Johns are now an oppressed sexual minority

In a last-ditch effort to frame feminists as moralistic neocons and Oppressors of Freedom and Liberty, Alice Klein at NOW Magazine asks: Will johns become the new “fags?”

You knew this was coming, right? Men are the real victims in all of this, after all — their right to have their dicks sucked on a whim is not about entitlement, it’s about freedom and sexual expression and anyone who says different is a bigot. Got it?

I mean, its not all that far off from what’s been pushed by the sex work lobby for years — their incessant efforts to frame feminists as oppressive murderers of both sexy fun and of women is well-documented. Normalizing pimps and johns is important if we want to normalize and sanitize the sex industry. Nonetheless it continues to amaze me how badly those invested in maintaining the status quo are in misunderstanding systems of oppression.

There is no single argument that could in any way legitimize the idea that men who buy sex from vulnerable and desperate women are an oppressed minority akin to gay people. Also, buying sex is not a sexual identity. Men buy sex because they want to have sex with someone who they don’t have to consider, know, or relate to as a human being. They want their needs met beyond all else and, often, they want someone to use and abuse in a way they can’t get away with in their homes and intimate relationships. That desire has little to do with “sex” if we are talking about “sex” as a thing that is desired and enjoyed by all parties involved — you know, not-rape sex.

Klein writes:

Sorry to ruin your WorldPride. Sexual shaming is on the prowl, not just somewhere far away but, sadly, right here, right now. And it is state-sponsored.

I’m talking Bill C-36, officially called the Protection Of Communities And Exploited Persons Act. This is Harper-speak for “ Of course I will devilishly manipulate sexual anxiety, primarily female, to get my next majority.” Sacrificing the lives of sex workers on that unholy ground? Not a problem.

While this whole city celebrates our beauty and our outrageousness, the government is busy unleashing a moral panic across the country designed to keep the shame machine working overtime.

Oh cry me a river of penis tears. Now we’re john-shaming?? Not only that but we are repressing personal sexual choices. That’s right. Buying an impoverished, abused, drug-addicted woman to rape and abuse is just a personal sexual choice and it’s none of our goddamned business.

If the bill becomes law, johns will become the new “fags” – the people fed into the fear factory of career-ending public exposure and the criminal underground because of their personal sexual choices.

It used to be us, my queer brothers and sisters, who were the targets. Now, we can gather like bees into a joyful, porous rainbow buzz that is sexy and soulful and fun. Meanwhile, the government is stepping up its new copulation-monitoring game. Something is deeply wrong here.

How convenient! Johns are now “queer” — just like everyone else who wants to claim a stake in the Oppression Olympics, riding the postmodernist wave of identity politics into the now water-logged, sinking ship that is the new political left.

I don’t say that to deride the struggles that gay and lesbian people have faced and continue to face because they don’t fit the heteronormative mold. I say that because, as you may have noticed, suddenly everyone is “queer” and therefore an oppressed minority — the BDSMers, the polyamourous, the sometimes-likes-to-make-out-with-other-girls-at-the-bar, the kinky, the I-wear-weird-outfits-therefore-am-queer, what have you. It mocks the very real struggles faced by groups of people who have been violently and systemically marginalized and colonized and exploited and abused throughout history and to this day. Your leather doesn’t count. And neither does your desire to pull over and get a blow job on your way home from work.

Men who purchase sexual services are the spanking new category to be targeted for their sexual preferences. They are to be criminalized for what? For seeking and hopefully finding an uncomplicated and pleasurable way to satisfy their sexual hunger?

Just that. That’s it. I mean, who else matters in this simple transaction? Certainly not the woman on the receiving end of it — she’s hardly human after all.

Oh, oh! And by the way, just so you know, there’s just this little tiny issue of NOW Magazine relying on the advertisement of sexual services for their survival.

And that is also one of the reasons why NOW Magazine has always refused to discriminate against adult advertising. Full disclosure: in the new proposed law, advertising sex work is also criminalized. So that is my own stake in this story. But the big issues remain, and they profoundly inform why we publish this body of advertising.

I’m glad they copped to this; it makes sense that they would resort to such an abhorrent and manipulative framing of both the sex industry and of Bill C-36 if they rely so heavily on the industry themselves. But that doesn’t make it acceptable. It doesn’t make erasing women — who make up the vast majority of the industry — from this conversation ok. It certainly doesn’t make it acceptable to present the perpetrators of violence against prostituted women — men — as an oppressed sexual minority. It also doesn’t excuse their framing of feminists or the law as the perpetrators of said violence.

The preamble of the proposed law is even more disturbing than the title, a hybrid of Victorian sensibilities and pretend-feminist jargon. Did you know that the Parliament of Canada might soon recognize the “social harm caused by the objectification of the human body?” Really? Don’t get too excited. The only skin in that game is being peeled off the backs of already marginalized sex workers.

Yeah and you know who is “peeling skin off the backs of marginalized sex workers?” Or literally murdering them? MEN. You want to talk harm? Good. Let’s talk about harm. Let’s talk about who is harmed in prostitution and by whom.

Profound dis-ease with the inherent human reality of our diverse sexual natures (literally nature) has kept the knickers of the planet tied up in knots for – how long? Millennia? Over the last few decades, it is our LGBTQ+ movement that’s done the world wonders by loosening these spirit-killing, life-chilling bonds. And that is a blessed gift to our proud selves and our children. It is a gift to the earth as a whole. We should be proud!

Indeed, those fighting for their right to love who they wish and fighting against the notion that “man and wife” is the only legitimate and relevant relationship in this society should be proud. But those using said fight in order to defend the most privileged, most violent, most powerful class of people in the world, should not. They should be ashamed.

Here we are, able to gather together as a rainbow nation, in delight and full recognition that we all are sexual creatures involved in the uncontrollable magic of life, all in our own unique and astonishing ways. But let’s not be complacent as we rally round our right to love whomever we wish. Let’s not forget to acknowledge that sexual freedom, in whatever mutually consentful way we desire, is at the core of our accomplishments.

Let’s make sure we have a great time expanding the boundaries of our sexual freedom this weekend, and let’s not let those for whom human sexuality is the enemy succeed in taking any of our sisters and brothers back into the closets and back alleys.

Yeah, so long as the humans in question aren’t marginalized women. According to Klein, Pride is only for those who can pay.

For shame.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

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

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  • Gay Pride is about who one loves. Johns don’t love, they pay to experience eroticized dominance. Big difference.

    • Beth Jacobs

      And pay to rape us Terre, you are on point!

  • Wow I feel so angry reading that. What an insult to queer people and our struggles to call johns queer! So being lesbian, bisexual or gay is now equivalent to the perversion of johns who want the chance to have paid rape ? Now johns’ pride in wanting to rape women is equal to my pride as a bisexual woman ? Thanks for the insult.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Pretty insulting, yep!

    • river

      Maybe I’ll be angry tomorrow right now I bust out laughing. The left is so ridiculous that the NDP MPs who stood en masse in an attempt to block C-36 must be muttering in their sleep. What can they can possibly do to shake this shit off their careers.

      Too good Meghan: “water-logged, sinking ship that is the new political left.”

  • Elizabeth

    I thought this a-hole had provided me with my daily dose of rage:
    But Klein just one-upped him I guess.
    I wish I was shocked but it seems mainstream media can not get enough of the plight of the poor johns.

    • ozzie

      ”I wish I was shocked but it seems mainstream media can not get enough of the plight of the poor johns. ”
      On the bight side, the honesty is refreshing: they’ve quit the empty posturing and lying and pretending their pro-sex trade stance was because they really, really care about sex workers and their safety. After years of trying and spectacularly failing at painting abolition/the Nordic Model as something that would lead to a dystopian nightmare of trafficking, abuse, and murder of prostituted women with absolutely no evidence, they’ve scrapped that strategy and started telling us what they really think: men have an inalienable right to women because women aren’t people.

  • Lana

    I feel like my brain is about to explode. Every time I think it can’t go and get worse, and lo and behold another gem like this appears.

    It’s a travesty. People make me sick. The day I feel a drop of pity for the poor ‘oppressed’ rapists and murderers aka Johns, is never gonna come.

  • NOW is really going out on a ledge, risking alienating the queer community with their blatant appeal to johns. Money certainly rules their world. Makes it even more logical to support C-36 against the pimps trying to discredit it.

  • What utter CRAP. Has NOW lost all editorial credibility? Give us Feminist Current, please, and burn that other rag.

  • Those who know anything about Queer Theory should not be surprised by this development. “Queer” and “gay” do not mean the same thing. “Queer theory” and “gay liberation” do not mean the same thing. Shelia Jeffreys does a good job of explaining the difference between the two in her book “Unpacking Queer Politics”. Of course, my former tutor, who hated Jeffreys, was completely unaware of this distinction. Appearantly he hated her writings without even having read them.

    But you don’t need to read Jeffreys to know what “queer” means. Modern day self proclaimed “queers” make it perfectly clear that a “queer” is anyone who does not conform to social norms regarding sexual and gender-appropriate behaviour. Of course gays, lesbians and bisexuals fall into this category. So do transgender people and intersex people. But it’s not just LGBTI who are “queer”, that’s why the “Q” had to be stuck on the end of the acronym. Sadomasochists, polygamists, exhibitionists and sometimes even pedophiles are also included within category.

    The term “queer” does the same thing to gay people that the Christian right does. It lumps them in with all sorts of sexual deviants and I doubt all gay people like being viewed in that way. Gays are basically being used as tools to further the “sex liberation” agenda. Sorry Klein, I have zero interest in being ruled over by some “uncontrollable magic of life”. Being subject to a magical force beyond my control doesn’t sound like freedom to me.

  • huha

    How insulting! What next, are we going to declare pedophiles the new discriminated minority? By the way, I’ve seen some ‘feminists’, defend pedophiles.

    I am disgusted. Oh I wish Sweden had tougher laws on assholes like that. Put them on the sex offenders list! Imprison them. They are porn-addicted rapists and murderers. There are no ‘good’ johns. However ‘nice’ they are, it still feels like rape to the women. But the women and girls don’t matter, do they? It’s all about the poor rapist. They think that if they pay for it, it’s not rape; the ultimate mind pacifier…

    If they love “sex” so much why don’t they prostitute themselves? Ahhhh I think we all know why. They wouldn’t want somebody to do to them the things they do to the women/girls.

    • ozzie

      ”How insulting! What next, are we going to declare pedophiles the new discriminated minority? By the way, I’ve seen some ‘feminists’, defend pedophiles.”

      This is really nothing new, even within the feminist movement. Independent Radical upthread brought up ”Unpacking Queer Politics” by lesbian feminist Sheila Jeffreys where she recounts how ”sex” positive” ”progressives” (ie wealthy white men and their pseudo-feminist sockpuppets) would bloviate about how pedophiles and ‘transgenerational sex’ were valid, minority forms of sexual expression.

      • huha

        This is extremely disturbing.

        The argument I’ve heard is that children and teens have a right to experience sex at any age and anybody who rejects that is an ageist who denies their ‘agency.’

        People are sick.

        • anaeli

          That is *beyond* disturbing. It made my head implode.
          Where does defending people’s choices stop? Where do these people draw the line?! If defending violent sex (violence towards the women involved) and defending the right to access women’s body has become/is becoming the norm, will it become mainstream to defend paedophilia some time in the future? Surely there must be a limit… right? Right?!

          • I don’t think there is a line, these people go with the “violate for the sake of violation” principle.
            It’s rude politics and has no interest in being polite. It embraces masochism, anti-production, self-destructiveness, abjection, forgetfulness, radical passivity, aggressive negation, unintelligibility, negativity, punk pugilism, and anti-social attitudes as a form of resistance.. It’s about not-becoming because the notion of becoming is perceived as following the capitalist logic of production and models of success that are often tied up with colonialism.

          • huha

            The magic words are “choice” and “agency.” I feel like liberals will accept anything that is defended with those words. Some have already put the limit at 12. “oh she’s 12, she got her period, she can do whatever she wants with whomever she wants. Don’t deny her her agency.”

            Belgium wants to lower the age of consent to 13:
            Interesting how they defend imprisoned men only. Women can be pedophiles too. Not as often, but it’s very telling whom they want to defend – MEN.
            From the article: “Some even argue that a law on the age of consent has become superfluous and should no longer exist”

            There are newspaper articles referring to victims of sexual abuse and prostitution as “child sex workers.” The term “sex workers” bothers me enough when adult victims are described as such and their experiences are sugar-coated but CHILDREN? I won’t be surprised if “child sex work” becomes acceptable in the mainstream some day. The media is already trying to make it seem like it’s no big deal.

          • “If defending violent sex (violence towards the women involved) and defending the right to access women’s body has become/is becoming the norm…”

            It’s been the norm since the Neolithic Age.

          • anaeli

            I was specifically referring to these recent events and how people are giving up on at least the appearance of being politically correct, just blatantly stating that men want to abuse women and girls and we should let them be (much like how certain “pro-life” movements are really starting to show how they are really more concerned with women having sex than protecting unborn children) – it was my understanding that these things have always been more tacit. Of course, I understand how the oppression of women has been going on for thousands of years and that probably from our oppression have stemmed other forms of oppression and so on. Though I admit my initial comment was sort of naive, I tend to not to follow reason when I get really furious. So sorry.

        • I certainly agree with you about prepubescent children, but am more nuanced about teens. I do think teens should be able to experience sex if they want to, but it is important to protect them from exploitation by adults, and of course from being pressured into sex by other teens.

  • Sex workers absolutely should be protected. However, this is evidently not about protecting sex workers. Ms. Klein doesn’t seem to give a rat’s patoot whether the sex workers are enjoying the “freedom” and “uncontrollable magic” in this equation.
    I don’t feel awfully sorry for the johns.
    As well, not “everyone” is a “sexual creature.” Some people are, in fact, asexual.
    And no, paying for sex is not a sexual orientation. How ever did she draw that parallel?

    • Leo

      Yup. Sexual freedom for asexual people, would mean not having to deal with other people’s (mostly straight men’s) sexuality near constantly, in media, everywhere, often with not even any warning first… Freedom from. Even a bit of a break would be nice, it gets dreadfully boring at best, stressful at worst. Of course, you don’t see anyone arguing for that. Not ‘sexy’ enough, and the only forms of liberation that seem to count are sufficiently ‘sexy’ ones. Which means more women doing what men want, always.

      The whole article is just beyond insulting, unbelievable she’d actually try to make that comparison. I suppose the only thing you can say is that least it’s more blatantly woman-hating than the articles that try to act like they care so much about ‘sex workers’.

      • ptittle

        Yeah, that’s the main reason I stopped listening to the radio. Having to listen to sex songs (and that’s really what 95% of them are) all day long. It’s made a huge difference!

    • Ideally, for me anyway, would be to change the laws so that selling sex was not illegal. Buying sex was illegal. Then, the prostitute is no longer complicit in the criminal side at all. Right now, both are illegal. My problem with the current laws are that we are condemning entire generations of women to poverty and death by ensuring they have criminal records for what they did in either desperation or were forced into by another. By criminalizing the buy side only, it puts the onus of criminality only on the would be victimizer instead of the victimized person. (I haven’t worked out how to criminalize the Pimp part. Maybe some sort of facilitation law.) That is why I tend to support legalize and regulate scenarios. In absence of what I think really makes sense, which is complete criminalization of the John and pimp only, legalizing at least would stop us from condemning these women to poverty and death. I don’t know if anyone here has tried to find a job with a felony record, but I can assure you that it is difficult. I have seen perfectly qualified people come to me for an interview, but I can’t hire them. I know they cannot pass the background check required by the industry and federal regs. But, that is just my two cents.

      • ozzie

        That’s what the Nordic model is and what abolitionists are pushing for: complete decriminalization of women and criminalization of johns/pimps/traffickers. Meghan describes elsewhere on this site and in a Vice article how bill C36 comes close to this ideal but still needs to be modified to remove a loophole that could lead to women being criminalized anyways.

      • Lo

        Legalization has failed and protects only the johns, there is no safety for the prostitutes through legalization.
        Here many articles full of arguments:

      • marv

        You have misapprehended the issue. The Nordic countries and France have introduced laws that vilify male demand. Canada seems to be following suit. Now is the time to push forward with abolition everywhere not retreat to cowardly legalizing positions. Would you opt for regulating slavery in other forms? Sometimes I think it is easier for people to imagine the end of the world than the cessation of patriarchy and prostitution, which is a collective failure of the imagination and will.

        • Ozzie – Thanks for the info. I will look up the Canadian bill.

          Lo – You are right. Legalization does not protect the women. What would do is allow me to hire women who have managed to free themselves. Right now, I can’t do that, and that was my point. I’m tired of seeing women turned away, because they were convicted of a crime that the system is set up to perpetuate.

          Marv – A coward is something I am not, and I have misapprehended nothing. I know about the Scandinavian and French laws. I approve of those laws as they are a more ideal solution. But, if your position is that it is possible to do that any time in the near future here in the US, I’m going to laugh myself into a comma. We can’t even seem to get half of women (or people in general) in this country to quit working against their own self interest. Until that happens, I don’t see anything like this happening here. The stupid is strong with the US, and things like this require actual thought.

      • “That is why I tend to support legalize and regulate scenarios. In absence of what I think really makes sense, which is complete criminalization of the John and pimp only, legalizing at least would stop us from condemning these women to poverty and death.” <— Robert Scott

        Uhmm…no, Robert. What WOULD stop society from condemning "these women" to poverty and death would be: (1) aggressively ensuring that women, especially poor disadvantaged women, get real equal opportunities for the same good paying jobs that men always get to have and dominate; and (2) given the failure of society to create enough living wage jobs so that EVERYONE gets a chance for a job, ensuring that there's a decent welfare safety net that's actually enough to live on with a little bit of human dignity for "hard to employ women" so that premature death by murder or deliberate infliction of deadly incurable STD's by socially approved/shielded RAPISTS (johns) with money (from all those high paying male-dominated jobs that POOR women never get a chance for) to buy rape tickets is NOT the only "option" for women to NOT die from poverty due to job discrimination and the miserable failure of neoliberalism and abusive social and economic laws and policies that force poor women into the "Final Solution" of prostitution in the first place.

        But that would require economic reparations and restorative justice on a systemic level to victims/survivors of prostitution—a discussion that NOBODY wants to have. Because that would mean a LOT of people (basically everybody else NOT made disposable by society and condemned to the prostitution class) having to relinquish varying degrees of their privileges and comforts—including middle class and rich women who are often quite content to throw their poorest and most marginalized "sisters" under the bus in order to preserve their relative privileges under patriarchy because it boils down to "rape her, not me" and "I've Got Mine, Fuck You." (Because many middle class and rich women think that something for chronically poor women might mean a little bit less for them.)

        • river

          How would women apply for this, qualify? Would she have to get sworn statements from johns, show proof of a criminal record? Would women still involved in prostitution be included or would she have to show she was not prostituted in any aspect, such as web cams, phone sex? Would reparations qualification include proving she was poor, as in showing tax information or asset and property ownership declaration?

  • John

    “Men buy sex because they want to have sex with someone who they don’t have to consider, know, or relate to as a human being. ”

    This sort of statement requires more proof. I’m not suggesting that vulnerable women aren’t exploited. I concede up front that happens.

    But as someone who has paid for sex, I can tell you that it’s not all about power. For example, I’ve been terribly lonesome and depressed. There are times when I would pay an escort to come over. They laid the ground rules. Sometimes they would hint that sex was an option and occasionally I took them up on it. If they didn’t then the companionship was enough. Whatever happened was consensual and they were paid what they asked for their time.

    I haven’t been in a relationship with a women since my fiance passed. This outlet probably saved me from suicide. I think feminism is a positive force in the world. I also think a healthy adult woman, free of conflict or coercion, can make her own decisions about what to do with her body.

    So enough with the man-hating. No all of us look at women as objects even when we purchase sex.

    • Sylvia Black

      “If ladies don’t give me attention I’ll kill myself!”

      That’s a threat Mr. John. And that makes you homicidal, not suicidal.

      • Anonomega

        He said kill himself, thats not homicidal.

    • huha

      Feeling lonely doesn’t excuse your exploitation, asshole. Typical male behavior. “Oh poor me, my dick is so lonely.” Guess what. A lot of people are lonely, but they don’t cry like babies and they don’t rape and exploit others. If you feel suicidal, go to a therapist.
      OMFG Your stupidity is out of this world. Paying for sex IS an act that treats a woman as an object and a commodity, you idiot. If you want companionship go fuck your own hand. Don’t exploit other people.
      Paying for sex = economic coercion.

      If it weren’t for the money, she wouldn’t have done it; therefore it was not mutual! She did not want it. Money does NOT = consent!

      People like you make ME feel suicidal.

      • adam

        By your logic all employment is exploitation.

        • marv

          Indeed, all capital/labour relations are inherently unfair. Capital steals the surplus value of labour because labour does not control the means of production. Prostitution on the other hand could never be socially just even in worker cooperatives because it is a product of male fascism.

        • By your logic none is. At one point child labour was legitimate, and actually preferred and sweatshop labour is still a problem – this is why we have things called fair trade coffee.

          Moreover, how are you supposed to legitimately price a hand-job, or blow- job, or spanking or even companionship or conversation? Have men ever thought about their own cycle of self-defeating thought by coming up with not-so-ingenious ways to justify sex on demand? It’s certainly not what the prostitute is getting in exchange, she get’s cash, and no guarantee of an orgasm, so you are paying an awful lot (or not – since stripped of all pretense prostitution is pretty base) for some mechanical action that can be performed by anyone, including yourself. What you’re captain hook? In any other case you’re paying for the illusion of having someone who cares offer you his/her warm body for some intimate and mutually pleasurable experience.

          Why talk about it as though it’s consensual sex? It’s not immoral, it’s just empty.

          • river

            I agree with your statement Meghan, up to the last line: but yes it is immoral to abuse another human being. .

          • Of course it is, and the main problem that I have with johns, and others who argue that it be ‘acceptable’ is their delusion that all prostitutes are there because they want to be.and refuse to think or care about why they are there, what problems they might have. At some point anyone in that position was either directly made to be there or encouraged to be there or fell under some influence that led them to believe prostitution was going to be a good thing for them. I’ve yet to hear of a case where it was. The rates of PTSD are astronomical, and most want out. So the intentional and selfish delusion among those who argue it’s OK for a human being to be trapped in such a terrible situation is sickening. It’s disdain, arrogance, vanity, and all the other terrible perspectives and emotions that humans can embody. For someone to survive that kind of shitkicking from all of society, they would have to be hard. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing – but to get out of it requires a whole process of development building trust and values of affirmation. It takes a lot of work and people are all to ready to go back to hammering on prostitutes – either by exploiting their situation for their own selfish gain or by labelling and stoning them.
            Conversely we have to deal with the pro-sex worker argument engaged in heavy persuasive tactics – fundamentally they are arguing that all bad things about prostitution stem from stigma and from poor working conditions as a result of that stigma. They’re pretty clear, we like what we do. They don’t even want to go so far as to say, we do what we do because we have to, or because at some point we thought we had to. I can’t argue morally with someone who says I want to do this and I like to do this. That’s why I’ve said it’s empty. From the perspective of an ignorant john who thinks he’s getting a better version of a bad wife or uptight girlfriend, using another human being for escape and feeling OK just because he paid seems like a pretty empty way of life to me. From the other side, it’s clear that its about the need for money and entrapment into a situation where you have to give up every human right just to survive. This too is empty – terrifyingly so. I was working with CEASE, Centre to End All Exploitation in Edmonton, and I said to the ED once, “Wow! It’s hell. I don’t know how you do it.” She looked at me carefully and said, “You’re right about that. It is hell. That’s a good way to describe it.” Do you have any idea how much PTSD exists even among the community and social workers who go into it everyday. Lots. Just imagine what it’s like for those trapped in the life. They ask questions like how many tricks do you have to turn in a day to get a fix, a pack of smokes, etc. The answers range from like 5 to 20. Can you imagine having to deal with 5 to 20 guys a day demanding that you like them at such a level as to give over your body to them. These johns are looney. They talk about it like they are having monogomous sex with a women for cash. The don’t stop at all to think about what she is going through. If they did, I believe most would be horrified. Some wouldn’t care, or they would like it in some twisted way. Those are the bad ones. And it’s not just prostitutes who encounter them. a lot of women are exposed to male brutality, domination, selfishness and violence at some or several points in their lives.

            Men don’t like to admit this period.

          • river

            Yup. the john character is not specific to prostitution. It is the male character. I’m not sure if it is because of socializing or it’s genetic. It really doesn’t matter from the perspective of women trying to survive. If there’s a man in a woman’s life, there’s a john.

          • It certainly is part of macho entitlement and socialization, but no, I don’t think all men are johns.

          • river

            I mean the john personality and character which exists in every man, in his behaviour with women. But if a man is using porn, or phone sex, or web cam’s or talking porn with a prostituted woman online, he’s a “noun” john.

        • Of course all employment is exploitation. Where the fuck have you been for the last hundred years?

      • Missfit

        Aren’t we tired of hearing these poor johns who feel lonely? As if that makes a difference. I’ve worked as an escort for about 1 ½ year and never, never did it happen that sex was optional. Of course, men like to talk about themselves, the prostitute is also supposed to listen and offer comfort. It’s the same old bullshit pattern of men feeding off of women, of women providing sexual servitude and emotional cajoling. Prostitution is the most patriarchal institution, more so than traditional marriage I think, because there is less obligations from the men. Prostitution offers men the woman patriarchy created for them if they fail to obtain what they think is their due (because they couldn’t find a woman who wants to submit to them or their wife/girlfriend is not submissively pleasing enough or does not look like what they feel entitled to). Lonely women don’t purchase or rent men. This is about male entitlement to women’s bodies and unilateral care. This is about patriarchy.

        • ozzie

          ” I’ve worked as an escort for about 1 ½ year and never, never did it happen that sex was optional. ”
          Thank you for this, Missfit. The pro commercial rape lobby loves to slander us as wealthy Victorians clutching our pearls in an ivory tower fainting couch, completely erasing the fact that a great portion of radfems and abolitionists have first-hand experience with the industry.

          • Missfit

            That was about 15 years ago. Back then, I had no feminist consciousness. I would probably have babbled about my choice in these kind of discussions, talking about money and schedule flexibility while obliterating the dick I was choking on and oblivious to the meaning of it.

    • marv

      “I haven’t been in a relationship with a women since my fiance passed. This outlet probably saved me from suicide. ”

      My man shit detector light is flashing. If that is the only choice you concede, a humane person would take the suicide option rather than be a sexual parasite.

      • ozzie

        ”My man shit detector light is flashing.”
        So I’m not the only one who calls bullshit on the whole Catcher in the Rye I-hired-a-prostitute-due-to-crippling-loneliness story. Statistically, most johns are in relationships.

        • marv

          No you are not the only one. You are however a super splendid one 🙂

          • ozzie

            aww, right back at ya!

    • C.K. Egbert

      First of all, John, dismissing feminist arguments by claiming they are “man-hating” is missing the point that we are talking specifically about (a) the social construction of masculinity, and (b) specific behaviors that men engage in that hurt, exploit, and subordinate women. Second, if you think that feminism is a positive force in the world and you want to support us, then you should take seriously our arguments that expose exploitation and abuse in activities that you enjoy by virtue of your male privilege–including how you are contributing to the abuse and trafficking of women by buying a woman’s body and supporting the commodification of women’s bodies.

      If you are genuinely committed to the idea of free and un-coerced consent when women engage in sexual or other relationships, then you need to consider that the “transactional” nature of prostitution means that there is coercion. For a woman to be able to freely engage in sexual activity, she has to be able to say “no” without fear of reprisal or negative consequences. For example, if by saying “no” a woman may face physical or psychological violence, then she is being coerced. If a prostituted woman says “no” to sex, then she won’t get paid. She might be able to say no to a particular john, but that doesn’t mean that she has the option of only having sex when, where, with whom, and how she wants it–she can’t, because otherwise she won’t eat. If you think women can be coerced economically in this way, then women’s sexual choices are not going to be free (this is why, by the way, women are vulnerable to rape in marriage).

      • Actually, the NUMBER ONE thing that will get a prostituted woman murdered by a john is saying “NO” to any particular term or condition of the sex he feels entitled to buy. That includes saying “NO” to a john who won’t wear a condom because the sadistic bastard gets a thrill out of infecting some poor abused woman or girl with AIDS, HEP-C, and a myriad of other deadly and incurable STD’s that HE can get medical care for but SHE CANNOT (and we all no that NOBODY cares about what happens to poor women in the prostitute class since almost everybody thinks this shit is a “choice”).

    • Lo

      “No all of us look at women as objects even when we purchase sex.”

      If you consider someone as your equal you don’t think of them as sex toy, especially if to “feel better” you had to objectify them for your ego. #fact

      Those stories about “loneliness/depressed” are so manipulative,(btw if you really had psychological problems there are doctors anyway, and fun fact: also most people who suffer from depression and loneliness don’t think about objectifying others).

      Urgh johns are so creepy when they’re trying to play the poor victim.

      “enough with the man-hating”

      No, enough with the johns, especially when they don’t even admit they objectify women. Period.

    • bella_cose

      When you purchase a woman’s body to use it for sex, you are treating her like an object. It has nothing to do with her as a person. You are using her body as a vehicle to meet your own needs. You are using her companionship as a vehicle to meet your own needs. In the time you spend with her, she only exists to meet your own needs. She could be any person with a vagina. She is interchangeable with all persons having a vagina. Sounds more like an object than a human being to me.

    • uh… violence against women, REALITY ITSELF is not YOURS to “concede”. this is exactly the kind of insipid insidious assumption that drives patriarchy.

      you being terribly lonesome and depressed and still being able to get your rocks off IS ALL ABOUT POWER. you, your desires, your lonesomeness, your depression, were “SERVICED” by a woman with only YOURS needs on the table. her need for money may have been satisfied, but none of HER needs as a person – her desires, her anxieties, her issues were up for debate. BECAUSE MONEY. her personhood came second to the transaction.

      what do you think a “healthy adult woman” is? do you actually believe we move through the world in a vacuum “free of conflict or coercion”? everywhere we turn we are faced with conflict and coercion – from the very moment we are identified as female. sometimes we’re not even born, SIMPLY BECAUSE WE ARE FEMALE.

      your unfortunate circumstances do not justify your use of another human being as a means to your end.

      hope you realize that.

    • nightcap

      Heh. Man pays woman to perform femininity (being physically attractive, sexually available, sociable, ego-massaging, etc.) for him and claims it is not about power. Classic!

    • ozzie

      ”This sort of statement requires more proof.”

      If only there was some empirical evidence/data that you could look up conducted by academics, social science researchers and clinical psychologists that have been investigating the sex trade and sex buyers for decades. Oh wait, yes there is. In a 2009 study looking at London men who purchase ”sex”, investigators heard things like: ”You pay for the convenience, a bit like going to a public loo” ;”Prostitution is being able to do what you want without the taxation” ; ”Prostitution is a last resort to unfulfilled sexual desires. Rape would be less safe…” ; ”Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with”. Here’s some numbers for you:
      ”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. 25% told us that the very concept of raping a prostitute or call girl was “ridiculous.”

      ◦47% of sex buyers stated that rape happens because men get sexually carried and 48% said it is because their sex drive gets “out of control”.

      ◦16% stated that they would rape a woman if they could be assured that they would not be caught.

      ◾·27% of our interviewees explained that once he pays, the customer is entitled to engage in any act he chooses with the woman he buys. 47% of these London men expressed the view to a greater or lesser degree that women did not always have certain rights during prostitution.17% of the men agreed that half of the time or less frequently prostitutes have certain rights during the prostitution encounter.

      ◾37% told us that they had tricked non-prostituting women into having sex by lying to them. 24% asserted that the concept of rape simply does not apply to women in prostitution.

      The men expressed a number of misogynist attitudes, some of which frankly endorsed rape. Those with the highest scores on the hostile masculinity scale tended to be those who most strongly endorsed rape myths (r = 0.71, p < 0.0001).''

      ''They laid the ground rules.'' What a completely empty statement. How does she enforce these ground rules? What recourse does she have when these ground rules are violated? What systems and structures are in place to ensure women's boundaries are respected?

      '' I also think a healthy adult woman, free of conflict or coercion…'' That's that No True Scotsman fallacy the pro sex trade lobby adores so much: when presented with statistics and millions of examples of poverty, pimping, trafficking, drug abuse/addiction, child abuse, rape, lack of education, racial marginalization, etc being involved in prostitution, everyone scrambles to point out ''that's not REAL prostitution though, that's abuse! REAL prostitution involves two healthy, consenting adults with no power imbalances between them!!'' The tiny problem with that though, is that it has never existed the way you claim on a large-scale anywhere.

      ''So enough with the man-hating.''

    • The intertubes are littered with “lonely hearts” groups that have group meet ups. Companionship is easy to find. Join a club, a church, or take some classes. Get the hell out of your front door and meet people. I am somewhat agoraphobic (I don’t fear wide open spaces. I fear that the stupid most people have will infect me 😉 ). But I met my wife through a Wiccan group both joined. Like me, she is a staunch feminist and slightly to the left of Karl Marx. I was 39 and had given up on finding that someone. You will never find love through a transaction.

      • That’s a nice story. Have you read anything by Flora Tristan, an early feminist and socialist? There were women writing against class and gender exploitation in the early 19th century.

        Being 20 years older than you, I will warn you that it does get more difficult in late middle age. I’m very much involved in political and social groups, including advocating for cyclist and pedestrian-friendly planning and a tenants’ association, but inevitably, many of my friends are a generation younger.

        But I wouldn’t even contemplate hiring a gigolo if I feel lonely. I really wouldn’t want to purchase phony affection and passion.

    • I think it’s fair to say that research into Johns is needed, because the slim information gathered is pretty useful. I don’t happen to think sex addiction is a real addiction, but since a number of psychologists do and both conduct research and offer counselling to those who feel they don’t have control over their sexual behaviour – maybe talking about the research into johns who suffer from ‘sex addiction’ would be a useful place to start. Most men who use prostitutes are, according to the research, pretty typical of whatever is the mainstream socio-economic class in any given area – so in Edmonton, they are blue collar workers coming in from Fort Mac, in Vancouver they are white collar professionals and in Ottawa they are tied to government. Academics also use prostitutes and, in general, roughly 60+% of johns are married.

      Obviously, since prostitution has been around for a long time, and tacitly accepted by the Catholic church and the government, and let’s face it, women, it’s not surprising that men find it normal to use prostitutes. The whole idea that it is violence against women and a gender issue is still pretty new to most people.

      I don’t know, John, why you would turn to paid sex as a way to manage your grieving process – that’s a weird existential choice, so on a purely human and personal level, I would probably watch a well written movie about someone like you, and think about your human dilemma.

      Conversely, it’s a pretty bad choice. Many people grieve and find ways to cope that bring them into a closer relationship with, and especially, other people who lost the same person. Why, in your time of grief you wouldn’t turn to others who know you for support, as well as get help from a counsellor who could help you find – many alternatives to healing, makes no sense to me. But then men, grief, emotions, depression and loneliness are all those taboo subjects that men don’t want to talk about, because of some stigma attached. Nothing new here – I know tons of men who drown their sorrows in the bottle, or take them out on themselves or others in numerous ways, because they don’t have the capacity to deal with them. This is a shame.

      A key point in the violence/exploitation of women argument is that a person cannot give consent to their exploitation. To me, in plain language this means that anyone selling their body isn’t in their right mind. I think there’s a problem with this argument, and the argument that deposes it will be the one that wins at the SCC when we finally get there. I won’t elaborate, but I’m pretty sure there are profound feminist reasons why this argument won’t hold.

      I’ve stated elsewhere that I have spoken with prostitutes who seem to have an exploitative attitude toward their johns, and certainly I’ve read research into violence and theft perpetrated against johns – and it exists. So, from my perspective, no one is lily white in the situation. There is always an exploiter and an exploited in prostitution.

      In your case, I think you were exploited, because you were taken advantage of in a time of weakness. Whether the prostitute knew about your deep depression or not, and your trouble finding a healthy way to grieve or not, doesn’t matter. I’m not necessarily saying she intentionally exploited you, any more than you intentionally exploited her, but your problem is related to grieving and depression.

      Thinking that you are going to solve your problem by getting your rocks off is to me obviously not the healthiest solution. I can’t even begin to imagine recommending that to any male friend of mine as any kind of a good idea. Not to offend you, but normally, I would say ‘that’s perverse.’

      Strange, very strange how men have been socialized to cope with challenges in life.

    • NitroGirl

      “Not ALL Johns are like that!” Why do you NEED to PAY women for affection? Because you’re too lazy or socially difficult to you know..actually EARN such kindness and tenderness from a woman,so you buy fake intimacy? Men are not entitled to paid for sex,or paid for illusions of intimacy .

      You don’t get to come to a Feminist blog and start making demands about “enough with the man-hating”.

      Hetero Women don’t have an entire industry out to primarily cater to their heterosexual desires on a whim, and manage to do JUST FINE without partaking in exploitation of another human being.

      The fact that you have the power to pay for women to pretend to like you IS about power, about controlling women’s emotions through money she really needs,so even if she finds a man to be a loser,ugly,creepy,she may have to brace herself and deal with it just so she can pay rent.

      Having an entire industry dedicated to your sexual desires,and a culture that treats men seeing naked ladies on a whim,whenever they want as a man’s inherit right (and those who “infringe” upon it should be written off as ugly,shrews,and !man-hating!) IS about power,no amount of “Not All Johns” or “Exceptional Misogynists” is going to change that.

  • “river of penis tears” – omg, that is hilarious. or gross. no, it’s hilarious AND gross. a mind warping metaphor

    • Meghan Murphy

      It can turn into a gross metaphor if you think about it too much….

      • Why are you trying to tear men’s penises, Meghan Murphy??? Don’t you understand that the penis is necessary for sex? No penis = no sex. FACT.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Because I hate sex and penises, naturally. Along with fun, freedom, and, more generally, people.

  • Poor men (sic) suffering because all they want is 24/7 male sexual access to female bodies and not be held accountable for ensuring mens’ male created ‘Mens’ Pimp Industry’ isn’t eradicated.

    Proves yet again men are the supposedly default human species on this planet and women? Well we are still, according to men not even human so therefore those innumerable male sexual predators can continue to sexually prey on women and girls with impunity.

    Also demonstrates men will say anything in a vain attempt to justify their pseudo male sex right to female bodies.

    That term ‘Johns’ neatly invisibilises the fact it is males who are the ones enacting their pseudo male sex right to females – let’s erase that term ‘John’ and instead name males as the ones maintaining and profiting from their male created Mens’ Pimp Industry.

  • jose

    Very much agree. Just a little slip:

    “They want their needs met beyond all else”

    Their wishes. Or their whims. There is no need. Sex ain’t air nor food.

    • Meghan Murphy

      True that.

  • Disgusting, but not exactly new. Back in the early 90s the pedophilia crowd tried to hitch their wagon to the queer movement by claiming that raping and exploiting children was ‘love’ and a legitimate sexual orientation. This is just more of the same. Also, I hate that LGBT+ nonsense. What does the + even stand for? What does the + and whatever it entails have to do with civil rights for lesbians and gay people, very basic rights like not getting fired from jobs or locked up in prisons/mental institutions for the crime of homosexuality or prevented from being considered next of kin.

  • “Oh cry me a river of penis tears.”

    Meghan I love you.

    Somehow the yippy yippy yay rainbow happy unicorn tone of the whole thing just makes it even more vomit-inducing.

  • Farmer Plain Jane

    Oppression Olympics. Priceless! And another spot-on commentary. Thanks.

  • Amy

    I am absolutely livid that this has become the state of “sex pozzie” movement. Painting johns in a positive light is nauseating enough, but likening their sexuality to the ACTUAL real life plights of LGBT people is SICKENING. Excuse me, but are johns verbally and physically harassed on the streets for something they can’t control? Are johns told they can’t marry someone that they love because it’s considered “immoral” or “unnatural?” Are johns denied health care because of who they are or how they identify? Nope. No to all of the above. Men who purchase sex SHOULD be shamed because it IS shameful. LGBT people should not feel shamed about their sexuality or identity because being homosexual or bisexual or having sexual dysphoria is BEYOND THEIR CONTROL. Whereas a man CHOOSES to pay for sex, knowing very well that he could be purchasing the time of an underage girl or boy or someone who isn’t willing.

  • ozzie

    ”How convenient! Johns are now “queer” — just like everyone else who wants to claim a stake in the Oppression Olympics, riding the postmodernist wave of identity politics into the now water-logged, sinking ship that is the new political left.”
    Exactly this. The new uncritical, depoliticized social justice dogma maintains that anyone who feels oppressed simply is, reality be damned. Hurt fee-fees and mild inconvenience are now on par with actual genocide, colonization, imperialism, male supremacy, white supremacy, femicide, rape, violent subjugation etc. Alice Klein just followed this idiotic, half-baked, absurdist notion to its logical conclusion: males (statistically white, straight, cis) positioned in the class hierarchy somewhere that would allow for enough disposable income for sex tourism and the purchase of bodies of human beings as a hobby, are now a downtrodden minority group. This is what happens when you completely strip political theory of any cogent analysis of the systems that buttress white male power.

    ”And that is also one of the reasons why NOW Magazine has always refused to discriminate against adult advertising. Full disclosure: in the new proposed law, advertising sex work is also criminalized. So that is my own stake in this story. But the big issues remain, and they profoundly inform why we publish this body of advertising.”
    That’s really the crux of this whole debate. It’s really no coincidence that every single individual and/or institution I’ve seen defend the porn and prostitution industries have had a direct financial gains at stake, whether they fully disclosed this or masqueraded their true intents under the ”sex-positive” or ”listen to sex workers” mantra.

  • AiMo

    As you yourself have said, Meghan: “Virulent and pervasive hatred of feminists/feminism? We got you!” – the Internet (I paraphrased. Hope you don’t mind). But it’s not just the Internet; it’s everywhere…NOW Magazine is a faux-progressive rag that paints itself as anti-consumerist while simultaneously accepting ads for $1000 leather bags and $5000 suits. One can hardly be surprised that they would take a typically market-oriented, neo-liberal approach to the sex industry. It’s still depressing as hell. Dickweeds.

    As always, keep fighting the good fight!

  • Incredible that there are people out there who actually writes like this regarding johns and buying sex and so on.
    Johns are not an oppressed minority and never will be.
    Thank you Meghan for bringing this into the light, me (and I would guess others as well) would not have known about this otherwise.

  • Pride is overwhelmingly sex-positive. I marched in the dyke March yesterday and there was a sign saying “Prostitution laws kill women.” How absurd to think it’s the law that kills women, and not the actual murderers. We’re expected to celebrate ANY choice any woman makes even if it’s buying into patriarchal oppression, and we’re never supposed to think about the choices men are making. My Pride is about celebrating our rights to love who we want, not men’s “right” to abuse women. Shame on Now magazine.

    • lizor

      “We’re expected to celebrate ANY choice any woman makes even if it’s buying into patriarchal oppression, and we’re never supposed to think about the choices men are making.”

      Yes. This.

    • Blamer, “sex-positive” is a euphemism designed by those who promote pornography and prostitution, which unlike Pride, are not about the positive expression of sexual feelings and desires.

      As an old hippie leftist from the 1970s, of course I’m “sex-positive”, but that means anything but making sexuality and human bodies into commodities.

      I hope you had a good Pride and a good Dyke March.

    • morag

      Was it the London dyke march by any chance? B/c that’s been taken over by “male lesbians”-actual female lesbians staged a kickass protest. I’m not sure what the state of other dyke marches are and would be curious to know. Queer theorists are very similar to sex industry advocates-the default perspective is male and women’s/lesbians’ realities are twisted beyond all recognition.

  • The suggestion that johns are an oppressed sexual minority really takes the cake. I don’t have anything to say that you haven’t already, but as a lesbian and as a sane and rational person I am really shocked by the claim made in the NOW Magazine article.

  • I used to be a prostitute. I used to do drugs. As many of you say that when a man offers money for sex the woman has no choice, enjoyment etc. Well in some cases you are not correct. I had a lot of o”johns” that were really nice guys nice I mean that yes I got money but I was also respected for what my sexual needs were too and a lot of these men would be like that. Yes I had the other type too but not all are “Rapists”.

    • I think it’s pretty normal in our society for men to think that using a prostitute is OK. Like I said, I don’t think that in order to do it a woman has to be in her wrong mind. It’s been an option available to women for a very long time. The problem is that because it’s an option it’s automatically assumed that it represents positive choice.

      It’s a common path for women of a particular caste in India, it’s common among the women who come from rural areas in Thailand, and reinforce by their families, because they become providers, and also reinforce by Buddhist temples there, because Buddhism tends to be quite accepting of prostitution and allows for ‘making merit’ by donating to temples and by being a good daughter. Unfortunately SE Asian Buddhism also emphasizes that women can’t attain nirvana as a man, so they see their lot as ‘karmic.’ This is why people’s ‘bs’ detectors go off, because the underlying ideologies reinforce a kind of dualism that says on one hand everything is acceptable, but on the other hand says some things are more acceptable than others. The overwhelming argument is in one way or another ‘boys will be boys’ so let us be boys. Not only is it reductionist, but it’s a point of view that has to be facilitated, agreed to by women – and if not – well then out come stupid arguments like, you’ll either give it to us or we’ll turn to rape, or some other form of violence. It’s uncivilized.

      Backroom and herbal abortions have been an option for a long time. We moved away from that because the outcomes for women who will make that choice, and also sometimes the children were pretty horrendous. Clitorectomy is another example of behaviours carried out by women on other women, as is footbinding. All of this stuff falls into the realm of being unhealthy for women. But it’s taboo. It’s structured by irreconcilable dualism. At the bottom these choices and behaviours are reinforce by gender norms. Everyone get’s to decide what is right for a woman to do or what is not. It’s OK to be a prostitute, it’s not OK to be a prostitute. The argument should be there’s a better way for everyone to live together. We no longer have ‘homes for unwed mothers.’ We no longer label women as loose or spinster based upon their ‘sexual/social’ roles or orientation. What do we need prostitutes for? I know a bunch of kids in their 20s who find the sexual climate out there with ‘friends with benefits’ and all the rest so open then think guys who need to use prostitutes must be complete losers. And then that becomes the argument – we need to keep prostitutes around for shut-ins and pathologically shy men. Why in a million years would I tell any woman that she might want to consider the option of being a prostitute out of sympathy for some shut in. “Whore with the golden heart” – we have so many stereotypes around prostitution. Underlying it all is that women hate men, or are picky, demanding, and so men find solace in someone who does not discriminate. That is what a prostitute is.

      It doesn’t recognize that women might wish to live in a situation uncluttered by sexual demands of one sort or another, because they have their own ideas about what they want from sex and human relations. Those ideas are being made to appear unacceptable. Why? It’s a free world. Why do we have to live in a society that says we have to accept that our boyfriends and husbands and partners can turn to prostitutes whenever they feel uncomfortable with – our sexual preferences, or demands? Of course along comes the prostitute who says ” I love making men orgasm” cordoning off a particular identify for herself. I know plenty of regular everyday women who love getting men off. Frankly, a lot of them get called sluts. It’s the old double standard.

      People can say what they like about patriarchy but when it gets right down to it, I think men are just uncomfortable about what social role they are to take on if women can earn their own way, have children out of wedlock, through sperm banks, or whatever. Men are feeling pushed out of society, and useless, and they are reverting to old arguments about self identity. Men don’t have a biological need to procreate – there are tons of men out there who take little interest in their children or the women who bore them.

      It’s socialization. It’s also opportunism. None of these things are particular to prostitutes or johns.

      • Leo

        I think it’s even more than men being uncertain over roles – they know the way they act is wrong. That’s why they get so very defensive, and often outright hostile when their behaviour is questioned. What will they do if they can’t rely on good ole patriarchal oppression of women? They might actually have to cope without male privilege, might actually have to be decent human beings.

        The way they act, they’re not just feeling useless, they ARE useless, and worse than that. And it’s entirely their own fault.

        Seconding what morag said about getting angry, and taking care of yourself, angela. You say respected for what your sexual needs were, but don’t your sexual needs include having sex with people you’re attracted to, out of mutual desire? You didn’t have that with them, and they knew you didn’t. A genuinely nice person would not want to engage in any sexual activity when they knew the other person didn’t actually want to. You deserve more than that.

    • morag

      I’m sure there were kind plantation owners and concentration camp guards too. I say this with all the love in the world: if you can write about your drug addiction and abusive Johns and still say “you guys are being unfair, they’re not all like that!” you are suffering from trauma bonding. You have no responsibility to protect or defend these men. Get angry and most importantly take care of yourself.

      • Are you talking to me? I don’t suffer from trauma bonding nor do I support nor protect johns. I happened to be walking to CEASE, Centre to End All Exploitation one day, since I was helping them with stuff there, and some guy cruised me in his luxury gold vehicle on 118 Ave. I almost spat on his car. When I got to CEASE we were talking about it, and the topic of low-grade anger that women experience with even the kind of minor cruising came up. Your comments are way out of line. On many different levels.

        • morag was addressing angela, not you.

          • morag

            You’re right lizor, I was addressing angela. I’m not sure why Megan would think my comment was to her, or how it was way out of line, or why she’s getting angry at me in particular and listing her credentials?

    • Lizor

      I think that there’s a difference between what you are talking about and how some of us define rape. The point is not whether the buyer acts like an abusive asshole or not; it’s that for him it’s an option, not a necessity to consider what you enjoy. The fact that he can decide if he feels like acting like a decent human being or not and the prostitute must feign desire no matter what, is what many of us consider to be rape.

  • docspock

    You talk as if the women have no choice in the matter. Women dont have minds of their own after all do they?
    What if the John in question is himself a vulnerable, drug abused shut in? What then? No males of course CANT be vulnerable can they?

    • Laur

      May I suggest doing some basic research before making such ignorant comments?

      Men can be drug-addicted (“drug abused” though, seems to be a term of your own creation) and vulnerable by race and class. But the only thing vulnerability or oppression should do is make you more empathetic to other people’s vulnerabilities and oppressions.

      A man who makes the choice to buy sex from a woman is still A) a man B) has means of financial coercion that he is *choosing* to use.

      And yes, women make choices all the time. Again, do some basic reading before coming here and making ignorant, mis-types, sarcastic (see your last sentence/question) remarks here.

    • Leo

      I’m a pretty vulnerable, disabled woman who tends to be something of a shut-in (due to health). I, funnily enough, manage not to harm others. Many women are vulnerable (just being a woman makes one vulnerable, in itself), and manage not to do that. If the man can pay a woman for ‘sex’, he is the one with the power in that situation, not her. End of. We don’t care about the poor poor menz, we care about the women they’re abusing. Women are not there to caretake to men, and fulfil all their desires, just because the man might want that. His personal circumstances don’t change that one jot.

    • Ellesar

      I also did prostitution for a while when I was young, and yes, most of those men were ‘nice’, and I made that choice, as other choices were less attractive at the time.

      One thing was VERY clear to me very quickly. Men are REALLY good at kidding themselves that prostituted women like it, enjoy their work. The conversations I had with some of them made it clear how deluded they were on this subject, made all the funnier by what some of the women would say about them. I cannot claim to have done an extensive piece of research, but my little snapshot was that generally customers wanted the ‘fantasy woman’ (no surprises there), and generally the women despised them for it – for believing that all the acting we have to do for the role was real. Of course some of those men had problems, were not particularly adequate in every day life, but for every man like that there are several women battling their own demons, and in the sex industry many of those demons created by sex abuse in childhood.

      You mention male vulnerability. Unfortunately, due to societal barriers to a man being able to express such a state freely such vulnerability will often be expressed with anger and hostility at an easy target. Prostituted women are very easy targets. Of course some are ‘tough and ballsy’, but most are ordinary women, who have learnt that they need to placate and absorb the rage, so that they get paid. In my experience vulnerable men are actually quite likely to lash out.

      • river

        There is nothing you’ve described there about johns that doesn’t exist across the board, that is not just plain men. Not particular to johns.

    • “You talk as if the women have no choice in the matter. ”

      No one has “choice.” The use of such nonsense words obscures the truth of the matter. The truth of the matter is that prostitution is a form of mass rape and gynocide. No “choice” involved in women being considered inferior to men and women’s interests being silenced.

  • Orryia

    Not entirely on topic, but Anita Sarkeesian has released her latest video in the Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games series. ( Warning- sexually explicit, violent and highly disturbing material.)

    This one deals with women as background decoration, and is largely about the portrayal of prostituted women in video games. It demonstrates clearly the utter lack of compassion many men have towards these women, and how they completely dehumanise them. The video games both reflect and reinforce these psychopathic attitudes. The women are, of course, presented as one-dimensional cardboards with no personality to speak of, and only exist to serve the player’s needs. Worse than that, in several games, murdering prostitutes has little to no repercussions, and sometimes it actually rewards the player.

    It’s absolutely sickening to see the way our entire culture condones this violence.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh yes! Her most recent video is brilliant. Thanks for posting it here.

    • ozzie

      She was attacked by the commercial rape zealots for using the term ”prostituted women” instead of ”sex workers”. Because background fictional videogame characters designed by men for consumption by a male audience are uber-empowered rational agents now.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Yep. I predicted it too as soon as I watched the video. They are so predictable…

    • Leo

      Oh, thanks for the reminder, I’ll watch that in a bit. : )

      Hmm, a bit off topic, but to discuss sexism in gaming more generally (this is going to be quite long, so apologies, this is more just in case any one happened to be interested in that topic, not so much on this one – so ignore, otherwise, it’s just for anyone who was interested)…hmm, this is kind of difficult, how to put this…

      I’m a lifelong gamer and geek, and obviously as part of that and as a feminist, care a lot about sexism in gaming. Still, though, I was disappointed by Sarkeesian’s previous work (hope this one is better, it sounds like it, if she’s using the term prostituted women, that’s a much more Radical direction, one I wouldn’t have expected. Seems positive). I’ve heard from some other female gamers, including feminist ones, that they they feel similarly, too. Plenty of her points are of course valid regardless, but there are genuine iffy issues with her work, like her stealing the work of a female artist, that concern me.

      Many gamers feel she’s used the medium opportunistically, and cares more about making a point, and possibly even media attention, than actually looking at it in a detailed and in depth, or even objective, way – she has outright stated she’s not a gamer (despite later claiming she’d always been one), and in the previous videos she doesn’t show that much knowledge or in depth analysis of them, in some points it was inaccurate, and even a fair bit of the footage was taken from gamers’ Let’s Play videos (which is something I as a gamer would consider dishonest and disrespectful to do. And I know she didn’t ask for that much money from the Kickstarter, but it does make it more questionable about how the funding has been spent, if she’s not even recording her own footage. And also just about why it takes her so long to produce each video, there’s been few made, considering how long it’s been). I USED to be able to have respectful discussions about sexism in gaming more easily, even use the word ‘feminist’, without male gamers getting so hyper-defensive or not taking me seriously. Now, though? Well, it’s possible, but is more difficult. They trust me less because of her issues with professional integrity. Stuff blows up and becomes confrontational more often.

      So as a female gamer, while I’m not going to get distracted from the main problem here -absolutely vile misogynistic dudes-, I actually feel a bit betrayed by her (and also because I stand firmly on the ‘yes’ side of the ‘Can games be art?’ debate. I want to see them taken seriously as a medium, analysed properly). She herself said: ‘I’m not a fan of video games’, and generalised all games as violent – they’re not. Being a geek is, absolutely, part of my identity, it’s important to me in a way I don’t think non-geeks could really understand, and being a woman is very much part of that and connected to it, in that it’s a niche I’ve found for myself, somewhere I could be accepted as a woman who doesn’t conform to femininity. I’d just never say something like she did, I’m proud to like games, to be a geek, I wouldn’t deny it because I was worried about being seen as uncool or anything. So, if she was being truthful then, when she said she wasn’t a fan, and not when she said she was a gamer, she has just lied and used my hobby, and, though she did receive utterly vile and totally inexcusable threats, has left me to deal with the fallout in a way she doesn’t really have to, simply because gaming matters to me and it doesn’t to her. Regardless of the truth, she’s still given those who cry ‘fake geek girl!’ more ammo to (falsely) use against me – and I have noticed that happening more, now, that I get treated as not really part of the audience by male gamers, not a real gamer (to be clear on terms here – most gamers wouldn’t consider playing the odd game makes you a gamer any more than a gardener would accept planting a few begonias makes you a gardener, or any more than just liking movies makes you a movie buff. The term reflects dedication to and identification with the hobby), that if I try to talk about sexism they assume I don’t really seriously care about it or gaming but am just trying to score some kind of abstract political point, and are harder to convince of the reality, the fact that sexism in games makes them less fun for me as a gamer, and, much more importantly, reinforces misogyny and is a reflection of and contributes to a misogynistic culture. I want the issue of sexism addressed, but I do want it done well – feminist’s work should be able to be held to a high standard. And though this wasn’t so much her fault, it was treated as though it was something new to discuss sexism in gaming, with her getting a lot of attention and praise from the media – I’d been talking about it for years, within my own community, so had many other gamers, including male ones. We had noticed, many did care, geek culture isn’t some exceptional hotbed of misogyny. What I think was actually going on there, was that the gaming media wanted to appear progressive (while not actually bothering to do much to help change the culture).

      What people outside the hobby don’t tend to realise is, there are actually many good female characters in gaming. I honestly think gaming is better than movies for that, and a lot less conventional (more variety, not just Strong Female Characters™). I play more story driven games, which don’t really receive much attention from the non-gaming media. It tends to be the more violent (typically US made) ones (which I find sickening, and never play. My younger sister likes them, though – it wouldn’t actually be accurate to think only men like violent games, and Sarkeesian reinforced the stereotype that it’s just them who do with her comments, too) that get focused on.

      Sexualisation of female characters tends to get focused on, also, and is (obviously) indeed an issue. Still, what gets ignored is that developers often do actually include ‘fanservice’ (as it’s known) for female players, too. And the players then take that further, with creating fanart and fanfiction. The male fanbase isn’t any worse than the female fanbase in that regard (if anything, it’s the other way around). I also can’t get male gamers to understand the issue of objectification and why feminists are against it, while we have Liberal Feminists going ‘I’m taking ownership of my sexuality and showing how confident in it I am by catering to the male gaze! It’s empowering!’. No matter how I try to explain, the dudes simply don’t understand why that’s Ok and a female character being scantily clad isn’t, or the social pressures involved. So to me, I don’t know, I just have more pressing priorities…like finding some way to stop our own movement undermining all my points.

      For example, I just don’t see it as really worth focusing on the character Milla Maxwell’s (from the game Tales of Xillia) outfit – she was designed by a famous female manga artist, Inomata Mutsumi (here’s her illustration of the character: I was just thrilled to see the representation of a female protagonist who becomes disabled, and manages to cope with that and complete her goals – struggling with my disability is something I have to do just to even be able to play games. That meant a lot to me. The game shows female friendship, too, and presents it as valuable – with, most notably, no jealousy or competition between the female characters, despite Leia having to deal with seeing her crush liking Milla and not her. The game certainly isn’t perfect in regards sexism, don’t get me wrong, I have several issues and complaints there, but I did like those aspects, and a few others.

      I also think singling out gaming often serves as a way for men of letting themselves off the hook (and I’ve seen feminists fall for this, too) – they’ll happily blame the geek stereotype (which in itself is sexist and ignores that there is a substantial female audience, it just reinforces ideas about geeks being unattractive and women disliking geeky hobbies), and try to make out there are issues with sexism in gaming only because the players are nerds who are bitter because of being unsuccessful with women, instead of acknowledging the broader cultural issue.

      So, yeah, I do really hope that sounds fair, I’m reluctant to criticise a feminist overmuch when the threats she received were just vile, because the last thing I want to do is play into the hands of horrible men like that, but I do feel there have been issues with her past work. I’ll be blunt – I don’t trust that she’s helpful to feminism. Personal, professional and academic integrity are important. I’ll still be very interested to see the video, though (and am sure many of her points are valid regardless of other issues), will go watch it now.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “Many gamers feel she’s used the medium opportunistically, and cares more about making a point, and possibly even media attention, than actually looking at it in a detailed and in depth, or even objective, way – she has outright stated she’s not a gamer (despite later claiming she’d always been one), and in the previous videos she doesn’t show that much knowledge or in depth analysis of them, in some points it was inaccurate, and even a fair bit of the footage was taken from gamers’ Let’s Play videos (which is something I as a gamer would consider dishonest and disrespectful to do. And I know she didn’t ask for that much money from the Kickstarter, but it does make it more questionable about how the funding has been spent, if she’s not even recording her own footage. And also just about why it takes her so long to produce each video, there’s been few made, considering how long it’s been). I USED to be able to have respectful discussions about sexism in gaming more easily, even use the word ‘feminist’, without male gamers getting so hyper-defensive or not taking me seriously. Now, though? Well, it’s possible, but is more difficult. They trust me less because of her issues with professional integrity. Stuff blows up and becomes confrontational more often.”

        I don’t believe for one second that Anita does what she does for media attention. She did this work long before she was viciously attacked over her Kickstarter, which is what brought so much media attention. I also don’t think she needs to be ‘a gamer’ in order to be qualified to critique sexism in gaming. That’s like saying I can’t critique porn unless I’m a fan of porn. Or unless I work in the porn industry. Also, it is and INCREDIBLE amount of work to produce the videos she does and you can see a HUGE difference in quality and content since the Kickstarter.

        I don’t want this space used to question and speculate around Anita’s motives. She is a friend and ally and I think she does really important work.

        • Leo

          I don’t want this space used to question and speculate around Anita’s motives. She is a friend and ally and I think she does really important work.

          Ok, sorry. I hope you can see where I was coming from? If you don’t want to post this comment, I’ll fully understand.

          I thought the latest video was really much much better, anyway (found it pretty tough to watch, urgh). Only thing I’d say is that several of those games do have a morality meter, and/or the player character is some kind of criminal or gangster – they’re intended to be a bad person, so there is a moral judgement being made intrinsic to the design of the game. It’s the gaming equivalent of the gangster movie, essentially (one of them was directly based on The Godfather), not that I wouldn’t take issue with that kind of content in a movie also (despite the issues with the interactive element to games, I still feel it’s worse when it’s live action, as then it’s a real actress, and her body, being exploited. Though still partially applies due to the voice acting in many games, of course). It should also be remembered that there are still many technical limitations – morality decisions not having a significant enough impact on the gameplay as a whole is a common criticism made by gamers. And though Assassin’s Creed does let you you use courtesans to distract guards, it also allows you to build a guild of female assassins and call on them to help the player character kill enemies – my sister took great glee in doing that when she played it.

          I’m not saying she has to be a gamer to comment on it, certainly even those who aren’t gamers can see there are issues, but having the kind of knowledge of the medium a gamer would is still helpful. Gaming isn’t pornography, it’s a valid artistic medium. It makes no sense to lump all games in together like that, there’s variety, it’s not just one thing (I mean, obviously I wouldn’t be playing games at all if they were all like the ones shown in the latest video). And regardless she was still dishonest – that’s not speculation, it’s demonstrably true. So I think it’s reasonable to be concerned by that.

          Well, maybe I’ll write about gaming, myself, sometime.

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  • Meh

    Great article Meghan (as always). There’s not enough tissues in the world to wipe away all these man tears.

  • Lela

    Thank you so much for this spirited drubbing of Now Magazine Meghan!!
    Sex-industry supported weeklies get on my every last nerve. They often run articles that pander to a supposedly feminist viewpoint…. then flip to the back and it’s women’s butts on display like meat at the supermarket! And everyone pretends this isn’t happening and goes on blithely reading about places to eat and drink and buy products. Un-be-lievable hypocrisy.

    • Lela

      Come to think of it, isn’t running “feminist” articles whilst openly supporting the sex industry an example of what marketers call “denying the denier”? Glad to see that there are so many on this thread who would join me in denying those who deny the denier!

  • ptittle

    When did men forget how to masturbate? (I must’ve missed that…)

  • pandora50

    I just read this from Radfem Memes post of it. Again, thanks for your words and analysis.