Who gets a say? The sex work lobby & the silencing of feminist voices.

It’s become so predictable that, now, I just sit back and wait. I’ve written several pieces about prostitution and the abolitionist movement, and several more that don’t directly address these issues, but perhaps mention the word “prostitution.” And really, that’s all it takes these days.

What I’ve come to realize is, no matter what I write, no matter what argument I make, no matter the points I bring up, the sex work lobby doesn’t care. Because if you aren’t agreeing with them, you must be stopped.

Public use of the word “prostitution” is enough to justify skimming right past the contents of any article and heading straight to the silencing. The silencing is the most important work, after all. It is the goal. “If we can bully them into shutting up, maybe we’ll win,” is what they seem to be thinking.

In October, I wrote a piece exploring, what I saw as a neoliberalist take-over of the feminist movement. I argued that we needed to focus our efforts on building a progressive feminist movement that looked at freedom and empowerment for women as a collective effort, rather than focusing on individual (and temporary) feelings of empowerment or catharsis. Real change means liberation for all, not a privileged few.

I mentioned the efforts to decriminalize (I realized, after I wrote the piece, that it is probably more accurate to name these efforts as efforts at legalization as, really, it is the abolitionists who are fighting for decriminalization of prostituted women, whereas so-called decriminalization advocates argue for the legalization of pimps and johns as well as prostituted women) as an example of, and a manifestation of,  American neoliberalism’s impact on the feminist movement. And, according to the sex work lobby, that’s all she wrote.

Almost every comment was the same (and, of course, these comments are nothing new, it’s as though they came from a script):

“I cannot believe that [this site] continues to allow non-sex workers with absolutely no experience of working in the sex trade, let alone working the streets to speak on their behalf. “

“I demand that as a feminist organization, you remove this article and commission a sex worker with experience of the streets to write about why sex workers are demanding their rights and how real feminists can support their self-determination.”

“It’s also amazing to me that [this site] would let some non sex worker write a lot of stuff with zero evidence or research when there are hundreds of incredibly skilled, gifted sex work organizers with decades of experience in Canada.”

“I am shocked and appalled that the author of this article was published on this site,and discouraged that she controls a site that calls itself feminist. this is feminism at its coldest and does not deserve to be promoted.”


And this goes on. Not only did these commenters refuse to engage with any one of arguments being made (I am almost positive that none of them actually read the piece, if they had, I doubt they would have focused all their efforts on trying to censor an entire article on account of there being one paragraph they didn’t agree with), but the only response they could muster was to try to bully the site upon which the piece was published into removing the article. Because, you know, if you don’t agree with an argument, best-practice is to ensure that it is erased.

And this is far from abnormal. I doubt there is a feminist out there who has managed to avoid these kinds of attempts at silencing if they dare to challenge the idea that prostitution works against equality.

What is obvious is that the sex work lobby realizes it’s position is weak and, therefore, the only way they can succeed is to bully and attack those who present challenges to their arguments. Less obvious is WHY those who present themselves as feminist (as many of the sex work lobbyists do), are so heavily focused on this idea that only *certain* women may speak about the exploitation of women. Since when is feminism about erasing the voices of feminists?

All women have the right to speak out against the exploitation and objectification of women. Every single one of them. Certainly the voices of the marginalized must be privileged, and certainly many, many voices are silenced, but that isn’t what the sex work lobby is speaking to. This isn’t about listening to the voices of the women out on the streets, hiding in the shadows, getting into cars on the Downtown Eastside. Nope. This is about letting just a few, specially selected voices, be heard. They’ve chosen their spokespeople (and believe me, those voices are louder than anyone elses, and they are not, in any way, the voices of the marginalized) and they’ve decided that these are the only ones who may speak. Because they agree with them.

Not only do they refuse to acknowledge the many women who have exited the sex trade who continue to speak out against prostitution and the Aboriginal women’s organizations who name prostitution as a colonial practice and name Aboriginal women as Canada’s first prostituted women, but they are blind (perhaps intentionally blind, but blind nonetheless) to the ways in which ALL women are impacted by patriarchal systems.

As my incredible ally, Easily Riled, wrote, in post titled “December 6, 1989”:

“Those women, the women in prostitution, the women on the streets, were and are the ‘public women’ that we do not see. We do not see them as the women we are, the women we could be. We do not see them at all. They were and are for sale on the street because we are all commodified. Because they are for sale on the street, the men who put them there think we are all for sale. The men who put them and keep them there drive around and check them out. They ask every woman they see “how much?”  Especially the women on the dark streets, near the quiet warehouses.”

We are, as she says, all commodified. So long as men think women are for sale, we are all considered, “for sale.” So long as men see us as orifices which exist to be penetrated, so long as they see us as things for them to look at, as pretty objects (whether we are objects on the streets, on film, behind glass, or on stage), or things that they are entitled to have access to, none of us are free. There is no class of women who deserve to take the brunt of male privilege. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ (though, of course, we are told there is). The women who are privileged enough *not* to have to prostitute themselves, as Trisha Baptie says, have a responsibility here as well:

 “we abandon a class of women who, because of circumstance, because of systemic oppression don’t have a choice. This is also why women who have liberty and are of a privileged class need to own that and say: “this is why I’m not a prostitute” and then look at the women who are and say: ‘why are you?’”

So, while on one hand, the incredibly determined efforts to silence women and feminists who speak out against exploitation and inequity are telling, as the inability to engage speaks to, perhaps, a fear that we might not actually be the enemies they’ve made us out to be and a fear that engagement might highlight holes in their argument, on the other hand, the bullying is completely out of control.

It’s one thing to disagree and to challenge and it is another, entirely, to perpetuate untruths and exaggerations in order to discredit an argument, as we witnessed recently in John Lowman’s response to a piece by Lee Lakeman, who claimed that, at an event at UBC back in March:

“… the student organizers had to call Campus Security and close down a debate on prostitution law when a group of demand-side prohibitionists, including several former “prostituted women,” all but physically assaulted sex worker Susan Davis for suggesting that consensual adult prostitution be decriminalized.”

Several women who were in attendance at this event made clear that nothing near physical assault took place. No violence. Just one angry woman who was a little louder than Lowman would have liked her to be. It’s seems cliched at this point, but clearly many are still working with the idea that, when women get angry, the easiest way to dismiss their arguments is to accuse them of being out-of-control or crazy. Why not go one step further and accuse them of being ‘violent’? Similar accusations were made of abolitionists at this summer’s Women’s Worlds 2011 conference, also refuted by those who were in attendance.

People don’t like it when women get angry. Women are meant to be pleasant. Subdued. Passive. Feminists aren’t following the rules.

LaCles, a feminist organization working out of Quebec, wrote an open letter addressing these kinds of attacks back in June, asking Quebecois feminists to react to the “series of targeted attacks–sometimes subtle, other times blatant–aimed at abolitionist feminists.” They pointed out that which is true:

“Feminists who take the risk of naming and denouncing men’s violence, and feminists who have endured the violence of thousands of men in prostitution for periods of 10, 20, even 30 years or more–sometimes from the age of 2–are accused of committing violence against other women. Regardless of our past or our experience as feminists, we believe that it is always, and has always been, unacceptable to tolerate feminists’ use of tactics designed to silence other feminists, even when we are in disagreement. Yet, that is exactly what is happening right now.”

In September, Stella, a sex work lobby group framed feminist protest as violence. This disturbingly ironic (and common) misplacement of blame (let’s stop, just for a moment, and look at WHO is actually perpetrating violence against women) is not only untrue but is dangerous. When we frame protest and feminist action against violence and against the exploitation of women as ‘violence’, we perpetuate a million stereotypes about women who get “too angry,” “too emotional,” and “too loud,” i.e. women who are stepping out of line. This silences women. Or tries to anyway. The real abusers remain hidden, protected, and justified. “It isn’t me who is wrong, it is feminists, for trying to take away my God-given right to pussy,” is what is reinforced to men.

Women getting angry about violence against women is not violence. In fact, if you aren’t angry about the state of women in this world, it’s probably because you, in one way or another, are turning a blind eye to violence, remaining silent when you witness abuse, or maybe you are just ok with the violence. Maybe it’s become so normal that you actually believe women deserve to be treated in this way. However it’s been justified, pointing the finger at those who fight it is sick. But it is the sickness of a patriarchal society. It is that contagious disease we keep passing around because we just can’t imagine a cure. We can’t imagine healing from this mass abuse. And so we tell ourselves it is normal. And those say, “hey, wait a minute – this isn’t normal, we don’t have to live like this,” must be silenced. Because to live another way is unimaginable.

Sheila Jeffreys, renowned academic and radical feminist, has been subjected to slander of this nature for years. Accused of violence which never took place, these accusations come from MRA‘s and sex work lobbyists, alike. It’s nothing new. And it is a tactic that works, to a certain extent. People who hate feminists are more than willing to believe the hype.

These efforts to silence feminist critiques of the sex industry were in full force at the Feminist Futures conference in Melbourne, which took place in May 2011. When the sex work lobbyists found that there were feminists on panels at the conference who were critical of the sex industry they made it their goal to ensure those women were not allowed to speak. The conference organizers were bullied into altering panels and, as a result of this campaigning,  Sheila Jeffreys was forced to back out of the conference and Melinda Tankhard Reist was disinvited. The conference provided zero safe space for radical feminists and, with the exception of Kathleen Maltzahn, who was completely disrespected at the conference, feminist critiques of the sex industry were silenced.

It’s sad, yes, but it’s also frightening to witness the lengths people will go to ensure their voices are the only voices heard.

More recently I covered an incredibly powerful event organized by Vancouver Rape Relief & Shelter which looked at the issue of violence against women. One panel out of four addressed prostitution as violence against women. Predictably, the first comment on the article was a comment on language, arguing that I was being disrespectful by not using the term “sex worker” instead of prostitute. So not only are all the points in the piece ignored, but now the sex work lobby has gone so far as to demand we alter facts and quotes in order to placate them. We must lie in order not to be censored. The bullying exists to erase the truth.

Feminism is about women. It is about ending patriarchy. It is about ending violence against women. It is about liberation and equality. I realize this is a scary idea to many people. We’ve only known patriarchy. The unknown is scary. And the bullying gets real bad when you start threatening the status quo. But the feminist movement has never been about placating the masses and we will not be intimidated or threatened into silence. The feminists who have been working tirelessly in this movement for decades are used to it at this point, and I’ve learned the routine quickly. We get it. But we are women and we have a right to speak out against our own oppression and a responsibility to speak out against the oppression of our sisters. The privilege is in witnessing abuse and then saying nothing. Because it’s easier to just remain silent. But nobody said this would be easy.

One thing we can be sure of is this: you know there is a powerful movement afoot when the opposition becomes incapable of engaging and resorts to bullying and silencing tactics. In desperation, this is all they can come up with.


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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  • David Duriesmith

    Thank you for your continued bravery in calling out rubbish when you see it, challenging men’s violence and advocating the liberation of women.


  • angela

    thank you for this piece! I am sure it represents the experience of countless feminists worldwide as the prosexwork lobby has been litteraly everywhere lately. It especially infuriates me to see them in all anti capitalist places like occupylsx reclaiming the left with their super individualistic arguments about so-called free choice. And the people there listening to them because that is so easy, so cowardly to believe their version of the story than to listen to women who exited prostitution talk about their experience and suffering.


      Is “free choice” a “super individualistic argument” when feminists speak in support of a woman right to chose to have an abortion?

      • Meghan Murphy

        Choosing to have an abortion is about remaining autonomous in terms of being controlled by men. The choice to *not* give birth to a child means that I have the choice to live as an autonomous human being and will not be dependent on a man (not that all women who have children are dependent on men, but it is certainly difficult not to be in one way or another as a result of the way in which the system is set up). ‘Choosing’ to accept money in exchange for penetration is not a choice in the same way. This choice is most often made because of a need for survival, a need to pay rent, eat, etc. It doesn’t really seem like much of a choice if you need to do it to survive. Prostitution benefits men, not women. It exists to benefit men, not women. Choosing to have an abortion is solely beneficial for women. These arguments do not exist on the same ground.

        • Crack Whore

          that is a load of shit…having an abortion does not equate to remaining autonomous in terms of being controlled by men. Have you ever had an abortion. We all have the need to pay rent, eat etc and it is free choice to decide on what method of exchange is going to pay the said living expenses. I have many friends who are happy health and empowered sex workers who are beyond ‘survival’ and are most probably enjoying the finer things in life and are outside of the stereotype that has been painted for centuries.

          • Meghan Murphy

            The option of being able to choose not to have to give birth. For me it meant I didn’t need to remain attached to an abusive man for the rest of my life. That you and your friends are privileged enough to feel empowered rather than desperate or degraded in doing sex work is great for you and your friends. This does not mean that prostitution moves women any closer towards equality or away from patriarchy. Everyone does not share your experience. In fact, most women in prostitution aren’t being ’empowered’ by prostitution. The comparison between abortion and prostitution is senseless. Prostitution has never been something that existed to benefit women.

          • Peter

            So, do you believe this will change as women gains more and more financial independence? Even in an old conservative nation like the UK, women now have higher starting salaries than men. In countries like Sweden the income gap between men and women is close to 10% and income plus provision of public childcare even makes it possible to have a child on one’s own without having to earn extra. Do you think this will lead to an increase in male prostitution and female purchase of sex, or is this an inherently male practice? Women pay for yoga and massage, men pay for sex?

            Maybe the spread of internet is even countering these tendencies for both women and men, given that it its easier to get in contact on-line and finding a sex partner?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Men pay for sex because they think women’s bodies are for their consumption and because women need the money.

          • Joyce Arthur

            Maybe I’m not good at debating because I’m too used to dealing with anti-choice fanatics, and frankly many of you folks here are not too far off from them. I see you and some other commenters disrespecting sex workers in really paternalizing and insulting ways, and disrespecting men in really vicious and hateful ways (Meghan, your comment right above is man-hating!). I guess I don’t have the patience to really debate with you civilly about it. As the cliche goes, some of my best friends are men – one of them even went to a sex worker recently at my encouragement because he was having sexual performance problems – and I won’t tolerate them being spoken of so dismissively and hatefully.

            The other thing I noticed about this whole thread was the wildly over-the-top negative fictional construction about sex work, based primarily on female victimology and an anti-male, anti-lust ideology, as well as on some peoples’ bad personal experiences – even though sex work and sex workers’ experiences are extremely diverse – and mostly not that bad. All the absurd rhetoric about “male demand” and “prostituted women” just becomes almost laughable after awhile. I especially liked this howler: “most of the yay sex worker crowd are actually paid to comment on message boards and to disrupt feminist events.” If you folks actually believe stuff like that, why should we take anything you say seriously?

            Meghan, your extreme insults against me indicate a desperate defensive bullying stance. I’ve been a feminist for several decades longer than you and have earned my credentials. Also, you derisively dismiss any parallel between prohibitionists and anti-choicers, but you haven’t even read my arguments yet, so you really have no idea what you’re talking about. Most pro-choice women are pro-decrim, btw. Are they all misogynists like me?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Some of my best friends are men too, Joyce. I cannot believe that you would come here with such a condescending attitude and go right to the man-hater cliche. Seeing as you’ve been a feminist so much longer than I, you must know exactly why this kind of comment is so sexist, anti-feminist, and nonsensical. If you don’t have the patience to debate civilly, that is perfectly reasonable, but don’t just come here and make fun and call names and then act as though we are somehow bullying you. You are free and welcome to comment here but you will be called out if you resort to anti-feminist stereotypes and invented categories (anti-male, anti-lust, etc.). These kinds of accusations have long been used against feminists to dismiss and silence. It’s not going to work here.

            And if you really want to pull the “I’ve been a feminist longer than you have” card, my mother’s been a feminist longer than you and she taught me not to put up with this b.s. rhetoric. What’s next? Are we too angry? Too crazy? Too loud? Hairy? Lesbian? I am, again, appalled to hear these kinds of attacks from someone who identifies as feminist.

          • A silences sex worker

            I used to be involved in some of these groups briefly as they shut me down very quickly. Just like they’re doing here. Not liking sex work doesn’t mean I don’t love sex. Not liking having to lie about my age cause I know I’ll be more profitable doesn’t mean I just don’t know the topic well enough I’ve been in the trade 10 years since I was 13. If these women like sex work why don’t they just do it in the silence I do why do they politicize it and claim to speak on behalf of wOmen they’ve never met. I don’t believe the things they say they’re the only ones who say it I work in agencies on the street and from home we don’t like these guys if we did we’d do it for free if it weren’t an option maybe there would be options

          • Louise

            This is a genuine, in-good-faith question Joyce, so please don’t accuse me of hating men or hating sex or being frigid. (Although on that subject, I am guessing you’re against slut-shaming, so why are you so happy to indulge in exactly the same kind of silencing tactic? Calling someone a man-hater to shut them up is no different to calling them a slut to shut them up.)

            Anyway my question is, why do you think it is some woman’s responsibility to get fucked by your mate for money to help him figure out his performance problems? I am attracted to women and men. I would never ever ever feel I was entitled to someone’s body if I was having sexual problems?

            I understand what your male friend gets out of that scenario. I don’t get how it is empowering for the sex worker. I don’t see why this is a service someone should provide for him.

          • CPB

            lol, ‘Joyce’…so obviously a man.

          • Meghan Murphy

            She’s not! Shocking that anyone who considers themselves feminist could say such hilariously ignorant things, though, isn’t it!

          • karen pastore

            almost 100% of females in ‘prostitution’ have entered as little girls after being further sex abused at home r by other adult males: those males often sex slave the child to other male pedophiles even then and put the child in prostitution or the child flees only to be raped in 24 hrs of fleeing: sources FBI states and the national center for missing and exploited children: THEN there I those who enter after the trauma of rape and most often as children expected to support entire extended families who are poor. the stereo type is of a happy ‘hooker’ who is grateful that, in order to survive she has to lick men’s assholes & be treated as a subhuman slave while sucking on whatever he commands etc etc…your projection is the old old manipulative pr of the industry. the ‘I know lots of girls…’ bs is laughable. in 3 to 7 yrs almost all the girls are dead and nearly all were sex abused prior to child entry into this ’empowering, fun, lavish lifestyle’…spoken like a pimp and a porn flick…no resemblance to reality. I know. I know.

        • Peter

          “Choosing to have an abortion is solely beneficial for women.” This is surely fiction!? Having an abortion can be a mutual decision of a man and a woman, or it can be even the man who has the strongest influence in the decision. So if the man does not want the added strain that the responsibilities of having a kid mean, it is clearly beneficial for him too. I think you are simplifying here to make it fit your views on prostitution. Prostitution exists not to benefit men but because there is someone willing to buy and sell sex. Do you honestly believe most prostitutes do it to survive? In what country do they not have any other choice or option?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I feel like you’re getting troll-y, Peter. I’m not interested in explaining to a man why prostitution benefits men, nor am I arguing with you about the purpose for abortion.

          • Peter

            Sorry, I guess I have missed debating to much and have too much time on my hands right now. I was honest in my question, just curious to know how people think. Thanks for many interesting answers so far though!

          • ESTHER SHANNON

            That’s a neat trick – call someone troll-y and they shut up. No more awkward questions, really no questions at all, only apologies.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I imagine that if you ever had to moderate a comments section you will feel differently. Please engage with the debate at hand and stay on topic. That’s one of the rules for commenting here. Comment moderation isn’t up for discussion.

          • Arup

            Peter, if prostitution is about someone willing to buy and sell sex then why don’t men sell sex and women buy it? If prostitution is such a lucrative profession then don’t we (men) leave our jobs for women and start prostituting? Isn’t that sounds logical?
            And when you say “most” in …honestly believe most prostitute do…. I’d suggest you better take a tour of the Google world map. Because not most but all of the women in developing and under developed countries are coerced/trafficked into prostitution. Gets your facts first.
            Now let me tell a little bit about the “choice”. There used to be a practice in ancient India (till as late as early 19th century) known as “Sati” (means ‘chaste woman’ or ‘good wife’). In that, a recently widowed woman would voluntarily jump into the funeral pyre of her dead husband and would immolate herself. So what would you say about her “choice” there? It is, that even if she would do it voluntarily that did not justify that she was not oppressed or socially manipulated, rather it indeed reinforced the fact that male domination and patriarchy was in complete control of the woman’s mind, psyche and social behavior.

            Meghan, a very good article indeed.

          • SW Client

            ‘Why don’t men sell sex and women buy it?’ Why don’t YOU answer that question? Why don’t women buy sex? Well, funny thing is, more are. However the kind of sex they’re buying is different from men. It tends to include more wining, dining, conversation intimacy then the wham bam thank you m’am kind men GENERALLY buy.


          Sometimes, I just can’t stop laughing about the contortions, especially those grounded in hetrosexism, even of the contorted variety. I guess lesbians are in that generous exception bracket, along with all the other women who get pregnant with no intention of being involved with a man. I guess no family benefits when Mom decides not to have another child at any given time.

          Re: “This choice is most often made because of a need for survival.” Where is your evidence for this statement, as regards “most often” in particular.

          Please context your reply within the common understanding that, in Canada, survival sex work represents between 10 to 20% of sex work activity (I’m being generous here, as some say, five percent). Is the term “most often” sufficiently elastic to exclude the estimated 80% of sex work activity that happens indoors. I suspect that it will be.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh I’m so happy you find this all so amusing, Esther! I do believe that the whole point of doing sex work is to, you know, survive, pay the rent, pay for school etc. So long as women don’t have other options and men will pay, there will be prostitution.

          • Mademoiselle B.

            hm ok. So abolitionists think that “scaring” men into no longer paying for sex is going to resolve everything? So… What about the women, who still won’t have any other options (actually, now they’ll have even less options, thanks to abolitionists!)..what happens to them? How exactly do they, you know, survive then? Is that not a concern as you advocate to eliminate the “demand”?

            There’s a problem with this (well, there are more than one – but let’s start with one): it doesn’t make any sense.

            If you believed this (sex work as last or only option for all sex workers) and you were genuinely trying to end prostitution, for the sake of sex workers (and of course all “proper” women) then logically it would make more sense to focus on eliminating the “need” for women to turn to sex work to survive. Focusing on artificially forcing men to stop paying for sex by threatening arrest, public shaming or whatever else scare tactic would be seen for how absurd and meaningless it is in creating any genuine and real change. This “end demand” non-sense is just appealing because it’s easy to do, it makes a statement and it punishes men openly while appearing to be good for sex workers by decriminalizing their part of the transaction. It’s a simple, feelgood way to tell people “something’s being done”. But in reality, it doesn’t and it will never manage to end the demand and there will always be a demand for paid sex.

            Are you saying that you believe laws can influence all men to the point of not being willing to pay for sex? Of course not, but it will at least lower the demand. I’m not convinced of this (there is no REAL evidence to show any effects on demand OR supply) but let’s say it does. Since the lack of options for women will *still* be as much of an issue, there will always be a “need” for it for some women in order to survive. So what do you end up with?

            Well, if you think about it – anyway you think about it, there are 3 possible outcomes in regards to demand:

            1- Eliminating all demand (highly unlikely) means all sex workers are now left with NO means to survive since according to abolitionists that was their only option.
            2- Lower demand means sex workers left to compete for the clients that are left (means lower prices/less money made, pressure to take more risks – health and safety, etc)
            3- No effects on demand, which means status quo. But let’s not forget that’s an expensive way to keep things the same.

            That’s a lot of money and effort for no actual, real results or improvements for, well, anyone. So is the only motivation and appeal of this approach to make a big statement while pretending it’s really effective even if it’s not? Because I don’t see what possible expectations

            But that also raises another problem. I’m a sex worker. I actually do have other options. I could choose other types of work. I have in the past and I may again in the future – I may choose to leave sex work altogether to do this or I may decide to keep sex work occasionally. No, I’m not implying this applies to all sex workers – and certainly not to individuals engaging in survival sex work. Perhaps you’ll say I represent an extreme example of a sex worker. Maybe but I’m certainly not unique, nor is my situation uncommon.

            If I represent one extreme and survival sex work represents another extreme, what of the infinite other examples that fall at various points in between? How do we all fit into the convenient little box or model constructed by abolitionists. How does a simplistic one-size-fits-all “solution” apply to an incredibly wide range of situations, options and experiences? How do laws to punish demand address the diversity within sex work? Or is sex work just an excuse, a convenient scapegoat that’s easily exploited to serve an entirely different agenda and ideology……?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Mademoiselle B. No more stupid comments. Please pay attention. We are focused on “eliminating the “need” for women to turn to sex work to survive.” We do not believe that only a law will change everything. AT ALL. And who, pray tell, are these “proper women” you speak of? Is there a particular class of women you feel are or should be designated for prostitution? Look up the Nordic Model, I’m not repeating myself anymore. We’ve gone over all of this in the article and in the comments and you’ve come here and just invented whatever fits with your arguments. What we need, along with changes to law, is public education, social safety nets, exiting programs, affordable housing, other options for employment, opportunities for education, etc. And leave a real email address or I won’t publish any more of your comments.

          • Mademoiselle B.

            Well, considering I’m receiving updates about new replies in my EMAIL inbox, I think I left a real email address, thank you very much. My comment was not stupid, I am paying attention and all of those things you list wont magically become to be available for women because we decide to adopt the “Nordic model”. These are things that would be just as important without adopting the “Nordic model”, these are things that are important now and regardless of the regime.

            My point is that the intense focus on “demand” (pretty much exclusively – that is usually the *only* thing that is talked about publicly by abolitionists, as if that is a magic solution) and the “Nordic model” is not getting us any closer to seeing all these changes for women. My point is that it would be 100% more helpful if feminists and others focused their efforts and lobbying on actually getting these things for women, instead of campaigning for a way to use laws to punish and scare men into not behaving in a way you don’t approve of.

            I find it extremely ironic that you would tell me my comments are stupid – when they are absolutely not, I described exactly what is the only exclusively abolitionist “solution” and that is making the purchasing of sex illegal. If you think what I wrote is stupid, then look at what you expect the Nordic model to accomplish for sex workers because that’s what you refer to as stupid.

            The truth is that there are zero benefits to sex workers and that isn’t the intent either. As I’ve said, the bottom line is that sex workers are just convenient to exploit and easy to speak for.

            Please don’t write blogs like this one and then turn around and call my comments stupid. I mean, really. That’s friggin’ rude.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Your email address is very clearly fake. ANYWAY, forgive me if I get sick of repeating myself over and over again. Your comment showed that you had not read anything here. Nothing will become magically available, no. Social change is not about magic. It’s about changing systems and ideology. Your comment showed that you had zero understanding of what abolitionists are fighting for and that you had not read anything I’ve written here about our goals.

            “So abolitionists think that “scaring” men into no longer paying for sex is going to resolve everything?”

            “If you believed this (sex work as last or only option for all sex workers) and you were genuinely trying to end prostitution, for the sake of sex workers (and of course all “proper” women) then logically it would make more sense to focus on eliminating the “need” for women to turn to sex work to survive.”

            “there will always be a demand for paid sex. ”

            That I blog does not make me obligated to deal with comments that tell lies or waste people’s time. My comment section, my rules.

          • Mademoiselle B.

            Clearly very fake? What? Am I supposed to use an email with my full legal name for it to be considered a real address? Do you want my date of birth, birth certificate, passport? Sorry, I don’t think so, this is the email I use for every website I post comments on the internet. Honestly, I really don’t get why apparently I’m not entitled to privacy on the internet. I doubt I am the only sex worker who isn’t keen on outing myself and I’m not sure why that is a big surprise.

            And I’m very sorry but the only reason you are refusing to engage with me is because I just put a very ideological concept into very practical terms and there’s very little you can say to that. I don’t need you to respond because it’s actually a lot more telling that you resort to personal attacks and accuse me of not knowing what abolitionists are advocating for. All I know and that is very clear is that the only thing that is exclusively abolitionist is the focus on demand and laws to address it. Everything else is not being questioned, it is essentially a given to anyone concerned about sex workers’ rights.
            There were absolutely no lies in my comments and frankly it seems more likely that sex workers are the ones wasting precious time and energy trying to engage in discussion.

            Your reaction to this is truly disappointing – and you complain about censoring.

            Anyway, I’m done too. You can keep your comment section and your rules, I’ll survive.


          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok. I’m not arguing with you about the email address you invented so you could comment anonymously. Read the comment policy. I don’t care if you are anonymous publicly (i.e. use a fake name), but we ask for real email addresses for purposes of accountability and safety. And so that people are encouraged to debate civilly and with integrity. Accountability is the reason most blogs ask for email addresses. We, here, are public, we blog under our own names, as a result, we are not safe. So we request some accountability from those who post here. It prevents *some* abuse.

            Your ‘practical terms’ amount to ignorance. I haven’t personally attacked you, rather I feel frustrated responding to the same comments over and over again because people don’t wish to understand or read the arguments. It’s a waste of time.

            There are many people who comment here who disagree while, all at once, understanding the arguments. It is possible.

          • Ed Drain

            I won’t call you Mademoiselle or any name that conveys respectability. You comments ARE stupid. The Nordic model is a truthful model in that it recognizes the three huge problems of prostitution. Namely, 1) the violent nature of Johns, 2) the societal shaming and blaming of the prostituted woman, and 3) the obscene profits of the persons who control the market of commodified women — the pimps. The nordic model makes it ILLEGAL to purchase women’s bodies and therefore puts the power where it should have been in the first place — in the persons being sold. If a person is being sold, outside of the Nordic model, there is legal pressure on her to be silent about any transaction that occurred despite whether or not it harmed her. With the Nordic model, the pressure to be silent is gone, and only her own self interest reigns. So please, tell me, how can you argue against that?

        • Joyce Arthur

          Well, I have a draft article in the works, already too long, that talks about nothing except the numerous – and I mean NUMEROUS – close parallels between the prostitution prohibitionist movement and the anti-choice movement. Part of it will respond to your very weak piece last summer: https://feministcurrent.com/3461/why-reproductive-rights-and-prostitution-are-not-the-same-thing-a-response-to-one-decriminalization-argument/ Don’t kid yourself Meghan, that’s who you’re in bed with. As an appetizer, you might be interested in my piece here: http://choice-joyce.blogspot.com/2007/01/linking-prostitution-and-abortion.html (btw, I partly agree with Elizabeth Pickett’s comments later on this topic, because “choice” is a bit overrated in both the abortion and prostitution debates. But both things are still a choice, even though constrained by tough realities in many cases, and it doesn’t mean that people who make such choices are “privileged,” or that they are not in some ways empowered by the decision. And Elizabeth overlooks the fact that she supports legal abortion regardless of the difficult choices of women, whereas she does not support difficult choices in the case of prostitution.)

          You said: “Choosing to have an abortion is about remaining autonomous in terms of being controlled by men.” Funny how your own abortion circumstance becomes how you think abortion rights should be defined for everyone else. Just like your personal feelings against prostitution mean you can just ignore what actual sex workers have to say – because you’re right and know what’s best for everyone else, eh? Especially other women. Fact is, prostitutes have been trend-setters throughout history, have played important roles in their communities, and have even been powerful and admired figures. Whether or not they are empowered though, you want to deprive them of a living.

          I never thought about this issue much until a few years ago. I read and considered both sides before making up my mind, and this was the result: http://choice-joyce.blogspot.com/2006/12/why-prostitution-cannot-be-abolished.html In a nutshell, I think the solution to the prostitution “problem”, besides getting rid of the patriarchy (which is ultimately based on guaranteeing the paternity of children), is to encourage women to have more casual sex, because then men wouldn’t need to pay for sex as much, and women could also pay for it if needed. There’s so many lonely older women out there who deserve to have sex but can’t get it! We need lots more male sex workers catering to women. Repressing sex never works, and hating men is certainly not the answer either.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Eek! I made a weak argument! Impossible!

            I doubt that, if it really was all that hilarious and ridiculous, you would bother putting so much time and energy into responding. I’m not really interested in engaging with you in a debate about abortion, Joyce. So don’t try to derail the conversation simply so you can use this as a venue to promote your work. And please don’t act as though my understanding of abortion is only based on my own personal experience. You have no idea what my experiences are and they are absolutely none of your business. I usually try to keep my own experiences private for this very reason, because people like you will use them to attack. Try some integrity. Abortion is hardly my pet issue, nor do I have any particular expertise in that issue / debate. It is brought up on occasion in relation to the prostitution debate as a way to manipulate people into believing that somehow, if they support reproductive rights, they naturally must support the sex industry. Which is silly. We are fighting male privilege here. Prostitution benefits men. Prostitution exists because of patriarchy. Abortion exists because of feminism. Simple.

            My “feelings” about prostitution are not personal. This is about feminism, Joyce. And systematic oppression. Not people’s individual, personal experiences. I really could care less about your tired arguments. As I’ve said a million times over, no one here is “repressing sex”, no one “hates men”, and this is not a labour issue. Would you also argue that by fighting factories that exploit their workers we are taking jobs away from those who are being exploited in said factories?

            And OF COURSE prostitutes are valuable members of the community and have an important role in history BECAUSE THEY ARE HUMAN BEINGS. And women. News flash! Nobody here is anti-prostituted women. We are anti pimp and anti john. This is getting so old. Really.

          • “In a nutshell, I think the solution to the prostitution “problem”, besides getting rid of the patriarchy (which is ultimately based on guaranteeing the paternity of children), is to encourage women to have more casual sex, because then men wouldn’t need to pay for sex as much, and women could also pay for it if needed. There’s so many lonely older women out there who deserve to have sex but can’t get it! We need lots more male sex workers catering to women. Repressing sex never works, and hating men is certainly not the answer either.”

            See, I thought this critique might have been the best one out there, but the context you’re coming from ruins it. Without factoring in everything that is WRONG and anti-feminist in your statements, this is just dumb. What about men who do get sex, but think they deserve something extra they’re not getting at home? What if the wife doesn’t do anal? Does he need to get it somehow? Would that justify going to a prostitute. They’re not lonely, they’re just entitled pricks, and there’s a lot of them.

          • Meghan Murphy

            So, “the prostitution problem” would be resolved if only women would have more sex with men?? Wow. What a heterosexist solution! So it’s women’s faults that men prostitute women? Because they aren’t putting out enough? Compulsory sex for all! By that logic, I suppose we could also argue that if women would just have more sex with men they wouldn’t need to rape either? I’m sorry but this logic seems dangerous to me.

          • OMG, just read the comments at your piece.

            “I’d rather be raped than be paralyzed or lose an arm, for example! In a way, rape has become exaggerated in seriousness because of the social shame/stigma around it and it’s association with sex, and the idea that women’s virginity/sexuality is all she has to trade on, so if that is violated, then she’s “nothing.”

            Wtf, Joyce? And you dare accuse abolitionists of simplistic arguments? What’s so traumatic about rape for men then? They have no prized virginity, no slut-shaming, so why it so traumatic for them?

            And frankly, I’m sick of people trying to paint us as homophobic bible-thumpers. It’s a weak and
            disingenuous tactic, and it usually comes from heterosexuals. Have you noticed anything about the feminists here? More than half of them are lesbians. I’m bisexual. None of us here give a shit about the “sacred marriage bed”.
            Many of us don’t look upon marriage itself so favorably. Meghan herself has written an article on the problems of the marriage institution. Nobody here thinks virginity is an important asset for women. We all think pleasure is for women during sex is a requirement, though. Your comparison of us to right-wingers is so fucking ridiculous.

          • Mademoiselle B.

            ‘‘anti-porn rhetoric is a massive exercise in scapegoating. It critizes non-routine acts of love rather than routine acts of oppression, exploitation, or violence. This demon sexology directs legitimate anger at women’s lack of personal safety against innocent individuals, practices, and communities. Anti-porn propaganda often implies that sexism originates within the commercial sex industry and subsequently infects the rest of society. This is sociologically nonsensical. The sex industry….reflects the sexism that exists in the society as a whole….A good deal of current feminist literature attributes the oppression of women to graphic representations of sex, prostitution, sex education, sadomasochism, male homosexualit transsexualism. Whatever happened to the family, religion, education, child-rearing practices, the media, the state, psychiatry, job discrimination, and unequal pay?’’

            (Gayle Rubin)

            (About the alliance between the right-wing and radical feminists) ‘‘Women Against Pornography.’’ She notes that the feminist movement has polarized into two currents: ‘‘One tendency has criticized the restrictions on women’s sexual behavior and denounced the high costs imposed on women for being sexually active….The second tendency has considered sexual liberalization to be inherently a mere extention of male privilege. This tradition resonates with conservative, anti-sexual discourse.’’

            (Gayle Rubin)

          • Magedelena

            Thanks for moving the camera lense to wide focus for a moment Mademoiselle B. and offering a wider perspective.

            As a newbie to this debate I appreciate it.

          • Louise

            If you think the solution to patriarchy is to “encourage women to have more casual sex so men don’t need to pay for it” sorry but I don’t see how you’re a feminist. AT ALL.

            Men don’t NEED to pay for it. Access to women’s bodies isn’t food or oxygen. It’s not some basic entitlement that goes above a woman’s own wishes and needs! Why should women be “encouraged” to do anything sexual that they don’t want to do?

            I’m not actually in favour of prostitution being illegal and I do think this is a complex issue but no-one is putting a convincing case for it! Comments like this depress me, you are practically saying that if all the stupid uptight frigid women would just loosen up and men fuck them then there’d be no more sexism and everything will be fine! This is a wholly terrifying and WOMAN-HATING, SEX-HATING argument. You are not pro-sex. You are pro-sexual entitlement. Completely different.

          • SW Client

            I think she MIGHT have worded it wrong. It’s possible by ‘encourage’ she might be speaking if the theory women engage in casual sex less due to sexual repression. I’m personally undecided yet as to wether that is due to biology or culture.

  • Rebecca Smyth

    Thanks for this interesting take, and I think it is very important to point out where people are silenced and to ensure that dialogue remains open.

    I have observed this happening in the other direction as well in the context of issues around sex work, where members of an audience or panel taking an abolitionist position have been extremely disrespectful, using intimidation, threats and personal insults towards people who had a different view than theirs. It isn’t fair discourse or respectful dialogue coming from any participant with any point of view.

    I think the behaviour you describe – silencing – whoever engages in it – exceeds just expressing anger, and it should not be a part of a productive dialogue. That type of exclusion does not further any reasonable conception of feminism. But I think in the context of this divisive issue, this tactic does not just go in one direction, and I think that all persons involved could gain wisdom from listening to one another and benefiting from respectful debate. I think that is the only way to building common goals and common strategies.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hear you, Rebecca, that both sides become heated and imagine that this, sometimes, leads to less-than-respectful dialogue. I have not witnessed this myself from the abolitionist movement, but I believe you if you say you have.

      What I haven’t seen, though, is the kinds of comments I describe early in my post, coming from abolitionists. I read many articles about legalization and decrim, coming from the sex work lobby, and yet I don’t see comments demanding that the articles be removed or that the author of the articles not be allowed to write or speak on the subject. That is what I’m addressing here. Yes, of course, respectful dialogue is important, but it is the fact that the sex work lobby is actively working to actually erase the abolitionist perspective that concerns me. I don’t see this kind of bullying coming from feminists who critique the sex industry, I don’t see them bullying conference organizers to remove panelists and I don’t see them bullying websites to remove content simply because it mentions the word ‘sex work’ – it just doesn’t happen.

      • m Andrea

        I haven’t seen or heard any obolitionists do the kinds of things Rebecca claimed. What I do see, is an
        awful lot of male supremacy from the happily exploited emmpowered funfems. So much so, that I’m reminded of men who conflate “a genuine state of equality” with “oppression of men”. It’s no coincidence that most of the yay sex worker crowd are actually paid to comment on message boards and to disrupt feminist events — that type of informal advertising is actually quite common with high-profit products nowadays.

        • agreed msandrea. methinks rebecca is full of shit. of course, the whole “respectful debate” position assumes that both sides are equally valid, and equally supported by evidence, which of course they are not. “fair and balanced” boo-hoo/rah-rah is the battle cry of the mainstream wanting to silence dissent. and pro-pornstitution is 100% mainstream. the MRAs use the same silencing tactics on feminists, and everyone does this to radical feminists. gee, i wonder why they are all using such mainstream tactics? when they are all supposed to be such special snowflakes with widely disperate values not based on the same thing at all?

          it also occurs to me that the pro-sex work lobby should be going after anarchists and communists, and that they should do this immediately. because those groups believe that all work is a form of slavery except sex-work, which is freely chosen. that means they do NOT believe that sex-work is like other kinds of work, and that they are therefore being oppressive and hateful. right? right? or…is using the term “sex work” whats really important, and whatever comes after that isnt even read? kinda exactly what meghan has described here? ah meghan, dont you hate being right all the time? 🙂

          • ESTHER SHANNON

            Re; “pro-pornstitution is 100% mainstream.” If that was the case, what are sex workers under the threat of
            arrest? Does this mean the Harper government will be dropping its appeal of the two Charter challenges under
            Canada’s laws on prostitution?

            As regards anarchists and communists – Is this meant to be a serious statement or are you feeling comfortable
            in feeling like you can trivialize these issues?

            Re: “dont you hate being right all the time?” No one is right all the time, but people can convince themselves that they are, with some going so far as to speak authoritatively on other people’s experience. As women we are intimately familiar with this experience, so we should always be very wary of supporting such notions.

          • Southern Fried

            “anarchists and communist[…]believe that all work is a form of slavery except sex-work, which is freely chosen”

            This isn’t universally true, plenty of anarchists and communists (especially those of us who are both) have a strong critique of the sex industry. Some from an abolitionist, rad fem influenced perspective, others (including myself) from a perspective of supporting sex workers in self-organising, independent of pimps, punters and the pro-sex work lobby.

            An interesting example of the latter can be found here:

          • joy

            From another radical feminist anarchist, though:

            What is that helping? Are you tackling the immediate problems, but moving towards an eventual goal of abolition — or are you attempting to keep the capitalist ghost alive through more unnecessary use and abuse of female bodies?

            Because prostitution is, always has been, and always will be capitalist by definition. There is absolutely no way that it could be otherwise.

          • Southern Fried

            I was mostly responding to the misconception that all anarchists are pro-sex work. There’s a range of views on prostitution and sex work amongst anarchists, as you point out yourself. In fact the article I linked to was a response to an abolitionist leaflet distributed at the London anarchist bookfair.

            The point of supporting sex workers’ self-organisation isn’t that sex work is some wonderful, empowering choice that we should celebrate, but that just as the struggle against work must be led by the workers ourselves, the struggle against sex work must be led by sex workers

          • sam

            Rape and other violent crimes are not within the purview of unions, they are criminal matters. There is nothing a worker’s union can do about these and other violent crimes because the choices to act criminally are not being made by union members and lay outside labor laws.

            It’s offensive to suggest that if prostituted women want to stop being raped, beaten and murdered then they should get together and figure out how to make pimps and johns stop hurting them. That’s an abdication of society’s responsibility to prevent perpetrators from committing their crimes. It unfairly burdens prostituted women with somehow preventing the crimes men commit against them, crimes no group of women has yet managed to convince/force men to stop committing.

          • Louise

            Of course that should happen Sam but there are lots of things unions can do to help people take an issue to the courts and get legal support, or enforce basic health and safety standards, etc… just like every other workplace.

            Are you against all trade unions? Do you trust the law and society to just be on the side of the worker in general, in all roles? Because that hasn’t exactly worked out well in the past.

          • joy

            sam responded to my questions much better than you did, Southern Fried.

        • julia scurr

          m Andrea – I’d be interested to see names etc of those paid to comment and by whom. It would be useful in debates with the libertarian ‘left’ who ignore the involvement of the organised sex industry in the ‘decriminalisation’ lobby.
          I find the use of the term ‘abolitionist’ very powerful in Meghan’s piece. Thanks


          Re: “most of the yay sex worker crowd are actually paid to comment on message boards and to disrupt
          feminist events…”

          What is your evidence for this statement? Any detail would be helpful. Are these contract workers or people working in full time jobs. Anything on hours of work, hourly wages, benefits, including UI and pension contributions. If you can, please note how many of these people are union members and what percentage can count on Worker Compensation, should they are injured on the job.

          Feminist groups, including feminist anti-violence groups, receive far larger amounts of funding than the few sex worker groups in Canada, which number about 10 in total. As well, feminists groups and associations have been funded by the State and by the community for over 40 years now meaning that, by comparison, they are in a far more privileged position than sex worker groups. What’s remarkable is that sex worker groups are making the progress that they are making despite the scant resources they bring to their struggle. It reminds me of the early days of the feminist movement.

          • Meghan Murphy

            That’s an interesting claim, Esther. Most of the sex workers leading the groups you speak of appear to not to be survival sex workers and, therefore, have a certain level of privilege. The Bedford vs Canada case was backed, financially, by clients/johns and was in not instigated by survival sex workers. Don’t you think this is telling, in any way, in terms of who would really benefit from your version of decriminalization?

            I think that the key difference between what you advocate for and what abolitionists advocate for is that abolitionists want women to be safe, of course, but we also want feminism. We want an end to patriarchy and to male power. Prostitution exists because of male power so I fail to see how it is possible to call an argument feminist if it does not work towards an end goal of equality and freedom for ALL women? Regardless of who is getting money from where, the key issue here is that prostitution benefits men, not women. Simply because some women benefit temporarily it does not change the fact that women end up prostituted / have ended up in prostitution because of of abuse, because of the legacy of colonialism, because of male power, because of classism, because men think that they are entitled to access women sexually, because women do not have enough other options in terms of making a decent living, because of marginalization, vulnerability, lack of social services, incest, rape, etc etc. This list goes on. Prostitution is not about equality and decriminalization does not adequately address the issue of inequity and male power and privilege.

          • Joyce Arthur

            As if the average survival sex worker could mount a constitutional challenge, lol. Of course, those who have the means to do so are representing sex workers, including survival sex workers. Decrim will help all sex workers, including the most marginalized, because they currently can’t do safe negotiations with clients or go to the police for help.

            Your latter points about male power, etc. are completely refuted by my proposal (see earlier comment) to loosen the sexual double standard so that women feel more comfortable having casual sex and going to male sex workers. Because it’s not about “male power” – it’s about the basic human need for sex and intimacy. Unfortunately, women still seem to be more reticent about sex than men, so most people just don’t get enough. There’s no need for that anymore, especially with legal and available contraception and abortion services.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh yeah. Prostitution is all about women’s sexual freedom. Wow. It’s bizarro feminism!

          • tick tack

            Did you actually say sex is a need.Wow.

          • Meghan Murphy

            And therein lies one of the key problems with the sex industry and defenses of porn and prostitution. Men are treated as though they somehow require sexual fulfillment whenever they feel the urge – they are made to believe that sex is a need and a right – therefore they have the RIGHT to access women’s bodies because they NEED sex. No one is going to die from lack of sex. Give me a break.

          • Joyce Arthur

            You’ve got to be kidding me! Of course sex is a basic biological need. It’s pretty much the most powerful biological urge, after eating and sleeping. It also has great physical and emotional benefits and makes us happier and more well-balanced. We are ALL entitled to sex, men and women alike. I offer a quote that I included in my early piece on sex work: “Sexuality is simply like chocolate, where some of us like it better than others, and some of us can’t figure out what’s so great about it. There’s nothing pathological about that, except that it makes it difficult for those folks to understand many things about sexuality.” (Dr. David Hersh, personal communication, Dec. 2006).

            To be honest, I suspect that people who diss sex simply have little or no sex drive (at that point in their lives anyway), so they don’t understand what it’s like to want/need lots of sex. That would be fine, except when they want to deprive other people of sex – like if they’re not having any fun, no-one else can either? How is that any different from the abstinence-only sex moralizers who want to stop all sex except for procreation in the marriage bed? Oh, another parallel to add to my article!! lol.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Chocolate is not a need, Joyce. Needs are food, water, shelter, safety. I HAVE SEX. I enjoy sex. WITH MEN. Not that it’s any of your business, nor should it have any relevance in this debate. But I do understand exactly what it is like to feel like I “need” sex. But I don’t. I can live without it. I won’t die. It is not a need. That’s ridiculous.

            You have some nerve to come here and start accusing people of being critical of prostitution because they don’t like sex. As if there is something wrong with people who don’t like sex anyway. You are unbelievably mislead and unbelievably offensive. I’m sorry, but I am truly, truly shocked to actually find that people who are engaged in feminist debates still believe this and use it to attack feminists.

          • tick tack

            Dear god, please be a troll.

          • Sex is not a need – like having food and water. It is mainly for leisure and on occasions for reproduction.But this has nothing to do with men who make the choice to buy the prostituted class – for this has little or nothing to do with sexual want – it more sexual greed and anger. Mostly it is not about sex although, for it about having complete power and control over the prostituted, especially knowing that most prostituted women and girls are rarely in a position to say no or protect herself.No-one has the right to buy another human being, especially not for something as unimportant as sexual want and greed.

          • So, what are your established feminist credentials exactly?

          • marv wheale

            Precisely and concisely!!!!!!!

    • riv

      I’d just jump in here to say, I’m sorry, but when you want to negotiate how better to pimp out our daughters, I’m not smilin’ at you. Get that. And there is NO kind of feminism which promotes sexual abuse and hides what’s going on , mentally and physically to girls and women, by calling it something else. If you cannot see that, you have been groomed and brainwashed, and though I feel sorry for you, I’m not letting you put your foot in the door. I not where my priorities lie. Little girls deserve a better future than smiling while being violated and told it’s work.

      • joy

        This is a fantastic comment. Needless to say, I agree wholeheartedly.

      • Angie

        I agree with Riv’s comments. I’ve spoken with sex work advocates, and though they admit that most women are there out of lack of financial options, they seem less concerned with assisting women in finding other jobs or accessing services and more with helping women make more money and not feel bad about being in sex work.


        Re” “As you note, the pro-traders tend to come from relatively privileged positions: they are token spokespeople, wealthy (or at least wealthier) white women, and men.”

        I’m struck by the constant speculation in this and other responses – speculation grounded in ideology and moralism. What is your evidence for the above statement?


        You are using “little girls” as prop for your argument. No sex worker group supports the sexual exploitation of children – girls or boys.

        • Meghan Murphy

          The problem is that sexually exploited children often become sexually exploited adults….Separating the two as though they are not interconnected is, in my opinion, disingenuous or, at very least, unproductive in terms of having an honest conversation about how women or girls become prostituted as adults.

      • Jewell

        Love your combative, “I’m not buyin’ what yer sellin” attitude. Most people don’t know exactly how to frame the argument for abolition in terms which bring the abusive nature of “sex work” into focus like you just did. I count myself among “most people”. After being dressed-down by a (female) cop friend of mine for my pro-prostitution “it doesn’t hurt anyone” stance, I get it.

        We may not all see eye to eye, but if you ever want to see what women mean when they talk about “male privilege” and the seemy underbelly of what some view as innocuous or “victimless”, you only need to drive to areas where girls (not women) are being pimped out, are forced to perform sex acts so their “boyfriends” can put roofs over their heads. So they can be parasites instead of fully-functioning & contributing members of society who value women instead of objectifying them.

        We should all be so schooled from a female point of view and especially from someone who is on the front lines. Most of us view the prostitution & porn industries thru the eyes of men and that’s precisely why we are so blind to the abuses inherent in both.

      • Magedelena

        Standard anti-prostitution tactic – infantalize women by grouping them in with children.
        This tactic strengthens the anti-prostitution straw-man argument that women have no agency.

        Personal experience of my own as a mentor to 10 women getting into the sex industry:
        The age range was 25 years at the youngest and early 50’s at the oldest.

        The oft-touted “fact” that median age of entry into prostitution in Canada is 14 years old was thoroughly
        discredited in the Bedford v. Canada trial.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Separating prostituted women from prostituted girls is disingenuous, exploited girls become exploited adults and then all of a sudden it’s perfectly fine! Because they’re over 18! As though that abuse and exploitation never even happened. OR that exploitation is ok as long as the exploited is an adult.

        • Ed Drain

          Standard pro-prostitution tactic: Dismiss the experiences of adults who entered forced-prostitution as children. Dismiss also any risks to the prostituted when speaking of prostitution. Promote it as empowerment, and never ask the question “If it’s so empowering, why does is it just like slavery?”

  • Meagan Tyler

    Thank you for another fantastic article Meghan.

    The silencing of anyone critical of prostitution that is actively promoted by some groups (especially those who are sex-industry funded) is often overlooked in these debates as if only those who speak out about the harms of prostitution are capable of silencing anyone.

    I was amazed recently at a public lecture in Aust. from the UN Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, when a member of a pro sex-industry group asked a question about sex-worker rights and recognising agency. The question was not only completely rhetorical, it was basically irrelevant to everything the Rapporteur had spent the hour talking about. Given that we only had time for 2 questions from the floor, this seemed to be a waste of everyone’s time. When I live tweeted that the question from this group was “lame and predictable” – I was greeted on my return to work with a host of attacks suggesting I was “whorephobic” and not only that I promoted hatred of people in the sex industry but that in addition that I hated disabled people, or at the very least was “ableist”.

    This is, of course, one small example among many. I’m sure many readers are well aware that criticising such a huge industry is unlikely to make you many friends. But the way in which pro sex-work groups now carry out a lot their activities is not just lobbying, it can be out and our harassment. I don’t know of any secular abolition groups that go around harassing individuals in the same way as this. Certainly none with such equivalently high public profiles.

    Claiming this is justified under the banner of an ideology where only sex workers can speak about/write about/analyse prostitution is even more of a worry, especially as in reality this often means only allowing sex workers who are quite positive about prostitution to have a voice. There is often little or no room for those women who have exited to speak about the abuse they have suffered on a “sex work” platform.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks for your comment, Meagan. The ‘whorephobic’ language is part of the silencing, indeed. It is work to attempt to frame those who critique sex work as attacking or hating women rather than fighting, pimps, johns, and a sexist industry. It is so ridiculous and completely manipulative.

    • riv

      George Monbiot Guardian 2002 did an article on how Monsanto developed a tactic of layering chats and “usenet” groups with paid spammers to work the convo toward support for Monsanto/GMO/RoundUp. Then, it was a new way of marketing. Now the porn industry does the same thing with the commenters we see here and at conferences. The point is disruption. They work it like the drunk driver who cries he’s got his rights. You can feel sorry for them because they are pimped women, still in the trade, but what they do is killing other women and to tolerate them, talk bs about “dialogue” with them, just wastes our limited energy. That’s what’s happening, in various permutations, with the spam in places like this as we try to forge better futures for sexually abused/trafficked/raped girls and women.

    • Jewell

      The push-back from those on the pro sex-work side of the argument is directly proportionate to the amount of money at stake when we talk about abolition.

      • Magedelena

        Precisely correct.

        What are you abolitionists proposing that all of us future unemployed sex workers do for a living?

        Ironically, when you think of all the hundreds of thousands of sex work transactions that happen everyday,
        sex work is probably one of the largest ways of redistributing money from wealthy men back into the hands
        of working class women. So yes let’s shut that down and this will somehow create a more egalitarian world.

        One of the symbols of the sex worker rights movement in Cambodia, is a No Sewing Machines sign.
        One of their slogans is don’t talk to me about sewing machines talk to me about human rights.

        And no I’m not getting a big fat paycheck from Pornstitution Inc. to write this.

        • AJ

          “Sex work is probably one of the largest ways of redistributing money from wealthy men back into the hands of working class women.”

          Except that often the money doesn’t go into the hands or wallets of working class women, it goes to their pimps and/or traffickers.

  • Brava, Meghan! thank you.

  • Thanks for telling about your experiences with the proprostitution lobby. Your experiences are shared by feminists globally. This is how the prolobby works everywhere. Go to http://www.grossefreiheit.dk ( conférence Web site) and watch videos with Marianne Eriksson telling how the prolobby lobby in EU, and Asta Haaland speaking about the lobby in Norway. Videos can be seen with english translations.

  • Katie

    Thank you!

  • nulla

    This is the tactic used by the male rights lobby in all its permutations, not just the pro sexual abuse lobby: currently, the Macy’s department store change room incident. Men will not accept “no” from women.

  • Well done, Meghan- great piece.

  • joy

    I really like, by which I actually mean ‘despise’ the fact that, as you mentioned, women who HAVE been in the sex trade (or are still in the sex trade) and are also abolitionists, are evidently not allowed to speak either.

    So when the pro-traders say abolitionist feminists are “silencing women within the trade”, they are being completely disingenuous. Probably even lying outright. First of all, because abolitionists are not typically the ones who “silence” — and second of all, because abolitionist women in the trade or escaped from the trade are the ones who are actually silenced.

    Maybe the problem is one of entitlement. As you note, the pro-traders tend to come from relatively privileged positions: they are token spokespeople, wealthy (or at least wealthier) white women, and men. Perhaps such people are so used to being heard, all the time, that allowing anyone else to speak feels like a total affront and a complete shutdown of their egos.

    But we’ve heard plenty enough from the Diablo Codys of the world, the women who are privileged enough to “choose”. We hear from the pro-trading lobby every day, in every aspect of society: from TV to billboards to mainstream feminist websites. (Don’t try to tell me that this site, and other abolitionist sites, get as many hits per day as Jezebel and Feministe/ing/wtf.) We hear from the mouths of men, 24/7. We don’t hear nearly enough from exited women, from aboriginal women, from trafficked women — because they are, get this. Silenced. Like, in real life. Often, they’re silenced permanently, because they’re dead.

    By now, the irony doesn’t even burn. It’s just a persistent, dull ache.

    • sam

      You remind me of the strange reasoning behind “sex worker art shows.”

      Pay Per TV has dozens of channels permanently showcasing the performances of sex workers expressing themselves via their purported art, and in my medium-sized city of 1.5 million there are about 120 businesses where stage performances by hundreds of sex workers take place every day. Some businesses operate their sex worker performance art opportunity services 24-hours a day.

      Somehow that saturation of authentic sex worker expression is deemed not enough, so colleges host live performances of sex workers artistically expressing themselves in ways they apparently can’t accomplish through all those cable channels, businesses, and entire neighborhoods (“red light districts”) provided for their freedom of sexual expressions through performance.

      • joy

        Wait — you’re not talking about prostituted women who paint, or play the flute, or do modern dance. You’re talking … livecams of women servicing johns?! Or shooting objects out of their vulvas (as in red-light districts in Vietnam), or dancing nude or … ?

        Uh, wow.

        That in turn reminds me of Annie Sprinkle’s most recent ridiculousness, the EcoSexuality movement. Google that, it’s frigging unreal.

  • Excellent post analyzing the classic supremacist approach to progressives: bully and pressure until we think we’re crazy and shut up. Guess what? We are not shutting up!

    One more example is the backlash levied upon a group of Vancouver lesbian feminists (including me) when we released an article called “Feminist Lesbian Position on Prostitution” – in that case from the queer ‘feminists’ whose tactics were to argue we are not real/the only/ lesbians and to refuse to engage with the content of our article. I noticed that Judith Butler herself was asked about our article in an interview in Briar Patch, and she, too, refused to engage with the issues.

    The good news is that more progressive people and everyday Canadians are coming to understand the abolition of prostitution as a sensible public policy direction.

    Keep up the great work, FWord!!

  • sam

    On June 4, 2008 an Indybay.org article announced, “Board member of prostitute safe house attacks prostitute rights activist” http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/06/04/18504486.php

    If board member Barry Hermanson attacked Maxine Doogan it would be a very serious crime. Quotes from the article admit no one was attacked.

    “The scene of the crime of disrespect this time was the Potrero Hill Democratic Club monthly meeting June 3rd, 2008. Green Party candidate, Barry Hermanson spoke about his campaign to run for congress….he stated that Doogan was calling his director a liar. It was clear to some members of the club that Hermanson had ‘attacked’ Maxine and ‘had lost ground on his issue’ as a result…Many signed the petition and wondered aloud; ‘what ask Maxine would have had for the club’ had she not been attacked?”

    I’ve collected examples for years and that one is my favorite because it’s the clearest. It’s my most used example since the pro-pornstitution blogger who filled her “rape” tag with the names of antiporn activists deleted her blog.

    • These examples should be collected in one place. What an eye-opener.

  • Brilliant as usual. I think this should be reposted everywhere. These people need to be held accountable.

  • Prostituted women, not prostitute. Flipping burgers is something you do. Prostitute is something you are. Victim of prostitution is fine too. It is hard enough to hold onto the humanity of prostituted women without abolishing it with a word that burns out human value like a brand. :/

    • Meghan Murphy

      Who are you responding to, Miss Andrist?


      Re: “Prostitute is something you are.” Does this mean that a person is born a prostitute? Why do you find it hard to hold on to the humanity of a sex worker? Do you think that sex workers have no “human value?”

      • A cop is also something one is…that’s not about dehumanization, and of course it doesn’t mean the person is born that way. That is your occupation. eg: I am a doctor, I am a teacher, I am a prostitute.

      • joy

        Not to speak for Miss Andrist, but knowing what she has posted elsewhere on the internet, she is a very radical woman.

        What she seems to be saying is: NO woman “is” a prostitute at her core. Women who prostitute are merely prostituted.

        There is a major difference.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I think you are right, joy. Esther, I believe you are intentionally pretending to misunderstand the point being made – that is, of course, as joy says, no woman is born a prostitute or destined to be ‘a prostitute’ – there is no class of women that should be made to bear the brunt of male entitlement in this way – women are women – women, sometimes, as the result of circumstances such as poverty, racism, sexism, addiction, abuse, etc. are prostituted. Prostitution, pimps and johns, dehumanize women – it is not feminists who do this.

  • Dana

    Thank you megan for having the bravery to write this important article. I agree completely and have often encountered the silencing and resistance that you speak of for suggesting that as a feminist I really have a hard time believing prostitution is a real choice for women. Nor is it in any conceivable way good for women and women’s equality.
    I worked for years with women who were prostitutes applying for or being treated on a methadone program in BC. The women I knew were desparate to get off the streets and to stop selling their bodies. Not one would have said it was a choice. Addiction, child hood sexual abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, poverty, were all the background stories I was told by virtually all of the women I knew who had ‘worked the streets’.
    I am afraid that it is their voices that are being silenced as well.

  • martin dufresne

    Thank you for this article. I have translated it in French and it is up at http://sisyphe.org/spip.php?article4060 under the title “Le lobby du « travail du sexe » tente de bâillonner des voix féministes par le mensonge répété et l’intimidation”.

    I am heartened by the fact that such attempts at meeting with growing skepticism from feminists and other folks who refuse to be cowed and want to hear all sides of the debate, all of concerned women’s voices.

    In late October, a networking/strategizing session brought to Ottawa anti-violence against women activists from all over Canada. Students from U of Ottawa took this opportunity to try and organize a panel about current developments in the issue of commercial sexual exploitation, e.g. the Sept. 27, 2010 Ontario Supreme Court decision of Judge Susan Himel (commented on by student Laura Johnston, who worked on the case, here: http://thestudentappeal.com/criminal/the-myths-of-bedford-v-canada-why-decriminalizing-prostitution-won%E2%80%99t-help ).

    The organizers invited spokeswomen from both the legalize-sex-work lobby and the feminist abolitionist movement. Both sides accepted. But when the former group learned that they would be sharing a panel with critics of the sex industry they demurred and attempted to pressure organizers into disinviting representatives of the abolitionist perspective. When this was unsuccessful, they pulled out.

    As this happened at the very last minute, the organizers found themselves with a full room of interested students and activists of varying positions but a few conspicuously empty chairs at the front of the room. In a spirit of objectivity, they proposed to cancel the event. There ensued a debate about whether to have the announced discussion. According to a colleague who was there, this debate about debating lasted an hour and a half and turned out to be very enlightening and democratic.

    The relevant facts and arguments about prostitution/sex work had been around long enough to be well-represented by various attendants, but, for once, Meghan’s question (“Who Gets a Say?”) and whether it is appropriate to try and shut out voices critical of the industry – as has been done countless times since the beginning of the so-called “sex wars” some 30 years ago – was brought front and center and weighed on its merits.

    This seems to me a great step forward, and I hope that Meghan’s essay adds to this momentum.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks for sharing this information, Martin, and for the translation. Much appreciated.

  • martin dufresne

    P.S.: As Leidholdt & Raymond demonstrated in “The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism” (http://amzn.to/sAQgVg), this tactic has been going on for some time…

  • “Wait — you’re not talking about prostituted women who paint, or play the flute, or do modern dance. You’re talking … livecams of women servicing johns?!”

    Yeah, pretty sure it’s not art, but more like johns getting their jollies from these women…not sure how this is “artistic” expression…interesting. Apparently though, art can also include photos of women bound by ropes with shit shoved in their mouths by some sleazy “art” photographer. ART!

    If this was women’s art, I doubt there would be such an attempt to take it off TV. Showing johns pay for fucks isn’t art. No matter how post-modern you twist the concepts and use language of “empowerment”

    • joy

      Oh, right, BDSM is considered “art” — how boring and trite.

      I’ve seen even insane things that pass as “art”, even in mainstream circles: like women “painting” with their labia and anuses (mostly just making prints, and sometimes on live cam), shooting objects out of their vaginas, inserting objects into their vaginas, on and on and on. Men love it, which is why it’s so popular.

      True women’s art, art made by women without men’s interest in mind, does not get anywhere near that kind of visibility. In fact, it’s typically suppressed and/or mocked. Which is a pretty good yardstick: men like it and will pay money to see it (especially see it being made) = not a good idea, probably not even art.

      • joy

        That should read “I’ve seen even *more* insane things that pass as art,” pardon me.

  • “the EcoSexuality movement”

    i’m ROFL, RIGHT NOW!

    • joy

      Wait until you see it. I won’t give them any link traffic, but it’s truly unreal.

      It actually makes me a little depressed. THOSE are the people who get bandwidth. THOSE are the conceptualizations of sexuality that get airtime. Meanwhile, radical feminists and their revisions of sexuality (particularly radical lesbian, anti-corporate, and/or anti-penis-in-vagina sexualities) get nothing. Well, excuse me. They get routinely laughed at, and accused of being “vanilla” and/or exactly the same as the Christian right.

      It’s enough to make a woman celibate. Which really isn’t a bad way to go, compared to the alternatives.

  • Magedelena

    Ok I’m a sex worker and I’m going to intrude on this cozy little high five session if you don’t mind.

    It’s simply absurd to offer up a few quotes and claim that say that anti-prostitution feminist (APF) voices are “silenced” by pro-sex worker (PSW) voices.

    Be real, both sides have been railing at each other for 30 years. It’s nothing new. Pu-leeese lay off the poor me sob story. OK. I can give tons of examples where the APF’s have used silencing tactics. A good example is the Women’s World conference in Ottawa this past summer. Not only were attendees greeted to the space dominating installation art piece (funded by Rape Relief dollars) Flesh Mapping: Prostitution in a Globalized World. PSW voices were shouted down in what little space they had to tlak about their issues. Here’s the link, read it, in a http://www.xtra.ca/public/Ottawa/Hostile_clashes_dominate_womens_conference-10497.aspx

    So this goes both ways and you know it. Don’t pretend it doesn’t.

    Also if you want to really see the power of the APF voices all you have to do is read the Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun. God it’s like she has copied the APF book word for word and spills out for the hundreds of thousands of people. PSW voices are lucky if they can even be called sex workers at all by the popular media let alone get our entire message coherently repeated. Here’s one of Daphne’s articles http://www.canadianalliance.org/english/088_07_01.php
    (you’ll note that while the article was originally publishd in the Vancouver Sun it’s now sitting on the website The Canadian Alliance of Social Justice and Family Values Association – just to make it clear who the APF *are* in bed with)

    Shall I continue?

    Yes let’s do. Let’s take a look at a link that you provided in your above post about the Feminist Futures conference in Australia. You said:

    *********These efforts to silence feminist critiques of the sex industry were in full force at the Feminist Futures conference in Melbourne, which took place in May 2011. When the sex work lobbyists found that there were feminists on panels at the conference who were critical of the sex industry they made it their goal to ensure those women were not allowed to speak. The conference organizers were bullied into altering panels and, as a result of this campaigning, Sheila Jeffreys was forced to back out of the conference and Melinda Tankhard Reist was disinvited. The conference provided zero safe space for radical feminists and, with the exception of Kathleen Maltzahn, who was completely disrespected at the conference, feminist critiques of the sex industry were silenced.****************

    But when I clicked on the link you provided under the words “were not allowed to speak” http://www.thescavenger.net/fem1/when-feminists-disagree-censorship-versus-solidarity-741.html

    Here’s what I read about Sheila Jeffries

    ***********At the Feminist Futures Conference held in Melbourne on 28 and 29 May this year, there was much controversy and discomfort surrounding who should or should not speak, and what views should or should not be represented.

    The main controversies emerged surrounding feminists considered to be anti-trans* as well as disparate opinions on the sex industry in relation to women, empowerment and violence.

    Radical feminist, author and academic Sheila Jeffreys was initially on a plenary panel, along with Kathleen Maltzhan of Project Respect (an organisation that takes the radical feminist view that sex work is violence to all women) and planned to run a workshop called ‘Why Prostitution is Violence to Women’.

    After feminist sex worker rights advocates along with trans and sex/gender diverse activists complained about the imbalance of speakers on the panels, representatives from Australian national sex workers’ association Scarlet Alliance and sex/gender diverse collective Still Fierce Melbourne were also given places on two of the panels.

    Jeffreys then withdrew from the conference, arguing that she felt it was “untenable” to participate, and around 60 radical feminists, many of whom were aligned with Jeffreys’ views, held an alternative – or as they put it – “real” feminist conference at a nearby venue.***********

    So clearly Meaghan you are misrepresenting what happened. It wasn’t silencing of Sheila Jeffreys that happened – she just didn’t have the guts to stand up to PSW voices that were there at the conference. Here’s what Elena Jeffreys, national president of Scarlet Alliance had to say about the events http://www.thescavenger.net/feminism-a-pop-culture/why-feminists-should-listen-to-sex-workers-732.html

    I pulled this quote from Elena Jeffreys talk:

    ***********We want the feminist movement to stop punishing us for our strengths, stop rewarding us for our pain, stop gaining privilege on the back of our needs, and to listen when we speak.

    We will continue to speak out about our rights and you need to hear us. If you deny our experience, you deny our existence.

    We are already fighting bad laws; we don’t need to be fighting half of the Australian feminist community as well.*************

    Shall I continue? Yes let’s do.

    PSWs are justifiably angry at the APFs for lots of reasons. You have become the ENEMY in many ways right up there with the cops and the religious crazies. Why? Well you do things like lobby to have our advertising venues like Craigslist erotic services and now Backpage shut down. These were easily accessible venues for even very disadvantaged sex workers to be able to advertise. I know it’s not a big deal to you because you don’t make your living off of this work but it’s a big deal to us. As more ad venues get shut down the ones that remain charge more money and we lose. Not that you care.

    Or how about the APFs getting in bed with the Bush government and lobbying for the anti-prostitution pledge which made USAID unavailable to any foreign or domestic ngo that worked with sex worker groups. So many grassroots sex worker rights group in asia got their funding cut – no more free condoms, no more HIV education, no more drop in centres. Thanks a bunch APFs and the religious right. You’re doing good work. And you wonder why we sex workers get angry and want you to listen to what we have to say.

    blah blah blah. ok I’ve said enough. Over to you.

    Ideology over Human Rights! Let’s get rid of prostitution even if we have to harm every sex worker on the planet woman, man or transgendered person to do it!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ooooh, an acronym! Must be legit.

      There is no sob story here, Magedelena. I mean, aside from the fact that you have just done everything that I write about here. And that we all have to waste our time and energy responding to you because you’ve refused to actually read the piece or make use of those handy hyperlinks I like to provide so that I don’t need to spell everything out. Every single time.

      Read the article. You linked to an article I link to and discuss here. It is a load of crap. You are proving exactly what I argue here, which is that none all y’all can even be bothered to read/hear what feminists are saying. The link that you’ve so thoughtfully repeated here, has been refuted by those who attended. Even Chris Bruckert admits the article is an exaggeration. That article is full of lies. Hence this piece! In fact, I linked to a conversation which discusses precisely the ways in which the Xtra article is BS. The F Word did a whole show on it! We spoke with many women who actually attended the conference! Why don’t you check it out, and then get back to us. But, no. You read one article. So close your eyes and keep on truckin. There couldn’t POSSIBLY be ANYTHING at all you don’t know. You’ve done all your research. By reading one article….

      I am very familiar with Daphne Bramham’s work in the Vancouver Sun. You do realize that I’ve lived in Vancouver for 30 years, yes? Do you seriously believe you are bringing anything new to the table here? I have read everything you’ve linked to here and much, much more. But PLEASE, enlighten us with this regurgitated garbage! Let’s have the exact same conversation over and over again. It gets us nowhere, but hey, what the hell! I have nothing better to do then reply to the exact.same.comments. Because you can’t be bothered to think or read or click on a link.

      I spoke with Sheila Jeffreys directly about what happened re: Feminist Futures. Let’s just go ahead and assume you did not. BUT YOU READ AN ARTICLE! Congrats! You are doing an excellent job of proving that you are, in fact, able to read. Push further! In any case, I am, in no way, misrepresenting what happened. Jeffreys told me what happened. She was harassed and bullied until she had no choice but to pull out. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      I have never, in my life, met a radical feminist who is “in bed with the Bush government”. Since we’ve established your ability to read, let’s also assume you can tell the difference between left and right. The religious right are not fans of radical feminists. And vice versa. But keep it up! This is fun. We’ve never heard any of it before. This isn’t EXACTLY what I wrote this piece about. This isn’t EXACTLY why I wrote the piece. But what do you care! You read 3 articles and are now well-equipped to repeat the same old lies that every single other sex work lobbyist does.

      It would serve you well to do some research before pretending you are enlightening anyone at all with this crap. Less embarrassing for you, less yelly for me.

      • Magedelena

        Hi Meghan,

        You said:

        “”Read the article. You linked to an article I link to and discuss here. It is a load of crap. You are proving exactly what I argue here, which is that none all y’all can even be bothered to read/hear what feminists are saying.””

        I read your article and your response. I just disagree with you and what anti-prostitution feminists (plenty of feminists radical or otherwise don’t agree with you so please don’t try to claim that space), vehemently and with lots of anger (which is ok in your books right?) You seem to equate disagreement with silencing.

        On one point you’re right I didn’t do all the in depth research you did. Guilty as charged. That’s where workers, even sex workers, don’t have the same privilege as academics like you do. I’m too busy doing happy ending massages (btw my clients don’t even touch me let alone buy my body), washing laundry, posting my ads, answering the phone/emails/texts and doing cooking and housework for my family, to go as deep into the issues as you.

        But it seems to me that if a person has the time to dig deep enough into our information rich world they are going to find a link somewhere, or some hearsay to support what they want to believe. Which is what everybody does and which is what both anti-prostitution feminists and pro sex worker rights people have been doing for 30 years – in really mean and angry ways just like we are now. There’s nothing new there. So just quit whining and feigning that your hands are clean on this issue.

        The point which you conveniently skipped over and didn’t bother to answer (because it’s nothing new and you’ve answered it before and because I “can’t be bothered to think or read or click on a link”), is that the anti-prostitution feminist voice is overwhelmingly represented in the poplar media like the Vancouver Sun via the likes of Daphne Bramham.

        Even if the pro-sex worker rights people did gang up on you in the comments on rabble.ca (poor dear sit down and have a cup of tea and tell us your sob story) or this blog or all the other tiny little spaces on the internet (because that’s about the only place where sex workers can say *anything* in their own words dammit!!), the dominant mainstream media is still using your language and promoting your position on anti-prostitution. Do I really have to go through the effort of posting a bazillion links to prove that? I’m prepared to be enlightened otherwise and will listen if you care to make a reasonable argument.

        We almost never see the term sex worker in the mainstream media we always see prostitute or prostituted women, prostituted women and children, sex-trafficking, trafficking in women, and increasingly sexual slavery – all conflated of course. Nobody in the mainstream media ever talks about the sex worker rights movement but we hear plenty about the Nordic Model and plenty which criticizes the Bedford V. Canada decision. So I assert that your language, message and voice is mainstream. Congratulations you’re winning. Now quit with the poor me act.

        The other point which you conveniently skipped over was the link between anti-prostitution feminists, religious conservatives and the Bush government which lead to the anti-prostitution pledge which lead to many grassroots sex worker human rights and support organizations around the world losing funding. I will post a link here for anyone who wants to research that further and decide for themselves. Feminists Lose Ground Working With Social Conservatives On Trafficking by Melissa Ditmore
        : http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/cafe2/article/136

        Apologies in advance Meaghan if you’ve already discredited Melissa Ditmore somewhere else in this blog.

        Feel free to carry on to this link where your views will not be challenged: http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/

        • Meghan Murphy

          No, Magedelena. Just the opposite, in fact. If it were, simply, disagreement, this article would make a noticeably different point. Rather than disagreement, it is the constant perpetuating of myths, lies, and exaggerations, as you do here.

          So which one is it? You want me to read more or less? First you link me to articles which you want me to read, and then when I tell you I’ve read them already, you tell me it’s because I’m a privileged academic? Wheee! Has it ever occurred to you that you could actually attempt to disagree without lying and manipulating? Whoever it is you’ve decided I am, I am not. I am a person who works and, yes, has gone to school for a long, long time, and have, therefore, also worked, for a long, long time, and am in a lot of debt. Don’t make assumptions about my life and background. Please.

          In any case, none of this is relevant, aside from the fact that, once again, you are making my argument for me, which is that you (and, seemingly, the other sex work lobbyists) are absolutely unwilling to engage in these conversation with any level of integrity and go straight for the slander and attempts to dismiss arguments on account of invented privilege and assumptions.

          As Easily Riled points out, the abolitionist perspective is far from “overwhelmingly represented in the poplar media” – in fact, it is just the opposite. The media loves porn! The media loves to sell women. The media is sexist. The media has no desire or interest in ending patriarchy. But wouldn’t that be swell!

          This is not about a few comments on rabble. I’ve experienced much, much worse in comments sections. The point is the way in which the sex work lobby responds. Which is to avoid the arguments and points being made completely, try to shut down the conversation, or, as you do here, straight up lie.

          I’m not asking you for links. I’m asking you for integrity. If you had actually read my response (or anything else, for that matter, about the abolitionist movement) you would know that I addressed your stereotypical and uneducated accusations around radical feminists being ‘in bed with the Bush government’. With all due respect, you are delusional if you actually believe this to be true. But based on your arguments and accusations here, it would seem that you’ve bought into all the same slander and mistruths that everyone else has. So I’m not surprised. Just sick of addressing and correcting the same misinformation over and over again. It’s a tactic. You are doing this in order to assure that we never have an honest conversation about the actual issues at hand. Instead you demand we address the same old garbage over and over again. YOU are why I wrote this piece.

          • ESTHER SHANNON

            Hi Meghan, Re: “Don’t make assumptions about my life and background. Please.”

            I love this.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thank you!

          • ESTHER SHANNON

            You are so welcome. I take it as a commitment to your offering sex workers the same level of respect, you rightly expect to receive from others. That you will in future avoid making judgements on a sex worker’s life and choices. That you will honour and respect her right to be true to herself and her desire to work against her criminalized status and for the human and labour rights that you and I take for granted.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh I see. So in advocating for an end to prostitution, and also an end to patriarchy, we are being ‘judgemental’ – how do you figure? I’m sorry, Esther, but for me, the beginning and the end of freedom and liberty do not lie in individual, decontextualized choices. In working towards a more equitable society we must think of more than just ourselves. Just because a choice is made this does not instantly equal freedom or even feminism for that matter. In arguing that women are simply “being true to themselves” by “choosing” prostitution, you erase all of the factors that led her to this “choice.” And yes, I certainly (as I’ve mentioned many, many times) support the decriminalization of women. But this is not simply about ‘labour rights’ – this is about equality. Normalization and legalizing the right of men to access women whenever they feel like it will not work towards women’s equality. Ever. No matter how you twist this around. Why is it that the vast majority of sex workers are women and the vast majority of clients are men? Why is it that so many women in prostitution have a history of abuse, incest, violence, rape? Do you think this is because men don’t have power? Because they don’t feel it is their God-given right to do what they will with women and girls? Do you think that a woman, standing on a corner, freezing her ass off in a skirt in the dark, spending her evening giving men blow jobs is a sign of an equitable society where women are treated with respect? I don’t.

          • Magedelena

            Ok Meghan,

            I’m really going to try to be civil in this thread. I want to thank you for continuing to publish my posts. I do appreciate that you make a space for there to be exaggerations, accusations, lies, myths, dialogue, debate or whatever about this issue – hopefully there is some truth in there somewhere.

            Ok I’m willing to retract my angry accusation about radical feminists being in bed with the Bush government. It is an exaggeration.

            However the language, lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations, and junk science used by both anti-prostitution feminists and religious right wing abolitionists regarding sex work are exactly the same so it’s easy to confuse the two. It was easy for the Bush government to say “we’re supporting the feminist agenda by taking a stand on prostitution”. And what was the result – a LOT of harm sex workers around the world which continues to this day due to the anti-prostitution pledge legislation which cut funding for any ngo domestic or foreign that worked with sex workers – no more free condoms, no more HIV education, no more drop in centres for homeless sex workers.

            Religious abolitionists and anti-prostitution feminists both worked to bring down Craigslist erotic services and are now pressuring Backpage to do the same. Maybe they didn’t co-ordinate their efforts, I can’t say, but their language and supporting research is the same. Talk about silencing the voices of sex workers and making our lives harder. Cragislist erotic services was a very accessible medium for all sex workers to advertise especially the most disadvantaged ones who don’t have credit cards and money to advertise in other places.

            Want another example that might be new to you??

            Here is the text from the petition that MP Joy Smith recently presented to House of Commons that was signed by 6000 people.

            PETITION (Prostitution and Sex Trafficking)
            WE THE UNDERSIGNED CITIZENS OF CANADA, draw attention to the House to the following:
            WHEREAS it is internationally acknowledged that the median age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years of age;
            WHEREAS 92% of prostitutes would leave prostitution if they could;
            WHEREAS the demand for commercial sex with women and children is the root cause for prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes;
            WHEREAS child prostitution and violence towards women have increased in countries where prostitution has been legalized;
            THEREFORE your petitioners request that Parliament amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize the selling of sexual services and criminalize the purchasing of sexual services and provide support to those who desire to leave prostitution.

            The language, the call for the Nordic model, and those bogus stats are exactly the same language of anti-prostitution feminists.

            But where did that petition come from? Not from anti-prostitution feminists. It came from a grassroots conservative Christian abolitionist group called Ignite the Road to Juatice who did a cross country tour led by none other than Miss Canada 2011 Tara Teng (oh the irony). Need proof? You can download the petition from their website which I am not going to give any traffic to by putting a link here. They even have a token exited sex worker on their team Tania Fiolleau – who was a notoriously exploitative brothel owner here in Vancouver. More irony.

            So while you anti-prostitution feminists might not be “in bed” with religious conservatives you’re definitely staying at the same sleazy motel. And the harm to sex workers is the same.

            So please change your message and you won’t get so much blowback from sex workers who you are hurting! Until then you can expect sex worker rights people to keep telling you to listen to what we have to say and not speak on our behalf – even if you do have a few token sex workers or angry man-hating exited sex workers on your side too.

            The sad thing is that we should not be fighting each other. Bottom line we both want there to be an end to violence against women and for them to have better lives and better options. I agree with you on so much of what you have to say. Here are some examples:

            That women don’t really have many good employment choices for survival (never mind thriving) in our capitalist patriarchal colonialist dominated world that commidifies absolutely everything.
            That the impacts of violence in the sex industry fall disproportionately on aboriginal women.
            That the overwhelming portrayal of women in media is sexist.
            That there are lots of people in the sex trade that want to get out of it and that they should be supported in doing so.
            That ideally there should not be a sex trade at all. That people shouldn’t have to commodify this most intimate aspect of their humanity in order to survive.

            I want all of these things to change too. And I appreciate the feminist analysis that points these things out.

            I fully disagree with the analysis that sex work is by definition violence against women. I, and the overwhelming majority of sex workers, totally disagree with your language and your tactics. Especially your support of new forms of criminalization, ie the Nordic Model, aka demand side criminalization. Please don’t confuse the issue by calling the Nordic model decriminalization. I could go into great detail about why sex worker rights group don’t like this approach even though on the surface it appears to help sex workers by decriminalizing them. The main point of contention is that this law would continue to push sex work into the shadows and margins where violence is more likely to happen.

            Anyways thanks again for creating a space for fighting, lies, exaggeration and maybe even a bit of dialogue.

          • kathy

            This is an incredibly clear reply and analysis of the kind of manipulative rhetoric of pro-sexworker lobbyists ike Magdelena. thanks!

          • Magedelena

            No it’s actually a very clear example of how anti-prostitution feminist abolitionist’s efforts and conservative Christian abolitionist’s efforts dovetail perfectly by using the exact same language, studies, statistics and tactics. And how because of this nice dovetailing the right wing governments like the Bush admin can push through legislation that has dramatically harmful effects on sex workers worldwide, most of who are women, and at the same time say that they’re supporting a feminist agenda.

            And it’s a call, a desperate plea even, for anti-prostitution feminist abolitionists to pay attention and choose some different tactics. Or maybe just stop doing anything in the name of helping “prostituted women” which does not actually come from us “prostituted women” ourselves.

            And I’d like to hope, that from the lack of a serious response from anyone, that there is some thought going on about what I have said.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Magdelena, I think you are absolutely missing/misunderstanding the arguments and ideologies if you see feminist arguments around prostitution as being in any way related to the religious right. I’m not quite sure where this obsession with the Bush government came from, but, simply, you’re wrong. I’m not sure how many more times we can explain why before you’ll hear it…Feminists are not working *only* in the “name of helping prostituted women” so please stop framing it in this way. It doesn’t help the conversation move forward if you refuse to listen to what is actually being said. As I’ve made very clear, this is an issue that impacts ALL women.

  • martin dufresne

    I am always astonished at self-identified sexual libertarians’ relentless use of the “getting in bed with” meme when they want to slag feminists by trying to associate them with the Right…

  • Hilla

    Oh my goddess, if I read another nonsense about Women’s Worlds I will lit my hair on fire. I was there. There was neither silencing nor bulling. The 6-7 women who were sitting outside of Fleshmapping in a Globalized world were challenged by Lee Lakeman (for not entering the site to listen to the international conversation so they can have an INFORMED response) and by Jeanette Corbiere Lavell who rejects the prostitution of aboriginal women and girls.
    And yes, many participants in the conference were interested and supportive of the abolitionist position. I don’t know why the pro sex work were surprised by that,after all, Women’s Worlds was a FEMINIST conference.

    • Hilla

      sorry for spelling mistakes, ESL…

  • Magedelena,
    That would be very cool if the media were promoting the abolition of prostitution. I fear, however that is not the case. Quite the opposite, in fact. But we could go on and on contradicting each other forever. not useful.
    We are not your enemy. We are working for our shared freedom, yours too. It would be lovely if you would relax on your attempts to legitimate women’s subordination to men. Heck, it would be great if you would join us! Or at least get out of the way. Really. You have nothing to lose. Were you to join us, then you would find out that the radical feminist position on abolishing prostitution is NOTHING like the conservative christian right. We want autonomy for women, not an alternative thralldom. Imagine that.

  • John Lowman


    If there was just one angry woman at the UBC debate in March and no problem of any kind, why did the organizers shut it down? Did you ask the organizers for their version of what happened?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi John,
      According to women who attended the event, the woman was of absolutely no physical threat to anyone. She was loud. I have no idea why the event was shut down but to say that “she all but physically assaulted…Susan Davis,” seems to me to be a gross exaggeration and misrepresentation of what happened. It’s the claim that women are ‘violent’ when they are angry that I am addressing in your statement. What is the purpose of this? To imply that there was a threat of violence seems to me to be tactic commonly used against abolitionists. And, from my perspective, you engage in these tactics in your piece. Women, especially racialized women, are often accused of ‘violence’ when they speak out or get angry. I think this is a tactic to silence. Is it really out of line, in any case, to get angry about one’s own oppression and the oppression of one’s sisters?
      I can only guess that the men who shut it down were as uncomfortable as you are with women’s anger at being prostituted.

      • jade

        Except Meghan that the women in sex work are angry at you -as a prohibitionist/abolitionist. Our anger is towards those who claim to speak for our interest while claiming that we need rescue from slavery and rescue from our unrecognized internalized sexism, despite our protests. Thanks, but no thanks. We want the job you don’t like us doing. We won’t be giving it up and you know it. So you and your hooker-hater sisters can go about your business of trying to shut us down from your ivory towers and we will continue to try to support ourselves and our children.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Nobody hates you, jade. In fact, this isn’t *just* about you. It isn’t even mostly about you. Abolitionists are not saying that you shouldn’t be able to make a living, they are saying that men are not entitled to access women’s bodies. We are saying that there need to be better options for women and that women should be able to survive and thrive without having to sexually service men. This is about freedom for all women and about ending patriarchy. Are you interested in this? If not, why are we having this conversation?

          • d

            i am a queer sex worker. i love what i do and it is a CHOICE for me, that I chose. my body is MINE in all my sessions, I am the one that has control over MY body, not the man. I am the one with the power in the room and i am the one that gets all the money for all my labor. i entered the sex industry out of my politic, belief for sex work and my curiosity to learn more about my sexuality and others, to perform and be empowered by using my body the way i want and know how to use it. they have the AMOUNT OF ACCESS that i CHOOSE for them to have.

            fine. you want to abolish sex work. did you ever think about the reasons behind why you want this? go deeper. way deep. how did this notion that prostitution is horrible and degrading to women come about? who and where was this knowledge produced? that’s the thing that makes me so angry about articles like this. do you realise that YOU are putting power in YOUR HANDS to decide what is right for women? when what your “right” is, is influenced

            by the same oppressions that put sex work into such a taboo state? when what’s “right” for you is directly an influence of the same patrarichal hegemonies at work?

            you are putting power in yourself and making yourself the morally

            righteous feminist by saying that women should have better options,

            that we should be able to surive and thrive without have to

            sexually service men. where are you coming from? do you have experential knowledge of being a sex worker? how has the abolitionist rhetoric been produced for you and where did it come from? understand why you feel you have the right to have this voice and why you have this power in saying the things you say.

            there is a reason why sex workers only want sex workers to speak on our behalf. this is obvious. we are the ones that know our experience and live it. no one else that has not been in sex work understands. period. just like white people cannot speak for colored people. just like men cannot speak for women. they don’t live the experience, they don’t know it, they shouldn’t speak for the people that do. doing that, silences us…and we are silenced enough.

            for you, “Feminism is about women. It is about ending patriarchy. It is about ending violence against women. It is about liberation and equality.”. then LISTEN to the women and the sex workers (like myself) who ARE feminists (like myself) who are telling you why we are in this line of work and what we need to make it better/safer.

            feminism is about ANTI-DOMINATION. it’s not all about women anymore. this is second wave rhetoric that we should be over by now. there are so many lines of systemic oppression that we need to work together. once again, patriarchy proves its prowess when it pits women against each other. people! sex work will never die. it will never be abolished. it is the oldest profession for a reason and will be the longest standing one too. anyone who thinks they can abolish sex work is living in a dream .sex workers will always exist by choice or not. recognize this.

            even if you disagree with sex work, you and i know that violence is a part of our lived experience…in one form or another. at the end of the day for you feminism is about women and ending violence against women. so, put your energy into supporting women, men and trans people who are in sex work instead of telling us what to do and what is “better” for us. how is this positive? this isn’t going to make the violence go away for us. support and listen to us instead of speaking for us and trying to get rid of us (which is ironically the same patriarchal violenct behavior that you wish to undo for women). we are here to stay.

            thank you jade and magadelena for speaking up. how many times psw have to defend ourselves against this slave rhetoric i don’t know…probably until the end of time. at least we’re not alone.

          • Hilla

            Lucky you for having a choice. Your right to choose is not a good enough reason to promote the expoltation and violence against all the women who do not have a choice.

          • Feminism really is about women and always will be. It is -anti male domination over women. If you’re such a feminist, why are you trashing the second wave? Why is prostitution the oldest profession? Why is it okay that sex workers will always exist by choice or not?? Why do you just accept this and not fight it? How can you call yourself a feminist while simultaneously championing the status quo as “just the way things are”?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Exactly, No Sugarcoating. I find it so strange when those who identify as feminist also argue for the reinforcement of patriarchy and male domination. Making money does not negate or somehow undo sexist, classist, racist systems – that is the myth of neoliberalism – everything is about the individual and the individual is empowered if they profit financially / temporarily. But an individual profiting does not make change, in the long term. It does not change the reasons why women are prostituted, nor does it change the conditions of women’s lives.

          • Magedelena

            Thank you also for speaking up d 🙂

      • John Lowman

        Why did you not talk to the organizers of the debate rather than guessing their motives? They merely wanted to listen to both sides of the debate. They shut it down and called security when they thought Susan was being verbally abused in a very threatening way –- and not just by one person –- in a situation that looked like it might well escalate.

        Even the women you did talk to (were they all demand-side prohibitionists by any chance?) acknowledged that “anger” was in the air that night. You can bet they would have been the first to cry foul had they been treated that way.

        You ask why I mentioned the behavior at the UBC debate in my response to Lee Lakeman and Vancouver Rape Relief’s Sister Outsiders? Once the quote you selected is put back into the context of that response the answer should be clear enough: see

        • Meghan Murphy

          John, you are derailing. What I wrote, in regards to your response to Lee Lakeman was that I believed you were “perpetuat[ing] untruths and exaggerations in order to discredit an argument.” The point that I made was around your implication that there was a threat of violence at this event. From the sounds of it, you greatly exaggerated the events in order to make abolitionists look ‘out-of-control’ or violent. I linked to your response in the article for all to read. The context is there. The fact that abolitionists are wrongly accused of ‘violence’ on a regular basis is the issue. When you write that abolitionists “all but physically assaulted sex worker….” what do you think this implies? Did you truly believe that there was violence? Or a threat of violence? If not, why would you imply this? Of COURSE there was ‘anger in the air’! Anger is a perfectly valid response to efforts to normalize the abuse and commodification of women. Anger is very different than the threat of violence or of actual violence and the fact that this kind of characterization of feminists’ behaviour has become a common tactic for the sex work lobby is troubling.

          • John Lowman

            Exaggeration? Why do you think the organizers shut down the debate and called security? The anger was getting out of control.

            Demand-side prohibitionists insist that “psychological violence” be included in any discussion of violence. Quite so. Susan was experiencing just that when she was repeatedly shouted down in an attempt to silence her.

            By the way, the word “anger” does not do justice to what I saw in at least one set of eyes: it was pure hatred, and most certainly the look of a person who was likely to act on it.

            Justifying what happened by treating this anger/hatred as being victim precipitated is a familiar tactic when it comes to minimizing or justifying violence against women – Susan deserved it, what else could she expect?

            As I said, how quickly those who claim to be oppressed embrace the tactics of their oppressors.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, John, it sounds like there are some very different versions of what happened. I do believe you are exaggerating when you say “all but physically assaulted” and I do believe it is inappropriate. You are, of course, aware that several women took issue with your interpretation and the language you used here. I don’t believe that there was any “psychological violence” at this event and I think you are perpetuating myths about abolitionists in order to discredit them. Please don’t compare the violence that men perpetrate and the psychological, physical, social, emotional impacts of prostitution, rape, abuse, etc enacted upon women, to feminists’ anger at attempts to normalize male dominance, male privilege, and male entitlement. You know very well that this is not an appropriate comparison. I find your claims that marginalized women are ‘oppressing’ the sex work work lobby with their anger to be deeply offensive, backwards, and sexist.

          • John Lowman

            Thanks for the clarification: your position is that it is okay during public debates about prostitution law for demand-side prohibitionists to aggresively and acrimoniously shout into submission Susan or anyone else arguing for decriminalization of prostitution, or anyone trying to facilitate debate.

            It worked very effectively at UBC…

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok, John. Gotcha. You are the authority on the oppression of women and how they should react to said oppression. White man with authority explains to women that they are actually the oppressors. You are right, everyone else is wrong. The women who say there was nothing near violence or assault, who were there at the event are lying. Also, men have the right to women. If women get angry about it they are out of line. Prostitution has nothing to do with violence against women but women getting angry = violence. We get it. We’ve always gotten it.

          • John Lowman

            “One thing we can be sure of is this: you know there is a powerful movement afoot when the opposition becomes incapable of engaging and resorts to bullying and silencing tactics. In desperation, this is all they can come up with.”

            Beautifully put Meghan, this is precisely what happened at UBC.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Goodness, John! You are a master at this! So, back to the original point – your implication that there was a threat of violence. Was there? Really? Is that an honest interpretation of what happened?

            Re: your derails – do you truly believe that Susan was ‘silenced’ by this Aboriginal woman? Really? As far as I can tell there are two, maybe three people who the media goes to every time they cover prostitution. One of those people is Susan. She has, in no way, been ‘silenced’.

          • John Lowman

            Susan was successfully silenced that night by a group of people; obviously I was not the only person who thought there was a problem with how she was treated, which is why the organizers — who you never consulted –did not just end the debate but called campus security. Although they had no horse in the race the only explanation you can find for the organizers’ decision is their gender. Meanwhile, you accept as gospel truth the statements of an unkown number of women who no doubt share your prohibitionist ideology and justification for what happened.

            More problematically, you apparently would have no problem if those tactics are repeated, and yet you rail against the same sorts of tactics when you perceive your opponents to be using them.

            You have hoisted yourself on your own petard…

          • Meghan Murphy

            You’re dodging the question, John. I wrote that you exaggerated the incident in order to discredit abolitionists. That you perpetuated untruths by implying there was a threat of violence, a tactic often used by the sex work lobby. I’ve had many, many encounters with men like you, and am completely fine to do this all day. I’m not going to get derailed by your accusations because you don’t want to address what I actually wrote.

          • John Lowman

            You are being obtuse:

            I would not engage in this exchange if I thought my original description was an exaggeration.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, in that case I think your claims are extremely offensive to women who actually do experience abuse and violence at the hands of men. Claiming that feminists who get angry about prostitution are a threat is extremely manipulative and, I believe could only be framed as such by someone who has only ever existed in a place of absolute privilege and power.

          • John Lowman

            Your comment indicates that you know nothing about me.

            In any event, thanks for providing yet another rich source of demand-side prohibitionist hyperbole.


          • Meghan Murphy

            Funny you should mention hyperbole, John.

          • Joyce Arthur

            Thank you John, you completely routed Meghan in your responses. In the end, her ‘best’ argument against you is that you’re a man! Lol. It’s so sad though that some feminists think they need to put down men in order to advance women. That will never work. I find her dismissive comments against you just as offensive as any sexist comment against women. She knows nothing about you, but assumes she knows everything based solely on your gender and your academic position. That is the very definition of paternalism and prejudice.

            Btw, I’ve been reading a few other comments below this one, and am appalled at the sheer hatred and vitriol against men expressed in many of them, especially by Joy. It’s really scary, and gives me the exact same sick feeling I get when I read vicious and hateful anti-choice rhetoric. (The only thing missing from Joy’s diatribes is “Kill the johns!”) As Magedelena said about the prohibitionist position: “At it’s root is the false idea that the oppressed can gain equality by becoming oppressors of their oppressors.” Hating men will never get us anywhere, that’s for damn sure.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yeah..you know me! Man-hater extraordinaire! You are a cliche, Joyce. And possibly, also, a teenager? Oh the sad sad feminists. If only they could stop being so gross and lonely! Rape has embittered us, I suppose. You, Joyce, are why women’s studies departments exist. You are absolutely misogynist and you are absolutely childish in your retorts. The cheapest shots are to attack women for being ‘angry’ at men. I am absolutely offended and disappointed by the responses of someone who claims to care about women’s rights. Grow up.

            In seriousness, I should clarify that, of course, I know who you are and know that you, in fact, haven’t been a teenager in a long time. I saw your band perform recently at a COPE women’s candidate’s event and I am absolutely unimpressed by how rude you’ve been here. I certainly would not have expected these kinds of comments from someone who claims such a long history with the women’s movement. You have been extremely inappropriate and your attacks on women here who are angry at the violence they’ve experienced at the hands of men is, frankly, disgusting. Your pathetic attempts to discredit feminists on the basis of ‘hating men’ is insensitive and ignorant to say the least. I would have expected you to conduct yourself with a little more maturity and respect here and am disappointed to have witnessed this unexpected and unnecessary behaviour. Rather than engaging you have resorted to childish and sexist retorts. I think you know better.

          • John Lowman

            December 20, 2011
            This particular thread appears to have been terminated. The following is a response to Meghan’s December 11th and 12th comments to me, although it will be out of sequence.

            After more than 30 years studying prostitution in Vancouver I understand the anger that surfaced back at UBC back in March only too well. However, I have met other women who prostitute, both current and former, who feel the same anger about male violence against women but do not support demand-side prohibition. Their anger is accentuated by the demand-side prohibitionist support of laws that prevent active sex workers from controlling the circumstances in which they work. They believe that demand-side prohibition would perpetuate violence, thus turning the prohibitionist vision of violence in prostitution into a self-fulfilling prophecy. They don’t
            agree with the vision of equality espoused by feminist prohibitionists. Nor do they want to be sacrificed to it.

            Feelings are strong on both sides of this debate. I would have as much problem with a supporter of decriminalization – male, female, black, white or green – trying to silence advocates of demand-side prohibition by shouting them down during a public debate. If we condone such behavior on the grounds that anger justifies it we end up screaming at each other. Or perhaps that’s what you want.

            Postscript: I have met other women who have an utterly different experience of sex work. When researchers seek permission to interview them about violence or other forms of victimization arising from their work, some of them decline to be interviewed because they are outraged by the assumption that, because they have been involved in sex work, they must have been victimized in some way.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No thread wasn’t terminated…It may be that the threads only go 10 comments in?

            In any case, this isn’t just about laws, John. As you seem to understand, feminists have little reason to have faith in or rely on a state that abandons them over and over again. Decriminalization or legalization as been shown not to change incidences of violence, nor, of course, does it change ideology and gender inequity. Rather, it reinforces the idea of ‘sex as work’ which, in turn, maintains the status quo and perpetuates the view of women as things which exist for male pleasure. The purpose of using the state and the law in this situation and bring something resembling the Nordic Model to Canada is to work towards altering dominant ideology while also decriminalizing women and, in turn, decriminalizing poverty.

            I’m not defending silencing on either end of this debate but I do not support the continual accusations of violence on the parts of abolitionists. It is misleading and misrepresentative. The key factor which divides decrim advocates and abolitionists is that, seemingly, decrim advocates have no interest in working towards changing ideology and working towards an egalitarian society. Yes, it would perhaps be easier to make money if pimps and johns were decriminalized but that will not improve the status of women nor will it improve safety. Abolitionists want women to be decriminalized but will not give pimps and johns the gift of legitimacy. It is, simply, backwards. Feminists have no interest in moving backwards. We are fighting an uphill battle as it is in our pornified culture. Men already believe that women are recreational. Do you truly believe that this will change by legalizing the sale and purchase of women? Or do you just not care?


    Just have a few questions for you, Megan.

    if a person of color said to you “You don’t experience racism, so please don’t talk as if you know my experience,” would you tell them, you are silencing me?

    Apparently, you had an experience where an article you wrote was pulled because some/many of the people you wrote about objected to it. If their objections were ignored, would they be silenced?

    Re: “They’ve chosen their spokespeople (and believe me, those voices are louder than anyone elses, and they are not, in any way, the voices of the marginalized) and they’ve decided that these are the only ones who may speak.”

    Would that include the 23 DTES street-based sex workers who launched the Charter challenge against Canada’s Criminal Code provisions on prostitution in an effort to decriminalize sex work?

    Re: “(I realized, after I wrote the piece, that it is probably more accurate to name these efforts as efforts at legalization as, really, it is the abolitionists who are fighting for decriminalization of prostituted women, whereas so-called decriminalization advocates argue for the legalization of pimps and johns as well as prostituted women)”

    Can you show us any evidence that backs your opinion – specifically that Canadian sex workers argue for legalization? By the way, things are either accurate or inaccurate – one can’t be “more accurate.” Noting that many who express opinions believe they are speaking with accuracy – in other words, they think their opinion is a fact.

    You are very concerned that voices are being erased, Megan. In contrast, I’m concerned about the level of rhetoric and misrepresentation you bring to the debate. Given your self-avowed expertise on these issues, why do you so consistently rely either on rhetoric or notions that you know the mind of your opponents?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Esther,

      Of course I wouldn’t pretend to experience racism as a white person. That is a ridiculous comparison. As I make clear in this article, as women and as feminists, get *do* get a say in terms of the treatment and status of women.

      No article of mine has ever been pulled. I think that before you respond, you may want to read through a little more carefully. It might lead to a more productive dialogue.

      My point around the terminology of ‘decriminalization’ is that it tend to confuse people. Abolitionists advocate for the decriminalization of women but often are characterized as advocating for the criminalization of women. I think that some clarity would be useful, simply in terms of getting the facts straight. I certainly don’t believe that Canadian sex workers argue for legalization and have no idea why you would make that statement. Sex work lobbyists *do* argue for the decriminalization of prostituted women but also of pimps and johns. So….the legalization of prostitution?

      Voices are erased. There are many voices that are missing from this debate. Particularly those of the marginalized.

      As you may have gathered from this piece, it seems a common tactic, on the parts of sex work lobbyists, to simply try to shut down dissenting opinions (demanding that they not be allowed to speak, be published, etc.). I have provided examples of this. Do you disagree?


        Hi Meghan

        Why is it a ridiculous comparison? Your following sentence is not on point, and actually, is incomprehensible.

        Thank you for the clarification on whether your article was pulled. You’ll note I used the word “apparently’ in my post because I was not certain of what you were saying. It’s alright to be uncertain, it’s alright to be wrong. However, I’m pretty sure it’s hard to get to get to a productive dialogue, when you begin by making snide remarks to your opponent. It suggests that your interest in dialogue is questionable.

        Abolitionists are characterized as advocating for the criminalization of sex workers (not women) because the abolitionist decriminalization model relies on criminalizing a sex worker’s clients. Abolitionists believe you can draw a line on a street corner between the worker and her client – one person criminalized, the other free to do her/his business in a criminalized environment. (I chose the phrase “street corner” because the sex workers most severely affected by criminalization are those who work on the street.) My understanding is that support for this approach is deeply grounded in the desire of abolitionist feminists to end prostitution, as opposed the priority of other feminists like myself who support decriminalization because it improves the safety of street-based sex workers, including by providing the first opportunity in Canada for sex workers to access the protection of the police. In my view, criminalization is criminalization and no amount of social engineering can will away the impacts on sex workers of working in a criminalized environment. I have not yet seen abolitionists take on this contradiction.

        Re: “whereas so-called decriminalization advocates argue for the legalization of pimps and johns as well as prostituted women)”
        And: “Sex work lobbyists *do* argue for the decriminalization of prostituted women but also of pimps and johns.”
        And: it seems a common tactic, on the parts of sex work lobbyists, to simply try to shut down dissenting opinions (demanding that they not be allowed to speak, be published, etc.). I have provided examples of this. Do you disagree?

        In your above statements, your position is based on a false dichotomy. It is clearly sex workers who are fighting (and lobbying) for sex worker rights. Yet, you feel pushed to create a distinction that doesn’t exist. This doesn’t advance your argument and indeed, it fundamentally weakens your position, if only because it flies in the face of common sense. Case in point: you have no answer to my question about whether the 23 local sex workers who have launched the Charter challenge are silenced. You can’t allow them, so, indeed, you must ignore them – erase them. Please think about why you are so relentlessly determined to exclude the sex workers who are advocating for their rights from this discussion?

        • Meghan Murphy

          My apologies for coming off as “snide”, Esther. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it can be to expend so much time and energy correcting misinformation. What you seem to be implying in your comment is that, of course, as a white person, I would not tell a person of colour what their experience is – and yet I DARE to speak about prostitution as something that impacts all women. I am not telling anyone what their experience is. You are missing the point here. This isn’t only about individual experiences, this is about systematic violence and oppression. It is a ridiculous comparison because I am a woman and not a person of colour and it is a ridiculous comparison because one does not need to experience prostitution in order to understand that it exists because of class, race, and gender inequity.

          Abolitionists have never advocated for the criminalization of sex workers. Many survival sex workers would continue *not* to be allowed to work legally – people with criminal records and people who are illegal immigrants would not be licensed – so how would this help the most marginalized? These women would still be out on the street, still forced to cater to entitled men, still made to get into cars with men who, now, would feel all the more entitled in what they are doing and how they are treating this woman because what they are doing is perfectly normal, perfectly legal – in fact! He’s doing her a favour, right? Helping her pay her rent and all.

          It doesn’t make women on the street safer. Decriminalizing the women would allow them to access the police without creating a society wherein we teach men that women exist in order to provide pleasure for them, or that women are objects.

          I’m not creating a false dichotomy in explaining the differences between what the sex work lobby advocates for and what abolitionists advocate for. It is often confused and misrepresented. Ever time I write on this issue people comment that abolitionists want to criminalize women. Is there some reason why this need not be clarified? I fail to see how correcting misinformation sets up a false dichotomy, Esther.

          Sex workers are far from excluded from this conversation. I understand very well that some sex workers are also advocates for legalization. We are all aware of this. What is your point? We all understand why sex workers don’t want to be criminalized. It makes sense. I also understand that, when one has little other choice but to do sex work, one would likely want to feel ‘ok’ about this. That, in no way, means that legalizing prostitution, decriminalization pimps and johns, will work towards a feminist society or an egalitarian society. What we need to be working towards is a world where women don’t *have* to do sex work. Where they can survive and pay their rent and eat and take care of their kids without having to stand on a corner. Prostitution is something that happens, in large part, to women who have no other choice. We’d like women to have other choices. We’d also like it if pimps couldn’t get rich off the backs of desperate women. We’d also like it if men didn’t think of women as things they can use whenever they feel the urge. We want to live in a world where women are treated with respect and humanity and prostitution simply doesn’t work towards that end. Rather, it does the opposite. It creates a world wherein women are things to be bought or sold. As a feminist, I’m not ok with that.

          • joy

            “men who, now, would feel all the more entitled in what they are doing and how they are treating this woman because what they are doing is perfectly normal, perfectly legal – in fact! He’s doing her a favour, right? Helping her pay her rent and all.”

            That even happens *now*! When I was selling blow jobs, men would get high and mighty about requesting more (from demanding additional sex acts like vaginal and anal penetration to telling me to do all kinds of other ridiculous things that weren’t part of the bargain) because “YOU CAN’T REALLY GET UPPITY, B****, YOU NEED TO PAY RENT!!!”

            To hell with johns. Speaking for myself and for other abolitionists: we’re not against prostituted women AT ALL. We’re against johns. Why is it so confusing for some people?!

            Is wishing to limit male behavior, or even hating men (or at least male entitlement and male actions) really that unthinkable for people? Is it so out of the realm of possibility that people can only imagine blaming and hating women?! How sad this world is.

          • Magedelena


            I find your candor about hating male behaviour and johns to be refreshing. I can relate to your real life experience as a sex worker. I do occasionally get those same types of clients who push the boundaries of our agreement and make humiliating remarks. It sucks. It sucks that any of us have to work to pay the damn rent at any sucky job. At least in sex work I can make rent in 4 hours instead of 2 weeks of work.

            Here’s a competing story about the behaviour of clients. (I prefer to call the men, women, transgendered folks and couples that use my services clients.)

            Recently I was talking to my friend, an escort, who is a mom and who has stretch marks which she feels really self conscious about. She often just pulls down her top to cover her stretch marks when working. One of her regular clients asked why she never took her top off and she told him the truth. According to her he spent the majority of his hour with her just lovingly kissing and caressing her belly which for her was a very healing experience.

            Tender acts of kindness like these are not at all rare in sex work. They are not the whole picture of course but they need to be included in the conversation or we risk dehumanizing the people who are clients. These acts fly in the face of the root of the anti-prostitution feminist analysis that sex work is by definition violence against women. And let’s not even bother getting into an argument about which is more prevalent in sex work – acts of violence or acts of kindness. There is no comprehensive data to prove anything all we know for sure from direct experience of sex workers is that both exist.

            The Nordic model, demand side criminalization, is clearly a way of punishing johns and men for their bad behaviour. It’s about sending a message more than anything else.

            Abolitionists have yet to come up with a clear response to how demand side criminalization can be structured so that it only punishes men and not women who are clients.

            Punish the johns is the principle tactic of abolitionists both religious ones and feminist ones. At it’s root is the false idea that the oppressed can gain equality by becoming oppressors of their oppressors. It hasn’t got a hope in hell of changing the actual dynamic of oppression.

          • joy

            What in the actual fuck are you talking about?

          • joy

            To clarify: I made this comment to point out how men are scum-sucking assholes who feel entitled to purchase female bodies. I do not think any man who purchases a woman is a nice guy, regardless of whether or not he physically beats or emotionally degrades us.

            It’s confusing, but also funny, that you speak to me like I’m a little girl who is having her very first idea, who has no life experience and no analysis. That you think you can persuade me to believe that abolition, the fight for women’s lives and liberation, is exactly like the religious right’s desire to control and persecute women. Oh, boy, we have never heard that one before!!

            I do not think that any woman should have to sell her body in order to survive. It’s not a moral call (it’s not that I think female flesh is sinful or dirty — I’m female, so that would be a pretty hellish way to think) — it’s simply that no one should have to choose between “being safe from abuse” and “being able to pay rent or eat.”

            As time wears on in this “dialogue,” I am beginning to think you are in fact a man. If you are not, then congrats, you have been assimilated into the borg of rapists and mansplainers who feel entitled to a steady supply of women for men to abuse at will!

            Regardless, though, I am not impressed by your patronizing and your disingenuous manipulation. Please stop wasting your time.

          • Magedelena


            My intention was not to talk to you as if you were a little girl. Apologies if my words came off that way.

            Re: That you think you can persuade me to believe that abolition, the fight for women’s lives and liberation, is exactly like the religious right’s desire to control and persecute women.

            I never said that at all. What I said is that religious right and anti-prostitution feminists are both pushing abolition of prostitution, via demand side criminalization, using the same tactics. This seems obvious to me and I provided a recent example in another comment ie the petition just submitted to the House of Commons by MP Joy Smith.

            Maybe it’s not a problem for you anyways. If it gets the Nordic model in who cares who’s on your side. It is problematic when you consider the underlying motivations of the different groups.

            I’m going to respond to the other stuff you wrote about my post in a response to NitroGirl.

          • “Punish the johns is the principle tactic of abolitionists both religious ones and feminist ones. At it’s root is the false idea that the oppressed can gain equality by becoming oppressors of their

            Denying men freedom to use women’s bodies is equatable to men’s raping and battering
            of women (for starters)? Wow, just wow.

            Thanks for showing us whose side you’re on.

          • We are all pretty open about hating male behavior and johns…

          • NitroGirl

            “Punish the johns is the principle tactic of abolitionists both religious ones and feminist ones. At it’s root is the false idea that the oppressed can gain equality by becoming oppressors of their oppressors. It hasn’t got a hope in hell of changing the actual dynamic of oppression.”

            And here is why,I find this to be untrue-religious people have punished
            WOMEN for centuries,because in religion,WOMEN are temptresses that men are
            biologically incapable of resisting,therefore(women) need to be “punished”.
            That is a COMPLETE opposite of what anti-pornstitution people believe,because it’s
            not based on “sin”. Or “immorality”.

            Who will someone be oppressing if we start punishing the johns…the johns?! You’re
            worried about the Johns feeling oppressed?! The sick bastards that want to beat,
            rape,and kill women of the sex industry (and all non-sex-workers & feminists)
            ? Who the hell cares if the Johns feel ‘oppressed’? So all in all,you’re worried about
            The Men (men are the oppressors).

            A john decided to be nice to somebody of the prostituted class, give that
            boy a cookie and paintball gun for a job well done! If a man had any compassion
            for a sex worker he wouldn’t be buying her in the first place. Have you
            ever thought that the john just wanted the Girlfriend Experience? Johns (Men)
            do this to women they want to fuck all the time-because they can’t* get off to a
            woman with the insecurity of her body (men love tits,so she would *HAVE to,for him
            take her top off,and not look all insecure,cause that’s a boner-killer!)
            . His manipulative behavior is not exclusive to sex worker experience or the industry. Men
            fake like they like thing about you,or try to make you feel better about yourself if it
            leads to them getting laid. That’s not an act of tenderness to me,or kindness.
            He was feigning kindness and compassion to make himself feel comfortable about
            having his way with her. I wonder if outside of work would a John man even choose to
            show tenderness if he wasn’t *paying* for a woman’s body. But that is just me,because I find
            people who buy women and their bodies to be shady people with ulterior motives if they
            show any decency to any woman. When men aren’t treating women like shit,they show
            bouts of common decency-it’s a hiccup,especially for a John.

            “I mean,outside of all the reported beatings,abuse,rapes johns have
            given sex-workers and exited women, you know,sometimes johns are nice.
            I just wish Feminist Anti-Pornstitution people
            would just *see* the Cubic Zircons they throw at prostituted women when they feel like
            giving them their humanity (for their own sexual gain) aside from all the turds that
            johns often fling at them.”

            Please tell me that this is not what was said,cause I can’t believe it if it’s true.

          • joy

            Nitro, your reply is spot-on and so well-spelled-out. Thank you!

          • I’m so glad you posted, NitroGirl. You speak with such strength, wiseness, and dignity. Hope to see you around more. 🙂

          • Magedelena

            This is my last post here. I’m done. It’s just too stressful.

            In the many years I have done sex work I’ve never had violence inflicted upon me. I have loads of clients who are sweet as can be and I have learned so much about sex, intimacy, communication, boundaries and consent through them and I have passed that knowledge onto complete sexual idiots and seen their lives transformed. I know dozens of women and male sex workers who will say the same. I guess we’re all just lucky and statistical outliers. That’s why I just can’t agree with your analysis.

            I only see simplistic mean spirited man hating in all of these arguments. That you see all clients as rapists, abusers and murders is a gross misrepresentation and absurd. You say that men are nice to women only because they want sex and that men would rather be tossing turds at women. What a warped view.

            To me all of this seems like dehumanizing men just what you accuse them of doing to women. And to punish these monsters you’d bring in a ridiculous law, somehow based on gender even though there are plenty of women and transgendered folks buying sex, to punish them for seeking out sexual pleasure from someone who wants to give it to them consensually in exchange for money.

            Yes we do have to consider that consent is shaped by our internalized systems of dominance, by the images of what constitutes sex portrayed by media, and by our severely limited choices created by a capitalist, colonial system. But let’s just say that we’re all works in progress, evolving, doing the best we can under the circumstances and that we do have some measure of control of our minds, bodies and our destiny and that we don’t need more people telling us how we should live and what we should do in order that all the complex systemic injustices might ideally be resolved. That’s not our burden unless we choose it.

            Let’s start by seeing sex as pleasure again not as violence or something morally wrong. Let’s stop viewing sex workers as either victims or unconscious co-opted supporters of the patriarchal system. Let’s see them rather as survivors, healers, teachers, entertainers, and artists.

            Let’s get rid of all the laws that make, what in Canada is already a legal transaction on both the buyer and seller side, it unsafe for the seller. The laws that were struck down in Bedford v Canada. This way a sex worker can legally have a place to work out of, can hire security and helpers, and she has time to communicate with a client, assess her safety and come to a clear agreement before getting into a car. And if some jerk does hurt her she can go to the police and report a crime that has been perpetrated against her without having to worry that the police will bust her or rape her. Let’s prosecute those jerks to the full extent of the laws we already have for violent acts.

            Let’s have an independent investigator of the police so that the systemic racism, sexism, and whorism (is that a word? it should be) in that steaming pile of shit can be rooted out.

            Let’s create new laws that allow sex workers to form worker run co-operatives and work in small groups to support each other’s safety, emotional and financial well being. Let’s have laws that allow sex workers working for someone else – like a brothel owner – that allow them to refuse any client or sexual act without fear of losing their jobs. Let’s have laws that govern owners and operators of sex businesses and hold them accountable to fair practices that all workers in all industries expect. Let’s not create sex work laws that will make some people legal and some people illegal (migrants for example) so that nobody will be at risk of exploitation.

            Yes let’s have more money and programs for sex workers who want to exit and have more money and programs to support people in poverty that would choose sex work as a last resort.

            All of these things are worth fighting for and sex workers need the help of all feminists to do it.

          • Where are all these women buying sex???

            And yeah, I agree, the societal view of sex should be transformed from the current one of vuiolence to a future one about pleasure. And if we’re really acknowledging that sex should be about pleasure, buying sex cannot be part of this world.

          • Magedelena

            I guess that last post wasn’t my last post.

            Re: Where are all these women buying sex?

            From me and many of my friends who are male, female and transgendered sex workers. Do you want links to actual service providers? You should at least attempt to fit this reality into your analysis and tactics if you want to speak to a wider audience and develop more credibility.

            When I first starting doing sex work years ago I rarely had female clients now they make up a significant part of my business 30% or more. I think there are a few reasons for this.

            Because of all the work of first and second wave feminists more and more women are actually earning the kind of money that allows them to pay for sexual services – women actually seem to be doing better than men in the new global information economy too (there was a recent article about this in Atlantic Magazine.) http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/?single_page=true

            Because of all the work of third wave sex-positive feminists (like Annie Sprinkle, Betty Dodson, Starhawk, Susie Bright and Carol Queen for example) in deconstructing and eliminating the sexual shame that has traditionally been heaped on women by religious/patriarchal systems more and more women are reclaiming their sexuality as something to be healed, celebrated and explored on their own terms. The work of these feminists has also pretty much deconstructed the traditional control structure of sex having to be linked to love and relationship.

            Because there are not that many men that are doing serious exploration of their own sexuality in comparison to women, imo, there is a lack of viable sexual partners for heterosexual women so they turn to professionals for better quality sexual experiences that cannot be easily found through the usual dating means.
            Re: And yeah, I agree, the societal view of sex should be transformed from the current one of vuiolence (sic) to a future one about pleasure. And if we’re really acknowledging that sex should be about pleasure, buying sex cannot be part of this world.

            That whole paid sex = violence argument is the big strawman that all the anti-prostitution feminist’s arguments hang on and is easily dismissed by the real life stories of sex workers. Does what I describe above about women buying sex really sound like violence to you??

          • Meghan Murphy

            I would question the accuracy of the claim that “women actually seem to be doing better than men in the new global information economy too” – women continue to make up the poorest of the poor, globally, and are hardest hit by economic crises. Yes, some women are doing better but clearly most are not. http://feminismnowows.wordpress.com/author/owsfeminism/

            In any case, I do realize that there are female clients, but they make up a very small minority and they are certainly not the ones who are buying from survival sex workers. In terms of the exploitative aspects of sex work, men continue to be the problem and continue to be the ones with power. This is why abolitionists talk about men, not women.

            I think the problem with the violence of prostitution argument is that you seem to be (and others in the sex work lobby) taking the word violence completely literally. You do this, of course, because it is more convenient for your argument and can keep repeating over and over again ‘SEE! You’re wrong! No one beat me up yesterday!” So, although I believe abolitionists are clear about what they mean when they talk about prostitution as violence against women, the response, over and over again is “but my clients are nice – they don’t rape/beat me.” I don’t think anyone here would argue that every time a man buys sex he is also punching a woman in the face. The violence is in the psychological, the systematic, as well as in the physical. So, of course prostitution is hard on the body, but not necessarily violent, every time, in the way that you are framing it. Rather, it is violence against women because of the way it impacts the status of women and because of the vulnerability of women and because of a lack of choice. And, of course, violence does happen often, literally. Maybe not to you, but to many, many others. This is because a) violence and inequality is sexualized, b) men can get away with it, and c) because men who buy sex think of women as things which exist for them to use, not as full human beings. I think that the whole system creates a world wherein violence against women is ‘ok’, even though, perhaps, there isn’t literal violence in each transaction.

            There is also an argument to be made in terms of the ‘consensual’, in that, how much ‘consent’ is there when one needs to have sex with a man in order to pay the rent? How much ‘choice’ is there, really?

          • Magedelena


            I read the link you posted. Yes, some women are doing better but most clearly are not. Agreed. We agree on something. 😀

            RE: In any case, I do realize that there are female clients, but they make up a very small minority
            They are a minority yes (30% in my case!) but they exist and they are growing for the reasons outlined in my last post – more women with financial means, freedom from sexual shame as a result of 3rd wave feminists work, and, imo, lack of suitably sexually evolved men. As buyers of sex they too would be criminalized under what you call “the decriminalization of prostituted women” (in the interest of civil debate, and since this is your space, I’m going to use your language for what imo is more accurately called demand side criminalization).

            These women who buy sex are fucking powerful and they love and listen to the sex workers that they see. They are going to increase the blow back you’re getting around decriminalization of prostituted women. So you should try to find some way to work them into your analysis and tactics rather than just dismissing them because they are a small minority. Any thoughts on how to do that?

            You said: and they are certainly not the ones who are buying from survival sex workers.
            Why are you singling out survival sex workers (approx. 5-20% of all sex workers)?

            You Said: In terms of the exploitative aspects of sex work, men continue to be the problem and continue to be the ones with power. This is why abolitionists talk about men, not women. I think the problem with the violence of prostitution argument is that you seem to be (and others in the sex work lobby) taking the word violence completely literally. You do this, of course, because it is more convenient for your argument and can keep repeating over and over again ‘SEE! You’re wrong! No one beat me up yesterday!”
            Yes you are right this is what we do. Because for the vast majority of sex workers it’s true! It’s our lived experience. It’s real. Most sex workers don’t have the time or inclination to delve deeply into feminist non-literalisms (is that a word?) but they do recognize when someone else is telling them what their experience is and the usual reaction is some version of, “stfu this is what My experience Really is.” I’m sure as a woman you can relate.

            Re:I don’t think anyone here would argue that every time a man buys sex he is also punching a woman in the face.
            Actually I’d argue that’s one of your principle tactics. Us sex worker lobbyists are starting to call it Tragedy Porn. That very phase “punching a woman in the face” is a good example. You insert very gratuitous images and stories of violence generously everywhere in your arguments trying to evoke a visceral response in people. It doesn’t help your case at all. In fact over time it just desensitizes people to violence– which is uber-counter to our mutual goal of it! It really pisses sex workers off too in that you take the worst of our worst stories and wave them around and shout, “See! See! Victims of male violence!” but when we say something powerful and good about ourselves, like d’s post earlier in the comments you rad feminists tut tut us and say stuff like , “Lucky you for having a choice. Your right to choose is not a good enough reason to promote the expoltation (sic) and violence against all the women who do not have a choice.” Go to No Sugarcoating’s site for awesome Tragedy Porn.

            You said: “The violence is in the psychological, the systematic, as well as in the physical. So, of course prostitution is hard on the body, but not necessarily violent, every time, in the way that you are framing it. “
            Just for the record the estimate of the percentage of sex work transactions that don’t include a penis in an orifice is 40%. I only offer erotic massage officially but I do go further with some of my clients if there is a mutual attraction and trust that has built up between us. Damn there I go again talking about my personal experience.

            You said: “Rather, it is violence against women because of the way it impacts the status of women and because of the vulnerability of women and because of a lack of choice.”
            I get that and I agree. And herein lies the paradox. How do we change the system without hurting those who are in the system? Most sex workers who have an opinion (most are completely and blissfully ignorant on these issues or that people like you are I are even talking about them – as I was 4 months ago before I took the fucking red pill and got into this frustrating sex worker human rights movement) say that decriminalizing prostituted women will actually continue to foster the very conditions which lead to violence against us. In our expert opinion, what’s good for us, based on our lived experience, rather than what you think is good for all women based on feminist non-literal violence, is not the blunt tool of decriminalizing prostituted women, which we predict will cause more harm than good.
            Sex workers and sex positive people who think about these things think that instead of punishing men for their sense of entitlement to sexual pleasure, (which personally I see as good as long as it is consensual and I get paid well) we should stop making consensual sex criminal at all, work on women reclaiming their own entitlement to sexual pleasure, and take practical steps to eliminate real violence. An example would be educating people about negotiating and respecting boundaries and consent – which sex workers, through massive numbers of sexual interactions with many people, happen to be experts at.

            You said: “And, of course, violence does happen often, literally. Maybe not to you, but to many, many others. This is because a) violence and inequality is sexualized, b) men can get away with it, and c) because men who buy sex think of women as things which exist for them to use, not as full human beings. I think that the whole system creates a world wherein violence against women is ‘ok’, even though, perhaps, there isn’t literal violence in each transaction.”
            Yes I agree on a) and b) but not the part where you think that men who buy sex do not see women as human. That’s not my experience at all nor is it the experience of my friends. Quite the opposite in most cases.

            You said: “There is also an argument to be made in terms of the ‘consensual’, in that, how much ‘consent’ is there when one needs to have sex with a man in order to pay the rent? How much ‘choice’ is there, really?”
            I already wrote about this. I will repeat myself.
            Yes we do have to consider that consent is shaped by our internalized systems of dominance, by the images of what constitutes sex portrayed by media, and by our severely limited choices created by a capitalist, colonial system. But let’s just say that we’re all works in progress, evolving, doing the best we can under the circumstances and that we do have some measure of control of our minds, bodies and our destiny and that we don’t need more people telling us how we should live and what we should do in order that all the complex systemic injustices might ideally be resolved. That’s not our burden unless we choose it.

            Seriously Meghan you do have to allow that adult sex workers have some agency even if it’s a work in progress. To do otherwise is the most egregious form of paternalism wouldn’t you agree? See my comment above at how imo sex workers are experts at consent.
            Thanks for reading.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thanks for your thoughts, Magedelena.

            I don’t see it as dismissive not to include the female buyer in our analysis, I see them as irrelevant to what it is we are working towards. I just don’t really care if there are a few women buying sex. What I want to address is male entitlement/privilege/power/violence. I hear your points and hope that I am clear in that I know these women exist but prostitution will never be primarily about female clients. I think that we are looking at the rule, not the exception. I don’t know how else to respond except to say that I just am not really concerned, nor do I think any change to prostitution laws would have any real effect on the minority of female clients. I wonder if it also might be relevant to point out here that cops actually do have a certain level of choice in terms of who they go after and, because they have limited resources, it might also be fair to expect that they focus on pimps and johns who buy/sell women on the streets as opposed to the few female clients you see….Would the cops really have all that much interest, if the laws changed, in going after those women? I just don’t see why….

            I single out survival sex workers because these are the women that I am most concerned about. Not the only women, but because they are so vulnerable and in such great danger, because these are the women who were murdered by Pickton and who have little choice, these are the women I am concerned about here, primarily. I am also concerned about all women and the status of women in general, but when you ask: “Why are you singling out survival sex workers?” – that’s why.

            I don’t see myself as having engaged in any ‘tragedy porn’ as you call it…I find this term problematic for the reasons described by No Sugarcoating and I find it strange as it makes me wonder if we are supposed to not hear these stories? Are these stories only for men’s masturbatory purposes but not relevant in terms of the fight to end prostitution? I don’t get it. I very clearly did not “insert very gratuitous images and stories of violence” such as “punch her in the face” in order to “evoke a visceral response”, I used it as a way to describe the difference in the ways in which some frame violence very simplisticly. I should also be clear that physical violence does happen, a lot, and we are very concerned about this. Let’s not pretend that there isn’t actual, literal, physical violence in prostitution and that this doesn’t happen in a gendered way.

            That’s really nice for you that you don’t have to be penetrated by some of your clients. This isn’t the case for many women. I just can’t figure out why you want the laws to be made specifically for you? Shouldn’t we be concerned with the experiences of women who are less privileged? It feels as though the sex work lobby wants to erase the women who don’t work for their argument. Again, progressive movements are for collective liberation, not the liberation of the privileged few (and I know you’re going to tell me that you aren’t representative of the few, but rather the majority but considering how many women are trafficked, how many women are hidden indoors, how many women are working on the streets, WHY those women are working on the streets, how these women are treated, and how this impacts women and men as a whole, I just can’t get behind making laws for the convenience of a few women who want a temporary income at the expense of all other women).

            “Most sex workers who have an opinion” are not survival sex workers. They are women like you. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I just don’t think that, simply because you and other women who are able to have an opinion because they aren’t hustling, it is somehow representative of what sex workers think. Maybe changing the laws so that pimps and johns are criminalized will inconvenience a few people, but, on the whole, I think it will go a long way in protecting A LOT of women. The hope is that, in changing the system, we provide alternatives for women as well.

            How do you see changing the laws to benefit you and your friends temporarily as a bigger priority than changing the laws so that it changes the whole system and protects the most marginalized as well as improving the status of women as a whole?

            I understand that some sex workers have a certain level of agency. But that doesn’t change the truth about our culture, society, and systems. It certainly hasn’t changed the way men see and treat women. Male violence still happens and women are still objectified and treated as commodities in a capitalist system.

          • Magedelena

            Hi Meghan,

            Thank you for your words. I’m glad we are having a civil discussion, and I hope something good comes from it.
            You said: “I don’t see it as dismissive not to include the female buyer in our analysis, I see them as irrelevant to what it is we are working towards. I just don’t really care if there are a few women buying sex. What I want to address is male entitlement/privilege/power/violence.”

            Wow! You really wrote that?! In other words you are saying that it’s ok to criminalize a minority group of women, (albeit small but imo powerful and growing) in order to address male entitlement/privilege/power/violence. This is what I mean when I say decriminalization of prostituted women (DOPW) (a.k.a the Nordic Model or Demand Side Criminalization) is a Blunt tool that will hurt more people than it will help. I’m just getting started on that argument but lets put “Women Who Buy Sex” in the “Will Be Hurt By DOPW” law category.

            You also say: “I wonder if it also might be relevant to point out here that cops actually do have a certain level of choice in terms of who they go after and, because they have limited resources, it might also be fair to expect that they focus on pimps and johns who buy/sell women on the streets as opposed to the few female clients you see….Would the cops really have all that much interest, if the laws changed, in going after those women? I just don’t see why….”

            Why!!?? Because once Laws are on the books, they are there for a long time, and police can enforce them whenever and however they choose. Political regimes change and maybe someday there will be a very right wing religious government in power – that could never happen right? – oh sorry it already has – that would just love to have another law to oppress women with. I can imagine how conservative religious people might think about women buying sex — “Well we can certainly understand how men are tempted by those nasty whores and they need to be stopped. But Women seeing whores!!! Satan has truly taken these fallen women!! They are a real threat to family values!! We better put a stop to that right away and incarcerate them in our new (privately owned and operated) jails that Stephen Harper built!”

            I exaggerate to lighten the mood a bit but do you get my point?

            So your lack of awareness on how Law works is very dangerous. That’s why sex worker human rights advocates do not want ANY new prostitution Laws on the books that have not been developed by us in response to our needs, our lived experience, and our in depth perspective on how other laws regarding prostitution around the world have succeeded or failed to help reduce violence in our lives.
            And that’s why we want the current ones removed.

            For example, right now I live in Canada where the Law says that it is *Legal* for me to give, and for my client to receive, a sexual service in exchange for money. It’s Legal! The Law also says that it is *Illegal* to for that exchange to happen in my work studio where I am most safe and secure – that’s breaking the Bawdy House Law. The irony in our legal system is that it is *Legal* for me to go to a client’s place and give a sexual service there, but obviously less safe for me to do so. So it’s legal to do sex work but illegal to do safer sex work. That is why the Bawdy House Law was one of the laws struck down as unconstitutional in the Bedford v. Canada case.

            The double irony is that radical feminists are fighting Bedford v. Canada, along with religious conservatives groups. For different reasons of course. Radical feminists because it would legitimize male entitlement to rape women. And conservative religious people because whores and whoring are bad, an affront to common sense Canadian morals and thus whores and whoring should be criminalized and stigmatized. But both groups are fighting it. That both groups are working on the same issue, albeit from different angles, simply cannot be denied.

            There is even a whole article, full of huge gaping wholes in the arguments, on this blog trashing the Bedford v. Canada decision that isn’t even open to comments or debate. That’s just sad and so unfair. There needs to be more open debate.

            This is all old news I know, but worth repeating for any newbies who might be reading.

            So Meghan back to your argument where you *speculate* that the cops would probably not use a new DOPW law against women clients. The thing about laws is that once they are on the books police can use them whenever and however they want. For example, the Bawdy House Law is not being enforced by police on small independent operators like myself *for now*. But it is there, ready for a good old fashioned pogrom if us whores get too uppity. You want to talk about *real* psychological violence us sex workers endure, try living as a criminal everyday. I wouldn’t even have to go to jail for my life to be severely fucked. Just getting busted, losing my work space, and all that time lost working would be enough to severely disrupt the delicate balance I live in and push me and my family into a real crisis. And I’m one of those privileged sex workers who has family and friends with means to fall back on. Many don’t. That’s why we keep our heads low generally.

            But let’s just say a DOPW law is passed and cops don’t actively bust women who buy sex. It will still deter women from seeing sex workers and that’s a sad thing. Why? Most women seeing sex workers in my experience are doing so to heal and empower themselves from all the literal and non-literal sexual abuse, medical violence and childhood sexual abuse they have suffered. They come to sex workers to learn how to not disassociate during sex. They come to have a supportive safe space to let themselves feel traumatic levels of hard emotions like shame, terror, grief and rage that need to be released before they can truly reclaim their entitlement and capacity to feel and enjoy sexual pleasure again. They come to explore what their desires are, based on their own authentic needs, not the needs of some dood. They are doing the deepest inner work of rooting out the unconscious internalized structures of oppression, and then they take that inner work out into the world and make real change in creating an egalitarian society. They are the bravest and most leading edge women I know. At the same time they are timid. For some it takes years to decide to come and see a hands on sex worker. A new DOPW law would Certainly deter them. Btw you could also change the word women to men or transgendered people in the above paragraph and it would be mostly true.

            Ok. One last thing. It’s generally it’s not a great idea to dismiss the minority cases that don’t fit into your analysis or tactics – just like great scientists don’t ignore the results of experiments that fall outside of their hypothesis. Fitting them into the picture is gives a better reflection of truth and that’s where real evolution can happen.

            So put all that in your analysis and tactics bong and smoke it 🙂 There are other things to address in your last post but I have a sick partner and a toddler to attend to – so I will get back to them later. I have addressed the Tragedy Porn thing in a response to No Sugarcoating.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No Magedelena, I just don’t think these changes in the law will impact those few female clients of yours. I also don’t see, as I already wrote, the cops focusing their limited resources on a few female clients. But hey! Who knows – maybe they will go after those few women, I kind of doubt it. BUT OH WELL! I ALSO, and I don’t think this is news to anyone and am starting to feel a little repetitive, do not think that, anyone is going to suffer because they can’t buy sex. EVEN if they are a woman! This whole argument becomes a little ridiculous to me when we are talking about prostitution as though it’s a necessity. It isn’t. I’m sure men will manage, just as women will manage, without buying sex. I know what the laws are, Magedelena. Feel free to repeat them over and over again, though. I live in Vancouver also! I’ve lived here for 32 years! I have zero interest in decriminalizing the gangs of men I see wandering around down on Alexander nor do I have any interest in decriminalizing the men who shave the heads of women on the DTES or throw them out of windows because of drug debts. I have no interest in decriminalizing the guys who drive down Hastings after work with car seats in the back of their vehicles because they DESPERATELY need a blow job before they go home for dinner. I honestly think that if we aren’t willing to think about the ways decriminalization will impact everyone else, then there is no point in having these conversations. I’m looking to make progressive change and build an egalitarian society, and you’re concerned only about the here and now. I think a fair compromise would be to decriminalize you so that you can continue to work without being treated like a criminal, while also making laws that ensure that abusive men are criminalized.

          • Magedelena

            You wrote: “I think a fair compromise would be to decriminalize you so that you can continue to work without being treated like a criminal, while also making laws that ensure that abusive men are criminalized.”

            If you really mean what you say, and if you really do understand the laws here in Canada, then the clear and logical course of action for you to take, is to BOTH support the Bedford v. Canada decision AND advocate for bringing the Nordic model here into Canada.

            I could get behind that compromise mostly too. Finally we are getting somewhere here. 😀

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t agree. Supporting the Bedford v. Canada decision would mean, in the end, supporting the decriminalization of pimps and johns. Those provisions are imperfect for sure, in that they impact prostituted women negatively, but removing them without another plan in place means simultaneously decriminalizing pimps and johns (i.e. it would mean decriminalizing, as you know, “living off the avails”, running a brothel (bawdy house), and “communicating for the purposes of”, so street prostitution) – I don’t know that working backwards is the most efficient way to go.

          • Magedelena


            I’m glad to see that we are beginning to be more collaborative. Thank you.

            I see your point about not taking the laws off johns/pimps first (of course there are no laws that affect johns now, accept the communication one, but johns are rarely convicted of it since most communication happens via phone and internet now anyways).

            I also worry, that if all the laws are struck down without new ones in place that protect the rights of sex workers as workers, that we are going to see a lot of nasty corporate, and other organized crime, capital flooding into the sex industry and creating brothels that aren’t good for workers and that harm the small independent operators like myself.

            I worry also that there is a lot of advocacy happening for the Nordic Model without any mention that we ALSO have to get rid of the current bawdy house, communicating, and living off the avails laws (the living off the avails law also make it illegal to for sex workers to hire security, drivers and assistants – remember it’s not just exploitative pimps that that law affects but potential allies of sex workers too) in order for sex workers to be safer. It’s very conceivable that we could have our current suite of laws plus demand side criminalization and that would be Bad for sex workers.

            We also have to consider that part of what makes the Nordic model work is that there is a reasonably good social support system for exited sex workers to access – in Sweden anyway – I’m not sure about Norway or Iceland. That certainly is not the case in Canada and it’s only getting worse.

            The Harper government is also on record as saying that they want to keep all the current laws plus add demand AND supply side criminalization – bringing us in line with what the USA is doing. That would Really hurt sex workers. The Tories are waiting for the Bedford v. Canada case to work it’s way through the court system before having to open this contentious issue to a public debate.

            We need to be ready by that time – couple of years maybe – to come up with something that would both send a message to men that violence against women is not ok and something that makes sex workers lives safer in the here and now.

            I have lots of ideas and I’d be happy to share but I’d actually like to hear any further thoughts you have on this first.


          • Nope. I meant lack of pleasure as just that. Lack of pleasure. Prostitution is not about the seller’s pleasure. If you were attracted to your clients and wanted to have sex with them, they wouldn’t have to pay. Men are the only ones that are afforded the right to only have sex with people they DESIRE. Women are expected to give sex as compensation, no thanks in part to the institution of prostitution and the transactional method of sexuality it supports. I want a world where it’s considered bizarre for a woman to think of sex as work or a chore or a weapon. Sex should be for pleasure. Including for women. The prostitution industry stands in the way of that world.

          • I believe prostitution is violence, whether the punter make the choice to be “gentle” or vicious. It is violence every time a man make the choice to buy or sell another human being as sexual good, and steal her rights to safety, her rights to full independence and her rights to have a voice. To know you nothing but an object, that men can buy and sell – that is violence, and that is the reality for the vast majority of the prostituted class.
            Most women inside prostitution know that punters that appear gentle, can at any time be aggressive or sadistic. Or he may be “nice” to one prostitute, and violent to another prostitute. But more important, most so-called gentle and friendly punters use large amount of mental violence to control the prostitute. Sometimes, thess punters are more terrifying than the so-called violent punters.

          • ESTHER SHANNON

            No one has the ‘right’ to only have sex with people they desire. Just because you believe something, doesn’t mean it’s true, now or in the past. Women’s sexuality in certain cultures was once bound by law and custom that refused women the control of their bodies (many women still do not have control over their bodies), but this never was universial in our culture and it’s not today. Indeed, many women across all sexual orientation who live independent sexual lives would be deeply insulted by your comment. Of course, others would just say, ‘Oh, Please.”

            I understand that you want a “a world where it’s considered bizarre for a woman to think of sex as work or a chore or a weapon,” but I’m more than a little concerned about what you would have to do to get me there. Lots of us think of one version of utopia or another, but utopian thinking is, on a benign level, nothing more than a distraction. More, the idea that we can create a world – a perfect world – where we all think and feel the same is, as history has repeatedly shown, an extremely dangerous pursuit. Think Cambodia, go back a little further and think about Stalinism, skip into the thirties and think Nazi Germany.

          • So, if you think these descriptions of violence desensitize people, you must also agree that the
            the actual porn I am describing on my blog desensitizes men. Somehow, I don’t think you do. It’s only OUR words that desensitize men to violence, but watching girls simultaneously crying and begging for more doesn’t fuck them up?
            It’s not “Tragedy Porn”, Magdalena. We don’t masturbate or receive sexual gratification to it.
            It’s comments like yours that make it plain as day that you don’t give a shit about the rest of us, you’re just looking out for your own pocket. Well, good luck with that, but there ain’t no solidarity to be had.

          • Magedelena

            No Sugarcoating,
            I agree with you that violent porn desensitizes people (people watch porn not just men anymore.) No argument at all from me. I also believe that in our “death cult” culture violence in the media, not just sexual but all forms, is the norm and is terribly harmful to our psyches and that it does contribute to real acts of violence out in the world. Ok? I agree with you. Please try to hear what I have to say next.

            The overwhelming majority of sex workers simply do not experience the sort of physical violence that you depict. I am quite certain of that and there is more and more research that confirms that. Logically, would all the privileged sex workers who have choice continue to do sex work if they regularly experienced real violence? No.

            I also know quite well that violence does happen to sex workers – I live in Vancouver home of Wille Picton! No sex worker I know privileged or not denies this.

            So please try to make some room for a diversity of experience and use that knowledge to refine your analysis and tactics.

            If you re-read what I wrote I was trying to point out that your tactic of using violent imagery works against your argument and the solidarity I think that is needed between sex workers and rad feminists.
            As for the personal attack on me looking out for my own pocket. The needs of my family of 3 (myself, partner – who does full time child care – and our toddler) plus running a business which includes renting a studio space as well as our home in Vancouver (read fucking expensive), requires a lot of income. Like many, we are sinking deeper into debt even with my good paying job.

            So while I do care about ending the systemic violence of all women it’s less of a pressing issue for me and I don’t appreciate having my family sacrificed on the alter of the higher good. Criminalization of my clients will most assuredly hurt them, me and my family.

  • jade

    The idea that prohibitionists want decrimalization in regard to prostitution is ridiculous. You want it abolished via the criminalization of the client. That criminalization of a participant makes my job more dangerous then it would otherwise be. That is the opinion of sex workers and the court and it is reality.

    Adult consensual sex work is not inherently violent. Of course those who insist that all het sex is a violation have concerns that go well beyond prostitution.

    Sex trade workers(marginalized included)are accessing the courts to demand protection. Our voices are always silenced by the fear of arrest. These court challenges are one of the few venues we have to be heard.

    You certainly have not been silenced. You blather on continually on this subject. If anthing it seems that your article is an attempt to discredit all criticism as coming from lobbyists. You ignore and refute the experiences of those who actually do this work and you even deny our own agency by continually calling us “prostituted”.

    Women, men and trans people partake in this trade as providers and consumers. This is not about the commodification of women. This is about your refusal -as an outsider, to see it for what it is (the provision of a service by choice for remuneration) because of your dedication to your ideology.

    You have no current sex workers on your side for a reason.

    • Meghan Murphy

      No abolitionist believes that prostitution is going to instantly disappear. This is, of course, the end goal as the end goal is the end of patriarchy and there is no equality so long as men believe that women exist for their sexual pleasure/use. Some sources say that the criminalization of the pimps and johns and the decriminalization of the women provides the women with more power and control over the situation.

      I don’t believe that all heterosexual sex is inherently violent. I do believe that prostitution is very much a part of the systematic violence that is perpetrated against women in a patriarchal culture.

      I don’t claim to have been silenced, Jade. But the sex lobby is working very, very hard to silence ALL of those who are critical of the sex industry.

      You ignore the voices of exited women and of feminists. We want an egalitarian society and that, simply, will not include prostitution. Maybe you don’t care about creating an egalitarian society, in which case, again, I don’t understand why we are having this conversation.

      There is absolutely no denying that prostitution is about the commodification of women. To claim otherwise is a lie.

      There are few current sex workers who say anything because of the deep shame attached to prostitution. Also, I can’t imagine that it would be very easy to argue that the work you have no choice but to do is traumatic and exploitative and abusive. I mean, everyone’s got to get through the day, right?

    • marv wheale

      Everyone is governed by ideology. There is no neutral ground. We live in society not outside it. The question is, which beliefs are socially just and which are not? Sex libetarianism is not.

    • I have known many women in prostitution who DID want to get out and were not fighting for legalization. But since they were already working “square” jobs plus prostituting just to get food on the table for their kids, they had little time to get involved in the abolitionist movement.

      A woman who is currently prostituted and trying to figure a way out is unlikely to want to spend her time and limited energy arguing with other women–or male buyers–on the Internet. But women supporting the prostituted women supporting the abolitionist DO exist.

      If you want to talk about silencing, your last statement is dismissive of their very existence.

  • Where are these women who buy sex? Most women haven’t even gone to a male strip club – joke or otherwise. Why are there so many more men buying sex than women?

    • Society doesn’t tell women that men are something to be bought and sold, so women don’t think of men that way. Most women I know that have been into male strip clubs found the experience to be more awkward than sexy, with all of the women kind of tittering and laughing. Women also don’t feel entitled to men’s bodies the same way that men feel entitled to women’s bodies, so when they want sex their first thought is almost never to just go buy a man.

    • also, PIV is stressful for women and there are unwanted complications and side effects. being free from male-centric sexuality is what many women fantasize about, not buying it, or having it with even more men than they already have to. who would want to pay for the privilege of being knocked up, infected or trauma bonded to some dood? its ridiculous. not to mention that being alone with men is dangerous, and likely to get you killed, when you are female, whether you are “buying” or “selling”. its just not the same experience. there are plenty of women who have disposable income, and this is not how they choose to spend it. there are reasons for this. again, women with the means to do so, can afford to be without men, and can afford to *stop* being PIV receptacles. thats what having money and power buys you when you are female. if women as a class had the power to determine our own sexuality, everything would change. it wouldnt be the opposite of what we have now, it would be completely different. unimaginable for most people.

  • marv wheale

    Competing narratives of experience have to be put in context to determine which versions reflect reality and which ones are bogus. Otherwise we end up with the “tyranny of experience”. Certainly we must rely on the knowledge of sexualized women to scrutinize the social conditions of their lives. However we cannot authentically interpret experience without examining how our minds and bodies are shaped by society. This reading is discovered by recognizing our hidden conditioning through values, inculturation, training in obedience and docility and the male created structures of society (which embraces nearly everthing). All these functions can be characterized as agents of social control. They are undetected in everyday life but mold us nonetheless; they form us yet go unnoticed. Pornography is a perfect example of this process. It dictates how women should behave and appear via pictures and words. Social conformity is (man)dated through certain female body configurations and measurements in specifically classed, abled and racialized ways. Mass prduction spreads these notions worldwide. As the whole endeavor is socially acceptable, it serves to naturalize pornography’s images and message, making them legitimate. These “disciplinary practices” are so successful that the whole world has become a pornographic place (space). Since prostitution exists within this setting how could it not be determined by it? And how could prostituion not enhance pornography’s reach?

    So when people claim feminists are producing the oppression of women that feminists claim to oppose it doesn’t confound me a bit. I understand that sex liberals are simply deluded or in denial about how reality works. To face the facts requires the willingness to question the very foundations of how our identities have been formed. Few people have the courage or love to admit the truth. Rather they submit to the authority of pornstitution propaganda and dwell in intellectually limiting prisons. Minds and bodies are colonized wherever you go.

    For those of us who seek liberation from liberal totalitarianism we have to be vigilant to the the harmful cultural norms we still carry with us despite our rebelliousness. We must stay awake to the social functions of the hierarchical value-laden milieu that surrounds us. Complacency can easily lead to mindless compliance to the status quo, like for example “harm reduction for sex workers” instead of the abolition of pornstitution.

  • Hecuba

    The central reason why the male created and male dominated so-called ‘Sex Industry’ aka the Pornstitution Industry works so hard at silencing/bullying/intimidating real feminists who dare to speak out and hold men accountable for creating and maintaining the Prostitution Industry, is because we are telling men they never did nor never will have the so-called innate right to purchase any female for the sole purpose of using them as dehumanised sexual service stations. This challenge is viewed by the Pornstitution Industry and its brother the Sex Industry as a direct challenge to men’s pseudo right of domination and control over all women.

    That is why the Pornstitution Lobby spend so much money promoting their propaganda lies because many women are daring to say no more to men and are refusing to accept the lie that all women are men’s disposable sexual service stations. The endlessly repeated lie that feminists are supposedly in league with right wing men demonstrates the pornstitution industry knows nothing about feminist politics apart from the fact we are working to eliminate men’s pseudo right to purchase female bodies. Our telling men ‘no you have no sexual right whatsoever to any female body’ is seen as an affront to men’s pseudo male sex right to any female and how dare women tell men ‘no you don’t and never did have the right to purchase any female body, but you certainly created that pseudo right. Plus your Male Supremacist System created laws to ensure that Johns; pimps and male brothel owners would not be ones criminalised and imprisoned. No, instead you created laws criminalising prostituted women and blaming them for supposedly ‘creating male demand.’ Male Supremacy has always blamed women and exonerated men because that is how male domination over women as a system operates.

    Now we have the ludicrous situation wherein criminalising the Johns and the innumerable businesses which are literally profiting off the bodies of women is seen as denying men’s pseudo sex right to women and girls.

    The pornstitution industry has to keep inventing new diversions and new lies because its argument is so weak but it is true the Pornstitution Industry has what real feminists do not have and that is ownership/access to malestream media which is now a very powerful tool of male supremacist system.

    There are certainly parallels between the Pornstitution methods of promoting lies and propaganda and the bitter, bitter campaigns to eliminate slavery. Many enslaved women and men themselves did not want to be given their freedom because they were fearful of what would happen to them once they were free, because they had never known real freedom and at least their enslavement ensured some of them access to regular meals and a so-called place away from the elements. Then too arguments were made that the enslaved women and men were not human because they weren’t white; or that white Male Supremacist System would crumble once slavery was abolished. All lies but the aim was the same as pornstitution apologists, which was/is to to ensure the real issue is not addressed but instead keep Josephine and Joe Public’s attention diverted on irrelevant issues. The Suffragette Movement was demonised by the male supremacists because if women were accorded the vote; men’s power and their way of viewing the world would supposedly crumble. In fact this did not happen – women who demanded the vote when accorded it, saw that Male Supremacist System continued in precisely the same way as before because male supremacy created new ways of dominating and denying women their freedom.

    But the Pornstitution Industry is different because not only is it very, very profitable for the pimps, brothel owners and pornographers it also reinforces Johns’ pseudo belief their sex is the default human one whereas women and girls and yes even female babies exist solely to be men’s disposable sexual service stations. This issue goes right to the core of male domination over women and eliminating men’s pseudo sex right females means recognising women, girls and female babies are human not men’s dehumanised sexualised commodities.

    This is why the Pornstitution Industry and its brothers the Sex Industry and Pornography Industry are working so hard at trying to silence the real feminists – those feminists who believe prostitution is male sexual violence against women and believe no woman was created to be a man’s disposable sexualised commodity. Furthermore just as in the Slavery Campaign there were collaborators wherein some enslaved men and women supported slavery because they could not envision life as free individuals. So the Pornstitution Industry has its token female collaborators, women working in prostitution who are the supposedly fortunate ones; the ones who do not routinely experience sadistic male sexual violence from the Johns who buy them. But make no mistake no prostituted woman is considered to be the equal of any John, pimp or the male dominated corporate businesses all profiting from men’s sexual exploitation of women. No prostituted women continue to be viewed as men’s dehumanised sexualised commodities and in fact all women and girls are viewed by male supremacist systems as non-human because we are still fighting for our fundamental right of human status and dignity.

    But the issue is not about this tiny minority of supposedly ‘privileged women’ which the Pornstitution Industry uses as its token lobbyists because the real power continues to be firmly retained by men and notice too men in the pornstitution industry prefer the women to do their dirty work for them because the Johns, the Pimps and the male businessmen who run their ‘stables of women’ do not want to be publicly recognised. No they prefer to work behind the scenes and this way the focus is not on their business practices (sic) or how they routinely exploit prostituted women.

    Instead the men earning the huge profits are invisible and the pornstitution industry meanwhile works overtime talking double talk and attempting to depict real feminists who oppose the Pornstitution Industry and its brothers the Sex and Pornography Industry as the ones with the supposed real power. Oh how I wish we did have this power because if we did the Johns; the Pimps and the male businessmen profiting from the bodies of women would all be in prison tomorrow. But we don’t – we don’t even have a voice in the malestream; male owned and male dominated media because male supremacy recognises the media is a very effective propaganda tool in promoting the lie that men supposedly need regular sexual access to women otherwise men would spontaneously combust!

  • I’m waiting for the day when an article like this doesn’t reproduce, quite exactly, the dysfunctional reparte that is its subject. I continue to believe that “sex workers” and abolitionists are on the same side. Meaning that most of us wish that women had good choices with regard to employment, were not subject to poverty, exploitation, violence and addiction, and were never ever forced into prostitution either as children or as adults. For those who participate in the supply side of prostitution, I assume we want all the best services in terms of health, safety and exit strategies. But we see very different ways of getting there. Unfortunately, the conversation degenerates into attacks on the bottom line – I’ve been told that if I do not agree with the “decriminalization” of prostitution then I must want to see women brutally murdered. The one simply does not follow from the other. I am perfectly happy to engage in a respectful and passionate debate about how to achieve the outcome that we would all like to see. I will no longer participate in discussions which challenge my bona fides right to the core.
    The debate ought to be about analysis and strategy. There is plenty to argue about at that. I have yet to meet one single person who argues on the decriminalization “side” who actually engages with abolitionists on their analyses and strategies and nothing else. It will be a grand day indeed, for all women, when that happens.
    I might add that with regard to the issue of “choice” and abortion, there is more than one feminist, me included, who was and is critical of the use of that model both in terms of analysis and strategy. In some sense it has been effective. But it still implies that women have real choices when it comes to deciding whether or not to have an abortion and we know that this has never been so anywhere in the world except in those countries that are not racist and which provide adequate social services and a guaranteed annual income to women who choose to proceed with their pregnancies. Where is that? The “choice” analysis is a liberal one right to its root. It only works when the choices are real. The choices can only be real in a very different economy that has cast off the chains of colonialism and racism. Otherwise, it causes huge collective problems. And that is just what exists with regards to abortion.

    • Magedelena

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you. I so hear you and agree on many points.

      There are plenty of feminists that I talk to that are more than willing to talk strategy and tactics. And they are pretty damned smart, passionate and seasoned veterans from decades of abortion and queer right struggles.

      I am with you that too that sex workers have to de-emphasize the word and argument of choice in the debate. There is no real choice in a capitalist colonial society other than you get to choose your flavour of oppression – working in a low paying service, doing sex work, or getting massively into debt for an education that might get you a good job sitting at a computer for 60+ hours a week. All are crappy “choices” and 97% of people surveyed would like to leave 😉

  • Bushfire

    Methinks John is doing some projecting with the “obtuse” comment. We don’t know anything at all about white men, of course!

  • Meghan is one of those who has talked strategy and tactics till forever.

  • John Lowman, white academic geographer expert on women of all sorts, PhD.

    • Magedelena

      In a previous post Elizabeth you wrote “I am perfectly happy to engage in a respectful and passionate debate about how to achieve the outcome that we would all like to see.”

      Your ad hominem attack on John Lowman does nothing to forward the debate.

      The criminology department at SFU is full of women working under the guidance of Lowman, some former sex workers, who are doing kick ass research in support of sex workers with sex workers fully involved in the research process from designing the studies to analyzing the results.

      • Funny how so many women’s only way to get out of the sex industry is to end up doing some sort of work that is to promote it. Real options mean not having to do anything prostitution related and still be able to live decently.

        • Magedelena

          Your first sentence to be more accurate should read…

          Funny how so many women’s only way to get out of the sex industry is to end up doing some sort of work that is to promote it or denounce it.

          • That’s because men don’t see sex workers as human beings. They won’t employ them without some sort of expectation that they will be able to use them as sexual service stations. Once in the sex industry, the woman is forever relegated to it for life in men’s eyes.

  • Omnia Vanitas

    What an intellectual challenge it must have been for John and his sense of identity and entitlement as a white male to take up a front-line position in the fight for the continued and unchallenged sexual exploitation of marginalised women and girls. And for him to continue to dominate spaces and spread himself around making his views widely heard even in opposition to women’s voices, some of whom actually experienced prostitution first-hand (John never had to) . . . really, it’s nothing less than a testament to integrity, isn’t it? John, you’re a true gem for not taking the opportunistic and domineering path of so many in your privileged position before you. No, to actually challenge patriarchy would have been too easy for the likes of you; rather, you valiantly chose to maintain the status quo of your own male privilege. Bravo!!

  • “prohibitionist” never gets old…or ceases to make me chuckle and think of “the beer baron” from the Simpsons…I mean, seriously…

  • All of this reminds me of a Kate Millett quote, “Many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning”

  • Whitney

    Go girl. As an abolitionist who is hoping to study the movement/position as a PhD student, I can tell you there’s hope. I have noticed more and more people willing to consider the criminalization of the buyer and not the seller, with many concluding that it’s the obvious way to do things. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. 🙂

  • natasha

    1. Re sex professionals, I’ ve always thought they should self-regulate their business. It is a question of illegal profit and economics, a male dominated area (again).
    2. Re violence, women should answer back, and fight more. They are responsible for their freedom. We cannot victimize everyone in sympathy of those under oppression.
    3. Can’t stand any longer the “messianic” message “when we take over the world will be a better place, peace and love sisters”. When we take over, it will be the same only more violent -as i like to say to my male friends.

    A lawyer and art-critic fighting for freedom and equality in the hardships of patriarchy.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Pointing out oppression does not victimize. Marxists do not ‘victimize’ workers by naming the working class and pointing out class systems. Feminists do not ‘victimize’ women by pointing out inequity. Victimization comes from those with power who use it to exploit. I don’t know where this manipulative and backwards use of this language began (I’m thinking Naomi Wolf / Katie Roiphe) but it is straight up insanity.

    • Why would it be MORE violent if the world was ruled by women the way it is by men currently?

  • Peter

    X-bad, mad

    I feel you. I have a similar experience, but from another side of the argument. I am a member of the feminist Facebook “A girl’s guide to taking over the world” and I find their posts very interesting. The problem is however, I do not always agree with them, and I find their argumentation can be very one-sided and simplistic. So I give them my view and I argue against them. For this I was first called a troll, later on got restricted access so I cannot post or like on their site anymore. This it’s exactly what happens to you, just because people are bad at arguing, they rather shut you up. They do so because their argument is the “correct” one and should not be questioned by someone who is not as militant for their cause as they are. Especially not if they have problems handling your arguments, as this could give the impression there are holes in their theories…

    Does this not sound a lot like what they do in, say China? Don’t let them bully you. We need all sides of the story! 🙂

    • joy


      • Bushfire

        Peter, that’s because your views on feminism are not needed. Listen, don’t talk.

        • Peter

          Aha, and who decides what is needed? You? Chinese government? The president of Syria? You just have a totalitarian view of freedom of speech, and I think you should read some J S Mill. I think it is amazing that you even say something like this in the comments of a post titled “Who gets a say”! 😀
          In contrary to you, I am listening. I have not stopped visiting A girls guide… There are many interesting and good articles and quotes being posted there. But the good of this site risk getting lost because there less defence when some badly founded text creeps in, or when it becomes too much of a hate all men/potential rapist slur. But never expect anyone to listen to you when you are not prepared to listen to them…

      • Peter

        Glad you are over-joyed. What you do not understand is that any movement who is banning critics will just hurt themselves. The more they make their fora places where only like-minded can pat each-other on the shoulder, the less sharp will their argumentation be and they will risk standing there with just a silly face when they are confronted with a serious “opponent”.

        We do not have to agree on all things, but why avoid learning from each-other? The worst that can happen is that you revise some of your opinions, in addition you will sharpen your argumentation as someone else will pick out the rhetorical and logical holes we all sometimes make.

        I do not want equality to suffer because some stupid feminists are alienating the majority of people. Have you ever heard or felt that feminism is becoming a bad word, even for many women? Well, I would argue it is not so much because of men who wants to preserve “patriarchy”, it is more because of feminists who have made it such an easy task to ridicule them. You can laugh at me, and I am sure to only debate with other “anti-penis-in-vagina” friends makes you feel vindicated. I really thought you wanted to make a difference though, keeping it to the people thinking like you will do as much for women as joining an Amish group will do for Christianity. Good luck…

        • joy

          Oh, and a pun on my name! I’ve never heard that before!

          Cute little phrases, comparisons of feminists to fascist governments, asking us to Learn From Each Other (as if we have never ever considered ‘the other side’s’ arguments, which are in fact the mainstream) … we’ve never heard THAT before, either!

          What an irreverent little stonker you are! Tee-ha! How precious. Please take Bushfire’s advice.

          (And apologies to other women if I’m coming off like an asshole. We’re here arguing for our lives, and other women’s lives, and these little dickheads keep popping up to talk abstractly about Why Can’t We All Just Be Friends?! I, for one, do not want to be friends with johns, punters, exploiters, rapists, and abusers. And this is based on a whole lot of analysis, not just a gut reaction! Go figure!)

          • Peter

            I am sure you have heard puns before. I also see you prefer to debate by calling names, are you loosing your cool or did I just mistakenly think you were more of an intellectual? Labelling people not agreeing with you as rapists and abusers? Have we heard that before? I can tell you what it is, it is the type of “feminist” discourse that will keep them in the confines of obscurity. Most men you seem to want to call rapists are probably more likely to defend you against a real rapist, should you ever come across one… If you write again, try being respectful, it may work better.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok, let’s move on please. Back to topic, yes? I’m not sure this is productive….

          • Okay, seriously Peter. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that feminists care about your opinion in the first place. Telling them to be more respectful is just laughable. You were probably banned from that FB group and laughed at here because you espouse an opinion that feminists hear hundreds, thousands of times. You add nothing new to the discussion. Beyond that, you seem to fancy yourself a special snowflake intellectual, when you’re really a dime a dozen.

          • Peter

            Ha, I am not being under the illusion that I am more intellectual than other people. You may not believe it , but one of the reasons that I am engaging in this is that I want equality to happen, all over the world. I do not want good feminist argumentation to be snuffed out by bad, it is too important for this to happen. I would love it if equality in all of the world had reached the level that it had in my home country, Sweden where feminists are now arguing against letting girls wear pink and making boys play with dolls in lack of more serious topics. I definitely think it is worrying when some people try to put me down for voicing my opinion. Isn’t this the attitude you attribute to men against women? Maybe some of you have more of the men you despise in you than you would like to believe…?

          • Meghan Murphy

            You are getting tiresome, Peter. If you support the prostitution of women you do not support equality. Period.

          • Peter

            I don’t particularly support prostitution, I just don’t believe men or women wanting to buy or sell sex has anything to do with equality. As little as selling or buying drugs has. There are other problems associated with them, but equality is not being one of them.

  • Komal

    This conversation is increasingly convincing me that the feminist case against prostitution is not enough. It’s not difficult for me to argue against prostitution, as I believe it is generally exploitative of women and misogynistic, AND immoral. But at the end of the day, provided that there are some women out there who choose to engage in prostitution because they prefer it over other jobs that pay less, there is not much of a feminist case to be made for complete abolition. From the point of view of such women it seems quite ridiculous that the clients whom they solicit are being criminalized, and that their livelihood is being taken away from them. I understand this point of view completely, though it does not sway me one bit in my position on prostitution since my position is not a purely feminist one — by which I do not mean that it is anti-feminist in any way, but that it encompasses feminism while also encompassing something else. The ‘something else’ provides a reason for why prostitution ought to illegal despite the existence of prostitutes who are enthusiastic about their work.

    Silencing takes place because people are ignorant and threatened by differences of opinion. It comes down to a lack of stoicism in people’s temperaments. Silencing tactics are also employed by abolitionists against pro-prostitution people, and I say this as an abolitionist myself. The only way to solve this problem is for people to become more calm and reflective, and for this we need to go beyond feminist toward a deeper ethical theory. We also need to engage in genuine, open-minded intellectual discussion, and not the mere re-statement of ideological position that is common in these debates.

    • Meghan Murphy

      All good points, Komal. How shall we move forward?

    • joy

      So, feminism isn’t good enough for you?

      Right, because you’re a man. And therefore you’re a lot more Reasonable, Rational, and Objective than we women.

      How grateful we should be, that you’ve come here to tell us how we’ve all done everything so wrong!

      • Meghan Murphy

        Komal isn’t a man, she is a philosopher, so she tends to approach these issues in a different way…Just to clarify 🙂

        • joy

          Oh, well, look at that egg on my face! I apologize for mistaking a woman for a man, that was insulting.

          The comment still reads like Totes Moar Rational, Reasonable, Objective Doodspeak, though. Perhaps a side effect of stewing in philosophy? I hear that field’s a total sausage fest.

          • Komal

            Yes, it is. A white sausage fest too.

            Btw there’s nothing wrong with trying to be rational and objective. I don’t think that’s ‘doodspeak’, I think that’s ‘intelligentspeak’. And if so far men have been emphasizing it more, then that’s one of the things they’ve been doing right :D.

          • joy

            Be that as it may, who (other than men) says feminists AREN’T rational and objective?

            Uh, pretty much just men.

            I used to really think I was a totally objective, cool, unbiased thinker. This was around about the time I supported the sex industry. That isn’t coincidental. The very idea of what it means to be a cool, unbiased thinker has been constructed by men, to serve men. (Partially by allowing them to silence women they deem to be “too irrational.”)

            So impartiality is great, but sometimes it stands to get fucking angry about something and take a side.

          • Komal

            But I didn’t say that feminists aren’t rational and objective. That would be calling myself not rational and objective, which would be, well… irrational 😛 (which ironically would provide confirmation for the statement, lol).

            What I was saying was that feminism may not be enough to make an airtight case against prostitution, and also that in general stoicism (which is not the same thing as rationality) is a good thing.

      • Komal

        Lol, I’m not a man! ‘Komal’ is a woman’s name anyway (a simple Google search would have confirmed this).

        I do not think feminism is wrong or ought to be rejected. I AM a feminist (and a radical feminist, at that), I just think that feminism may not be sufficient to make an airtight case against prostitution. It can make a reasonably strong case, provided that certain facts hold — most women enter prostitution out of poverty, prostitution is linked with trafficking, prostituted women are frequently abused, etc. But its strength is hugely contingent on these facts, so that when they do not apply to some situation (e.g. a particular prostituted woman would not suffer starvation as an alternative to prostitution, but merely a more boring or less lucrative job) and prostituted women themselves expend enormous amounts of energy defending their ‘right’ to engage in ‘sex work’, then the abolitionist case is significantly weakened. The facts also do not necessarily support an abolitionist case; for example, a supporter of prostitution may simply call for greater regulation of prostitution to deal with abuse, instead of abolition.

        However, if you offer reasons for why prostitution ought to be opposed that do not just depend upon the assumption of prostitution involving coercion or abuse, then you have a stronger abolitionist case. I argue that prostitution — on top of being generally misogynistic and based on men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, etc. — is also profoundly unhealthy, because sex is by its nature crude and carnal, and often violent (especially when it involves penetration, which is inherently violent IMO). In the context of emotionally intimate and healthy relationships between generally healthy people, sex is at its least ignoble. But prostitution makes it pretty much impossible for those conditions to hold, as the exchange of money automatically creates some alienation, and makes the relationship more business-like and less emotionally intimate/spiritually fulfilling (not to mention that most of the time it involves brief encounters, so there is no relationship anyway).

        Bottom line: prostitution is wrong because: a) it’s generally patriarchal, coercive, violent and dehumanizing to women, and b) it is unhealthy since it involves emotionally alienated sexual encounters.

    • I can relate to what you’re saying, Komal, and I think you make some good points. Long before I was a feminist, and still a child, I was anti-prostitution. It was instinctive to me, and I remember wanting to explore where those feelings came from. I didn’t examine prostitution through a feminist framework, but a general philosophy of ethics. Examining the seller’s part of the dynamic, I found no problems. I didn’t think it was a great idea, or in tune with my own vision of sexuality, but that was just for me personally. I believe(d) that a person has a right to do whatever they want with their own body. Furthermore, selling sex does not have the potential to harm the buyer. By it’s very nature, the buyer must be beyond consenting – willing and eager. The problems arose when I examined the other point of view.

      Poverty and desperation are an all too common reality in prostitution. There is really no denying that. Keeping that in mind, the potential to harm is obvious. But there are exceptions, aren’t there? I knew that. So, I stripped away the circumstances and variables. I just looked at the very basics. Was there something intrinsically unethical in the act of buying sex? Yes, I realized, there was. These men were having sex with someone who wasn’t attracted to them, someone who didn’t actually want to have sex with them. And they were okay with that. That sounded a lot like rape to me. Is that not the state of mind of a rapist? Hell, there were some that LIKED it specifically because the women didn’t actually want to have sex with them. By its very nature, prostitution is unwanted sex. If you have to pay someone to have sex with you, then some part of you must know that they don’t want to have sex with you. At its very core, the act of prostitution is incapable of being done ethically. There’s no way for him to see inside the mind of the seller and know what she is truly thinking. Simultaneously, the buyer is a rapist and the seller could have no feelings of being raped.

      • Komal

        “At its very core, the act of prostitution is incapable of being done ethically.”

        Exactly. I think there is a strong feminist and virtue ethical case to be made against prostitution, and I mention it here only to offer another line of argument that the abolitionist side can take, in addition to and not instead of the radfem argument.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Yes! Agree. Paying a woman for sex is coercive, by nature. I don’t think we can get away from the power dynamics at play. It is impossible for it to ever be ethical or egalitarian.

  • Peter

    Is emotionally alienated sexual encounters unhealthy? Why?
    In the same vein, is masturbation then unhealthy too? I am not trying to use this as an argument for prostitution, I just found that last statement surprising? It sounds more like a religious view on sex…

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t think that masturbation is unhealthy, nor do I think that penetrative sex is inherently violent….BUT I do think PIV is potentially more dangerous for women than men. I am also not entirely convinced that sexual encounters must always be emotionally intimate but do agree that sex increases vulnerability in a myriad of ways and, involves (or should involve) a great deal of trust. I’m not sure that engaging in sex with a stranger who has paid you money in order to be able to penetrate you is conducive to trust. For me, one of the key issues here is that prostitution exists to benefit men and doesn’t lead towards an equal society or encourage a view of women as full human beings that exist and have purpose aside from providing pleasure for men.

    • Komal

      Masturbation is not a sexual encounter. Also, you cannot be emotionally alienated from yourself, so obviously masturbation does not count.

      By ’emotionally alienated’ I mean lacking emotional intimacy. At least one reason why emotional intimacy is relevant is that sex involves physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is a violation of personal space and boundaries unless it is in the context of an emotionally intimate relationship, and this is especially true with certain kinds of physical intimacy. If some random stranger put his feet in your lap, for example, you would experience this as a personal space violation*. But if your spouse put their feet in your lap because you volunteered to massage their feet, then it would not be violating. The most extreme case of such boundary-violation in sex is penetration, but even when there is no penetration, there is still boundary-violation to some degree or another, and without the backdrop of an emotionally intimate relationship it seems unhealthy to be subjecting yourself to routine boundary-violation. This is especially so if you’re a woman who is being paid by a man in a superior social position (for having money and being a man), a man who is likely to hate women and who feels entitled since he has paid you. The usual gender roles that often exist in relationships between men and women, and the feminization that women face often by men, is only multiplied in such ‘relationships’, where on top of the boundary-violation inherent within high levels of physical intimacy, and the emotional alienation, there are also the hate vibes emanating from men that such women have to put up with while being fucked by them. Hence: regular violence against prostitutes. Why do people in other professions not get regularly stabbed, run over, burned, beaten, etc. by their clients? This, and the fact that prostitutes are generally highly feminine women is note-worthy.

      I am even open to the possibility that sexual intimacy may be special in some way, in a way that makes it even worse to have it without emotional intimacy. Consider the fact that children are not easily traumatized by non-sexual intimacy with adults or other children, e.g. hugs and sleeping on the same bed, but when sexuality is involved, then the likelihood of trauma is higher. Examples of non-sexual traumatic events such as extreme physical violence only help to illustrate my point, as for there to be trauma in those cases there must be violence, whereas for there to be trauma in sexual cases, there does not have to be violence beyond what is inherent in sexual contact. This shows that human beings respond differently to sex than to non-sexual physical contact, and may also help to show that sex is inherently violent.

      * In general, women’s personal space is routinely violated, and we are punished for asserting our personal space. I think one of the key features of patriarchy is a lack of respect for women’s boundaries.

  • Peter

    It is an interesting discussion, and I am not always sure where I stand here, just as is the case with drug legalization. Clearly some people cannot handle availability of drugs/prostitution. Should we then sacrifice them for the enjoyment (“freedom”) of individuals who can abstain or who can engage in drugs/prostitution in a “responsible” way?
    As a man I see women as humans I am attracted to in a sexual and emotional way. This will of course make me susceptible to become a sex-buyer, if I felt this would be the only way for me to be intimate with a woman. Or if I would give in to this easy road to gratification, without having to seduce or be afraid of emotionally hurting someone (who may develop love not just lust).

    At the moment I find the idea of role-playing prostitution much more appealing than prostitution itself, possibly because I would then be more sure that the woman would enjoy it. There is nothing less sexy than a woman who you can sense or know is not enjoying herself, I think this is mutual for any sane woman or man, and probably one of the reasons there is such a thing as faked orgasms…

    • Komal

      “As a man I see women as humans I am attracted to in a sexual and emotional way. This will of course make me susceptible to become a sex-buyer, if I felt this would be the only way for me to be intimate with a woman.”

      Are you serious? As a lesbian, I am emotionally and sexually attracted to women (especially emotionally). This does NOT ‘make me susceptible’ to be a ‘sex-buyer’. Wonder why that is *rolls eyes*.

    • joy

      If someone wishes to BUY a person they are attracted to, then they certainly are not ’emotionally’ attracted to that person.

      You are talking about BUYING a PERSON here. BUYING a PERSON.

      • Peter

        If you insist on “buying” would not “renting” be a more appropriate word? Or to repeat the words of the sex worker who talked at occupy St Paul’s: we sell a service, not or bodies. How many business men walk home with the product they sold every day? I think this is semantics that does not necessarily tell the truth of anything but our own own position, compare pro-life/pro-choice…
        If I like sex with women, I may be tempted to have sex with a prostitute, of course. Do not think the idea of sex being available for a sum of money is much different to the idea of money being available for some sex. Depending on your needs and the situation, it can be tempting.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Oh yeah, renting a vagina. That’s real progressive.

          • “At the moment I find the idea of role-playing prostitution more appealing than prostitution itself”

            Well, that is treating a woman as an object, just there for your porn dreams, that is not communication. As for that you “worry” that women may not be enjoying – may fake orgasms – that seem like a normal reaction to your selfish sexual behaviour.

          • Peter

            Wow, in this case no sexual fantasies can be allowed? Men and women have all kinds of things they may want to enact to spice up their love life. I do not see anything wrong with that as long as the desire to do it is mutual between the participants. Or are you saying only men can ever want to participate in role playing?
            As for your knowledge about my sexual behaviour, you know it is not nice spy on people having sex?

          • tick tack

            I don’t think anyone here is saying sex fantasies are bad, it’s entitlement to sex that is really crappy

  • Milly

    If a woman could get a man convicted of rape based solely on the the proof that PIV took place and with the words ” I was raped”, (ie wasn’t always existing in a patriarchal state of consent – see Twisty’s consent threads) perhaps men would begin to understand the level of trust a woman is forced to place in a man in any sexual encounter and they wouldn’t take ” sex” so lightly. Imagine.

  • Peter

    And let me just add: I will never understand how anyone could ever hate women. For me women are the peak of creation and hurting or forcing a woman to do things against her will is the lowest thing a man can do. To propose you would need to hate women to want to buy sex from a woman is quite absurd. Yes, there are men who are horrible to women, but it is no reason in itself to buy sex.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh man are you confused, Peter. Loving women doesn’t equal buying them.

    • Komal

      This is a good example of chivalrous sexism.

      “For me women are the peak of creation…”

      Fail times ten.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Agree with you Komal. Seriously. Red flag. Big time.

    • Peter,

      Have you read NitroGirl’s comment on this thread?

      If prostitution is such a great “job”, why aren’t men just begging to get into it?

      Whenever a man starts responding to a thread on prostitution, especially to defend it, women are going to wonder why defending the use of women’s bodies is so important.

      Also, wouldn’t women who have been prostituted know better whether using their bodies is like purchasing them? It’s really chauvinistic to go around correcting women who have been prostituted.

      Perhaps you, and other men can use a person for sex and then leave, describing it as “renting an organ for ten minutes,” as one john did, but for the person whose body is being “rented,” that is 10 minutes when she was likely dissociating and will continue to have traumatic symptoms long after that “encounter.” Seriously, prostituted women have, on average, higher rates of PTSD than war vets. So, no, it’s not like “renting” a woman’s body, because the experiences are not ones her body is likely to forget.

      • Peter

        I read it now. I wholeheartedly agree with her that anyone who treats someone bad is an ass-hole. If they want to rape and kill girls, well that goes way beyond ass-hole and should be rewarded with prison at best. Let me start by saying, I believe it would be good if street prostitution disappeared. There seems to be a majority of women involved in this who wants to get out. The opposite is true of more “up-market” prostitution, such as call-girl prostitution. Obviously I am also against all kinds of trafficking, and I am aware it would not happen if there were no buyers. This is definitely an area where men are very culpable, both in enslaving these girls and in buying their services without ensuring they are not in such a situation, or even worse, knowing it.

        Regarding prostitution as a great job, I am not sure it is, like my own job it may pay fairly good, but there are probably other things prostitutes would rather do if they could earn the same money for a more interesting effort. On the other hand, this goes for many of us, there are simply many choices, bad and good that have led us to where we are today. I have actually considered trying prostitution myself at times, so it is nothing I totally reject for myself. In the same vein, I would not reject a woman as potential partner just because of a history of prostitution.

        It is correct womononajourney, I see selling sex as providing a service, not selling your body. But if a prostitute herself feels like she lost her body, I am not going to speak against her. Where have I been correcting anyone who is or was a sex worker and has this view? I think different people have different strength to deal with something like prostitution. And I have also heard sex workers who do not consider to be selling their bodies and who do not want to be “saved” by feminists, are you correcting them?

        I do not feel a need to defend prostitution, as if it disappeared today, nothing would change for me. I would have the same view of women as fellow humans and I would not miss an activity I am not participating in as seller or buyer. I am interested in it as phenomenon and because of the heated debate it often provokes. It is a moral question I find very interesting, and if there is anything I defend, it is the possibility of the man in such an exchange to be someone who does not hate women. I see lust as something that often goes above attempts to find intellectual, self-serving explanations. Lust is often no more than lust and goes with all kinds of personalities…

        • “I wholeheartedly agree with her that anyone who treats someone bad is an ass-hole.”

          What NitroGirl said quite clearly was that anyone who pays for use of her body is more than an ass-hole; they have grossly violated her in ways that can never be repaid.

          “Where have I been correcting anyone who is or was a sex worker and has this view?”

          There are women all over this site who have been prostituted and have this view.

          “I believe it would be good if street prostitution disappeared.”

          This is one of the biggest LIES out there. Seriously. Women who work for high-class escort services are terribly violated by men who feel they have the right to use them. These are often men who come from high positions of power–doctors, lawyers, CEOs, politicians–and are convinced they have rights that go above and beyond working-class men, nevermind women, especially women who would be in something like (gasp!) prostitution.

          If you don’t believe me please read Rebecca Mott’s blog (rmott62.blogspot.com).

          Your comments on this site DO defend prostitution. When your life is at stake, it is not simply a moral quandary for debate. Women live and die sex. I dream it can be otherwise.

          • Peter

            Thanks. Again, you were saying I was correcting them. I was not. There are plenty of sex workers who do not see it as selling their bodies. I never said that others may do. If you accuse me of correcting someone in this, then you must yourself be correcting those sex-workers who do not see it your way.

            My comment on street vs. non-street prostitution was partly based on a recent investigation into who wanted out or not. I have no other personal connection with the prostitution community.

    • ned

      If men like Peter are as good as it gets when it comes to clients of sex workers — and it seems like that is probably the case — it’s no wonder that sex work and gender-egalitarianism don’t mesh. I’m not sexually attracted to men, but if I were, I’d rather saw off my own arm than have sex with a man who holds the insincere and disingenuous and frankly manipulative views of women that Peter has shared.

  • Oh wow, this resonates so strongly with me! I actually wrote a piece last month about sex work here: http://lipmag.com/culture/commodification-of-human-bodies-where-does-society-draw-the-line/ and found the reactions to be the same as what you experienced.

    Thank you for writing this; I agree that all voices should be heard, not just those of the privileged few.

  • What I don’t understand is why there must be a battle to ‘win’ here, a battle over whose ideology or point of view is completely right now and for all time for all Women. Diversity is valued, we understand we will not all agree, and when we do we are not ‘silencing’ each other – that’s a silly accusation, whichever view it comes from.

    This is somehow enacted recently on my website, as well – on a seemingly random post: http://www.lauraagustin.com/sex-slavery-the-eros-ignorance

    Someone who dislikes prostitution in general came to complain, and the results are similarly unproductive.

    Laura Agustín

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree that one point of view is not completely right. The trouble, for me, is that, in my experience in this debate it mostly comes down to abolitionists being accused of being “whorephobic” or of hating women or of being the enemies of prostituted women. Not true, never has been true, never will be true. How is it possible to get anywhere when we are either told we have no right to speak and that, as feminists, we hate women?

      • Kaylia Payne

        I agree too: while I wrote an opinionated article about it, I am aware that there are shades of grey and no one person is completely right. The problem was that the people commenting on my article didn’t engage with issue at all. Instead I got called a ‘whorephobe’, told I wasn’t a feminist, and that it was people like me who were assaulting sex workers.

        Everyone has a right to have their say, but the problem is that too many people are taking offence and levelling out insults rather than stating their point of view and discussing the issue.

    • Laurel

      I tend to agree that arguing with other women doesn’t benefit women.

      It’s not a matter of “disliking prostitution”; it’s a matter of disposing what male buyers do to women in prostitution.

      There is NO other job this compares to. Prostitution is sometimes said to be similar to construction work in that both have risks, but one must engage in risk reduction, yadda, yadda yadda. Yet, I don’t hear anyone telling construction workers their jobs are similar to prostitution. This is because in the case of construction work,the workers are already seen to be human beings.

    • There are many, many women who, after exiting prostitution say how horrible it actually was and that they are so glad they are out. There is not a single women I am aware of who was open about hating prostitution while in the industry and after exiting says it wasn’t so bad after all.

      In any case, prostitution promotes the continued consumption of women as Being Sex.

  • marv wheale

    Thanks Meghan for red flagging Peter. He was extremely offensive. I have a predilection for feminists though, who are strident, vitriolic and fiery as well as stoic. All have their place and value. Afterall we are talking about a war on women. Life and death matters are inevitably unnerving. Cool heads shouldn’t always prevail.

    I question the “lack of emotional intimacy” as an argument for abolition. Let me use the term “love” interchangeably with emotional intimcacy and care for the purposes of this discussion.

    Since we live in a male manufactured, capitalist, heterosexist, white supremacist (colonized), ableist, sizeist…. world, our ideas and desires are not undetermined by these political conditions. Therefore we may think and feel we love someone but that rapport could very well be a conditioned response within these social structures. Some examples. Some capitalists do have a very caring mutual relationship with their workers. They may be even close friends (I like my own boss in this way). Some slaveowners treated their slaves as family and the slaves adored them in return. Some farmers have emotional bonds with the animals they slaughter (I was on of them). Some men have monogamous relationships with some prostitutes – “keeping a mistress” so to speak. They may have fond and affectionate feelings for one another. Despite the perceived love in all these relationships, does that make them anymore genuine and legitimate? Whether their is love or emotional alienation is somewhat of a moot point. The relationsships are still founded on power differentials and are therefore rooted in injustice. A happy and healthy marriage itself shares this reality, It is subject to the same structural determinants.

    Sexual politics socializes, organizes, expresses and directs desire. It constructs males and females as men and women. Heterosexuality, gender roles and the family are its dominant forms. In this sense marriage and prostitution are on the same continuum, of love on one side and violence on the other.

    I think rad fem analysis of prostitution is still the best hope we have for its elimination. Appeals to love cloud the issue by shifting attention away from the sexual politics of feelings and desires.

    By the way, there is no such thing as an airtight argument for abolition. No matter what your position is there will always be those who poke holes in it. Advancing feminist arguments and solutions to male supremicist injustices (including poverty) is deep enough. Real emotional intimacy will flow out of this approach. Supporting groups like Vancouver Rape Relief, the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network and other kindred spirits are concrete ways to make this kind of progress.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Excellent points, Marv!

    • Komal

      Interesting points, Marv. However, what I was saying was not that whenever there is love and sex, the sex is all right. But rather that when there is no love, and there is sex, then there is a problem. The presence of emotional intimacy is a necessary condition for a healthy sexual relationship, not a sufficient condition.

      The reason I make this additional, non-feminist argument is not strategic, but it is because I happen to believe that those premises are true (e.g. that emotional intimacy effects how we experience our boundaries). I do not believe that prostitution would be okay, even in the rare circumstance that it is not coerced, not abusive, not feminizing, not gender roled: in other words, not patriarchal. So I wasn’t just talking about strategy, but also about the actual plausibility of the purely feminist abolitionist argument.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I just don’t think that sex without love is necessarily problematic…And I think (I think this is somewhere along the lines of what Marv was getting at, but correct me if I’m wrong) that ‘love’ is fairly difficult to gage in a society where relationships are so tied to power…I mean, I’ve had positive sexual experiences with people I ‘loved’ and negative ones…LOTS of negative ones…I’ve also had positive sexual experiences with people I didn’t ‘love’…If that experience was transactional in nature it probably would have been pretty creepy, but there are a lot of people that I’m sexually attracted to but don’t want to be in a ‘love’ relationship with, so how do we respond to that?

        • Komal

          I actually wasn’t originally talking about love, but emotional intimacy. I also mentioned that the healthier the relationship, the less ignoble the sex within it.

          When monetary transaction enters the equation, the situation becomes more than just ‘creepy’. This is partly because there is always a level of alienation created by financial tansactions, even more than the alienation that is there because you do not know a person very well.

    • Liz

      “Thanks Meghan for red flagging Peter. He was extremely offensive. I have a predilection for feminists though, who are strident, vitriolic and fiery as well as stoic. All have their place and value. Afterall we are talking about a war on women. Life and death matters are inevitably unnerving. Cool heads shouldn’t always prevail.”

      not true, marv. cool heads will prevail, and they will be the only ones that do. this is because patriarchy is a parasite, it feeds on reactions. its death comes from total neutrality.

      nice try, though. you certainly are doing your reading and figuring out ways to insinuate yourself in the minds of females who are unaware of this fact.


  • Let it be noted that every advocate of prostitution is the kind of “feminist” that will accuse other feminists of man-hating and reverse sexism. I have yet to see even a single exception.

  • Best derailment tactic: “You hate men!” Done. So easy isn’t it? Apparently it’s very easy to silence feminists with this old man-hater proclamation. It’s really sad when other women say this.

  • “Decrim will help all sex workers, including the most marginalized, because they currently can’t do safe negotiations with clients or go to the police for help.”

    What about the police johns? This happens a lot, look at Vancouver – the VPD for example, were reported to get “services” from the women they were supposed to help. You think the police care? You think the state cares? No. Not to mention the VPD who also decided watching porn in their offices was more important than finding out who murdered the missing prostituted women in the area, almost all of them being First Nations women. We have some deeper issues to deal with here, simply “decriminalizing” pimps and johns will not protect the women – the cops already don’t give a shit, what will decriminalizing change other than giving pimps and johns easier access to women? Why aren’t we talking about the johns’ choices to be johns instead of pretending the state or the law will “enforce” protection for women that they couldn’t careless about. We need to change how we view humanity – humans are not commodities, women are not for sale. We can’t have an egalitarian society when men have full-access to women’s bodies on demand. That’s not a feminist world, that’s a misogynistic, exploitative and unequal world built on the idea that everything is a commodity – everything under capitalism, however, including people, become commodities. Prostitution exists BECAUSE of patriarchy and capitalism.

  • “whorephobe” is almost as offensive and anti-feminist as “slutwalk”

    The feminist backlash is getting bloody pathetic.

  • jade

    Do any of you consider the planning and effort that we sex workers put into accessing clients?

    Perhaps you should consider what is actually in the mind of the seller.

    We put create ads and place them everywhere we can think of -searching for free venues in particular. We leave business cards in hotel phone books and other locations where hopefully a potential client will happen upon it. We take photos -and those who can afford it have professional pics done to lure in possible service users. We try to implement screening and security methods or networks.

    We take a portion of the money we make and put it back into making more.
    We like most of our clients.
    Our regulars are the ones we really click with and often see for years.
    I look forward to seeing them. I smile when I think of them.

    I am offended when you speak of me renting or selling myself or my vagina. Do you say you rent/sell your mind or hands if you use them in your job? This is just another example of hostile distortion directed our way. Your discourse swirls with many wrongful assumptions. We expect it.

    Way more men would be doing this if they could support themselves doing so. The fact is that there is not the same demand and they can’t make the same money or they would.

    I was at a large meeting of sex workers yesterday and there was much dicussion about how much of our efforts are put into avoiding detection. Our most pressing concern is being arrested. Police contact prevention is paramount. We then have to hide from the disapprovers who call the children’s aid society who like to visit us often should our profession be revealed. Child custody is challenged by former partners if they find out.

    And now we have the aboltionist feminists to pile on in the interest of “women” who aren’t us.
    Of course your voices will be heard. You’ve intervened in the courts, Your government funded non profits are making this their major mission and you have many media venues.

    We don’t have that.
    We only have our voices…..that very few of us use.
    Most won’t waste precious time with you and cant out ourselves for the obvious reasons.
    We can’t even write letters to the editor as a name is required.
    And your whining about your voices being heard????
    Bask in your privledge ladies. It must be nice.

    • Women who have an opinion will get rape and death threats, especially when talking about a sex-related topic. Most of us don’t use our real names, and thus don’t send letters to the editor either. The shit that Meghan has to deal with for not hiding in the closet is disgusting. It’s really not a privilege.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Once again, abolitionists are working to decriminalize women. Why do you keep trying to blame us because you are criminalized? You keep making the same points over and over again but I can’t figure out why.

      • jade

        Really? What have you done to decriminlize providers?
        The canadian rad fems weren’t intervening to do that until the sex workers already won that themselves.
        Then they intervene to fight 2 of the 3 decisions based on the bullshit that they R only are going after “johns and pimps”. Of course there are laws on the books that can go after abusers and exploiters already.
        Avails and communicating does effect us!!! WE KNOW THIS!

        Of course you don’t mean decriminalize “women” as female clients would still be criminalized.
        This isn’t a male vs female situation as framed by abolitionists.
        Strive for accuracy Meghan.

        I blame you for trying to abolish my job. That is your goal.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Abolitionists advocate for the Nordic Model, which means decriminalizing prostituted women and criminalizing pimps and johns. In the time being, of course, we don’t want prostitution to be legalized which is what the Bedford v. Canada intervention was about. I could, honestly, care less about the few women clients. I have little interest in criminalizing them and there are so few of them that I hardly see how they would be impacted by this model. I’d love for you to have other options besides prostitution. I’d also love it if men didn’t think that it was their right to access/objectify women’s bodies. I’d also like for women to be treated as though they are more then sexualized things. I’d also like for men to stop raping and abusing women. Those are my goals. Taking your job, specifically? Not a huge priority for me. You are also acting as this affects only you, which is doesn’t. In progressive movements we must think of more than just ourselves. The greater good, as they say.

          • jade

            The was no attempt at legalization. Sex workers never ask for legalization. They targetted 3 provisions of the criminal code that hurt sex workers. They asked for those 3 to be invalidated as there are plenty of other laws to deal with abuse, underage etc. This was an attempt to decriminalize our jobs a bit more….and then a handful of fem orgs jump into to fight most of it because non-violent clients and managers (mostly female sex workers themselves) won’t be charged for existing.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Jade, I am very aware of what Bedford v Canada was about. We have written about it here on this site. I understand the 3 provisions being targeted. What I meant by ‘legalization’ was, of course, that without those key provisions, the concern, for feminists, was that this would lead to the decriminalization of pimps and johns. The concern was that the charter challenge did not address male demand.

          • John Lowman


            Bedford v Canada was not about legalizing prostitution, it was about forcing the government’s hand to change what just about everyone agrees is an “unacceptable” set of laws — see, for example, the 2006 Report of the Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws and the 2007 Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Beginning with the Fraser Committee in 1985, government commission after committee after task force has said that the package of current prostitution laws makes little sense. But we’re stuck with them because the vast majority of politicians do not want to go anywhere near prostitution law reform.

            Bedford v Canada will not determine the constitutional status of buying or selling sex. It cannot. Consequently if the Supreme Court of Canada upholds the decision the Federal Government will have the option of criminalizing either the buying of sex, the sale of sex, or both. Alternatively, the Feds could facilitate some form of decriminalization or full-scale legalization of prostitution, but they will not be obliged to do that.

            The decision will end their indecision. It will end those particular laws, but will not rule out prohibition.

            Will a Conservative government adopt demand-side prohibition? Not a chance, Joy Smith notwithstanding. The Conservative minority report of the Subcommittee on Soliciting Laws proposed criminalizing both the purchase and sale of sex, although a sex seller would be given a warning the first time s/he is caught.

            If the impugned prostitution laws are struck down, the Conservatives will likely take their cue from recent public opinion polls (e.g. Angus Reid 2009, 2010, 2011) which reveal that, even among women who support prohibition, a very large majority believe what is good for the goose is good for the gander: they would criminalize both the purchase and sale of sex. Wholesale prohibition would also be attractive because it would sideline the section 15 (equality) Charter challenge that would, no doubt, be brought against demand-side prohibition should it be adopted in Canada.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I understand what Bedford v Canada was about, John. See my response to jade, above. I think I was clear about what the concerns of the intervenors were. I don’t support the Conservative government – never have, never will, so your explanation of the ways in which they do not support the demands or interests of feminists is not at all surprising to me. You’re not the only one in the room who has been paying attention.

          • jade

            *Pimp* is not a legal term Meghan.

            When not working independently I have only worked with agencies who have female sex-worker management and ownership but I assume that’s what you call a pimp regardless of how ethical and fair these people are.

            I am an independent contractor. I am paid by the client. Then the company who provided the advertising, transportation, booking agent and security gets a fair portion of the overall fee. It is well worth it to me for the security and convenience. Why shouldn’t I be able to avail myself of this service? Why are a tiny fraction of feminist orgs fighting my ability to be safer in this way?

            So they want it to be legal for me to work alone in an isolated more dangerous situation?
            I feel their woman-concern like a slap in the face.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m sorry jade, I hadn’t realized we were only using legal terms in this comment section. I suppose, in that case, we should stick with the term ‘prostitution’?

          • jade

            I want to know who you mean when you refer to pimps.
            So do you mean anyone we work with?

          • Meghan Murphy

            No, I don’t mean anyone you work with. I mean those who profit off of prostituted women.

          • Omnia Vanitas

            Meghan: “The sky is blue.” *links to article she wrote on the sky being blue*

            John: “Meghan, let me ‘splain to you that the sky is blue.” *beats on chest*


          • John Lowman

            I must have missed something. I’ve searched your commentary and the links you provide but can’t find any mention of the rationale for the Charter challenge as I just described it.

            The main difference between your position and the Conservatives is that you want to introduce a system of institutionalized entrapment of sex buyers whereas the Conservatives apparently believe that demand and supply interact, which is presumably why they would make sex sellers accountable too.
            Otherwise you support all the laws the Conservatives support and you agree with them that prostitution is inherently harmful, although they make broader claims about what that harm consists of. It is thus not surprising that the Crown recruited well known demand-side prohibitionists like Melissa Farley, Janice Raymond and Richard Poulin as expert witnesses to defend the legal status quo.
            If it looks like a duck…

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Institutionalized entrapment,” huh? Men make a choice to buy women when they know that it is unacceptable and that’s called entrapment? Yeesh.

            And are you seriously going to try to convince me that I’m a Conservative and I just don’t know it? Bonne chance, mon ami. I’m a socialist. In all your years in academia did you manage, somehow, to avoid poli sci? Your libertarian ethics are far more right than anything I have advocated here.

          • John Lowman

            Your faith in criminal law is on a par with the promoters of the war against drugs, U.S. State Department policy on prostitution under George Bush (Farley and Raymond were cited as a couple of the State Department’s main authorities at that time), and the Harper government.

            And it walks like a duck…

          • Meghan Murphy

            Are you kidding me? My “faith in criminal law”? Give it a rest John. You have no clue what you are talking about. Since when do feminists place absolute, unwaivering, blind faith in criminal law? Yes, we need to use the state (unless we are libertarians, which would probably work for a privileged white man, like yourself), but there are many other things that go along with effecting social change. Are you anti-state? Is there any particular reason why you think that feminists shouldn’t expect the state protect women and minorities? What a sick, manipulative way to shame women, John. Would you also argue, then, that rape shouldn’t be criminalized OR that if feminists want to criminalize rape we are, somehow, pro-Bush? Do you think that women who are abused should not expect the police to protect them? What’s lovely about this exchange is that you have, almost immediately, shown your true colours.

          • John Lowman

            Meghan, you said to ned “I completely see where you’re coming from and agree that abolition / The Nordic Model is imperfect on a philosophical / ethical level, but I simply can’t see any other way to make change.”

            It may be begrudging on your part, but I took you to mean what you said – “I simply can’t see any other way to make change” – which is what reminded me of Bush-era prostitution policy, the war against drugs and Harper’s criminal justice policies: they “can’t see any other way to make change” either. Perhaps that’s why they turn a blind eye to evidence that is not consistent with their rhetoric. That reminded me of demand-side prohibitionist analysis too.

            While similar tactics can no doubt be found on all sides of the prostitution debate, here’s an example of the demand-side prohibitionist camp turning a blind eye to evidence – or deliberately fudging it, I’m not sure which.

            Laura Johnston claimed that “The average age of entry into prostitution was reported as 14 and 15 by the research on record” in Bedford v. Canada (The F Word, August 7th 2011, “The Myths of Bedford v. Canada”).

            The research in the Bedford record does not substantiate this core prohibitionist claim.

            In his affidavit for that case, University of Ottawa sociologist and demand-side prohibitionist Richard Poulin similarly claimed that “the average age of recruitment … in Canada is 14 years old” (Joint Application Record Vol. 40, Tab 102, paras 24, 28). Poulin’s testimony deserves special scrutiny in light of the way the majority report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (2007) – the only federal review of Canadian prostitution law to have recommended that Parliament adopt the Nordic model of demand-side prohibition – treated every claim he made at its hearings as established fact.

            As evidence to substantiate his claim about the average age of entry Poulin’s affidavit (para 28) provided several sources. However, under cross examination it became clear that only one of them, McIntyre’s (1999) study of sexually exploited youth, reported the average age of entry of its research participants as being fourteen. Because her sampling procedure excluded anyone who became involved in prostitution as an adult, it is not possible to derive the Canadian average age of entry into prostitution from it. Indeed, it is not possible to estimate that age from any stand-alone non-probabilistic sample.

            Why did Poulin – and, in turn, Laura Johnston – not acknowledge that in other Canadian studies entered into the Bedford record, the average age of entry was higher? For example, in O’Doherty’s (2007) sample of off-street prostitutes in the Lower Mainland it was 22, in Benoit and Millar’s (2001) mixed sample in the Capital Regional District it was 19, and in Farley et al’s (2003, 2005) sample of Vancouver street prostitutes it was 18.

            As Poulin subsequently acknowledged under cross-examination, “There’s no national inquiry in Canada, so nobody can have the pretence of knowing when people enter the sex trade, at what age” (Joint Application Record Vol. 43, Tab 105, q. 158).

            The Women’s Coalition Intervener factum similarly does not provide evidence justifying the blanket claim that the average of entry is 14 or 15. When it came to identifying research in the Bedford record, the Coalition factum cited only secondary sources (the 1985 Fraser Committee Report, the 1989 Justice Department Synthesis Report reviewing the communicating law, and the 2006 Subcommittee on Soliciting Law Report) all of which refer to convenience samples of mostly street prostitutes that cannot be generalized to the whole sex worker population.

            When a person enters prostitution as an adult, it is much more difficult to question their decisional capacity and agency, argue that they should be saved from their own decisions, and maintain a system of prohibition that prevents them from taking control of their own work circumstances.

            Perhaps that’s why, despite the evidence before the court, the Attorney General of Canada claimed that the average of entry into prostitution in Canada is between 14 and 16 (2009, Factum para. 49), and why Vancouver Rape Relief and other demand-side prohibitionists continue to claim that the average age of entry is fourteen or younger. If they say it enough times no one will think to examine the research.

            Having said that, I would note that the two main feminist sides in the prostitution law reform debate all too often lose sight of the fact that both pro-choice (decriminalization) and equality-first (demand-side prohibition) feminists agree that a wide range of policies and initiatives are required to deal with systemic racism, effects of colonization on Aboriginal peoples, feminization of poverty, male violence against women, etc. etc. They all agree that criminal law has a role to play, even if they strongly disagree about what that role should be.

    • Laurel

      “Do you say you rent/sell your mind or hands if you use them in your job?”

      Well, I’ve never worked a job where my mind was ejaculated into.

      But as I said in a previous post, would you go up to a construction worker and say his job is similar to prostitution because they both involve labor with their hands?

      • jade

        I use my mind on the job and it’s not ejaculated into either.

        A typical one hour appointment includes about 5-10 minutes of sexual contact.

  • marv wheale

    Komal, you did say “feminism may not be enough to make an airtight case against prostitution” and “if you offer reasons why prostitution ought ot be opposed that do not just depend upon the assumption of prostitution involving coercion or abuse, then you have a stronger abolitionist case.” Then you claim that prostitution is wrong because of patriarchy and that it is “unhealthy since it involves emotionally alienated sexual encounters.” I’m sorry if I misconstrued your perspective in my previous comments but you can easily be interpreted as treating sexual health as both a marker for preserving personal dignity and as a tactical reason to oppose prostitution. The personal and political are inseparably entangled in social life anyway.

    So I now hear you saying that reciprocal tenderness or emotional intimacy is an essential but incomplete requirement for healthy sexual relations. This idea is not a political manouver but a basic truth of life. You see the eradication of patriarchy as the foundation for true sexual intimacy to occur as well. For me, loving or loveless sex within or outside of prostitution is problemmatic because of the structural violence of the male ruled systems in which all love and sex are embedded. The violence is firstly the institutional inequality that divides us into unequal social groups, men over women. Heterosexuality is compulsory to it. Physical and verbal aggression are symptoms of it. But many men are not violent to women personally, which also means these men donot use pornography, visit strip clubs or buy (rent) prostitutes. I’m likely rambling about what you already don’t refute so on to my next observation.

    I tend to agree with Meghan that there doesn’t have to be emotional intimacy for sex to be nourishing as long as kindness and compassion are involved which implies no coercion too. Furthermore for heterosexuals, a man should not be much older than a woman. Few older men see younger women sex partners as their equals. Moreover I realize I could be unduly biased about the indifference to intimacy part since I belong to the privileged male class and don’t experience sexism like a woman . In any case I would definitely not want to have sex with someone if there was no love between us. I believe in emotional closeness myself but am not prepared to attribute it to others.

    More importantly to me though is to advocate for as little sex as possible. We are rarely able to separate equality desires from the inequality ones implanted in our heads by family, friends, media, love songs, religion, school, pornography and community life in general. As Joyce so aptly stated, “It is enough to make a woman celibate, which really isn’t a bad way to go, compared to the alternaives.” Society’s preoccupation with healthy or unhealthy sex diverts our consideration away from other more liberating nonsexual relationships that do not fall into a stereotypical sex oriented outlook. One may say, “why can’t we have both”? I think many people already do. But sex relationships dominate as a structure. Just look at all the emphasis on pair bonding over platonic friendships. The social status of the former is much higher than the latter. We are considered single if we don’t have a lover or spouse even though we may have many supportive and loving friends. The sheer pervasiveness of sex coupling leads to undervaluing androgonous affinities which is really couple status colonization and fundamentalism. Being opposed to sex for political reasons undermines not only sex relationship dominance but sexism as well because it makes it more difficult for men to control women. Instead of following patriarchal sex scripted roles women could wander more freely down unexplored paths. This applies to men too. Decolonizing desire liberates that which our social conditioning suppresses. Yet it may seem counterintuitive to decentre or renounce sexual activity as a way of fighting sexual inequality and reclaiming our bodies and minds especially if you have resented people who have told you who you should or should not have sex with.

    Sex positive people may think my analysis overstates or overloads the meaning of sexual relationships as a construct of patriarchy because it takes the “personal as political” to the extreme. That one of the sources for overcoming both sexual and “relationship type” inequality is giving preference to platonic love will be revelatory to some, obvious to others and absurd to many. For now I will continue to believe that those who reduce or withdraw from sexual encounters – in the face of social pressures and inner stirrings to be sexually active – uplift their lives by expanding their consiousness and choices rather than focusing on the sex partners we have been taught to choose. They may even come to the conclusion that nothing compares to the joys of alternative egalitarian friendship and a political commitment to equality – but I doubt it. Regardless, no apologies to the sex derepression therapists and feminist pornstitution people.

    • Komal

      Oh I’m totally with you on advocating for less sex. But my reason for being ‘sex-negative’ is not feminist, but is my general belief in asceticism.

      I’m not sure where you and I disagree, to be honest. I think sex should not happen except within the context of a sufficiently healthy emotional relationship. Sex between people who do not know each other cannot be nourishing; sex is by its very nature a draining activity, and the less intimacy between you and the other person, the more draining it will be. Physical pleasure is irrelevant to this, and is generally morally irrelevant IMO.

      • marv wheale

        Perhaps the differences between us have to do with motives and semantics. At any rate whether they are insignificant or substantial I am grateful to you and the others for this discussion. I am so proud to be a part of this feminist blog site and its illustrious contributers. Emotional and physical health to you all.

    • Meghan Murphy

      This is awesome, womanonajourney. Thanks for sharing.

  • jade

    Meghan anyone we work with makes money. That’s why it’s called WORK.
    So a driver or the receptionist or security AKA my entire safety net is a PIMP under your definition.
    So abolitionists/radfems want me to be able to do sex work alone without threat of jail so long as I do it as dangerously as possible by criminalizing anyone else I work with. Working in isolation would be the only legal way.

    That is status-quo right now. That is why Sex Workers want “avails” invalidated. It effects anyone who in part lives on the avails of prostitution. THat law endangers us.

    Abolitionists & radfems do not care about the safety of prostitutes. That much is clear.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t believe anyone is looking to arrest your receptionist, jade. In any case, I just can’t see the purpose of having this conversation. Do you also argue that those who want to stop misogynist pornography are taking jobs away from women?? I mean, this argument seems so narrow minded to me. DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING. EVER. Because it will certainly impact someone. Are you absolutely certain you want to do this job for the rest of your life? And nothing else? The idea is that there would be other ways for women to make a living…. I’m simply not prepared to give up on an egalitarian society, give up on women, accept the idea that men are simply entitled to access to women 24/7, because some of your clients might feel a little sketched out. I’m not interested in decriminalizing abusive pimps or johns *just* because it might impact your income. That has never been in line with any progressive movement and it certainly won’t lead to positive social change. I don’t think we need to throw women under the bus because of your job. I certainly don’t think that women need to keep being raped and abused and treated like garbage because you’re having an ok time. That doesn’t work for me, ethically or politically.

      • jade

        A receptionists and driver were arrested in Toronto a few years back. Wrong again.

        • jade

          And abolitionists efforts are contributing to the danger hookers face.
          Fuck us right? Go pursue your egalitarian society on our graves.

          • jade

            you don’t differentiate between abusive co-worker and non excellent ones. Neither does the law on avails. We do.

            We want helpful staff. You don’t want us to have any…..at our peril.

            Pretty scummy on your part.

          • jade

            ignore the “non” before excellent on above post.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Jade, I can’t help but see your outlook as somewhat selfish. I don’t see how “me, me, me me, me” “now, now, now, now, now, now” is going to bring us any closer to an egalitarian, feminist, society. I’m sure that the receptionists and drivers and security guards can find other jobs. I’m hoping that we can build a society wherein you will be able to make a living doing something else as well. In the meantime, sure, let’s try to decriminalize all of you, except for the abusive men. But I’m not going to advocate that we should legalize misogyny because your receptionist needs a job.

            I’d also like to point you to Ned’s commentary below, which, in my opinion, aptly sums up the differences in our positions and why it seems impossible to come to any agreement on this issue.

            From Ned: “I mentioned the white middle class thing to emphasize that it seems impossible for women to actually flourish in the sex industry (psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) without having some baseline level of privilege to begin with (e.g. there have been some high-profile cases of white women with PhDs who became high-class escorts catering to the male corporate world).

            Of course one could argue that some women don’t actually want to flourish psychologically, emotionally or intellectually, and don’t want to defeat structural male political, economic and social dominance of women. That certainly seems to be the case for a majority of women involved in porn, sex work and BDSM: for them, individual liberty and short-term pleasures and gains are more important than sustaining the long-term social and political equality of men and women. But in that case they are working at cross-purposes with gender-egalitarianism, which is my whole point. Do it, but know what you’re doing and know the consequences for yourself and for the wider society. Radical feminists aren’t getting riled up for no reason. We are perceiving some very real consequences of the hijacking of feminism by the sexual libertarian agenda.”

        • Meghan Murphy

          I imagine they’ll be able to find other receptionist and driver positions, yes?

  • ned

    I’m late joining in on this discussion, but I too have been feeling for a while that an airtight argument against the sex industry would have to be based on an ethical theory that includes feminism and social egalitarian thought, but that also articulates what would be the ethically preferable relationship between sex, emotional trust, intimacy, power and commerce/commodification. Ethically preferable in the sense of promoting optimal human psychological and emotional flourishing, and of producing stable, creative, egalitarian and just societies. And in addition to looking at the costs of the sex industry to women’s political and social status, it might be necessary to look at the social costs of the commodification of sexuality more generally.

    I know anti-sex-industry feminists are constantly on guard against being called moralists or prudes but I think to waste time trying to debunk that is to play right into the sexual libertarians’ game. I believe that’s why Komal even says she’s ‘sex-negative’, tongue-in-cheek style.

    It also seems to me that much of the sex wars debate in feminism really boils down to the age-old conflict between liberty and equality: are we willing to limit our individual liberties to sustain egalitarian societies or will we leave individual liberties in place and allow people to make choices that threaten egalitarianism between groups (gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, able-bodiedness, etc.)? Feminists that privilege individual liberty over wider egalitarian ideals are likely to support the sex industry (though I’d argue that such feminists are operating on a really shallow notion of negative liberty); and those that think it is important for women to be equal to men in every area of human endeavour* are likely to be against the sex industry.

    Speaking for myself, I am not swayed at all by the pro-sex-industry arguments and I continue to think that the sex industry is deeply misogynistic, reinforces male-female inequalities, props up a toxic sexual culture built on the eroticization of power differentials, is pretty much an existential and cultural black hole in the sense of making no real cultural contribution to society, and has other wider social and ethical costs.

    That said, I am also not convinced by other side:

    1) I’m not convinced that criminalization, either of the supply side or of the demand side, is a solution. I’m a radical in theory but I often end up being a liberal in practice because I’m just not that comfortable with leveraging state mechanisms to enforce what I think are ultimately ethical and moral claims, especially in sexual matters (and trust me, I’m quite a conservative in my personal sexual ethics).

    In fact I’m not convinced that legal maneuvering is a solution at all and as an individual I lean toward wanting to use the tools of intellectual and cultural criticism rather than legal mechanisms to discourage the mainstreaming and spread of the sex industry. I’d much rather that people arrive willingly at the conclusion that they can do better than selling or buying sex, without state social engineering mechanisms enforcing those choices, no matter how well-intentioned those social engineering mechanisms are and no matter how good and desireable the intended social outcomes of those mechanisms are.

    Of course you can build in some kind of civil rights legislation that allows women to sue for assault and abuse in the sex industry, MacKinnon/Dworkin style, but that is far from abolition, which I am increasingly uncomfortable with because of its authoritarianism. Beyond a certain point you can’t really take responsibility for other people’s poor choices to sell or buy sex.

    2) I’m also not convinced that the sex industry can be equated with slavery. Of course sexual slavery exists, but the sex industry more generally can’t be equated with that, especially since there is clearly a sizeable minority of women (white, middle class, apparently) who willingly choose to work in the sex industry because it pays more than some other jobs.

    * At least as far as embodiment can permit … obviously men can’t give birth and women’s physical thresholds in athletics and the military will be lower than men’s overall.

    • sam

      Are you saying you won’t believe prostitution is enormously deadly and destructive to millions of women and children until there’s 100% agreement among all the prostitutes in the world? No other group of millions of people is expected to display flawless ideological purity before the injustices they face as a group are addressed.

      The Swedish model has been working better than any other solution applied to date. I’m not about to reject a working model on overbroad philosophies about the inherent evils of people forming groups to fix problems that could be applied to every social problem.

      “I lean toward wanting to use the tools of intellectual and cultural criticism rather than legal mechanisms”

      As rebelliously exciting as your Wild West future sounds, I’m going to have to reject a lifetime of fruitlessly begging men to be less violent, selfish fuckheads. In research about rape, the least effective way for a woman to avoid being raped was to try and talk her rapist out of it.

      Excerpt from the book The Female Fear:

      “Rape may be especially fear-inducing because of the widespread belief that it is nearly always linked to gratuitous violence (in addition to the rape itself), and that it is nearly impossible to resist successfully. Both of these positions reflect media coverage but are contrary to fact(1).

      Two recent studies comparing women who were raped with those who managed to deflect an attack found that successful resisters were those who from the moment they realized they might be in danger used a combination of self-protective strategies, for example, physical resistance, screaming, and trying to flee, and the like(2). Active, forceful fighting at the onset of an attack rather than passive pleading or screaming appears to be more successful in warding off attackers(3). In addition to thwarting the assault, resistance appears to help many women preserve their self-esteem and lessen the psychological damage done by rape(4).

      1. Hindelang and Davis 1972; McDermott 1979; Block and Skogan 1982.
      2. Bart 1981; Bart and O’Brien 1985; McIntyre, Myint, and Curtis 1979.
      3. Bart 1981; Sanders 1980; see also Carter, Prentky, and Burgess 1988.
      4. Janoff-Bulman 1979; Sanders 1980.

      A woman shared the story of a man who pulled a woman off the street and into an alley to rape her. She pleaded for her life by telling him she was a prostitute and would go along with anything sexual he wanted if he didn’t hurt her. He reacted with anger and became a flurry of punching fists, cheated of the satisfaction he sought by breaking a woman himself. All that risk to find she was already broken by countless others.

      I choose organized resistance over toothlessly begging men to stop their femicidal ways.

      • Komal

        This is totally irrelevant. Ned is talking about prostitution, not rape. The fact that the latter happens in the former does not make the two the same.

        Although I take a stronger position than her (I take an abolitionist position), I think your response involved attacking a straw man.

        • sam

          From prostitute-using men’s perspective rape and prostitution are the same. Johns have said what it will take to make them stop, and just like with other forms of rape the least effective method is ned’s preferred one of talk and education. According to johns, applying social, financial and material consequences is the most effective.


          110 prostitute-using men’s answers to the question, “What changes would have to take place in order to end prostitution?”

          89% Being added to a sex offender registry

          86% Having your picture and/or name on a billboard

          84% Having your picture and/or name in the local newspaper

          79% Having to spend time in jail

          78% Having your picture and/or name posted on the internet

          77% A letter being sent to your family saying you were arrested for soliciting
          a woman in prostitution

          72% Greater criminal penalty

          70% Having your car impounded

          69% Higher monetary fine

          56% Required to attend an educational program for men who buy prostitutes

          • ned

            “From prostitute-using men’s perspective rape and prostitution are the same. Johns have said what it will take to make them stop, and just like with other forms of rape the least effective method is ned’s preferred one of talk and education. According to johns, applying social, financial and material consequences is the most effective.”

            Sam, I respect your position, but you are actually side-stepping what I am saying. Johns may say that they will only stop IF the purchase of sexual services is treated as rape by law, but that is not equivalent to saying that johns themselves (or sex workers who are selling them sexual services) believe that the purchase of sexual services is rape or violence. The sex workers in this thread are all claiming that their clients have not committed violence or abuse against them. I’m trying not to ignore that in my analysis of this issue, even as I’m trying to keep in mind that gazillions of empirical studies show that most johns are pretty much misogynists.

            I’ve been collecting resources on sex trafficking and sexual slavery in South Asia for the last four hours, so I am 110% sure that the experience of the sex workers in this thread is certainly not true in most parts of the world. As I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, it seems like to do reasonably well in the sex industry you kind of have to be white and middle class and living in a stable Western liberal democracy to begin with, and that’s pretty much the only way you can claim that you made a free choice about it.

            My question to you is simply this: if women like the ones in this thread exist, women who claim that the sex industry is great and peachy and nonviolent, and they’d really like it if we didn’t criminalize their clients as that will put them out of business, on what basis do you propose framing abolitionist laws that ignore their experiences? That is literally my only question. I am just looking for some satisfying justification for this and for more empirical evidence that the Nordic model has been producing satisfying results. If you can point me to sources, that would be great. I tried to find the Swedish government’s 2010 report, but I couldn’t.

          • sam

            “on what basis do you propose framing abolitionist laws that ignore their experiences?”

            I already answered your question when you asked it below as, “what about the women (like jade in this thread) who make the apparently free choice?” My answer shows I’ve ignored no one and believe in equal treatment.

            The sex workers in this thread are all claiming that their clients have not committed violence or abuse against them.

            They all are not.

          • John Lowman


            You say there are “gazillions of empirical studies show that most johns are pretty much misogynists.”

            Surely there are just as many client studies that question this finding. The trick, so to speak, is figuring out what to believe.

          • On the contrary there are not large quantities of studies showing johns are misogynists. There are now studies of men who buy sex which all tell us something about the specific group that researchers targeted and managed to talk to. It is absurd to refer to ‘clients’ or ‘johns’ in general terms, as it is to talk about people who sell sex that way. What is the problem with accepting diversity in this field of life?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I know, I know. They’re all just ‘nice’ guys, right? The problem is how you define ‘nice’. Just because a john doesn’t beat or rape or kill a woman does not mean he views women as his equals. In fact, the mere fact that he believes he is entitled to purchase sex from a woman shows that he does not respect women as his equals. It is both sad and disturbing that we have normalized this concept to such a point where we have such low expectations of men. No man who buys sex is a feminist. He is a man who is benefiting from a patriarchal society. No matter what your research and stats show, this is true.

          • I didn’t say anyone was nice, did I? I said there are studies that show one thing and another, according to how research studies were designed and how researchers found men to ask their questions. I am the last person to idealise ‘research’. It is certainly true that everything we are discussing takes place within an unspeakably unfair world. I note Esther’s comment about utopias and yours to Lowman about equality, and it feels as though we are in non-connecting conversations about what to do now versus what to do for the achievement of long-term utopic goals.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m sorry, you’re right. You said that studies show not all johns are misogynists.
            Re: utopias – Maybe we can just move away from ‘utopia’ and talk about working towards an egalitarian or feminist society and working towards ending patriarchy. It seems that when we start using words like ‘utopia’ we connect those ideas with fantasy-worlds and we aren’t, of course, talking about fantasy; we are talking about real life and feminism is a real-life movement towards ending patriarchy. In my opinion, prostitution exists because of patriarchy and to decriminalize pimps and johns would be to further legitimize sexist behaviour and attitudes.

      • ned

        “Are you saying you won’t believe prostitution is enormously deadly and destructive to millions of women and children until there’s 100% agreement among all the prostitutes in the world?”

        No, I’m saying it should be possible to criminalize abuse and violence of all sorts within and outside the sex industry without having to outright criminalize any and all buying and selling of sex. You can frame laws to criminalize rape, assault, etc. but not criminalize the sex trade in and of itself.

        “I choose organized resistance over toothlessly begging men to stop their femicidal ways.”

        And what about the women (like jade in this thread) who make the apparently free choice to enable men in their femicidal ways? What are you going to do about them? Keep patronizing them and denying their moral agency?

        See my comment below — I’m more and more leaning toward soft paternalism and not outright criminalization.

        Also, I really don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said. I dislike the sex industry immensely, and wish it would disappear off the face of the planet, and think it is as damaging as you say it is. The problem is that people who support it are as convinced that the sex industry is not inherently as violent as you claim it is. Nothing you or I say seems to convince them otherwise.

        I’ll ignore your condescension for now.

        • sam

          That has been answered several times now: The Nordic model does not criminalize prostitutes.

          I would like to make myself a rich woman by starting a rapist assassination social service business, but society has decided it’s best for everyone (obviously not best for me) that I not be permitted to make money any way I deem personally and morally satisfying. Communities have no obligation to indulge either of our personally profitable desires and plenty of practical reasons to refuse them.

          “The problem is that people who support it are as convinced that the sex industry is not inherently as violent as you claim it is.”

          Those people are wrong. Empirically, factually, count-the-dead-bodies wrong. Wrong like climate change deniers are wrong.

      • ned

        “I choose organized resistance over toothlessly begging men to stop their femicidal ways.”

        Since when is cultural criticism not organized resistance? Cultural criticism has always been at the heart of radical feminism’s critique of sexual politics.

        You’ve either misread me or are being deliberately uncharitable in interpreting what I’m trying to say. I’m pointing out that there are pros and cons to criminalization, and there are pros and cons to sex worker rights initiatives. I try not to caricature my opponents’ arguments.

    • ned

      I also wanted to add that I’m a lot more comfortable with “soft paternalism” than with outright criminalization as far as the sex industry is concerned. That is to say, we could have governmental initiatives and legal mechanisms that:

      – Allow women in the industry to prosecute clients/employers for assault and abuse
      – Provide rehabilitation routes and other options for women seeking to escape the industry
      – Give incentives to people to not participate in the sex industry
      – Regulate the sex industry esp. by enforcing the use of contraception etc.
      – Support cultural initiatives that critique the sex industry

      And so on.

      As far as outright criminalization goes, I think we should obviously criminalize sex trafficking, sexual slavery and all other kinds of non-consensual, abusive sex. We should also criminalize child pornography, child prostitution, etc. But I’m having a lot of trouble stomaching the total abolition of any and all work in the sex industry, even where the sex workers in question are claiming to be consensually engaged in it.

      Rather than patronize such presumably willing sex workers and tell them that criminalizing their clients is for their own protection (a position that they rightly find absurd), I’d much rather treat them as moral agents and as equals, and, recognizing their inherent agency and dignity and capacity to change and make worthy choices, I would tell them that I truly believe they are making poor choices that harm both them as individuals and women as a whole, and that are existentially nihilistic and devoid of moral or cultural value. That’s the truth as far as I can tell, and I see no reason to budge from it. Believing that they are making poor choices and participating in an inegalitarian and morally toxic industry, while being too PC to say this to them, and at the same time claiming to be pushing for abolition legislation to “protect” them, seems really disingenuous and insincere to me.

      I also think that there is a difference between criminalizing, say, highly addictive drugs, and criminalizing sex work. With highly addictive drugs the damage to people’s health is immediate, obvious (even to drug addicts themselves), and comes at tremendous cost in terms of public health expenditure and taxpayer money. These are all things that can be quantified and measured and shared in the public sphere quite easily, so it isn’t difficult to make a solid case for criminalization of highly addictive drugs.

      The damage caused by the sex industry (thinking here about the more “consensual” portion of it) is more subtle, more long-term and less immediately visible, especially to the people who are participating in it. It is harder to quantify this damage and to share it in the public sphere, and then base criminalization legislation on such public reasoning. Even though my convictions regarding the negative long-term consequences of the sex industry for male-female relations and for the cultural health of a society remain strong, other people obviously have a different set of values than me (that I would argue is flat-out wrong or very limited) and will argue that a reformed sex industry would be gender-egalitarian and non-violent and overall just peachy.

      Fine, whatever. Even though I find such a contention absurd from a historical-critical angle and from a simple knowledge of human nature, I suggest we let them try out their reform projects. In parallel, people who are anti-sex-industry can push for the kinds of “soft paternalism” I’m suggesting above. And let the chips fall where they may. This way we can all get what we want — current sex workers can get the legal protections they are seeking and the rest of us can try to incentivise them and others to leave the sex industry and to prevent its mainstreaming.

      The Nordic model may work in the Nordic countries, but those are countries with cultures in which people are highly compliant w.r.t. their governments anyway (i.e. they have a great respect for government authority). I’m not sure this model will work everywhere in the world, esp. in North American culture which tends to be much more skeptical of the state.

      At its heart, this is a culture war, and I’m just more interested in fighting it with the tools of cultural criticism (combined with soft paternalism in terms of legal maneuvering) than with outright criminalization.

      I’m quite confident that with the passage of time we’ll see that it’s impossible to redeem sex work and the sex industry, and maybe people will just have to learn these lessons the hard way. Meanwhile we just have to learn to co-exist with our opponents and to deal creatively and constructively with the obstacles they place in the way of the realization of a gender-egalitarian world.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Ned,

      I agree with you in many places here. Particularly that ” much of the sex wars debate in feminism really boils down to the age-old conflict between liberty and equality: are we willing to limit our individual liberties to sustain egalitarian societies or will we leave individual liberties in place and allow people to make choices that threaten egalitarianism between groups (gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, able-bodiedness, etc.)? Feminists that privilege individual liberty over wider egalitarian ideals are likely to support the sex industry (though I’d argue that such feminists are operating on a really shallow notion of negative liberty); and those that think it is important for women to be equal to men in every area of human endeavour* are likely to be against the sex industry.”

      But I, like Sam, just don’t think that “intellectual and cultural criticism” is going to cut it at this point. I mean, how long have we been doing this educating, and things are getting worse rather than better? Because of power differentials and because systems are patriarchal at the core, men continue to believe and to convince one another that it is acceptable to treat women in this way. What difference will *only* intellectual criticism make? Particularly outside academia. We would be preaching to the converted, or at very least, a minority of people who were engaged in (and were able to be engaged in, meaning that these conversations are not necessarily accessible to most people) intellectual and philosophical discourse. So, at this point, I do believe we need “legal mechanisms to discourage the mainstreaming and spread of the sex industry.” And that isn’t because I love cops or the legal system, but I don’t think rejecting those institutions entirely is going to get us anywhere. If that were the case I’d just stop voting. I would also “much rather that people arrive willingly at the conclusion that they can do better than selling or buying sex,” but it’s not going to happen. I’m not anti-state – I believe that we need the state to change the systems and that this will change society. Otherwise I feel like we’re just working towards libertarianism, which won’t support the poor or the oppressed….

      • ned

        Meghan, I see what you’re saying, but I’m not actually advocating libertarianism per se. I’m fine with soft paternalism — enacting social policies that nudge people toward better choices (see my second comment above for examples).

        The reason I’m finding it hard to get behind abolitionist initiatives is because of the whole consent thing. On what basis can one criminalize the consensual buying and selling of sexual services? Just can’t get behind it. And we can argue that most sex work isn’t consensual till we go blue in the face, except that I’m aware of empirical work (e.g. see the book “Sex for Sale”) showing that there are enough women who claim to be willing participants in the industry, and as I much as I *wish* they didn’t exist, they do. So how can we frame laws that deny their existence?

        I truly think sometimes that a certain section of women are women’s own worst enemies, and certainly among the worst enemies of feminism and gender-egalitarianism. I’m finding it hard to keep denying such women their moral agency. They are making bad choices, and they are doing so willingly. I have to hold them responsible for this and not keep blaming men for the choices these women are making. We cannot expect the privileged class to change — it’s the subordinate class that has to resist for that to happen.

        Moreover, I’m finding it hard to understand the logic of criminalizing johns while letting sex workers off scot-free. If you’re going to criminalize, you have to criminalize both sides (though you could potentially make a case for making the punishments worst for the johns).

        And thanks for the conversation, in general — I’m really just trying to sort out these very complex issues in my head.

        • Meghan Murphy

          It is complex. And thanks for your thoughts. It’s a tough call for sure and I think your points are valid. I suppose, in the end, what it comes down to for me is that, regardless of consent, men still remain in a position of power in prostitution. So that’s how I justify criminalizing the men and not the women. That isn’t to say that these women have no agency, but rather that their agency is limited. Men, meanwhile are simply continuing to use their power for their own means, at the expense of women as a whole (I know you already get this, I’m not trying to just re-explain to you, just clarify for everyone). I’m just not quite sure how to effect change without making that clear? Without making it clear that ‘consent’ is not as simple as all that? In term of criminalizing women, well, the way I see it is that many women are forced (whatever degree of ‘forced’ we’re looking at) to ‘choose’ prostitution because they are poor…So I feel like criminalizing prostituted women would equate to criminalizing poverty.

          I completely see where you’re coming from and agree that abolition / The Nordic Model is imperfect on a philosophical / ethical level, but I simply can’t see any other way to make change. If we go for straight up legalization, we turn the state into the pimp and effectively legitimize pimps and johns. If we criminalize everyone we end up throwing women in jail who may not have any alternatives to prostitution. Is there another option I’m not thinking of?

          • ned

            I also do understand your perspective, and believe me, I’ve literally come to grief over this issue over the last year trying to come up with a feminism-informed, morally consistent and intellectually coherent way to oppose the sex industry without denying agency, dignity and even culpability to sex workers. 😉

            I’ve been going over the old MacKinnon/Dworkin antipornography civil rights legislation recently, which I see as a type of soft paternalism. It wasn’t going to criminalize pornography or censor it, but this legislation would certainly have turned the tables on the porn industry in many ways by forcing it to face its inherently inegalitarian and immoral nature. I’m going through the civil rights hearings as well as I’m really curious as to why it didn’t pass. Prostitution is not the same thing as pornography but perhaps some kind of similar civil rights legislation could also be tried out.

            Other than that, I suggested other possible soft paternalistic options above, including creating rehabilitation routes and incentivising women to leave the sex industry.

            This is a side note but I wanted to mention the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India as an example of a highly successful project in one of the most misogynistic cultures in the world. Although they don’t work primarily with sex workers, they have rehabilitated sex workers and given them an escape route from the sex industry in India. I have to say, these women, coming from incredibly underprivileged backgrounds, have ten times the dignity and work ethic of privileged white women who willingly choose sex work. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is for me, as a non-Western woman, to come to a Western country and find that such a large number of women are perfectly happy to betray the ideal of gender-egalitarianism when they have the privilege and the resources and the cultural supports to make different choices.

        • Mademoiselle B.

          Meghan, as you say they are your rules so you can choose not to post my comments. I could have easily made up a name, as I’m sure others do, which wouldn’t have made any difference or given away my identity and no one would even have known the difference. However I think the fact that I cannot risk doing so – not because I’m hiding anything from people that matter. I’m not, they already know. But because the internet is forever, the stigma is very real and I have no desire to be in a situation where it turns out to be harmful to myself or to others I care about. In my opinion I think it’s pretty reasonable and I would hope you could appreciate that I’m being honest instead of just making up a name, and that you would understand and respect my reasons but if you choose to refuse to post my comments then so be it. But I’m not sure why it’s an issue for me when numerous commentors aren’t using their full names or even actual names either.

          [quote from ned]
          “Even though my convictions regarding the negative long-term consequences of the sex industry for male-female relations and for the cultural health of a society remain strong, other people obviously have a different set of values than me (that I would argue is flat-out wrong or very limited) and will argue that a reformed sex industry would be gender-egalitarian and non-violent and overall just peachy.”
          [end quote]

          You’ve articulate a few points better than I’ve been able to when trying to explain how I see the Nordic model approach. To me, it is just beyond absurd and I’m genuinely puzzled by the fact that people could continue to make that argument without realizing this. However the one point where I disagree is we’re arguing that everything would be peachy and neglecting to acknowledge the violence that does exist and the women who have limited options and don’t want to be doing sex work. I don’t know anyone who has ever made such a claim. It gets frustrating that many people don’t seem to be able to accept that things are simply not all black or all white but that there are so many shades of grey in between that can’t be ignored. It may be easier to take a strong position when the whole issue is made that simple but I don’t think it’s helpful to anyone. That’s what I think is important. What sex workers are saying that despite what anyone thinks of it, sex work does exists. And despite anyone’s position, sex work is going to exist in the near future too. While everyone is debating and arguing over what it means, why it exists and whether or not we want to see it end, there are people who are being forced into even more dangerous working conditions and do not enjoy basic rights that others do. What we are saying is that regardless of what one’s position might be, we deserve those rights and we shouldn’t be denied these rights and made more vulnerable, just so that people are able to use laws to make a statement.

          While I think there will always be a huge difference in the way we view sexuality and that it seems to be virtually impossible for most people who subscribe to the cultural norms when it comes to sexuality whereas it is fundamentally . So you can have your own moral objections to it because it but the fact remains that not everyone subscribes to this idea of sex. Consequentially, you can be morally opposed to it but you’ll have to acknowledge that those are you morals but I do not personally share the same beliefs, and based on my beliefs, however unpopular they may be at this time, there is no moral conflict. You can believe your beliefs about sex are the right ones but all you can support that claim with is to remind me those beliefs are the norm and those held by the majority of people. That’s very true but that doesn’t establish their superiority, it simply confirms their popularity, which are two different things.

          I do appreciate the honesty in acknowledging that morality is an important factor in shaping your opinion. Although obviously I don’t agree with your conclusion, it’s at least a nice change from the usual denial of this fact. Clearly this is a significant aspect of the abolitionist position and I’ll admit I find it frustrating because people may very well be convinced it does not and even if they deny it, what they don’t seem to realize is that it is often detectable in their arguments and comments. They probably genuinely don’t recognize this because they do not question their assumption that everyone must subscribe to the same beliefs as they do or expect that everyone should.

          What people have to realize is that your views of sex are not the be-all-end-all universally approved set of beliefs. Because you assume something is inherently degrading because based on your ideas it would feel degrading to you – does not mean it is degrading or that it feel degrading to others. The very same situation could be interpreted and experienced completely differently and in a lot of these discussions there is always the assumption that what seems degrading to you automatically is done to degrade and experienced as degrading, which I’m very sorry but it is simply not the case. Ignoring this and forcing your own feelings on different aspects of sex on others and projecting your own feelings is really quite unfair and . When I hear the language used by abolitionists, I swear I cannot help but cringe. I mean, just the language they use is degrading, disturbing and almost traumatizing on its own!

          It’s like their own beliefs and imagination and resulting projections are so demeaning I can’t help but be offended and angry initially but then I also feel pity for the torment they inflict on themselves! It’s like “good god, that sounds so traumatizing and horrible – you must be really upset by those thoughts, poor thing. And then I realize they’re really picturing these things as reality across the board – no doubts about it. And then I think ‘ oh geez, get a grip will ya. Oh the drama.”. But that is another barrier because it’s quite apparent that they’ve imagined and created twisted and masochistic stories, which they insist on legitimizing or re-affirming with their choice of language. But how do you discuss the issue in any meaningful way when those with no experience to base their position and arguments on are obsessively insisting on a fictional, exaggerated and over-dramatized depictions of what they believe they know is real sex work? How do you get anywhere? You don’t. But you can’t do anything because they have decided their mental fantasies are reality. I mean, Bleh. Really, that’s another absolutely absurd way of thinking I truly do not understand. How is that rational? Can someone explain that to me? I don’t understand why the theatrics and shocking language is necessary or how it helps understand or discuss the issue.

          (Btw – I just want to apologize if some of my comments are not clear. English isn’t my first language and sometimes I have a lot of difficulty finding the correct words.)

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think you’re misunderstanding me here. You don’t have to use your real name. Most people here don’t. See the comment policy.

          • ned

            “You can believe your beliefs about sex are the right ones but all you can support that claim with is to remind me those beliefs are the norm and those held by the majority of people. That’s very true but that doesn’t establish their superiority, it simply confirms their popularity, which are two different things.”

            But I don’t think my beliefs about sex or sex work are the right ones based on their popularity. I’m not sure where you got that from. I believe they are superior for a very wide range of reasons, including the radical feminist analysis, but also based on a number of ethical traditions, both Eastern and Western, and empirical research on sexuality and emotional health.

            I also feel it is disingenuous of you to act like the radical feminist sexual ethic is the norm. Actually, an egalitarian sexual ethic as advocated by radical feminism is not the norm anywhere in the world, nor has it ever been so in any culture at any time in human history. The vast majority of mainstream “vanilla” heterosexual relations in real life and as depicted in the media are chock full of inegalitarian power dynamics. It’s almost as if the sex industry and BDSM culture hold up a mirror to mainstream society, exposing its moral hypocrisies by embodying an exaggerated version of them.

            What radical feminism offers is the *real* alternative, one that has NEVER actually been tried out in any culture: let’s have a sexual ethic based on egalitarianism, without the eroticization of a power differential, grounded in mutual trust, empathy and consent, and that doesn’t contribute to systemic power imbalances. Neither mainstream vanilla heterosexual culture nor the pro-porn, pro-sex-work, pro-BDSM people have any intention of trying out this option.

            I’m not really disagreeing with the rest of what you’re saying. What I’m moving toward is a more soft paternalistic position that tries to incentivise people to leave the sex industry (whether as seller or buyer). As far as I’m concerned, though I’m not personally willing to get invested or get behind them ideologically (since I believe they are working at cross-purposes with the goal of gender egalitarianism), sex workers have a right to fight for legal protections and to try to reform their industry (and their clients), though I firmly believe that if history is any indication, they will almost certainly fail. But by all means — sex workers are free to try.

            Equally, I’m free to try to create routes by which sex workers can leave their profession (esp. in the South Asian [India, Pakistan, Bangladesh] context, which is where I’m based), and to push for social policies that incentivise such exits from the sex industry.

            It seems to me that this is the only way for sex worker rights people and anti-sex-industry feminists to do their own thing without getting in each other’s way. I do also feel that the abolitionist rhetoric is misleading.

  • Mademoiselle B.

    [quote from ned]
    Of course sexual slavery exists, but the sex industry more generally can’t be equated with that, especially since there is clearly a sizeable minority of women (white, middle class, apparently) who willingly choose to work in the sex industry because it pays more than some other jobs.
    [end quote]

    But that’s not actually really true, you know. It’s hard to convince me that it’s just our white, middle class, western privilege at work here, which puts us in a separate category of unusual cases but if that were true, how do you explain sex workers from most countries around the world, including some developing countries that are extremely poor and where sex workers very clearly do not have many other options.. how do you explain all these sex workers organizing, coming together, demanding to be heard and demanding to have the same rights as everyone else? (links below)

    I find it hard to accept that claim in light of this. I don’t think that comment was fair, accurate or even true.

    What do you think the solution is in those cases? Same as what you are proposing here? What about those of you who are abolitionists, are you also suggesting that is the best approach across the world? For these women to be rescued and rehabilitated then put to work in a sweatshop for a fraction of the pay, working long hours, exploited and treated like shit as the owners make huge profits? Do you really consider that preferable, an improvement or even a real solution? Do you think they agree? Does it matter what they think?

    I’m genuinely curious to hear your thoughts on this.


    EMPOWER Foundation – Thailand

    “We are sex workers. We are workers who use our brains and our skills to earn an income. We are proud to support ourselves and our extended families. We look after each other at work; we fight for safe & fair standards in our industry and equal rights within society. We are a major part of the Thai economy, bringing in lots of tourist dollars. We are active citizens on every issue… politics, economics, environment, laws, rights etc. We try and find the space in society to stand up and be heard. Some see us as problem makers but actually we are part of the solution.”

    SWEAT – South Africa

    “SWEAT works to ensure that sex workers rights are defended, that sex workers have access to health and other services and that sex workers are respected and valued members of society. The organisation takes a rights based approach to its work and has 3 central programmes: Advocacy and Networking; Outreach and Development and Research and Knowledge Management. Our goals are to: advocate for the decriminalisation of adult sex work in South Africa; to address health and human rights abuses with sex workers; and to support the development of self representation of sex workers on a national and continental level in issues affecting them.”

    DANAYA SO – Mali

    Google Translation: “DANAYA SO ‘House of Trust’ was established in 1994 to improve the lives of free women in Mali. DANAYA SO is open to any woman living sex work irrespective of age and nationality. These women are Malian who meet their clients in the streets and in bars, “clandestine”, Foreign and neighbors who live in brothels. Their ages ranged between 18 and 50.”

    Mwili Wangu, Chaguo Langu! (My Body My Choice) – Kenya

    “Our Overall Goal: To mobilize all key stakeholders to advocate for sex worker rights and ensure an end to violence against sex workers in Kenya. Our Values: As a group, we stand for freedom, diversity, harmony, integrity, equality, accountability, celebration, creativity, solidarity, choice and peace.”

    African Sex Worker Alliance

    “The African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) is a project housed at the Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa. ASWA was formed to help bring an end to the human rights violations perpetrated against sex workers and to build in its place an enabling human rights environment in which sex workers enjoy the full scale of their rights.”

    WONETHA – Uganda
    wonetha.4t.com and wonethablog.blogspot.com

    “Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) is a sex worker organization established in 2008. Sex workers are facing a Health and Human Rights crisis in Uganda, yet very little is being done to protect their rights. Research carried out in Africa shows that criminalisation of sex work leaves sex workers particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse from law enforcement officials.”

    Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme
    (BHESP) – Kenya

    “BHESP’s main objectives are: To serve as a focal organization and voice for bar hostesses and sex workers; Provide bar hostesses and sex workers with information and linkages to services on key issues affecting them; Promote self and behaviour change among bar hostesses and sex workers and Strive for justice and welfare of bar hostesses and sex workers in Kenya and support them to claim their rights.”

    Rede Brasileira de Prostitutas (Network of Brazilian Prostitutes)

    Google Translation: “The Network was established in 1987 during the First National Meeting of Prostitutes in Rio. To fulfill its mission, assisting the formation and training of associations of prostitutes, supports and promotes events and meetings of the class formulates policies in partnership with government and struggle to obtain legal recognition of the profession. The Brazilian Network brings together associations of prostitutes and collaborating institutions throughout Brazil.”

    Asociación de Meretrices Profesionales del Uruguay (Professional Prostitutes Association of Uruguay)

    Google Translation: “Sex workers in Uruguay founded the Professional Prostitutes Association of Uruguay in 1986 and two years later obtained legal status. Our initial goal was to help between the companions, counter police violence and defend the rights that are ours as sex workers and as women. Today, sex work is legal in Uruguay.”

    Red de Mujeres Trabajadores Sexuales de Latinamerica y el Caribe (Network of Women Sex Workers of Latin American and the Caribbean

    Google Translation: “Support and strengthen the Women’s Organizations Sex Workers in the defense and promotion of Human Rights. That Latin American and Caribbean countries respect human rights of women sex workers.”

    Colectivo de Hombres en Accion Comunitaria (Men’s Collective in Community Action) – Mexico

    Google Translation: “We are an association dedicated to working with the quality of life models sex workers, work to contribute to the defense of human rights, labor and health. Among our objectives are the prevention of HIV yotras sexually transmitted infections, promotion of legislation to benefit older citizens, and creating community centers in sexual health work.”

    Organización Girasoles (Sunflowers) – Nicaragua

    Google Translation: “‘Sunflowers’ was founded by sex workers in Nicaragua in late 2007, after a two-year process of making contact with the RedTraSex in 2005. A total of 26 companions founded the organization, members of three departments of Nicaragua.”

    AMMAR – Argentina

    Google Translation: “In 1994 we began to form the Association of Women Prostitutes of Argentina (AMMAR) in response to the constant harassment and violence from the police. A few months later we joined the Confederation of Workers of Argentina (CTA), which made it possible to know other realities and abandon the self-exclusion, to recognize ourselves as workers.”

    Angela Lina – Chile

    Google Translation: “We came out in 1993 fighting for the defense of human rights of women sex workers in the name of APRODEM. From four National Meeting decided that the most important was to fight for the dignity of sex work, to be considered as workers with dignity and rights. In 2002 we became the National Independent Workers Union Angela Lina.”

    Asociación La Sala (The Lounge Association) – Costa Rica

    Google Translation: “Our association is composed of active sex workers and former sex workers began to organize to improve the quality of life for all women. The Lounge is located in one of the working areas of San Jose, Costa Rica and is a place to share, rest, inform, consult and get the reference to referrals to other health services.”

    La Red de Trabajadoras Sexuales en Ecuador (Network of Sex Workers in Ecuador)

    Google Translation: “The Network of Sex Workers in Ecuador was crystallized as our dream come true in April 2005. Display was the result of our need as women sex workers in Ecuador to form a large organization with all associations and groups to fight ever harder to defend our human rights, integrating with dignity in society to improve our quality of life.”

    Orquídeas del Ma (The Sea Orchids) – El Salvador

    Google Translation: “A group of female sex workers we met in October 2005 to form the Sea Orchids. We are organized for the purpose of deciding for ourselves as autonomous sexual workers, to injustice and the trampling of our rights. We realized that only if we are organized we can make our voice heard in society. We seek to achieve greater unity between the partners that perform the same job, so we really sex workers rights holders.”

    Mujeres en Superación (Overcoming Women) – Guatemala

    Google Translation: “Overcoming women emerged in 2000 with a view to maintaining an environment of solidarity and respect among female sex workers. In 2002, consolidated as an organization with the aim of reducing stigma and discrimination associated with sex work, fighting police and institutional violence and reduce the presence of HIV / AIDS and STIs among sex workers.”

    Asociación en PRO Apoyo a Servidores (Association for Support to Servers) – Mexico

    Google Translation: “In 1985 we created the Association for Support to Servers to defend the human and labor rights of sex workers in the area of Sullivan and in 1997 we got the organization is legally constituted. Currently we work to defend human rights of sex workers in Mexico.”

    Unidas en la Esperanza (United in Hope) – Paraguay

    Google Translation: “A group of sex workers unite in October 2004 and created the United in Hope to fight for the vindication of the rights of women sex workers in Paraguay. At this time our focus has been viewed, to recognize that sex workers have rights.”

    El Movimiento de Mujeres Unidas (United Women’s Movement) – Dominican Republic

    Google Translation: “The United Women’s Movement (MODEMU) was born in November 1997 to work in defense of human rights of women sex workers.”

    La Asociación Civil de Trabajadoras Sexuales (The Civil Association of Sex Workers) – Peru

    Google Translation: “The Civil Association of Sex Workers ‘Miluska Vida y Dignidad’ surge in October 2002 in response to repression and police violence, and social institutions that we are victims of female sex workers. We decided to organize to make public the violation of our rights and make visible that sex workers are subject to rights, actors able to contribute prominently to the development of our country. The name of our organization pays tribute to Miluska, fellow sex worker murdered in Peru.”

    Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

    “Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers is a coalition of sex worker groups and projects working on issues of HIV and Human Rights for female, male and transgender sex workers across Asia and the Pacific. We use an arts based approach to ensure the involvement of grass roots sex worker activists who can’t speak English. We see video as a tool of change.”

    Zi Teng – Hong Kong and China

    “Zi Teng is a non-governmental organization formed by people of different working experiences. They are social workers, labor activists, researchers specializing in women studies and church workers etc. who care and concern about the interest and basic rights of women.”

    COSWAS – Taiwan

    From an English-language site: “The Collective for Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS) was formed in 1999 to continue the fight for the rights of all sex workers in Taiwan, making it the only sex workers’ rights organization set up by sex workers and for sex workers on the island. In order to expand its influence, COSWAS welcomes supporters and volunteers to work hand-in-hand with ex-licensed prostitutes, street sex workers, as well as women working in tea houses, massage parlours, karaoke bars, brothels and pole-dancing clubs etc.”

    Women’s Network for Unity – Cambodia

    “The Women’s Network For Unity is grassroots representative collective of Phnom Penh based Sex Workers. The network seeks to promote the rights of Sex Workers to earn a living in a safe environment, free from exploitation and social stigma.”

    urbar – India

    “Durbar represents 65000 sex-workers (Male, Female & Transgender) and is active in identifying and challenging the underlying socio-structural factors that help perpetuate stigma material deprivation and social exclusion of sex-workers.”

    SANGRAM – India

    “SANGRAM started its work with women in prostitution and sex work from South Maharashtra and North Karnataka way back in 1992 and has since fanned out among diverse populations. SANGRAM is based in Sangli district, which has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in Maharashtra after Mumbai.”

    • ned

      You raise some useful points and thanks for all these links. I mentioned the white middle class thing to emphasize that it seems impossible for women to actually flourish in the sex industry (psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) without having some baseline level of privilege to begin with (e.g. there have been some high-profile cases of white women with PhDs who became high-class escorts catering to the male corporate world).

      Of course one could argue that some women don’t actually want to flourish psychologically, emotionally or intellectually, and don’t want to defeat structural male political, economic and social dominance of women. That certainly seems to be the case for a majority of women involved in porn, sex work and BDSM: for them, individual liberty and short-term pleasures and gains are more important than sustaining the long-term social and political equality of men and women. But in that case they are working at cross-purposes with gender-egalitarianism, which is my whole point. Do it, but know what you’re doing and know the consequences for yourself and for the wider society. Radical feminists aren’t getting riled up for no reason. We are perceiving some very real consequences of the hijacking of feminism by the sexual libertarian agenda.

      So yes, there are sex workers organizing around the world. I disagree with their choices, I will critique them for it, I will critique their clients, and I will also hold them and their clients morally culpable for these choices. I wish they would leave the sex industry, and I’ll do my best to create options to help those who want to exit to leave. Beyond that there’s not much else I’m willing to take responsibility for. If sex workers aren’t powerless, then they have moral agency and are responsible for their own choices.

      However, I’ll keep critiquing them because their choices affect my life by reinforcing male supremacism, male entitlement to women’s bodies, and misogyny. And no matter how successful the sex worker rights movement is in achieving some short-term goals (and I’m very cynical about it — I think expecting to make the sex industry non-violent is to live in a fool’s paradise and as far as I can tell the majority of the empirical data supports this view), sex work will always create obstacles in the way of gender-egalitarianism. All pro-sex-work activists and sex workers themselves need to acknowledge that they are working at cross-purposes with those of us who want a gender-egalitarian world.

      In short, speaking for myself, I’m willing to get out of the way in that, I’m not taking a pro-criminalization position, but know that the sex worker rights position certainly doesn’t merit my political or ethical respect if sex workers do not want the eventual disappearance of sex work from the world.

    • ned

      On re-reading your first remark, I was not saying that sex workers in other countries are not organizing for rights. I was saying that white, middle class women in the West who choose sex work could presumably be seen to be making relatively “free” choices to stay in the sex industry, whereas in the Third World it is impossible to say the same. Most of those sex workers do not have other options and have no chance of exiting the sex industry and being re-integrated into mainstream society without stigma. Prostitution in Pakistan for instance is generational: you are born into sex workers’ families and it’s like a lifelong prison sentence. So even if these women and their children want to exit the sex industry in Pakistan, they can never do so.

      I agree that sex workers whether privileged or not and whether choosing to stay in the sex industry or looking for ways to exit it have a right to demand legal protections.

      Hope that makes my position clearer.

    • ned

      “For these women to be rescued and rehabilitated then put to work in a sweatshop for a fraction of the pay, working long hours, exploited and treated like shit as the owners make huge profits?”

      The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is hugely successful co-op project in India that has rehabilitated sex workers and given them a chance to exit the sex industry and get re-integrated into mainstream society with a decent quality of life and control over their labour and means of production. There have also been successful microfinance-based initiatives in Bangladesh and it is actually incredibly how many women have responded positively to such initiatives and been economically empowered by them (the loan return rates in Bangladesh at the Grameen Bank are really high and the majority of borrowers are women).

      You are selling these women short if you are telling them they have no other options. If they have no other options it’s because the rest of society is too morally and existentially lazy to get off their butts and help them. It’s a failure of imagination and an absence of a spirit of nobility and generosity. I refuse to tell these women that they are caught between a rock and a hard place for life (i.e. sex work vs. sweatshop labour).

      I don’t want to lay out all my cards on the table at this stage but my father and sisters and I have been discussing for a while the establishment of a trust fund for South Asian women and we will invest in both microfinance initiatives and projects like SEWA to help rehabilitate women and get them into positions of existential dignity and financial independence. Thanks for motivating me to move in this direction even more than I already was.

    • Komal

      I’m beginning to change my mind on this issue, to be honest. My position on this is now more like the position I take on all other issues pertaining to the dilemma between individual liberty and other values, such as egalitarianism and good psychological and spiritual health.

      My general position is that where possible, ideals of healthiness and flourishing should be encouraged, e.g. through education, and in small communities even through restrictions of various sorts (agreed upon by the community [which includes the family]). But in other contexts where such an imposition would amount to authoritarianism, and where it will not get the support of most people, a policy of individualism will probably have to be adopted. In a large metropolis like NYC it’s pretty much impossible to restrict individual liberty based either on community health and happiness, or on even higher ideals of egalitarianism and spirituality. When you notice that people (who you do not know personally, and with whom you have basically no emotional intimacy) are doing something that you know is wrong, but is nevertheless consensual/not directly harming people’s self-perceived interests or involving coercion, then you should do whatever you can to try to combat it, short of authoritarianism. This is why I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of abolition (of prostitution), and am beginning to think that we should resort to non-state methods of combating it [btw I do not believe this about pornography, which has its own complications since it involves content that is consumed by others. I tend to take a harder, less liberal position on speech issues, for some reason that I have not fully discovered].

      • Meghan Murphy

        Do you think we need to choose either ‘state methods’ or ‘non-state methods’? I tend to think not…Meaning that using *only* state methods isn’t going to get us anywhere and neither would using *only* non-state methods. Could you clarify exactly what you mean by ‘non-state methods’?

        • Komal

          I think we can use both. By non-state methods I mean any method not directly involving the state, e.g. the education of children, boycotts, raising awareness through the media, art, etc. Even setting a good example through your own life would technically count, though depending on how well-known you are it may not be the most effective method :P.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes. I think a problem is that abolitionists are perceived as simply wanting to use the state / legal mechanisms to shut down prostitution. But this isn’t really the case. There’s no point in *just* imposing a law without also trying to change the conversation, impact dominant ideology through education, media, etc.

          • ned

            I would just suggest that abolitionists use state mechanisms that are not excessively coercive or authoritarian. Clearly people are not going to change their minds about what their priorities are, and most people imo just have a very poor value system anyway. You can’t use the state to change that. You can however use the state to criminalize abuse and violence, and to create alternatives and incentives for behavior change. I think that is probably the best we can do.

            I’ll have to look more carefully at the Nordic model to see what its impact has been. Can you recommend any sources?

            By the way Meghan I have every intention of studying the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi case more carefully. I will be happy to share my research (and whatever future initiatives I hopefully end up investing in in South Asia) with you. Life is miserable for women in South Asia; I’m one of the lucky few with relatively (though not that much) progressive parents who got me a first-class education which is the only reason I’m at graduate school in Canada at all. Here is a quote from Geetanjali Gangoli’s book, “Indian Feminisms”, which I’m reading right now:

            “All men feel hungry for sex. Prostitutes prevent women from good families from getting raped. If prostitutes were not there, women would not be able to walk on the road. Unmarried young men would attack any woman on the road. In fact in my opinion, prostitutes are social workers, next only to mothers and should be treated with respect.”
            – excerpt from an August 1998 interview with Khairati Ram Bhola of the New Dehli Non-Governmental Organization, Bhartiya Patita Udhar Samiti, New Delhi – this organization was founded in 1984 as a feminist-based social work organization to advocate for the right of prostitutes to practice legally (p. 67)

            If these are supposed to be the well-wishers of women, frankly, God alone can help women.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh dear. What a terrible quote. Sadly, not an uncommon perspective. I took a class at SFU during my undergrad called “Sex, Work, and the Law” (I’m sure you can imagine the ideology behind that one). It was a course that had previously been taught as a criminology course and for some reason they decided to try it out as a Women’s Studies class, which is why I took it. Aside from some feminism 101 type stuff, they should have kept it in Crim, as there was little to no feminist theory backing the, mostly voyeuristic-style content. It seemed as though the course was particularly popular with Crim students who wanted a lens into what they saw as a kind of sordid, sexy, gritty part of society most of them had little knowledge or experience with. In any case, one of the women who came in to speak to the class (no need to name names, a local Madame), made the same argument, i.e. that sex workers ensured that less men raped; the idea was that men (assumed to be naturally violent) would be less violent as a result of the ‘therapy’ provided by sex workers. This, of course, also implies that there exists a class of women who should “take care of men” in order to protect a more privileged class of women. Having heard from a number of sex workers who make similar arguments, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to me if this was a fairly accepted position. Sad.

            In any case, I’d love to learn more about your research as you move forward with it. Thanks.

    • Magedelena

      Thank you Mademoiselle B.
      Your post hopefully will put an end to the dreadfully patronizing argument
      that poor coloured girls deserve the protection of smart feminists!

      • Meghan Murphy

        Because there are no POC in the abolitionist movement??? WTF.

        • NitroGirl

          Actually poor colored girls do deserve the protection of feminists (+everyone else), because colored women’s bodies are extremely undervalued in society due to racism,which would also mean that Prostituted Women of Color would not benefit on a large scale from protection if it were legalized because of racism. How do they plan to tell the Johns to stop being racist and misogynist? How do they plan on improving those environments for women of color? It isn’t patronizing at all to include women of color in this argument because many women of color are not afforded the luxury to “choose” to go into the industry (because they are poor). The sex industry seems to also,enjoy partaking in racio-misogyny (I.E. Ghe*to Gag*ers), which effects how women of color outside of the industry are approached & treated. Anyone defending this is defending a behemoth of racio-misogyny that also reinforces negative stereotypes of Non-White women across the globe-just thought you should know that. And a lot of those countries that the woman 2 posts above posted are drenched in Female-Specific-Hate & Harm,so I wouldn’t be singing victory songs. It’s funny how some will champion & support WOC’s decisions when they’re doing stuff like this (something that will not overthrow racists). It’s very telling. Until the default human (White) stops being the pinnacle of humanity, not all women will benefit from legalization. There should be protection for sexworkers,but how much protection will they receive when the entire industry’s foundation was built on misogyny?

          As for my earlier comment womononajourney and joy (ty both for your comment.joy you are a remarkable strong woman and I have read your posts elsewhere) were spot on about what I said. Peter was way off the mark and smelled like a giant dudetroll. And as far as I can see,accusing me of Man-Hating doesn’t bother me at all in the slightest. What I meant was that since a man has purchased a woman, he will try to get the “best” out of his “product”,so he may have to pretend to be intimate,romantic even.If he was looking for intimacy he would not buy “sex”. He would meet a woman,build a trusting relationship with her (and actually talk to her),then have sex with her. And even if he was being a “Nice Guy”,that does not negate instances of how many women in the industry are harmed by their clients. But yeah,what you see is not man-hate: it’s a very understandable, righteous anger that I am very well entitled to have as a woman who is a double minority in this patriarchal society. To be blunt :I’m angry,for a good damn reason. But I am done here.(sorry for posting so much Meghan)

          • marv wheale

            You are a light to the world but especially to those dwelling in deep darkness.

  • ned

    Some links discussing the Nordic model. The Swedish government and its supporters claim it has been a success but sex workers have another point of view.


    http://www.bayswan.org/swed/swed_index.html (sex worker pov; lots of critical reports here)

    Norwegian case:

    Scottish case:

    I can’t seem to find the original Swedish government report released in 2010 online. If anyone knows where I could find it, please let me know.

    Thanks everyone for the conversation and for keeping things as civil as possible given the heated nature of this topic.

    • ned

      Ha, Meghan, you should watch the video on this site:

      The sex worker speaking here says radical feminism is mainstream in Sweden and defines radical feminism as arguing that all penetrative sex is rape. Way to strawman. Radical feminism includes an extensive critique of how PIV has historically and culturally been constructed around the eroticization of a power differential between men and women, and the psychological and sociopolitical consequences of that mindset for women. Presumably Swedish heterosexual women are still having penetrative sex though — I haven’t heard of a moratorium on it or anything. 😛

      It goes without saying that I am underwhelmed by the rest of the video.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Yes, I’ve seen that video, Ned. Grossly uninformed. But that explains why we need to keep repeating ourselves over and over again, correct misinformation – because these kinds of myths are repeated over and over again by people just to prop up their arguments.

  • ned

    Meghan, is it possible for you or some else at The F Word to do a post at some point and just compile a list of resources on the legalization/criminalization/Nordic model debate? Others can also be invited to put resources in the comments.

    Here is an interesting video from Siddharth Kara of the Carnegie Council btw:

    For all the sex workers who’ve been call us anti-sex-industry feminists man-haters: how the heck do you explain all the men who oppose the sex industry btw? What, are they self-hating men or something, since apparently it’s inherent to male nature to go want to purchase sexual services?

    Or maybe, just maybe, radical feminists and the profeminist men who support them want to hold men to much higher emotional and ethical standards than sex workers do? Maybe it’s because we actually *don’t* think men are inherently as amoral as patriarchal culture wants to paint them to be that we expect much more from them than you do?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes, I could probably post a list of resources as a blog post. That would be a useful thing to have, hey?

      • ned

        That would be really helpful.

        I’ll also post some book titles and links in the comments. Siddharth Kara’s book “Sex Trafficking”, published by Columbia University Press, is a really useful look at global sex trafficking networks. He is an abolitionist, though he looks at things more as an economist. I think I’m going to e-mail him with my questions about the Nordic model and about whether he is accommodating the demands of the sex worker rights movement within his abolitionist framework and if so, how he is doing it.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Great! Thanks Ned!

          • A silences sex worker

            Ashley Judd’s book is also very good and first person an non political

  • I am a frequent commentator in Sweden on the absence of evidence that the claim that prostitution and trafficking have been diminished by the law. My comments concern methodology, not ideology, and I am not the only one making them. The government evaluation last year was emphatically not ‘independent’ and evaluators were instructed as to the desired outcome. They were unable to provide any information at all about non-street prostitution, which they admitted. Numerous critiques can be found under the sweden tag on my site: http://www.lauraagustin.com/tag/sweden

    Laura Agustín

  • marv wheale

    It is absolutely indispensable that when we are trying to inform our minds about the reality of prostitution we listen to the voices of Aboriginal women. We live on unceded Coast Salish Territory here in Vancouver. Across B.C. and Canada non-aboriginal people are dwelling on First Peoples’ lands without permission. This is a flagrant violation of international human rights. Many Indigenous women and girls are in prostitution as a direct legacy of colonization. So we our obligated to pay attention to what First Nations women (and men) are declaring about what needs to be done to overcome our Canadian hubris and oppressiveness. The Aboriginal Womens Action Network and the Native Womens Association of Canada are advocating collective self determination, land claims settlement and the abolition of prostitution (among other things) as fundamental ways to remedy these social injustices. It would be paternalistic and patronizing to them not to follow their lead. Without a preferential option for Aboriginal women (peoples) our position on prostitution will be disingenuous, unsubstantiated and misguided. Here is what they demand in their own voices crying out in the abyss: http://www.awanbc.ca/AWAN_May09_Flyer.pdf http://nwac.ca/media/release/04-02-09

    Acclaim to the Feminist Media Collective for being a model of solidarity by upholding abolition and sovereignty for this country’s original inhabitants and for all women.

  • I think this article is relevant to the original post:


  • marv wheale

    Guess what philanthropic capitalism has in common with the legalization of prostitution?

    Charity normalizes economic inequality. Donations to the needy mask male fabricated capitalism with its concentration of wealth and power that exploits workers and the earth. Benevolence is offered as a primary solution to reducing poverty and environmental degradation. A small amount of wealth gushing up to the rich trickles down to the poor and to green projects.

    Similarly, the legalization of pornography and prostitution normalizes sexual inequality. It intends to reduce harm to women while keeping the whole male supremacist system from demolition. It too is a form of philanthropy over justice.

    It is not accidental that people who support the former are also generally in favour of the latter. Both models are ideologically consistent with one another. They condescend to the dispossessed and hamper equal redistribution of wealth and power. These liberal and conservative reformers run the world. Only abolitionist revolutionaries face reality for what it is in spite of the fictional accounts of the conventional.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes yes yes! You are so very right, Marv. And here is also where we can tie in American neoliberalism as, of course, all they have left to fall back on in the U.S. is philanthropy. Social safety nets, unions, health care are all but non-existent and the population is forced to pretend that charity is somehow a replacement. Same things goes for decrim/legalization – feminism as been chipped away at so badly (as well as progressive movements, as a whole) that we think that all we can hope for is to reduce harm, but not to make any actual / long-lasting changes to the system. This comment is so astute I could scream.

      • marv wheale

        The best thing these System Clones can offer us is unrealistic optimism. Your ideas usually make me sing. You and the other abolitionists bring me a great deal of sanity and joy. Otherwise how would one not submit to madness.

  • There are a couple of threads here I would comment on if the Reply-tags were not missing. Is there a chance this will be fixed?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Laura,

      The threads only go 10 deep…You can reply to a specific thread but you will need to click on one of the earlier ‘reply’ buttons in the thread. Sorry about that, it isn’t something that is currently fixable.

  • Hari B.

    If there is one thing I’ve learned about human beings in 55 yrs alive here, it’s that we are so vastly, so freakin INFINITELY capable of rationalization. Of rationalizing anything, everything, until we firmly believe, and just firmly believe that we have ALWAYS believed that a pig’s ear is really a silk purse.

    Which is to say–I read the rationalizations of the ‘pro-sex-work’ cadre (them and the ‘sex pozzies’) and all I can think is Stockholm Syndrome to the Nth degree. Yes, I really do mean that.

    Mary Daly and others have said “patriarchy is perpetual war”. To be born a womyn in patriarchy is to be born behind enemy lines, born in fairly tortuous captivity. The womyn of the Vichy Regime (WWII France) who decided to go along with the Nazis, to perform sexually and otherwise for the gift of being able to eat and not be actively tortured or murdered, may or may not have talked themselves into believing that it was actually a totally ‘positive choice’. Chances are, many understood it was a ‘lesser of 2 evils choice’, an ‘if I do this I might live through the war choice’. They might have had the ability to think about this, because the conditions of war were in their faces, in the news, everyone was calling it a war so everyone knew it was a war. Not so for all of us born womyn into patriarchy (as the Vichy womyn also were)–because it just looks like and feels like ‘reality’ to us. No one tells us (except recently, the rad-fems) it’s a war–they tell it’s ‘life’. We don’t recognize that we’re born into a war where womynhood is occupied: eternally under siege, eternally under threat of violence and murder, tortured from birth into a shape that suits the patriarchs and eternally receiving cues as to the importance of maintaining those man-pleasing shapes (and sounds, and thoughts and feelings and desires…). So, we just figure out how to survive, how to have some power of any sort allowed to us, how to eat and have shelter…

    Well, those of more sophisticated rationalizing power will surely try to tell me how wrong, condescending, unfeminist and overly simplistic this idea is, but I’ll say it again. All this pro-sex-worker and sex-pos stuff just feels like a gigantically rationalized/deeply denied collective case of Stockholm Syndrome to me.

    Thanks, Meghan!

    • marv wheale

      What a truthful juxtaposition. The term “Stockholm Syndrome” had nearly fallen out of use in public discourse but I am so glad you revived it. It is a totally apt comparision to violent male hegemony as it actually did and does exist in the world.

    • Deb

      What makes you (presumably a lay person) think you can accurately diagnose psychological disorders in people you’ve never met, on the basis of their internet comments? What makes you think that any woman who tells you her experience differs to your theory must be somehow disturbed? I find this apparent attempt to infantilise or otherwise pathologise women who adopt a view at odds with radfem ideology closer to misogyny than feminism, in truth.

    • Deb

      I would like to add that, while sex work can certainly be a damaging experience for some women, it is in no way comparable to the Holocaust.

  • I find it odd that the pro-“sex work” lobby would find the word “prostitute” so objectionable. After all, there are different kinds of “sex work”, right? This seems like another example of the pro-sex work lobby trying to have their cake and eat it too. When you point out how many women are forced into prostitution either literally or due to economic problems, they accuse you of seeing all women as innocent little angels and tell you that many women choose the profession(Yes, but WHY do they choose that, and why does it always seem like more women make this choice in proportion to the economic hardships they face?) But when you use a word like prostitution they demand you say “sex worker” because prostitute is disrespectful and shaming.

    I also have to call bullshit on a lot of these “sex worker” organizations. In Viktor Malarek’s book The Natashas, he relates a tale of a “sex worker” protest in Bosnia where women were out on the streets picketing for “their” rights. Bosnia at the time(and probably still to this day) was a hotbed of women trafficking. It would be entirely logical to assume that the same pimps who were selling these women’s bodies were forcing them to spend some time on the street holding signs. Let’s face it- we live in a world not only where their is patriarchy, and where the patriarchy has and resources, but also a world that has come to be dominated by lobby groups, PR firms, and phony grass-roots campaigns.

  • nada

    I just don’t see the logic of this – forced or chosen, how can you justify forcefully taking away someone’s means of earning a living and sustenance (especially if chosen out of economic NEED)??????? How is that helpful exactly?? And how are you NOT expected to get hate mails for doing this??? It seems like the rad. feminists are afraid to combat the real issues like reducing educational fees,reducing rent and cost of living for everyone, increasing wages and more opportunities for women.- Instead goes and kicks down women who is already struggling and taking away what little rights or no rights that they might have had?????? How ever terrible you might think sex work is, it’s wrong to take away someone’s means of income (ESPECIALLY WHEN NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE IS OFFERED) What do you expect and want these women to do?? Starve to death? You are saying it’s this extreme that it’s not a choice.. WHAT DO YOU WANT THESE WOMEN TO DO?? I think the RATIONAL thing to do if you really believe that ALL these workers are forced into having sex for money is to make society so that one doesn’t find oneself in that situation… so that we have access to education, food, housing, medicine – and the basics of life, and opportunity to improve oneself. If they are not met , and if the women are making these choices because they are not met and they must or want to … then you are asking these women to STARVE or NOT HAVE EDUCATION or MEDICAL ASSISTANCE that they might need. HOW is that feminism??? That is like the religious people who want to wipe out the right to abortion. NO ONE IS ARGUING to them that abortion is a GREAT thing in this case- but it happens and instead of offering the women contraceptives or childcare support,education about contraceptives to men- they just try to outright BAN abortion….. how is that helpful? That only ends with dead women who try to do it themselves as no alternatives are given.

    I agree with you that no one should do sex work because it’s the only choice they have- but how does that go to”let’s take away the only choice these women have” and not ” let’s provide ways so that this isn’t people’s ONLY options”. I think the rad. fem argument would be lot more realistic and would invite lot less hatred from the sex workers if they actually supported women and women’s needs instead of simply taking away their income because what they do doesn’t fit in with rad fem ideology. If you think sex work harms women – wait til what you propose goes in practice… you will see all the women who previously at the very least had some kind of income to NONE AT ALL. And probably getting harassed by the police who is going to go around raping women telling them that they won’t report their clients and shut down her business if they have sex with them. You think that is better than sex work?? – you might conclude so- but you should not be deciding that for that person who is experiencing that life.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You haven’t been listening, Nada. Feminists are the only ones advocating for alternatives. They also advocate for the decriminalization of prostituted women, so your accusation of “forcefully taking away someone’s means of earning a living and sustenance” doesn’t fly. Consider that it is, perhaps, this inequitable, patriarchal, capitalist, oppressive system that does not offer desperate women any other alternative but prostitution. How sick is that? Feminists want options – housing, good jobs, social safety nets. We want MORE than ‘harm-reduction’ – meaning we won’t settle. Women deserve better than this.

  • nada

    It looks like you haven’t been listening to yourself. All feminists are advocating for is the swedish model (taking away jobs of what you call desperate victims) under the pretense of helping them.

    There has not been ANY action for housing, e.t..c.. that is all lip service as far as I can tell – I haven’t seen ANY evidence of it.

    You just want to take away women’s jobs while claiming to HELP them because the bottom line for you isn’t about helping women at all – it’s to put your ideology about sexuality first. If this is not true – than PROVE that rad. feminists are trying to provide effective alternatives!!! There is – in fact NO WAY. There is no way a small group of rad. women are going to solve this issue and be able to provide for these people. So effectively, what you are doing is just taking ANY options that they might have had away and claiming that is the best thing for them.

    I don’t think others are NOT listening to you. I think you neglected to understand and listen to what you are saying and the implications of it. So the response to what you are saying is going to seem to you very odd to you- but what you are suggesting is cruel.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You very clearly are not at all familiar with the Nordic model, nada. It’s about changing the system. Not about ‘taking away jobs’. Women should be able to survive without having to sexually service men. THAT is cruel.

  • nada

    again- you haven’t listened to my first post. taking away the only option for women because you disagree ideologically in name of HELPING them- THAT is cruel. You haven’t put in place ANYTHING that will change financial situation nor aid, nor health care, nor child care… medical/health care.

    taking away these things for women because sex doesn’t fit into your ideology IS CRUEL.

    • Meghan Murphy

      But that isn’t what the Nordic model does. So what is it that you are referencing?

  • nada

    You are not listening to these women who are DIRECTLY saying to you- hey, now Police harass us, and we have to move , I have no access to medical needs , I cant go to school- et.c..

    just ignoring these women’s voices and making them villains of your ideology when in fact you have acted cruelly to another and taken away their means of living! Of course they are mad and going to try to do what ever they can .

    • Meghan Murphy

      Prostituted women are not villains, nada. I have no idea who or what you are referencing. Again, the Nordic model is about providing women with other options, support, exiting services, and criminalizing violent men. I listen to the voices of exited women and of women who say that prostitution is inherently violent. We need to address the source of the violence and make changes to the system so that women are not thrown under the bus.

  • nada

    Oh so you believe that Nordic model doesn’t take away sex work for these women who you claim has no other options??? Are you saying that nordic model supports child care, medical support, education, and better wages??

    It seems like you are misinformed?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes, the Nordic model supports education, re-training, exiting services, counseling, and a stronger welfare system. The idea is to provide other options.

  • nada

    meghan –

    I am referencing your own words . Even the title of this article “sex workers are trying to silence feminist lobby .. e/t/c// as IF.

    They are angry for the reasons I pointed out to you. And they have every right to be as far as I am concerned. What did you expect? You really believed that women weren’t going to fight for their survival?

    • Meghan Murphy

      The sex work lobby is largely made up of people who are not sex workers. The sex work lobby does not speak for all prostituted women.

  • nada

    SOURCE of the issue SOURCE of the issue?? You are easily just blaming everything on sex work and the workers-

    NOT AT ALL addressing housing issues, capitalism, e.t.c.. instead of addressing the REAL issues , you jut kick down women who are already struggling !

    • Meghan Murphy

      nada. It seems clear that, at this point, you have no intention of being rational and are simply trolling. Please go troll elsewhere. Thanks.

  • nada

    If anything – rad. feminists are the ones silencing women’s voices . NO ONE should be heard that doesn’t support the theology even if it means that people lose their means of survival and means to education. As long as the theology is upheld, you don’t care how cruel the situation is.

    It’s like Hitler eliminating jews for the “good” of society and christian colonizers killing and converting everyone for their own good.

    You don’t care what the OUTCOME of it really is – or you will selectively CHOOSE to hear information you want to hear to justify your position. In reality, LOT of women are suffering.

    In my opinion, if women want to exit sex work- and needs support.. they should find it. If they say that sex work is helping them with their lives. We must hear them also. NOT take away their means of living.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ok nada. Banned on account of comparing feminists to Hitler.

  • nada

    and it’s great since I have effectively carried out my deed – to expose what a fascist you are and how you easily silence anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Who exactly is silencing WHOM???

    • Meghan Murphy

      Aww, man! I had to break my own promise just so I could post this gem. Oh nada, you’ve given me a good chuckle tonight. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Maria de Lourdes

      Nada,who si the real facist: you who deffend women´s commodification for men´s abuse or Megahn,who fights it? For me it´s clear like water,mein kaiser!!
      Besides,tell me,if there are people who loves to drug themselves shall we stop anti-drugs campaings?The same is for prostitution,althouht i double if any women wouldn´t leave it in the first opportunity.
      In addition,your nick means “nothing”(just check out “nada” in any online english-portuguese dictionary) in my language and i belive is what you trully add to this board aand to women in general.

  • So very well spoken Meghan – and I see, that the pro sexlobby has been here allready, very apropos what you have been writing about. I wonder how many of them who’s one of those “empowered” foreign prostitutes imported from Easteurope, Thailand, Southamerica or Africa – or should I say, the majority of women working in the sex industry. Or streetprostitutes. If I may give a guess – NONE of them – my guess is, that they all probably are Madams, brothelmanagers, pimps and Johns. My guess is that they will give a sh** about all these women who has been trafficked, sold, imported, raped, robbed, isolated from their families, sold again and again, forced to have sex with men who has unprotected sex with them, disappeared, died.

    Keep on your good writting Meghan.

  • Audre

    Thank you for the article, Meghan. So, does the main area of confusion regard an absolute lack of historical analysis of the development of prostitution? How, in Europe after the Black Death (13th Century for you history snobs), the nobility lost so many of its workers that the workers regained some agency and control over their labour power? So, in the centuries-long ‘struggle’ of the ruling class to shape its dominance over the commodification of women (because after all how can a class become dominant with only 50% of the labour pool) that it actually ran its own brothels, while simultaneously making it virtually to rape peasant women legally, and then officially shaming rape survivors into having no employment prospects other than work in the state-operated brothels? Is that generally where the confusion comes from? The insistence that it simply does not matter to us at this point in history to understand that the Church and nobility began shaping the commodification of women’s bodies and labour since the 4th Century?

    Or could it be the fact that human slavery still exists in terms of the production of sexual acts as the basis of one’s employ? You see, when you decriminalize prostitution, you are legitimizing and legalizing human trafficking. It does not really matter to a girl stolen in Taiwan, who has her entire life destroyed by her slaveowner and his clients, that there are individuals living in the countries that are currently colonizing them through imperialism can earn a better wage for their voluntary labour.

  • Maria de Lourdes

    Sorry but why is so much difficult to see that prostitution is violence against women? why do you people waste so much time in replying cruel pro-abuse speechs disguised as “freedom”? There are real women being abused and killed.Sounds so isane to me..and painful tos ee women deffending this cruel pratice to other women.

    keep writing aurthor´s blog,you are not alone in this,and you even reach internationla women like me!

  • The question is NOT if we think what ever of sex work or what ever about MEN. The question is HOW can we make things safer for WOMEN – NOT about putting what I think onto other WOMEN. There are people in the industry, to them is the only way to pay for their medical bills or have ANY independence while having mental illness. While we can sit here and argue if this should or should not happen- I am more interested in making things safer and easier for them.
    The ABOLITIONIST stance, and laws that puts police units around them makes things more dangerous for women. Even in drug situation, where have we seen that prohibition and making things illegal or difficult for drug users BETTER- ??? we need harm reduction methods, easily access needle exchange- NOT prohibition and sending police everywhere. http://christianbvega.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-hypocritical-victimisation-of-asian.html

  • Rye

    May I ask?

    First, are all instances of prostitution in conflict with gender equality? Broadly speaking, is it never acceptable for a man to negotiate sex from a woman by offering his services or something of material value? Even if the following conditions are true in a hypothetical scenario between a woman and myself:
    1. We are acquaintances who occasionally socialize.
    2. Our incomes are similar and we work for different companies.
    3. She earns enough as a dignified employee to live comfortably and have a respectable amount of disposable income.
    4. She is college educated, single, and lives independently.
    5. Although I am attracted to her, the feeling isn’t mutual.
    6. I politely offer her compensation in exchange for permitting me access to her body for the purpose of vanilla intercourse.
    7. She agrees to my request after I clarify my wishes, ensure she understands that she is free to change her decision at any time, and disclose my pertinent health information to her satisfaction.
    8. I accommodate her schedule.
    9. I meet her with good hygiene, maintain good manners, compensate her as agreed, respect her boundaries, and ensure that she is comfortable and unharmed.
    10. We talk for hours afterwards, and the conversation is pleasant for the both of us.

    Although improbable, would I have still objectified her, exercised male privilege, and/or committed an act of violence against women? If not, do you only mean commercial prostitution?

    Second, I do not understand why prostitutes who oppose abolitionist efforts are confused. The abolitionist solution is intended to eradicate prostitution, and according to economic theory, is hypothetically effective at minimizing demand.

    However, a policy that greatly reduces demand will, at least in the short-run, cause prostitutes to either leave the market or pressure them to be more competitive by:
    1. Lowering their rates.
    2. Accepting riskier buyers.
    3. Agreeing to riskier sex acts.
    4. Entering riskier situations to calm the increased vigilance of buyers.

    So even though abolitionism may go far in eradicating prostitution, how is abolitionism in the interests of ‘voluntary’ prostitutes?


    • Meghan Murphy

      What on earth are you talking about?? “Voluntary prostitutes”? Do you mean, like, if somehow we stepped out of capitalism and women were prostituting themselves for free? So…..just having consensual, non-coercive sex?

      AS I ALREADY EXPLAINED, abolition isn’t *just* about (eventually) ending prostitution – it’s about providing women with REAL choices and other options.

  • Rye

    By voluntary, I mean prostitutes who choose to be prostitutes despite having good alternative options. I never said they weren’t a minority, only that an end-demand policy is not in their interests. I do not mean their interests should outweigh the greater good, but I don’t think it’s right to assume they are either confused or pimps/madames in disguise.

    I apologize for not clarifying that I was speaking of only the end-demand part of abolitionism. The potential of women too often goes without nurturing, so they have to prostitute themselves to survive. They need help so better options can be available to them, I agree.

    However, prostitution is a nuanced concept. Prostitution is involved in many relationships between men and women, such as marriage and dating. For example, it occurs when a wife promises her husband sex to motivates him to do an errand she would rather not do. So what I want to know is, will a society with gender equality always prohibit sex from being on the bargaining table?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well I think you answered your own question. Their interests don’t outweigh the greater good.

    • Anna

      Rye, you are creating fantasy what-if scenarios (such as situations in which the man is extremely respectful and the man and the woman are social equals and economic equals), which are not situations which prostitutes find themselves in. Women who are not prostitutes do not accept money from men to sleep with them; I don’t know of a single women who ever did that for kicks or because the money was great. It simply does not happen that there are all of these equal prostitution scenarios happening. Plus your scenario is totally irrelevant to this discussion because no law will prosecute people who are friends and making a private one-time transaction. The law only prosecutes people placing ads, running brothels, standing on the street, soliciting agencies, etc. Also, marriage is not like prostitution, unless we are talking about societies in which patriarchy creates slaves out of wives. (It does apply as you suggest to women who give their husbands sex in exchange for an errand, unless that is already an abusive marriage, and no one is advocating that either). Using the word prostitution to refer to marriage, or any job for pay etc. is so disingenuous and stupid. It’s a common tactic of the pro-sex lobby, and it is so insensitive and denies the experience of prostituted women in the most callous way.

  • hayashi

    sorry but why is so difficult to see that prostitution is women´s seual exploitation? why is so difficult to see that too many efforts are done to convince us to be sexual objects and very few to encourage us to engage in politics and business world? are people really that monron?

  • Pingback: [link] Who gets a say? The sex work lobby & the silencing of feminist voices « feimineach.com()

  • It’s not hard at all. there’s just no intention to do so. Telling ourselves we’re empowered when we’re not, helps sustain the oppression, only you don’t feel like an idiot.

    also, abortion is no real benefit to women. It’s the way this system makes us pay for everything it causes. Women always put their bodies on the line;whether it’s taking contraceptive pills that damage their health, choosing to have abortions that damage their health or having unwanted babies that damage their lives. Because it’s not enough that you do it, it has to be your choice and you need to feel like it’s liberating. I had one at 17, I’m not religious or fascist.

    I’m a feminist with boobs and a brain and I believe that prostitution is not just like any other form of exploitation, but much, much worse. Just like with abortion, it’s not enough to be exploited, it is required that we see it as liberating and empowering. Nope, giving head for money is not empowering. Feminism: you’re doing it very very wrong.

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  • Pingback: 10 mythes sur la prostitution, la traite et le Modèle nordique | TRADFEM()

  • Pingback: 10 mythes sur la prostitution, la traite et le Modèle nordique. | TRADFEM()

  • Porn fits right into this category of the movement saying it is empowering women, when it is not. Stay strong on your fight against the largest, most mobile and aggressive machine.