According to Melissa Gira Grant, who published a piece in The Guardian today entitled Men buy girls, not sex’ and other myths of anti-prostitution moralists, your body is no longer connected to your existence as a human being. Even though women’s bodies have long been the only signifier of their existence as lesser beings, it is now clear, thanks to Grant’s willingness to set us all straight, that when men buy access to women’s bodies they are not, in fact buying a person, like a person attached to a body, but are merely buying sex…Which clearly has nothing to do with anyone’s body! Simple.
She claims that ‘anti-prostitution moralists’ (who these mystery moralists are, it isn’t clear. There is Ashton Kutcher, and then there’s the abolitionists. Who are all the exact same and they’re all confused. ) believe that “the way to end exploitation in the sex trade is to “end demand” for the sex trade – that is, end men’s desire for sex they can pay for.” Interesting. Because I never really thought we could end ‘men’s desire for sex they can pay for’. I thought, rather, that we simply wouldn’t let them do it. That we would educate the public about how, you know, women are human beings and that it was not acceptable to treat them like objects. That maybe, someday, it simply would no longer be acceptable for men to treat girls and women as things which exist to use and abuse. Whether or not men continue to ‘desire’ to buy sex is, sadly, not something I’m sure anyone is able to accomplish at this point. Because apparently there are millions of men in this world who like to hold power over women. And who get off on treating women like garbage. You could say they ‘desire’ it. But you could also say that’s what men are taught that this is acceptable (in a patriarchy) and that they are then taught that abuse is sexy (in a patriarchy) and also that power is not something many give up willingly (particularly if you are a man who loves living in a patriarchy).
Not only are we (we, Ashton Kutcher, we the ‘anti-prostitution moralists’, and we the abolitionists) confused about what it is men are actually buying (recap: buying sex with women’s bodies / buying access to women’s bodies is not the same as buying actual women human beings because our bodies are things which are completely separate from our selves), but Grant wants us to know that women are not objectified by the men who treat them as bodies which exist for their consumption, they are objected by people who point this fact out! So. New rules. From now on, pointing out oppression makes you the oppressor. Pretend that oppression is actually empowering, and you, friend, are now empowering the previously oppressed. Yay!
On one hand Grant seems frustrated by what she calls the “end men’s demand’ rhetoric” because, well, it’s not those poor men’s faults they ‘desire’ to buy sex, on the other she is right on. As she points out, men buy sex from women because women need to survive. And, often, women who need to survive have no other choice but to sell their bodies to men who want to buy them. This is indeed why women who are marginalized in our culture are overrepresented in survival sex work. And this is indeed what men take advantage of when they pay for access to these women’s bodies. A man knows you need the money and so he takes advantage of that need by paying you to use your body. And that’s how exploitation works.
You use your power to your advantage in order to exploit another’s need.
The reason, Melissa, that people fixate on ‘male demand’ is (based on my understanding of this, from having actually spoken to people who do desire to end prostitution and not just from having watched CNN and from following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter) because this is where the violence and the abuse and the exploitation comes from. Men.
Interestingly, Grant blames the media and politicians for making this mistake, though here in Vancouver, it is apparent that governments often leave the men out of the equation. When the City of Vancouver released a report on the survival sex trade in the city, a meeting was held and one of the biggest criticisms, according to some attendees, was the lack of focus on the root of the exploitation. i.e. the people who are doing the exploiting. i.e. men.
When it is men who are doing the buying, the exploiting, the abusing, the raping, the assaulting, it would make sense to focus on them when looking at a way to end said abuse, yes?
“The most notable gap is the lack of reference to who is abusing the power imbalance — those who are violating these women, those whose actions are initiating and exacerbating the long-term, devastating impact these women will experience.”
So, Melissa Gira Grant, I do believe there is good reason to address demand. I also believe that when a man buys a girl or a woman to have sex with, that girl or woman is a human being. And whatever he does to her body, he does to her, as a human being. Sex is attached to the body and the body is attached to the human.