Arguing against the industry of prostitution: Beyond the abolitionist versus sex worker binary


Prostitution has long been a contentious issue in the Women’s Liberation Movement, splitting feminist individuals and groups. This is largely because the debate is often reduced to an either/or argument between what is called ‘harm minimisation’ in a legal ‘sex industry’ – the legalisation argument – and on the other side, arguments for the abolition of prostitution. Those veering towards the latter view are often accused of moralism, conservatism and, worse, of a disregard for women’s safety. It is perhaps timely then to revisit the feminist understanding of prostitution as a cause and consequence of inequality, and this post will attempt to address some of the contemporary challenges to this political stance.

What is the abolition argument?

Abolitionists are those who believe in the criminalisation of demand for prostitution, with a view to reducing prostitution, or perhaps ending it in the future. This is not just a feminist argument, many Socialists and anti-capitalists also subscribe to this view and look towards a future without the prostitution industry. Abolitionists usually view prostitution as a cause and consequence of inequality, including gender inequality; they do not view it as work like any other[1]. This is a political stance, it is not a religious, moralistic or conservative stance.

What is the criminalisation of demand?

Many feminists, including abolitionists, are advocating what is called the Nordic approach, calling for the complete decriminalisation of all those exploited in prostitution and instead for the criminalisation of demand. In 1999 Sweden outlawed the purchase of sexual acts in prostitution, effectively criminalising punters, while decriminalising all those selling ‘sexual services’. To put it plainly — the women aren’t criminalised, but the men are. This move was in line with Sweden’s understanding of prostitution as a form of violence against women and a symptom of inequality, as well as being part of their commitment towards tackling global sex trafficking[2]. Any such legal move must go alongside a large and dedicated financial investment in both harm-minimisation and exit services, and this is no less than what those people exploited and harmed in prostitution deserve, many of whom have been let down consistently by the very state services that should have protected them.

What is the so-called legalisation argument?

This is the argument for prostitution to be viewed as a legitimate business and for the whole of the ‘sex-industry’ to be able to operate legally, for example in legal brothels. It is an argument usually made by groups referred to as sex-worker lobby groups, sex-worker rights groups or ‘sex-positive’ groups. These groups usually view prostitution as work like any other. These groups are usually opposed to abolitionist groups. They often argue that only the full legalisation of the whole of the ‘sex-industry’ can make women – and all people – in prostitution safer.

‘Legalisation’ is an unfortunately misleading term, as prostitution is not currently illegal in the UK anyway, so arguing for ‘legalisation’ confuses matters. It is perhaps better referred to as an argument for brothelisation – for the establishment of legal brothels operating as businesses. While prostitution is not illegal, advertising prostitution is – soliciting or loitering; kerb crawling, running a brothel and living off the earnings of a brothel are also illegal. Exchanging sexual acts for money, goods or any other kind of gain – including in return for accommodation, food or drugs – on an individual basis, is not technically illegal.

The argument that prostitution is work like any other is usually followed by the assertion that the decision to enter this industry is a matter of individual choice, with which the state or anyone else should not interfere, but should only facilitate that choice to be enacted as safely as possible. Groups like the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) (part of Wages for Housework) are calling for what is known as brothelisation, the state legalisation of brothels, similar to that in Australia and New Zealand. They describe prostitution as: “consenting sex”, which: “should not be the business of the criminal law”.[3] Groups like the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) also advocate the New Zealand model, and promote prostitution as a legitimate business.

What is harm-minimisation?

Sex-industry lobby groups see no need to reduce or end prostitution, and believe it should be a legitimate business – just made safer than it currently is. This is where what is called harm minimisation comes in. This term refers to practical interventions, such as CCTV and other security measures, better police responses to crimes against those in prostitution, free contraception, specialist sexual health care etc.

Do Feminists support harm-minimisation approaches?

Yes. There is probably agreement, regardless of political stance, that those in prostitution have a right to protection and support. People in this country are entitled to their rights as citizens generally, and to their human rights whatever their immigration status, regardless of how they make an income. This is where what is called harm-minimisation can play a role. No Feminist is arguing against harm-minimisation – against CCTV cameras in areas where prostitution is known to commonly take place for example. Nor are feminists arguing against a better police response when prostituted women report crimes, including rape. All women deserve a better police response when reporting rape. Everybody has the right to support after rape, including support to prosecute if they so choose. Feminists are not arguing against services such as free contraception, drug and alcohol counselling, access to safe legal abortion, benefits advice, housing, laundries, refuges, needle exchanges etc.

All these examples of harm-minimisation services are sadly vital as long as prostitution continues to exist. But importantly, the feminist argument highlights that we must always and also look towards harm-ending, alongside harm-minimisation. Society cannot, and should not, be satisfied for ever more with placing tiny sticking plasters over the huge wounds that prostitution leaves on our society and on the bodies of those chewed up within it: the women murdered, missing, raped, battered, scarred[4]. To do so is to merely maintain a whole class of people in sexual service to the other half of the population and thus sustain this fundamental injustice; an injustice which makes a mockery of claims to equality in our country[5]. And while these debates go on, tonight on our streets up to five thousand young people will be exploited in prostitution[6], to fulfil a demand we are told to accept as inevitable. Children continue to be groomed and pimped, with the average age of entry into prostitution worldwide estimated at around only fourteen years old[7]. Women children and men in this industry continue to be disproportionately affected by violence, including sexual violence, with Canadian studies suggesting that women in prostitution face a homicide risk forty times higher than the national average[8].

What is wrong with defining prostitution as work like any other?

Abolitionist feminists view the industry of prostitution as a cause and consequence of inequality, not as work like any other[9]. There is of course, the familiar anti-capitalist argument that all of us are coerced to work, regardless of what job we are in. This argument asks what choice or consent any of us can really have or give, in a world blighted by inequality, by sexism, racism and homophobia. Ours is a world scarred by the masculinisation of wealth and power, where all too often women and children pay the highest price. In such a world there is certainly a question over the extent of our agency, when the vast majority of us have to work for a living at best and survival at worst, whether we like it or not.

Some sex industry lobby groups that subscribe to this valid anti-capitalist stance then use this argument to classify prostitution therefore as work like any other. They argue that all workers sell their labour, whether they are journalists, waiters, academics or prostitutes. To argue in this way removes any gendered analysis from debate about prostitution; which is wrong, because prostitution is markedly gendered. The vast majority of those in prostitution are women, and the vast majority of punters are men. This, and other signs of the symptoms of structural inequalities, cannot be overlooked.

What is the difference between selling one’s labour to earn money or being in prostitution to earn money?

It is worth exploring further this common refrain that prostitution is work like any other. Feminist arguments against the industry of prostitution hold that there is a difference between selling one’s labour, and selling access to one’s body. Survivors of prostitution often say the same[10]. A builder or plumber labours with his or her body, she sells her labour which is a product of her physicality, including her mind. A journalist or academic labours with their body too, thinking, writing, delivering lectures, travelling to conferences etc. But this is not the same as selling access to one’s body. Goods are produced by labourers through the labouring of their body – their body is not the good itself. Some would then point to dancers, or artists who use their own bodies in their art. But the same argument can apply, as dancers produce dance, and artists produce art with their bodies – their body is not the good in itself.

The boundaries of the body are enshrined in law, our bodily integrity is universally understood; everywhere but in debates about prostitution it seems. Most of us would understand that there is a difference between being punched in the face and being raped. Our law treats these two violent assaults differently, because the latter is understood to have breached bodily integrity, it is a violation of bodily boundaries. This is partly why labouring with one’s body and making one’s body into a good itself, are two very different things. To put it bluntly, being a builder does not involve making one’s body sexually available to one’s employers; the same is true of journalists, academics, waiters etc.

Are Feminists saying that people in prostitution don’t work?

No. Feminists are not saying that earning a living through prostitution does not involve labour of the body and mind, it certainly does. It is probably one of the most difficult ways to earn a living – and many people struggle to even earn a living in this ‘industry’, many experience it as merely survival[11]. But debate around prostitution cannot and should not be shut down by turning to the refrain that all work is like prostitution – because it patently is not; and the great majority of people understand this. I remember one survivor summarising this argument well, when she was asked if prostitution wasn’t just a job like any other that nobody particularly likes but does for the money, as with cleaning. She replied that perhaps prostitution was a little like cleaning – if all cleaners were forced to do their cleaning work with only their tongues[12].

Are Feminists stigmatising people in prostitution?

No. Patriarchal society, obsessed as it is with a fear of and fascination with women’s sexuality, attaches a stigma to those in prostitution. It is a form of what Mary Daly would call a ‘patriarchal reversal’ that this stigma is not also attached to those who buy sexual services in prostitution – punters, men. Within patriarchy men’s sexuality is not degraded by buying sexual access to others, whereas women in prostitution are degraded. Patriarchy has constructed women generally as object to men’s subjectivity, and associated women with nature, with the body and with sex. Women in prostitution are forced to bear the brunt of this dualism. This is not a construct of feminists. Feminists oppose such patriarchal constructs. Feminists do not support campaigns that stigmatise or attempt to shame women in prostitution. Feminists do not think that being in prostitution or having once been in prostitution is anything to be ashamed of.

Men who choose to buy access to women in prostitution are stigmatising people in prostitution by commodifying another human being. In fact, punters themselves often report feeling ashamed of buying sexual services in prostitution[13].

Are Feminists suggesting that women in prostitution should be criminalised?

No. Feminists are not arguing for those in prostitution to be criminalised. This is just one matter on which I’m sure there is agreement, regardless of political stance. I’m sure we can all agree that those involved/exploited/working in this industry should not be criminalised. Feminist groups are calling for decriminalisation of those in prostitution; for the crimes of loitering and soliciting to be removed from the statute and for any records for these offences to be wiped, as having such a record only further inhibits women from entry into the formal labour market, training or education and unfairly brands them a criminal. Feminist groups are not calling for women in prostitution to be criminalised, and feminist groups do not support the fining or imprisoning of women or the serving of anti-social behaviour orders on women in prostitution.

If those in support of the ‘sex-industry’ are ‘sex-positive’ or ‘pro-sex’, are Feminists anti-sex?

No. Feminism has never been anti-sex. In 1975 the UK Women’s Liberation Movement agreed the following demand at one of their annual, National Women’s Liberation Conferences: An end to discrimination against lesbians and for the right of all women to define their own sexuality.

Feminists have been at the forefront of campaigning for the right of all women to explore, express and enjoy their sexuality freely without fear of violence, exploitation or stigma. Radical feminists in this country during the 1970s and 1980s established lesbian communes, practiced non-monogamy as a political act, critiqued the nuclear family, challenged heterosexism and analysed their own sexuality in Consciousness Raising or CR groups. These women were not anti-sex! Feminists are the most vocal in challenging the sexual double standard which aggrandises men for sexual activity but attempts instead to shame women for the same.

Abolitionist feminists are not against the industry of prostitution for moralistic or religious or conservative reasons. We don’t have a problem with sex; we don’t think the industry of prostitution is really about sex, we think it’s about power, inequality, poverty, survival and exploitation[14].

Are feminists trying to say that everyone in prostitution has been forced or coerced into it?

No. In her blog post, Strinkovsky rightly pointed out that it would be nonsensical to suggest that all those people – women, young people, men – earning an income through prostitution are forced or coerced. I wonder though, who is arguing that? Certainly no feminists that I know. Having said that; that there are probably some people successfully navigating the ‘sex industry’, without any negative experiences, for both the love and the money of it – should not negate the fact that research suggests this is far from the experience of the majority[15].

For example, it is possible to be against sweatshop labour but still acknowledge that countless families depend on an income from it; ditto with child labour. It is possible to be against the global illegal trade in body organs, but acknowledge that for too many people, this illegal industry sometimes becomes a choice in an environment of very limited options. Presumably we wouldn’t seriously argue that an illegal trade in body organs is fine, as long as people are operated on with sterile instruments. The fact that people find ways to make money when they need it in our imperfect world, does not render those ways unquestionable – the exchange of money does not make everything ok.

What do trafficking and prostitution have in common?

Demand. Trafficking continues to exist, internally and externally. Trafficking is not only women being brought into this country from another country and forced into prostitution. Trafficking also describes women or young people being taken from one city to another and forced into prostitution. It is worth pointing out that it is the same demand that fuels both prostitution and trafficking. If men in Britain did not wish to buy access to women, children and young men, then nobody would be trafficked into the ‘sex industry’ in this country.

Wouldn’t legal brothels make everyone safer?

It can be enlightening to study the local newspapers of towns and cities in countries where brothels have been legalised, to see what is happening on the ground. In Queensland for example, local papers recently reported on complaints from legal brothels regarding being undercut by the illegal sector, resulting in the closure of three legal brothels[16]. There are also concerns about trafficking and links to organised crime and about safety in both sectors[17].  The legal sector is not a panacea, it does not guarantee women’s safety; for example, a woman is reportedly suing a legal brothel in Victoria, Australia after being threatened with a gun for refusing to have unprotected sex[18]. A survey in Australia found physical safety still the highest concern for women in legal brothels[19]. Women are still raped, assaulted and attacked in legal brothels and tolerance zones[20]. And, in countries which have legalised, this happens behind the closed doors of legal, profit-making brothels paying a licence fee to the state, therefore making the state a pimp. There have also been suggestions that the numbers of young people exploited in prostitution increases under legalisation. The charity ChildRight in Amsterdam reported an increase following legalisation, and ECPAT also documented an increase in Australian states that had established legal brothelisation[21].

Legalising prostitution turns it into a business, turns it into a career option and turns pimps and traffickers into legitimate businessmen overnight. Legalising prostitution removes any obligations to provide exit services from what becomes a profession like any other, it can give a green light to organised crime and it formally defines women as commodities, as objects of exchange for men’s presumed natural needs.

What are exit services?

It is possible to implement both harm minimisation and exit services, this is not an either/or argument, though it is often reduced to such by proponents of the sex industry and by groups such as the IUSW, who have been described as an industry lobby group[22]. It is not necessary to legalise and normalise the whole of the sex industry in order to provide exit and harm minimisation services, and we should be wary of those groups who frame the debate in this way and threaten such an ultimatum. Exit services are interventions aimed at supporting those who want to get out of the ‘sex industry’ to get out. Interventions can provide support with housing, education, training, benefits, counselling, family mediation, police support to prosecute abusers be they pimps or punters etc.

As stated earlier in this blog, citizens in this country have a right to welfare benefits, health care, to a police response to crimes committed against them, to training and employment, to education, to support with housing and child care, to support with drug and alcohol addiction. People have these rights regardless of what they do to make money to survive and everyone should be able to access and benefit from these entitlements. Not that this is easy for anyone, particularly for refugees and asylum seekers, and especially in the current economic climate, where we are witnessing devastating ideological cuts to our welfare state and to essential services that are vital for the most disadvantaged.

Exit services are important and necessary because the so-called ‘sex industry’ is an industry built on the inequality of women, it is built on the deep fissures of inequality that in fact characterise society at every level, inequalities of class, race and wealth. It cannot be coincidence that evidence suggests that the majority of those in prostitution around the globe are women, are poor women, are Women of Colour, are migrant women, are young women, are mothers, are homeless women, are First Nation women, are women without papers. The ‘sex industry’ is an industry that harms those in it, which damages those in it and it is not surprising then that global research finds that around 90% of those in it would leave if they had the economic freedom to do so[23]. A 2007 study in Germany also found that most of those surveyed in the prostitution industry said it was only a temporary solution to a difficult financial situation and they wanted to get out as soon as they possibly could[24]. Securing this economic freedom must then be one element of all feminist campaigns against the industry of prostitution.

Don’t feminists understand that people have to earn a living?

Yes, but the answer to poverty and marginalisation is not to negate our social responsibilities and hand over this authority to the multi-billion dollar ‘sex industry’. Brothels and strip clubs in our communities are not providers of drug rehabilitation, of rape trauma counselling, of housing. Lap-dancing clubs in our communities are not providers of higher education and they are not providing a public service by recruiting young student women struggling to pay the high fees and expenses now associated with completing a University education. The answer to the latter situation for example, is to unite together and fight for the return of the student grant and for free education for all – not to turn to the often criminal ‘sex industry’, as if it is some sort of safety net for women, when it is usually the very opposite[25]. Many feminists are socialists and many are anti-capitalist, many abolitionist feminists view the industry of prostitution as the ultimate form of commodification and the natural end point of capitalism; which is another reason why they campaign against it.

Isn’t prostitution the oldest profession?

No. Apparently agriculture is actually the oldest profession. Abolitionists view prostitution as one of the oldest oppressions. The length of time an oppression has been in existence is not grounds for its continuation; it is even more reason to try to overcome it.

If there are legal brothels, wouldn’t that get rid of ‘underground’ prostitution?

If the UK were to follow the example of legalised brothels, such as in New Zealand, Amsterdam and Australia, what do we expect would happen to this so-called ‘industry’? Is it not common business sense to assume that when an industry is legalised and promoted, when it can freely advertise and set up anywhere in our towns and cities, that it will therefore grow, that it will expand? And, if the industry grows, who will fill the new ‘vacancies’ that will be created? More women, children and men in prostitution; we have to ask ourselves if that is the sort of outcome we want?

There is also the argument that wherever there is a legal sector there will always be an illegal or so-called ‘underground’ sector, and this has indeed been found to be the case, everywhere that has legalised[26]. There will always be those that do not wish to register as sex workers, those that don’t want to or can’t pay taxes, those that are working illegally without papers, those who are immigrants or trafficked, pimped or underage[27].

What are abolitionists campaigning for then?

It is time to envision a society, and a world, without prostitution. This may sound idealistic, but the theory matters, the direction of travel matters, the aspiration matters; because if we can’t envision such a society, then we cannot even begin to build it.

For those of us who accept that prostitution is not a positive feature of society, those that agree that it is not a positive career option for women, children or young men, must then tackle and reverse the social and economic conditions that enable prostitution to thrive. Our society has failed people who need refuge, who need safe housing, who need food, who need health services, who need money to survive, who need child care, who need justice to be served on rapists and abusers. We have raised girls who think their worth is based on their attractiveness to the opposite sex, we have reduced women to nothing more than sex objects; we have brought up boys to believe that women are second-class. Thus, we have created a conducive environment for prostitution. This is not natural, it is not inevitable, and it can be reduced, maybe ended; at the very least it can be challenged, rather than glamourised, normalised and condoned.

The real question about prostitution is the question of men’s rights; and, whether we as a society believe that men have a right to buy and sell women’s bodies or whether they do not. We know that people will do what they have to do to survive and to make money, this isn’t rocket science, it isn’t a feature of people’s sexuality or sexual identity. People make desperate choices to provide for their children, to keep a roof over their heads, to feed their families or just to make an income – and they should not be criminalised for doing so when their situation and/or vulnerability is exploited within prostitution. But why do men choose to buy women’s bodies, men who are often in full time employment, in relationships and in a position of relative privilege[28]? And why do we as a nation protect and condone that choice as if it cannot be helped, as if it is a feature of our human biology that some of us are born with a price on our head and others with a birth-right to buy us?

Imagine if our country stood up and said that this is not acceptable, as Sweden has done, stood up and said that every woman is worth more than what some man will pay for her and that we will criminalise rather than condone men who assume a right to buy the body of another human being. If our laws are lines in the sand, if they define collective aspirations, then ours are clearly lacking on this issue. This is despite the changes in the Policing & Crime Act 2009 under the last Government, which were indeed a step forward; for the first time directing the eyes of the law onto those who fuel prostitution – punters[29]. This victory was a result of tireless campaigning by women’s groups, led by the Feminist, abolitionist ‘Demand Change’ campaign[30]. Nevertheless, these changes did not go far enough and those exploited in the ‘sex-industry’ are still being branded as, and treated as, criminals, with all the increased vulnerability that engenders.


Rather than simply throw our hands in the air and legalise the whole of the ‘sex-industry’, some genuine vision and ambition is needed here. It is time to choose which side we’re on, because the multibillion dollar ‘sex-industry’ is doing fine and well, it does not need our support, it certainly does not need our protection. But around the world, exploited in prostitution, there are women, children and men who do, many of whom can see no end to their situation; so we must. We must make it happen; we must end one of the oldest human rights violations our world has known and relegate this blot on our humanity to history.


For more information and to get involved in campaigns see:

Demand Change

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women


Survivors Manifesto from CATW:

Survivors of Prostitution and Trafficking Manifesto
Author(s): Various

Survivors of Prostitution and Trafficking Manifesto
Press Conference — European Parliament

Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation
“Who Represents Women in Prostitution?”
October 17, 2005

We, the survivors of prostitution and trafficking gathered at this press conference today, declare that prostitution is violence against women.

Women in prostitution do not wake up one day and “choose” to be prostitutes. It is chosen for us by poverty, past sexual abuse, the pimps who take advantage of our vulnerabilities, and the men who buy us for the sex of prostitution.

Prostitution is sexual exploitation, one of the worst forms of women’s inequality, and a violation of any person’s human rights.

Many women in prostitution have been severely injured, some have died, and some have been murdered by their pimps and customers.

Physical violence, rape and degradation are often inflicted on us by customers, pimps, recruiters, police and others who gain from prostitution. The public either judges us as “whores” or thinks we make a lot of money.

The condition of women in prostitution is worsened by laws and policies that treat us as criminals and the scum of society, while customers, pimps, managers and sex business owners are not made accountable. Our condition is also made worse by giving licenses to prostitution enterprises and legal protection to pimps, customers and the sex industry

Most women are drawn into prostitution at a young age. The average age of entrance into prostitution worldwide is estimated at around 14.

Victims of prostitution and trafficking have almost no resources to help them exit. Programs that provide alternatives for women in prostitution are very few.

Women in prostitution dream of a life free from oppression, a life that is safe, and a life where we can participate as citizens, and where we can exercise our rights as human beings, not as “sex workers.”

We, survivors from Belgium, Denmark, Korea, the UK and the United States declare:

1. Prostitution must be eliminated. Thus, it should not be legalized or promoted.

2. Trafficked and prostituted women need services to help them create a future outside of prostitution, including legal and fiscal amnesty, financial assistance, job training, employment, housing, health services, legal advocacy, residency permits, and cultural mediators and language training for victims of international trafficking.

3. Women in prostitution need governments to punish traffickers, pimps and men who buy women for prostitution and to provide safety and security from those who would harm them.

4. Stop arresting women and arrest the perpetrators of trafficking and prostitution.

5. Stop police harassment of women in prostitution and deportation of trafficked women.

6. Prostitution is not “sex work,” and sex trafficking is not “migration for sex work.” Governments should stop legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry and giving pimps and buyers legal permission to abuse women in prostitution.

As survivors of prostitution and trafficking, we will continue to strengthen and broaden our unity, help any woman out of prostitution, and work with our allies to promote the human rights of victims of trafficking and prostitution.


[2] ‘Prostitution & Trafficking in Women’, Regeringskansliet, (Swedish) Ministry of Industry, Employment & Communications, July 2004




[6] Paying The Price, 2004

[7] M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, “Victimization of street prostitutes, Victimology: An International Journal, 7: 122-133; D.Kelly Weisberg, 1985, ‘Children of the Night: A Study of Adolescent Prostitution’, Lexington, Mass, Toronto

[8] Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution, 1985, Pornography and Prostitution in Canada 350














[22] see also: Bindel Julie (2013) ‘An Unlikely Union’, Gaze – A Modern Review, Issue 1


[24] Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act), by Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, 2007.




This article was originally published on the FWSA blog and has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

Finn Mackay is a PhD student at the Centre for Gender & Violence Research, University of Bristol and a FWSA Executive Member.

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  • BK

    Fantatsic and thorough – will share this around!

    One that stuck out and reminded me of a sour experience I had in my latest WMST course was the line “prostitution is markedly gendered.” I was informed by a male student who had previously taken a WMST course on sex work (which took a full decriminalization of johns perspective) that NO in fact, there are men in prostitution so therefore it is not gendered. He told me he learned this in the class in the women’s studies class of sex work. Pretty fucking baffling, hey? It’s a nice way to deny history, too since throughout history and continuing today WOMEN are disproportionately represented in the sex industry at large.

    Anyway, this piece is great and i think it will bring in readers from all sides of the argument. Thanks for posting!

    • I was informed by a male student who had previously taken a WMST course on sex work (which took a full decriminalization of johns perspective) that NO in fact, there are men in prostitution so therefore it is not gendered.

      What are they teaching in Women’s Studies these days?? This is simply a completely incorrect statement which wouldn’t hold up in any serious discussion or analysis of work. According to this guy’s logic NO work is gendered.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh yo. The course that I took on ‘sex work’ during my undergrad was completely pro-decrim. Where’s the feminism in Women’s Studies these days?

      • BK

        A lot of WMST is being taken over by queer theorists – so feminist theory seems to be taking a back seat to post-modern, liberal, male-centric theory. It was a depressing semester to say the least.

        • Morgan

          I started a women’s studies major several years ago (didn’t finish), the intro course wasn’t too terribly queerified at that point but reading this thread makes me glad I didn’t continue, could only have been disappointed further down the road it sounds like. What’s really sad is how many students get indoctrinated into this line of thinking and go on to perpetuate it.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I really enjoyed my women’s studies degrees… So I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from pursuing feminism in academia if they are so inclined, though there have been disappointments for sure. The problem with the course I referenced on ‘sex work’ was that it was a class that originated in Criminology and which they decided to try out in Women’s Studies (big fail, from my perspective) and the Crim dept at SFU is full of decriminalization advocates.

    • Laur

      Sure, there are some men in the industry but men are the overwhelming ones buying them.

      And yeah, a lot of professors today are awful. I had a professor who repeatedly said how great legalization was (she wasn’t a women’s studies prof). I brought up some opposin points, as I did not want the other students in the class to walk away with that message. Then, the professor started repeating legalization arguments in every class!!! The subject of the class had zero to do with prostitution. I kid you not.

      Prostituition is totally glamorized by he media. I have female friends who say off handle “I should be an escort” for the money, but I know they have a sense of self respect and connections to others that they would t actually do this. They also aren’t as informed as the readers of this blog. But when a professor promotes the idea that prostituon should be legalized, well, they are I. A position of power and that requires some answering for.

      • MLM

        I’m always amazed at how little supportive evidence is ever required of people who make the legalisation argument. They dismiss all kinds of research cited by abolitionists, often solely based on who the researcher was (e.g. Melissa Farley), and without even making a solid evidence based argument for why THAT is a valid thing to do. There is ample evidence that legalisation is failing, there is much evidence that the Nordic Model is working. Yet this is refuted time and time again by pro legalisation advocates without providing credible evidence for their position. The normalisation and glamourising of the sex industry, and the demonisation of those who oppose it, effectively means that they can make incredibly lazy and unsubstantiated arguments and most people don’t even seem to be awake to it.

        And for all the baseless garbage which gets spouted about radical feminists & abolitionists being “anti-woman” and “in bed with religious right”, where’s the outcry about pro sex industry advocates actually trying to shut down an anti-child-sex-trafficking conference. (Yes, that’s correct – a conference to “combat commercial sex trafficking of children (CSEC).” They were protesting THAT).


        (This is a link about the conference itself)

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  • Hecuba

    Unlike forced labour or slave labour, prostitution is an industry wherein it is 99.9% females who are the ones being purchased by innumerable males. There is no equitability within prostitution because men not women were the ones who created prostitution so that innumerable males would have ready sexual access to female bodies.

    The majority of males within the pornstitution industry are the ones overseeing and controlling the women in prostitution. These males are the pimps and brothel owners and whilst there are female pimps and female brothel owners they do not have the same power as the male pimps and male brothel owners. Similar to slavery, the masters have always instigated supervisors who are tasked with controlling the slaves and yet these supervisors were slaves too. Even though these slave supervisors were granted a few privileges they were still not free.

    Claiming there are prostituted males serves only to deflect attention away from the real issue which is males created prostitution for the sexual benefit of males and it is overwhelmingly females who are the ones being prostituted so that male sex right to their bodies can be satisfied.

    The term ‘sex work’ is a term the pornstitution industry created to sanitise and normalise pseudo male sex right to female bodies. Perhaps slavery is not ‘slavery’ but merely ‘labour’ which just happens to be undertaken by those women and men who are owned by their male masters! No need to name it as slavery because it is just another form of work and as we know ‘work will set you free!’

  • stephen m

    I was wondering if someone can give me to a good rational argument why it is a good thing for total decriminalization of prostitution using the questions below as talking points and excluding the argument that it might be safer for all the current prostitutes:

    Why would we would want to normalize prostitution and actually support the abusive patriarchal model that it represents? In its simplest model, women and girls being bought by men to use and abuse sexually. Is this behavioural model the one we want to further invade our popular culture, to NORMALIZE?

    Why is it is a good thing for everyone’s girl children and grandchildren to have their way eased into the possibly becoming a prostitute in the future? Societal grooming?

    Without being able to buy sex with girls and women we consign men to melt, whither, and die pitifully?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, I can’t provide a “good” argument, but I can guess what the argument is for full decrim. It’s simply a bunch of myths they tell themselves over and over again tied to delusions about the industry being nothing more than sex between “consenting adults” — no harm done. One of the myths is that if we legalize/fully decriminalize, the “stigma” of being a prostitute will go away. This, of course, has not happened anywhere where decriminalization/legalization has been adopted. The other thing that’s behind the argument for full decrim/legalization is that prostitution isn’t going anywhere and there’s nothing we can do about it so why bother criminalizing any aspect. And yes, there is this stereotype about men/male sexuality that says they need sex (on demand, one supposes) or they will die.

      That probably wasn’t what you were looking for, but as far as I understand it, those are the key arguments in favour of decriminalizing pimps and johns: that it will end the stigma, be safer, and that whatever happens between consenting adults is no one’s business anyway. So we have delusion + delusion + libertarianism. Ta daaa!

      • Lisa

        Exactly! Have you heard of the blogger Natalia Antonova? This is exactly her view of prostitution on her blog, and basically all of her arguments come down to “radical feminists are anti-woman and it’s stupid to think that we can end the demand associated with prostitution.” Then she posts petitions against the Nordic model without any commentary!

        The scary thing is, apparently she’s a “journalist.” I thought to be a journalist, you actually had to do research, and you know, say things that are true?

        I don’t mean to “attack” a specific blogger, but I’ve seen so many arguments in line with hers that drive me up the wall. This is definitely one of those posts that need to be passed around when someone starts going on about how feminists don’t care about prostituted women, women like selling sex so you’re a prude, etc.

      • Morgan

        The argument that prostitution is never going to go away so we might as well decrim/legalize the whole thing boggles the mind. Why not set up legal human trafficking networks – I mean, there’s always going to be people selling other people for sexual and other slavery – why bother fighting it? And murder, I mean, that’s never going away, we should just stop trying to punish it. The argument “it’s never going away so why bother” could be made for any and all types of violent crime. It’s just lazy.

        • Meghan Murphy

          It makes no sense. Particularly within a context of social justice which is what many of those advocating to legalize/fully decriminalize are pretending to be doing. Like, if nothing is ever going to change then how can we or why would we call ourselves progressive?? I don’t get it.

        • Sam Berg

          Prostitution is actually one of the easiest crimes to deter because most johns aren’t hardened criminals, just selfish pricks with a lot to lose and nothing but a fleeting “entertainment” to gain.

          89% of sex buyers said they would be deterred from buying sex if their name were to be added to a sex offender registry.

          90% of sex buyers said they would be deterred from buying sex if a $1,000-$2,000 penalty were imposed.

          100% of sex buyers said they would be deterred from buying sex if a one month jail term were imposed.

          “Comparing Sex Buyers with Men Who Don’t Buy Sex,”

          • copleycat

            Excellent point and it does make you wonder just what is in people’s minds when they claim that the demand can’t be stopped.

          • Laur

            Personally, I think all of the above should be imposed.

            I know a group of friends who took a trip to Las Vegas after college graduation . The friends were all male and they had literAlly been planning the trip for years. They went to one of the top colleges in the u.s. as well. It sickens me. I bet at least some of these men become lifelong “johns” though buying sexual access one time is bad enough. If there was a real deterrent in place, I bet these boys would have chosen to have their fun in a different way.

  • Missfit

    The male demand, that would supposedly never go away, is born out of the way heterosexuality is constructed under patriarchy. A woman can feel very horny (yes, we know what it’s like) and the idea that it should be the job of an eighteen year-old stranger to lick her genitals for sexual relief, on the spot, in exchange for money, will not cross her mind. Men, on the other hand, grow up receiving the message that there should be women at their disposal for their sexual enjoyment, on demand, to the point where they view this not simply as a desire but as a right. You don’t hear women tell a man ‘lick my clit’ in a non-sexual context. You hear men say to women ‘suck my dick’, and its corollary ‘go back to the kitchen’, both used to tell a woman to shut up, as a call to put her back to her place, i.e. subservient to men.

    Prostitution, as mentioned, is both the cause and the consequence of inequality. Porn harm women and girls, no matter how many exceptions you can find. Erase the sources of inequality, change the way heterosexuality is constructed, and it is possible to end prostitution. We can debate about the best avenue to improve women’s safety. However, in my opinion, you can’t be a feminist and be supportive of the sex industry, be ‘pro-prostitution’. You just can’t.

  • marv

    Meghan, your piece is an elegant and captivating consolidation of the many reflections you have shared over time. More, it was a fair and concise review of both sides of the divide, without waffling or playing the neutral bystander.

    Critical Development scholar, Ilam Kapoor, devised the term “decaf capitalism” to describe the use of kindness and generosity to offset social injustice as a form of humanized capitalism. I think “decaf prostitution” or “prostitution lite” captures the ideology of the movement to humanize the trade. The sex faction decaffeinates prostitution by petitioning for damage control without facing the enormous male power over women. Injury mitigation serves to stabilize the system, making it more palatable to society. Sex work in this sense is fundamental to the sustainment of the male global order. It masks the status quo, providing a safety net for men to flourish, and in essence depoliticizing that which is inescapably political.

    Compare this strategy to Kapoor’s observations of slavery: “the worst slave owners were those who were ‘kind’, because they ended up rationalizing slavery under the pretence of their enlightened goodness, but in so doing they may have prevented the politicization of the slaves and prolonged the very institution of slavery”. Like the benevolent slave owners, sex activists fail to admit their own complicity in the violence they seek to redress.

    Our downfall as a society is not that we expect too much from life. It is that we settle for so little – crumbs instead of a magnificent feast.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh I wish I’d written this! It was Finn Mackay! She is clearly an excellent thinker.

      • marv

        Whoops! Well it sounded exactly like you (-:

        • Meghan Murphy

          I’ll take that as a compliment haha.

    • lizor

      “decaf capitalism” – what an excellent descriptive term. Thanks marv. I am going to check out Kapoor’s work for sure.

  • vouchsafer

    Firm high five on this post, nicely stated, really cutting edge in terms of pointing out that radfems tend to be anti capitalist and just a good, straight up explanation Of the advantages of penalizing the demand and not the prostituted. so adding exit strategy facilitation to my business plan!

    MLM and the rest of you all, great to hear your thoughts as usual. To Meghan Murphy, where you been, girl? Don’t you know us regulars are getting dependent on your posts? That’s how important what you’re doing is. You are first class Meghan Murphy. Don’t ever give up!

    Will be linking to this post in the future, of this I’m certain.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you, sister! Sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve posted… I’m workin on it, I promise — thank you for reading and for the appreciative words. I appreciate all of your commentary, thoughts, analysis and support, as always.

    • MLM

      “You are first class Meghan Murphy. Don’t ever give up!”

      Seconding this! This is such an awesome blog and commenting community (hi vouchsafer!). So very grateful it exits.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Aww, thanks so much! I think you all are just the best.

  • Lela

    “But why do men choose to buy women’s bodies, men who are often in full time employment, in relationships and in a position of relative privilege? And why do we as a nation protect and condone that choice as if it cannot be helped, as if it is a feature of our human biology that some of us are born with a price on our head and others with a birth-right to buy us?”

    McKay’s words deftly unmask the unconscionable. Men of all political stripes are so lacking in perspective and self-awareness, that they have bought into the notion that their “right” to sexual access to others takes priority over the rights of others to the basic necessities of life.

  • (This is going to be U.S.-centric):

    This article sets up a false binary. A more accurate binary would be “abolition vs decriminalization.” Almost all advocates for sex workers rights AND sex workers themselves support decriminalization. They dont want sex workers/themselves arrested for tryin to make a living obviously, but also acknowledge that “legalization” of a socially-stigmatized profession leaves a paper trail in a way that not a lot of ppl are comfortable with (that leaves you potentially dealing with licensing, fees, immigration/visa issues, mandatory testing, invasions of privacy, official evidence of doing this kind of work that can then be used again you in divorce/custody proceedings, tax burdens, etc.etc.)

    Are Feminists saying that people in prostitution don’t work?


    This is a straight up lie. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “prostitution isn’t work, it’s slavery/rape!” or the like. Oh, and radicalfeminists LOVE putting sex “work”/”sex work” in scarequotes!

    If those in support of the ‘sex-industry’ are ‘sex-positive’ or ‘pro-sex’, are Feminists anti-sex?

    Don’t equate “pro sex industry” with “sex positive” or “pro sex”. A stripclub owner is “pro sex industry” cuz they profit off the labor of their workers (like all bosses in a capitalist system) but that says nothing of their personal views on sex itself. “Sex positive” is kinda a meaningless overused term that I dont really like but generally refers to an acknowledgment that all kinds of sexual exploration are healthy & positive if enjoyed consensually (usually including an acceptance of BDSM/alternative sexualities). Being sex positive absolutely does not preclude having a critique of the sex industry itself. Pretty much EVERY girl I work with at my stripclub critiques the industry. Maybe they just dont do it with non-industry workers (esp feminists) because they constantly feel attacked/on the defensive about what they do. And the admonishment comes from all sides: feminists outside the industry, social/case workers, “friends”, partners, the media, law enforcement, prospective landlords/employers outside the industry, etc. So yeh, maybe some people come off as defensive about the industry, but maybe if radicalfeminists outside the industry actually acted/debated in good faith and LISTENED to women CURRENTLY in the industry (not just the ones they WANNA hear, but most of us doing about “average”) we’d all feel more free to talk about our experiences, good and bad, and critique what needs to be critiqued (ahem, CAPITALISM AS A WHOLE!)

    Are feminists trying to say that everyone in prostitution has been forced or coerced into it?


    Also false. Many radical feminists say this. You can argue that they don’t, but I’ve endured MANY arguments with them where they do so Im speaking from personal experience. Maybe they havent said this to you. Good for you. It’s basically a cultural meme at this point.

    Many feminists are socialists and many are anti-capitalist

    True, my comrade and I are currently working on a book about radical sex workers (feminists, socialists, anarchists, anticapitalists, etc.)- . All radical and feminist sex workers like myself want the sex industry “abolished” I think- I personally don’t want stripclubs and commodified sex in my ideal world. I want everyone to be able to have amazing, consensual sex in whatever form it comes (whether thats bdsm/kinky sex, loving romantic sex, queer, straight, NSA sex, anonymous hook ups, whatever), without any kind of economic (or other kind of) coercion. (all work being inherently some form of economic coercion). So in an ideal sense I’m an “abolitionist” but acknowledge that fighting to dismantle one single industry (the sex industry) without attacking the roots of poverty and patriarchy and alienation is singularly is narrow, shortsighted and counterproductive.

    • marv

      Your analysis is very male left. It lacks a serious awareness of sex classes and how we are socialized into them. The origins and current existence of economic inequality cannot be grasped without recognizing the social construction of gender.

    • lizor

      “fighting to dismantle one single industry (the sex industry) without attacking the roots of poverty and patriarchy and alienation is singularly is narrow, shortsighted and counterproductive.”

      Straw argument.

      “… attacking the roots of poverty and patriarchy and alienation” as an effective strategy is the position put forth in this piece and numerous other posts on this blog. If this is your analysis, why are you working to discredit people who agree with you?

    • vouchsafer

      I agree in a sense that focusing on dismantling one industry, the sex industry, seems hopeless when it’s really capitalism that needs to be torn down. But it isn’t a waste of time because the dismantling of capitalism has to start somewhere .

      Consider this – a woman-led revolution to end it might not take a sudden violent approach. It might just begin by going after one industry, the one that does the most spiritual harm, say, and one that functions as a nutshell version of what’s wrong with capitalism.
      Capitalism rose to power by excluding women’s voiced from policy making conversations, and guess what? Vilifying women because of and through the use of prostitution was one of the ways they went about it. The end result of this was the raging testosterone fest that is free market capitalism as we know it .
      Because they excused women from the conversation, we have no history of how women would sset about enacting a revolution. It just might be by piecemeal, pacifist ways like taking a subverting industry like sex work and using it as proof that capitalism is harmful. Next time those feminists come sniffing around trying to get the real anecdotal evidence they need to prove that the system needs revolution you should try trusting them enough -your own gender- to give them what they need to help inform the choices that need to be made to make a better world so that none of our daughters have to live that. If you don’t you contribute to your own oppression.

    • MLM

      “All radical and feminist sex workers like myself want the sex industry “abolished” I think- I personally don’t want stripclubs and commodified sex in my ideal world.”

      How can you abolish an industry by actively participating in it, though?

      • Laur

        I don’t think this is a very fair comment. Luna participates in the sex industry in a male supremacist society, whatever her personal reasons for doing so are. Strip clubs do not exist because Luna and other women work in them; they exist because men want them to.

        • MLM

          “Strip clubs do not exist because Luna and other women work in them; they exist because men want them to”.

          I don’t remotely disagree with that. But Luna mentions “radical sex workers” who apparently also want the industry abolished and I (perhaps mistakenly) read that as them having some kind of an active agenda to help abolish it. I don’t really understand how that would manifest itself when working within the system.

          • lizor

            @ MLM (July 1 8:27 pm) , she also spends most of her post accusing Mackay of lying and trying to discredit the entire essay. She then closes by asserting that she and other “radical sex workers” want ultimately to abolish the industry via an analysis that closely matches the one outlined by Mackay and by other writers on this site.

            Luna’s post attempts to tear down the ideas that support the position she posits at the end of her post. It makes no sense at all but rather undermines Mackay, radical feminists in general, and ultimately herself.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Are Feminists saying that people in prostitution don’t work?


      This is a straight up lie. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “prostitution isn’t work, it’s slavery/rape!” or the like. Oh, and radicalfeminists LOVE putting sex “work”/”sex work” in scarequotes!”

      That isn’t because feminists literally believe prostitution isn’t labourious (as explained very clearly in the article) — they say it isn’t ‘work’ to mean that it isn’t simply ‘a job like any other.’ And they use quote around ‘sex work’ because it isn’t a particularly feminist term as it erases the gendered aspect as well as the inequity. It seems as though you intentionally misunderstanding the point Finn makes around this argument…

    • Lela

      ““Sex positive” is kinda a meaningless overused term that I dont really like but generally refers to an acknowledgment that all kinds of sexual exploration are healthy & positive if enjoyed consensually (usually including an acceptance of BDSM/alternative sexualities). Being sex positive absolutely does not preclude having a critique of the sex industry itself.”

      Except that it does seem to preclude having a *radical feminist* critique of the sex industry, which I think is telling. Also, “sex positivity” as promoted by sex industry forces represents an intentional removal of all political context from sexual practice, which removes barriers to rape apologism and promotion of sexual violence and exploitation, said barriers of course being the objections of women and feminists which are then construed as “sex negativity.”

      “I want everyone to be able to have amazing, consensual sex in whatever form it comes (whether thats bdsm/kinky sex, loving romantic sex, queer, straight, NSA sex, anonymous hook ups, whatever), without any kind of economic (or other kind of) coercion.”

      Except that simply isn’t going to be possible when virtually everyone’s sexuality is under the tutelage of a misogynistic industry that creates and promotes ever-escalating abuses of women under the guise of “kink,” broadly tells bald-faced lies about women’s sexuality and positions women as interchangeable consumables.

    • I personally don’t want stripclubs and commodified sex in my ideal world. I want everyone to be able to have amazing, consensual sex in whatever form it comes (whether thats bdsm/kinky sex, loving romantic sex, queer, straight, NSA sex, anonymous hook ups, whatever), without any kind of economic (or other kind of) coercion. (all work being inherently some form of economic coercion).-How beautiful to read this! Thank you! I’m for literally free sex for all (except rapists and pedophiles) and not just for men. For me 1 of the roots of all this is the “literal money god” system we live under. How about living with making all things as literally free as possible? “Basic income” is 1 of the ways to do this. I’m hoping I won’t be accused of being a Communist/Marxist for this. I’m so tired of that paranoia online. To want things as free of literal cost as possible doesn’t automatically mean you’re a Communist/Marxist. Thank you for speaking up for literally free sex!

      • Above comment by me was in reply to “Luna”.

        • I’m hoping Luna posts again as I’m hoping to find more people who believe in giving away sex at no literal cost. I’ve found some others online but hope to continue to find more.

  • Rye

    In this comment, I will attempt to argue that prostitution itself is not the cause or consequence of inequality, but that inequality is the cause of the oppressive ways prostitution commonly functions. To prove my case, I will first attempt to disprove two positions that I believe are keystones to showing that inequality is the cause and consequence of prostitution. These two positions are:
    1. Prostitution is gendered.
    2. Women in prostitution are objectified.

    Then with the conclusions reached by arguing against the above, I will attempt to prove two things about human nature before sharing my final thoughts. They are:
    1. It is rational for some women to sell sex and for some men to buy sex.
    2. That the majority of prostitutes are women stems from biology.
    But before I set to out to argue the above, I want to clarify that I agree with a number of issues in this post and with radfems in general.

    1. I agree with decriminalizing prostitutes, criminalizing pimps and punters, and providing harm-minimizing and exit services to women in prostitution, albeit for different reasons. I support the Nordic model because I believe it is currently impractical to remove oppression from prostitution, and because it would save at least 10x more women than it would inconvenience.

    2. I agree that the motive behind legalization/regulation is not about the rights of prostitutes. For example, this is evident from the provisions that were challenged by the applicants in Bedford v. Canada. They challenged the provisions prohibiting public communication, the operation of a bawdy house, and living off the avails of prostitution, because they supposedly compromised the security of sex-workers. First off, the latter two provisions mostly affect the sex-industry’s interests because they prohibit brothels and pimping. Secondly, brothels are inherently exploitative because they would never survive in a freely competitive marketplace. The reason why this is is bit complex so I won’t get in to it here, but I may elaborate on it another time.

    3. I agree that prostitution should not be regarded as work like any other. I believe that thinking of prostitution as work like any other contradicts the right to bodily autonomy. For example, it means that a brothel can discipline a prostitute for refusing to service a customer (which happens) in the same way that a company can punish an employee for not working, which is legalized rape.

    Now I will attempt to disprove the two positions I mentioned earlier, starting with the position that prostitution is gendered. I have two arguments against this, one is a counter-example and the other is an argument that prostitution results from biological differences.

    1. If humans are the only known species to have gender, then how can prostitution be gendered if prostitution has been observed in other species, including primates?

    2. Sex is riskier for women. As a consequence, women will generally be more selective when choosing their partners, making it more difficult for heterosexual men to find a partner. And as a result of that, there will be an incentive for some men to offer women compensation for sex.

    From both (1) and (2), I think we can infer that it is possible and also probable that human prostitution stems from biology.

    The second position is that women in prostitution are objectified. My argument against this is that objectification is not necessarily a part of prostitution. While punters almost always frequent prostitutes for their sexual pleasure, there is no reason to believe that this must necessarily be one sided. Giving a positive and pleasurable sexual experience to one’s partner also gives one’s self sexual pleasure, and I would dare say that sex is more pleasurable and meaningful with reciprocity. And if there is reciprocity, then the prostitute ceases to be fungible and therefore ceases to be a sex object.

    Based on the positions I argued against above, I think the assumption radfems have left unsaid is that it is irrational for a woman to sell sex unless compelled to do so by pressures resulting from inequality. But I have genuine doubts about this because:

    1. The biological fact that sex is riskier for women is sufficient to give some men an incentive to compensate women for sex.
    2. If some men have a natural incentive to pay for sex, then why wouldn’t some women choose to benefit from the opportunity?

    Of course, prostitution would have to function very differently if it existed in feminist land. I imagine there wouldn’t be brothels, escort agencies, sex trafficking, child prostitutes, stigma against prostitutes, or violence against prostitutes. Prostitutes would always be independent proprietors, able to freely choose what men they saw and decide how to spend their time with them, and would be economically situated to stop selling sex if they so chose. Moreover, I think both parties would have ongoing relationships that were sexually intimate and reciprocal, because women could reject men they didn’t at least feel neutral about, and society wouldn’t have the crass understanding of sexuality we do today.

    Consequently, I think the despicable conditions frequently seen in prostitution are a result of patriarchy, not prostitution itself. Furthermore, I believe that prostitution would survive in feminist land because its cause stems from biology, although it would function very differently.

    • vouchsafer

      If prostitutes would always be independent proprietors, able to freely choose what men they saw as you suggest, wouldn’t there still be that subset of men you described who wouldn’t meet their aesthetic tastes and therefore be “not freely chosen” by these so called independent proprietor prostitutes?
      Therefore this so called biological demand you speak of would have to be inflicted through coercion on someone, wouldn’t it?
      Rye, refer back to the post. “men who choose to buy access to women in prostitution are stigmatizing women in prostitution by commodifying another human being.”

    • MLM

      “1. If humans are the only known species to have gender, then how can prostitution be gendered if prostitution has been observed in other species, including primates?”

      You have undermined your argument that prostitution is not gendered within your own argument. In every other animal species where “prostitution” has been observed the females are “selling” the sex to the males, which is largely also the case in human society. Gender is a set of socially constructed roles and expected behaviours creating the hierarchy which facilitates social control of men over women in order to “resource” female sexual access and reproductive capacity. Gender ultimately exists in order for human men to be more successful at what these other animals are trying to do. But, unlike these animals, human beings have a higher consciousness and therefore a higher responsibility to evaluate their own impulses and behaviour.

      Interestingly, also, some “primate prostitution” also seems to be based on a level of inequality.

      “Meat is important for the animals’ diet because it is so high in protein. Since female chimps do not usually hunt, “they have a hard time getting it on their own,” explained Dr Gomes.

      The “meat for sex hypothesis” had already been proposed to explain why male chimps might share with females”.

    • Morgan

      Your whole comment is so incredibly uninformed and delusional and offensive. I would normally address the points made within a comment but they are so appalling I could not possibly lend credibility to them by taking them seriously enough to counter them. Just disgusting.

      • lizor

        @ Morgan, rye is a John, in case you didn’t know.

        He argues:

        “While punters almost always frequent prostitutes for their sexual pleasure, there is no reason to believe that this must necessarily be one sided. Giving a positive and pleasurable sexual experience to one’s partner also gives one’s self sexual pleasure, and I would dare say that sex is more pleasurable and meaningful with reciprocity. And if there is reciprocity, then the prostitute ceases to be fungible and therefore ceases to be a sex object.”

        He wants desperately to believe that the women he buys and uses are actually attracted to him and enjoy his use of them. He has not developed the capacity to grasp the extreme likelihood that the women is swallowing her repulsion and enduring his elaborate masturbation. The post is just a sample of the convoluted intellectual mush he concocts to rationalize his exploitation of other human beings.

  • marv

    The time-worn adage “the devil made me do it” has been replaced by the equally tiresome, “nature made me do it”.

    Metaphorically speaking, Rye is using his prostituted woman and tapping out a message in this comments section simultaneously. Who knows, it could be literally. Possibly that is how he conjures up his inspiration. Nothing like a stiff prick to divert blood from the brain. People will go to any lengths to rationalize their behaviour, defending the indefensible.

  • Rye


    My thought is that, in feminist land, a punter would have to accept a prostitute woman’s rejection at any stage of their interaction. Moreover, I think punters would do most of the marketing, by begging in a non-invasive space, perhaps through online ads, for a woman to accept his bribe. Secondly, women who earned money from prostitution would be earning their living from other work, it would only be a “side job” and never a main job.

    I agree that prostitution almost always commodifies women, but I think it’s contingent. With a more enlightened view of sexuality where reciprocity is seen as essential to good sex, and where punters possibly bond with prostitutes, doesn’t that contradict commodification?


    Sorry, I’m confused about how my argument undermines itself? The only three ways I can think of to defend that prostitution is gendered is to argue that:

    1. Humans aren’t the only known animals with gender.
    2. I fail to prove that prostitution stems from biology.
    3. I misunderstand what radical feminists mean by ‘prostitution is gendered’, because it does not contradict ‘prostitution stems from biology’. Therefore, I have not proven that prostitution is not gendered, even if I have proven that prostitution stems from biology.

    Based on what you said, I think you are trying to argue (3)? Are you saying that they are not contradictory, but gender is essential to understanding human prostitution? The reason being that gender is a tool unique to humans, and it plays a critical role in the way men are able to dominate women through prostitution more effectively than other species?

    That said, I agree that inequality is almost always involved in prostitution, whether with humans or other species. I also agree that humans have greater responsibility to evaluate our own behavior. But I think radfems have an implicit assumption that it would never be rational for a woman to sell sex in conditions of equality. It’s a premise I strongly disagree with, and if it can be shown to be rational for some women in conditions without inequality, then it is logically possible for prostitution to exist in a world without inequality.

    • MLM

      I’m saying that gender is a social performance based on sex, with females being socialised to be “feminine”, males being socialised to be “masculine”. “Feminine” is socially encoded as submissive and to be looked at/pleasing to men etc. while “masculine” is socially encoded as dominant and entitled to “consume” female sexuality. The buyer and seller model of sex as epitomised by prostitution relies heavily on this gender binary.

      Making comparisons between animal/primate behaviour and human behaviour to support the “this is natural/biology” argument is highly problematic, even if there are sometimes similarities at surface level. Because animals do not have gender and human social conditioning it goes without saying that their sexual and social relations will play out very differently than those amongst humans. And the extent to which our own behaviour is biologically informed can not be neatly summed up by comparisons with animal behaviour.

      For example, human females all over the world cultivate and modify their appearance in various ways to “make” themselves acceptable to the male gaze and sexually attractive to men. What other species can you think of where the female needs to invest large amounts of time and energy and resources altering her appearance from it’s natural state to attract male sexual attention? What might this tell us about effect of cultural influence and conditioning on biological impulses in both men and women?

      Another example is the fact that the “preference men have for young partners is a striking contrast with other primates,” Hawkes said by email, noting that it’s been well-documented that male chimpanzees prefer older females as mates”.

      Animal “prostitution” does not resemble the institution which human beings know it to be. And in human societies prostitution doesn’t exist as a result of male biology, but rather because of masculine entitlement, inequality and several thousands of years of male social supremacy.

      So I don’t think you can argue in any strict sense that it is a biological phenomenon, but it clearly is a gendered one.

    • Me

      The only bond you will ever have with a prostitute is an abusive, exploitative bond, because abuse and exploitation are what you believe in. You expect that unless we can say you’ve grown horns and can point to instances where you make your points in a vitriolic, outspokenly hateful tone, we won’t be able to prove you’re an abuser and an exploiter. But that only proves stupidity and willful blindness on your part. It is your abusive beliefs and values that prove your abusiveness beyond all doubt, the same beliefs and values you refuse to budge on no matter how it’s pointed out to you they are abusive and completely wrong. In many ways what you write here embodies the typical dynamic of abuse: the insistence that it’s normal, that it’s natural and that it does not in fact happen.

      • vouchsafer


        Your view of the ideal future means that you still get to purchase access to another human’s body. I agree with Me. I don’t understand why you spend time on this site when you’re so clearly missing the point of it all. I’m going to say this one last time and that’s it.

        There is someone out there for you, that will love you sexually. It’s like you gave up on finding them and so you jerk off to porn and buy sex from prostituted women but all that does is ruin the good in your soul and make your odds of finding happiness weaker. AND you do the soul damage of buying sex from commodified women.

        And then you come on this site and try to convince us that what you’re doing is ok,but it’s not. It never will be.

        Just try, for once, thinking of yourself as being lovable the way you are, and realize that the shit you’ve been marketed, that only the alpha male can get a woman, is a made up construct sold by capitalism and then you might understand what MLM is trying to say about gender and you might understand why what you say is so offensive. Your spouting the vitriol that puts ranks on people and we are trying to work against that here.

  • Rye

    Since some comments are missing from the time before FC went down, I will rely on my memory and reply to some comments a second time.

    @ Meghan Murphy

    Sorry, I apologize for sharing that information. Please understand my intention was to address an obvious objection to my claim that she orgasms, by showing that I have valid reasons for believing they are genuine. That said, I see why I shouldn’t have included that information in my comment, and I promise not to do it again. Also, thank you for explaining your reasons even though you did not have to, I really appreciate it. Thanks.

    @ Me

    Well, an abuser does not have to have horns and a pitchfork, but I think you need to show how prostitution per se is abuse. First, what form of abuse is it? Is it abuse of privilege, physical abuse, psychological abuse, humiliation, objectification, or something else? Secondly, how is prostitution per se inseparable from the abuse?

    Also, I did not mean that prostitution is natural in the sense that men have an impulse to buy sex from women. I meant that sex is biologically riskier for women, and therefore men will want more free sex than women. All this means is that according to economic logic, this biological fact is sufficient to explain why prostitution exists.

    @ Vouchsafer

    I would not call it my ideal future, but I do not think prostitution and gender equality are necessarily in conflict. I also question whether prostitution per se necessarily objectifies women by allowing men to access their bodies, because does it not cease to be that if sexual pleasure is reciprocal?

    Well, I mainly comment on this site to learn, and I learn much from dialogue and debate. Is that so bad?
    But thank you for your faith in me. I know it sounds bizarre, but I am monogamous with one prostitute woman and am happy with our “relationship”. That said, I am trying to give up on porn. Although I do not see a problem with finding images erotic, I now understand why the pornography produced today is almost always anti-woman. In fact, it looks sick and doesn’t even look like sex anymore. Sadly, I still relapse on occasion though.

    @ MLM

    Sadly, I do not recall your comment in enough detail, but I remember you made a convincing case that the arguments for animal prostitution, especially among primates, are weak. For now, I’ll concede that point to you, however, I think my other argument remains solid.

    Which is, that the fact sex is riskier for women is sufficient to explain why the demand for prostitution exists. Of course, that does not answer the question of whether prostitution per se is morally wrong. To answer that question, I think it would have to be established that it would be irrational for some women to profit from that demand, in a society without gender inequality. And, I don’t think radfems have provided a good reason to believe that it would be irrational.

    To clarify, I am not saying that prostitution as it happens is not gendered. It most definitely is, just as the way sex happens is gendered.

    That said, you made an important point that it is PIV sex that is riskier for women. Because patriarchy defines sex as PIV, it would be reasonable to expect that men and women would be having more non-PIV sex in a society without gender inequality. However, my argument still holds, because men will still want more PIV than women.

    I suppose it could be argued that recreational PIV would be irrational for women in a society without gender inequality, and it would put my argument to rest if true. Although I have seen some radfems maintain that position, isn’t it controversial among radfems?

    • Carmen Speer

      Hi Rye, I know this is a long time later.

      I think what you’re doing with your prostitute partner is wrong simply because you are propagating the continuation of prostitution in general by your participation in the industry, and as it stands in this unequal world prostitution is a great harm, not only to the vast majority of prostituted women but to all women over whose heads the threat of exploitation always hangs (and who through the very availability of prostitution will always themselves be seen in terms of their sexual ‘capital,’ if you will). So if you seriously want to be a conscientious objector, you should stop.

      In terms of a Utopian society in which prostitution exists on more egalitarian terms, I would agree that this could be possible except for one thing: in such a society we wouldn’t have money at all. I’m really against the sale of all labor and I’m against the jobs system. I think there are so many more imaginative ways we can create workable human societies where everyone benefits. So if we had no currency, there could be no prostitution; if everyone had what he or she needed and had opportunities to gain extras too, there would be no need to trade sex for anything, and it would all come back down to desire again, which might leave the more undesirable out in the cold, as it always has (believe me, there are plenty of women for whom it is hard to get sex, too).

      So I don’t think a truly egalitarian society would have the money system as we currently know it, and that’s the main flaw I see with your argument.

      As for redacted comments, orgasm doesn’t equal enjoyment. You know people experience orgasm during a rape, too, right? And however willing your prostitute partner may be, she has been conditioned by society and coerced by your money. Even if she has examined it from all angles and truly believes she is making a free choice–free of societal expectations, Freudian complexes or other neuroses, free of the pressures of poverty (and how could you ever really know, truly, whatever she tells you? Why would you take that chance?)–the two of you are still supporting a billion-dollar industry built on the systematic abuse of women.

  • Rye

    In an effort to avoid derailing the post about masculinity any further, I decided it would be best to respond to you here.

    Yes, I still have sex with the same prostitute woman I mentioned so much about. As for porn, I am trying to stop.

    But I feel no guilt paying her for sex. For one, she is not a prostituted woman. She sells sex as an independent proprietor, and is an educated, middle class woman who could exit prostitution any time she wished.

    So all the common reasons why prostitution is bad, including how women in prostitution choose to sell sex because of poverty, experience sexual abuse, and give the lion’s share of their earnings to a pimp, do not apply.

    Which means that the only way it is wrong for me to purchase sex from her is if prostitution per se is wrong, which according to radical feminism is because (I think) it is a gendered practice that constructs women as sexual servants of men. However, I doubt that this is true of prostitution per se, because, one, the biological fact that piv sex is riskier for women is a sufficient cause for there to be demand for paid sex.

    However, a radical feminist could argue that recreational piv sex is a gendered practice, and piv would only be for reproduction in a feminist society. But, I don’t think most radical feminists would be willing to commit to that claim.

    • Me

      It is funny how you keep dismissing feminist critiques of prostitution with that utterly laughable alpha/beta trope straight from a men’s rights forum.

      Those feminist critiques of prostitution are founded on structural analysis, which you don’t know how to present counterarguments to. You don’t have real arguments to support your practice of “buying sex” (realistically, of using money to exploit a woman sexually), which you would have to have to argue for prostitution. Using money to exploit another human being, a woman, sexually is a choice you make, and you don’t have anything to support it being A Right Choice for You beyond “pity poor me.”

      In this instance, you try to turn attention to feminist deconstruction of piv sex, as if THAT was the feminist argument against prostitution in general, or as if that was the argument presented here against your sex buying practice. As if you have not been explained, in detail, why what You do is gender system reinforcing, in fact exploitative and misogynistic, why it’s wrong for You to make the assumption–as you do–that what you do doesn’t hurt the woman, and as if you had not been repeatedly pointed the way out and the way forward which you refuse to take.

      You, my friend, are a good example of a woman-hating man for whom the hatred is so deeply ingrained that it’s completely invisible to you. It is simply the way things are. If you had the willingness to accept exactly this as a starting point, to say that accurately describes you, your outlook and your behavior even though you have tremendous difficulty perceiving it that way, and on top of that had a willingness to do serious work on yourself over the course of several years, it would be a very good starting point for a helpful discussion about masculinity, about empathy and caring for women, and ultimately also about self-discovery and healing. But because you don’t have that willingness, you only distort and obfuscate.

      I’m not going to be silent while you come here looking for validation of your “sensitivity” while keeping on the track you’re on.

    • scaldingmay

      What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you insist on coming to a radical feminist site, where exited women come to discuss their experiences, and repeatedly say that no we’re wrong?

      You’re arguments don’t make any sense. Piv is biologically harmful so women make natural whores? For the 100th time, radical feminists don’t want to outlaw sex or make it only for reproduction, so you and your boner don’t have to worry. What we’re saying is that the sex industry is based on the idea that women are nothing more than fuckholes , which is not based on biology but on men’s entitlement. And your so called business model about how women can use their sexuality for money is bullshit too, considering how 90% of prostituted women want out.

      And for fuck’s sake can you stop talking about the prostituted woman you use like she’s not a real person? You have no right to speak for her, or any other woman. You have no idea what it’s really like for her. I don’t care if she doesn’t have a pimp and makes thousands of dollars an hour, the root of prostitution remains the same: women are not considered human under a patriarchy. Maybe instead of talking about her choices, you examine some of your own by reading this:

      • Rye


        Well, I come to a radical feminist site to learn and debate. Is that wrong? That said, I do not think the experiences of exited women are wrong, but I argue that it is morally permissible to buy sex from some prostitute women who satisfy certain conditions.

        I acknowledge that at least 90% of prostitute women are not selling sex out of free choice; they are victims of childhood abuse, are single mothers, are controlled by pimps and the sex-industry, and have few prospects for employment. And because there is a high cost for saying “no”, I think purchasing sex from women in such conditions is rape. Secondly, I acknowledge that the demand for prostitution is partly fueled by masculinity, making it at least partly a gendered phenomenon.

        However, I maintain that the above conditions do not always occur. But because I do not think prostitution can be broadly reformed in patriarchy, I support criminalizing only demand. Even so, I would still buy sex from her because I absolutely trust her and I am convinced that buying sex from her is morally permissible.

        The reason I believe it is morally permissible to buy sex from her is because I can not find a reason how radical feminism says prostitution is wrong when:

        a. The prostitute woman can freely exit prostitution and independently maintain at least a middle class standard of living.
        b. She functions as an independent proprietor.
        c. The buyer’s reason for buying sex is to experience sex and intimacy with a woman.

        The argument I gave was intended to show that a, b and c and are possible because of biological facts. By no means does it imply that women are inherent prostitutes; if anything it means that some men are inherently johns. To hopefully clarify my argument:

        a. If sex is riskier for women, then men will want more sex than women.
        b. If men want more sex from women, then there is a sex shortage.
        c. If there is a sex shortage for men, then there is male demand for paid sex from women.

        And frankly, I do not understand why some women, in a world without gender inequality, would not freely choose to profit from that demand.

        • Lela

          There is no “sex shortage” because sex is *not a thing unto itself that can be extracted from women’s bodies and selves.* Women’s bodies are NOT a resource that men can rent, own and trade. You speak the disgusting language of pimps and of the callous free market.

          • Rye


            True, sex isn’t a resource that men can rent, own and trade. Men shouldn’t be able to claim ownership of a body that rightfully belongs to a woman.

            By sex shortage, I meant that men want to have more free sex with women than women want to have with men. Additionally, more men are generally born than women. So as a result, some men have an incentive to persuade women to participate in sexual activity with bribes. And if a woman with an adequate amount of agency is persuaded by a bribe, then what’s the moral problem?

            To clarify, I am defining “adequate agency” as the amount of agency sufficient for the woman to reject all present and future prostitution offers without putting her physical or financial well being at risk.

        • MLM

          “And frankly, I do not understand why some women, in a world without gender inequality, would not freely choose to profit from that demand”.

          And that’s because you are seemingly incapable of stepping out of your own entitlement and have no genuine investment in a world without gender equality at all, which very much serves your sexual interests, as much as you would obviously like to see yourself differently.

          Historical examples of socialism demonstrate that women do not see it as “logical” to “profit from that demand” when they are not continuously culturally groomed to think of themselves as existing primarily for men’s sexual benefit and have no need – financial of otherwise – to allow themselves to be exploited as such.

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

          The argument that sex work needs to persist because, if it doesn’t, some people will never be able to have a sexual experience (an argument I have heard time and time again) is a pitiful dodge. Not only does it ignore the fact that in actual historical examples of socialism sex work has withered away, but it ascribes a logic to sexuality that contradicts the very claims made by radical sex work ideologues. For do they not make the argument that properly radical sex work will happen when the sex worker has the freedom to define her own clientele? And do they not also imagine the legal institutionalization of sex work resulting in a situation where the hegemonic mores of puritan sexuality––those mores that define what is desirable and what bodies should be exchanged––will supposedly disintegrate? But the actually existing sex industry happens at the intersection of normative desire, where even what is judged unique and different is only desirable because it is a fetish, and where the control of bodies is defined by a market logic of choice between commodities.

          And the larger point, of course, is that when a structure of gender equality is being developed, when the necessity of selling your own body is removed as a profitable option and that bare survival is guaranteed, then prostitution evaporates as a social convention. To tell those women who have stopped selling themselves because they possess a larger social agency that they should engage in prostitution because some of the men in their society might not get laid otherwise is ridiculous. It is far more progressive to force the men to realize that they do not have the right to buy sex, that female bodies are not theirs to own and exchange”.

          So knock yourself out coming up with reasons a-z why it is “logical” for women to sell themselves to you, and why what you are doing is “ethical”. I’ll go out on a limb here, though, and say that I think people here will generally think it is a load of self serving horseshit. I know I do.

          Similarly, I think you will fail to convince most though you argue till the cows die of old age that what you are paying for is not merely a performance of “intimacy”. Because genuine intimacy with another human being is not just a product you can buy. Even if sexual access to a woman’s body, sadly, is.

          Whatever your “privileged prostitute” ‘s motivations may be, it is no secret that the golden rule is “whoever has the gold makes the rules”. No doubt she well understands that one of Rye’s rules is not calling attention to the fact that his rules are the ones being played by.

        • Rye


          I think the argument that prostitution withered away under China’s early revolutionary government is highly questionable. There is evidence that prostitution continued to exist underground in invisible forms [1]. Moreover, I think it’s hard to argue that the sex-imbalance resulting from the 1979 one-child policy [2] doesn’t have a lot to do with the massive size of China’s prostitution market.

          To clarify myself, I am not arguing that the sex industry needs to persist so everyone can have sex. That would be as morally bankrupt as saying “rape must persist else some people won’t experience sex!”. In fact, I agree with the Nordic model, because it is needed, in our contemporary state of affairs, to minimize harm to women.

          I also agree that the sex industry often intersects with normative desire. My disagreement is with whether prostitution would fully disappear in a society with sex equality. While the artificial demand created by normative desire would disappear, the demand created by certain biological facts (sex being riskier for women and the slightly higher probability of boys born) would not. Moreover, that some women sell sex even though they are easily capable of leaving prostitution is proof that some women will freely choose to prostitute in a sex equal society. As a result, the more plausible outcome is that prostitution would greatly shrink, though not disappear.

          While intimacy is not something that can be bought, it can develop over multiple encounters. In my case, I have known her for over a year now. In that time, we have become well acquainted, and our sexual activity has become increasingly better for the both of us (e.g. she orgasms).That said, it’s probably not the same sort of intimacy as between lovers, but I strongly doubt that she is merely performing intimacy. That is because our intimacy has grown over time, and acting is not in her character.

          Of course, the intimacy I feel when I’m with her isn’t what makes it ethical. Admittedly, I made a mistake by listing intimacy as a condition for prostitution to be ethical. Rather, what makes it ethical is that I am not performing masculinity and she has the capacity to leave prostitution at any time. In other words, she is not consenting to sexual activity with me because she needs the money to survive, as she can independently survive without selling sex.

          While the person with the gold often makes the rules, the buyer isn’t always the one with the power (e.g. corporations > consumers). In her case, the balance of power is very much tipped in her favor. First, she earns more money than I do with just her full time job, and is in a position to easily say “no” to any man’s money. This is probably why she has numerous rules and boundaries that most escorts can not get away with. Moreover, she is physically stronger than I am, and she could blacklist me. So, as you can tell, I have every disincentive to misbehave. And finally, I need her more than she needs me; in fact, she hardly needs me at all. But I need her, because I am entirely dependent on her for sexual activity and female companionship.

          Out of curiosity, is the website with the paper you linked to yours? If so, may I ask what tradition you primarily associate yourself with (analytic or continental)?


          • MLM

            Not my website, I’m afraid, Rye. My “MLM” stands for something decidedly more boring than “Marxist Leninist Maoist”. Purely coincidence.

        • Some of us choose not to profit from the demand for various reasons. I’m very thankful you’re not saying “women who choose not to charge for sex and literally and/or willfully dumb”. I choose not to profit for at least a few reasons. One of them relates to the demand you talk about. To me people shouldn’t have to stay in frustration while saving up to see a sex worker. The poor should have access to sex also plus not every person wants to see a sex worker. There should be options for all.

    • lo

      You don’t feel guilty? Lmfao. You just don’t want to feel responsible. What you feel here explains that you see women as holes as if it was normal, but that’s not a surprise, that’s how johns are and that’s why johns are turned on. Guess everyone here was already aware of that. Btw, stop hiding behind the woman you see, talking about others as if they were full responsible of YOUR actions is ridiculous. Guess We all know you have no arguments to justify yourself, johns don’t have any, so stop trying.

      • Rye


        I don’t feel guilty because I can see no reason why, under certain circumstances, it is wrong to purchase sex from a woman. As far as I can tell, nothing in radical feminism says it is wrong to purchase sex when:

        a. The prostitute woman can freely exit prostitution and independently maintain at least a middle class standard of living.
        b. She functions as an independent proprietor.
        c. The buyer’s reason is to experience sex and intimacy with a woman.

        Also, I do not perceive the woman I see as a hole. For me, there is nothing arousing with treating a woman as a sex object. She is just as deserving of the same moral rights as any other person. Moreover, sex is crass if it is just one sided, and I experience better sex when I attend to her pleasure too.

        • Meghan Murphy

          If you’re paying for sex it’s because the other person doesn’t want to have sex with you. If they wanted to have sex with you, they would just have sex with you. The payment aspect adds an element of coercion. There may be different levels of agency/coercion/exploitation, but at the end of the day, the relationship between buyer and seller, in prostitution, is that one person want to have sex and the other does not. Doesn’t that strike you as a little problematic?

        • Rye

          @Meghan Murphy,

          If a, b and c are true, I think it is difficult to argue that prostitution is in any way coercive. When these conditions are satisfied, then isn’t the prostitute woman exercising free choice about whether to profit from prostitution or not? And if it is a choice she can freely make (she does not risk her physical or financial security by saying “no” to any or all men), then how can it be coercive?

          Secondly, I agree that unwanted sex is problematic because it sounds rapey. However, I think it only sounds rapey on the surface, and that further analysis will show that it actually is not. First, I think having a sexual sentiment for a person is more complicated than either/or, wanted or unwanted. Instead, I think it’s more accurately described as a continuum that includes repulsion, neutral, and passion. So if a prostitute woman otherwise feels neutral about having sex with me, then isn’t it neither wanted or unwanted? Or what if she finds me somewhat attractive, though she would rather have sex with other men or do other things than have sex with me? Then, isn’t the sex a little wanted?

          Finally, if prostitution occurred when a, b and c were satisfied and the woman had control of the situation, don’t you think it would be rude to the woman to intervene on her behalf and say “We’re here to rescue you from that rapey man!”? Which shows that prostitution under these circumstances is very different from rapey sex, no?

          Consequently, I think this shows that valid consent serves as a better model for sexual ethics than want. By valid consent, I mean that the woman has a certain minimum of agency and rational capacity. What that minimum is, I think is open for debate. However, for sure a “yes” from a woman who is intoxicated, under pressure, or threatened with poverty if she says “no” does not count as valid consent.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I didn’t say there is no choice or agency. Who are you arguing with?

            If we, as feminists, are fighting for an “enthusiastic consent” model, then being “neutral” isn’t good enough.

            “Finally, if prostitution occurred when a, b and c were satisfied and the woman had control of the situation, don’t you think it would be rude to the woman to intervene on her behalf and say “We’re here to rescue you from that rapey man!”? Which shows that prostitution under these circumstances is very different from rapey sex, no?”

            We’re not talking about “rescuing” women who don’t want to be “rescued.” What are you referencing here?

          • Rye

            @Meghan Murphy

            Sorry, I must have misunderstood you. I thought you were arguing that want/enthusiastic consent was the minimum standard for sex to be morally permissible, because you mentioned that sex in prostitution, even when a, b and c are true, is unwanted and has an element of coercion. Consequently, I thought you implied that it was rape or rapey.

            So the reason why I mentioned “free choice” and “agency”, was because I think prostitution ceases to be coercive when the woman has the level of agency implied in a, b and c, because then her choice qualifies as a freely made choice.

            But now that you both stated that feminists are fighting for enthusiastic consent and aren’t about rescuing women who don’t want to be rescued, I’m kind of confused. Does this mean that you believe enthusiastic consent is the ideal, though not the minimum for sex to be morally permissible? And if so, does that mean prostitution, when a, b and c are true, satisfies that minimum?

          • Lela

            Do you read the things you write, Rye? Are you actually attempting to tell us there’s a “minimum” level of consent? Jesus.

          • Meghan Murphy

            There can simultaneously be varying levels of agency/choice and coercion.

            Yes, enthusiastic consent is ideal. Prostitution does not meet the requirements of enthusiastic consent. Also, the inequality between men and women, as well as race/class oppression means that prostitution can never be ethical/moral.

            Many women compare their experiences in prostitution to rape. I’m sure there are some women who do not, but at the end of the day, prostitution exists because of inequality. So I’m hard-pressed to see how it could ever be viewed as fully “moral” or “ethical.”

          • Rye


            Nononono. I was asking Meghan if she believed enthusiastic consent was above the minimal standard for sex to be morally permissible.

            @Meghan Murphy

            I can see how varying levels of agency/choice and coercion can be simultaneously present. Like if a woman needs 5 johns to put dinner on the table and has her choice of 20 men to choose from. She has agency because she can choose who those johns will be, though she is coerced because she must pick 5 johns to put dinner on the table. However, when a woman also has the capacity to leave prostitution and still independently maintain a middle class standard of living, then isn’t the coercive factor removed?

            Secondly, although I see the connection between inequality and prostitution, and how prostitution is generally staffed by women with the least amount of agency, why don’t the ethics of purchasing sex change when the woman has a lot of agency? So much agency, in fact, that she could forever leave prostitution at any hour and be perfectly capable of taking care of herself?

        • Meghan Murphy

          “c. The buyer’s reason is to experience sex and intimacy with a woman.”

          Sex happens between two people. Intimacy goes two ways. You can’t have sex or intimacy if you’re the only one experiencing or wanting the sex or intimacy.

        • Me

          > Also, I do not perceive the woman I see as a hole.

          You do. You just like to believe you don’t. But nobody’s fooled.

          > For me, there is nothing arousing with treating a woman as a sex object.

          Of course, in reality you treat her as a sex object every time, and the whole point is for you to be aroused by that.

          > She is just as deserving of the same moral rights as any other person.

          Then stop fucking and exploiting her. There is no other way around that.

          > Moreover, sex is crass if it is just one sided, and I experience better sex when I attend to her pleasure too.

          Would you take it up the ass from one, from ten, from twenty regular neighborhood guys /so long as they said they attended to your pleasure/!!?? Would you call it “crass” those times when it was “just one-sided”? I’m sure their attending to your pleasure would mean a sweet sexual experience to you and good money on the side too. Would a ribbed condom do, after all it’s for YOUR pleasure? /sarc

          And this completely ludicrous “biology and market-based male demand for paid sex from women” argument of yours that you’ve now cemented as the keystone of your defence of prostitution? Do you understand the word “masturbation”? Please don’t answer that.

        • lo

          What is your a, b, c thing for? You think that radfem are dumb or what?
          So translation:

          A. She she she she she
          B. She she she she she
          C. Women are holes. But they don’t want to have sex with them, that’s why men have the rights to buy those holes. Poor men.

          You say that women have rights. Yes I know that. But why do men have the right to see them as holes? Ah yes they have the money, huh.

          So about your a and b, all I can say is what I already said: stop hiding behind women. Speak for yourself (even if I know that you’ve nothing to say)

          About your C: lol intimacy. We all know what johns think, stop playing the victim. Stop playing the nice lover. You’re not a lover. That’s a fact. Stop dreaming.
          If you don’t buy sex no more what will happen in your life?

          There is no need to answer me if all you can do is hiding behind women or playing the poooooor victim who can’t put his dick in women’s holes. And I don’t care about your mathematics too.

          Ps, you said that you don’t see the problem with buying sex and doesn’t want to feel guilty about it, but no one here waited for a john to see women as human beings. They’re cowards and only think about their dicks. the difference between human being and sex object must be so hard to see.

    • Carmen Speer

      How does biological reasons for demand for paid sex mean that men are not treating women as sexual servants?

      I think people tend to confuse the whole nature/nurture issue. Just because men might be biologically hardwired to desire sex from more women more often (than vice versa) doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. And “gender,” in my understanding of it, is more a collection of observable traits that are then assigned value and reinforced over and over again and conflated with all sorts of other traits which have nothing to do with the original observances and then defining these trumped-up traits in opposition to another set of equally farcical exaggerations and outright lies (for example, observing that women on the whole are nurturing somehow means that they are “weak”–conflating caring with weakness, which has no real basis–or the simply ridiculous idea that girls naturally like pink). Some gender beliefs are exaggerated and stringently reinforced notions that might be somewhat based in biology though by no means in the biology of individuals (that is, in a generalized way).

      So, saying that prostitution is gendered–i.e. that it’s about the masculine controlling the feminine–is not at all incompatible with saying that prostitution could be in part based on biology. For example, men feel lots of sexual drive and desire because of testosterone; since in our culture most things men do is right and good this is reinforced early on and men are taught entitlement (whereas women are taught how to serve this entitlement); thus they believe they have the right to buy women’s bodies. This doesn’t at all imply there isn’t also a biological basis for prostitution being mainly man-on-woman. In other words, and contrary to what some feminists would have you believe, sex and gender aren’t entirely separate categories at all.

      However just because something has its roots in biology doesn’t make it good. Rape and murder and racism are biological impulses as well. Does that make them good?

      Because we are human beings with sentience, we have the ability–and the moral imperative–to transcend the limitations of our biology, particularly those which have outlived their evolutionary usefulness. I think we should gender deprogram people from birth, i.e. we should teach both boys and girls to behave the same but also–if we notice natural aggressive behavior from boys and natural passive behavior from girls–try to counteract that biology by socially instilling what’s lacking to achieve a greater balance. The same goes for individuals; if you have a particularly aggressive girl why not teach her to be a little nicer, and if you have a particularly pushover boy why not teach him to be a little more assertive. Education can–and should–be very individualized, not just social but intellectual education (as everyone has different learning styles), and we need to think seriously about how we socialize our kids. I think by strengthening our weaknesses we can achieve balance and understand others’ perspective and thus start to do away with gender. There’s no reason to say, “Oh, I’ve observed it’s natural that boys as a group are aggressive and dismissive of others’ personal boundaries, therefore it must be good, let’s reinforce it!” Why would you do that?

      Anyway, yes. Your argument makes no sense. Just because there’s a biological basis for prostitution doesn’t make it not gendered and certainly doesn’t mean it’s not about men treating women as sexual servants (it is). And I for one believe some higher mammals do have gender concepts, similarly misguided yet socially reinforced beliefs based on faulty logic in observing some stereotypical behaviors.

  • sporenda

    ” Please understand my intention was to address an obvious objection to my claim that she orgasms, by showing that I have valid reasons for believing they are genuine.”

    This THE one thing that ALL prostitutes do: to fake orgasm;

    I have interviewed quite a few prostitutes (some of these interviews are still on the net), and I have read quite a few books/studies about prostitution. Several friends of mine were escorts at some time.
    Prostitutes and escorts say that faking orgasms is THE basic trick of the trade.
    – because it keeps the john happy, and if he is happy, he will not physically harm you, he will come back and might become a “regular” (prostitutes prefer regulars for many reasons), he might even pay you extra.
    – because if he thinks you have an orgasm, he will be more excited and will come faster.
    The faster the better: time is money, the shorter a trick the more profitable it is, and most prostitutes are physically disgusted by their clients and want to make it as short as possible.
    The one thing that prostitutes do when they come back home after “work” is to shower and disinfect themselves compulsively. What does that tell you?
    So their job is to make the john believe that he is sexy, a superstud and a fantastic lover. And most johns are stupid enough to believe it.

    What men are seeking when they visit prostitutes is not so much sex (they can get it for free elsewhere, the majority of johns are not single), but proof of their virility and dominant status.
    The ultimate proof of virility, besides having sex with a young and pretty woman that you could not get without forking out money, is to make her orgasm.
    Prostitutes do not really sell sex, they sell proof of virility.

    And regarding your claim that YOU CAN TELL that she is getting an orgasm: LOLLOLLOLLOL.
    All of the women posting here have faked orgasms at some time, sometimes for years in lasting relationships.
    And none of the men involved were aware of it, men are totally gullible when it comes to women’s orgasms because realizing that their partner is faking it would be a fatal blow to their manhood: that would be acknolewdging they are lousy at sex, and lousy at performing virility.

    Men believe in women’s orgasms because they want to believe in it: their macho pride is at stake.
    Just try to say to a man that you have been faking it from day 1: either he will get raging mad 5and dangerous°, or he will literally deflate like a punctured balloon.

  • Rye


    While I realize some of my earlier arguments were confused and based on a poor understanding of radical feminism, I think you misunderstand my current argument. I’m not looking for validation for my “sensitivity” or to justify the sexual exploitation of a woman because of “poor old me”. I gather you perceive me as like a slave owner seeking validation for his “sensitivity” and justifies the exploitation of his slaves with “poor old me”. Obviously, such a man should be ridiculed. However, I reject the claim that prostitution is, by itself, slavery or anything remotely exploitative. Instead, I argue that prostitution can exist without gendered oppression.

    That said, I am willing to concede a lot of ground to radical feminists with the way prostitution operates in our patriarchal society, such as:

    a. Prostitution reinforces gendered oppression by constructing women as sex objects for men’s use.
    b. Men receive most of the profits that women earn from prostitution.
    c. Women in prostitution become prostitutes to survive as a consequence of having very little agency.
    d. Men purchase sex to reinforce their sense of masculinity through a woman’s sexual servitude, and to bond with other men by sharing their misogyny.

    I agree that a, b, c and d are true for at least 95% of prostitution transactions. That is more than enough to make prostitution, as it is practiced in patriarchy, a result of women’s systemic oppression. What I reject is the premise that a, b c and d must always be a part of prostitution to some degree. I argue they can be completely removed. To use an analogy, the way sex happens often reinforces women’s oppression, yes? However, we can agree that sex can happen without reinforcing women’s oppression, yes? My argument is that the same is true for prostitution, that it can happen without reinforcing women’s oppression. I argue this is true because:

    1. Prostitution does not need masculinity to fuel demand. The fact that piv is riskier for women is sufficient to explain why there will be male demand for paid sex with women.
    2. Profiting from male demand for paid sex can be a free and rational choice for some women.

    That said, I realize I have not done a good job supporting (1) and (2), so allow me to elaborate. (1) is true simply because of the principles of economics. (2) is true because at least some prostitute women have made a free and rational choice to enter prostitution. For prostitution to be a free and rational choice, I propose this test:

    If x, y and z are true for a prostitute woman, then her choice to be a prostitute is free and rational.
    x. Entered prostitution despite having considerable agency.
    y. Functions with considerable agency with respect to the selection of clientele, sexual limits and safe working conditions, and functions as an independent proprietor.
    z. Has the agency to leave prostitution and independently maintain at least a middle class lifestyle.

    As far as I know, radical feminists do not deny that such prostitute women exist. In fact, I have found academic literature where these prostitute women are analyzed from a radical feminist perspective. However, if you grant me that some such prostitute women exist, then this fact combined with (1) makes it possible to conceive of prostitution existing without exploitation.

    Likewise, I have strong reasons to believe x, y and z are true for the prostitute woman I frequent. Of course, that alone does not make it right without first assessing my motives. But, I do not purchase sex from her to reinforce my sense of masculinity. I do it because I want intimacy with a woman, and I would find my time with her worthwhile even if it did not include piv or any form of intercourse. Secondly, if I intended to reinforce a sense of masculinity, then why am I not seeing multiple prostitute women? And if I wanted intimacy with a prostitute woman, then does it not make sense for me to be monogamous?

    So, it appears gendered oppression can be separated from prostitution, nor does it appear to be a major factor when I buy sex.


    Overall, I think what you have said is representative of the sex industry. However, as I explained to Me, there are two reasons why it is different with the woman I see and myself. First, I do not buy sex because I want proof of virility/to reinforce a sense of masculinity, but because I want intimacy. I fail at dating and have never dated before in my life. Secondly, she has considerable agency, more than enough to quit prostitution if she wanted to. Which I assume has something to do with why she is willing to stay the entire time, sometimes for multiple hours, and talk to me.

    Her considerable agency probably also has something to do with why she orgasms. Though you are right, a prostitute woman is highly likely to fake an orgasm with a punter. However, I strongly believe her orgasms are genuine because of physical signs like perspiration and reddening of the face that occur after 10-15 minutes of clitoral stimulation, which she taught me how to do. And I do it for the intimacy.

    • rye, can I word it a different way to you? If you do this for “intimacy,” then are you in a relationship with this woman? No. You give her money, and she gives you sex. That is not equal. You purchase her body, she lets you use her body. It is for your needs. Since you fail at dating, you purchase her. Do you realize that you failing at making other women like you SHOULD point out to you that you are possibly doing something wrong? But instead, you have the male privilege of using a woman to fulfill your needs. And that is what people here are trying to explain to you, you ARE part of the industry, because you are able to buy a woman for your needs, ignoring who she actually is as a person. Because no matter how much you say you do know her as a person, you don’t. She leaves your bed and goes to the next client. You aren’t special.

      • lizor

        waittheysaidwhat – yes exactly. Rye contends that, due to his looks, women are not interested in sharing sexual with him. That a giant crock of shit that does not play out in the real world. Intelligent, open-hearted sensual [straight] men of every shape, size and ability have successful relationships with women. I’ll bet women don’t want to be with Rye because he’s creepy.

  • sporenda

    “Prostitution does not need masculinity to fuel demand. The fact that piv is riskier for women is sufficient to explain why there will be male demand for paid sex with women.”

    The fact that prostitution is widespread is (with few discrepancies) almost exactly a function of the cult of virility and machismo existing in a particular culture.
    There is a small percentage of men (8/12%)using prostitutes regularly in Scandinavian countries for instance (not just Sweden) because in these countries, virility worship is minimal;
    In cultures where there is a strong tradition of machismo and/or male supremacy, a majority of men use prostitutes regularly, it’s a male ritual, a defining part of manhood;
    all male groups go to brothels together, fathers take their sons to prostitutes etc (in Thailand for instance, about 70% of men visit prostitutes regularly). It’s a cornerstone of male bonding.

    And PIV might be indeed riskier for women, but besides the physical risk of getting pregnant, which can be controlled now by birth control, the main risk of piv is male violence: women know that any man, stranger or friend, even apparently perfectly normal, decent and reassuring, might be violent with any woman willing to have sex with him.
    When a woman grants sexual access, she knows it can end up by the man debasing her, hurting her, raping her, even killing her.
    All the women here have had such experiences, including with trusted boyfriends and friends.

    So we have this totally circular and idiotic logic: men’s violence make PIV riskier for women, so men don’t get “enough” sex, so they have to use more violence (or “paid for” violence) to get the sex they want.

    How about NOT using violence at all with women if you want more sex, dudes?
    Behind all this is the notion that violence is inherently male, and that it’s a given, like the weather or death, eternal, unchangeable.
    And that it’s absolutely out of the question, intolerable in fact, to even think of curtailing this fundamental manifestation of virility.

    • Rye


      I agree with you that prostitution is almost always a function of a male culture that worships virility and machismo. However, my point is that prostitution can be conceived of separately from the systemic oppression of women (just as sex can), and that it sometimes is mostly separated from patriarchy. For example, there’s nothing machismo connected to my motivation for paying for sex, and the prostitute woman I see is far from oppressed.

      True, birth control has indeed largely reduced the risk of pregnancy. However, no method of birth control is 100% effective, and they commonly have inconvenient side effects, some of them potentially hazardous to women’s health [1]. Secondly, piv is very male-centric, because few women orgasm from piv or prefer it as their favorite sex act [1]. In fact, the prostitute woman I frequent even admitted, although indirectly, that she doesn’t like piv very much. In light of these facts, I can not see how most women in feminist land would not choose to have a lot less recreational piv than men wanted.

      You also make an excellent point that the threat of male violence is also one reason why sex is riskier for women. However, I don’t think this is as important of a cause as I think you believe. If the threat of male violence was the main reason why women were hesitant to have sex with men, then shouldn’t “wimpy” men (who are physically weaker than most women) be having more sex than other men?

      While enough intensive physical activity will cause someone to become red in the face and sweat, there is a difference because she is instead physically inactive and relaxed when it happens.



  • sporenda

    ” However, I strongly believe her orgasms are genuine because of physical signs like perspiration and reddening of the face that occur after 10-15 minutes of clitoral stimulation”

    This is a gem.
    I’ve got news for you: when I use the vacuum cleaner for 20 minutes, I sweat and I become red in the face.
    I must be having an orgasm.

  • MLM

    (This comment is in response to a comment by Kate Zen in the interests of no further derailing the discussion about FEMEN on that thread into one about the sex industry).

    Apologies, firstly, for both the delay in posting this and the length. I was conscious that I will soon be largely offline for more than a month and thus unable to make any further in-depth responses for a while. And also of the previously mentioned commenter fatigue on this site over covering the same ground in so many discussions (and annoyance over having such discussions infiltrate and take over discussions of other topics). For those reasons I really wanted to make my response to your comment a comprehensive one, but balancing that with the need for brevity/being succinct, unfortunately, proved to be very challenging. I have decide to post it in two parts to make it a slightly easier read (I hope).


    Exceptions (e.g The New Statesmen article I linked to) do not undermine the premise that prostitution is a gendered phenomenon, as prostitution is overwhelmingly men buying women and girls, and the nature of poverty is feminised.

    “Women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty. Statistics indicate that women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of hunger because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets. Poverty implications are widespread for women, leaving many without even basic rights such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment. Being poor can also mean they have little protection from violence and have no role in decision making. According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor”.

    “..the extent of gendered poverty remains under-represented and under-addressed through policy interventions. These problems are compounded by neglect of the processes generating poverty and inequality, or which sustain male power and privilege and class differences, and pervasive assumptions about the source of, and solutions to, poverty as residing with the poor themselves”.

    Improving material conditions in women’s lives is very much tied to securing a world where their lives can be free from gendered violence and inequality. Having strong feminist movements which prioritise women’s needs does the most to achieve this.

    “A new study on violence against women conducted over four decades and in 70 countries reveals the mobilization of feminist movements is more important for change than the wealth of nations, left-wing political parties, or the number of women politicians.

    Social movements shape public and government agendas and create the political will to address issues. Government action, in turn, sends a signal about national priorities and the meaning of citizenship. The roots of change of progressive social policies lie in civil society.

    The sex industry caters to masculine entitlement, reinforces patriarchal, sexist and rape cultural attitudes and corrodes the idea of women as full sentient human beings in men’s minds, thus impeding efforts for greater gender equality.

    “Germany is like Aldi for prostitutes.”
    … he admitted his use of prostitutes had ruined his view of women in general. “I no longer see women for what they are,” he said. “I’ve slept with so many that they’re objects to me.”
    He was, he said, past the point of no return. It was too late for him to see women as sentient beings.

    “The more accepting they were of prostitution, the more likely they were to also accept cultural myths about rape such as “Women say no but they really mean yes” or “A woman who dresses provocatively is asking to be raped.” The notion that prostitutes are “un-rape-able” was a common belief among the men in this sample. Twenty-five per cent told us that the very concept of raping a prostitute or call girl was “ridiculous.”

    Prostitution seems to have began as a form of slavery, as inconvenient as that may be for more modern “choice” narratives.

    “It is likely that commercial prostitution derived directly from the enslavement of women and the consolidation and formation of classes. Military conquest led, in the third millennium BC, to the enslavement and sexual abuse of captive women. As slavery became an established institution, slave owners rented out their female slaves as prostitutes, and some masters set up commercial brothels staffed by slaves. The ready availability of captive women for private sexual use and the need of kings and chiefs, frequently themselves usurpers of authority, to establish legitimacy by displaying their wealth in the form of servants and concubines led to the establishment of harems. These, in turn, became symbols of power to be emulated by aristocrats, bureaucrats and wealthy men.

    Another source for commercial prostitution was the pauperization of farmers and their increasing dependence on loans in order to survive periods of famine, which led to debt slavery. Children of both sexes were given up for debt pledges or sold for “adoption”. Out of such practices, the prostitution of female family members for the benefit of the head of the family could readily develop. Women might end up as prostitutes because their parents had to sell them into slavery, or because their impoverished husbands might so use them. Or they might become self employed as a last alternative to enslavement. With luck, they might in this profession be upwardly mobile through becoming concubines. By the middle of the second millennium BC, prostitution was established as a likely occupation for the daughters of the poor.”
    (Gerda Lerner, The Origin of Prostitution in Ancient Mesopotamia)

    Historically a woman’s sexuality (or, more accurately, how men perceived it) was her passport within a “man’s world”. And this was defined by men, be it “maiden”, “madonna”, “courtesan” or “whore” etc. The modern idea of “erotic capital” is just a slightly updated version of this. And it keeps us distracted from any kind of power that isn’t defined by and granted as a consequence of men’s approval.

    “Sex positives” seem hypnotised by patriarchal ideas about female sexuality – that it primarily exists as a performance for men and that pleasing men is what makes women feel sexy. A woman having “power” through her ability to please a man absolutely serves patriarchal interest, and is actually complete compliance sold back to women as “empowerment”. The reason some people may be fooled is because the old “Virgin/Whore” dichotomy apparently put the “virgin” on a pedestal and largely demonised the “whore”, while the newer script involves a patriarchal coin flip (so the “whore” is now more on the pedestal and the “virgin” has become the “worthless prude”). Thus burlesque, bdsm etc have been marketed to women as liberating and progressive when they are, in fact, completely retrograde and conservative, and merely represent embracing one set of men’s rules, flavour of domination and favoured archetypes over the other, instead of challenging the whole thing and figuring out to throw out the patriarchal rulebook about female sexuality.

    We are drenched in eroticised cultural messages about men’s domination of women and female objectification so it’s unsurprising that women internalise that, and that some will even enjoy embracing it, but it doesn’t represent sexual liberation for women. Women still need their own sexual revolution – one that encourages them to concern themselves more with their own authentic propensity to be sexual rather than trying be sexy/hot and embracing some version of the porn star “uniform”. This is why I think “sex positivity” basically seems to be too allergic to meaningful analysis, phallocentric and enamoured with commerce to ever be genuinely concerned with the sexual liberation of women.

    “Whorephobia” just sounds like a word the sex industry invented (15 seconds ago) to “prude shame” and silence dissenting voices. Violence and the threat of it has always been the greatest tool of social control over women. The source of the violence and hatred against “whores”, is the same as corrective rape for lesbians, and for a women who becomes the victim of “honour” killing for refusing an arranged marriage – the patriarchal belief that women’s bodies and sexualities should be defined, controlled and owned by men.

    A commenter (Mary Tracy) pointed this out on a blogpost that Meghan wrote called
    “It’s not ‘slut-shaming’, it’s woman hating” (which I think is a parallel) :
    “… it gives the women reclaiming the word “slut” a sheen of “the feminists are mean to me because I love having sex with men”. Divide and conquer.
    And the elephant in the room, I think, is the sex industry. Because whenever I’ve seen the whole “slut shaming” deal, it has always been pro-sex work women defending themselves from anti-sex work feminists”.

    In any case why would women ever have had to fear “whores” if they had not been instilled with the necessity to protect their own “market value”? Why would they have cared how much sex another woman was having unless they had been groomed since birth with the idea that their “worth” depended on being desirable to men, and they had learned to see her as a “competitor”, and to worry that they were less desirable than her? And why would any of that even matter if they were free, and not economically dependent and socially groomed (the romance construct etc) to “need” a husband in the first place? There was always a massive hypocrisy to the “Madonna/Whore” divide, which centred on “ownership” status – “public” vs “private”. A class of women was required to exist as a “safety valve” for men’s sexual desires, but they were despised for being just that at the same time. The reason for the stigma has always been for the very reason the institution exists.

    In order for women to have a genuine autonomy, they need to be able to embrace a power they can make and own for themselves, independent from men’s approval, which allows them to embrace their full personhood and humanity.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you so much for your intelligent and thorough response(s), MLM. When are you gonna start writing posts here, eh? 🙂

      • MLM

        Ha ha 🙂 Thank you so much for being so good natured about it, Meghan. I honestly didn’t set out to write a defacto blog post, but there just seemed to be so much that I wanted to reply to.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Oh I’m being sincere! I very much appreciate your comprehensive response.

          • MLM

            Thank you, Meghan. I really appreciate you saying that. I’ll miss commenting here for a while but look forward to catching up on things again before too long. 🙂

          • Meghan Murphy

            We’ll miss you, MLM!

  • MLM

    PART TWO response to Kate Zen comment

    Exited women and others have argued that some false dichotomies about the nature of prostitution are promoted by sex industry lobbyists.

    1) Legal vs Illegal Prostitution

    “To some, the solution is simple – legalize the commercial sex industry and stigma will vanish.
    But experts, government reports and academic publications are increasingly confirming what survivors have been saying for a long time – that the legalization or decriminalization of the commercial sex industry does not reduce stigma, does not eliminate violence and fails to make things safer for people in prostitution”.

    “Noémi says it took her a whole year to get used to this work. For the first year, she was so disgusted she vomited after every john. Now she doesn’t cry every day anymore. Only sometimes, when she thinks about everyone at home waiting for her to send money. … They are everywhere: in the brothels, the clubs, the apartments, on the street, in escorting – wherever you look, you find women like them. And they are not the pitiable exceptions.”

    “Has Germany’s prostitution law improved the situation of women like Sina? Five years after it was introduced, the Family Ministry evaluated what the new legislation had achieved. The report states that the objectives were “only partially achieved,” and that deregulation had “not brought about any measurable actual improvement in the social coverage of prostitutes.” Neither working conditions nor the ability to exit the profession had improved. Finally, there was “no solid proof to date” that the law had reduced crime.
    Hardly a single court had heard a case involving a prostitute suing for her wages. Only 1 percent of the women surveyed said that they had signed an employment contract as a prostitute. The fact that the Ver.di union had developed a “sample employment contract in the field of sexual services” didn’t change matters. In a poll conducted by Ver.di, a brothel operator said that she valued the prostitution law because it reduced the likelihood of raids. In fact, she said, the law was more advantageous for brothel operators than prostitutes.”

    “Pimps, under legalisation, have been reclassified as managers and businessmen. Abuse suffered by the women is now called an ‘occupational hazard’, like a stone dropped on a builder’s toe. Sex tourism has grown faster in Amsterdam than the regular type of tourism: as the city became the brothel of Europe, women have been imported by traffickers from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia to meet the demand. In other words, the pimps remained but became legit — violence was still prevalent but part of the job, and trafficking increased. Support for the women to leave prostitution became almost nonexistent. The innate murkiness of the job has not been washed away by legal benediction.”

    2) Voluntary vs Trafficked

    Certain groups of women are significantly overrepresented in prostitution e.g. first nations women, women of colour and women who grew up in foster care/institutional care. According to various different studies the incidence of the childhood sexual assault amongst women in prostitution ranges from around 65% to 95%.

    ‘People will never understand the concept of choice as it operates in prostitution until they understand the concept of constraint so active within it. As long as the constrained nature of this choice is ignored it will be impossible to understand the pitiful role of ‘choice’ for women within prostitution… In the case of the trafficked woman, she can ‘choose’ to keep kicking and screaming and ignoring the threats against herself and her family. Nobody sees this as a choice that she might be maligned for not making. In the case of the woman who is either in destitution or in fear of destitution, she can keep kicking and screaming mentally, and ignoring the reality of the economic threat against herself and her family, but people do see this as a choice that she is maligned for not making. The bald-faced reality however is that both women are caught in two different versions of the same bind, and both women pay the same price for it. The difference is that the latter group of women pay an additional price – it is the price of a socially-assigned culpability”.

    3) “Indoors” vs “Outdoors” (and also “High End” vs “Low End”)

    During her 7 years in prostitution Rachel Moran worked on the streets, in massage parlours, in brothels and as an escort. She stated that felt she had more control over the situation on the street than being trapped in a room with punters, and that the more money a man was paying, the more entitlement he seemed to feel/display.

    “Indoor prostitutes are being sexually assaulted by their clients more than streetwalkers, who are ultimately abused more frequently but not raped or robbed more.”

    “Legal Amsterdam brothels have up to three panic buttons in every room. Why? Because legal johns are not nice guys looking for a normal date. They regularly attempt to rape and strangle women”.

    4) Child prostitution vs Adult prostitution

    “One of the commonest questions that comes through on any brothels phone line is ‘What age is the youngest girl you have?’ I could not count the times I have been asked that question, and I defy anybody who has answered a brothels phone to tell the blatant lie that it is not the commonest question they’ve been asked too. The commercial value of youth is so profoundly built-in to prostitution that women routinely lie about their age in order to generate more business… What it reveals, of course, is that men who buy bodies for sex usually want to buy the youngest body they can find”.

    “A Kings Cross brothel owner has been found guilty of prostituting a 14-year-old girl.
    Jennifer Ann Weatherstone had pleaded not guilty to two counts of causing a child to participate in an act of child prostitution at her brothel, Sparkling Chandeliers in July 2011.
    She is also charged with operating the premises where the alleged child prostitution took place.
    It was “impossible” to believe the teen was over 18, Judge Anthony Garling told the District Court in Sydney on Friday”.

    “In research done by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), of 113 men who purchased sex, 76% of interviewees stated that the age of the woman was an important factor and 80% stated that they felt most men preferred young “prostitutes.”

    In 2003, Gary Ridgeway, the notorious Green River Killer who for over two decades had preyed upon women in the sex industry, finally pled guilty to 48 counts of first degree murder, although police suspected him of many more….In fact, 27 of Ridgway’s known victims were under the age of 18.
    This makes Gary Ridgway one of the most prolific child serial killers in the United States. Yet all of the media accounts of the victims called them “women,” not children. So why were they all portrayed as adult women?”

    “• While many of the men who exploit these children are not seeking adolescent females per se, the study also shows that just under half are willing to pay for sex with a young female even when they know for sure she is an adolescent.
    • Local, state, and national lawmakers need to be made aware of the magnitude of the demand for CSEC, as well as the nature of the demand. Advocates need to debunk the myth that CSEC is perpetrated by a small number of “sexual predators.”

    “… men who buy sex are obsessed with the act of despoilment; they are, as a group, blatantly obsessed with the desire to fuck the youngest girl they can find.”

    I can assure I don’t “assume” anything about your experiences. What you wrote struck me as a minimisation of some appalling injustices. Perhaps that reflects a similar minimisation of your own experiences in order to ultimately frame sex work as empowering, I don’t know. Obviously, how you choose to define your experiences and reactions to them is a very personal thing. But in the context of discussing a wider social phenomenon, having to survive rape and underage prostitution is not a reflection of how “empowered” a social group is. It is a testament to the human spirit and will to survive that people try so hard to find ways to make the best unfair, undeserved and unjust situations and fight to preserve their dignity, but it is no less an indictment of the situation they find themselves in. Women (and people generally) deserve a proper functional social safety net, not the “option” of resorting to prostitution in lieu of it.

    Voluntary sex workers and their “narratives” are the least “silenced” in this conversation, and the sex industry also seems to put a lot of energy into silencing dissenting/critical voices.

    “The media often describes women in prostitution as strong and free and as having a healthy, hungry relation with sex, most recently so in ‘The Brothel’. The story of the sex-loving woman who liberates her sexuality in prostitution is also the story most people want to hear. Especially men who buy sex…
    But what is not made clear at the same time is that it can look very different when one has exited the trade. This can contribute to the normalization of prostitution and lure young women into thinking that it is a danger-free way of earning money. It is not.
    Many are we who have had to realize that prostitution is not a free or liberating choice, but boundary-crossing, violent, unfree. We lost touch with ourselves. So that we would be able to take it.
    ‘Satisfied sex workers’ are treated with a rare, uncritical political correctness by the media”.

    “Because you realise those hundreds of women are never given access to the main medias, unlike the two same ‘happy hookers’ who spend their lives on TV and radio shows, tweeting, Facebooking, blogging (when are they actually ‘sex-working’ exactly?) Anyway, I realised that we were facing a multi-billion dollar industry that is intensely lobbying (the media, the politicians, the details are amazing) while the abolitionist groups are mocked and with so little financial resources. So, I thought in doing so I could help. Now, thanks to the internet, I believe you can be more easily heard, and share and connect. (see
    My scoop-it (great curation tool by the way) is quite a success because there’s been more than 21,000 hits since the end of July 2012, and it’s got me a huge amount of trolling, attacks, insults (always a good sign, it means you’re disturbing). I was so relieved I had changed my name because this is always so violent; you never get used to insults and harassment”.

    “Insults are not the only harmful actions leveled at individuals having criticized STRASS. Its members adopt a provocative attitude towards those who do not abide their agenda, including crashing private events to which they are not invited, and gleefully parodying (not always in good taste) productions of these same groups. For example, one recalls an anti-VAW demonstration held in Paris on November 25, 2012, during which members of STRASS covertly mingled with the abolitionist contingent of the march before brandishing placards with slogans reading “PUTOPHOBES” (whore-phobes) and the like.?”

    “When some of the conference goers learned about Stop Patriarchy’s position on the sex industry, they confronted the some of the group members, and then complained to conference organizers that their presence at the conference made it an “unsafe space.” Conference organizers responded by calling the police, who escorted group members out of the conference, threatening them with arrest if they did not comply.”

    Rachel Moran’s house was apparently under police guard for a week earlier this year, when threats came to her front door. And there is the continuing attempt to imply that Melissa Farley’s 20 years worth of research are not “credible”…

    “Sandi Pierce February 26, 2013 at 10:28 PM
    Enough of the bullshit over who is qualified and who is not. I have a doctorate in sociology from a major U.S. university, I teach research methods at the graduate level, and I am a survivor of sex trafficking. I am a vehement prohibitionist, and my reasons for opposing legalization are completely imbedded in my own experiences in prostitution and the research evidence that my experiences are the norm, not the exception. …
    Melissa and I have had our differences and I can’t call myself a whole-hearted supporter, but the fact remains that her work is endorsed by every survivor-led organization in the U.S. The key question here is, “Why attack Farley in particular?” Because what she finds confirms what prostitution survivors already know? And, since she has found almost identical patterns in all of her research over many years in many regions of the world, she may have identified global patterns that if we had the data, might actually prove to be generalizable?”

    It’s interesting, too, that you mention Maggie’s so close to a reference on “silencing”, given what Sam Berg has written in her statement about Radfem Riseup 2013, which describes Maggies’ efforts to shut down that conference.

    “For an organization which prides itself on freedom of speech and criticizing abusive state powers, Maggies sex work lobby held their counter-event but wouldn’t accord us the same right to assemble. Then they used authoritarian tactics against a small group of politically marginalized women”.

    Refusal to further privilege the voices most easily heard in the conversation over those more easily suppressed and marginalised is not the same thing as “ignoring their experiences”. Others with “real” experience in the sex industry have things to say about “rights” needed for those in prostitution, too:

    “The rights should be the right to get out of prostitution. Help for the treatment of the problems that women in prostitution typically get, help with education or work. People should have the right not to have to sell themselves”

    It strikes me that there is a sort of fatalism to your outlook, or a belief that only modifications to existing power structures are possible, as opposed to fundamental challenge and change to them. Perhaps if you don’t believe that power dynamics can really be changed in a profound way, then you would tend to focus more on individual “choice” and “empowerment”. Perhaps if you don’t believe that life outside the “cage” is really possible, you will make arguments to try and get some cushions into it and learn to see the bars differently, rather than dismantling it.

    I realise there are still things I haven’t addressed, but given that this comment has already practically turned into a thesis, I think I’d better leave it here. As mentioned I will not be able to engage in this discussion for a while (assuming it continues), but please understand that this will be due to circumstance and not disinterest. And maybe other commenters may have more to contribute in this context.

    We do profoundly disagree on this but I still wish you well.
    Take care,


    • lizor

      Thank you MLM. Thank you so much for sharing these resources and your analysis.

      • MLM

        No worries. Thank you, Lizor.

  • Howard Vaan

    Hi. I’ve been trying to follow these discussions on Twitter, so your piece has provided a clear summary of anti-prostitution stance for me. I just wanted to ask a couple of in principle points:

    You state that prostitution is seen as different from other kinds of work because it is selling access to the body. I can completely see and agree with this distinction. However, I don’t see what the step is from that to saying it’s not acceptable/shouldn’t be allowed? Is the idea that the state should have control over our bodies rather than ourselves. If we agree that each one of us is or has governance over our own bodies, shouldn’t that indicate freedom for an individual to do whatever they want to with their body?

    More than once, you state, “feminists say . . .” or “feminists think . . . ” This implies that feminism is a unified movement, whereas I see a spectrum of views.

    You write, “The real question about prostitution is the question of men’s rights; and, whether we as a society believe that men have a right to buy and sell women’s bodies or whether they do not. ” I don’t believe anyone has a right to buy anything (apart from maybe necessities like food and shelter). People do though have various rights to sell things. If we have a right to sell anything at all, surely it would be our bodies?

    I personally hope that prostitution declines and we can build a society where it is no longer desired.

    • lizor

      Howard Vaan,

      The author clearly states at the beginning of the article that she is putting forth a particular feminist understanding of prostitution as a reiteration of gendered power relations. She does not belabour her language throughout the article with qualifiers noting that other arguments that also identify as feminists exist. Your contention that the author is asserting that feminism is mono vocal is not supported by the writing.

      Your other contention seems to be based again on a position that is completely absent from the piece: that Mackay is arguing against the legality of selling sex. How could you possible read this piece or any articulation of the argument for the “Nordic” model and miss the fact that the position is based on decriminalizing the seller? Either you are a very poor reader or you presume that the other readers of this blog do not possess basic language comprehension. Whatever your rationale, you are Straw-manning to beat the band and your contribution to the discussion amounts to nothing.

      • Howard Vaan

        Please don’t take what I wrote as an attack on the piece. I’m merely trying to clarify some points that I didn’t understand. I’ll certainly re-read the text. In the meantime I don’t think there’s a need to be quite to aggressive when I’m merely trying to engage and understand.

    • marv

      “Is the idea that the state should have control over our bodies rather than ourselves. If we agree that each one of us is or has governance over our own bodies, shouldn’t that indicate freedom for an individual to do whatever they want to with their body?….I don’t believe anyone has a right to buy anything (apart from maybe necessities like food and shelter). People do though have various rights to sell things. If we have a right to sell anything at all, surely it would be our bodies?”

      You are wrongfully conflating human rights to food and shelter with capitalist categories of buying and selling. Human rights are inalienable. Therefore they must be guaranteed by the state without price. There is no such thing as a right to sell or buy anything. That is a male liberal capitalist distortion of human rights. Privatization and commodification of living beings in prostitution undermines women’s rights to dignity, bodily integrity and collective self-determination. The privatization and commodification of all workers/consumers also destroys their rights to dignity and collective self-determination. The liberal state fosters these violations in unison with our culture, forming an interrelational process that constructs our inner consciousness (the voices in our heads).

      Ultimately we must accept that private wellbeing (especially men’s) must have legal limits whereas the common good should be limitless. If not, we will be unable to ensure “prostitution declines and we can build a society where it is no longer desired.”

      • Howard Vaan

        I only mentioned rights because they were mentioned in the original piece. We can avoid that discourse by using a different concept, perhaps, ability-under-law.

        And I only mentioned food and water as some very basic necessities, that if you were to posit a right to buy anything, it would be those. Within our current system, if someone denied someone the ability to buy water, that would quickly escalate to a discussion about rights.

        I would hope we could construct an argument about the (lack of) limits of control one should have over one’s own body, prior to an economic analysis, whether Marxian or other.

        • ozzie

          ”If we agree that each one of us is or has governance over our own bodies, shouldn’t that indicate freedom for an individual to do whatever they want to with their body?”

          Would you also make the same argument in favor of selling yourself into slavery, selling your organs, or selling yourself into gladiatorship? In a modern society, these are not things we would allow even if the individual consented because we deem them barbaric and unconscionable and we realize that no one would freely ”choose” them were it not for the constraints, circumstances and matrices of oppression they face that make such a choice even an option. We realize that the poor, colored and marginalized would be affected preferentially and that there’s a lot of room for exploitation and trafficking. This is where the ”choice” argument in prostitution falls apart.
          Secondly, under the Nordic model, it is the buyer that is criminalized, not the seller–the seller can still decide to do whatever they want with their body.
          Thirdly, read MLM’s Part II and Part I posts above you–she already eviscerated pro-prostitution arguments and brought up points that make acontextual and individualized discussions of ”choice” seem silly.

        • sporenda

          Food and water are basic human necessities: if you don’t get food and water, you die.

          Sex is not a basic human necessity, if you don’t get any sex, you are physically fine.
          Sexual frustration is not deadly, women heve been socialized to live with it since the dawn of time.

          “If we have a right to sell anything at all, surely it would be our bodies?”

          I like the “we”!
          the ones that sell sex are mostly females and the ones that buy sex are overwhelmly males.
          Any definition of prostitution that doesn’t take that into account is liberal obfuscation.

          In fact where I live (western Europe), official stats (OCRTEH) show that 91% of women in prostitution are immigrants, mostly traficked.

          So the “we” is a double obfuscation: as a caucasian and a male, the probability of having to sell your body is very slim.

        • marv

          Rights are essential to the prostitution debate. We can’t dispose of them. Other frameworks like law are necessary too and must be developed to realize fundamental human rights – law’s purpose. The Nordic model does so within the current economic system which is one transitional measure to a revolutionary nonpatriarchal egalitarian society.

          “Within our current system, if someone denied someone the ability to buy water, that would quickly escalate to a discussion about rights.” Yes,but it is socially unjust to turn water or bodies into merchandise. The market economy and male supremacy do these things, making them incompatible with equality values.
          We can’t have an “argument about the (lack of) limits of control one should have over one’s own body, prior to an economic analysis, whether Marxian or other. Our bodies don’t live in a vacuum. Their social meaning is shaped by the political, economic and cultural conditions in which we live. This is not a liberal blog that mindlessly theorizes about individuals out of their social context. For those useless discussions please exit elsewhere. The interweb is dominated by these types. I hope our discussion has ended. Otherwise we will just be repeating ourselves. It is a common and aggravating problem here.

          • Howard Vaan

            There seems to be some misunderstanding of my position.

            I am broadly in favour of the Nordic model, but I think the strongest arguments for it are practical rather than theoretical:

            – It stands the best chance of eliminating trafficking
            – it reduces prostitution, which itself is indicative of a structural imbalance and is harmful to women

            And these are things which can now be assessed empirically.

            I was merely trying to understand some of the theoretical underpinnings.

            I’m quite disappointed by some of the replies, basically telling me to go away.

    • Laur

      To quote Andrea Dworkin, “Hurting women is bad. Feminists are against it, not for it.” If feminists are going to be cohesive about any issue, this should be it.

      Feminism is for the right of every person to be free from bodily harm and to have absolute bodily integrity. Feminism is not about selling things. In prostitution, mens’ right to buy access to women’s bodies is absolute.

      I really, really despise all this intellectual mumbo-jumbo from people who don’t understand what it’s like to sell sex.

      • Meghan Murphy

        The ability and desire to turn the body into a product, like any other inanimate object, or turn the sale of sex into an exchange comparable to going to the dentist or serving someone a latte, makes me think there are more sociopaths in this world than I’d previously realized.

    • Lo

      ” the state should have control over our bodies”

      Economy is the one who controls our bodies when it comes to prostitution. The punters too. Even with regulation, the state makes profit with women’s bodies… if that’s not a control of the body I really wonder what it is.

      And here is the difference: can others have control of our bodies because of an economical situation? What about the inequalities between the ones who have money and the ones who don’t? What about the cultural oppression, the other origin of all of that?
      The power of punters to get whatever bodies they want through economy should be considered. Because they’re the main part of the system: they’re the ones who possess what others don’t have: money. And they use it to objectify women.

      But you didn’t mention this part of the system. Prostitution wouldn’t exist without punters.

      If you want more answers you can read this:

      But of course, if you have a liberal point of view, if you consider that selling our bodies because of economical pressure is liberation, or if you think that there aren’t any cultural oppressions, then this discussion is useless.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Indeed. This isn’t about the state controlling our bodies — it’s about women not having the right to make real choices over what happens to their bodies because they are poor or were otherwise coerced into letting men do what they want with their bodies. Prostitution is about male pleasure and it’s about profit. It isn’t about women’s ‘free choice.’

        “But of course, if you have a liberal point of view, if you consider that selling our bodies because of economical pressure is liberation, or if you think that there aren’t any cultural oppressions, then this discussion is useless.”

        Right. And along those lines:

        “What’s troubling about the discourse surrounding ‘sex as work’ or prostitution as a ‘free choice’ individuals make, is that, while positioned as a progressive argument, it’s actually grounded in notions of the free market as both liberating and an equalizer. Under this ideology, “anything is ‘fair’ because, no matter how demeaning, dangerous or awful the work, you ‘chose’ to do it and therefore it is a part of your freedom,” Laxer says.”

        • Howard Vaan

          I read the “What’s missing* most before I posted.

          I do accept that “choice* is not simple and uncompromised. I also accept that economic/social/power relations have an effect on our behaviour and “freedom”. That wasn’t the point of my question. My question is rather, to what extent, should we have control over our bodies, and if not the individual, who?

          Clearly any arguments about weakened agency, have wider consequences.

          • Meghan Murphy

            But why are we talking about having control over our bodies when we know that women don’t, for the most part, enter into prostitution voluntarily? We need to address the factors that lead women into prostitution and keep them there before we start talking about ‘control over our own bodies’.

          • Women on this site are “basically telling you to go away” in large part because you are a man who appears to be defending the sex industry on a site where many surivivors of the sex trade read and post. I am suspicious of men who post on pieces discussing prostitution. What is your stake in this? Are you a “john”?

            As for your comment about individuals having the right to do what they want–okay assume women are all free to do what we want with our bodies. Why are women making the same choices–to twerk, wear clothing that appeals to men, have sex that imitates pornography, etc? These are resposes to what male sexuality demands of us; there are harsh consequences dealt to women who do not appease men. Thus, what women do with our bodies cannot be seen as a free choice in any meaningful sense of the word.

            I will also add–your continued posting here, Howard, demanding that we answer your questions–is very male. Demand female time and accuse women of not taking sufficient care of your demands. If you are really interested in learning about the abolitionist perspective, there are hundreds of blogs and books you can read.

          • Lo

            “I do accept ”

            Sweet irony, a man “accepting” what happens…. ugh whether you “”accept”” it or not, women don’t have real choices compared to men. There is an economical oppression on one hand and a cultural oppression on the other hand.
            It’s a fact, end of.

            “to what extent, should we have control over our bodies”

            About the state, I already said that with a regulation or not, the state controls people with laws, make profits from them etc. If you have a problem with laws, or if you’re an anarchist that’s another debate.
            The same goes if you don’t agree with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 or any other documents about human rights.

            If you want people to be objectified for others “”because no one should control them, but they can be controled by others if they want”” (which is illogical…), that’s a political ideology you should apply it to all subjetcs and not just “prostitution”.
            But in this case you’re clearly into an essentialism philosophy because you deny the inequalities, the objectification of bodies etc etc
            There is nothing worse than people denying oppressions.

            PS: don’t start with the “if there is one oppression, there should be fifty others or nothing at all”, thanks.

            And moreover, you still don’t talk about pimps and johns (though I did), nor do you talk about about the role of economy and culture….. I wonder if you’re not just a troll: the way you always “ask” “”answers””” from us because we fight against oppressions just said it all.

            Whether you “”accept”” it or not, our culture is oppressing women, and the economy is just part of this oppression.

            “weakened agency”

            Agency? isn’t that the word that liberals use everytime to justify why should migrants be prostitute for men (in both emerging countries and non emerging countries)?

            I told you: “if you have a liberal point of view, if you consider that selling our bodies because of economical pressure is liberation, or if you think that there aren’t any cultural oppressions, then this discussion is useless.”.

            You just proved that you are a troll or a liberal (maybe both), end of the discussion.

  • stephen m

    @Howard Vaan: Howard I think the problem is that you don’t really understand what prostitution is.
    Prostitution for the average prostitute:
    – starting your career at the mean/median age of 13, 14 in Canada. (Old enough to make this decision and look after your own interests with the pimps, right?)
    – having to disassociate your self from your body (with or without drugs or alcohol) while you sexually abused 10-20 times a day, such that in a short time you cannot stand to have any man, even your lover touch you with out disassociating self and body. Probably unable to maintain a loving relationship with a man for the rest of your life.
    – expecting to be beaten on a regular basis by your pimp or your johns regardless of where you work, brothel or on the street.
    – you may have read about prostitution and how it is just sex work written by organizations or unions that purport to represent prostitutes but these organizations have very very few or NO prostitutes as members. They do not support the prostitutes, they support the wealthy sex industry.

    I could go on but really you should read material by real researchers in quality peer reviewed journals. You could even start by reading “Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self” by Kajsa Ekis Ekman. Less than $10 in the kindle version, start today! Read the interview –

    • Howard Vaan

      Thanks. Is there some research/evidence on this:

      “you may have read about prostitution and how it is just sex work written by organizations or unions that purport to represent prostitutes but these organizations have very very few or NO prostitutes as members. They do not support the prostitutes, they support the wealthy sex industry.”


      • stephen m

        @Howard Vaan: I find it interesting how it always seems to be the responsibility of the anti-prostitution people to deliver the quality peer reviewed journal citations. This time I think it is your turn to supply the quality peer reviewed journal citations. Your citations should show that there are a couple or even any organizations/unions that have a significant (>50%, >25%, >5%) membership of the prostitutes that they claim to support. If you want to be extra nice tell us what union type activities they carry out. Things like organizing prostitutes for better working conditions, better wages, strike pay, etc. etc. These should be very easy to find in the newspaper archives?

      • stephen m

        I forgot a most important aspect. I cannot absolutely prove that there are not unions for prostitutes with a significant membership. I have not discovered anything close in my research reading. But…

        You now have the opportunity to prove to us that there are unions that represent prostitutes with a significant membership of working prostitutes that they purport to represent.

      • stephen m

        International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW)
        10 members!!!

        Amnesty UK consulting with ‘sex worker’ organizations in the UK to help inform their new policy.

        Excerpt from Cath Elliott’s blog Posted on February 7, 2014:

        “Interestingly, if you watch the first few minutes of this news item you’ll see that according to Laura Lee, the IUSW, which according to Fox is allegedly a list not a membership organisation, apparently has a membership now of *10 people*. Yes that’s right, ten people”

        “I’m sure I’m not the only one who now has a number of questions to ask not just of Amnesty UK but of the GMB. So for example, Amnesty have claimed on Twitter that they’ll be consulting with ‘sex worker’ organisations in the UK to help inform their new policy: will that consultation involve the IUSW and its membership of 10 academics/activists/any-interested-parties-who-aren’t-actually-sex-workers, or the GMB Adult Entertainment Branch which Fox has admitted could include anyone and everyone with an interest in the sex industry from porn directors to punters?

        And for the GMB the question has to be, how many members are there in the London Adult Entertainment Branch, and who exactly do they represent in the industry, the workers the bosses or the Johns?”

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  • Anii

    You pay here to provide the illusion of a “relationship.” Of course she is not going to tell you otherwise! There is nothing mutual about it! You pay her to play pretend.

    You, as a buyer, are perpetuating the problem that harms those 90+% of women being exploited. The only reason anyone says, “MOST women don’t do it by choice” is because inevitable a pro person will say, “well some women like it.”

    Additionally, here is the best analogy I have ever heard for what it is like to be a prostituted person. It comes from a survivor with an organization called, “My Life, My Choice” in Boston.

    “Imagine you deeply and truly love someone. You love and adore having sex with them. Now, imagine having to have sex with that person you love 10-15 times a day.”

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  • Berynice

    OK, I agree with nearly everything. However, I’ve been beat up and I’ve been raped, and I’ll tell you right now, getting punched in the face is not a whole lot different than getting raped – they are both assaults. I had it happen at the same time and what I remember as more painful is the punching. Maybe you want to rethink that point. Word.

  • Meghan Marks

    Great article I have similar opinions. The issue with slavery wasn’t the way we treated slaves. It was the abuse of fundamental human dignity. We didn’t need to make laws on the better treatment of slaves, we needed to completely change the perspective on the ethical treatment of human beings.

    I think that as long as a woman’s body can be purchased for sex or an employer can pay her for nakedness, women’s fundamental human dignity is being abused. When sex or nakedness is purchased from one woman it damages all women.

    That one woman may financially benefit from the purchase of her body, but not only does she hurt her own resume all women are turned into objects.

    Slavery and child labour where excellent for GDP, that doesn’t make them ethical. GDP is secondary to human rights.

    It’s a woman’s right to have sex and reveal herself to any consenting adult. But it is not an adults inherent human right to purchase sex or nakedness from another, and I think this practice is harmful to all of society.

    17% of women are in congress worldwide, men make laws regarding how men can treat women’s bodies. I believe as women gain power these practices of objectification will be challenged more and more.

    7% of Hollywood directors are women studio gatekeepers give very few women a chance to make a film. Actresses talk about constant sexual harassment on their job. Men tell actresses what they’ll say, do, and wear. If an actress doesn’t want to do a nude scene they find someone else who will. What small space women do occupy on the big screen doesn’t even represent them.

    They’re treated like highly paid props in a male fantasy world rather than underpaid employees being exploited for their body.

    The industry doesn’t regulate itself and legislation doesn’t protect a woman’s entire professional career from being reduced to a bauble that takes off its shirt. It’s not enough to say, if you don’t like it get another job. Why should she have to give up acting because she doesn’t want to take off her shirt?

    It’s infuriating when I see child actresses approaching their 18th birthday being trolled by men around the world anticipating her first boob shot. And if a woman doesn’t want to give her employer their nakedness it makes news.

    I don’t think employers should profit from their employees nakedness. Nakedness and sex should be given only if the woman’s internal checks and balances decides its a good time and place and they want to do it with this person in this way, not by physical force, not by being lured at an influential age, not to advance her career, and not by money.

    A woman’s body needs to be entirely her own and not purchasable, as long as a woman’s body can be legally purchased all women will suffer the symptoms of being objects for sale.

  • Berynice

    Of course, depending on the circumstances and emotional states, levels of aggression etc, it would vary greatly. It was just my experience.