Shit liberal feminists say: SWERF

Like many feminists, my interest in women’s rights began when I started noticing I was treated like I was less than the men around me. I didn’t analyze much deeper than that — I just needed confirmation that something wasn’t right, I wasn’t imagining it, and it wasn’t my fault. Now that my analysis has gone deeper, and is rooted firmly in an anti-oppression framework, it’s clear to me that when I first started learning and believing in feminism I was, in fact, a liberal feminist.

Liberal feminism provides an individualistic view of women’s rights that holds equality with men as its end goal. Liberal feminism focuses on advancing women’s positions in existing institutions and believes that what women want out of life is what men want and have already secured for themselves.

Way back then, I understood feminism in relation to my life, my experiences, and my choices. I didn’t spend much time considering how my internalized misogyny shaped those choices — even the choices I now see were problematic because they reinforced mechanisms of women’s oppression.

For me, then, and for liberal feminists today, the individual is queen. Any choice a woman makes is, by definition, a feminist choice because choosing is a feminist act. Even choices like pandering to the male gaze or self-objectifying must be applauded. As a result, I often engaged in decidedly unfeminist behaviour while uncritically wrapping myself in a comfortingly progressive label.

Once I began critically examining my beliefs and learning more about the history of feminism, I realized the many ways in which so-called liberal feminism falls short. What soon became clear was that liberal feminism isn’t feminism at all. Uncritically worshipping individual choices ignores the structures and institutions that support patriarchy. Focusing narrowly on advancing in the public sphere ignores the oppression women face in our homes. More worryingly, refusing to examine the context and impacts of our choices allows men and women to continue reinforcing misogyny and male supremacy while patting themselves on the back and failing to work towards liberation for all women in any meaningful way.

Supporting misogynist ideas, behaviours, and structures while declaring yourself a feminist requires a stunning lack of self-awareness and critical thinking, and an intricate set of unquestioned beliefs whose main purpose is to preserve a self-concept that’s allegedly based on beliefs in women’s rights, when in reality, that self-concept is based on an illusion.

Nowhere is this creative ego preservation more evident than in the commonly used catchphrases liberal feminists recite en masse, mostly in response to critical thought and discourse from radical feminists who understand that examining our internalized misogyny, analyzing our choices and beliefs, and dismantling patriarchal institutions is essential work for feminists who are truly dedicated to the liberation of all women. Not just women who are like us or women we like — all women.

This post is the first in a series I’m calling “Shit Liberal Feminists Say,” wherein I examine these mantras and how they’re used to silence radical feminists and distract from the fact that liberal feminism is an empty ideology that shores up male supremacy.

First up: Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist (SWERF).

Why it’s wrong

Despite repeated evidence that women in prostitution are largely poor women of colour, many of whom were sexually abused as girlsentered prostitution while underage, and identify lack of housing as their main barrier to leaving prostitution, liberal feminists cling to the romanticized notions of “sex work” depicted in movies like Pretty Woman and, in doing so, literally whitewash reality. For liberal feminists, sex work is inevitable, voluntary, empowering, and fun, and women who choose it should be unquestioningly celebrated. In an empty nod to actual facts, they sometimes mention the coercive nature of street prostitution, but quickly draw a meaningless line in the sand between “trafficking” and “sex work” despite studies showing that countries that decriminalize prostitution see trafficking increase.

In contrast, abolitionists see prostitution as male violence, as the sexualized practice of dominance and control over women who are coerced, with money, into sexual activity in which they wouldn’t otherwise participate.

Contrary to liberal feminists, who demonstrably exclude most women in prostitution so they can uphold a uniformly empowery notion of “sex work,” abolitionists don’t exclude any women from our analysis. We acknowledge that some women choose to enter into prostitution. Understanding that patriarchy both limits and shapes women’s choices, abolitionists believe the context of more privileged women’s choices — and the impacts those choices have on marginalized women — must be scrutinized as part of the hard work needed to make sure our movement leaves no woman behind.

We also believe that, as a movement that aims to free all women, we need to focus most of our attention on the most marginalized among us. Deciding to focus most of our attention on a majority of marginalized women as opposed to completely ignoring them in favour of a small minority of more privileged women isn’t exclusionary — it’s feminism.

What it’s used for

SWERF is a schoolyard taunt employed to shame critically-thinking feminists into silence. It is an attempt to smear abolitionists as outdated “pearl-clutchers,” to delegitimize us as irrelevant and not worth listening to. In the face of a growing body of knowledge that erodes the very foundation of choice arguments about prostitution, “SWERF” is a petulant child with hands over ears screaming “lalalala” when life doesn’t go according to plan.

What it reveals

Supporting an argument that excludes the majority of women in prostitution, while calling the very women who consider the whole picture “exclusionary,” shows how intellectually vapid and hypocritical so-called liberal feminism is. Just like calling support of prostitution, which exposes the most marginalized among us to increased levels of violence and abuse, a feminist position, this isn’t about women’s liberation, it’s about feeling good and progressive and not having to actually change anything.

Supporting prostitution and screaming “SWERF” at abolitionists isn’t feminism, it’s capitulating to male supremacy and writing marginalized women off as collateral damage. It’s living in a dream world of consequence-free individual choices. It’s refusing to go beyond scratching the surface, and instead hiding behind buzzwords and tepid half-measures while trying to silence women who are willing to dive deep no matter the cost. Screaming SWERF at abolitionists is misogyny in feminists’ clothing, and it’s just some senseless shit that liberal feminists say.

Jindi Mehat is an East Vancouver-based second wave feminist who is reconnecting with feminism after several tours of duty in male-dominated corporate land. Follow her @jindi and read more of her work at Feminist Progression.

Jindi Mehat
Jindi Mehat


Jindi Mehat is a Vancouver feminist activist and general rabble rouser.

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  • Rebecca Mott

    What is so sick about the whole use of SWERF is it used to silence women who have exited the sex trade, and speak to the conditions they survived and become abolitionists. It is used to say we are self-hating and more than likely mentally ill, so our words are false.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I love the idea of this series! Great article. This made me think about the person the other day who linked me to an article about white feminism to “educate” me. I’d consider her a liberal feminist, and in the past she’s called me a swerf and a white feminist because I was against Amnesty’s position. What this article describes seems a whole lot like liberal feminism to me:

    These terms are used to silence dissent and reasoned discussion, and I have to wonder how women of colour feel about feminists hurling “white feminist” at one another just to suit their own narcissistic desire to control discourse? I mean white feminism is a real thing, but to so many it seems it means “any feminist who disagrees with me” and it is apparently very changeable.

  • LuckPushedMeFirst

    Brilliantly said! “Screaming SWERF at abolitionists is misogyny in feminists’ clothing…” Hurling epithets at women who dare to think outside the box is deeply, disturbingly self-loathing. It reeks of internalized misogyny. If only lib fems could recognize “SLUT!” and “SWERF!” as two sides of the same icky patriarchal coin. On one side you’re shamed for letting the world know you’ve got a healthy sex drive; on the other you’re shamed for insisting women’s sexuality belongs to WOMEN, not men. It always comes down to who’s got ownership of female sexuality, who gets to dictate what that should look and feel like.

    And, let’s be real, “pro-sex work” is a sexy stance. Guys who like the idea of shaping and buying and using female sexuality (most!) flock to the feminists who support male sexual entitlement. Narcissists seek narcissistic supply, no surprise there. I used to be one of those sexyfunfems too and the male accolades and encouragement were addicting! And eventually I realized the positive attention was a front for something far more sinister and self-serving. Those guys will mentally suck you dry and leave you in the dust when they’re finished, no regrets, no remorse. You’re just a pawn in their game. They play more strategically, they play the long game, and they always, always win. Checkmate, lib fems.

  • Liberish to English Dictionary: Entry Two

    Exclusionary: Failing to recognise that the lifestyle choices of an individual completely determine who they are and therefore failing to blindly approve of all lifestyle choices. In other words, insufficiently liberal and therefore undeserving of a place in the feminist movement (oh the irony).

    I bet a lot of liberal insults are just another way of saying “non-liberal”. They condemn everyone else for using slurs (except when they are empowering), but they clearly have their own, which, just like in all other cases, are an excuse to silence and dismiss people. They might as well call anti-pornography feminists fat, ugly cunts (as yes I used the word without putting a star in it because the collection of letters is not evil, directing it at a human being it), like their male allies do. It would be more honest of them, since I would not be surprised if they think that way on some level.

    • Meghan Murphy

      They do call us ‘cunts’! The reason they do this is because they aren’t actually feminist. They are just using the label, ‘feminist,’ to gain legitimacy and to coopt the feminist movement for their own selfish purposes.

      • Language matters. Sorry, but anyone claiming to be a feminist who calls another feminist a “cunt” is NOT a feminist. They might be women, but they’ve been body-jacked by 4-chan.

      • I’m very sorry that this is how you’re being treated for simply defending women’s basic human rights to NOT be forced into prostitution. You don’t deserve that sort of shit treatment.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Well, the fact that they are willing to use misogynist language to attack feminists isn’t surprising, consider the fact they don’t give any shits about prostituted women, really…

    • Hierophant2

      Liberalism is a shining beacon of enlightenment to the world, and anyone who does not agree with it is a retrograde fanatic. Any non-liberals must be convinced of their wrong-doing. Of course, sometimes they just don’t have time to do that, so they just call you names in order to spur you to change your evil ways. 🙂

      • “I am not a liberal. All intolerance is bad and all true is relative. Everyone thinks this way, right, because every individual is a special, diverse snowflake with their own unique way of thinking and acting which should be respected.”

        Stop me when your brain explodes as a result of the illogic. Seriously though, liberals do not even recognise that they are promoting liberalism. They think everyone around them thinks the same way they do and cannot comprehend the fact that people think differently.

  • Anon

    Radfems don’t deny the existence of “free will.” We simply acknowledge that many outside conditions and considerations affect choices and we exercise free will within those parameters. Women do not always have as many options as men due to sexism and discrimination.

  • thebewilderness

    I have started responding by explaining that wanting to end child labor does not mean I hate children, and wanting to end sweatshop labor does not mean I hate workers, and nor does wanting to end pornstitution mean I hate prostituted women and children. It seems to be working more effectively than anything else I have tried in the past.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes! Excellent argument/response. Exactly.

      • jm dawn

        Those are actually really poor arguments. The analogies don’t hold together. Not for child labor, because in that case we are talking about a class of people who we agree can’t make their own decisions yet and shouldn’t really be working at all. (At least not full-time, or when they are very young, or in any dangerous occupations.) They don’t need to find alternative employment, as their financial needs are supposed to be met by parents or guardians, and their “job” is to focus on their compulsory education. And the analogy doesn’t hold for sweatshop labor, because in that case what’s being objected to are the exploitative workplace conditions like long hours, low pay, and unsafe factories. The solution to sweatshop labor in the sports apparel industry, for example, is improving and monitoring working conditions, not outlawing the purchase of sports apparel.

        Try to explain to a group of sweatshop workers that you don’t hate them, but you are intent on dismantling their entire industry. You are not interested in improving their working conditions (you don’t consider their livelihood “work”); neither can you can’t offer them more money or even the same money working somewhere else. In fact, you have no job for them at all. Perhaps you can scrape up funds for some limited and temporary services, perhaps not. Either way, they’ll have to train themselves for an occupation, and, probably with limited education, skills, and experience, secure a new job in a very competitive market. Of course, that job, should they find it, will certainly require longer, less-flexible hours for much less money than they made previously. Do you expect them to care that you claim not to hate them?

        Wanting to end prostitution doesn’t mean you hate prostitutes. It doesn’t necessarily mean you care about them, either. It just means that, for whatever combination of reasons (personal, moral, political, ideological, religious) you don’t like the idea of living in a world where prostitution exists. However, if you do care about them, why not delay the attempt to destroy their livelihood until after you have in place a good plan for both current prostitutes and future women for whom prostitution might seem the least awful of their choices? Because if, as is often said here, the choice between selling sex and starving is not really a choice, taking away the first part of that equation before guarding against the second does not seem like a very caring thing to do.

        • Meghan Murphy

          The point of the argument comparison is not about whether or not children should work, the point of the argument/comparison is that criticizing unethical practices does not equate to criticizing victims of said practices.

        • regina

          “The questions always turn on what is considered unethical and who is considered a victim.”

          We’re also talking about structures and the social construction of identities and markets. Childhood is a social construction. So are woman, man and sexuality. Prostitution mirrors society’s organization of gender and class and thus is symbolic of every woman’s position in society.

        • Don’tTrust MainstreamMedia

          This is Gold!!!! //”The solution to sweatshop labor in the sports apparel industry, for
          example, is improving and monitoring working conditions, not outlawing
          the purchase of sports apparel.”//

          All 3 paragraphs were very well articulated. Love the logic.

    • Jude

      Chomsky uses a very similar argument when talking about why he doesn’t support porn.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I’m sure it will be a topic for a future article in this series, looking forward to more!

  • Lucia Lola

    Ah! Love this! It mirrors my experience with feminism and my fumbled first thoughts about it. Just wanted to tell you how very much I enjoyed reading this.

  • Sally

    Totally agree with both of you. Ever since abandoning liberal feminism I’ve also noticed I’ve become more open and accepting of other women. I’m not really judging myself in terms of competing with them, so there’s a lot less hatred and resentment. Even other women who have backstabbed me for men, I’m now just seeing them as someone to feel sorry for rather than someone to hate back. I mean, where does it get them exactly? I remember one self-proclaimed male feminist I was dating, when I told him that every single day of my life I am discriminated against by men, he literally scoffed at me. He didn’t find it believeable for some reason that I could experience sexism every single day or that sexism influenced my life every day. They rarely, if ever, acknowledge that patriarchy exists, and interpret a small handful of women reaching the top to mean “success,” as if we’ve abolished sexism and patriarchy entirely.

  • Sally

    It’s also interesting because it assumes that all “white” people are the same. There are different types, different ethnicities that are termed “white” that are just completely different in terms of culture, religion, etc. I say this as a Jewish woman who is constantly called a “white girl”, as if I’m the exact same thing as a WASP. It’s really not. My skin may be a lighter pigment, but ethnically the two are quite different. It would be like assuming all people of African descent have the same culture and beliefs and ethnicity.

    • Lucia Lola

      Great point!

  • Sally

    They did this to Linda Boreman (“Lovelace”) too after she came out against pornagraphy. Tried to paint her as a crazy religious loon just because she had converted to Christianity. It MUST have been her Christianity that turned her anti-porn, is their reasoning, when in fact, she probably resorted to religion out of pain and vulnerability due to the sex industry. They also completely ignore the fact that her life totally sucked before she was coerced into pornography by her husband. They wish to ignore the very real abuse and rape that takes place in this industry. So sick the depths they will go to in order to discredit legitimate victims and silence them.

  • Sally

    Very interesting. These people will co-opt anything to justify their depravity, it seems… wow. Marxism in the service of prostitution… As a Marxist I find this utterly disgusting.

  • Meghan Murphy

    They’ve attempted to start calling us ‘prohibitionists’ instead, in order to further perpetuate their silly ‘Victorian’ insults, though it hasn’t really stuck and it doesn’t really make sense…

    • The alcohol prohibitionists in the USA have gotten a bum rap, anyway. While it’s true that outlawing substances does nothing to cure the social ills caused by their misuse, the prohibition movement came about because Americans had a serious drinking problem causing all manner of mayhem and destruction of families and so on. These were women who’d been abused by fathers and husbands and watched their families fall apart and watched women and children languish in poverty because their breadwinners were useless drunks. It was a pretty serious situation, and clearly preaching at people to stop drinking wasn’t working.

      Alcohol is still a fairly serious problem in this country. We never developed the drinking culture that they tend to have in Europe. But it is also more likely to be seen as a vice, and you’re not seen as weird if you never drink, especially if you don’t make a big deal out of it. I like to think Prohibition had some influence on that.

      • Anon

        Actually, the USA did develop a “drinking culture” rivaling Europe’s. My city, Chicago, had more bars and liquor stores under prohibition than it does now. Public health campaigns had a huge influence over the years and lessened drinking and smoking more than prohibition ever did.
        Signed, a great-granddaughter of Sicilian immigrant bootleggers in Chicago.

  • Meghan Murphy
    • I saw that and sent him a Tweet telling him maybe he should be forced to suck dick (and swallow!) in order to receive HIS cushy “non-profit” salary. I mean, what the hell, if it’s good enough for POOR women, then it should be good enough for him!

      • Rachel

        Yes exactly! I do not understand why people cannot understand this simple concept!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Totally. Ever try to engage with them on Twitter? They can’t come up with an argument to save their lives. They just repeat the same illogical, meaningless mantras over and over again, refuse to respond to questions and evidence, and resort to name-calling.

  • “White feminism” in a nutshell.

    • Meghan Murphy


  • Meghan Murphy

    If that’s the case, why are women who oppose the sex industry called “SWERFs?”

  • Hierophant2

    But if it’s like any other job… and they’re Marxists… shouldn’t they therefore be against it?!?!?!

    • radwonka

      Well the majority of marxists and anarchists are “pro prostitution” bc it’s “a job like any other”… Very disappointing isn’t it?

  • radwonka

    ” I do not think liberals are particularly left wing at all. Left wingers are against power inequalities.”

    The left has become a real mess, it isn’t about ending inequalities anymore, but forcing people to accept inequalities through individualistic [thus very pro-exploitation] and buzz concepts like “empowerment” and “if you don’t agree you’re killing my identity” etc.
    Which is why they silenced radical politics since the 70/80s (and they still can’t stand radical politics).
    the left has internalized the ideology of the consumerist society: they
    create new meaningless ideaologies for “everyone” every day and hate those who use their brain.
    Add to that that they promote the use of “justified violence”, harassment, and emotional blackmail if an oppressed class is “frustrated”. Which is very problematic and dangerous imho. The left is now unable to make a distinction between agressive personal attacks/hurt feelings and serious activism. They don’t even know how to debate anymore and only use ad hominem/defamation.

    I would say that radicalism -especially radfeminism, since I don’t consider misogynist anarchists or “pro prostitution” marxists to be radicals- has nothing to do with the right ofc, but also the left, the left (as we know it since the pseudo “sexual revolution” in the 60s) is inconsistent and follows what is “trendy”. They’ll promote anything as long they can exploit and hurt women without consequences. In other words, they promote inequalities through concepts which are supposed to be “progressive”. So I guess debating about what’s leftist and what’s not, is now kind of meaningless, the left is ruined and is just pro-misogyny just like the right wing.

    But that’s another debate I guess.

  • I agree with what Chomsky said about the “support the troops” slogan. It is a phrase with no clear meaning designed to whip up patriotism and appeal to all mainstream people (regardless of whether they see themselves as left of right).

    I support the troops so long as they are trying to be as “non-troop-like” as possible (e.g. reading anti-war writing, taking a stance against the war, refusing to commit human rights violations, generally causing trouble for those with power”. I also support “sex workers” so long as trying their best not be good “sex workers” (e.g. recognising that prostitution is oppressive, not basing their sense of self worth on whether those using them find them attractive, refusing to see those who use them as the greatest men who ever lived because they did not outright rape them ,etc).

    Of course, there are clear limits to how much soldiers and prosituted women can rebel can any rebellion is better than eager conformity. Sorry eagerly violent, overly masculine soldiers and eagerly subservient, prettiness obsessed, “empowered” sex workers, I do not like you. It is not because of your “job” but because of how you think and behave, deal with it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Totally. And in that sense, “support the troops” is no different than “support sex worker rights.” I mean, what that means is not actually “support prostituted women,” but rather, “be neutral on or supportive of the sex industry” and “support the decriminalization of pimps and johns.”

      It’s an intentionally vague slogan that doesn’t really mean what it pretends to mean.

  • marv

    Patriarchal cultural habituation plays a prominent role in the determination of ethical conduct. Women who adhere to their religious upbringing in Catholicism and Islam frequently defend their subordination as ‘equal but different from men’. Pro-life women follow male teachings on abortion. The sexual segregation of labor feels natural to some women. There are those who feel uplifted by cat-calls on the street. Do positive feelings mean exploitation is absent? Could a person learn to love being second class while denying that she is second class? If yes, to the last question, would laws decriminalizing buyers of sex conceal the inequality between the parties?

    • jm dawn

      Feminist subculture habituation plays a prominent role in the determination of ethical conduct. Women who adhere to their feminist awakening in Dworkinism and MacKinnonism frequently imagine their own subordination with ‘men as the oppressor class.’ Pro-choice women follow feminist teachings on abortion. The sexual segregation of labor feels unnatural to some women. There are those who feel upset by cat-calls on the street. Do negative feelings mean exploitation is present? Could a person learn to hate being an equal citizen while denying she is an equal citizen? If yes, to the last question, would laws criminalizing buyers of sex establish an inequality between the two parties?

      marv, what you’ve written is not an argument, it’s a rhetorical exercise. It can easily be reversed, and any future society set up on radical feminist lines would then have to answer the charge you’ve presented: if that’s what you grew up learning, how do you know you haven’t just been brainwashed? (Unless dissent in your future utopia is not tolerated.) It’s a cheap argument and a bad one, an odd twist on arguing that because the majority believe something, it must be right. You seem to be claiming that because the majority believe something it must be wrong (Or that because some beliefs are the product of men, they must be wrong.)

      In fact, we don’t have to wait for a future feminist utopia to question how you know that you’re not the brainwashed one. We can do it right now, as I’ve done above, since we know that subcultures can exert as powerful an influence on their members’ beliefs as can the culture at large. Perhaps even more so, since the culture at large actually contains a very rich variation of ethical viewpoints, while smaller and more insular subcultures tend not to.

      If my twist on your rhetorical exercise seems ridiculous to you, that’s only because you are already certain that ethics which flow from religion and culture are illegitimate (since religion and culture are man-made), while ethics that flow from feminist discourse are legitimate. And that therefore, your ideas on what constitute subordination, exploitation, and inequality — and by implication your ideas on what are the proper relations between human beings — are correct. In other words, it requires that people accept your conclusions as a starting point to discussion, and sets up an odd and psychologically manipulative double bind, where you say basically that if you disagree with me, it’s only because you’ve been brainwashed (though if you’re a woman, it’s not your fault you’ve been brainwashed), so as soon as you admit that I’m right than you’re no longer brainwashed. Do I even have to point to the fundamentalist and totalitarian abuses such a line of thinking can inspire? If you are as good as you think you are at spotting unfairness, I hope you can understand why what you’ve tried to do here is not fair.

      • marv

        ” Could a person learn to hate being an equal citizen while denying she is an equal citizen?”

        You are trying way too hard to play devil’s advocate. Men’s rights proponents would be elated by you playing into their bewildering logic. How does the quote even make sense? You seem to be implying that women have equality but they won’t admit it – chronic malcontents. This is a biased defensive male perspective that even some females adopt.

        “In fact, we don’t have to wait for a future feminist utopia to question how you know that you’re not the brainwashed one. We can do it right now, as I’ve done above, since we know that subcultures can exert as powerful an influence on their members’ beliefs as can the culture at large. Perhaps even more so, since the culture at large actually contains a very rich variation of ethical viewpoints, while smaller and more insular subcultures tend not to.”

        You are asserting feminism is a minority parochial cult and the dominant culture is more liberating. In real life, conventional society is structurally sexist, racist, colonialist, speciesist and capitalist. How people see things is greatly determined by our vantage point. You are looking from the top down instead of the bottom up. That is mainstream fundamentalist propaganda indoctrination for you. It creates obedient thinkers defending the status quo. Go proselytize your rigid ideology to the white male establishment elite where it originated. Preach to the choir because we won’t be beguiled.

  • Sally

    Maybe this is off topic, but I’m curious how you came to the conclusion Engels was homophobic? I’ve read some of his work on gender and didn’t get that impression at all, apart from the fact that he uses the term “sodomite,” which was a term that was used back then to refer to homosexuals, since the term “homosexual” didn’t exist and there wasn’t an LGBTQ+ movement back then. I think that if other terms had existed back then he probably would have just used something a little less “biblical” when referring to it in his writing. Why did you come to that conclusion?

    • First off, Engels never used the word “gender” (it was not used in such a way at that time). The term was “sex”. He put forward an explanation of how the “defeat of the female sex”.

      It seems like a minor distinction, but it is worth making. The explanation Engels puts forward is about how biological females (those who, in general, can become pregnant) came to be oppressed. This is a totally different view from the liberal argument that “femininity” itself is oppressed and fighting for the liberation of women really means fighting for the right of feminine people to act super feminine. I like the argument Engels makes a lot better.

      Unfortunately, Engels was of the opinion that gay men only had sex with men (and refused sex with women), because they hated women, which (understandably) made him dislike gays. He based this argument on the fact that men in Ancient Greece really did behave this way (they practiced sex between men, because they thought men were superior). I cannot remember the name of the text in which Engels made this argument (sadly, I have not had much time to read much radical leftist or feminist writing recently), but I know he made it, because I have seen radical leftists talk about it.

      Engels also thought that in the future socialist society people would freely form loving, monogamous heterosexual relationships. As an oh so horrible sex negative, I basically agree with this belief (except I would substitute “egalitarian” for “heterosexual”), but the fact that there is a homophobic element to it is used to dismiss the argument altogether and instead assert that socialism will be a mass orgy. Somehow they think a world in which everyone heartlessly uses people for your own ends is the logical outcome of abolishing an economic system based around heartlessly using people for your own ends. I blame the pornography industry and the sex liberal movement for infecting genuine leftists with their illogical nonsense.

      • Sally

        Well Engels was correct as to why men in Greece had homosexual relationships (in general). the culture was such that women were viewed as incubators, not real human beings. People like Aristotle still argued for their better treatment, as he did for slaves, but did not challenge patriarchy because Aristotle believed these roles were inherent and natural. I still do not see how critiquing Greek culture makes him homophobic unless he were to conclude homosexuality or “sodomy” were immoral based on this one culture. . I’ve read On the Origin of the Family and never saw him draw conclusions as to the supposed immortality of homosexual sex. Can you provide some quotes?

  • Sabine

    “Supporting prostitution and screaming “SWERF” at abolitionists isn’t feminism, it’s capitulating to male supremacy and writing marginalized women off as collateral damage. It’s living in a dream world of consequence-free individual choices. It’s refusing to go beyond scratching the surface, and instead hiding behind buzzwords and tepid half-measures while trying to silence women who are willing to dive deep no matter the cost. Screaming SWERF at abolitionists is misogyny in feminists’ clothing, and it’s just some senseless shit that liberal feminists say.”


  • Sabine

    You are SO right!!!!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Using different words to describe the same scenario doesn’t exclude anyone. We don’t exclude women who call themselves sex workers from our analysis, we just have a different analysis….

    • jm dawn

      I don’t think the term SWERF means to accuse you of leaving them out of your analysis, but of leaving them out of your political movement. But yeah, your analysis certainly is different.

  • LuckPushedMeFirst

    Do you remember the short-lived “Bum Fights” phenomenon? A truly execrable production co. offered homeless men money to kick the shit out of each other and these impromptu street fights were turned into a film series. “Short-lived” because of the backlash from decent members of society and subsequently banned in most countries.

    Do you remember the colonial/plantation wedding/party trend? If you aren’t familiar, wealthy WASPs hired black servants exclusively in order to recreate that lovely historic atmosphere of slave ownership. So romantic, ya know.

    Once again the overwhelming response from the general public was a resounding NOPE.

    In both examples, the marginalized fully *consented* to participate in these activities in exchange for remuneration. There may have a been a small handful of liberals who championed the rights of the exploited to make money off of their exploitation, but their voices were drowned out by the vast majority shouting their opposition to exploitation of marginalized groups as an ethical non-starter.

    Pardon, I meant to say “opposition to exploitation of marginalized groups, except when that group is women.” It seems so natural in our culture that women should be sexual servants, so natural for women to be treated as subhuman, so natural for the bepenised overlords to dictate which forms of exploitation are acceptable and which are repugnant. So natural that they’ve even managed to gaslight thousands of women into equating prostitution and other forms of sex work with liberation.

    Liberal dudes: Down with exploitation of marginalized groups! Except for women, because exploiting them is FUN.

    • jm dawn

      I don’t remember those things, although they sound pretty bad. I do remember a controversy over “dwarf-tossing” and “dwarf-bowling”, which are pretty much like they sound, and that the situation played out much like the other examples you gave.

      • LuckPushedMeFirst

        I vaguely remember hearing about that! I guess that’s another to add to the list. And what the general public doesn’t understand is how incredibly dangerous and psychologically traumatizing prostitution is for the majority of those in the industry. The job has the highest death rate of any occupation, the highest risk of injury, and second most likely occupation to cause PTSD. How can that not be considered horrendously exploitative?! And yet the only prostitutes liberal feminists give a platform to are the tiny minority of relatively privileged sex workers with a self-serving agenda.

        And still, if every prostitute was a well-paid happy hooker, the social impact (the Swedes get it- gender equality was a driving force behind the Nordic model) is far too great. How can we ever hope to have real equality when women continue in their role as the sex class? Men simply do not respect women as consumable products- or they wouldn’t treat them so horribly- and access to women as commodities (we’ve got studies that back this up) affects how they view women as a whole. Liberal feminists think legalization will erase stigma (and studies show this isn’t the case at all in countries with decriminalization), but that stigma exists because the very nature of the work is degrading. Johns know it, pimps know it, most prostitutes know it, radfems know it. It’s a shame liberal feminists refuse to delve deeper on this subject and, rather, allow themselves to be manipulated by a handful of unscrupulous escorts, madams, pimps and johns.

        Kinda seems like all you have to do is knock on liberal feminism’s door and ask for unconditional acceptance and they’ll throw you a welcome party. They don’t care a thing about context, history, sociological factors, or looking beyond the superficial. It’s almost as if they’ve got a savior complex. Savior complexes are ultimately, and invariably, about the one doing the saving, not the saved.

    • regina

      “It seems so natural in our culture that women should be sexual servants, so natural for women to be treated as subhuman, so natural for the bepenised overlords to dictate which forms of exploitation are acceptable and which are repugnant. So natural that they’ve even managed to gaslight thousands of women into equating prostitution and other forms of sex work with liberation.”

      I agree. The liberal focus on the individual and on specific instances of prostitution will never see the gender essentialism at the heart of prostitution.

  • I wish I could “Like” your post 1,000 times ! Brava!

  • jm dawn

    The books I’ve read have been firm on the point that prostitution is much older than global capitalism. And even if it weren’t, if it takes signing on with a Marxist critique of global capitalism to put across the point that prostitution is like child and sweatshop labor, that hardly makes a better argument for abolition. Now you have to first convince people to be Marxists, and then hope they don’t end up like the many Marxists who turn around and argue, yeah, but all workers are prostitutes, so why such fuss over the ones who sell sex?

    You’re right that giving higher wages, health benefits, and other workplace improvements would not end capitalism. It would, however, make the workplace in question no longer a sweatshop, since a sweatshop that is in compliance with a fair set of safety and labor laws is just called a factory.

    Similarly, a prostitute who sets the terms of her interactions, has recourse to legal protections, and works in a safer environment would still be a prostitute, but her situation would be materially improved. In contrast, if it is one of the few options a person has available (as you say is often the case), then surely taking it away means there are now even less options, and you’ve therefore made someone else’s life materially worse — though perhaps you’ve scored some sort of ideological victory for yourselves. Along the same lines, if they are only doing it from lack of options, then providing better options would solve the problem of prostitution automatically. You’re putting the cart before the horse.

    As far as my comment on children not working full-time thing, all I meant was to allow for high school kids who want a part time job. I tried to make the point that education should be a child’s primary job, and I did mention that I didn’t think children, part-time or not, should be working anywhere dangerous.

    I don’t think that if we stop thinking about prostitution as bad, it will become less bad. I just disagree on how bad prostitution is, and on when a bad thing thing should be abolished vs. regulated vs. left alone. You can think something is bad in some situations but less so in others, and you can think something is bad without imagining it’s the government’s job to abolish it.

  • David Reeves

    This Strass document on a Marxist website is illuminating.

    They seem to be saying that all woman are whores, a permanent identity that women acquire by virtue of being female.

    • radwonka

      I can’t take marxists seriously anymore. They’re a lost cause at this point.

  • JingFei

    But many Libfems actually harm feminism. They are regressive. It’s one thing to have a big picture and slowly head in that direction, even if goals seem lofty. It is another to undo decades of hard work and go backwards in a very short period of time. I have only known of radical feminism personally for about a year ( perhaps less than that actually). I used to think the Libfem machine was the only one out there, and thus it was very unappealing to me. They are the loudest, the most obnoxious, sexy costumes, they have patriarchy on their side, and actively demonize critical thought. Now that I am on the other side, I can see a great narcissism in liberal feminism, and great lacking of basic education. You get 15 year olds tweeting empty hashtags and thinking they are noble activists merely because they share and reblog someone else who has a “hot” profile pic and is “empowered and loves porn”.
    When it comes to prostitution, this narcissism is particularly harmful, because as I said in an above comment, the whole western “sexworker” brigade will throw 98% of women globally under the bus to further themselves. They are the embodiment of the “white feminism” term that they love using as a weapon against others.
    Libfems are muddying the waters of feminism. They would fight for the right of swimmers to be naked with a pop tart stuck to their head, while silencing lifeguards who scream the water is infested with sharks.

  • marv

    “I didn’t suggest the plurality of alone makes the mainstream better, and in other posts where I disagreed with radical feminism I tried to give reasons why. You seem to think I’m making a blanket argument for mainstream values over subcultural values, but I’m not.”

    Okay, but what does it matter if the established civilization has many variations if that diversity doesn’t put forward liberation equality. It seems like an elitist intellectual exercise to belabor it. The subjugated need liberty from captivity not moot points. I want to focus on what is real understanding over the distractions of noticing a million mainstream reformist flowers blooming – that are a dead end.

    “In the context I used it, the only thing I wanted to get across was that perhaps a subculture, which has a narrower range of acceptable views compared to the prevailing culture, could do an even better job at establishing conformity (brainwashing, indoctrination) if they wanted to, and that, in any case, they could do at least as good a job. Therefore, since they cut both ways, it’s probably best to put aside charges of brainwashing or indoctrination in favor of something else.”

    Well I suppose you could say that the anti-slavery and women’s personhood movements started out as subcultures that mobilized conformity to the causes.
    They didn’t entail the same mental processes as pledging allegiance to sex work, the state and capitalism. The former is an elevation of consciousness to knowing authentic truth over the lies of subordination. The latter is patriarchal mind control and delusion. The first is decolonization of the mind, the second is mind control. Feminist cognizance frees thought while porn, product advertising, consumerism and nationalism imprison it.


  • Hierophant2

    No, the “supply” is not “women.” Women are not consumer products, you enormous douchebag. Stop objectifying women in the name of a clever-sounding argument.

    • jm dawn

      It’s hard to see what you’re trying to end demand for, if not women or women’s bodies or women’s sexual services. In which case the supply must also be understood as women or women’s bodies or women’s sexual services.

      You can’t say the demand is for paid sex; the fact that men are willing to pay is because there’s a demand. You can’t say the demand is for prostitutes; prostitutes are women who meet the demand. You can’t say what’s being supplied is men’s orgasms; that’s like Starbucks saying they don’t supply coffee, they supply the burst of flavor when you sip coffee. OK, but if you can’t get that feeling without coffee, then it’s a distinction without a difference. And it would lead us to question why men don’t just stay home and masturbate to get their “extra-relationship” orgasms instead (which most do, watching other people have sex as a quick and easy substitute for the real thing.) Finally, you can’t say the demand is for women to exploit; exploitation is a particular description of the transaction, which still requires women and sexual access on one side, and money on the other.

      It’s also unclear how saying the supply is women amounts to objectification or treating women like consumer products, when we can speak freely of the supply of labor in other sectors of the economy without having to dodge such charges. Isn’t that the point of a socialist critique of capitalism: that it errs in treating labor, land, and money as commodities that can be bought and sold on a market, with results that are at least destabilizing and can be disastrous? If you’re going to borrow the language of market economics to frame the solution to prostitution as one of ending demand, you can’t reject the implications of that framework.

      So the supply is women, and you’re not ending demand but trying to suppress it with criminal sanctions. Leaving aside the issue of forcing the market further underground, there’s still the question of what happens when you push the Nordic model on countries that don’t have Nordic-level social safety nets or Nordic ideas on gender equality. To the extent that it’s been successful there, it’s probably because there was already social support for the idea that prostitutes are victims of men, and the asymmetrical criminalization flowed from that; it doesn’t follow that allowing prostitutes to sell sex but criminalizing men who purchase it would give rise to social support for that same idea. And even if attitudes were different, there’s still the problem of providing the social safety net component of their model in Western countries who aren’t amenable to their taxation levels — never mind in poorer regions of the world. Which leads back to my original point, which is I think you’ll end up with a lot of women with nowhere to go to.

      • Hierophant2

        “the fact that men are willing to pay is because there’s a demand” is a tautology which proves absolutely nothing. By definition people being willing to pay for something IS a demand, there’s no “because” here and therefore no explanation. Why did you think such bad logic would fool anyone?

  • Hierophant2

    “Your words do just as well.”
    Oh, that’s nice. What, are we in third grade now? “I know what you are but what am I? nyah nyah”

    “The fact that men are willing to pay is equivalent to there being a demand. If it proves nothing that’s OK, since in context there was nothing to prove beyond the absurdity of claiming the demand is for paid sex”
    Absurdity? It makes a lot more sense than your ridiculous and misogynistic statement that the demand is “women.”

    “Besides, a sentence like: “Because the demand was so high, people were willing to pay a lot of money for x,” is a perfectly natural and conventional way of speaking.”
    And yet according to standard economics such a statement is tautological. Go figure.

  • Anon

    There is no such thing as “free will” outside of parameters. Everything happens within a context.

  • Anon

    Let me put it this way, you see a sweater you like and want it in red. It doesn’t come in red. It comes in green, blue, yellow, pink, black, or ivory. You clearly still have a choice. You choose from the available options or you don’t buy it. Real life is more like this, than it is about doing “whatever you want.” We are constrained by reality in our choices, but we clearly still have choices. We exercise our “free will” within the context of what is realistically possible.

  • Meghan Murphy

    ” Working conditions could be substantially improved for prostitutes — at least those legally employed — if prostitution is legalised.”

    BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENS. It hasn’t happened. It won’t happen. It doesn’t work.

    Why are legalization advocates so opposed to actually looking at countries that have legalized and what’s happened as a result?

  • Poverty (especially poverty due to systemic job/economic discrimination, lack of enough jobs for everyone, and lack of any real economic safety net that includes income support for the jobless poor), most definitely IS force. Poverty is a form of violence. People in the US die from poverty and homelessness.

    In fact, we can even say that poverty due to discrimination and lack of any real equality of opportunity constitutes a concept framed by legal definition: CONSTRUCTIVE FORCE.

    Constructive force is a concept in law. Ask any employment discrimination attorney and they will tell you about something called “constructive discharge” where someone (usually women) are forced out of jobs by bosses and co-workers who make the work environment so hostile that it is impossible for the targeted person to be able to succeed in the workplace and they’re forced to leave their jobs. Constructive discharge is a form of force—the person being discriminated against and forced to leave their job did not “choose” to be without a paycheck and possibly medical and dental benefits. They were forced out.

    Likewise, constructive trafficking is where poverty due to discrimination, lack of a real safety net, and lack of enough jobs for everyone in need of a job to support themselves, forces the poorest, most vulnerable and disadvantaged women and girls into prostitution: turn tricks or starve.

    Now, I dare anyone to tell me that does not constitute trafficking and force.

    • disqus_TeLfxGJbMy

      “Poverty…is force” doesn’t seem to me to shed much light on these topics. It was once the case that every human on earth lived in poverty–were they all therefore victims of force? If a person gambles away all of their money, they are likely to live in poverty–were they forced into this condition? There have been untold millions reduced to poverty by natural disasters. This is by force of nature, surely, but not necessarily political/economic/social force. Living completely alone, with nobody to discriminate against us nor make our environment hostile, we would live (at best) in poverty. Poverty is certainly very often accompanied by, caused by, and aggravated by violence. But it is not the same thing as force and it is not a form of violence. We do not say that cold IS snow nor that cold is a form of wind. And we shouldn’t.

      • Poverty due to systemic discrimination IS force. And that was the poverty I was referring to.

      • There was never a time that every human on earth lived in poverty. If you hunt and gather and live in a tipi, you’re getting food for free and you built your own house. Poverty is not defined as a lack of money anywhere except those cultures where they depend on a money economy–and money’s the number one reason anyone’s ever poor, because if you know how to hunt and gather then the world’s your oyster, but if you have to pay for the land first then you’re fucked.

        I can tell you’ve never actually been poor though. Just wait. Isn’t it something like 80 percent of women over the age of 65 who wind up in poverty? Don’t be so sure you won’t be one of them.

        • disqus_TeLfxGJbMy

          If you’re saying that if you came across a family here and now who hunted/gathered, lived in a structure with an earthen floor without plumbing or electricity or telephone, and had no possibility of obtaining a tetanus shot, x-ray, or refrigerator, you would not regard them as living in poverty, that’s fine. I was assuming otherwise.

          Also, I question your use of the word “free.” By your definition, just as stone age people got food “for free” (through work and knowledge), it seems like iPads and Hondas are free today because all you have to do is work for some money (for free) and swap that money for the new car, etc. But, lack of spent money does not mean free. Cost includes time and effort (and risk), too. Hunting and gathering (and tipi-building) is hard, skilled work–hardly free.

          No, I’ve never been particularly poor. Sure, I could be poor some day. I don’t see your point.

    • Anon

      People in the USA do have programs and financial support. This is not true in every country, but it is certainly true in most advanced, economically prosperous countries. No, they don’t live the life of luxury, but my grandparents grew up before the New Deal, and it was a very different world. We should support these programs and their expansion, but people do need to take some responsibility for themselves as well. Many people who are desperately poor or homeless, do have a history of making poor decisions, and frequently suffer addictions, and mental health problems. They should receive free help for their addictions and mental health issues, as they do, if willing, in many areas of the USA. However, many homeless people are that way because they do not want to put up with homeless shelter rules like no alcohol. I live in Chicago and see this all the time. In the summer, people choose drinking and homelessness and when it is bitterly cold, they conform to the shelter’s rules. So, there are 2 things here: availability of help and services, and people making the right decisions and accepting the help.

  • I actually do want decriminalization–but for prostitutes only. I want to criminalize pimping (including by madams) and buying. That’s the Nordic Model, and it works.

  • Tera

    Yes. I have had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that any woman could argue that prostitution is a suitable “choice”(not for themselves of course, but for other women) the only thing that makes sense to me is just that “I’ve got mine”. They’re nasty Twitter mobs (with johns in their midst) of spoiled millennial brats from what I’ve seen of them. They shout out ” but there’s no recourse” while having no interest in actually addressing the recourse issues. I can’t help but think the real concern is that if they fought for actual liberation, the quality of life for marginalized/impoverished women would improve overall, there for, they may risk having to share their big piece of the pie somehow. I don’t know if this makes sense either, but I’m having a difficult time accepting that women could be this cut off from relating to or having empathy for one another. I think there are some that are just unaware and are well intended but I’m more speaking of the vicious Twitter die hards, that come out with: SWERF! TERF! RACIST! MISOGYNIST! If one even makes a critical comment about a violent porn image. Oh and all of the male “feminists” on there…what a cess pool.

    • linnet

      And I thought it was sequestered in Tumblr. Oh how I was wrong.

  • Unjaded Realist

    Thank you for a well written article. My jury is still out on this issue—whether I support legalization or the full abolishment of prostitution. I am African -American. My whole life I have been upper middle class or middle class. Three years ago I have become disabled, so I am now what would be called “poor”. My disabilities are not visible, and I do not believe I would resort to the so-called “option” of prostitution to keep a roof over my head. That said I see why some women would feel they have no other choice. If we take away that completely what will those women do? Try a minimum wage job, yet live in a homeless shelter because fast food work will not cover her bills? What if she can’t stand all day? What if she has mental disabilities or a special needs child at home? Of course I wish no woman had to spend even 1 second in the dreadful situation of servicing random, strange males, taking their demeaning verbal comments and sometimes physical assaults. I believe johns/buyers secretly or openly hate women. That is why they like buying us. It gives them a chance to spew their hate on a vulnerable woman they have literally purchased. She can’t talk back, fight back. Yet if we stand in the streets holding signs to completely end prostitution are we able to pay her bills since we’re taking this so-called option away from her? What a dilemma (sigh).

    • Anon

      We do have programs for poor people and the disabled in the USA. People do get a disability income and food stamps, and some qualify for section 8, and medicaid or medicare (depending on their age / situation.) We also have charities and churches that provide food and other assistance. We have job training, shelters, and student loans and programs that accept work in exchange for tuition assistance. Our county health departments offer free and sliding scale help with mental health and addiction issues. Sure, the lifestyle provided by these benefits is far from luxurious, but it keeps people going without sinking to the depths of desperation. Please support social security, medicare and medicaid, and education and social service programs. Let you elected officials know that you want to expand these programs.

  • VeraCity777

    Thank you so much for this post, and this site. I’ve been looking for this. Exactly this. I wish I had the words to express how much it means to find people who will simply acknowledge what has been blindingly, excruciatingly obvious to me for years. But I get nothing but resentful hysteria, gas-lighting, and accusations when I speak up. I couldn’t figure out why, despite the fact that I’m not white but Indian-American, I’ve been accused of “white feminism,” racism, and worse. What they say is so nuts, but there’s such a loud, relentless chorus of them, that they started to make ME feel nuts and question myself. Thank you for being a voice for silenced truth as well as sanity. I’m not sure which direction to go now to connect with sane people, but at least I’m starting to feel sane again myself.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I think that a key aspect that’s missing in your analysis that’s central to the analysis of feminists/abolitionists, that also might help clarify things for you, is MEN’S choice. So, why is it that men buy sex and what does that mean?

    • Hayley Francesca Smith

      Oh I just saw this! I think most men buy sex because they want a need met without having to put in all the effort of courting/strings attached/respect that it would take to get laid traditionally. A lot of them aren’t good people. In my experience a lot of them were socially awkward, or lonely. But also a few of them in my experience almost like got off on the illusion of control. I remember one client whispering to me during a blowjob “show me how much you want this money, how bad do you want it.” Which irritated me. And I think those types of guys are the ones contributing to sexism the most in their daily lives. The rest seemed to genuinely believe that escorts enjoy what they do.
      So I can see the problem with the guys who think they can just “buy” or “own” a girl for the night. Which makes me angry for other women who have no choice but to escort because in those cases I can clearly see how they’re getting taken advantage of.
      But my problem is I just don’t know how to feel about the ones who DO have a choice and just prefer to do sex work. Like to them, they’re still in control because they choose which clients they see, they set the rules, they do what they’re comfortable with, and they’re almost like laughing about how easy it is to trick their clients and take advantage of it, which of that makes them feel empowered, almost like they beat the system, then I feel happy for them. I imagine it must be feel great to “get back” at the same system that was holding you down so that you come out on top. It just makes me angry when they act like what they do is the same as what sex traffic victims do.
      So that’s where I’m torn.

  • JingFei

    I don’t think it’s wrong to wear what you like. I think there’s a lot of bullshit that has been spread around to demonize radical feminism.
    I like radical feminism because it embraces critical thinking and critical analysis. It’s looking into systems of power ( and this isn’t easy to do). Where liberal feminism will proclaim stripping or prostitution “empowering” , Radical feminism will say; ” Do you really think so? Let’s break this down and see what’s really going on here.”
    I wear some makeup. I’m shopping tomorrow for a dress to attend a wedding. I don’t purposely feel I, or anyone has to do “what men hate”. I’m also not the expert to speak for/about Radical Feminism, but I can tell you it has made far more sense to me than anything else calling itself feminism. I also don;t agree with everything 100%, but that’s ok.
    I just like that it makes me think, and it has helped me make sense of a lot of things. This is an interesting article on femininity:

    There are actually a lot of very interesting articles on this web site that opened my eyes.

    • Hayley Francesca Smith

      Thanks:) Yes, I believe there’s a difference in being exploited versus being empowered, but I think the power dynamic has a lot to do with it. I just don’t want to ever be the person who tells another woman her choice is wrong, if that’s what’s genuinely making her happy. The same way I wouldn’t tell a housewife she’s wrong just because she’s following a traditional gender role, I won’t tell a porn actress that she’s wrong for using the system to her own advantage. So I guess I’m still in between, only because I’ll take it on a person to person basis. I want all choices to be available to whoever wants them. I just also want women to be aware that just because they like where they are and it empowers them, doesn’t mean it is the same for other women. I never want to chastise another woman for her own choices.:) but thanks a lot for the feedback, that does help me understand a little bit more. <3

  • Meghan Murphy

    Capitalism is part of what is being criticized in feminist challenges to the sex industry, yes. But not the only thing.

  • marv

    Unpleasantness is too euphemistic in describing prostitution. In prostitution dicks are shoved into bodily orifices causing the dispossession of the body. Soft tissues are damaged and often diseased by the intruder. Then there is the slapping, punching, choking and what not to the exterior of the body also leading to interior injuries and even death. The traumatic distress experienced frequently lasts over a lifetime.

    Exploited labour harms workers’ bodies and psyches but surely you can see the differences from prostitution.

    Men as a group devised male superiority, and capitalism was instituted by rich men; in prostitution they overlap with lower class men sharing in the plundering. The reality that prostitution predates capitalism illustrates how long patriarchy has existed and has utilized previous modes of production to keep women down.

  • I’m not convinced the author of this piece understands the meaning of the word “radical”. “Feminists” who join cross-class alliances with conservative moralists against sex workers and their industry are not radical. Control of people’s private, consensual sexual choices by public institutions is the most basic enforcement of patriarchy (patrilineal succession requires regulation of who has sex with who and when). Arguably, people who lobby for criminalization of any kind of consensual sex are are not even feminists.

    • Meghan Murphy


    • Anon

      Love how you are the only one liking your own post! LOL

    • calabasa

      Damn, you’re dumb.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Good god do you have any idea how boring you are?? These are literally the exact same ignorant talking points EVERY newbie to this debate offers, and they have been responded to hundreds or thousands of times, here alone. WE ARE RADICAL FEMINISTS. Of COURSE we are fucking critical of marriage. I have spoken out against the institution of marriage countless times, publicly and privately. I do indeed see it as existing on the same continuum as prostitution. Feminists have been fighting marriage since the first wave. Crack a book (Or, hey! Read this site!), you’re embarrassing.

    • Anon

      I do not believe that marriage is inherently problematic, though it has problematic roots, and some people continue to marry for the wrong reasons. The solution to not wanting marriage is to not marry— and that is a valid choice in modern, developed countries.

      I do agree that this dude is introducing the same newbie arguments supporting prostitution that have already been addressed ad nauseum. Like many younger people, he believes the world was invented about 15 min before he was born. He does, indeed, need to crack a book, and learn more, before commenting further.

      • Holli Joy

        Marriage was the first instance of human bondage

  • Rad Jezebel

    Of course, because if they weren’t pushing the CONSENTING ADULTS narrative, their god-given entitlement to women’s bodies goes away. They might have to *gasp* actually GET consent!! Quelle horreur!

    Guess those little girls (and boys) are consenting when they’re being passed around grown men for lollipops and pennies? Just doing it for the lulz and Jolly Ranchers?

  • Simone Stewart

    Fantastic article. Thank you so much for articulating your points so well. Most of this comment thread is amazing too ❤

  • Rachael Lefler

    This is talking about prostitution which I’ll admit is serious and has bad consequences. However, I’m surprised that this article neglects everything under the vast umbrella of “sex work”: masseuses, web camera girls, strippers, Hooters waitresses, erotic dancers, burlesque dancers, calendar models, nude models, etc. You have a narrow view it seems, that sex work = prostitution only. And I think your view would soften if it were able to be expanded to include all types of sex work.

    • marv

      I think your view could be expanded if you were willing to admit that all types of ‘sex work’ are ‘man’ifestations of the objectification of women’s bodies by men. A mirage of free choice for women.

    • Julio

      And this is just one of the reasons I will never legitimize the use of the term “sex work.” Since ‘sex workers’ includes masseuses, cam girls, calendar models etc then by extension it also includes the men behind the camera, the pornographers, the brothel owners, the dudes drawing violent hentai. So now the purpose of ‘sex work’ as a term becomes clear: to invisibilize exploitation by obfuscating the oppressor and the oppressed. The trafficker and the trafficked, both ‘sex workers’

      No, I will continue to call prostitution what it is: the commodification of women’s bodies. It is not “work” and will never be “work”

      • Holli Joy

        Julio gets it

    • Holli Joy

      all falls under our patriarchal society where a women is only good to serve food, pose for photos, and entertain a man. Typical 1950’s model fully evolved into a vast array of new, and demeaning outlets for monetary exchange. Prostitution is power notion is the ultimate mistruth; as those with power are ultimately the buyers and the sellers are in fact diminished to that of an object for discard. The exchange of $$ is the guarantee of this discard.

  • Meghan Murphy

    How are you being silenced, exactly?

  • Meghan Murphy

    Speaking of bingo, please make an actual argument instead of just typing a bunch of cliched words/talking points that don’t amount to anything of substance.

  • Emily Erin de Castrique


  • Meghan Murphy

    That’s an actually insane thing to say. Abolitionists are the ones on the front lines, working with and supported prostituted women. Leaders in this movement are women who have been in prostitution.

  • Meghan Murphy

    No it’s not… It’s a term used by feminists and exited women.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Most prostituted people are women/girls, the vast majority of buyers are men.

  • marv

    Owning your body ideology has roots in white male capitalist logic. Women and men don’t own their bodies. Only objects can be owned. To own self is to objectify self.

  • Holli Joy

    I’m interested in the underlying reasons behind the choice of work. I’ve met a lot of ladies after the fact, but never met one hoping to go into it without major pressures weighing heavily upon her decision. Economic pressure or not, it a man’s world and it’s a shame we continue to cater for survival.

  • Holli Joy

    But, these workers did not have to suck, swallow, and allow strangers to enter their bodies on a daily basis.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Mutual desire?

  • James Dosher

    Okay. I’m a guy and not a feminist (I come here because I don’t mind having my ideas challenged), but I have to ask ~ how many five year old girls say “When I grow up I want to be a Sex Worker so I can sell my body for peanuts while running the gambit of physical abuse, STD’s and drug addiction”?

    How many young ladies are asking themselves, “I could be a Nurse, Teacher, Bank Teller, Cashier, or Sex Worker … which way should I go?”

    I don’t doubt there are some women who are in charge of their destinies, choose Sex Work and are at least living with their decisions, but we should all accept they are not the vast majority who live with the fear of abuse, addiction and the real possibility of simply disappearing with no one giving a damn. Until the wholesale nature of the sex trade in North America changes so that it is a Women’s Business (run by women for women), the reality is Sex Work remains exploitative and oppressive.

    • marv

      The trade is exploitative and oppressive even when women run the business. If some women internalize their objectification it doesn’t make it non-oppressive. Men buying women’s bodies is commodification and rape. It will always be prostituted woman never sex work. Abolishing pimps and johns is the solution.

    • shutupandknit

      It will never be for women by women, unless you’re talking lesbian prostitution. But as long as you have someone else taking a cut for the physical use of your body.

      Women can choose to chase marriage – security for sex, or they can rent their bodies by the hour – traditional prostitution.

      The most productive course for women (and really anyone who choose an illicit trade out of poverty) is education. Making course for sustainable self sufficiency.

      • James Dosher

        Shutupandknit ~ thank you for your response.

        I was thinking more of a ‘Sex Workers’ Union. Sex workers would pay dues to collectivize healthcare costs, legal affairs and their political voice ~ the essence of every other union. Sure, there would be some number of male members, but the ‘sex trade’ is predominantly female, so the union leadership would be female and elected from among the rank-and-file. Thus my comment of a business run by women – for women.

        Yes, it is not a ‘ perfect’ solution. Few things are. We sure could hope such a development would make things better than they currently are though.

        Absolutely, education is the preferred venue to advance one’s self in life. Either a college, university, community college, or ‘traditional’ trade school … except we know that some people won’t have the financing, skill sets, or patience, to take those routes.

        As for making a course for sustainable self sufficiency … if the past 50 years has taught us anything it is the global economy mutates and evolves. Industrial, post-Industrial, Communication then the Information Ages have all rolled over us. How many elder-care workers are we going to need in twenty years? How many civil engineers, astrophysicists, teachers, feminist bloggers and porn authors?

        With the strides made in CGI and home 3D technology, will things like traditional movie productions be a thing of the past in 20 years? What will happen to theaters, plays and other artistic endeavors which have been with us hundreds of years (if not thousands)?

        A hundred years ago feminism was so much Utopian nonsense because in most circumstances (normal) women couldn’t own property, work outside the home for beyond slave wages, or vote. Only in a World where women could achieve political and financial independence could real feminism be perceived as possible. Now, with In vitro becoming quite successful, the idea of a sustainable feminist society with minimal, if any, male presence merely has a (emotional, physical and philosophical) price tag.

        My point is the World changes and the rate of change has accelerated to the point what we dream of as children we can see through to reality as mature adults. While nothing seems impossible anymore, the price we pay is that nothing is permanent.

        • Meghan Murphy

          These ‘unions’ exist and don’t work. They are just lobby groups for the industry and include pimps and brothel owners.

          • James Dosher

            Thank you, Ms. Murphy. I didn’t know that. I have to wonder how alone I am in my ignorance. Honestly this sounds more like the old ‘company store’ set up … and I haven’t a clue how to proceed. I imagine the pimps and brothel owners would use violence and the threat of violence to stop an actual union from forming. The ‘industry’ has its own means of enforcing conformity.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You are not alone…

  • marv

    Sex is not work. Buying bodies for sale or rent is misogyny. Unionism doesn’t change the reality. Read about the Nordic Model on prostitution which criminalizes pimps and johns but not the prostituted. It calls for robust exit services and funds for women to escape oppression.

    Ask yourself why men aren’t selling their bodies anywhere near the same amount as women. The answer is we live in a sex classed society where women are objects to price out.

  • James Dosher

    I guess I should thank you for this:

    I probably wouldn’t have found it if you hadn’t pointed me at Rachel Moran. Thank you.

  • marv
    • James Dosher

      I apologize for the delay, marv. My first response didn’t seem to make the cut.

      I’ve been reading and researching. I’m not sold on the Nordic Model. I’m also not all that thrilled with any of the other options currently being tried out either as sex-trafficking and sexual exploitation remains a serious problem no matter what is attempted.

      As for using porn ~
      Right off the bat, I’m not saying there isn’t porn addiction – it is a form of obsessive behavior and can be treated. The vast majority of men and women who access porn understand the difference between fantasy and reality. If porn was as destructive as some people claim added to the fact of how much porn is accessed on a yearly basis, we’d already be destroyed.

      I looked at the Australian study and … was less than impressed. Not that this never happens, but that it happens at such an endemic level. My unhappiness was based on the way the study was done.

      First, the young women were asked what they BELIEVED was going on as opposed to what they had personally witnessed (much less offer any proof of). Since I had doubts, I ask my Daughter (16) & Son (14) and they are both currently living the High School experience. They were even less convinced than I was.

      Secondly, while blaming the boys and their access to porn, they didn’t seem to have interviewed the boys involved. If these things are going on to the level expressed by the study … why were they doing these horrible things? Why did the boys think the school girls would accept them doing these things to them? Why did the boys think so little of those girls and women in general?

      “I watched porn” doesn’t begin to explain these issues.
      For example, it was the girls saying something to the effect of ‘I’d do it quick (the sex act) so we could then cuddle’. Why does either of them think girl-guy relationships work that way?

      Where are the fathers letting their sons behave this way? What level of disrespect does a boy have to have for his own mother to treat another woman like that? Watching/reading pornography wouldn’t have begun to cover such societal dysfunction. So, what’s really going on?

      • marv

        I told you in another comment that watching porn is a violation of the women you are ogling in porn. It sets them up as sex toy things for your, men’s gratification, plus the women could be trafficked. Porn also creates fertile soil for the potential of abusing girls and women outside of porn. The greater the presence of porn in the world the more harm it produces. Doesn’t mean every boy or man exposed to porn will rape or sexually harass. Porn is a temple in the kingdom of patriarchy despite denialist apologists

        Sexual inequality in the home too has a lot to do with how boys see girls. This includes the sexual division of labor, a predilection of marriage and the nuclear family whose historical origins are in men’s property ownership.

        • James Dosher

          marv, women have more power, wealth and influence in the World today than they have ever had before. We are also facing an epidemic of human sex trafficking as well. I believe we both know society is terribly complex that way.

          Am I violating the women I’m looking at? I’ll have to think hard on this matter because while my knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘no, of course not’, I came here to ask questions and I should expect some uncomfortable ones.

          Where would we draw the line? 3-D graphics, anime, hentai, Deviant Art, Victoria Secret Catalogs, the Swimsuit Additions? Instagram fitness models? Anything by Adam & Eve (I used to work for the UPS center in Raleigh N.C. – honest!!!)?

          What do we do about the male libido? It isn’t like pornography creates the demand. The demand is there. How is it redirected? Or do we just grind it out?

          Is female porn going to get the same treatment? I imagine it is, but I should ask.

          “Sexual inequality in the home too has a lot to do with how boys see girls.”

          That’s why the wife and I always have split chores even before we were married. I was always better at laundry and vacuuming because I grew up pretty much on my own. The wife cooks because she also works outside the home and gets to decide if its take-out, or eating in. I’m currently teaching my Son how to do laundry. He’s 14 and its high time he learned.

          I think both genders should learn to do all the chores because not only does sharing housework make for a happier cohabitation, most of our children can expect to live on their own for some time post college anyway. Besides ~ fair is fair. Never ask anyone to do something you aren’t prepared to do yourself.

          “This includes the sexual division of labor, …”

          If either of my children thinks me doing the laundry makes me ‘less manly’ they have yet to tell me. 😀

          “… a predilection of marriage …”

          Which is also a mechanism to make men share in the labor of providing for their offspring.

          “… and the nuclear family whose historical origins are in men’s property ownership.”

          Are the origins of marriage patriarchal? Yeah, pretty much. In the West, it is hardly that way anymore though. Not only has marriage been in steady decline, the majority of marriages are ended by women.

          Our experiment with ‘baby daddies’ and single motherhood is still working its way out in our Society and I’m not a big believer it has been a good thing. I think a child deserves both parents – as long as those parents provide a strong, loving, abuse-free environment.

  • James Dosher

    [Fair Warning: I’m a porn writer, reader and watcher. I’m not a feminist. I come to this site to learn about feminism from actual feminists. If my statements, questions, or very existence offends you ~ I apologize in advance.]

    Melanie, I used the ‘female family members’ nightmare example because I believe it is easier for most men to comprehend the effects of the violation of a loved one over their own homosexual violations. Male sociopaths will always be a lost cause.

    Too many men would go … “but if it was me …”

    A) “I wouldn’t submit” – despite them having no other choice than to submit. Men are too accustomed to believe they have more control over their sexuality and access to that sexuality.

    Or …

    B) “men wouldn’t come to the brothel to have sex with another man” … despite, as you have pointed out, the dehumanizing effects of prostitution plus the demand for prostitution would rapidly erode the ‘john’s’ homophobia in their hunt to ‘get their rocks off’. Before long, the men in the brothel would be reduced to just be ‘another’ sets of holes. I firmly believe both that would happen and that most men would not accept this would be the results until it actually happened to them.

    Proposing the female family nightmare scenario would set off a panic in males which might do real good before anyone else was actually forced into a brothel, or the streets. If it was men being condemned to the brothels, they wouldn’t panic until it was ‘too late’. While a gender role reversal might be viscerally satisfying, I was hoping to propose the most good with the least trauma possible.

    Melanie, thank you for your response.