Who does decriminalization leave out?

This article was originally written for and published in Sister Outsiders, issue #4: What you won’t hear inside the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.


Decriminalization is touted, by many, as the most progressive way to address prostitution. From our local left-wing politicians to feminist academics to the media, this option is often presented as though it is the only one. Arguments in favour of decriminalizing prostitution tell us that this model will help women, that it will provide agency and options, and that it will empower women and improve lives.

These arguments don’t tell the whole story.

Decriminalization, is, in fact, a misleading label. Placed in opposition to abolitionists – who advocate for the decriminalization of prostituted women, while criminalizing only the pimps and johns – those who advocate for decriminalization are essentially arguing for legalization. Decriminalization is commonly used as a way to describe efforts to decriminalize pimps and johns and is commonly presented as the only model that supports the decriminalization of prostituted women. This is not nearly the case.

Decriminalizing the women has always been the starting point for abolitionists and radical feminists. Women have always been the foundation for radical feminist action. Abolitionists have been the only ones to turn the lens onto male demand in terms of addressing prostitution and violence against women while maintaining unwavering support for women who have, because of various injustices, had to turn to prostitution. The legitimatization and normalization of the idea that men should have the legal right to access women’s bodies 24/7 is what decriminalization advocates are fighting for. If not for that, they would surely be aligned with the abolitionist movement.

As a result of the Missing Women Inquiry it has becoming glaringly obvious that women went missing because they were living at the margins. That these were women who were made invisible by an inequitable society. Poverty and racism ensured that these women could disappear and that the state wouldn’t bat an eye. We allowed this to happen, as a society. It isn‟t only the RCMP who is to blame, though they must be held accountable.

By refusing to support social programs and social safety nets which support women, we allow women to remain at the margins and we force them into desperate situations. Decriminalization won’t change that.

Decriminalization will help women in positions of privilege, women who have a certain level of “choice”, and women who hold power in our society. It will help the johns who want to buy sex freely and without shame. It will help the pimps who want to consider themselves to be “legitimate businessmen”.

But who won’t it help? Who is missing from the rhetoric of decriminalization? Who, once again, is placed at the margins of this debate?

Many argue that women in prostitution choose to be there. And perhaps some do. Perhaps, within the limited options we have, as women living in a capitalist patriarchy, some women choose prostitution. And so what? Are we willing to sacrifice all women in order to please a few?

Under the decriminalization model, those women who are engaged in survival sex work are left to fend for themselves. These aren‟t the women who will be in your supposedly “safe” brothels and these women are not the high-class escorts beloved by Hollywood movies. These women are not the women you talk about when you talk about women making an “empowered choice” to do sex work.

Women have long been treated as commodities, but between colonialism and capitalism, it is Indigenous women who have suffered the most under this model. Over ten years ago, Jackie Lynne wrote: “The sexual domination of First Nations women has remained unabated to present-day due to patriarchy’s stronghold,” and it would seem that nothing has changed. Within the discourse of empowerment and of “choosing” sex work, we leave out the context of both an intensely racist and sexist society as well as the context of poverty. The “empowered    women” who speak about decriminalization as though it is the key to women‟s freedom may well be looking for liberty, but in doing so they leave behind all of their sisters.

There are other options. We don’t have to settle for harm-reduction. If we can’t demand more for women and if we can‟t demand an end to abuse then what are we fighting for?

As progressives, we must demand change with all of society in mind, but most of all we must demand change which privileges the most disempowered. Decriminalization is the dream of those who have given up.

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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  • Magedelena

    If decriminalization is supposedly just going to help the women with so called “choice” why is it that the very people leading the fight for decriminalization in the Canadian court system are the most marginalized ones – First Nations women, homeless women, poor women – who came together to form the Downtown Eastside Sexworkers United Against Violence Society?

    • k p

      Because as much as decriminalization is not the answer- right now, women are not only being marginalized and victimized, they are also being prosecuted… And since aboriginals and homeless over-represent the populations of women in the sex-trade, decriminalization means at least the wont be harassed by the cops as well. The problem is, it is merely a band-aid covering a festering infection.

  • Djedi

    Because that group is a legal-only entity set up by lawyers solely to bring the current legal challenge. They have never provided direct services to Vancouver’s vulnerable populations, prostituted or otherwise.

    I don’t believe when you say that “First Nations women, homeless women, poor women” formed that group, and in the media the lawyers are the ones doing the bulk of talking for this supposedly grassroots group.

  • Magedelena

    Do you have proof of those allegations? If so please show it.

    As for the “lawyers” working on behalf of the SWUAV I’m sure you know that they belong to PIVOT Legal Society http://www.pivotlegal.org/contact which has a long and established record of working with the marginalized residents of the DTES on many issues. Also it is normal for the media to talk to lawyers on any legal case. Why should it be any different in this case?

    Also why do the long established organizations that work directly with marginalized sex workers, and are made up of current and former sex workers, i.e. PACE in Vancouver, Maggie’s in Toronto and Stella in Montreal, why do they all support full decriminalization?

    • Meghan Murphy

      @Magdelena – I believe the organizations you mention here support full decriminalization, in part, because they think they can’t do any better. I also think there’s something in that discourse that assumes there is something natural and inevitable about prostitution. Feminist abolitionists challenge these assumptions.

      • Magedelena


        I’m not sure about the assumptions of everyone in these organizations about the naturalness or the inevitability of prostitution. It’s a moot point. We’ve had this discussion before. We are dealing with the here and now not some distant future where sex work does not exist. And in the here and now what sex workers – marginalized and privileged ones – white northern ones and southern ones of colour – say, based on their lived experience, is that criminalization, in any form, harms them. End of story.

        They also say that decriminalization is not the be all end all for protecting sex workers from violence – it’s just one vital piece in a very large and complex endeavour that must take into account the vastly different circumstances and lived experiences of different sex workers.

        You know I was at SFU the other day and listening to Jessica Yee speak to this topic. Tricia Baptie and her entourage of abolitionists were there and at the end of Jessica’s talk one abolitionist made a couple of questions/comments relating to demand side criminalization and patriarchy. Jessica’s answer coming from the perspective of a two spirited queer Mohawk youth who was involved in sex work and whose mother was also involved in sex work was very insightful.

        She said something along the lines of (apologies if I don’t get it exactly right but I think I’ve got the spirit of it):

        “Where does patriarchy come from? From my perspective and the perspective of other native people patriarchy arrived with the settlers and the Canadian state. A state which has set up a system of policy and policing that is inherently patriarchal and oppressive to native people. Before Canada patriarchy did not exist in fact my society was matriarchal. Now in Canada native women make up 20% of the female jail population in Canada and only 2% of the population otherwise (my numbers may be wrong the point being native women and men are grossly over represented in the penal system). Native children are being taken from their mothers today by the state at rates that are higher than what was happening at the height of the residential school system. This entire system is patriarchal – it’s like a tree of evil. It’s absurd to me that marginalized native women who are over represented in the street sex industry are going to be protected by more laws within the Canadian legal system. This is just like saying that eating fruit from the tree of evil is going to get rid of the tree of evil.”

        The abolotionist seemed to hear that response and it sunk in. Maybe it will sink in here too.

        • Meghan Murphy

          @Magedelena – I do believe that it is possible to deal with both the here and now as well as the future. We don’t have to choose one or the other. There is no movement without a future goal in mind.

          Yee’s response is good. That said, abolitionists do not only work for change within the legal system and are well aware of the ways in which that system has not only failed, but participates in the abuse and marginalization of women, particularly indigenous women. Feminism is about many things, including education, policy, law, ideology, and yes, real life. We are working to change minds as well as laws.

          • Magedelena

            Fine. Work to make change and hold fast your ideals for a better world. No argument here.

            But logic dictates that, if you hold to the feminist and anti-oppression tenets of letting the oppressed dictate their own solutions to their unique oppressions based on their lived experience, you would listen to and support what people like Jessica Yee, the Downtown Eastside Sexworkers Against Violence, and the women and sex workers who make up the groups that support marginalized sex workers are asking for – which is full decriminalization – as a necessary first step. Start there, end this stupid useless debate, and then maybe someday we’ll create a world where nobody has to “choose” sex work and where there will be no demand for it.

            Your current approach, and that of all abolitionists, feminist or not, of supporting a simplistic one size fits all solution for ending demand in the name of helping marginalized sex workers is patriarchal and colonial in the extreme.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok. By your logic, which, by the way, I think isn’t particularly sound, I could say the same thing to you: “if you hold to the feminist and anti-oppression tenets of letting the oppressed dictate their own solutions to their unique oppressions based on their lived experience, you would listen to and support what people like…” AWAN, Vancouver Rape Relief, EVE, NWAC, and the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, etc. I will also point out that, as a woman, I get a say. I get to challenge misogyny and I will speak out against violence against women. As a woman.

            I don’t think this debate is stupid or useless and I wonder why, if you do, you are participating in it at all?

            Abolition is not simplistic. Decriminalization is. Decriminalization assumes that women should be commodified and doesn’t dare see beyond that. Harm-reduction is extremely simplistic and ignores the big picture and the complex ways in which women are forced to make choices they should never have to make in an egalitarian society.

          • Magedelena

            Well of course there are plenty of abolitionist organizations (both feminist and religious) and lots of them have “formerly prostituted women” on them willing to spill their sad story and preach the new gospel demand side criminalization.

            These feminist and religious abolitionists are oppressively colonial and paternal in that they actively discrediting the voices and wishes of CURRENT sex workers and the organizations that represent them.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Is there something about the lives and experiences of formerly prostituted women that has inspired you to use scare quotes and to mock their stories? I suppose the only women who deserve respect, in your opinion, are those who agree with you? Many of these formerly prostituted women who advocate for abolition and speak out against violence against women were engaged in survival sex work on the DTES. These are, indeed, the voices of the marginalized. These are the voices we absolutely need to be listening to. Not the only voices, of course, but certainly voices that deserve to be heard and respected. I can only hope that your ignorant, condescending and disrespectful attitude isn’t representative of all those who advocate for decriminalization, though your insensitivity does speak to your inability to see beyond your own personal desires and individual experiences, which is indeed largely representative of the harm-reduction/decrim model as a whole.

          • Magedelena

            If you want to see ignorant condescending and disrespectful attitudes toward sex workers and those of us who are fighting for our rights you need only scan through the comments in this thread and the others on the f-word blog where sex workers and abolitionists engage in this debate over criminalization. That’s one of the main reasons why I keep engaging in these debates – to keep giving you and your abolitionist followers more rope to hang yourselves with. You really do an excellent job of it.

            That being said, in my anger and frustration, I did cross a line in my last post and I apologize to those formerly prostituted women who now take an abolitionist stance. I will try to maintain a more respectful attitude in the future. I’m sorry and I mean it.

            One thing I will say about the abolitionist movement, actually I’m going to start calling it The Rescue Industry because it’s more appropriate, is that they have done a much better job at creating a wider coalition of groups to support their position. Of course they have several advantages over the sex worker rights movement.

            The Rescue Industry has organizations, like Rape Relief, that get funding from the government. (Well to be fair so do sex worker rights groups to some extent but we get way less.)

            Rescue Industry members unlike sex workers don’t have to face the threat of being arrested and thrown into jail for implicating themselves in a criminal activity, or having their kids taken away by Child Protection Services, or having their ex’s use that information in court to get child custody, or never being able to enter the United States again.

            Rescue Industry members also don’t have to face the stigma of being outed as a sex worker should they go public in their organizing for their rights.

            Rescue Industry members also have the advantage of having their message well received religious groups and supported by the funding and high level of organization within those groups.

            It’s amazing in fact that sex worker rights advocates get their message out at all. It’s amazing that groups like PIVOT exist and are co-operatively working with the most marginalized sex workers and have taken their case all the way to the Supreme Court. And not even to challenge the actual prostitution laws themselves but just to have the right to challenge the laws. Incredible.


            I do take some small comfort that the attitude of Canadians towards prostitution is becoming more in favour of decriminalization. According to the latest opinion polls 53% of Canadians favour decriminalization of adult consensual sex in exchange for money while only 16% support the Swedish model of demand side criminalization.


          • Meghan Murphy

            Um, yes, Magedelena…I read all the comments on this blog…I am well aware that feminists have been fighting for women’s rights for, oh, about a century now.

            Thank you for your apology. Appreciated.

            Regarding your decision to label abolitionists / radical feminists as “The Rescue Industry”, well, I, nor any of the organizations I referenced in my previous comment, are involved in any kind of “Industry” so I’m not quite sure who it is you are referring to here. It’s very difficult to engage in productive discussion and debate when individuals insist on making arguments that are not grounded in reality.

            Rape Relief provides support and services for women who have been abused and assaulted. They have been doing this work, tirelessly, for decades. They are an absolutely valuable and necessary organization. To denigrate underfunded, extremely hard working women because you disagree with some of their politics is baffling. Do you hate women? Do you think governments should not fund these kinds of services? I mean, at a time when provincial and federal governments are cutting funding to women’s organizations everywhere, your comments around Rape Relief seem counterproductive and thoughtless to say the least.

            Radical feminists are constantly under threat and under attack. To argue that it is somehow “safe” to be a feminist or an abolitionist, publicly, is either ignorant or disingenuous. Seeing as feminists support the decriminalization of prostituted women, I’m not sure why you are trying to blame them for the fact that prostituted women, as you say “face the threat of being arrested and thrown in jail for implicating themselves in a criminal activity.” This is what poverty does. It criminalizes people. Feminists and abolitionists make this point constantly. Perhaps you might like to familiarize yourself with abolitionist arguments via the posts and comments on this site before making fallacious arguments, as you suggest others should do.

            Finally, regarding your point around Canadians who support decriminalization. Are you really surprised that the public, at large, supports the status quo? That feminism is not mainstream? What a shocker! Most members of the public are, thanks to skewed representations of the issues by decrim advocacy groups and the mainstream media, misinformed about decriminalization and prostitution law. I doubt that many have even heard of the Nordic model. Abolitionists are working to educate the public and that is helping, but generally I would agree with you that most people think prostitution is inevitable. Most people, in our patriarchal society, think lots of sexist behaviours are natural and inevitable. What does this prove? That we must acquiesce? Well, feminists have never been popular. Fighting the status quo is what we do. You aren’t going to convince anyone to give up on women by arguing that the majority thinks misogyny is fine and good.

          • Magedelena

            The Rescue Industry was a term coined by anthropologist Laura Agustin to capture all of the organizations that are working to rescue prostituted women. It is a huge industry globally, of which you and Rape Relief are a part of, as are more famous persons like Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Nicolas Kristoff. It’s been going on since the early 19th century. The essence of the Rescue Industry is colonialism and classism. It first came into being as a way for middle and upper class ladies to have respectable jobs helping prostitutes who they deemed as poor unfortunate fallen women. Before those times prostitutes were thought of mostly as petty criminals (well that’s still true today) but nobody patronizingly pitied them like those rich ladies did then and still do now. “Saved” prostitutes were often incarcerated as domestic labourers.

            Here’s a good post about the birth of the Rescue Industry

            And if you want to read more about the Rescue Industry and it’s horrendous impact on sex workers globally today this will get you there:

            Sex worker support groups are also getting hit hard by funding cutbacks. PEERS in Vancouver is going down and PACE is on life support. I have a particular dislike for Rape Relief because they have overstepped their mandate in protecting women from violence when they push their ideology of all sex work as violence (that’s not true), when they fund art projects at women’s conferences that are anti-sex work and when they hire lawyers to intervene against sex workers in constitutional court challenges. They are leveraging their influence and government funding against sex workers fighting for their rights. That’s why I don’t like Rape Relief. That ought to be clear. I also value the support they do give women who actually SEEK their help.

            I never said it was safe to be a radical feminist but it’s absurd to assert that the threats you face are anywhere near those that sex workers who are fighting for their rights do. The point I was making is that the Rescue Industry has incredible advantages over sex workers, and that their constant trying to help us, in ways that we don’t fucking want to be helped, is oppressively paternalistic. That’s obvious.

            I am more than aware and well educated about the feminist abolitionist position of decriminalizing prostituted women (as if men and trans sex workers didn’t make up 25% of the industry) and criminalizing men (as if there were no female and trans clients). And in your la la fantasy world that is somehow going to help prostituted women based on the “evidence” you see from Sweden. Well there is no evidence that it has helped Swedish sex workers at all. After Sweden enacted their precious law they gave millions of dollars to the police to crack down on street workers. Sex workers are still routinely evicted from their homes and oppressed by the police in Sweden and report greater levels of violence and have no labour rights. The police in Sweden only know there is less street work – of course because they busted all the street whores. The Swedish government admits they no nothing about how the law has affected indoor work.

            So yes Meghan I know all about the radical feminist position on demand side criminalization and no it won’t get rid of prostitution and yes it will harm sex workers and no we don’t fucking want it. Clear?

            Here’s some good links to the failures of the Swedish model in Sweden and Norway:



            Sue Davis, an active sex work activist, here in Vancouver has been working tirelessly to create a low barrier co-op brothel for marginalized sex workers – one where you don’t have to be pretty, white and a cisgendered female to work there. A place where sex workers could be safer bringing their clients, where they could access resources and community. The Vancouver police aren’t allowing it now (although Vancouver licenses brothels in many other ways – the irony and class bullshit all over). Do you think they’d allow something like this co-op if the act of buying sex were made illegal? I doubt it.

            What most sex workers want is something much closer to the New Zealand model of decriminalization (which happened in 2003) does:

            – the legal right for up to 4 sex workers to operate out of a residence as a co-operative with no licensing requirements (read barriers for poor sex workers)
            – the right for any worker in a brother or working for an agency to refuse any client or sex act and not face any employment repercussions – like fines or losing their job
            – access to justice in that sex workers are now safe to report any assault against them to the police

            Sex workers developed those laws – they weren’t imposed by some well meaning but ultimately oppressive outsider from the Rescue Industry like Rape Relief, EVE or the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution. And despite the bullshit lies that Melissa Farley is promoting, no increase of prostitution in the NZ was registered after an extensive review, with well documented methodology (the best study of it’s kind in the world because, oh here we go again – sex workers were actively involved in it and didn’t face repercussions for participating in it) of the effects of the laws 5 years after they were put in place. Sex workers also report feeling safer after the laws were put into place.

            There’s a whole book on it. It’s a fascinating read about a sex worker lead struggle for justice that resulted in victory.

            “Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers’ fight for decriminalization”


            Finally no I don’t hate women. I just don’t like patriarchal Rescue Industry goody two shoes and their ill advised plans to “help” us sex workers in ways that we haven’t asked for and know won’t work.

            As for changing the status quo and feminists being the only brave ones doing that – go re-read my post about what Jessica Yee said. Your plan of adding more laws to the “Tree of Evil”, which is our inherently oppressive “justice” system and patriarchal state, is a non-starter. We need less laws not more or at least laws that WE sex workers create based on our lived experience as they did in NZ.

            I think that sex workers, once their value as educators and healers is released from criminalization and stigmatization, are going to make way more positive change than feminists ever will to reducing violence in society using your inherently patriarchal and colonial tactics.

            For more on that I’d suggest reading Jessica Yee’s book “Feminism For Real. Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism.”

            Clearly where our society is most fucked up is around sexuality and that goes back thousands of years – read kurukurushouj’s bizarre post in these comments. Sex workers are on the front lines of healing those wounds and bringing in a new era of egalitarianism in sex where people get pleasure from sex practicing enthusiastic consent based on their own embodied desires not tired and violent patriarchal scipts.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thank you, Magedelena! For spamming us with links to everything we’ve already seen and rolled our collective eyes at! I am part of the feminist movement, not some celebrity “rescue industry” as you call it. I really don’t care what Laura Augustin has written about it. I am not an upper class lady from 1920 nor am I Demi Moore. I am a feminist. You may invent as many labels as you like but just because you plaster them all over the comment section doesn’t make them real. Your misrepresentations of radical feminist ideology are really getting tired. I am having a hard time figuring out whether you are sincerely misunderstanding or whether it is intentional, but either way, it is purposeless aside from the fact that you are doing an excellent job of demonstrating exactly what the decrim / sex work lobby does.

            Yes! I know all about the funding cuts to women’s organizations across Canada. Believe it or not you aren’t the only one who follows the news.

            One of the women you reference here thinks that women who aren’t able to procreate are destined to be prostitutes so I don’t really care what she wants for women. She is deeply anti-feminist and anti-woman. These are the people who speak on behalf of legalization/decriminalization. People who believe that men will rape if they don’t have a sexual outlet and that women were invented to be fucked.

            I don’t agree with Jessica Yee. I’m sorry. She is a very well-spoken, intelligent woman. But I don’t agree with her arguments. You simply aren’t bringing anything new to the table here. You assume that we don’t agree with you because we don’t know any better. We are all very well informed and very well educated. You can spam us with this crap all you want but we have seen it all before and we still don’t agree. You are just going to have to accept that. Radical feminism doesn’t come from a lack of paying attention.

          • Magedelena

            was there something in my last comment that broke the rules of engagement on the blog?

          • Meghan Murphy

            No insulting other commenters, no name-calling. Other than that I just don’t feel that this conversation is productive. You must say things that are true. You reference one group and one individual who, supposedly, speaks for all Aboriginal women, all women on the DTES, and all prostituted women and erase all other voices and groups, over and over again as though, somehow, it is abolitionists who have a blind spot. I have read everything that you’ve linked to. So have many of those who engage in this discussion here and yet you continue to insist that we simply won’t listen or simply won’t acknowledge these arguments. You continue to argue that commenters here are degrading and dehumanizing prostituted women and I, quite honestly, get tired of repeating, over and over again, that it isn’t feminists who dehumanize prostituted women, it is the men who purchase, objectify, abuse, and murder them. It just doesn’t feel like a very productive conversation at this point. We are going around in circles.

          • Magedelena


            Ok here’s the comment cleaned up as per the rules. Yes I’m sure it is unproductive from your perspective. But not from mine.

            Your comment, “I really don’t care what Laura Augustin has written about [the Rescue Industry]” is telling of your whole attitude toward this discourse. You aren’t interested in anything new or old that challenges your position at all. You respond to clear facts, measured arguments and voluminous data that destroys your position by plugging your fingers in your ears and chanting, “I am a feminist. You aren’t bringing anything new to the table. I don’t agree. I’ve read everything already.”

            What sex worker rights advocates have to say is unknowable to you. You ignore and discredit all the voices like: the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence; all the organizations of actual CURRENT sex workers globally
            (See the comment in this post that lists for example 29 different sex worker rights organizations in the Global South who don’t support any form of criminalization http://www.feminisms.org/4024/who-gets-a-say-the-sex-work-lobby-the-silencing-of-feminist-voices/#comment-7892 ); and, all the sex worker commenters on your postings on the f-word and rabble. It’s not one or two individuals or organizations we’re talking about here but all current sex worker lead organizations. And yes there are thousands of non-sex worker organizations that are religious, feminist and abolitionist who disagree. But who should be the expert on the experience of sex workers? And why should we take all the silent voices of sex workers as consenting to the abolitionist position?

            You simply dismiss all of those voices as just lacking the imagination or will to create a world without sex work or that they haven’t really bothered to read and understand the feminist abolitionist/ rescue industry position of demand side criminalization and it’s inherent goodness.

            You allow other commenters on this blog to label the human beings who are sex workers things like “the prostituted” or “sexual service stations” or “happy hookers” which totally degrades and dehumanizes them in ways just like men do!

            So obviously you and your abolitionist supporters aren’t listening. No news there. But in my mind it is productive to point that out, if not to you, who won’t/can’t hear it, to others reading this blog who will.

            As a sex worker myself who works with a lot of women healing the most hideously imaginable wounds of childhood sexual abuse which then leads into abusive adult relationships, I agree with much of the radical feminist position about rape culture and the systemic oppression of women via sexual violence. I get it because I work with it with real people all the time. OK. It’s not theoretical for me at all.

            I have also made it a point in my life – for example by listening to Jessica Yee and reading her books – to learn about people, unlike myself, who have multiple intersecting oppressions – racism, classism, cisgenderism to name a few – who are given few options in the world to survive and thus must choose sex work.

            So really I don’t disagree with you on much. I’m just calling you, and all the other abolitionist feminists/ rescue industry folks, out on your continued denial of the voices of sex workers and your tactic of seeking to impose demand side criminalization against our wishes. I’m calling you out on your insistence of focusing so much energy on ending prostitution by ending demand as a way of maybe, ideally, taking down the Patriarchy someday – at the expense of sex workers safety in the here and now. I’m asking you to stop “working” on behalf of sex workers without their permission and instead work on other less “sexy” issues like generous access to housing, childcare, a living wage, healthcare and education for all people. If we had those things few people would be forced to choose sex work to survive.

            As for my last post I would like to know which of the people who I made reference to is deeply anti-feminist? And could you please provide a reference that shows that so that I can reconsider who I choose to link to. Thank you.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Magedelena. I don’t think you’re getting this. And I think that it’s because I’m being unclear. Because sometimes I lose my patience and also because I tend to be working on a dozen things at the same time while also trying to moderate the comment section. And because I end up responding to the same comments over and over again here I get frustrated and lazy. Apologies.

            When I say that I don’t care what Augustin has written it is not because I have not or am unwilling to read what she has written. It’s because I’ve read it and I don’t find it to be very useful or accurate. What she writes about that which she calls “the rescue industry” isn’t applicable to radical feminist ideology and therefore it isn’t relevant to this conversation. I don’t wish to engage with people who call radical feminism “extremist”. She doesn’t seem to have any idea what she is talking about nor does she seem to care. Rather she seems more interested in smearing radical feminists. For example:

            “Extremism means assuming men have bad intentions towards women and seeing their sexualities, and in fact their bodies themselves, as inherently exploitative.”

            “I usually use the term fundamentalist feminism, referring to a stream of feminism that wants to go back ‘to the roots’, by which they mean early 1960s universalist feminism, the idea that Woman can be known through a biologically female body and Women are all ultimately alike”

            This is totally bogus. Feminists don’t see men’s bodies as “inherently exploitative” – if we did why would we even bother trying to change anything? Men are not “bad” by nature, we live in a world that rewards men’s “bad” behaviour and that privileges men and (constructed) “maleness”. She also doesn’t seem to understand what is meant by radical feminism (i.e. addressing the root of the issue – i.e. patriarchy). The idea is not that all women are alike, but rather that all women, at some level, are impacted by patriarchy (as are all men, of course, but in a different way). She’s just generally confused about everything and there’s really no point in taking people like that seriously.

            Why on earth would I bother engaging with someone who is intent on misunderstanding and misrepresenting the feminist movement? What, exactly, would be the point?

            I don’t ignore and discredit the” Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence; all the organizations of actual CURRENT sex workers globally.” I have a different perspective on equality. I also don’t believe that many women who are currently enmeshed in prostitution, particularly in survival sex work are in any position to argue for abolition. I mean, they have to go work every night. How badly do you want to feel about something that you have no choice but to do? If I was in that position I would probably try not to think about it too much.

            I choose to listen to the voices of formerly prostituted women and Aboriginal women who say that the Indigenous women of Canada were the first prostituted women. I don’t want prostitution to be considered a job option for me. I don’t want sucking dick to be a career choice. And I don’t think that any woman should have to do that in order to survive.

            Formerly prostituted women describe themselves as such. Would you prefer to tell them not to? Because it offends your sensibilities? I haven’t told you not to use the term “sex worker” here, even though I believe that sex shouldn’t be “work”.

            Rape and abuse and exploitation and degradation and sexual violence isn’t theoretical to any of us. It is our real lives. Men think they are entitled to treat women as things and that they are owed sex (not all men, but many men). Prostitution and pornography plays into and perpetuates that.

            We, on the left, care very deeply about issues like housing, childcare, a living wage, healthcare and education. We advocate for and work on these issues. But we, as feminists, are not going to put on blinders when it comes to prostitution just because you and a few others want whatever you perceive to be freedom at the expense of all women.

            The point is that violence against women is perpetrated by men and we need to be clear about that. It isn’t women who are doing this violence. It isn’t feminists. Men choose to abuse and rape and kill because they think they can or because they think that is what women are for and because they think they can get away with it. When we objectify things it makes it much easier to commit violence and to see those we have objectified as inhuman. When women are treated as or viewed as objects, it means they don’t have to be treated as human beings. We need to change the way we view and treat women, as a society. Normalizing prostitution isn’t going to do that. Abused children who become prostitutes doesn’t equal freedom of choice and this is what decrim discourse says. Ensuring that men have the legal right to take advantage of marginalized and abused women and children is not something I’m willing to support, as a feminist. No matter how you twist the language around, this is what legalization, in the end, does. I don’t care if there are exceptional men who don’t actively rape and beat women, they simply do not have to right to use women, regardless of whether or not those women “consent” because they need the money or because they’ve been told that their worth lies in their sexualized bodies.

            You want to hear some warped, essentialist logic? http://www.archive.org/details/TheFWordApril172008

          • Magedelena

            Oh and one last thing.

            As a sex worker who does continually face discrimination, stigmatization and the low level psychological violence of being a criminal (although luckily I haven’t experienced any real violence yet although many of my friends have) it’s just really hard to engage in this debate without being emotional which of course puts me over the line at times in things that I write. I’m sure you can relate.

  • stephen m

    @Magedelena – What other choices have they been given to choose from for a positive change to their way of life?

    • Magedelena


      There is no question and no argument between sex worker rights advocates and abolitionists that women and sex workers, especially marginalized ones – ones who experience multiple forms of oppression eg. racism, ageism, abelism, classism – have very limited choices. What’s your point?

  • Sandra

    “Also why do the long established organizations that work directly with marginalized sex workers, and are made up of current and former sex workers, i.e. PACE in Vancouver, Maggie’s in Toronto and Stella in Montreal, why do they all support full decriminalization?”

    Because they support the “happy hooker myth” and select carefully the “sex workers” who will speak for them.That´s very effective for convince the population who are not awared about the violence in prostitution to support the case,specaillay non-prostituted women.I don´t belive many of those “sex workers ” are prostituted women,to start with.Besides,it´s awfull and revolting to se women in rich countries fighting for prostitutio once it increases the women traffic in countries like mine.Do you belive that many brazlilian women deam about being sexual slaves in Canada or in any other part o the world?

    You asked for a proof,so,this is one:when industrialized countries legalise prostitution,the women traffic increases,because the “feminists” who supported it in the said country,refuse to prostitute themselves.Do you think it´s fair? Do i need to say that if prostitution was so cool as they say and if safe or direct services were offered,the “feminists” would refuse to prostitute themselves? It´s so easy to defend decriminalization when you don´t belong to a marginalized/target grup,like i do.

    Prostitution legalization helps no women in this world.Be carefull with those people who claim to be “marginalized” etc.The pro-sex trade fighters have many tricks to make people confused,specially women.My country has strong campaings reporting such tricks.

  • kurukurushoujo

    Are we willing to sacrifice all women in order to please a few?

    Exactly. And no we aren’t. At least I am not.

    Under the decriminalization model, those women who are engaged in survival sex work are left to fend for themselves. These aren‟t the women who will be in your supposedly “safe” brothels and these women are not the high-class escorts beloved by Hollywood movies. These women are not the women you talk about when you talk about women making an “empowered choice” to do sex work.

    True. In Germany, illegally working prostitutes from Eastern European countries migrate, i.e. the moment the state tries to put down regulations (for example, by installing wooden boxes for johns’ cars with accompanying paying systems) the illegal “workers” just move their usual dwelling place some kilometres into the opposite direction. Those women are never safe and easy to abuse. The customer demand will always include a particular set of women who can be destroyed without any repercussions. Prostitution is not possible without the destruction of human life. There has not been one society on this earth where this would have been untrue.

    There is also sometimes a lot of Roman Catholic sentiment in some of the pro-decriminalization rhetoric: a recognition of damage and at the same time a kind of apathy that cannot envision a world without prostitution. So the “neccessary” evil has to be contained to be hindered from rampaging unchecked. This reminds me of something that Thomas Aquinas has said: that prostitution is where all the dirt & grime are collected like in a sewer canal to stop the pestilence from invading the palace (i.e. the undisturbed & peaceful regular society). (“Prostitution in the cities is like the sewage system in the palace. Do away with it, and the palace will turn into a place of filth and stink.”)

    I would never call something like this enlightened & liberated. It is repressive, devoid of hope, conservative and very clearly a legacy of patriarchal thought. I do not want to question the authentic interest of women in helping other women. However, if your rhetoric starts to resemble that of a Roman Catholic woman-hater…

  • Djedi

    Not all the long established prostitution organizations in Canada support legalization aka full decriminalization. When you make such obviously false statements you do yourself no credit.

    • Magedelena

      Well what are these organizations? Name them. The Salvation Army?

      You’re the one who has no credit especially when attacking an organization like PIVOT legal society and the amazing work they are doing in support of marginalized sex workers and marginalized people of Vancouver in general.


      Katrina Pacey From Pivot Speaks Before the Supreme Court

      • Meghan Murphy

        @Magedelena – I think it might be useful to acknowledge that while, yes, PIVOT advocates for full decriminalization, this model is not at all universally agreed upon as the best way forward by everyone on the DTES, everyone in the local or broad feminist community, or all marginalized populations. There are many local women’s groups who are abolitionist, as I’m sure you are aware. I am happy to list them if need be.

        • Magedelena

          Yes but this model is overwhelmingly agreed upon by CURRENT sex workers – the people who are experts on their oppression and the way forward out of it.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes, I agree that it would be exceedingly difficult for any individual currently in prostitution to advocate for abolition, considering that they must still do the work…I also believe that the vast majority of those engaged in survival sex work currently are silent on the issue, rather than vocal.

          • Magedelena

            And does that silence equate to consent to the abolitionist position?

  • marv wheale

    Meghan, your Sister Outsider post is exceedingly magificent. You write with enormous power, truth and dignity. All the other comments by abolitionists were outstanding as well. What an exceptional place this is to learn how to be a human being. I will keep steering others to this site as always.

  • epiong

    Another anti-nordic model article in thestar.com today. Decriminalisation isn`t better than at least attempting to create a society where women don`t have to sell themselves to men.

    • Magedelena

      Yes let’s do that by creating a society where everyone has generous access to all their needs – housing, child care, food, education, health care, leisure and community. But in the meantime let’s not harm sex workers who don’t have any choice but to do this work.

  • Komal

    Right on. The existence of prostitution is incompatible with a genuinely free and egalitarian society.

  • Hari B.

    Magedelena: “Clearly where our society is most fucked up is around sexuality and that goes back thousands of years –…”

    I agree that our society is generally pretty fucked up around sexuality–but I say that where we are “most fucked up” is around relationship itself. Our relationhips with ourselves, each other, and the planet. Yes, that fucked up state of both relationship and sexuality *does* go back thousands of years–coinciding with the birth of patriarchy, in fact. As old as the establishment of womyn as property owned by men (along with our children), as old as the idea of ‘man’s dominion over the earth’–that nature and everything in it is an object which humans have an inherent right to use, use-up, destroy, for our own profit, power, pleasure.

    “Sex workers are on the front lines of healing those wounds and bringing in a new era of egalitarianism in sex where people get pleasure from sex practicing enthusiastic consent based on their own embodied desires not tired and violent patriarchal scripts.”

    There may be a minority of sex workers such as yourself–obviously educated, articulate, able to think at length about these things, rather than consumed with matters of immediate safety and your next meal–there are a few of you sex workers who are “bringing in a new era of egalitarianism in sex”–where there is pleasure of great variety, all with consent. As for the great numbers of children sold into sexual slavery, the runaway teens who get sucked into it via violence and drugs, the various other thrown-away womyn/men who see no other way to get by–you will never convince me that they are anything *but* continuously victimized by those “tired and violent patriarchal scripts”.

    “I think that sex workers, once their value as educators and healers is released from criminalization and stigmatization, are going to make way more positive change than feminists ever will to reducing violence in society using your inherently patriarchal and colonial tactics.”

    I don’t mind you speaking for yourself, and that minority of other sex workers who may agree with you. Please stop trying to convince us that you speak for the majority of prostituted people anywhere. Or even speak for the majority of punters, for that matter–who are looking not for ‘education and healing’, just a place to wreak their desperation and violence. It also seems that you just don’t understand feminism on the whole, and only use such terms and ideas from it, to promote your own purposes. Can’t blame you for trying, I suppose–just know you don’t persuade me, and probably no other feminist either.

    • Magedelena

      Hari B.

      “I don’t mind you speaking for yourself, and that minority of other sex workers who may agree with you. Please stop trying to convince us that you speak for the majority of prostituted people anywhere.”

      One thing that is for certain is that no sex worker can speak for all sex workers because our experiences are so vastly different. Perhaps my language is a bit sloppy and it appeared that I was speaking for all sex workers. But there is one issue that all CURRENT sex workers organizations and most individuals would agree on – nobody wants to be a criminal or have any aspect of our work criminalized – like our clients who are our paycheck. I’m not creating some fantasy here, it’s what all sex worker lead organizations worldwide demand as a basic human right. But believe it or not there are some sex workers, who want the industry to stay criminalized because they like their outlaw status. LOL. And I’m sure there are even a few who think demand side criminalization is swell too. And of course there are plenty of exited sex workers, who despised the work and/or experienced violence, who are more than willing to take up the abolitionist position now that they have secured another source of income.

      And I do fully recognize that I am an “outlier” in the sex work industry because I see this work as my calling, I love it, I love the men, women and transgendered folks who are my clients. And sex work does give me the luxury to think and write about things and advocate for sex worker rights. Should I be punished for that? Would you punish an organic farmer who is bringing his goods to the local farmer’s market even though other segments of the agricultural industry are filled with violence and oppression?

      And I’m totally in agreement with you on the first paragraph. Patriarchy came in when we moved from egalitarian hunter gather societies, you know the ones that didn’t have words like mine or yours, into property owning agriculture/industrial societies. That’s some deeply rooted oppression. I will stand by my assertion that sex workers, the ones like me who see it from a healing and educational perspective, and there are lots of us and it’s huge growing movement, are going to have way more impact on that oppression, precisely because we practice love and enthusiastic consent, than feminists who choose to do patriarchal stuff like trying to impose their oppressive legal regimes on sex workers in the name of the good of all women or ending men’s entitlement. Oppression is oppression.

      • Hari B.

        Magedelena: “no sex worker can speak for all sex workers…” “Perhaps my language is a bit sloppy…”

        It’s not necessarily the specific words you use, which make it seem to me that you wish to speak for all prostituted people. It is more in the sheer number of words you use, and your frequency of posting–as the only present sex worker on this thread–which lends to my sense of your attempt to speak for all.

        Well, as someone who tends to use a lot of words, and to post frequently on topics I feel passionately about–and who further is presently underemployed, having much time on my hands to use for posting–maybe I should be more careful about assuming where you are coming from. Anyway, I’m glad you can own your unique situation, and your personal investment in this issue, as things which do not apply to all prostituted people.

        Funny thing for me is, there is much you’ve said that I relate to in a very personal way in terms of my own life as a feminist and homebirth midwife who does a fair amount of counselling for womyn/couples, as well as having argued in the courts and dealt too with legislative matters that impinge on midwifery. “Rescue”, I agree, is a risky business–potentially condescending/disenfranchising of the people whose empowerment one hopes to facilitate. “Consent”/choice is extremely important to me, especially where womyn’s health and lives are concerned (incl. their children’s). “Outlaw”–because knowing the alternative, I’d rather be an outlaw than put up with masculine control (medical or legislative) of the specifically womyn’s work of birth and midwifery. Once womyn are, legally and socially, fully in control of our bodies, then there might be laws I’d comply with! (or maybe by then I’d be too addicted to the thrill/risk of taboo breaking…something to consider). But “laws”, yes ew have too many laws.

        “Calling”–well, most of us midwives do feel we have a calling to our work and that we do it primarily from love. In our case having that calling and love is pretty important due to the facts that we face so much restriction and suppression from male-dominated med community and gov’ts, making the job far more stressful than it ought to be. Plus, we are never going to be millionaires (or even reliably get by)–because midwifery is just womyn’s work, done for other womyn doing the most ultimately womyn’s work of childbearing: that is, work that is invisible, erasable, exploitable. Even to most feminists–who have reserved their ‘reproductive rights’ fervor for birth control and abortion rights. Feminism on the whole has relegated childbirth, and birth work, as too far beneath notice to bother with, even though the vast majority of womyn will indeed have a baby or 2 at some point–and womyn’s health, and lives, can be powerfully impacted for better and worse by things that happen to them during/following birth.

        But, I digress upon my favorite grind against mainstream feminism. Just to say–I can totally relate to the sense of having a calling, performed from love. I can relate, as a midwife, to the idea of knowing one’s work as educational, empowering and healing as you view your sex work. I can relate to some other issues you’ve raised, as mentioned already. And I can see how, for you and a minority of sex workers, what you say could be real enough for you/your johns.

        Still–your viewpoint to me seems too self-centered to be useful to prostituted people on the whole, or generalizable in a discussion of how to begin to dismantle the institution that supports the horrors for the prostituted, on the whole. You want to promote your business, and your legal right to conduct it–nothing wrong with that, per se. But there’s something very wrong, I think, in the way you speak here of prostitution that simply does not address the horrible reality for most prostitutes. In feminism, we call this erasing–dismissing-invisible-izing. NOT ok. And honestly, I cringe to think of you working to persuade that majority of severely oppressed, enslaved, violated prostituted to your point of view. I really hope you will recognize that you are very much in a special class, and will reserve your efforts and rhetoric for other sex workers like yourself: those possess the degree of privilege, personal power and choice going into it, as you do.

        Finally, I don’t consider decriminalization to be any sort of panacea. To me it’s a step along the much longer and more arduous way of deconstructing patriarchy. Decriminalization has the potential to reduce the vast risks of common garden variety prostitution as experienced by most of the prostituted; risks borne–as usual–primarily upon the bodies and minds of womyn. Not a panacea, no. But if it saves some lives or minds of womyn and children, then it has plenty enough potential for me to support it. Because of my calling, Magedelena–that is deeply intertwined with my love for womyn and children.

        • Magedelena

          Hari B.

          “It’s not necessarily the specific words you use, which make it seem to me that you wish to speak for all prostituted people….Anyway, I’m glad you can own your unique situation, and your personal investment in this issue, as things which do not apply to all prostituted people.”

          Thank you for: bringing to my attention my frequent posting; not making assumptions about me; and acknowledging that I have taken ownership of my unique situation. I’m actually checking in with a wider community when making these postings. Many of my sex worker friends appreciate that I have the patience (or alternatively think I’m completely wasting my time) to engage in this dialogue (which for sex workers is often emotionally painful because they DO experience violence in the trade) in a space which is often hostile to sex worker voices who don’t embrace the abolitionist position and feminist analysis.

          btw I really appreciated your grind against feminism in regards to midwifery! It gave me some perspective. Fyi my partner and I gave birth to our son 2.5 years ago at home using the services of a midwife and a doula. It was an awesomely empowering experience and grueling. 42 hours of labour. Yeah that’s womyn’s work for sure! I feel really proud that we did that and definitely, when the hard times come in our relationship, it’s something we look back on as a shared challenge that we met together.

          There are interesting parallels between midwifery and sex work. One that comes to mind – here in BC where midwifery is legal – and now embraced by the patriarchal medical system for better and for worse – is that there are still midwives that practice outside of the legal system just like places that have legalized prostitution still have a segment of the industry that exists outside the laws. A friend of ours used an illegal midwife because she despises the medical system, and being in her mid-40’s, she was deemed unsafe by that system to have a homebirth. She gave birth with no problems at home. So I think it’s important to make space for people who choose to be “outlaws” because it better suits what they value in life. Laws which are codified societal norms are important too. We got our midwife paid for by the BC government. Although had to pay for our doula out of pocket – that crucial emotional and educational support that she gave to our birthing process is still not valued by our society unfortunately.

          Decriminalizing or legalizing sex work is not a panacea. I agree completely. It’s just a basic starting point. I did say that already here http://www.feminisms.org/4346/who-does-decriminalization-leave-out/#comment-111949
          That starting point somewhat reduces harassment, assault and rape on sex workers from a common perpetrator – the police. It also gives sex workers more confidence to use the justice system to hold any violent perpetrator to account. That’s been proven in New Zealand. It is also a very long process to heal the relationship between sex workers and police. One only has to look at the negligent police handling of the Picton serial murders here in Vancouver to see what a deeply fucked up organization that is. Generally speaking they are NOT sex worker’s friends. Using them to protect us via laws against our work is just fantasy thinking.

          Decriminalization is just a starting where sex workers will have more freedom to reduce the harm in an *extraordinarily complex* and mostly hidden system that has TONS of oppression and violence built right into it. Not being criminal will also somewhat reduce the stigmatization and dehumanization that leads to violence against us.

          “Still–your viewpoint to me seems too self-centered to be useful to prostituted people on the whole, or generalizable in a discussion of how to begin to dismantle the institution that supports the horrors for the prostituted, on the whole.”

          If you go through the many comments I’ve made on this thread, I specifically reference and acknowledge the violence in the sex industry – to women yes of course and especially to those who experience intersecting oppressions – racism, colonization, classism, and cisgenderism for example. Jessica Yee in her talk at SFU jokingly said that as a two spirited, native, sex worker she got to “win” the “oppression Olympics”. Most sex worker rights advocates, (and any human rights advocate worth their salt imo) who are the least bit sensitive to these intersecting oppressions will acknowledge them and seek to become conscious of ways they contribute to any of them, as they acknowledge the violence that does exist within the sex industry.

          I also say in many places in these comments that the way to eliminate sex work is to ensure that everyone has generous access to housing, food, childcare, education, health care, etc etc.

          The subject of decriminalization is *extensively* discussed in sex worker rights spaces, where the debate has moved beyond the simplistic morality found in feminist/religious/rescue spaces. Sex workers who live in diverse parts of the world, with very different legal regimes, do talk and share their experiences about what works and doesn’t from their lived experience not from some ideological bias. Very few sex worker rights advocates see decriminalization as a panacea – especially given the gross level of whorephobia that exists and that comes at whores from many different sources.

          But the bottom line in all these discussion is stop making sex workers and the industry criminal in any way first. I’ve repeated that about 20 times in these comments because it’s something I feel confident that I CAN speak for all, with the few already noted exceptions, current sex workers.
          Of course I can’t speak for all women as feminists do 😉

          • Meghan Murphy

            Morality is not the / an issue for the vast majority of feminists, Magedelena. Your efforts to misconstrue feminist arguments are demonstrative of your lack of understanding around (or unwillingness to understand/hear) what feminists actually say / advocate for. In no way are feminist critiques of the sex industry “simplistic”. And I’m not doing the “whorephobia” crap here anymore. I’ve explained why. You have yet to explain your continued use of the term in a way that is intelligent or intellectually honest.

          • Magedelena


            What would you say to a man who: denied that sexism exists; tried to prevent you from using the word sexism; and after you gave them ample justification for the use of the word (well in your mind at least because why should you have continually explain your oppression to one of your oppressors) continued to harangue you?

          • Magedelena

            And SEX is always a moral issue given the thousands of years of cultural and religious oppression of sexuality the bulk of which has fallen of women and transgendered folks. Just look at feminist Ned’s comments to affirm that.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ned’s comments are not applicable to the the feminist movement as a whole. And sex may well be a moral issue for religious folks but it hasn’t been, historically, for feminists. And I’m an atheist. None of the arguments I’ve made around prostitution or the sex industry have been about morals so I’m not sure why you keep trying to force it into the conversation.

          • Magedelena

            I never criticized the feminist movement as a whole, or Ned for that matter, only her comment.

          • Magedelena

            Argg I’m getting two separate threads mixed up in my mind.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I would point them to a dictionary and a Women’s Studies class.

          • Hari B.

            Magedelena–you do make me think, and I appreciate that. Because even I get tired of posting, I’m not going to say much more–except this:

            I agree that sex workers suffer great stigmatization in our culture generally, and this is wrong for so many reasons. However, I disagree with your premise that the prostituted suffer more violence/rape as a result of their stigmatization. It is the result of misogyny: the deep contempt for, and complete objectification of *all* womyn that leads to *all* rape and violence we all suffer–which do not adhere to lines of race, class, gender.

            The prostituted are simply in a position to experience those things more frequently than most other womyn, due to the nature of their work. That ‘nature of their work’ being not just in the realm of sexual, but also in the realm of secrecy (where all abuse thrives) because it’s criminalized/underground. The nature of the work is also in the realm of direct commodification of their bodies and sex. That is a potent combination which makes rape/violence against sex workers more likely to occur than it is for other womyn; more able to be perpetrated with no consequence to the perpetrator.

            Btw, I say ‘direct commodification’, because as far as I can see, in this era all sex is highly commodified–just not directly in terms of cash exchange for services, as it is with prostitution. The purchase of a prostitute’s body turns it into private property for a time; for some johns this will always mean treating that body any way they please, a right they expect to exercise with all possessions.

            With your 😉 following your comment about feminists speaking for ‘all womyn’, I kind of think you already know we don’t mean to imply that we can do so. Here is the difference: as a feminist, I can’t speak for all womyn–and I can speak about issues that impact all womyn. Such as the misogyny at the heart of patriarchy–which I believe is the root cause for so much rape/violence visited upon sex workers.

            It is not about sexual morality, or even rescue, my wish to see an end to forced prostitution as it exists today. It is about wishing to see the end of the misogyny which effects all womyn, and all human relationships and endeavors.

          • Hari B.

            btw, Magedelena–I’ve been meaning to mention my use of the term ‘the prostituted’–which you said to Meghan, is for you a term of disrespect. I can use ‘sex worker’, for someone like you who is apparently making considered choices–I can use it with respect for you. And with the term ‘the prostituted’, I am also using a term of respect–applied to those coerced into prostitution directly via force, or indirectly by a society that giving them no other viable survival options. With that term I mean to show the respect of my recognition for the reality of their victimization–the resaon for having this discussion in the first place. Although, granted, language is always imperfect.

          • jjones

            Hi Magdalena,

            I just have a few questions and I’m curious of your opinion.

            I recently explored the escort review boards based in Vancouver and I was appalled at the way these men discussed women. The comments were not overtly violent but I thought they demonstrated a complete lack of respect for women in general, for instance: an escort “charged too much for her age” ( because younger women are worth “more”),ranking them out of ten on their body and face etc., and “talked to much about her background which made him feel guilty” ( those are some PG examples). There were thousands of comments along these lines.

            Also I stumbled on this article about a German insurance firm:
            “The women wore red and yellow wrist bands. One lot were hostesses, the others would fulfill your every wish. There were also women with white wrist bands. They were reserved for board members and the very best sales reps.
            After each such encounter the women were stamped on the lower arm in order to keep track of how often each woman was frequented.”

            How will complete decriminalization teach men that this behavior and attitude towards women is not okay? If a john is “nice” when he is in the room with the prostitute but discusses her disrespectfully on review boards or with his friends is this not a form of violence? 100 men were at that insurance party, and they went along with that behaviour with the bracelets and the arm markings.I don’t see how anyone could feel that firm’s actions were not deeply misogynistic.I’m not asking to be argumentative, I’m just trying to understand.

          • Magedelena

            Hey jjones,

            The comments on the escort review boards are disrespectful imo too. Lots of sex workers agree and just ignore them completely. Others watch them obsessively. Others get their regular clients to write good reviews for them. Getting a good review can mean a lot more busine$$ – believe me clients are also objectified. I know that all of this seen from a radical feminist perspective is horrendous. From a sex worker perspective it’s just a distasteful part of a well paying job. Lots of jobs have unpleasant stuff. Welcome to capitalism. Sex workers talk tons of shit about their clients too. There are sex worker only sections on those boards where abusive or unpleasant clients names and phone numbers are published too so other sex workers can avoid them.

            As for the other story. What can I say? We do live in a misogynistic world. It’s common to find lots of extreme anecdotes, that don’t at all represent the diversity of the sex industry and paint it in the most ugly way on radical feminist sites. If you want a different perspective try this site http://Www.becauseimawhore.com

            “How will complete decriminalization teach men that this behavior and attitude towards women is not okay?”

            It won’t. The purpose of complete decriminalization of sex work, sex workers and clients is to take the first step in stopping violence against sex workers and giving us our full rights as human beings. Full stop.

            It’s not about creating an egalitarian society. It’s not about deciding which behaviours are right or wrong. Neither is it intended to justify or sanction real violence against women. Nor is it meant to be a political symbol to endorse the goodness of sex work.

            It’s just about safety for sex workers as requested by us – being the experts on our lived experience and needs.

            Sex work exist within a deeply misogynistic and whorephobic world. There are lots of changes to be made to get rid of that. Sex workers do not wish to be hurt by any laws, like demand side criminalization, to make that happen.

            Hope that helps.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok, so based on your response, I think it’s pretty clear why feminists don’t support decrim. Feminists want to create an egalitarian society, wherein women are treated as human beings. Decrim isn’t a feminist model. It is, perhaps, a model that supports harm-reduction, but it isn’t progressive or feminist if it doesn’t aim for long term change as well as short-term. And again, we don’t live in a “whorephobic” world, we live in a misogynist world. No one is afraid of “whores”. Your continued use of the term without an explanation for how it differs from straight up misogyny strikes me as an effort to derail and confuse the conversation. Next time I just won’t publish the comment unless you can come up with an intelligible reason to use a made up word instead of a real word that actually describes what you are talking about.

          • Magedelena

            Yes let me make myself absolutely clear. Yes decriminalization is not progressive and feminist in that it deals with harm reduction in the hear and now and does concern itself with an egalitarian society and ending misogyny for all women.

            I finally understand what you are telling me. Sorry for being so daft. I finally got it. We are arguing about 2 different things. I thought they intersected but now I know I’m wrong.

            Let me explain where my thinking went wrong:

            First I thought “Oh feminists don’t understand that demand side criminalization won’t work to get rid of prostitution” I’ll give lots of examples of that.

            Then I thought. “Oh maybe feminists don’t understand that current sex workers are united in their demand for full decriminalization” I’ll post lots of stuff on that.

            Then I thought. “Oh maybe feminists don’t understand that the Swedish model will cause sex workers continued harm.” I’ll post stuff so they know about that.

            Then I thought I’d remind the feminists that it is oppressive of them to impose the Swedish model on sex workers against our wishes. Surely they don’t want to be oppressive.

            And I couldn’t understand why you were so dismissive of all that. Then I finally got it. You don’t care much about any of those things I listed because creating an egalitarian society free of misogyny in the future is way more important because you care about *all* women because you’re a feminist.

            So yes, I am just concerned about the short term immediate end of violence toward a small group of women, sex workers, right now using things that will work. While I am concerned about ending misogyny for all women sometime down the future I am in no way willing to sacrifice one more sex worker’s life to do that.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok I’m lost.

            Abolitionists also want to end violence now and believe that creating laws that criminalize pimps and johns while decriminalizing women while ALSO providing exiting services, education, housing, etc, will work towards this goal.

            To say that all “current sex workers are united in their demand for full decriminalization” is b.s.

            Many of those who have actually been to Sweden argue that the Nordic model has provided sex workers with more power.

            No one wants to sacrifice anyone’s life in order to work towards equality. Since it men who are doing the life sacrificing I say we stop them.

          • Magedelena


            Let’s keep this simple and take your critique of my critique one point at a time so there is no dodging the questions and derailing. Because I really want to see your proof and come over to see it your way. I’m just daft like I said and missing something.

            Let’s do a logic puzzle…..

            Let’s start with waving a magic wand and voila, in Canada, we have no more laws against prostituted women and the johns are criminalized severely for purchasing access to women’s bodies. And the police are now totally on the side of protecting the marginalized prostituted women and totally out to police the privileged johns (like their off duty buddies). Ok. Let’s start with that. Are you with me?

            But let’s also say that the structural changes like poverty are more tenacious given the roll that neo-liberal capitalism is on. The welfare rate stays at $610/month.
            and all the other social support organizations like Rape Relief continue to get hit hard and Vancouver continues to have the most expensive housing in the world.

            What happens to marginalized prostituted women with the reduced demand for access to their bodies in this scenario?

          • Meghan Murphy

            What on earth makes you think that decriminalizing pimps and johns will somehow erase all of these structural inequalities? At least if johns are criminalized there will be a way to make men accountable for their actions instead of simply legitimizing them.

          • Magedelena

            I’m open to anyone answering that question not just Meghan.

          • Magedelena


            You are pretending to be stupid and dodging the question.

            My logic puzzle above, an ethical dilemma might be more apt, explicitly set up the scenario where johns are criminalized and held accountable and the structural inequities are not erased. It then asked what would happen to marginalized sex workers with the reduced demand for their services i.e. less work and less money.

            Here is what would happen:

            There would be no more money given to exit strategy programs. The ineffective ones that exist right now are already being slashed like every other social service while money gets poured into the prison industrial complexes.

            Many good clients would be scared away by the new laws and the police who would be circling around the sex workers protecting them from their clients.

            Sex workers would be forced to start doing more and more dangerous things in order to get the money they needed to feed their children. They would be under more pressure to have sex without condoms and they would be forced to accept known abusive clients. They would get more HIV and they would get raped, beaten and killed more.

            Many sex workers, the ones who couldn’t get on the welfare rolls especially, would turn to selling drugs and theft to survive which would land them in jail.

            Others and their families might just starve or die of hypothermia in cold Canadian winters unable to afford food and housing.

            That is the scenario that is ushered in by the cherished Swedish Law. Breathe it. See the Patriarchy within yourself.

          • jade

            Name one.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Name one, what?

          • Trying to pull that “men get objectified too” shit on a radical feminist blog? Please.

          • Magedelena

            Well by sex workers they sure do. LOL.

          • Whatever helps you sleep at night.

          • Magedelena

            oh one last thing – I think it’s important to not equate saying disrespectful things toward a sex worker on a review board as violence. That makes it harder to distinguish what real violence, like rape, is.

  • ned

    Following this debate over the last year and a half or so has nearly brought me to grief. I would love for women to get out of sex work, and for women to break the male monopoly over all the fields that create knowledge, culture and social structures, a monopoly that in turn enables men to remain in power everywhere in the world. I’m afraid I can’t recall the exact study where I read this but I found it heartbreaking to read a comment from a john saying that of course women will always want to be prostitutes … because men work hard and women just want to look pretty for easy money (I’m paraphrasing).

    I really dislike the sex industry, and not just for feminist reasons. I find it morally vile and I think due to the nature of sex itself and the moral consequences of commodifying sex, the sex industry is always going to be subject to a kind of “moral entropy” — any attempt to ennoble it is guaranteed to fail, and we have seen this time and again throughout history whenever any such thing was tried. So let me be clear on this: an “ennobled” “egalitarian” sex industry on any kind of even quasi-large scale is an unsustainable fantasy. There are far too many mitigating factors and ground realities — our history and status quo of patriarchy combined with what are perhaps some real differences between male and female sexuality that many political conservative male opponents (i.e. not feminists) of the sex industry have often talked about without mincing any words — so if you use the misandry argument, bear in mind that then every opponent of the sex industry is a misandrist, from the radical feminists to politically conservative heteropatriarchal men (fancy that).

    Yet despite all the above apprehensions, I can’t get behind abolitionism either. Things are just too complex. There is diversity in the sex industry, such that I can’t paint the whole thing with a totally broad brush and assume that a one-size fits all strategy will work for everything. W.r.t. the Nordic Model, my sense is that it has reduced the size of the sex market in Sweden but it has made life more difficult for the sex workers who are still in it. So its results are mixed in that sense. And I’m not sure I’m comfortable with telling such sex workers that I know what’s best for them *using the law* and *the state*.

    This subject has depressed me substantially. Like I said, I wish women would get it together, set boundaries with men, and set high standards and high goals for themselves. But at the moment I feel really disheartened and want to just stop caring about other women because it seems like women don’t really want to help themselves much.

    • ned

      “There are far too many mitigating factors and ground realities”

      Yikes, that should have been *aggravating* factors! 😉

      • Hari B.

        ned: “I wish women would get it together, set boundaries with men, and set high standards and high goals for themselves. But at the moment I feel really disheartened and want to just stop caring about other women because it seems like women don’t really want to help themselves much. ”

        I hear you on this, and at times it’s depressing for me as well. Yet over the years I’ve slowly come to accept that the work of deconstucting patriarchy, and creating a world that honors life fully, is a huge work indeed. It takes so much time! So much courage and committment and discomfort. And so many small steps that too often can feel too small to make a real difference. So, sometimes I withdraw and allow myself to feel the despair, and just rest…ultimately re-energizing, and remembering that any journey is composed of single steps, and stumbles, and backtracks or moments of getting–or just feeling–lost. It’s ok, it just has to be–because I couldn’t live with the alternative of giving up.

    • Magedelena


      Wow a complicated and personal view on this topic that owns a moral bias but does not support abolition on the grounds that it is a one size fits all (badly) solution and is oppressive. Thanks!

      However this statement here is really worrisome,

      “Like I said, I wish women [by this I assume you mean sex workers] would get it together, set boundaries with men, and set high standards and high goals for themselves. But at the moment I feel really disheartened and want to just stop caring about other women because it seems like women don’t really want to help themselves much.”

      It strikes me on one hand as deeply classist and ableist. You can’t set high standards and have lofty goals if poverty, mental illness, and addiction are your reality in a world with little or no support. Survival is a lofty goal in this case.

      On the other hand it strikes me as very whorephobic. You don’t acknowledge and appreciate that many sex workers drag themselves and their families out of poverty, or keep themselves from sliding into it in, by really using their smarts and strength to do sex work well and make good money.

      • Meghan Murphy


        Can we please avoid using language that implies critique equals fear? No one here is “afraid” of “whores” (as you describe it). I think this language is misrepresentative, misleading, and unproductive. I try not to ban language here unless necessary, but I do like folks to try to use language that means something. “Whorephobic” isn’t a real thing….


        • Magedelena

          Omg this is one of those take a breath and ground moments….

          Meghan, I call it as I see it from the perspective of a whore. Whores are arguably THE most stigmatized and dehumanized group of people in the world. Because of this dehumanization we get beaten up and murdered a lot. Ned’s comment contributed to that systemic oppression from my perspective and I called her on it. Politely and with examples.

          What word would you use for systemic hatred and oppression of whores other than whorephobia? Or are you just going to deny it exists?

          An article from a sex worker human rights advocate on the subject

          • Meghan Murphy

            Magedelena. Linking to others who use the term does not make it more meaningful. Feminists are not “afraid” of prostituted women. Point blank. What you are describing is misogyny. Not feminists fearing “whores”.

          • Magedelena

            And what about trans whores and male whores who get murdered? Do they also just experience misogyny?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Are they being murdered by feminists? Or by men?

          • Magedelena

            Men – with approval from their wives who also hate whores.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Um ok…. Well, my point, which is perhaps becoming clear now, is that (and I assume you are aware of this considering how deeply enmeshed you are in all this decrim/sex positive discourse that tends to like to invent terms like “whorephobic” / “anti-sex” etc) those who use the term “whorephobia” tend to use it to describe radical feminists who are critical of the sex industry. So it takes the owness of men who are doing violence against women (so, misogyny) and twists it around in order to attempt to blame feminists working for equality. Again, “whorephobia” isn’t a real term and doesn’t actually describe anything. If we are talking about male violence or woman-hating or rape or assault, that’s called sexism / misogyny / patriarchy. Not “whorephobia”. Patriarchy has created a system wherein some women are expected to bear the brunt of male violence in a particular way via the sex industry. It isn’t feminists who did that. Feminists are working against that. I don’t know about these men’s wives, I don’t know if they support the misogyny of their husbands or not. Perhaps they are being terrorized by this man as well or have, like so many women, internalized misogyny to such an extent that they see prostituted women as their enemies rather than patriarchy.

          • Magedelena

            The English language is always getting new terms Meghan. And who are you to police me and other sex workers on the language we choose to use to describe our oppression? Again my strongly held belief, (and what I thought was central to feminism although I’m starting to wonder), is that in any anti-oppression work an oppressed person/group gets to name their oppression and speak to it. When people, like you, try to deny me that right I get pissed off and write poorly reasoned things like “Men – with approval from their wives” comment.

            When I called out Ned on her comment I didn’t call her or feminists whorephobic. I pointed to a specific thing she said which I felt was whorephobic (also ableist and classist which you didn’t seem to have a problem with). I believe that’s a good principle for changing people’s behaviour – and it’s what I practice with my 2 year old – name the behaviour as bad not the person.

            In no way did I imply or did I ever state that all feminists are whorephobic. You’re putting words in my mouth. Others may use the word differently but so far as I can tell I have only used it to describe the oppression we whores experience in general and one comment from Ned.

            From my perspective there is whorephobia everywhere in religious groups, the police, men, women, the government, and other whores for that matter. All you have to do is read through these comments to see it here with different people who call themselves feminists imo. But maybe you can’t see it. Here’s a link to a shockingly whorephobic piece from feminists Melissa Farley and Nikki Craft http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/WhyIMade.html

            The Canadian government’s appeal to the Bedford vs Canada case is deeply whorephobic. Basically they say – prostitution is inherently violent and you prostitutes deserve what you get so we’re not obligated to change the laws in any ways to make it safer for you.

            All the other stuff you and Hari have written or linked to is too much feminist abstraction for me right now. I’ll take some time to read it and try to understand it when I can. Good night.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It isn’t “whorephobia” that you are describing. It’s sexism. And misogyny. And patriarchy.

          • sarah


            “Whorephobia” refers to misogynist violence and hate speech directed at prostitutes because, and only because, they are prostitutes. I agree that it is misogynist, whether it is directed at men, women, or others, or by men, women, or others—patriarchy is practiced on a systemic level, not just by individual men against individual women. An example of whorephobia is the neighbourhood cleanup campaign in Vancouver’s west end in the 70s and 80s, which targeted street-based sex workers for removal from a residental neighbourhood because their existence and visibility “endangered” everyone and everything from motorists, to children, to property values. Residents didn’t want “all women” out of the neighbourhood; they wanted whores out to make the neighbourhood “safer” for women.

            You can debate about whether or not some feminists’ rhetoric is “fearful,” but it is disingenuous to say no one is afraid of whores, or that whorephobia is something Magdalena made up. The removal of sex workers from residential neighbourhoods in the name of making the neighbourhood a “safer” place directly contributes to sex workers’ increased vulnerability to the violence you write about in this post. It’s not the only thing making sex workers unsafe, but it is one thing that makes sex workers more unsafe. I think it’s understandable that Magdalena would take seriously any rhetoric that she thinks contributes to a broad fear of sex workers, and if you are interested in seeing fewer women experience violence in the “here and now,” I can’t imagine why you would not take it equally seriously, even if you have a different end goal in mind (abolition rather than decriminalization).


          • Meghan Murphy

            There is no debate around whether or not this term is applicable to feminist rhetoric. And what happened in the West End was, largely, an issue of classism. The “good” women / middle class women who needed to be separated / protected from the “bad” women / poor women. That was about the rich vs the poor. Using the term “whorephobia” does not accurately describe the issues at hand.

          • Hari B.

            So, Magedelena–you actually know some whore-hating womyn who give their male partners permission/approval to kill whores?

            “with approval from their wives who also hate whores”

            Here is a link to a most excellent analysis of why even the murder of male and trans whores is still founded in misogyny. Which, btw, I think you might understand much better if you understood patriarchy and feminism better:


          • Magedelena

            No I don’t. That was a stupid thing I wrote in anger.
            I tried getting through that article you linked to – too subtle for me right now.

            Here is another reason why I don’t think we can trust the police to really help sex workers.


          • So, how is decrim supposed to protect sex workers from the violence of johns if the police can’t be trusted? This totally contradicts your previous point.

          • Magedelena

            I think a more relevant question might be, If we criminalize privileged johns (like off duty police, lawyers, and judges) and decriminalize marginalized prostituted women, how likely is it the police are going to enforce the laws?

          • Magedelena

            And I’ve also answered your question directly in comments above

            Here is what I said:

            That starting point (full decriminalization of clients, workers and associated activities) somewhat reduces harassment, assault and rape on sex workers from a common perpetrator – the police. It also gives sex workers more confidence to use the justice system to hold any violent perpetrator to account. That’s been proven in New Zealand. It is also a very long process to heal the relationship between sex workers and police. One only has to look at the negligent police handling of the Picton serial murders here in Vancouver to see what a deeply fucked up organization that is. Generally speaking they are NOT sex worker’s friends. Using them to protect us via laws against our work is just fantasy thinking.

          • Duh. Of course the police can’t be trusted. I completely agree. That’s why the argument that decrim will make prostitutes safer totally bogus. What does it matter that sex workers have “more confidence” to use the justice system if the police and the courts don’t give a shit about their abuse anyway? Nothing has actually been changed. Well, except that one has to actually prove that her john raped her ince he is no longer commiting a crime by default of purchasing sex. Good luck with that, the courts don’t have a very good record on this one.

            What matters most is that police can’t arrest women for selling sex, and that is achieved with the Nordic model and that is achieved with the Nordic model and the decriminalization model. What’s the problem?

          • Komal

            Wives of men can also be misogynists.

            People do not inexplicably start hating people who sell certain services. Why do we have hatred of prostitutes and not hatred of, say, people who give guitar lessons, or even of teachers and nurses (traditionally female-dominated professions)? It’s not hatred of sex, as these same people are sexually active and may take a positive attitude toward sex.

            I suspect that it has to do with misogyny and sexual politics, and is related to the hatred of women who are hyper-feminine and make themselves sexually available to men (i.e. ‘sluts’). It seems that from the men’s point of view, it is those women’s willingness to let men ‘use’ them that makes them hate those women (wow that was a complicated sentence! :P).

          • Magedelena

            What I’d like to know is if anyone arguing against the label
            whorephobia on these threads has actually been a whore.

            Whorephobia to me, here’s a small set of personal examples,

            It’s when you come out
            as a sex worker to your Catholic Aunt and she says, “Don’t you know that
            what you do contributes to gay marriage and paedophilia!”

            It’s when paypal arbitrarily suspends your account and locks up your money.

            It’s telling your neighbour, who is a good friend, who you have known
            for years, that you are a sex worker and having the city inspector
            knocking on your door 2 weeks later and getting evicted by your landlord.

            It’s your Dad rolling his eyes and saying you had so much potential.

            It’s the psychotherapy program you’re studying refusing to certify you
            on the ethical grounds of doing sex work.

            It’s a thousand small things that just make life harder.

          • Komal

            It’s called misogyny. Prostitutes are hated and attacked because men often hate women who make themselves accessible to them (i.e. to men). Hence their labelling of women who are sexually active with men ‘sluts’. Those ‘sluts’ are not literally prostitutes, but they are nevertheless hated for being accessible to men.

            Using the word ‘whorephobia’ disconnects this one example of hatred from wider structures. This discourse does not allow for an explanation of violence against prostitutes, unless you’re willing to say that people randomly hate those people involved in this one profession (but not any other).

          • jade

            Does CAS come and try to take the kids away for being a slut? No.
            They do open a file when they find out you are a whore? Yes.
            People call CAS to report you just for doing this job regardless of what a good parent you are.

            What do you tell the kids when they ask why we are the only family not invited to the block party put on by a new neighbour who got the heads up while giving out invitations on the street?

            What do I say to the friend of my daughter who went to that party and asks my kids what a prostitute is and if I am one? Do you think these adults would be warning other parents to keep their kids away from mine if I was simply a slut?

            Does a slut run to the window as soon as s/he wakes up to see if there is another “I am a slut” sign on my lawn or written on my driveway? Yes, I have had an I AM A WHORE sign put on my lawn

            Do you have to use a fake name at your work to avoid being as easily charged or stigmatized by association with it?

            Is the custody of your children challenged after the father suddenly wants it when he hears you work in the sex trade?

            Are you shunned when others find out what you do?

            Do police harass you regularly – even showing up in the middle of the night to your house while on duty to try and find out where their best girl is because she isn’t taking their calls?

            Do police let people kill your kind because they appreciate the help cleaning up the streets?

            Does a significant percentage of the gen pop hate you for no other reason?

            Do organized groups of feminist womyn claim they are taking actions that hurt you to help the rest of the women?

            Do predators target sex workers because they are hated and acts against us will be ignored? YES.

            Whorephobia. It’s real. It’s specific to whores.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s specific to women.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hey Ned,

      I hear ya. It isn’t an easy issue and there’s no one perfect solution (i.e. simply a change in law won’t change everything). That said, I wonder how you would suggest we hold men accountable for their behaviour and actions while putting some protective measures in place with regard to women?

      I’m a little troubled by your comment that women should set boundaries with men…I certainly don’t see this as an issue of “boundaries”. This is much more about systematic inequity, poverty, violence against women, racism, etc. I don’t feel that setting boundaries really addresses structural inequality….

      • Hari B.

        Meghan–“I don’t feel that setting boundaries really addresses structural inequality…. ” Not that I’m ned–and I wanted to respond to this comment anyway.

        I agree–boundary setting doesn’t address structural inequality. And I still think it’s important for womyn to learn to set boundaries–and for parents to teach (and model) boundaries (with respect for boundaries) to kids as well. One important avenue toward structural change is for individuals to ‘be the change’ the personal level. The personal is political–and leads to more/deeper political possibilities. Patriarchy lives in us, not just around us–in womyn this is at least partly about our socialized acceptance of boundary violations by men. In men, it is at least partly about a socialized permission to violate womyn’s boundaries to get what they want. Choosing instead for self-respecting, mutually respectful modes of relating, including boundary setting, does effect change in ourselves and others.

        I can think of many instances in my life where my boundary setting with men was very powerful in holding men accountable for their behavior. Of course, I want men to be held accountable, and to hold themselves accountable for their behavior. More and more men will begin to get this, by womyn setting boundaries where we can in our personal/work relationships, as well as in efforts on the political level.

        These personal transformations are not the whole transformation, no. They are tools with limitations, but I think their use is part of greater cultural transformation that we need.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Definitely, Hari! It’s something that takes a lot of learning and work and I don’t mean to diminish the importance of setting boundaries. Women are often taught that they need to let men treat them in certain ways in order to be successful in life – this is something I, myself, am still unlearning. That said, I just feel concerned that if we talk about this issue in terms of women simply not being able to set good boundaries, we are missing and risk not addressing key factors which lead women to prostitution.

          • Hari B.

            Ok–then it sounds like we are on the same page. Believe me, I am NOT about making womyn more responsible for things like prostitution! Or for any of what patriarchy is/does to us and life. In terms of your original post, and this discussion, I suppose my notes on personal boundaries were a bit OT. Support for decrimalization around prostitution is a form of political/social boundary setting. One in which we definitely need men to be held accountable for their actions–both as johns, and as responsible citizens in general–as responsive on this issue as any, where it comes to safety and wellbeing of womyn, children and community.

          • Magedelena

            I like this part of the thread where we are talking about educating about boundaries and un-learning the Patriarchal scripts which live within us as a political act! Sex workers are experts in this field. I’ve been to whole workshops for sex workers by sex workers that were just about this very topic. And we get so much practice. Sex workers are *always* negotiating boundaries and maintaining them with their clients and for many clients that is a transformational learning process which affects their other non-paid sexual relationships in positive ways.

          • sam

            If that were true then prostituted women would be the least raped group of women instead of the most raped group of women.

            Koss and Oros (1982) assessed sexually coercive behaviors such as verbally or physically threatening a partner or using physical force in order to obtain sex. 54% of the men who frequently used women in prostitution had committed sexually aggressive acts against non-prostitute partners compared to 30% of the less frequent users. The more frequently a punter used women in prostitution, the more likely he was to have committed sexually coercive acts against non-prostituting women (chi-square 1, 109) = 4.701, p= .030).

            Monto and McRee (2005) compared 1672 U.S. men who had been arrested
            for using women in prostitution with U.S. men who had not used women in prostitution. In the national samples, men who were either first time or repeat users of women in prostitution were significantly more likely to have raped a woman than non-punters.

          • Magedelena

            Your post raises some interesting points but it’s taking me a while to
            sort through them in my mind.
            They’re about language, logic and the use of social studies as evidence for assertions.
            I will get back to you when I can.

    • Komal

      “… an “ennobled” “egalitarian” sex industry on any kind of even quasi-large scale is an unsustainable fantasy”

      Actually it’s a logical contradiction.

  • Hari B.

    Starting a new thread line for clarity’s sake–I have a hard time keeping up with the sub and further sub replies.


    I can agree with the need to invent new words to cover new understandings, it’s just that whorephobia doesn’t apply to me, Meghan or most others here. It probably does have application to the religious moralist types who look upon prostitution as wrong on the basis of religion. Sex work, as work rather than an obligation of womyn to their husbands, is so far outside their ken of proper ‘work’, ‘womyn’, etc, I can see how lack of connection to the people involved, lack of insight to all that is involved socially and politically, amounts to an irrational fear of prostitutes and what they do… how it is just an extension of the general phobia of sin, hell, etc, so prevalent in that type.

    And to generally echo Meghan–morality and whorephobia is not where feminism enters into the prostitution discussion. There are intersections between abolitionist/decrim feminists and those from the religious sector where prostitution is concerned, yet we are coming from entirely different places. It just doesn’t make sense to lump us together on the (fairly sparse) common ground of those intersections regarding law. Going back to midwifery again: a few years back I was ordered to Cease and Desist the practices of medicine (doctoring) and nurse-midwifery without a license. My argument to the state was that just because a few minor intersections of practice can be found between my work and a Dr’s or nurse-mw’s (such as use of a blood pressure cuff), does not mean I am practicing those medical roles w/out a license. Representing myself, I elaborated on the substantive/material differences in my practice (no use of medically-controlled substances or tools). I also elucidated the great difference in my role from that of any medical-establishment personnel: that I was an assistant to family’s *self-management* of their birth care, NOT a ‘manager of patients’ as is clearly defined in state laws, and in medical board regs, on doctoring and nurse-midwifery. Unfortunately the court refused to allow a hearing of my argument, based on the medical board’s move to dismiss based on my filing too late! Ah, the cowards, neither the med board nor the judge was willing to face the very real implications of institutionalized power dynamics, expressed as essentially anti-consent, anti-personal freedoms, state mandated medical monopoly control over womyn’s bodies/lives.

    Point being that just as my approach to, and practice of midwifery is in real and fundamental ways different from med practice, so is a feminist approach fundamentally different from a religious/moralist approach to abolition of prostitution. You can’t get hung up on the smallest, most obvious intersections between us, if you want to understand us fully–to see how you and we are actually much on the same team where it comes to the dignity, survival and safety of womyn on the whole. Abolitionist feminists are not looking to stop anything except the patriarchy, with it’s fundamental misogyny; prostitution, as we see it, is on the whole one of the most heinous expressions of misogyny. We are looking to challenge the underlying power-dynamics of the culture, which posits womyn *always* as the sub in a dom/sub paradigm–and thus leads to coercion of womyn into prostitution (either literally or via indirect means as I mentioned before). It is the same power-dynamic which privileges/entitles men to view womyn as objects they are free to use, violate, hurt, kill. That is what a feminist is attempting to rectify, nothing more or less, in any work on laws around prostitution.

    You’re right, the link I shared earlier is not the best/clearest for a relative neophyte to the foundations of feminist thought. “Neophyte” might sound condescending, yet it seems that you don’t understand the roots and purposes of feminism. From all you’ve said here, it seems your approach to feminism has been more defensive than exploratory–which is not a critique exactly. No one is required to explore feminism. Still, we end up somewhat at cross purposes because–so it seems–Meghan/others are speaking from a feminist ground that you respond to without knowing what our ground actually *is*. It seems the people whose work you cite also don’t understand feminism; they too are responding defensively to a perceived threat– using bits of feminist thought and specific actions of feminists, only to uphold their position wrt to sex work. I can’t help but think if you “knew thine enemy” better, you would discover that we are not actually enemies at all. Institutional misogyny is our common enemy.

    Speaking only for myself here, what I want is a world where every little girl is safe from every kind of abuse. Where every little girl, as she grows to womynhood, is loved, well fed, and has many options open to her. Where she is NOT driven by poverty or race, or by being a survivor of heinous sexual abuse or common-everyday misogyny throughout her life–where no little girl becomes a womyn driven into further victimization by coercion into prostitution. I can imagine a world where all little girls grow up free and loved, and where still, a few choose to do sex work as adults. But even in that world, prostitution as we know it today (for most of the prostituted and their customers) would not be abolished by law–it would simply die of neglect. No one would go there anymore; today’s prostitution, as a historical note, would be seen for the deeply hateful deviation from love and human dignity (on all sides) that it is. Like I said before, decriminalization now, is only one stop-gap measure to help a few more womyn and children survive until that dream world is more of a reality for us all.

    • Magedelena

      Thanks Hari B. I am spending time with my family tonight. Doing something nourishing for my soul.
      I will respond tomorrow. Lots too consider.

    • Magedelena

      Hari B.,

      This coming fast at you, lots of stream of thought, between dealing with a toddler, a sick partner and getting out the door to work. I’ve got clients today. Excuse if anything is sloppy or offends. I really appreciate your obvious kindness to me and I am trying to reciprocate as best I can.

      “From all you’ve said here, it seems your approach to feminism has been more defensive than exploratory–which is not a critique exactly. No one is required to explore feminism.”

      I agree on both points. Thanks for letting me off the hook for having to know the depths of feminist thought. My partner took women’s studies and advises me somewhat as do several of my sex worker friends who have anywhere from undergraduate to masters level in women’s studies. I’ve read some books by not too scholarly feminists – Starhawk is my favourite, Truth or Dare, Webs of Power, The Fifth Sacred Thing and her current book on non-hierarchal groups The Empowerment Manual for example – great book for anyone interested in exploring unconscious internalized oppressors/oppressions. Also other ahem “fun feminists” like Carol Queen and Betty Dodson. That’s it. Plus wikipedia entries on the different waves of feminism. I recently read Jessica Yee’s book deconstructing feminism and critiquing feminism – feminism of course being entrenched in the white, wealthy, ableist, colonial, patriarchal academic complex too. The enemy is within and everywhere. The personal is political. Know thyself.

      I also want to own that I have a very direct in your face writing style which naturally sets people off. But in the case of this discussion I get easily fired up too since I AM a sex worker and I suspect that most people discussing sex work on this forum are not. Although I make no assumptions because we sex workers are everywhere hidden.

      Thanks for sharing your powerful story about trying to take on the law! The Law is so fucked up – they can bust you and fuck up your life but when they know that they themselves are going to get challenged, by people like you, and have to change their laws they drop the case. I can relate. A friend of mine here in Vancouver Jamie Lee Hamilton who is a metis, trans female sex worker and huge political activist for sex worker rights, was running a co-op brothel in the downtown eastside of Vancouver in from 1996-2001 – at the height of the Picton serial killings – as a way to provide a safe, low barrier space for street workers to bring their dates – it was pretty much by donation. It was also a political statement about the need for safety and a change in the laws. She was totally open about it and running for political office for the Greens – I was helping on her campaign when they busted her and jailed her. She got the charges stayed – there was no way she had the resources to mount a real court challenge – but that awesome service she was providing to marginalized sex workers ended.

      I get all of your points on the intersections of feminism and religion and how they are weak from a feminist perspective. From a sex worker rights perspective, where we get hammered from multiple sides – feminist, religious and rescue -they look pretty strong. So forgive me when I group them. But I do have to lay off the whole feminist and religious crazies in bed theme. Done. I agree that feminists and sex worker rights activists have way more common ground than differences. We NEED to work together.

      I’d rather just keep hammering away at the main point of contention in my mind – what it the best way forward at this point Full Decriminalization or Demand Side Criminalization (aka the Swedish Model)?

      But before that – a point on gender language. Sex workers obviously include differently gendered people, 20-25% are not women. Finding out how a person wants to be gendered, and what they want to be called is just a sign of respect for those people. To call a man a woman or a two spirited person a woman without their consent is humiliating, insulting and cisgenderist. Maybe that is built right in to the word women in this radical feminist space. I don’t know please educate me. I will start to use the word women in this space, as it seems to be the norm here. Btw the 2 year old person with a penis at my home refuses to be labeled a boy. They are a princess dancer or a girl usually 😉

      I want to also make a note that morality and religion are not synonymous in my mind. Morality is just about drawing a line that divides right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Feminists have their own version of morality in my mind and sex workers have another.

      Now back to hammering away at the question is the best first step forward Complete Decriminalization (workers, clients and associated activities) or The Swedish Model.

      Please consider this logic puzzle. Posted above but here too for more visibility.

      Let’s start with waving a magic wand and voila, in Canada, we have no more laws against prostituted women and the johns are criminalized severely for purchasing access to women’s bodies. And the police are now totally on the side of protecting the marginalized prostituted women and totally out to police the privileged johns (like their off duty buddies).

      Ok. Let’s start with that. Are you with me?

      But let’s also say that the structural changes like poverty are more tenacious given the roll that neo-liberal capitalism is on. The welfare rate stays at $610/month.
      and all the other social support organizations like Rape Relief continue to get hit hard and Vancouver continues to have the most expensive housing in the world.

      What happens to marginalized prostituted women with the reduced demand for access to their bodies in this scenario?

      • Hari B.

        Magedelena– I hear you on gender/identity language–I know folks of various gender-identities and body-types are prostitutes. I considered using more terms than just ‘womyn’, out of respect. Decided against it, because if I say people (for instance), then it sounds as if men and other genders are as likely to be prostitutes as womyn. This is simply not true; the great majority of prostitutes are (female-identified) womyn. So, saying womyn is just the quickest, and covers the greatest number. Know that I am aware and respectful of the variety of gender-identities. Think of my use of ‘womyn’ like the traditional use of the male forms to include everyone (mankind, etc). At least with my use of the word womyn, I cover most of those referred to–unlike the traditional use of he, him, mankind, etc, which covered no more than 1/2 the population!

        More later on the rest of your post.

        • Magedelena

          Talking inclusively about different genders in binary English is just maddening.

        • Hari B.

          Yes, referencing multiple genders in a gender-binary culture is quite maddening.

          As is talking about morality. I agree with you that there are different moralities possible, but because of the claiming of ‘morality’ as a single entity (in Western culture, a la judeo-christianity), I want another word! For me, perhaps other feminists, the good/evil enters into the prostitution question like this: misogyny and oppression in general, and violence against womyn/all vulnerable people, are the evils we would replace with the good of a culture that loves and privileges all in common.

          I *love* Starhawk’s work and have explored with the tools she provides. She is a feminist who has done what few others have–focussed on the personal as political, in terms of dis-covering the roots of power in various ways it can be known and expressed. She teaches/inspires the development of personal power and power-sharing in the personal and political realms, as well as in our relationship with the Earth. I mentioned before that it’s not sex, but relationship on the whole that is so fucked up in patriarchy; Starhawk’s work aims to help us heal in that essential aspect of our lives. Plus, she involves spirituality, the mysteries, in a way that feminism in general has avoided. I totally understand why this has been important, given the history of patriarchal religions for being so oppressive of womyn (a recovering catholic, myself, LOL). Yet spirituality is of pretty deep value to me, so this is an aspect of Starhawk’s work that I much appreciate.

          Onto your question of ‘what next for the prostituted and sex workers’ if abolition-side decrim occurs, leaving them out of work. The short and brutally honest answer is, I don’t know. Clearly, it’s a question that must be confronted together with abolition-side decrim policies. What I have seen in all the political activism I’ve been involved with, is that idealists and intellectuals find it easy to name problems in a culture, and often have what seem like good ideas for change at the level of policy/law. I’ve struggled with questions like yours, because as much as I can be one of those idealist intellectuals, I never forget that real people’s lives are hanging in the balance. There have been times over the years that I’ve come to partings with activist groups because members were so lofty in their thinking and so…so…totally dim about the actual people whose lives were involved. We can’t forget them; if one wants to make change, the people’s real lives have to be taken into account.

          I don’t know what can be done for newly unemployed prostitutes, Magedelena–I do know that this is an important question that has to be addressed by anyone involved in abolition. It’s not more right to allow womyn’s harm to come about via prostitution, than it would be to allow it via starvation. From a Starhawk-ish point of view, one might support the personal empowerment of those doing the work. Stop making their lives harder, make room legally and otherwise for them to sort it out for themselves, trust them with their own lives. Which is what you are asking for, right? To be respected and trusted to do what you want with your life by way of your chosen work–in company of your colleagues?

          From a more fully political POV, though, I can’t feel ok with that. By political I mean attentive to, and engaged with the world beyond my own livingroom. Whether or not I’ve got the details totally right here, I can’t turn my back on my tribe, or the rest of life either. We need each other–we belong with and to each other and the Earth in real ways that must be served (so I deeply believe). It feels like abdication of social responsibility to the womyn who are not in prostitution by choice and who will never find their power, their full potential as people–nor any kind of safety–there. It feels like complicity, my silent assent to the war waged on the bodies and minds of the prostituted womyn/others of this world, to consider withdrawing my concern due to one highly individualist sense of ‘respect’.

          You and some of your colleagues do not see yourselves as victims, Magedelena–just people making choices with power. But I know you know that so many of the prostituted *are* victims, and are further victimized all the time. The illegality and secrecy of prostitution surely exacerbates their violent victimization by pimps and johns–but illegality and secrecy are not the root cause of it. We will not eradicate the misogyny at the root of that violence simply by working to abolish prostitution, no. But we will at least be acknowledging the misogyny for what it is, and taking a society-wide stand against it through abolition policies. It is one step toward creating that dream world I’ve mentioned–disrupting the smooth flow of hatred and harm to some degree. I agree–it has to be done with the post-prostitution survival of real womyn in mind with policies adopted, but in whatever practical way possible, I think we have to try. I believe, and it seems other feminists here believe, that we do need to help each other and work to change this culture however we can. For ourselves as much as anyone else–for all others as much as for ourselves–all connected in this life.

          • Magedelena

            omg! I actually feel HOPE that there is a bridge between radical feminists and sex worker
            rights activists for the first time. I’m balling my eyes out. Thank you. More later.

          • Magedelena

            For me that is I’m sure this bridge has always been there for others.

          • Hari B.

            Magedelena–hope is a good thing. Let me add this, because it kind of bothered me that earlier you said I was being kind to you: we are sisters joined by much more than what details separate us. This is real for me and you, and it’s what I feel toward all womyn (and occasionally, men). Not special kindness…just common courtesy, respect among equals.

            But really I came back to post again because of something I left out earlier. I took ‘the Starhawk trail’ as it were, of personal healing and empowerment for a number of years after burning out on political activism. And while I’m still a work in process, I know my power and have witnessed the effects of my power in my world. But no amount of personal power stops womyn from being victimized and oppressed by men and by culture. I still work to know my power, and share what I can with others–for instance with my midwifery work where I seek to facilitate womyn’s empowerment. I think it is so important for womyn to find and realize their real power from within, and how to share power with others.

            Yet that alone will not change this world, for *any* womyn can be assaulted, raped, or abused emotionally, socially, financially–I don’t care how together and personally powerful she is. It had to happen to me, and happen in various ways at different times, for me to understand: as valuable as it is to individual womyn, and to humankind on the whole, for womyn to come into their power, to unlearn the sub role and dom/sub power dynamics, learn to experience and share power together–that alone cannot end patriarchy and the cultural oppression of womyn (and others). Joint political and social action is also needed. It’s fucking HARD, because we are working within patriarchy, where by being womyn working against the grain, we are not respected, trusted, heard. We are working against a thousands-of-years status quo that ferociously resists change of such a fundamental nature.

            Anyway–I do know that womyn (and other oppressed such as PoC) can become somewhat free and empowered in themselves as individuals and in small groups. Now, it is also clear to me that we still have no real cultural power (nor even reality, we are erased, invisible, except insofar as we might play patriarchy with the guys), and that much as I choose not to be a victim at my core–I can still be victimized, in all ways violated, in this culture. All too easily. All womyn can be–no matter her degree of personal power, her social status, her work, color, age, ‘beauty’, personality. All it takes is being a womyn living in patriarchy. It is how this culture is. And some part of our struggle for dignity and power must occur on the cultural and political level, for this world to change enough for us to be safe to truly know and share our power.

          • Hari B.

            oh yeah, one more thing–I did a quick review of earlier posts, and it seems Meghan did address ‘what next for unemployed prostitutes’ with mention of exit strategies/programs. So it seems that the right kind of thinking is already in play–and such plans can be tinkered with and made as practical as possible.

          • Magedelena

            Hari B.

            I have read all that you wrote over the last couple of days a couple of times. The best thing in all of it I read was:

            I don’t know what can be done for newly unemployed prostitutes, Magedelena–I do know that this is an important question that has to be addressed by anyone involved in abolition. It’s not more right to allow womyn’s harm to come about via prostitution, than it would be to allow it via starvation. From a Starhawk-ish point of view, one might support the personal empowerment of those doing the work. Stop making their lives harder, make room legally and otherwise for them to sort it out for themselves, trust them with their own lives. Which is what you are asking for, right? To be respected and trusted to do what you want with your life by way of your chosen work–in company of your colleagues?

            That was the first time anyone that I have read on these threads has ever owned the fact that putting workers out of a job can lead to starvation. That was what gave me hope and made me cry.

            You followed up with pages and pages of feminist boiler plate with a weak acknowledgement of exit strategies/programs as a way to mitigate the suffering of unemployed whores. I lost hope there.

            Here’s the brutal reality.

            There are very limited exiting programs available now – how do you exit someone from generational poverty anyways – but they are ineffective and being slashed. Yet tons of new money is going into the prison industrial complex.

            Feminists say they are working for a society where every woman has her needs met which truly would end the need for sex work. But as far as I can tell feminists are doing a suck ass job of it. The neo-libs are kicking feminist’s asses and women and all of the 99% for that matter. Exit strategy for out of work whores is about as realistic as unicorns.

            What the Swedish model would mean for sex workers is less good clients – the ones that only request the services you offer and pay you the fee that you request with no bullshit and maybe even leave you a good tip. They’d get scared away.

            The asshole clients would take advantage of sex workers desperation for money by demanding sex without condoms and more dangerous activities. Sex workers would have less option but to submit. Sex workers would get more HIV and get beaten, raped and killed more. Some would turn to selling drugs and theft to survive and end up in jail. Others would just die of starvation and hypothermia. Sex workers would have to work longer hours, work when they’re sick, see less of their kids. Etc etc. This is capitalism at it’s finest right decrease the work and everyone will work under worse conditions and the Man gets richer.

            These are realities, based on simple supply and demand in a capitalist system, that I think everyone on this forum knows and understands. They won’t acknowledge it though because to truly do that would mean that they would have to let go of advocating for demand side criminalization. They would have to admit they are wrong. They would have to admit that what they are striving for in the Swedish Model is an empty symbol that would harm sex workers if it ever happened here.

            Whores don’t need feminists help. We have not 1 but 2 constitutional court challenges happening in Canada. We have a global network of peers. Many of us have clawed our way up from extreme poverty to get PHds. We are already running our own support and exiting programs. We feed our kids and love them and raise them up to be warriors to fight the system. We are artists and healers and stand up comedians for that matter. None of us from the lowliest street worker to the highest international jet setter sees themselves as a victim or wants pity or help. Whores accept the fucked up system without whining and work it and work to change it. Whores kick ass.

            Feminists need whores help – but patronizing ones on this blog sure ain’t going to get it.

          • Magedelena

            That took real bravery to publish that post. Thank you. You rock!

          • Magedelena

            I also want to say the Swedish model is NOT an empty symbol.

            It says clearly, “Doods, wake the fuck up. Women are not for sale
            and not commodities.” That is also important.

          • Magedelena

            To Hari B., Meghan, No Sugarcoating, Komal, and Ned, or anyone else,

            I find the silence at this point curious and disheartening. You are faced with a pretty strongly substantiated truth, based on simple supply and demand in a capitalist system, that the Swedish model is going to hurt a lot of women and is thus misogynist. What are you all doing? Meditating and trying to soothe a bad case of cognitive dissonance?

            It is perfectly ok to be wrong but aren’t you at all interested in taking this opportunity of working with someone like myself, who has been willing to invest a lot of time in this dialogue, in order that we can move forward and find ways to help women?

            I know I went a bit over the top with my whores anthem and slammed you all pretty hard. But so what. We’re still on the same side. Can’t we continue to have a discussion? Can nobody admit to being wrong – well Ned has already and so has Hari B. – and follow up with a simple question like, “So how do we move forward?”

          • Meghan Murphy


            I really appreciate your contributions to this conversation. Please accept my apologies for a lag in response. I am extremely busy and simple don’t have time, many days, to respond immediately.

            Quite honestly, I’ve had these arguments so many times before, and so when confronted with the opportunity to have the exact same conversation, with the same language thrown around and the same references brought up, once again, doesn’t excite me all that much. You have been rude numerous times here and have attacked me along with other commenters. Is it really worth it to argue with someone who claims something to be true “You are faced with a pretty strongly substantiated truth, based on simple supply and demand in a capitalist system, that the Swedish model is going to hurt a lot of women and is thus misogynist.” regardless of evidence that shows otherwise? Regardless of the fact that, to argue that something is inevitable because of capitalism doesn’t nearly address or acknowledge the critiques of capitalism and the issue of class that is included within feminist arguments around prostitution?

            This conversation doesn’t seem purposeful to me. You bring up the same arguments over and over again, which have already been addressed. From my perspective, arguing with someone who believes that she is “right” because no one wants to respond to a person who insists on using made up language and calls radical feminists patronizing, just doesn’t seem all that purposeful or appealing. You seem to believe, very firmly, that you are right and that everyone else is wrong and I don’t believe you have any sincere interest in hearing other perspectives. You believe that our silence is because we are “wrong” rather than considering that, perhaps, we don’t see any point in continuing this dialogue with someone who sees this in terms of right vs wrong or who is clearly getting off on these little digs.

            I can either publish your comments and ignore them or I can just delete them. It’s a tough call. I decided to publish them and ignore them regardless of your unnecessary rudeness. I really just doubt anyone really feels like engaging anymore at this point. I am certainly tired of arguing and I think there are better places we could be putting our time and energy.

          • Magedelena

            Good bye.

          • Magedelena

            And I even offered an olive branch in my thanks to Meghan and my acknowledgement of the importance of the symbol that the Swedish model represents. So why all the silence at this point. Are you all just busy with what is happening out in the real world? If so when do you think we could get back to a conversation?

          • Hari B.

            Magedelena– I just got home from being at a birth. I was away for 36hrs, helping a first time mama get through a long hard amazing labor. Because of her postpartum hemorrhage that we controlled at home, I stayed an extra 8hrs at her home to assist her speedy recovery, make sure she and baby were ok, etc. So, you know, just dealing with a little life and death, while practicing illegally in my state that works from the ‘boilerplate patriarchy’ (from which my ‘boilerplate feminism’ grows) in refusing to allow womyn to have reproductive freedom. So you, know, I was having a wonderful time in real ways, doing the work I love, helping that mother through her rite of passage between life and death to successfully and joyfully greet the new life she created. And I was dealing with a lot of underlying stress in another way, since a hospital transfer for hemorrhage, if that had been necessary to save her life, could have resulted in my prosecution for a felony. Haven’t touched a computer in gosh, almost 48hrs now. And come back to your posts.

            Screw it, Magedelena. I heartily disagree with you as regards the most central points Meghan raised–and that prostitution raises for the prostituted, and life for womyn in patriarchy in general. And I still think that for all your sex-workers-united empowerment talk, you are all about you. I don’t believe you give a damn about the majority of prostitutes–whom you clearly DON’T speak for, and whose lives you DON’T understand because you are obviously a person who came from privilege and carries it still. Period.

            You accuse us of failing to meet the realities of things like hunger for the unemployed, and dismiss the exit strategies as completely inadequate. All the while you have the answer! We’ll just persuade sexually-enslaved that they can become empowered via their enslavement and abuse! We’ll convince them that they are actually healers and educators, not just the most pissed-upon scum of patriarchy’s planet! Sorry, it doesn’t sound good to me. I ain’t buying it. Whatever you say about your lived experience, I’m thinking that Meghan, me and a few others on this thread have a much clearer idea of what the lived experience of most prostituted womyn really is, than you do. And care a lot more about them, and the general state of this sorry world than you do–even if we don’t have utopia all tied up in a ribbon for you, ourselves or anyone.

            Well, I’ve heard you and said my bit. Time to move on to other things now.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I agree, Hari. This argument seems very much to be about you, Magedelena, and how YOU are right and WE are wrong. This isn’t about women or freedom or feminism or empowerment. It’s about you being right.

          • You seem to be under the mistaken impression that radical feminists just sit on their borgouis asses all day eating bon-bons and lecturing women about their patriarchal bargains. We have lives and responsibilities, we aren’t available 24/7 at your beck and call. There were even some women you didn’t get back to, like Sam./

            The other problem is that you say things like, “You are faced with a pretty strongly substantiated truth, based on simple supply and demand in a capitalist system, that the Swedish model is going to hurt a lot of women and is thus misogynist”. When was this truth so strongly substantiated? You have provided you evidence they gave counter-evidence, we’re far from a starkly obvious conclusion, a TRUTH no less.

            How are we supposed to move forward indeed? I am 100% ready to campaign for decriminalization of selling sex…which is still illegal in the US.. We’re not going to fight for johns and pim ps though. Ever. Wha is it you want us to do if not totally capitulate to your point of view?

  • V

    To Magedelena: Karl Marx, Emma Goldman and Noam Chomsky are in bed with the religious right, because they oppose prostitution and pornography.

    • Magedelena

      Please explain?

  • Hari B.

    Meghan–oddly enough, I woke up this morning thinking about your original post…and of the great need in this world for feminism, in general. I was thinking with that, of how hard it is to convey the core of radical feminism to others who are blind to what patriarchy is and how it lives within us as well as ruling the world. Keeping the focus on womyn’s enslavement and victimization under patriarchy in every way that manifests in actual womyn’s lives, is so important.

    So, since I never said it so far in this thread–great work on your original essay. You said much that I greatly appreciate, but this says it most powerfully for me, on the topic of prostitution-

    “most of all we must demand change which privileges the most disempowered” I’m not sure, along the course of all my tons of words on this topic, I have made it clear that this is also my main concern–and ‘abolition side’ plans are the only form of decrminalization that I believe can help womyn.

    For me, anything that can truly help womyn, can’t help but also make a profound positive difference in the world at large. The world–where so many humans of all types, so many other life forms and the planet itself are all struggling for survival in the face of patriarchy’s essential greed and violence. I think the single most powerful thing we can do for the world is begin to privilege the most disempowered–to shift not just the ‘distribution of wealth’, but the distribution of power that controls the wealth and so decides each day–who will live or die, who will eat or starve, who will be violated or safe….

    It’s such a tall order, it takes so much time and energy, and still– I just can’t imagine settling for less than the world in which prostitution, as known by most, simply won’t be conceived of. In the meantime it takes to create that world, I support all we can do within the legal system to clearly name all perpetrators of harm, and to hold them accountable. And with that, to shift the balance of power for womyn, if only a little at a time. Because it is womyn, and with us our children, who are the least safe anywhere in the world.

    Thanks for being such a clear and committed thinker on these important things, Meghan. The world so direly needs womyn like you to be doing this work.

  • Sue McPherson

    Magedelena wrote on February 5, 2012, “Whores are arguably THE most stigmatized and dehumanized group of people in the world. Because of this dehumanization we get beaten up and murdered a lot.”

    I believe you’re wrong on both counts, Magedelena. Prostitutes have sex with men and it is that saves them from complete dehumanization. They are valued for the services they perform. But just because they are valued doesn’t mean they won’t encounter violent men, or men with problems who will commit a violent act. It is not because prostitutes are dehumanized by others that they get beaten up and murdered. It is the company they keep.

    Every oppressed group will say the same thing, that they are THE most stigmatized group, and so on. Jews do it, black people do it, women. I tend to think housewives are among those most stigmatized. Even prostitutes don’t have respect for housewives, and why is that, I wonder? Besided the fact they seem them as stupid, I think it also has something to do with sex. After all, any husband who visits a prostitute is going to tell her his wife is cold, uncaring, not interested in sex. And so, isn’t this where prostitutes get their opinion of housewives? As I said on my blog in a piece on prostitution – ‘The decriminalization of prostitution: two women talking’: http://suemcpherson.blogspot.com/2012/03/decriminalization-of-prostitution-two.html – on which I list this article, by the way, – this is what I said: men aren’t going to tell a prostitute the truth, if what he wants is simply a sexual encounter with a different woman.

    The most disempowered people and mistreated are the poor, including prostitutes living in poverty, and housewives, and the unemployed, men and women. Meghan acknowledges that poverty is the problem, among prostitutes as well as other groups. She says, “Decriminalization will help women in positions of privilege, women who have a certain level of “choice”, and women who hold power in our society.” Interestingly, the same can be said about feminism, that it is middle class, that poor women won’t benefit from feminism, that many women are excluded from the ranks. Please read also my latest piece on this subject – ‘Feminism’s legacy: contributing towards social inequality’: http://suemcpherson.blogspot.com/2012/02/feminisms-legacy-contributing-towards.html .