous disregard for fellow human beings and hide it behind a mealy-mouthed platitude about there being no social oppression in the UK because of whatever crumbs remain of the once-strong constellation of social services there. Philip denied the existence of systems of oppression in the UK and I call that fantasy at best. What he does not get (along with the realities of many of his own fellow citizens) is that we hear evidence of this sort of oblivion to women’s lives all the time and it’s often part and parcel of a solipsistic self-aggrandizment demonstrated in Dude X’s notion that he has something Important to Explain to us that we have been unable to grasp in our many years of study and discussion, our collective experiences of being raped, pimped and so on. I stand by every descriptor I suggested.

          • marv

            I second everything you said lizor. He is dumping ‘man’ure in the conversation field.

          • Philip Rose

            Come on. Give me a break.
            In my comments I have acknowledged all the things you say I deny:
            ‘The UK has a class differential, it has all those problems you mention.’
            I never said at any point that there are no systems of oppression in the UK – what I did say that there are a ton of support systems in place.
            But again, there are responses like ‘man-ure’.
            I just don’t get it, I really don’t. All the information I have obtained has been from pro-sexwork women, so I don’t understand why it’s ‘man-ure’.
            http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/28/a-feminists-argument-on-how-sex-work-can-benefit-women
            http://jezebel.com/5978052/some-feminists-are-wrongfully-fighting-against-sex-workers
            https://www.academia.edu/5609785/_The_Feminist_Sex_Wars_Implications_for_Social_Work_With_Sex_Workers
            Nothing here makes me feel important – quite the opposite if I look at the accusations about me.
            I really don’t want to sound whiney, but here goes: all I feel now is that I have been alienated. Maybe I deserve to be? I dunno.
            Maybe you want me to go away thinking I am what you have called me? I dunno. All I ask is that you stop slurring me unnecessarily.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You’re finding the information you want and not challenging it because you’d prefer to continue on believing that ‘sex work’ is fine and good and that feminists are the real enemy. http://feministcurrent.com/7143/there-is-no-feminist-war-on-sex-workers/

          • Philip Rose

            That’s not true.
            I’m finding both sides of the argument. I don’t believe anyone is the enemy. I don’t believe that sexwork as it stands is fine and good.
            Try reading the comment on Rabble.
            What I have said – much much earlier – is that the two sides being so polarised is counter-productive.
            I was called parochial, and maybe that’s correct. Sexwork is viewed and treated differently in the UK; differently in Sweden; differently in India. Unfortunately, there isn’t (as far as I know) a one-solution-fits-all, yet that appears to be what you are seeking.
            Whilst acknowledging that there are terrible downsides to sexwork, especially in 3rd World countries, maybe we should also acknowledge that the pro-sexwork side has some validity.
            If a group (as reflected in this thread) keeps saying that sexwork can never be a ‘job’, can never be seen as anything other than degrading and sordid, yet an equally significant group argues the opposite, how is that ever going to be resolved? If one group says that the Nordic model is fine, and another says no, who is right?
            http://mic.com/articles/112814/here-s-what-s-happened-in-sweden-16-years-since-decriminalizing-prostitution
            If you accuse me of only reading what I want to read, then why haven’t you mentioned New Zealand?
            http://www.fairobserver.com/region/asia_pacific/legalizing-prostitution-new-zealands-example/
            or here:
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/03/27/lies-damned-lies-and-sex-work-statistics/

          • Meghan Murphy

            But the groups that say the Nordic model is bad don’t have evidence of this. It’s just speculation… And New Zealand is a destination country for human trafficking… http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/new_zealand

          • Philip Rose

            And then an article like this which seems well-researched seems to pick apart the Swedish example.
            http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ruth-jacobs/prostitution-laws_b_4851224.html

          • Meghan Murphy

            Unfortunately this article, like most that seek to discredit the success of the Nordic model, makes statements and claims that are not backed up by evidence or that are manipulative.

          • nightcap

            That first link you posted mentions Carole Pateman’s “What’s Wrong with Prostitution”. Did you by any chance look up that paper? Because it is so much better than any of the sources you’ve linked.

          • marv

            Give me a break”

            Maybe if you were a broken person from selling your ass it would help you understand. If a woman said she likes sexual harassment would that make it ethical for you to hound her? If a slave is content being an underling does it justify the owner?

            If a man keeps pestering women with arguments and queries about prostitution does that make him a sexist assailant? Hint: rhetorical questions

          • Laur

            You are so right on, Marv.

            Phillip,

            Do you deny that patriarchy exists, even in (gasp) the U.K.?

            Frankly, your posts sound completely out-of-touch.

            I’m tired of people using the words of the women *they choose* and saying, “I am only listening to women!” as a way to prop up support for the sex industry. You could just as easily link to the blogs of survivors Rebecca Mott, Rachel Moran, SPACE International site, Prostitution research and education, coalition against trafficking in women, Equality Now, and all the anonymous blogs and blog comments by women who, quite understandably, don’t want to use their names.

            As a man who lives in the U.K., you have a fair amount of privilege. You can use that to further sexual violence against women–or not.

          • Philip Rose

            So a person who asks questions is an ‘assailant’?
            Look at some of the responses to my comments, and you will see plenty of ‘assailant’ actions.
            Over and over again I have acknowledged the problems of sexwork but it seems that if I at all try to see the validity of another side, that’s wrong.
            You write: ‘If a woman said she likes sexual harassment would that make it ethical for you to hound her?’ However, if some women support sexwork, you appear to hound them? Is that ethical?
            You write: ‘If a slave is content being an underling does it justify the owner?’ yet those who speak pro-sexwork words don’t appear to be slaves. Are you saying that those women who are pro-sexwork are in some way too dumb to be heard? That their comments are just the product of some sort of mental impairment or indoctrination? If so, you seem to be condemning quite a few women. (I note that men seem to be peculiarly absent from all this debate).

          • Meghan Murphy

            Are you equating written feminist critiques of the sex industry to men sexually harassing women on the street?

          • Laur

            Thanks for sharing re: the health system, Lizor. I still don’t know how it compares to the Canadian model, which I know has a number of problems.

            And yes, Lizor, you were saying what we were all thinking. Of course, even when men rape, they call that “sex,” so clearly the viewpoint of women and most men is rather different. Yet for some reason, I am still truly astounded when men cannot see what is right in front of them, even when they are *told* it is there.

          • Me too, Laur. Even thought it happens again and again (like right here on this thread) and STILL I keep giving these guys the benefit of the doubt.

            It’s like Dworkin’s wonderful piece “I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce
            During Which There Is No Rape” where she writes, “Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”

            http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIIE.html

  • Philip Rose

    Following on from an earlier response to a comment:
    ‘Are you equating written feminist critiques of the sex industry to men sexually harassing women on the street?’
    Not at all.
    I was responding to this: ‘ If a woman said she likes sexual harassment would that make it ethical for you to hound her?’
    In the pro/anti debate I have detected a certain amount of vitriol from both sides, and I was commenting, really, on how, within the debate, women who have expressed certain views have been hounded. What I mean by that is that – again on both sides – women have been called liars, manipulators and so on.

    • always too long

      when does it stop being a “service” and be “using someone’s body”? It’s hard to say, but one could conjecture that it has something to do with PENETRATING INTO ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY, actual use of the INSIDE of a person’s body.

      Sure, there are other high-risk jobs, like working in a meat factory or on a fishing boat or climbing cell towers, but none of them involve the insides of those workers’ bodies. Certainly not the insides of their anus or genitalia, their mouth. Surely that is significant.

      One could also conjecture that the distinction between “providing a service” and “using someone’s body” has something to do with the damage done to that body, and to the human person who resides ‘in’ it.

      Name me any other high risk profession where a ‘service’ is performed while the customer screams obsecenities at you, or slurs, ‘lines’ from disgusting ‘fantasies’, or makes you act out violent or illegal or racist crimes, sometimes against children, with you using your true self to “play” the child (and if you are a prostitute, overhwelmingly this will mean re-enacting abuse you have suffered, that is, childhood sexual abuse). There are none that you could name, this is unique, this is more than serving someone sushi or cutting their hair. Surely you see that?

      Now name me any other high-risk line of work where contracting STDS is nearly guaranteed and seen as “not a big deal,” where the average worker in the industry will die so early. The injury that is done to a woman’s body is obviously not in any way meant, in prostutution, to set a limit on what can be done by Johns. This proves, ultimately, that it isn’t about “a service” but the use (and, if desired, abuse, and disposal of) female bodies.

      If men have the ‘right’ to purchase ‘sex’ from women, then the logical conclusion of this is that men have the right to purchase condom-free sex (at a higher price, okay) so long as they can find women desperate enough to take that deal. If they can buy unsafe sex, they have purchased essentially the right to injure or kill a woman (via AIDS or hep C, for example). They can also purchase ‘BDSM experiences,’ which means they can purchase the explicit right to violently injure a woman’s body. Is that a service, too? No, it is a crime committed against a human body that you purchased.

      Another logical conclusion is that a PERSON must be injured and/or violated (penetrated) for these men to be happy. They don’t fuck apples pies or their hands, although they are more readily available and cheaper and infinitely less ethically fraught, because they have a desire to dominate a human being–body and soul. That is not buying a service, it’s basically a form of sidling up to sadism and murder.

      • Irene Petty

        I agree with this. I can’t tell you how many times I was told “it’s just a few minutes of sex, and I bet you will enjoy it ” when I have been approached by men. Just to work my legitimate wage earning job, without harassment, this is their rationale. They truly believe they are the only man approaching me. Even after gossiping about me to other men. It was not a service, but intimidation to comply and be subservient, because their common experience with women was only wth sex workers. They start to see every woman this way, and believe all women have a price. Except these men wanted it free, and held my workplace safety and peace of mind hostage to do my work without sabotage.

    • marv

      “…if some women support sexwork, you appear to hound them? Is that ethical?”

      All the pimps and johns reading your words will be buoyed up by you. You strengthen their self-appointed right to use women as merchandise, if in a nice way. Your objectivity is the objectification of women. Congratulations on undermining women’s human rights by advancing male power. Guess where you can stick this vitriol along with the peckers you ennoble.

  • Maria

    I don’t believe people when they argue that some women just enjoy being prostitutes. They probably have an image of women sleeping with one or two men a day/week. My understanding is that prostitutes can sleep with anywhere between 10-30 DIFFERENT MEN A DAY. Anyone who says that women enjoy doing this for a living is simply making excuses for their bad (and now, illegal) behaviour and lack of empathy. Men who sleep with prostitutes know full well that the women they pay to have sex with them don’t want to be there. But seems to be the least of their concerns. If the woman wanted to be there she wouldn’t charge money for it. Duh. Sex isn’t a product. It is a human relationship. But men who sleep with prostitutes don’t care about whether the woman is enjoying it or not or wants to be there or not or about her quality or life or her future or her sanity or her prospects or her children or whatever. That’s why he’s paying her instead of dating her. What he cares about is sleeping with a prostitute. And that’s why these men have to be stopped. Men who sleep with prostitutes enjoy sleeping with prostitutes and therefore don’t want to have to stop so they’ll use any excuse they can to legitimize their actions so they don’t have to appear morally reprehensible — which they are. End of story. It’s not much more complicated than that.

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  • Crystal OMara

    Great article!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks Sara!

  • tleighsmith

    I guess I should include the caveat that I am a former prostitute/porn girl/stripper, and have found those lines of work to be pretty great at miscellaneous times in my life (getting through school, having a flexible schedule, getting by while focusing energy on non-paying endeavors), so I’m perhaps biased. I get that I was privileged and lucky because I worked in doors, was somewhat educated, wasn’t coming to it because it was my only option. But I did feel like a lot of the problems my coworkers and I faced were due to prevailing negative social mores towards women who commodify sex. At the end of the day I feel very strongly that we need to decriminalize sex work, so I do care about these social mores because I don’t know how we can fix the system of criminalization without helping people understand that just because they view sex as sacred and non-commodifiable does not mean everyone experiences it that way.

    • Megan

      It doesn’t sound like you read the article. It’s not a value discussion over whether sex is “sacred” (whatever that means) and shouldn’t be commodified. (Sex has never been sacred by the way. That’s why God and gods rape women, because well – men – just aren’t up to the immaculate job. And have a look at Augustine – one of the largest figures in the Christian church – he insisted that without prostitution the world would be “convulsed with lust.” Seriously now.) It’s about resisting entrenched patriarchal attitudes to women. Those entrenched patriarchal attitudes toward women include dividing them into two identifiable groups based upon sexual behaviors, which in both cases are designed to serve men – prostitutes who are good for providing symbolic skills that indulge men in whatever fantasies they feel they are entitled to (yes sorry – sex really isn’t that sacred when it gets right down to it now is it) and wives who are good at other socially symbolic “skills” like sitting on the PTA and community organization and producing children. It’s understood that if the wife can prance around in whatever symbolic role will turn her husband on, and keep him happy he “shouldn’t need” to use a prostitute. Or that she shouldn’t mind, because the whole world of porn/stripping/prostitution is just a form of harmless entertainment, and to complain is to be insecure and jealous.
      I agree that it does not take much to understand that feminists are not interested in the whole male argument that goes into justifying a view that women’s function is to serve men in whatever capacity they deem appropriate. Women have their own agency and their own capabilities and are more than able to rival men in terms of all social contribution and professional achievement. They don’t really need men to sit and think anything else about them.

  • Julia

    I know this is from two months ago, but I can tell you, as someone who has a degree in anthropology, the sex trade has not been around since as long as humans have. And please note I believe in decriminalization for the safety of women, but abolishment to overthrow patriarchy. Sex work as we know is a Western system of sex and gender. There is a reason why many Native Cultures, including those in Canada, want it gone: it did not exist before it was forced upon them by Western colonialism, and it stripped women of their traditional power and continues to serve to uphold not just patriarchy but also imperialism. To talk about civilizations and empires, Minoans certainty had no version of sex work, as opposed to Pompeii, which existed in the patriarchy of Rome. Minoa was matrilineal and egalitarian. Even patrilineal societies did not all have sex work, Mongolia is a good example, probably because Mongolian women had a much higher status than Western women. So, to make what could be a thesis statement very short, sex work has not been around as long as humans have, it was never universal until colonialism. In fact, many models of stone-age cultures suggest otherwise, including the San, in which women control resources to the point where they have no reason to depend on sexual relationships for survival. Sex work is a relatively modern human phenomenon (the history of humanity goes back tens of thousands of years) and is specific to patriarchies. Settling for the inevitable existence of sex work fails to take into account the actual history of humanity and civilizations.

    • tleighsmith

      Thanks for this – fair and interesting points. I just feel that in our current world, sex work is an option that women are going to continue choosing. I do appreciate aiming for a world that affords women and men equal footing, but not at the expense of criminalizing sex workers, and not at the expense of denying sex workers’ agency.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Your experience and perspective doesn’t conflict with my understanding of many women’s experiences of the sex trade, so I’m unsure what ‘beliefs’ I’m ‘projecting’ on you or on any other prostituted woman?

    • tleighsmith

      My comment was a reply to Maria’s comment which speculates about the experiences of prostitutes. And I am not saying she is incorrect; I’m just saying that to me, it’s better to ask prostitutes than to speculate about their experiences. And specifically, I wanted to point out that her speculation was not consistent with my actual experience.
      And. If calling me a “prostituted woman” (when I clearly referred to myself as a “prostitute” and “whore” – terms which suggest I have agency in the matter) is not projecting your beliefs….

      • Meghan Murphy

        Sorry about that. It didn’t show up as a response in the back end.

        “Prostituted woman” is a term used by survivors of prostitution. It contextualizes the sex trade as something that exists due to larger systems of oppression. It does not mean you, an individual, has no agency whatsoever.

  • April

    I really appreciate your article. Do you have any book suggestions on this topic or on how the sex industry is a western/patriarchal creation? I was sexually exploited quite a bit as a child and teenager (raped, dragged into a cybersex ring when I was 11 full of much older men that said all men expected sex and sex talk from me, forced to do things I felt uncomfortable with, recorded). I used to hate myself for being born as a woman. As I began to heal and take psychology courses, I started recognizing how exploitative porn/prostitution is. Women are being used for their bodies and it absolutely breaks my heart. I cry for myself and for the women around me who are seen as body parts. People have always shut me down, calling me a “prude” or saying that I’m trying to take away women’s rights or that all men are wired to sexually exploit women, so I usually feel alienated and alone which makes me feel even more like something is wrong with me. But being used and seen as an object took everything away from me. I was so confused and sad growing up (and still am terribly sad) and I don’t want any other woman experiencing that pain. I don’t want any woman or young girl to believe that she is a commodity.

  • Meghan Murphy

    No one here is taking away your ‘right to work in the sex industry.’ And of COURSE the existence of the sex industry hurts all women. How do you think women and girls end up in the sex trade in the first place? Do you think it helps women, as a whole to encourage men to treat them as commodities and things to-be-fucked, as the sex industry does?