Whore Stigma Makes No Sense

This is a guest post by Clarisse Thorn, who blogs at Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism.

(The above image is a slide from a presentation by Marlise Richter, a researcher at the AIDS Law Project, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. It is described at the bottom of this post.)

Stigma is an interesting beastie. Whore stigma is particularly interesting, in part because it makes no sense and falls apart the minute it’s exposed to any rational analysis whatsoever. Yet somehow, even though it makes no sense, it is a constant and often overwhelming social force that shapes the lives of all women.

There’s an old joke about a man who walks up to a woman at a bar and asks, “Would you have sex with me for a million dollars?” She says, “Yes.” He says, “What about fifty dollars?” and she snaps, “What the hell do you think I am — a whore?” He replies, “We’ve already established that you’re a whore; now we’re just negotiating the price.”

Inherent in this joke, and in the slide I showcase at the top of this post, is the tension and confusion that happens pretty much automatically whenever anyone tries to point out the difference between a “nice girl” and a “whore”. It’s one of the best ways to show that whore stigma makes no sense: the difference is impossible to pin down.

What’s weird about these conversations, though, is that everyone almost always gets caught up in the question of who’s a whore and who’s not a whore — and in the confusion, very few people think to question whether whore stigma itself is insane and divisive and harmful. This even happens during conversations that start with the intent of questioning the very concept of whore stigma, such as this post by sex work researcher Laura Agustín; the post’s whole point is that the concept of whore stigma makes no sense — but commenters on the post immediately start trying to define what a whore is.

Indeed, this even happens among sex workers. My friends at the Sex Workers Outreach Project have told me how very complicated it can be to try to pull different sex workers together in order to have a conversation about banding together for legal rights and societal recognition. One recurring issue is how some sex workers will refuse to associate with other sex workers: for example, professional dominatrixes or strippers may refuse to associate with escorts because “You’re whores, and we’re not whores, and we’re not like you.” This is one more factor making it hard for sex workers’ rights advocates to achieve social momentum. Which may mean that when — for example — the law randomly decides that dominatrixes are actually whores (surprise!), those non-whore sex workers may find themselves without resources.

But of course it happens among non-sex workers, too. Because being an “actual” sex worker is in no way a requirement for being called a whore, or for having whore stigma slammed in your face. Any woman who carries condoms might as well be a whore, right? Not even thirteen-year-old girls are exempt from whore stigma or its twin, slut-shaming, as we learned from Hope Witsell’s suicide last year. Hope sexted a boy who betrayed her and sent her message all over the school — at which point she was punished severely, was socially ostracized, and killed herself.

Examples of whore stigma abound, and none of us are innocent from reinforcing it. I’ll cop to it: before I had a grip on how problematic whore stigma is, I myself called one or two women whores because I felt threatened by them. I hadn’t thought through how easily I myself might be harmed by the label; I hadn’t yet identified my fears of being labeled one myself. I was insensitive — and I was also stupid, because whore stigma could come get me as easily as it could get an “actual” whore. Contributing to it wasn’t just hurting other women, it was also shooting myself in the foot.

Plus, the more effort women put into distinguishing ourselves from whores, the less effort we put into actually working on the issues that harm women. Or making common cause with, say, sex workers who aren’t women and therefore get completely disappeared during all this anxious finger-pointing.

When we will acknowledge that whore stigma makes no sense, that it’s insane and divisive and harmful? What does it take? All women’s appearance and activities — especially our sexuality — are attacked, limited, and kept in line by the threat of “sluthood” and “whoredom”. In that sense, we all pay. We all have a stake in taking down these social structures.

And we can start by honoring and acknowledging sex work as an honorable job that deserves both legal and social recognition. Today is a fantastic day to do just that. December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and there may just be an event in your area. It’s also worth considering reading up on how to be an ally to sex workers and passing that information on to your friends.

Please note that The Wisdom of Whores, the awesome book by Elizabeth Pisani that I encouraged y’all to read for free on World AIDS Day at the beginning of this month, is still available for free download — all the way through the end of December. Pisani’s book is one of my favorites, ever — there are some valid critiques to be made, but even with those in mind, I just love it. It’s free! What are you waiting for?

(The slide at the beginning of this post shows a straight horizontal line with an arrow at each end. At the top, the graphic is labeled “Sex-for-reward continuum”. The right end of the arrow is labeled “Illegitimate”, and the left end is labeled “Legitimate”. From right to left there are five points, labeled as follows:

* “Self-identified sex worker on a street corner?”

* “Woman who has sex at the back of a taxi in exchange for a ride into town?”

* “School girl has sex with her ex-boyfriend for cell phone airtime?” [Note: in Africa, cell phone airtime is a somewhat expensive commodity. A school girl having sex in exchange for airtime is somewhat analogous to having sex in exchange for a nice piece of clothing.]

* “Student sleeps with her lecturer in order to pass?”

* “Wife has sex with her husband as she knows they are going to the mall tomorrow?”

At the bottom of the slide is a triangle pointing up to the line. It is labeled: “Who do we put in jail?”)

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154 Responses

  1. ozymandias
    ozymandias December 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    Whore stigma is like a lot of artifacts of the kyriarchy: seemingly coherent when you look at them, but when you poke at them, they fall apart.

    Interesting how often slut-shaming and whore stigma is perpetuated by people who think women should be barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen and jobless…

  2. Tamora Pierce
    Tamora Pierce December 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm |

    Back in the seventies, I was being told by feminists (my mother was one) that my body was my own, and if I wanted to have sex, I should. Then I had sex with young men who wanted to have sex with me–except that afterward, they called me a “whore.” I didn’t understand, because I was only doing what I’d been told was okay for me to do, what I’d come down hard on other people for calling other women.

    Eventually I realized it had nothing to do with me and taught myself to stop caring about it. But I did and do still care about it when it’s used about anyone. The only reasons for this word’s existence are to make females feel small and helpless and to label a segment of our society as proper targets for police and public self-righteousness. Legalize sex work and there is no reason for the word to remain in use save by the bigots, who will then be highlighted by their use of it. Legalize sex work and those who have been vicitimized by the word in their communities will realize they are not that person (one day), and that their choices are their own. Their bodies are their own.

  3. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles December 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm |

    Thank you for this fantastic post. At some point in my life I started feeling a turn-around of my attitude towards not just sex workers but women that have a lot of sex with many partners. I no longer think it’s my business what someone else does with their body and I make an active effort to not slut-shame. It’s amazing how easy it can be to get sucked into thinking that way when most people around you throw around “slut” and “whore” so casually and speak so negatively of the sex-work industry. It’s also difficult to acknowledge when that negative thinking just may be influenced by insecurities with one’s own body and sexuality. I continue to be educated by great posts like this.

  4. Lance
    Lance December 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm |

    I’m a bit confused by one of the examples– I guess I am behind the times on how technology works. How exactly does one trade sex for cellphone airtime? Is there a way to transfer minutes between phone plans? Is using this as a form of currency a common practice…?

  5. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni December 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm |

    “whore stigma itself is insane and divisive and harmful”

    Whereas analogies that stigmatise mental illness are…

    It’s a great argument, it really is, but dismantling a slut-shaming ethos, that has people throwing around sex-negative tropes, can be done without resorting to ableist ones.

  6. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni December 17, 2010 at 3:21 pm |

    @Lance – I’m assuming a prepaid mobile plan, not a post-pay contract.

  7. caty
    caty December 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    It’d be nice if the book recommended was actually by a sex worker rather than by a scientist studying them.

  8. libdevil
    libdevil December 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    It’s not as if a woman actually has to have sex for compensation (or have sex at all) to be labeled a whore. I had to walk away from a conversation yesterday (confrontation wasn’t a good option) in which an acquaintance was being talked about in a slut-shaming way because she dresses differently when going out on weekends than she does at work and – this was actually said accusingly – “does her hair up and wears a bunch of eyeliner.” Really? My supposedly liberal coworkers want to imply that somebody’s a slut because she does her hair and makeup differently when she’s not at work. It doesn’t take much to trip over some folks’ lines of ‘proper behavior’ does it? It’s a losing proposition to even try, because the lines aren’t in the same place from person to person, or target to target, or day to day, and even if you’re doing it ‘right,’ somebody who wants to make you miserable will find something to attack.

  9. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm |

    @Lance — the slide is from an African researcher, and the example makes more sense in the African context. There are cell phone “plans” or “contracts” in Africa but they tend to be extremely expensive and out of reach for most people. People who can’t afford cell phone contracts therefore have to buy cell phone airtime in prepaid increments. (For example: the South African currency is the rand. If you go to Woolworths in South Africa, you can buy airtime chits in increments of 5 rand, 10 rand, etc.)

    Almost everyone has a cell phone, but airtime is expensive and goes quickly even if you talk sparingly.

    As I noted at the bottom of the post, the airtime example is somewhat analogous to an American schoolgirl having sex in exchange for a piece of nice jewelry.

  10. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm |

    Sorry, I should note that while the cell phone thing is true in all the countries I’ve visited in Africa, it may not be true in all of Africa. I didn’t mean to treat Africa like one big country — it’s a diverse place.

  11. JulieSunday
    JulieSunday December 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    i think foucault’s panopticon is a good way of thinking of how whore/slut shaming makes women enforcers of their own subjugation.
    http://howtohavesexintexas.blogspot.com/2010/12/panopticon-of-slut-shaming.html

  12. Partial Human
    Partial Human December 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm |

    Insane? Really?

  13. Alphabet
    Alphabet December 17, 2010 at 9:17 pm |

    The most frustrating thing to me about the whore stigma is that it reduces the sex to a transaction where only one side is considered bad. She is marked for “trading” sex for… Cell minutes, a passing grade, a trip to the mall. This means HE is willing to BUY sex with cell minutes, a passing grade, a trip to the mall. One is acceptable but the other is not?

    This also shows up in another version of the “whore” usually called a “gold digger.”. She deserves whatever she gets because she obviously was giving him sex in exchange for stuff. But he specifically chose to date her because she was willing to make the transaction. But he never gets called a “sex digger” or “hot girl digger” or ” blow job digger.”.

    A transaction requires two willing participants.

  14. kayloulee
    kayloulee December 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    I want to second Partial Human@7′s questioning of the use of the word “insane”, particularly in the phrase “very few people think to question whether whore stigma itself is insane and divisive and harmful”. The stigma against mental illness is itself divisive, othering, and harmful. Describing whore stigma as insane only furthers the direct stigmatisation of people with mental disabilities, and discredits neurotypical people by implying that they could – horrors! – have mental disabilities. This implication constructs mental disability as the worst thing that could ever happen to a person, and people with mental disabilities as the worst sort of people.

    I agree with the rest of your post, but the use of ‘insane’ threw me out completely and I had to force myself to keep reading.

  15. eternalstranger
    eternalstranger December 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm |

    This is a really good post. I never really understood slut-shaming either, since I mainly judge behavior by whether it hurts anyone.

    Also, as a lot of people have pointed out, slut and whore-shaming penalizes the woman, but not the man.

  16. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua December 17, 2010 at 11:27 pm |

    Clarisse Thorn’s piece is very sneakily written to lead us into accepting the idea that having sex for money is OK, and maybe I’m an old-fashioned prude, but I don’t agree. I wouldn’t say anyone has a “stigma” for it, but sex for money, or sex that’s coerced, is just plain wrong on both sides. Do it because you want to, or not at all.

  17. David
    David December 17, 2010 at 11:46 pm |

    Tei Tetua:
    Clarisse Thorn’s piece is very sneakily written to lead us into accepting the idea that having sex for money is OK, and maybe I’m an old-fashioned prude, but I don’t agree. I wouldn’t say anyone has a “stigma” for it, but sex for money, or sex that’s coerced, is just plain wrong on both sides. Do it because you want to, or not at all.  

    I don’t think she actually really sneaks around it. I think its pretty obvious that she is trying to eliminate all of this type of stigma.

    Regardless, I do understand what you’re trying to say. I personally have this association between prostitution and immorality in my mind. (WHether or not that is a result of social conditioning or w/e, is beside the point) However, I do wonder if it isn’t worth questioning whether sex for money should be in the same category as sex that’s coerced. Obviously sex for money CAN be coerced (in the case that women are trafficked or sold into sexual slavery, or pressured by pimps to do their jobs), but I think there are certainly situations where it isn’t.

  18. RD
    RD December 18, 2010 at 12:46 am |

    Oh, joy.

    Really people?

  19. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney December 18, 2010 at 12:59 am |

    If you want to do sex for money, I don’t see what the problem is? It seems like you’re inserting yourself into other people’s decisions in a particularly black and white way.

  20. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 18, 2010 at 1:48 am |

    @caty — The reason I recommended the book is that it’s not just one of my favorites, but is a free download this month in honor of World AIDS Day. So I’m trying to encourage people to grab it while it’s available for free.

    I certainly encourage you to recommend books by sex workers if you’ve got any favorites.

    Also, I did link to a number of relevant blogs and sources by sex workers in the post.

    @Partial Human, kayloulee — Sorry. I’ll be more careful with my language in the future.

    @Tai Tetua — sex for money, or sex that’s coerced, is just plain wrong on both sides. Do it because you want to, or not at all.

    So … people can’t want to have sex for money? In your worldview, it’s literally impossible for someone to want to have sex for money? In your worldview, all sex for money is as bad as coerced sex? Sorry, but there are plenty of sex workers out there who disagree.

    Furthermore, even sex workers who don’t like their jobs will overwhelmingly state that they also really don’t like being guilted about their profession. When you say people “shouldn’t” do sex work for “moral” reasons (whatever that means), you’re not helping sex workers, not even sex workers who don’t like their jobs; you’re just making things worse for them. It’s not your place to judge how other people have consensual sex, even if you have trouble relating to their reasons for doing so.

  21. RD
    RD December 18, 2010 at 2:02 am |

    So what is so “morally pure” about sexual desire anyway, that having sex you don’t desire makes you such a moral degenerate (filthy whore) now? I am not familiar with this argument. You sound like the religious folks except you set “sexual desire” as the moral good. Somehow it makes me a bad person to have sex for money, because I am not doing it out of sexual desire?

  22. B
    B December 18, 2010 at 2:59 am |

    I agree with the commenters above who point out the creepiness of men paying for sex. Prostitutes are on the abused end of this and prostitution can only be possible in a rape culture where sex isn’t about mutual pleasure but access to use others’ bodies. A man who pays for this access uses someone elses needs or desperation to be allowed to disregard the fact that sex is really about mutual pleasure.

    Slut shaming is idiotic but embracing prostitution is no answer. When you start believing that mutual pleasure is something positive words like whore or slut lose their negative power. Until then everything will be all about access and how difficult and much negotiation that access is, with virgins who only grants men access after marriage at one end of the accessibility axis. It all demands a worldview where sex isn’t about something mutual, created together, but about something, access to a female body, that can be given – either as a reward for being a “nice guy” or because you pay for it.

  23. Whore stigma makes no sense « Clarisse Thorn

    [...] post was cross-posted at Feministe. This version has a few small edits for the sake of clarity and sensitivity that are [...]

  24. bellereve
    bellereve December 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    Great post. One way I notice women reinforcing whore stigma is when men make jokes about ‘hookers’ or strippers (usually about killing them or making them cry…lovely) and women laugh. It’s really gross and hurtful.

    re: the image. The student/lecturer thing sounds more like quid pro quo sexual harassment than a consensual transaction.

  25. Dank
    Dank December 18, 2010 at 1:11 pm |

    I think there is a very sane and logical reason for the stigma against sex work, and slut shaming in general. Consider the difference in compensation between a woman who gets paid for sex in a one time contract versus a woman who secures a lifetime contract (marriage). The former must continue to seek new clients and won’t have any way of supporting herself in retirement. The latter has a much safer and stable arrangement. In pure economic terms, it is (or was) much better to get married.

    Now consider all women as an economic class of ‘female sex partners.’ If they all tacitly agree not to have sex with anyone who isn’t willing to offer marriage in exchange, they have a better bargaining position (kind of like unionizing). However, this position is undercut whenever another woman sells sex (like a scab). They discourage this behavior by slut shaming and creating stigmas.

    It all makes sense in a purely economic way. Of course, none of the conditions that created this setup exist anymore. In an modern economy, not based on physical labor, women can support themselves and don’t need to rely on men. But the outdated stigmas remain.

  26. Bushfire
    Bushfire December 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm |

    It all makes sense in a purely economic way. Of course, none of the conditions that created this setup exist anymore. In an modern economy, not based on physical labor, women can support themselves and don’t need to rely on men. But the outdated stigmas remain.

    How optimistic of you.

  27. Laura Agustín
    Laura Agustín December 18, 2010 at 3:26 pm |

    as you know, i am always questioning the supposed line distinguishing commercial from non-commercial sex. recently i ran some amusing things at http://www.lauraagustin.com/sex-on-sunday-10

    and went into some depth about african fish buyers and sellers some commentators want to save from prostitute ignominy at http://www.lauraagustin.com/transactional-sex-and-sex-as-barter-not-the-same-as-prostitution-or-sex-work

    but my personal favourite remains http://www.lauraagustin.com/are-you-a-prostitute-asks-a-shanghai-sign

    where it is revealed how we are all prostitutes.

    best wishes, laura

  28. Dank
    Dank December 18, 2010 at 3:28 pm |

    BushfireHow optimistic of you.  

    Point taken. But there certainly must be some change that, after hundreds of years, we have begun to question these things in the past few decades.

  29. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni December 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm |

    Ah TeiTetua- how else are dirty, horrid, poor people supposed to pay for medical care such as transplants, if they can’t sell the only thing they’ve got?

    Get back under your bridge, troll.

  30. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm |

    @RD — I am not familiar with this argument. You sound like the religious folks except you set “sexual desire” as the moral good. Somehow it makes me a bad person to have sex for money, because I am not doing it out of sexual desire?

    I know, this is a weird argument isn’t it? I’ve encountered it before, but rarely as explicitly stated as Tai Tetua put it.

    I often think that smarter or differently educated people aren’t more likely to question stigma — they’re just more likely to make up intelligent-sounding rationales that justify their stigmas. A person who has been educated to be somewhat sex-positive may still absorb sex work stigma, but then that person has to come up with a reason they feel that stigma. Since a sex-positive person will have a hard time defending the usual “reasons” sex work is immoral, it’s like they automatically and unconsciously come up with new ones like “sex for pleasure is okay, so … sex work must not be okay because it’s not for pleasure!”

    So the arguments that convince mostly-sex-positive people that sex work is okay are arguments more along the lines of consent deconstruction (you can still consent to something even if it’s not your favorite thing in the world).

  31. Marle
    Marle December 18, 2010 at 7:37 pm |

    I can understand wanting to have sex for money, because we all need money (I understand less wanting to pay someone for sex…). I can understand sex work that’s clear-cut, but I understand less when you get into the gray areas on the chart. For example, a wife having sex with her husband because they’re going to the mall tomorrow. WTF is up with that? Why would someone (husband in this case) have sex with someone he loves when she’s not into it? And if she’s only doing it because they’re going to the mall, he should notice that. I know everyone can’t be in a good marriage, and you do what you have to, but that just made me sad.

  32. QLH
    QLH December 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm |

    Thanks for agreeing to check your language in the future. Coming across your casual use of “insane” was really jarring and took away from the rest of your post.

  33. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 18, 2010 at 8:04 pm |

    I definitely will. Also, if there are any resources that offer an all-in-one general analysis of ableist language, I’d love to see them.

  34. Nathan
    Nathan December 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm |

    There’s a pattern on this site of calling anyone who’s viewpoint really doesn’t fit inside a certain box “a troll” and thereby condemning their views are not worthy of consideration. It very true that some folks are just trolling, looking for a rise, to get people stirred up. However, others simply have a different view.

    I happen to agree that stigmas around sex workers are overblown double-standards. But Tai Tetua’s views are probably still what the majority of people, even those who are feminist, believe. It’s not at all surprising to see Tai’s comments; I’m actually surprised there aren’t a few similar ones.

    I get the tiredness with engaging old views. Or mainstream views. But if those views are never engaged, and the people who come on this site that have views that don’t fit what’s written, then how do you expect to see some of this shit change?

    I sometimes don’t comment on posts because I’m not up on the latest theory. I have had to look up phrases like cis, mansplaining, etc. And I’m ok doing that. But sometimes, I get the sense that those of us who aren’t completely in the loop are really not welcome.

    Like the debate about using words like “crazy” and “insane.” I can see how these terms can be offensive now that I have read enough comments from people who are working to shift the use of them. But think about it, the vast majority of people use “crazy” and “insane” casually. There isn’t a commonplace construction to replace them that expresses the same thing. Would “disturbing” be ok? I’m honestly asking because it seems like post after post gets focused on how terrible it is that someone said “crazy” or whatever – and the main topics get lost.

    Last summer, there were a series of powerful posts by Maia
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/author/maia/ that got derailed, in part, because her languaging wasn’t what regular readers were used to. It was disappointing to watch her posts disappear under piles of angry comments about how such and such sentence or word was triggering.

    It seems to me that in order to have decent discussion, there has to be some level of openness to hearing things you might really not want to hear. To be willing to engage people who speak differently, and who might even offend you a little bit. Guest bloggers often get torn up on here, and I sit and wonder if people want conversation, or if they just want an agreement chorus.

  35. RD
    RD December 18, 2010 at 11:44 pm |

    Clarisse – its still pretty bizarre to me. I don’t think Tei Tetua even sees it as nonconsensual (like the radfems) – if she did she probably wouldn’t be calling it immoral on “both sides” (I mean, I would hope not). But then, the radfems engage in plenty of whore-hating too so I have trouble seeing their stated opinions as sincere most of the time.

  36. Unree
    Unree December 19, 2010 at 2:25 am |

    Although I agree that mental disability should not be referenced in a casual insult, I would defend “insane” as Clarisse used it. Insane is not a term used by medical or clinical-psychological professionals; it doesn’t mean mentally ill. The precise meaning of insane is “lacking understanding of the moral character of one’s actions.”

    English needs a word like this one. The term fits very well with Clarisse’s point about morality. “Crazy” or “nuts” or the like would have been a gratuitous offense, but “insane” is right on the money for an attack on senselessness.

  37. Ens
    Ens December 19, 2010 at 2:54 am |

    @Unree: No, I really don’t think that’s what insane means. I’ve never understood the word to refer to morality, and dictionary.com doesn’t include “moral” or “ethical” in the definitions for sane or insane, and the number 1 definitions are always about mental disability. I searched “understanding of the moral character” and mostly saw religious arguments about whether babies can sin and one legal argument about the criminal liability of, again, people with mental disabilities.

    I can’t think of a single word that encapsulates your idea. “Amoral” comes closest, but usually refers to understanding but not caring. In this particular context, I might have gone with “arbitrary and self-inconsistent”.

  38. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 19, 2010 at 2:57 am |

    In the version of the post that I published to my own blog, I switched out “insane” for “ridiculous” after seeing these comments.

  39. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 19, 2010 at 6:22 am |

    I’m a radical feminist and quite proud of it I might ad. I don’t see the problem with being an abolishonist when it comes to prostitution on one hand and then fighting the whore stigma when people use it to harrass the people on the other.

    And I don’t see what sex and prostitution have in common so I don’t get it why the sex-positives are so frightened of taking a stand against it. You’re very quick to say that us that fight against prostitution put undue pressure on these women and men that for a time in their lives make money out of letting others use their bodies, that we ad to the stigma. But I hope you realise that your take on it allso silence a lot of voices and discredit a lot of experiences.

  40. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla December 19, 2010 at 8:39 am |

    Martine Votvik: I’m a radical feminist and quite proud of it I might ad. I don’t see the problem with being an abolishonist when it comes to prostitution on one hand and then fighting the whore stigma when people use it to harrass the people on the other.
    And I don’t see what sex and prostitution have in common so I don’t get it why the sex-positives are so frightened of taking a stand against it. You’re very quick to say that us that fight against prostitution put undue pressure on these women and men that for a time in their lives make money out of letting others use their bodies, that we ad to the stigma. But I hope yourealise that your take on it allso silence a lot of voices and discredit a lot of experiences.  

    I’m sorry, but this line of thinking totally dismisses sex worker’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies. This radfem bs that sex work = “selling your body” is a non sequiter: Everybody who works and gets paid for it is “selling their body”.

    So you just go right ahead and lecture sex workers about how they didn’t choose that line of work even if they think they did, and that they don’t know about their own experiences, false consciousness, we’re gonna save you by destroying your source of income, and every other tired old radfem trope.

    @nathan: Way to go, pal, with your tone arguments. Go start your own blog if you don’t like us meen meenee meen harpies, but don’t lecture us on issues that don’t affect you, DUDE.

    And @Unree: Thank you SO MUCH for informing those of us with mental disabilities / mental illness that we aren’t able to determine for ourselves what language is ableist.

  41. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 19, 2010 at 9:22 am |

    GallingGalla: And @Unree: Thank you SO MUCH for informing those of us with mental disabilities / mental illness that we aren’t able to determine for ourselves what language is ableist

    Seconded.

    I actually pretty much would love to second your entire post, but especially that part.

    Also, I just disagree that by definition anyone could be a feminist when they don’t think a given woman has the right or ability to decide for herself whether or not she wants to have sex for money.

  42. Dominique
    Dominique December 19, 2010 at 10:29 am |

    @Alphabet – This. (What you said).

    The reason there is a whore-shaming culture is because we live in a society where men hog most resources and mete them out as they see fit, i.e., to those women they think are most fuckable. Then they call them whores. It’s just another way to control half the world, isn’t it?

  43. Polymath
    Polymath December 19, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    Not enough attention here to the religious point of view. The position that sex is immoral outside a relationship that involves a permanent personal commitment is completely consistent and allows for a clear moral distinction. You can’t call a woman who sleeps with a man with whom she has a mutual and permanent commitment a whore in any sense at all — even if she married him partly because he was rich, such a commitment is much more important than money and it takes any sex act between them completely out of the realm of the “transactional”. This also answers the commenters who wondered why someone would have sex with a partner who wasn’t in the mood — part of the mutual commitment is to be sexually accessible to each other, and emotional satisfaction is gained from fulfilling this commitment even when not feeling particularly sexy. Also, this view of relationships does not depend on religion, although traditionally they tend to go together; lots of atheists take this moral position on sexual relationships. If you are going to insist on there being a continuum and no clear line to be drawn, you must at least explain what is wrong with this traditional view.

  44. mmblah
    mmblah December 19, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    With regret, I wish to state in passing that I sometimes casually use words like “insane” because I don’t know a single word that encapsulates this expression: “I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such [thinking/actions].”

    Maybe I just need a keyboard macro.

    Carry on.

  45. Clarissa
    Clarissa December 19, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    ““Woman who has sex at the back of a taxi in exchange for a ride into town?” * “School girl has sex with her ex-boyfriend for cell phone airtime?” * “Student sleeps with her lecturer in order to pass?” * “Wife has sex with her husband as she knows they are going to the mall tomorrow?” ”

    -It really bothers me that everybody in these examples is female. Men do all this just as much as women. Why are you perpetuating the stereotype that women somehow participate in exchange sex for money and commodities more than men??

    I find this to be deeply offensive to women.

  46. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

    @Martine — But I hope you realise that your take on it allso silence a lot of voices and discredit a lot of experiences.

    Well, my take on it is that “among consenting adults, there is no ‘should’.” To me, this means we try to create a world where everyone has as many options as possible, including sex workers who hate the sex industry and want to get out of it. If you still think this means I’m disappearing other perspectives, I’d like to hear more about that.

    @Clarissa — It really bothers me that everybody in these examples is female. Men do all this just as much as women. Why are you perpetuating the stereotype that women somehow participate in exchange sex for money and commodities more than men?

    1) It’s not my slide.

    2) If you have any evidence that men exchange in sex for commodities and money as much as women, I would like to see it. My considerable anecdotal experience indicates the opposite.

    3) Although sex workers of other genders exist, I think whore stigma is a weapon used almost entirely against women. As I noted in the post, the more effort women put into distinguishing ourselves from whores, the less effort we put into actually working on the issues that harm women. Or making common cause with, say, sex workers who aren’t women and therefore get completely disappeared during all this anxious finger-pointing.

    @Nathan — I agree that Tai Tetua’s views on this matter are more in line with the mainstream than, say, mine. The point of my comments was that I find the differences between her argument and, say, a stereotypical “prostitution is immoral because sex should only be within marriage” argument to be interesting, and to require different approaches.

  47. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm |

    Almost missed one …

    @B — Slut shaming is idiotic but embracing prostitution is no answer. When you start believing that mutual pleasure is something positive words like whore or slut lose their negative power. Until then everything will be all about access and how difficult and much negotiation that access is, with virgins who only grants men access after marriage at one end of the accessibility axis. It all demands a worldview where sex isn’t about something mutual, created together, but about something, access to a female body, that can be given – either as a reward for being a “nice guy” or because you pay for it.

    In many ways I agree with you, but I have a few questions.

    1) If “embracing prostitution” isn’t the solution, then what is your medium-term solution? Given that we do not currently live in a utopia where sexuality is always seen as awesome mutual fun for everyone, how should we be approaching prostitution right now?

    2) Do you think it’s possible for sex workers to freely embrace and enjoy their jobs even when they’re having sex with someone they might not otherwise? Here is one perspective from a sex worker who likes her job:
    http://carnalnation.com/content/58559/1476/why-do-other-feminists-want-me-shut-and-sit-down

    3) Do you disagree that the whore stigma that affects sex workers is the same thing as the slut-shaming that affects all women?

  48. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm |

    Clarissa, I think the point is that while men may engage in these behaviors, they won’t ever get labeled a whore for it – at least not in a meaningful sense. Man-whore is just not the same as whore.

  49. Natalia
    Natalia December 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    [derail] I have never agreed with the idea that “insane” in itself is an ableist term. I do happen to belong to a group of people who regularly have words like that used against them to incredibly damaging effect, and I have experienced the damage firsthand – but as a writer, I believe that context also matters.[/derail]

    Whore stigma is interesting, isn’t it? The word itself does not bother me, it’s all about the way it’s used (likewise with “insane”), but it’s amazing how pervasive the stigmatization is. I mean, I’ve been blogging about getting pregnant, for example, and I already had some troll show up to tell me that women are “whores” because we get pregnant and use it as a “means” to “entrap” men. Um, OK.

    Anything you get out of sex – pleasure, money, a baby, etc., can be used against you.

  50. So...
    So... December 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    I don’t understand how the examples fit together. A woman choosing to sleep with a man in order to get a taxi is one thing, even a schoolgirl choosing to have sex for air time.

    But isn’t a schoolgirl choosing to sleep with a professor to pass exploitation? It’s an imbalance of authority. And wouldn’t this create an atmosphere in which women would feel compelled to offer sexual favors for grades? In fact, isn’t this the main argument against sexual harassment in the workplace?

    If a women chooses to sleep with her lecturer for grades there are two possible interpretations. 1 – she feels coerced in some way. In which case, the choice issue is moot. 2- she is making an unfeminist choice.

  51. Hank
    Hank December 19, 2010 at 2:01 pm |

    So…: I don’t understand how the examples fit together. A woman choosing to sleep with a man in order to get a taxi is one thing, even a schoolgirl choosing to have sex for air time.
    But isn’t a schoolgirl choosing to sleep with a professor to pass exploitation? It’s an imbalance of authority. And wouldn’t this create an atmosphere in which women would feel compelled to offer sexual favors for grades? In fact, isn’t this the main argument against sexual harassment in the workplace?If a women chooses to sleep with her lecturer for grades there are two possible interpretations. 1 – she feels coerced in some way. In which case, the choice issue is moot. 2- she is making an unfeminist choice.  

    Seems to me that the difference between “sex for a cab ride”/”sex for air time” and “sex for grades” is simply a matter of values (not to be taken in a moral sense, but in an economic sense). In each instance Person A has Item X that Person B wants; Person A decides that Item Y (in this case, sex) would be ideal for a transaction and Person B agrees to this transaction because Person B finds that the value of her performance of a sex act is either less than or commensurate to Item X, which she wants. Of course, this abstract formulation of the situation decontextualizes the situation, so as you say, in the situation of the lecturer and the student, the balance of power is tipped toward the lecturer and away from the student, which I think we would both agree is a bad thing. However, I don’t think this is significantly different from a situation where a woman needs — or merely desires — a ride or needs the air time for the phone and the balance of power is tipped in favor of the person who provides the ride or the air time. Probably the reason that the example of the lecturer-student transaction is perceived as being worse than the other two instances is because it is a story that comes pre-packed with context (such as the power imbalance you pointed out, as well as the need for an education, oftentimes, in order to get a ‘good’ job), while the woman who wants air time and the woman who wants a ride are not given contexts for their situations.

  52. Hank
    Hank December 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm |

    GallingGalla:
    I’m sorry, but this line of thinking totally dismisses sex worker’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies.This radfem bs that sex work = “selling your body” is a non sequiter: Everybody who works and gets paid for it is “selling their body”.

    So you just go right ahead and lecture sex workers about how they didn’t choose that line of work even if they think they did, and that they don’t know about their own experiences, false consciousness, we’re gonna save you by destroying your source of income, and every other tired old radfem trope.

    I’m not a sex worker, I’m a janitor, but I actually do hate all (paid) work precisely because it is a “sale” of my body (rather, my labor), something which isn’t really salable — not for some moral reason such that ‘I’ am not for sale, but because fundamentally, at no point can my labor or my body be bought or sold and taken away from me: only the products of my labor can be treated in that way.

  53. Hank
    Hank December 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm |

    GallingGalla:
    I’m sorry, but this line of thinking totally dismisses sex worker’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies.This radfem bs that sex work = “selling your body” is a non sequiter: Everybody who works and gets paid for it is “selling their body”.So you just go right ahead and lecture sex workers about how they didn’t choose that line of work even if they think they did, and that they don’t know about their own experiences, false consciousness, we’re gonna save you by destroying your source of income, and every other tired old radfem trope.  

    I’m not a sex worker, I’m a janitor, but I actually do hate all (paid) work precisely because it is a “sale” of my body (rather, my labor), something which isn’t really salable — not for some moral reason such that ‘I’ am not for sale, but because fundamentally, at no point can my labor or my body be bought or sold and taken away from me: only the products of my labor can be treated in that way.

  54. Sara Anderson
    Sara Anderson December 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm |

    Remember how you can support the troops but not the war? Same goes for prostitutes and prostitution, respectively. There’s always the option of working to diminish the demand for what is presumably not-so-fun labor like sex for pay or fighting in a war.

  55. B
    B December 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    Clarisse,

    I live in Sweden where it is illegal to buy (but not to sell) sex. When Norway saw the differences this made to the level of trafficking, violence etc. that made (obviouss in the comparison between Stockholm and Oslo f.ex.) they too made Johns illegal.

    I feel nothing but contempt and disgust for those who would buy sex.

    Apart from that I believe we have to start with what we teach our kids. Teach them that their bodily integrity is to be respected, i.e. NEVER force a hug or beat them, and let them learn that even the boundaries of a small kid is respected. Positive sex ed. in schools and so on is also important as is a jobmarket and/or social safety net that provide other options for survival than prostitution for people.

  56. Silver
    Silver December 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm |

    B: I feel nothing but contempt and disgust for those who would buy sex.

    I’m curious what you make of a case like this one:
    http://lettersfromjohns.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-have-physical-disability.html

  57. Nathan
    Nathan December 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    Gala, you’re response to me is exactly what I was talking about. “If you don’t like it here, go start your own blog.” Great way to keep the conversation going there.

    Clarisse, I totally agree about the point that there “should be no shoulds” amongst consenting adults. Legislating those kinds of “shouldn’ts” clearly hasn’t stopped people engaging in those “shouldn’ts.” I think prohibitions are most important when behaviors are abusive and/or oppressive, and where consent is not present.

    I’d also second Pretty Amiable’s comment about “whores” and “man-whores.” There is no equivalent shaming word or phrase applied to men. And I really can’t recall ever seeing an example of shame-based commentary about men engaged in prostitution.

  58. Marle
    Marle December 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm |

    Silver:
    I’m curious what you make of a case like this one:
    http://lettersfromjohns.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-have-physical-disability.html  

    Men with physical disabilities are often brought up as reasons to have prostitution. But what about (straight) women with disabilities? Why do we not have men working as sex workers to take care of the sexual needs of straight women who cannot attract a man?

    Sex work in our society is inherently sexist, because our society is sexist. Now, there’s a lot of sexism in plenty of other jobs, and I don’t think choosing sex work makes anyone “impure”. But I don’t think sex work is a good thing. I support sexwork[b]ers[/b] but I’d like to see a world without sex work. (not at the expense of existing sex workers, of course).

  59. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm |

    @Natalia, but can’t you say that about all offensive terminology? Context matters? You’re cutting Clarisse a break (which I agree with, because I genuinely don’t think she meant to hurt anyone) because of the personal, but the problem is on the societal level. We continue to imbue words like “insane” and “crazy” and “blind” and “deaf” and other ableist terms and load them with negativity, but then wonder why there are massive stigmas against the awesomely-abled people like us. If you haven’t read the post linked above about the use of “crazy,” I recommend it.

  60. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm |

    Marle: Why do we not have men working as sex workers to take care of the sexual needs of straight women who cannot attract a man?

    We do. Let’s not erase them entirely just because there’s significantly fewer. Also, let’s not conflate a PWD with “straight women who cannot attract” men. Holy fucking offensive.

  61. kung fu lola
    kung fu lola December 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm |

    Hank:
    Probably the reason that the example of the lecturer-student transaction is perceived as being worse than the other two instances is because it is a story that comes pre-packed with context (such as the power imbalance you pointed out, as well as the need for an education, oftentimes, in order to get a ‘good’ job), while the woman who wants air time and the woman who wants a ride are not given contexts for their situations.  

    Imo, it’s also worse because there is already a legitimate avenue for a student to get good grades: by earning them through study and work. A lecturer who makes good grades contingent on sex could presumably be shafting other students who deserve good grades because of their work, but who aren’t f*ckable. A woman paying for a cab ride with sex isn’t participating in an interference with the everyday machinations of the taxi industry: a student who trades grades for sex is subverting and undermining the way education is supposed to work.

  62. Silver
    Silver December 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    Marle:But what about (straight) women with disabilities?

    Of course that happens too, but it is even harder to find information about. There’s even more stigma there. However, I was particularly responding to the notion that all ‘Johns’ (a male term) are deserving of contempt. I think, like with everything, the reality is much more complex.

  63. james
    james December 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm |

    “A woman choosing to sleep with a man in order to get a taxi is one thing,.. But isn’t a schoolgirl choosing to sleep with a professor to pass exploitation?”

    I think it depends on whether she would have justifiably failed otherwise.

    There’s obviously a difference between having to trade sex to get something you’ve a right to (to prevent being failed out of spite because you turned someone down), to get something you’ve no right to (like a pass because you got extra tuition from a professor who works at a different university), and to get something you don’t have a right to (like a pass, even though all your work was late and worthy of a fail).

    It it’s the the first or the last then there’s the additional problem that the professor is corrupt and not discharging his responsibilites correctly. The first it’s worse because she’s being exploited by this; if it’s the last it’s worse because they’re both parties to the exploitation. The victims are people who pass through their own effort and those who fail and don’t get the advantage she does because they can’t or won’t trade sex.

  64. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm |

    @B — There is plenty of evidence that the Swedish model ends up still being bad for sex workers. Sex workers’ rights activists usually advocate for full decriminalization. See:

    http://www.bayswan.org/swed/swed_index.html

    http://www.lauraagustin.com/behind-the-happy-face-of-the-swedish-anti-prostitution-law

  65. Athenia
    Athenia December 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm |

    But the modern notion of a “whore” doesn’t even have to mean an exchange of some sort—a “whore” can mean a woman who just have lots of sex with lots of different men (and/or women).

    How does that fit in?

  66. Athenia
    Athenia December 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm |

    …..”whore” can also mean a young woman who gets pregnant or sends her boyfriend an explicit text message. I imagine that’s illegitimate as well?

  67. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm |

    Athenia, that’s the point. “Whore” is a constantly shifting concept that is impossible to clearly define and that is essentially used to police so-called “bad behavior”. Do we accept this unclear definition and these attempts to control us? Or not?

  68. Alyssa
    Alyssa December 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm |

    I find this post really interesting especially after reading a great book about sex work, Temporarily Yours by Elizabeth Bernstein. That book really complicated things for me a lot–in a good way. I’ve always been wholeheartedly in favor of sex workers’ rights, just as I am for all workers’ rights. Lately, after reading a lot of writing about sex work for a class, I’ve been struggling with a lot of questions: what should my response be, as a feminist, to sex as labor? (This is also complicated by the fact that many sex workers Bernstein interviewed did not see themselves as selling sex or their bodies, but rather as selling their time, their skill, or even selling their clients their own orgasms.) How does this fit with the idea of enthusiastic consent? Can the requirements of enthusiastic consent be met when sex is part of your job–even people who love their jobs have some days where you really don’t feel like doing it, but you’ve got to anyway. And if we view sex work as the same as any other type of work, then what is the difference between forcing someone to perform sex work (ie, rape) and, say, forcing someone to clean your house? I have many of my own semi-formed thoughts but I’d be curious to hear what everyone else thinks.

  69. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla December 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm |

    Nathan: Gala, you’re response to me is exactly what I was talking about. “If you don’t like it here, go start your own blog.” Great way to keep the conversation going there.

    Nathan, your response to me is exactly what *I* was talking about. (Note, also, that I spelled your name correctly and I used the correct word “your”. Unlike you.)

  70. RD
    RD December 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm |

    Forcing someone to clean your house would be slavery.

  71. RD
    RD December 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm |

    And possibly kidnapping/false imprisonment.

  72. S
    S December 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm |

    GallingGalla:
    Nathan, your response to me is exactly what *I* was talking about.(Note, also, that I spelled your name correctly and I used the correct word “your”.Unlike you.)  

    Galla, way to stoop to status-giving stress of the superficial features of language.

    Nathan, I absolutely appreciate the points you made in your initial comment on this post. Unlike Galla’s argument against you (which I don’t actually see the point that Galla is making…?), I applaud your critical, constructive, and inclusive view. It sounds like Galla is in favor of stomping out everyone who is not part of his/her (sorry, not sure) “agreement chorus”—which is totally oppressive.

  73. Azalea
    Azalea December 19, 2010 at 11:52 pm |

    So let’s say hypothetically I live far enugh above the poverty line to retire before Menopause issomething more than a star in the distant future YET I want to be a prostitute. How do you explain this?

    Prostittion is not something that only those desperate for money consider doin. here are plenty of women who love sex, lots of it with different people BECAUSE THEY WANT TO, you know, how some men would love to have sex with a woman he barely knows? Yeah that happens to some women too. But there are women who would see the money as an extra bonus and if its already understood as a precursor to the sex a HUGE benefit. PLenty of women sleep with men because they want to have sex with him AND he’ll spend lots of money on her to make sre she’s happy enough to keep having sex with him. Are those women victims too?

    No one woman represents every other woman when it comes to what she would and wouldn’t do sexually and sexual desire. To imply that is insulting.

    B: I agree with the commenters above who point out the creepiness of men paying for sex. Prostitutes are on the abused end of this and prostitution can only be possible in a rape culture where sex isn’t about mutual pleasure but access to use others’ bodies. A man who pays for this access uses someone elses needs or desperation to be allowed to disregard the fact that sex is really about mutual pleasure.Slut shaming is idiotic but embracing prostitution is no answer. When you start believing that mutual pleasure is something positive words like whore or slut lose their negative power. Until then everything will be all about access and how difficult and much negotiation that access is, with virgins who only grants men access after marriage at one end of the accessibility axis. It all demands a worldview where sex isn’t about something mutual, created together, but about something, access to a female body, that can be given – either as a reward for being a “nice guy” or because you pay for it.  (Quote this comment?)

  74. Azalea
    Azalea December 20, 2010 at 12:05 am |

    Ok If ANYONE (male or female) sleeps with their professor for grades it IS immoral because there is an honor system. You do NOT buy good grades you EARN them academically. Buying good grades or bartering good grades or simply just being GIVEN a good grade because of the way you look or how great sex with you is BS, it totally discredits you. Buying a grade, which should be earned vs buying a cab ride or anything else that could be BOUGHT for sex are entirely different scenarios. Sex for money= none of my business, sex for good grades is jsut as bad as sex for a promotion or sex to get hired or sex for a recommendation letter, or sex for anything that has to be earned through non- monetary means.

    So…: If a women chooses to sleep with her lecturer for grades there are two possible interpretations. 1 – she feels coerced in some way. In which case, the choice issue is moot. 2- she is making an unfeminist choice.  (Quote this comment?)

  75. Gentleman Cambrioleur
    Gentleman Cambrioleur December 20, 2010 at 1:13 am |

    Agreed about eliminating whore stigma, but the economic conditions that often push women into sex work when they have no vocation for it do bother me. I remember seeing a study not too long ago (sorry, can’t find it, maybe someone else has read it?) showing that extremely high numbers of female higher ed students turned to sex work to make ends meet. I considered it myself, at a particularly rough time of my life, and was *extremely depressed* at the thought, because to me (and not to everyone, but to a significant number of people for sure) sex does feel more personal than say, janitorial or office work. For so long as basic and essential things like food, shelter, and health care are not provided to the needy, and for so long as higher education is out of the reach of the working class, there will be a factor of economic coercion for *some* people entering the sex industry. Whore phobia absolutely does not help them, nor do blanket condemnations of the sex industry, but the whole conversation needs to happen in conjunction with a strong emphasis on economic justice.

  76. Natalia
    Natalia December 20, 2010 at 5:14 am |

    We continue to imbue words like “insane” and “crazy” and “blind” and “deaf” and other ableist terms and load them with negativity, but then wonder why there are massive stigmas against the awesomely-abled people like us. If you haven’t read the post linked above about the use of “crazy,” I recommend it.

    Personally, I’m comfortable with using the word “insane” in a negative context, if I feel that the situation calls for it. Or else in a positive context if, once again, I feel this is appropriate. If I wish to educate someone about mental illness, I urge them towards nuance – I think simply discouraging the use of certain words, or else depriving them of a negative meaning, doesn’t necessarily work when it comes to this issue. For example, I would personally feel dishonest if I dropped the word “crazy” from negative use, in spite of being urged to do so. For me, “crazy” has many different applications, some of them quite valuable in spite of being, well, unpleasant. I’m not going to gut my language of it, even though I acknowledge the negative effects it can have. I with to concentrate on the positive – but I can’t afford to erase the negative.

  77. Sunday News Round-Up « Women's Health News

    [...] At Feministe, Hospital saves woman’s life; is told by Catholic leadership not to do it again, Oops, I forgot to have babies!, and two posts related to the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers – It’s not just violent clients who abuse sex workers, and Whore Stigma Makes No Sense. [...]

  78. Tec
    Tec December 20, 2010 at 11:16 am |

    Excellent article. The converse of this whore stigma and slut-shaming is vigin stigma and “prude-shaming”. It’s a double-edged sword – if you sleep with lots of guys you’re a “slut” or a “whore” and if you don’t then you’re a “prude” or “frigid”. You can’t deconstruct the whore stigma without also dismantling the virgin stigma.

    Unfortunately, even feminists engage in prude-shaming. E.g. If I say I only want monogamous LTRs why is it taken as a value judgement vs. other’s choices? If we really are valuing other people’s choices, then all choices should be considered okay.

    That being said, it’s certainly nuanced since there’s the “good”/ “bad” girl dynamic to it and some people really do make it a value judgement. In my experience though it’s always the reverse where being a prude/frigid/etc. = wrong and shameful. Could maybe just be my age as well since I’m in my 20s. Any one else have any thoughts on this?

  79. Nahida
    Nahida December 20, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    Wife has sex with her husband as she knows they are going to the mall tomorrow.

    That doesn’t belong there. The way it’s worded, she’s not having sex so that they’ll go to the mall tomorrow. It seems they’re already going to the mall–they’d go anyway regardless of whether she had sex with her husband and so if she decides to do it, wouldn’t that be a bit different? Unless, of course, it means to say she’s doing it so that he’ll agree to buy certain items at the mall, and not only so that they’ll go. But unless that’s the case, it seems more like a “Oh why not? We’re going to the mall after all” more than a “This’ll convince him to take me to the mall!”

  80. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 20, 2010 at 11:44 am |

    Natalia, I think I’m trying to convince you of something you don’t buy so I’m pretty much wasting both of our times, haha. I’m sorry.

    S, you might be new, and consequently don’t know that GallingGalla is trans. The entire tone of your post was offensive to the bystander that I am (I’m not going to speak for Galla). Also, calling any trans person’s actions “oppressive” is pretty much ridiculous.

  81. Nathan
    Nathan December 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm |

    I totally agree with the calls for more discussion about economic justice. There are many reasons why people enter into sex work. A lot of people are suffering while doing it, and have few options financially. So, breaking down stigmas is very important, but so is breaking down the barriers that force many into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do.

    S – thank you for seeing my point. I’m going to let it be now, as I can see pushing on the other responses to my comments would probably just create more conflict. All I’d like is to see more willingness to engage people who might be potential allies on some of the issues being discussed. There’s already so much fragmentation amongst those of us on “the left” (here in the U.S. anyway.)

  82. Athenia
    Athenia December 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm |

    “And we can start by honoring and acknowledging sex work as an honorable job that deserves both legal and social recognition.”

    I think men need to start treating sex workers with respect. But that would require men to view sex as an activity of mutual respect, not one of disproportionate power.

  83. S
    S December 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm |

    PrettyAmiable:.S, you might be new, and consequently don’t know that GallingGalla is trans. The entire tone of your post was offensive to the bystander that I am (I’m not going to speak for Galla). Also, calling any trans person’s actions “oppressive” is pretty much ridiculous.  

    PrettyAmiable— Yes, I am “newer” here, and used “his/her” in reference to Galla because I did not find a cue in this thread about the appropriate term to use—I was trying to be neutral and not make assumptions. I didn’t mean to be offensive in that regard, and would never knowingly do so—I apologize.

    That said, it is possible for ANYONE to be oppressive, by trying to smother out another person’s voice. As a bystander, I found Galla’s responses to Nathan offensive.

    I just want to put out there that I relate to Nathan’s observation that “sometimes, I get the sense that those of us who aren’t completely in the loop are really not welcome.” I regret that I’m not more knowledgeable about many of the topics featured on this blog, but I keep reading because I want to become more knowledgeable. While I think that contradictions and debates are very positive and result in growth and learning and change, I don’t think that trying to make people feel inferior or stupid (or, not worthy of participating in the discussion) for unintentionally saying something in “not the right way” is constructive at all (Galla’s comment “I used the correct word ‘your’.Unlike you.” is a simple illustration), and it alienates people who don’t necessarily mean harm, but may just be in the process of learning.

  84. Marle
    Marle December 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm |

    PrettyAmiable:
    We do. Let’s not erase them entirely just because there’s significantly fewer. Also, let’s not conflate a PWD with “straight women who cannot attract” men. Holy fucking offensive.  

    Ok, I fucked up there. You’re right, I was conflating PWD with can’t attract a partner, and that was wrong of me.

    When it comes to talking about men who visit prostitutes, there’s always an undercurrent of entitlement in our society that men have to have sex, that doesn’t apply to women. There are legal brothels in Nevada with women, but none with men. If something happened and I was disabled like the guy in the article liked up above and I had the same problems with dating, I doubt I’d have friends suggesting I go to a brothel, and I doubt I’d be able to find a brothel with men who would make me feel “whole”, like that guy did. (Well, actually I’m bisexual, so this is actually moot for me, but I’m sure you see my point).

    I sure it might be possible to have a society where sex work isn’t surrounded by sexism and male entitlement. And I don’t have a problem with sex workers, I just have a problem with the sexism that surrounds sex work. Not that I don’t also have problems with sexism that surrounds other things (I am on Feministe, after all) and I know that all sex workers are not victims.

    I also have huge problems when sex work is conflated into romantic relationships, like in the wife example in the chart. But I already complained about that.

  85. Nathan
    Nathan December 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm |

    “(Galla’s comment “I used the correct word ‘your’.Unlike you.” is a simple illustration)” That grammar mistake was very funny, actually, since I’ve been an ESL teacher for years. Fast typing and not paying attention are to blame for that one.

  86. So...
    So... December 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm |

    Just coming back to this post and wondering if Clarissa could respond. I agree with Azalea and others (as in my earlier post) that a student sleeping with a teacher is unacceptable.

    I actually couldn’t think of any reason why it would be included here since it seems on its face horrifically exploitative and wrong but the only theory I could think of to link it into the others is that if you really believe that sex is just a currency and should be bought and sold, and there is no exploitation in someone feeling they have to do sexual things for money, then there is no real violation in someone using sex as a currency (say a schoolgirl for grades) rather than other currencies (hard work, creative product etc). So it’s fine for a student to substitute sex for grades because that’s a valid exchange. It would seem like this would deny pretty much every kind of sexual exploitation short of stranger rape at knifepoint. I would argue it would render a lot of domestic violence acceptable as well. What about sex in exchange for police/govt leniency? If we think that sex is an acceptable substitute for grades, why not for jail time? This is the reality of the logic in this post.

    Contexts (sorry Hank) cannot be abstracted away. If in my workplace, it’s acceptable for me to climb the ladder with sex, this WILL create an atmosphere in which bosses will feel comfortable asking for sex from subordinates. And this will disproportionately affect women. And there will be coercion, exploitation and rape. We’d basically be recreating a world we have spent decades trying to destroy. A world in which ALL women are treated like objects who are sexually accessible to all men.

    There is a valid argument about how in this world, how much women actually “choose” prostitution. (sidenote as a WOC and African, the “African” example annoyed me way more than I can say but there is way too much to unpack there. Suffice to say, the idea that these women are making a cold rational choice doesn’t sit with the stories of my family and my friends who speak with *horror* of the choices they had to make. Just because they are not Western women doesn’t mean they are just animals, with no sensibilities, who see their bodies as something to be bartered with. I know that’s the Western myth (of black people too) but please do not impose this nonsensical view onto women who *as a last resort* choose sex in order to feed their families. ) But this argument does not and should not involve children and teachers. This is a line that sex positive feminists should not cross.

  87. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm |

    S: That said, it is possible for ANYONE to be oppressive, by trying to smother out another person’s voice. As a bystander, I found Galla’s responses to Nathan offensive.

    There’s a difference between oppressive and offensive. You cannot be oppressed by an individual; you can be oppressed by a system. E.g., oppression in the US of racial minorities, non-straight-folks, trans individuals. Anyone can offend you. If I tell you your shoes are ugly, that’s offensive, but not oppressive. Saying, “fuck off, this is a safe(r) space where people who hold XYZ views” can be offensive because it might not show the tact you feel entitled to, but it’s not oppressive by virtue of the fact that this safe(r) space exists specifically for those who hold certain viewpoints and are members of an oppressed class.

    Further, Nathan’s comment re: people who aren’t in the know not being welcome? That’s because a million and a half websites exist that do the 101 thing for how to be an ally. This isn’t one. This is something that happens frequently on feminist blogs and it’s not that we don’t want you to join us – it’s that we expect you to do enough of your homework before coming by so that you can do your absolute best to avoid hurting us. It means learning the language and figuring out where you’ve erred and what you can fix. And it’s something everyone does (and revisits), including me. The “tone argument” comment is one, and is a classic derail that’s used in these discussions.

    This is a great 101 for feminism: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/
    This is a starter for trans 101, if you’re interested: http://ganimede.transboys.info/trans101.html
    And everyone’s favorite (please don’t be offended by the title), Derailing for Dummies: http://birdofparadox.wordpress.com/derailing-for-dummies-google-cache-reconstruction/

    TL;DR : this isn’t where you begin your learning. Here are some resources. We want you, but we’re bored of being constantly hurt by newcomers because it doesn’t really feel all that different from people who are actually trying to hurt us. It’s like when your friend runs over your foot – you know they didn’t mean to, but your foot is still broken.

    @Marle, I think we mostly agree otherwise. Sorry I jumped on you – the one line hit me the wrong way and then reading comp went out the window.

  88. Silver
    Silver December 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm |

    I’m not sure that entirely works as an argument. A student, regardless of their age, having sex with their teacher for better grades also introduces an element of corruption. That corruption would still be there if the student offered money, help from powerful parents, or even, to turn the scenario around, blackmailed the teacher. The same is true for the workplace scenario; buying a better position is something we frown upon. Domestic issues also fall in here if one person controls the money or uses whatever advantage they have to make the other fall in line. It’s an abuse of power in the relationship.

    As to the jail time scenario, while it is true that the state often accepts money in lieu of jail time, exactly who would collect if sex was offered instead? The judge? The wronged person? I don’t think there is a scenario that can be set up here that doesn’t introduce corruption because the state isn’t a person.

    Although, I certainly agree that poverty is the big problem and, ideally, only the people who actually want to be sex workers would do so.

  89. Yeny
    Yeny December 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm |

    Call me a prude because I find all of the examples on the ‘sex-for-reward’ continuum horrifying. I honestly believe sex should be something that you do because a) you/your body wants it, b) it feels good. It should involve someone else who feels the same way. Now if the sex worker, student, wife, woman in back of car want to have sex because of a) and b) and incidently they will also receive the rewards of money, grades…etc then I don’t find the sexual encounter problemmatic per se (whether I think it’s ethical to exchange sex for grades is another issue all together). So my issue with sex work is not the sex (as described in a) and b))-for-money part, but the having-sex-you-don’t-want part.

  90. Yeny
    Yeny December 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    I should also add that why I find the sex-for-reward examples horrifying is quite possibly idiosyncratic, since any sex I don’t want (and even at times when I do want it) can be excruciatingly painful.

  91. April
    April December 20, 2010 at 10:10 pm |

    Agreed with So… on some points about the continuum graphic posted. None of those things are in any way pleasant or what I would consider to be consensual. Sure, you can argue that the person trading sex for cell phone airtime or a trip to the mall (?!!) is engaging in a free choice, but what kind of choice is that? I’d like to see sex work get to a place where it isn’t a choice that someone feels they have to make. I mean, obviously that’s what everyone wants, but the conversation going from “let’s get to a place where no one engaging in sex work feels that it is their only option” to “sex work is honorable” is sort of missing that point.

  92. Unree
    Unree December 20, 2010 at 10:41 pm |

    GallingGalla, speaking as a fan of your blog comments: I agree that it’s disabled people who get to say what language is ableist. But one anonymous commenter on the tubes–even when “seconded” by another anonymous commenter–is not the keeper of the lexicon. Most people here don’t know you IRL, and you have no idea what other people’s experiences with mental illness, including mine, might be.

    Nobody should be able to silence the discourse without either (a) authority (which can come from a moderator or an individual’s known, lived experience) or (b) a reasoned argument. In telling me that “insane” is illegitimate you’ve presented neither.

    What happens if someone here pops up to say that “ridiculous” is ableist language too? And without saying why. Does this nym-persona get to censor Clarisse’s substitution?

  93. Miss S
    Miss S December 21, 2010 at 12:38 am |

    For so long as basic and essential things like food, shelter, and health care are not provided to the needy, and for so long as higher education is out of the reach of the working class, there will be a factor of economic coercion for *some* people entering the sex industry
    Well said. Let’s not make these women invisible in conversations about sex work.

    Also, calling any trans person’s actions “oppressive” is pretty much ridiculous.
    No, PrettyAmiable, it’s not. I’m not saying Gala was being oppressive, but marginalized groups can oppress other marginalized groups. See: second wave feminism and the womanist movement.

  94. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 21, 2010 at 1:29 am |

    Firstly, I just want to throw out there that I agree with this very important argument (best articulated by Nathan):

    I totally agree with the calls for more discussion about economic justice. There are many reasons why people enter into sex work. A lot of people are suffering while doing it, and have few options financially. So, breaking down stigmas is very important, but so is breaking down the barriers that force many into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do.

    So yeah. Just in case it might seem like I don’t agree with that … I totally do. I see sex workers’ rights activism as being focused both on stigma and on economics/labor. I tend to write more about stigma because, frankly, I think I understand stigma better than I understand economics and labor — not because I don’t think economics and labor are important.

    @Tec — Unfortunately, even feminists engage in prude-shaming. E.g. If I say I only want monogamous LTRs why is it taken as a value judgement vs. other’s choices? If we really are valuing other people’s choices, then all choices should be considered okay.

    I completely agree with this. I’m not sure I agree that whore stigma/slut shaming can’t be unpacked without also unpacking prude-shaming, though. Could you go into the connections that you see between those concepts?

    @So… — I assume that you’re referring to me (Clarisse Thorn, the author of the post) and not Clarissa, who also posts here sometimes.

    I want to make it clear at the outset that I’m not trying to be rude with anything I’m about to say. If I say something that offends you in a personal way, I request that you explain why and how it offended you.

    But isn’t a schoolgirl choosing to sleep with a professor to pass exploitation? It’s an imbalance of authority.

    … I actually couldn’t think of any reason why it would be included here since it seems on its face horrifically exploitative and wrong

    What makes this situation seem more exploitative and wrong to you than other situations on the slide?

    Is exploitation automatically wrong if it’s consensual? If so, why? What makes it wrong?

    And wouldn’t this create an atmosphere in which women would feel compelled to offer sexual favors for grades? In fact, isn’t this the main argument against sexual harassment in the workplace?

    … If in my workplace, it’s acceptable for me to climb the ladder with sex, this WILL create an atmosphere in which bosses will feel comfortable asking for sex from subordinates.

    I think you’re right. So the example of a person who sleeps with a superior in order to advance within the hierarchy is wrong. However, I also think:

    1) Men who choose to advance within a hierarchy by sleeping with their superiors would not be attacked by means of whore stigma.

    2) In fact, the reason sleeping with a superior in order to get ahead in a hierarchy is wrong has nothing to do with whore stigma. It has to do with the purpose of the hierarchy. Advancement within a hierarchy that is intended to accomplish a mission (like a workplace) or educate people (like a school) should specifically be based on the merit of the people within it, because this facilitates achieving the mission (in the case of a workplace) and learning things (in the case of a school). A person who is censured for sleeping with superiors in order to get ahead should be censured because they are detracting from the effectiveness of the environment, not because of the specific acts they performed to do so. (And also, such superiors should be censured as much as the people they sleep with.)

    As an analogy, I think that bribing a professor with money for better grades is as reprehensible as sleeping with a professor for better grades. You say that a person who climbs the ladder with sex will contribute to an environment in which superiors feel comfortable asking for sex. This is true, but it doesn’t have much to do specifically with sex: A person who climbed the ladder with money would contribute to an environment in which superiors feel comfortable asking for money.

    But I don’t think it’s feminist to shame women who sleep with professors for better grades on the basis of those women being “whores” or “sluts”.

    3) Whore stigma is a weapon used particularly against women. It exists as part of a larger social context that continuously attacks and seeks to limit female sexuality. As feminists, I believe that we need to be conscious of this. While there exist many situations involving female sexuality that are problematic, attacking the women involved by means of whore stigma is, I believe, unfeminist. We should seek more precise definitions of why those situations are problematic and how we can talk about them without resorting to the unfeminist bogey of whore stigma.

    Suffice to say, the idea that these women are making a cold rational choice doesn’t sit with the stories of my family and my friends who speak with *horror* of the choices they had to make.

    Consent can be extremely fraught and difficult territory. I believe that people can legitimately consent to things that they find horrifying. However, I sometimes find myself feeling frustrated, hurt, angry or appalled by choices that people make in bad circumstances — and especially appalled by those who seek to profit from the desperate choices that people sometimes make.

    I believe that the most productive approach to those situations is to seek the underlying social factors (e.g. economics) that may have created them, and to work on those factors. I also believe that creating and promoting careful frameworks for consent can solve or, at the very least, offset the problems in bad situations. I believe that censuring the people who made those choices is usually (though not always) missing the point.

    Just because they are not Western women doesn’t mean they are just animals, with no sensibilities, who see their bodies as something to be bartered with.

    Whoa, this is in no way something I intended to say or imply (that non-Western women are animals with no sensibilities, etc), and I’d really like to hear more about why I came across that way. I’m not trying to question your feelings by asking for more details — I just really want to make sure that I don’t come across that way in the future.

    For the record, the reason I brought in the slide from Africa was that it’s the best example I’ve seen of what I was trying to say about continua, etc — not because I wanted to say something particular about Africans. I could have remade the slide featuring entirely Western situations, and I thought about doing that. But I wanted to give credit where credit was due, and I also wanted to highlight other activists/researchers who have influenced my thinking (in this case Marlise Richter, the African researcher who created the slide).

  95. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 21, 2010 at 1:40 am |

    On an only somewhat relevant note — well, somewhat relevant since some people on this thread seem bothered by the way I mentioned Africa in this post — I wanted to highlight that I just responded to some comments on an older Feministe post of mine that also discussed how I wrote about Africa.
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/12/01/news-flash-pay-attention-hiv-is-about-sex/

  96. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 21, 2010 at 1:42 am |

    Also, can I just say I’m sometimes confused by how comments are moderated? My last comment went through automatically, but there’s a comment right above it that seems to still be in mod.

  97. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach December 21, 2010 at 3:29 am |

    I agree with Yeni, and that’s a place where pro-sex work folks who use that line of argument usually loose me. It just shows how much we’re operating under wildly different paradigms when one side throws an argument at the other with much conviction and expectations it will prove a point, yet it doesn’t.

    *Seeeeee! We’re unjustly judging sex workers while we’re all fine with wives who have sex with husbands in exchange for some material reward!*

    Except, I’m not.

    My girlfriend, who is a sex worker ally, tried to pull that one on me with that sense of smug conviction that it would prove a point. *I once did a blowjob at a party in order to get a beer, so if that’s ok, why make all this fuss about sex work*, said she.

    Argh. My brain, it gets all sorts of warped when I just think of it. Those two examples raise so many manipulation and unethical flags that it is just beyond me that someone could bring them up casually.

    And you know what’s funny in the end? I’m far more comfortable with the idea that some sex workers could actually love to give sexual services for money, a bit like someone who loves to help people through his or her job would also be paid for it.

    But beer for blowjob? and sex for shoping? Er, what?? Like, ask me for a beer, and I’ll gladly give it to you. Or should I instead request that you provide a cunnilingus on me, despite the fact that you certainly didn’t come up to me with that option in mind? You’re earning less wages than me and it creates an inequality between our respective economical autonomy? Let’s try to arrange that, even it out maybe. But please, don’t have sex with me if that’s not what you’re desiring first.

    In my opinion, this sadly muddies the pro-sex argument. It raises a doubt over the ethical faculties the ones who use it possess when it comes to that area.

    To be fair, I acknowledge that «my side» (well, not being totally my side, since I received strong critics over the fact that my position on sex work/prostitution is not settled) makes similar mistakes. Like, for instance, when they’re throwing in «but you’re alienated» as a sort of mantra that is supposed to just prove itself by virtue of recitation. All of this while denying women’s autonomy.

  98. Kelsey
    Kelsey December 21, 2010 at 3:52 am |

    When women achieve global economic equality in terms of legal status, education, and career opportunities and STILL choose to suck off strangers to pay the rent, then I will believe that prostitution is an “honorable job” like any other. Personally, the only women I ever knew who engaged in sex work were financing a drug addiction.* Is that more or less socially acceptable than banging some dude for cell phone minutes?

    Personally, I find it hard to swallow that the stigma surrounding sex work and sexually active women in general is going to be solved by pretending that every choice a woman makes exists in a vacuum. “YAY SEX WORK” posts always seem to gloss over the fact that many women are forced into prostitution because they have no other real choice.

    In addition, the Sex-for-reward continuum reads like it was written by a cheerleader for the patriarchy. Seriously, “Wife has sex with her husband as she knows that they are going to the mall tomorrow?” Is there a tireder misogynist trope in the entirety of modern existence? I feel like I just had to sit through ten Zales commercials.

    I re-read this (too-long) comment and it comes off as being way bash-ier than I meant it to be. Clarisse and I agree on the main points of the original article. Stigmatizing sex workers is rooted in misogyny and damages all women, regardless of whether or not they are “whores.” So we agree on the symptom, just not the disease or the cure, I guess.

    *No, I am not saying that all sex workers are drug addicts.

  99. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 6:30 am |

    You’re earning less wages than me and it creates an inequality between our respective economical autonomy? Let’s try to arrange that, even it out maybe. But please, don’t have sex with me if that’s not what you’re desiring first.

    Hah! Because people are just dying to give away significant amounts of their money to strangers to even out imbalances. Is this something you’ve ever done, or known anyone to ever do?

  100. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 6:38 am |

    When women achieve global economic equality in terms of legal status, education, and career opportunities and STILL choose to suck off strangers to pay the rent, then I will believe that prostitution is an “honorable job” like any other.

    Um under this standard quite a lot of jobs that are considered honorable jobs (or at least more “honorable” than sex work) would cease to exist.
    _

    Also, I’m missing how Clarisse glossed over anything related to economic injustice. Unless you mean the part where she said we ought to recognize sex work as an honorable job? Do you think that glosses things over somehow? I don’t think it does…for other kinds of jobs, when the job is more difficult or dangerous, society actually sees the jobs as *more* honorable. When pushed, society also puts effort into making these jobs safer.

  101. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 6:57 am |

    Just because they are not Western women doesn’t mean they are just animals, with no sensibilities, who see their bodies as something to be bartered with.

    Oh, lovely. I guess since I’ve had sex for money, and sex for other things, that just makes me an animal with no sensibilities.

    It would seem like this would deny pretty much every kind of sexual exploitation short of stranger rape at knifepoint. I would argue it would render a lot of domestic violence acceptable as well. What about sex in exchange for police/govt leniency? If we think that sex is an acceptable substitute for grades, why not for jail time?

    I find it really disturbing that you use police/govt leniency as one of your examples. If you’ve read many of my comments here I think you’d know why, if not, I’m a little too sickened to go into it right now.

    Sex is not an acceptable substitute for grades or promotions not because you’re using it as currency, but because you shouldn’t use currency in exchange for grades or promotions, and your teachers/superiors should not be taking bribes/sexual favors. As others have already said.

    The bit about making any rape short of rape at gunpoint and domestic violence baffles…and disturbs…me. I honestly don’t know where you’re getting that from. I think that being more accepting of sex work, and acknowledging that sex can be a currency or done for currency, does the opposite, especially because it acknowledges that sex workers are human and have as much right not to be abused as anyone else. Since a lesser version of the same shit gets thrown on non sex worker “promiscuous” women, it does the opposite for non sex workers too.

  102. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 6:59 am |

    Kelsey … I’m not sure if I want to know what you think “the cure” is…

  103. groggette
    groggette December 21, 2010 at 9:59 am |

    Kelsey: When women achieve global economic equality in terms of legal status, education, and career opportunities and STILL choose to suck off strangers to pay the rent, then I will believe that prostitution is an “honorable job” like any other. Personally, the only women I ever knew who engaged in sex work were financing a drug addiction.* Is that more or less socially acceptable than banging some dude for cell phone minutes?

    Why is sex work the only dishonorable job? Why not nursing or teaching or investment banking or modeling or working a factory line? Why is my engineering job “honorable” when I don’t like it and only do it to pay the rent? And as for who you know who does sex work, maybe you should try listening to the people here who engage (or have engaged) in sex work.

  104. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 21, 2010 at 11:06 am |

    Unree, see comments 14 and 36. Not every commenter needs to continue rehashing the line of thought when it’s already been covered in the thread. You pick on GallingGalla for not responding, but completely ignore the comment that takes you on. Nice.

    @groggette, why, you wear clothes when you engineer! Of course it is honorable. — the point being, in my opinion, that you hit the nail on the head. Disliking your job but doing it anyway because you need to eat or just want to make life a little easier is really only stigmatized in sex work. It’s precisely because we (non-sex workers) assume that our boundaries and our idea of tolerable work are universal.

    @Miss S, I fail to think of a single instance where a group of trans individuals oppressed another minority group. Unless there’s a parallel split in the trans community amongst white trans people and trans people of color that mirrored the feminist/womanist split? In which case, this is my fault and a mark of my ignorance.

  105. Jadey
    Jadey December 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: @Miss S, I fail to think of a single instance where a group of trans individuals oppressed another minority group. Unless there’s a parallel split in the trans community amongst white trans people and trans people of color that mirrored the feminist/womanist split? In which case, this is my fault and a mark of my ignorance.

    PrettyAmiable, I don’t think it’s reasonable for you to assume that you (or anyone) is fully informed on the actions of every trans person everywhere (and, of course, not every trans person is part of a specific trans community or activist movement or even engages with other trans people as a group). Of course trans people can participate in oppression, even while simultaneously experiencing severe oppression – neither erases the other. I know this is part of a derail, but I find your perspective baffling and bizarrely essentializing.

  106. Nathan
    Nathan December 21, 2010 at 1:33 pm |

    Pretty Amiable,

    You know, I feel like I’m much more educated about some of these issues than the average man. In college, I was part of our student senate’s women’s issues committee. I have read feminist writings regularly for a good fifteen years. I’ve participated in rallies, and have engaged on blogs like this one. Does this make me some wonderful, flawless person? Hell, no. I still make mistakes. I still have to check my cultural conditioning around gender, sexuality, and the rest all the time. And I’m still reading and engaging because there’s plenty I don’t know because I haven’t experienced it, and probably never will.

    But I think it’s quite impossible for me, or anyone on this site, to be “in the know” about every issue that comes up. Furthermore, you are assuming that most of the people engaging on this website have an agreed upon set of views, ways of speaking, etc. And I don’t see that at all. I’m guessing there are women who have read this post and were triggered by the words “whore” and “slut” because they were terrorized with them in the past. Yet, no one has said anything about that.

    I think Unree’s point is very important because while this thread has kept going pretty well (thankfully), I’ve watched others go down in flames because a handful of people were triggered or offended by a few words, then made arguments that suggested they spoke for an entire group of people, and suggested that all those who disagreed were ignorant or trolls.

    The comments I make on here are carefully made. I consider word choice, and tend not to use lots of sarcasm or idiomatic phrases that might be misunderstood or cause upset. I try to respond respectfully, even if I’ve been blown off by someone.

    My point with all of this is that it’s really easy to assume that everyone who says something that triggers you is either too ignorant to be commenting on this site (i.e. needs to go back to feminism 101), or is simply trolling around, looking for trouble. That’s not always the case.

    Just look at the conflicting ideas in this thread and how people have been triggered by them. It’s not just word usage that gets people wound up – even amongst people claiming to be of the same group, there’s widely different views on the issues surrounding sex work, and working with that includes dealing with some hurt. Most of that hurt seems unintentional to me, but I also think that any healthy discussion about challenging issues will include some hurt, some triggering, no matter how careful people are. That’s just reality.

  107. Unree
    Unree December 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm |

    PrettyAmiable, I certainly didn’t pick on GallingGalla for not responding. Have you confused me with someone else? The thread has many layers.

  108. Li
    Li December 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm |

    Nathan. From one man on a feminist site to another, it’s time to cultivate a radical silence. It’s not all about you, and your responses are getting to the point where it’s clear that you should consider exempting yourself from this discussion.

    /derail.

  109. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm |

    Actually I agree with Nathan (though the bit about women’s studies and whatnot cracked me up I must admit). I think its really good to be aware of how you might be affecting and/or triggering people, and its something I could probably work on, but I think there is a hyper-focus sometimes on word choice to the exclusion of everything else – context, other ways of being upsetting and/or triggering.

  110. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm |

    Also, yes there is oppression within trans communities. Obviously.

  111. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach December 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm |

    RD:
    Hah!Because people are just dying to give away significant amounts of their money to strangers to even out imbalances.Is this something you’ve ever done, or known anyone to ever do?  

    I hear sarcasm in your comment. Yes, my ex-girlfriend did it while I was studying and earned far less than she did. We would pay stuff (rent, food, etc.) proportionately to our earnings.

    And that is what I intend to do with my girlfriend when we move together in a few months. It is I who will now be in the position of the high wage earner.

    I must say I’m stunned by your doubt. I guess there is a cultural (or subcultural) difference at play here, which then leads to a difference in ethical standards. Since my horizon of respect is a sharing of resources, expecting my girlfriend to service my genitals so I would deign to give her extra money is beyond me.

    Here lies the paradigm clash, for me: a lot of pro-sex work folks I heard or read do not see these kind of requests as problematic. They’re just perfectly fine. I understand the part where you need the money or the stuff. That’s ok. What’s not ok, is being uncritical of men’s attitude of entitlement.

  112. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach December 21, 2010 at 11:01 pm |

    And I must sadly add, it feeds the alienation assessment.

  113. RD
    RD December 21, 2010 at 11:09 pm |

    aislingtheach:
    I hear sarcasm in your comment. Yes, my ex-girlfriend did it while I was studying and earned far less than she did. We would pay stuff (rent, food, etc.) proportionately to our earnings.
    And that is what I intend to do with my girlfriend when we move together in a few months. It is I who will now be in the position of the high wage earner.I must say I’m stunned by your doubt. I guess there is a cultural (or subcultural) difference at play here, which then leads to a difference in ethical standards. Since my horizon of respect is a sharing of resources, expecting my girlfriend to service my genitals so I would deign to give her extra money is beyond me.Here lies the paradigm clash, for me: a lot of pro-sex work folks I heard or read do not see these kind of requests as problematic. They’re just perfectly fine. I understand the part where you need the money or the stuff. That’s ok. What’s not ok, is being uncritical of men’s attitude of entitlement.  

    And I suppose you and your girlfriend were strangers to each other too? Or did you just purposefully ignore what I *actually* said.

  114. David
    David December 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm |

    Nathan,

    Love ya man and I agree with your post. I think there’s a somewhat fine balance between engaging in a meta-conversation about civility while also not offending other people, but I think you did a pretty respectable job of it.

    Personally I would just add that I think the combative nature of this site makes it harder to comment on than others. Although god knows that I’ve succumbed to the temptation once or twice to post something offensive because I personally felt wounded
    or misunderstood in previous conversations. I think the key here is to realize that while the impulse toward negativity can be pretty strong when a negative emotion is involved – it is better and more cathartic to try and be positive. I’m not saying anyone in particular is being too negative, just making a general reminder to everyone (myself included) Cheers.

    *Disclaimer* Please don’t respond to this post. It was intended as a way of expressing my opinion on matter irrelevant to the original topic. I felt it was important to talk about the thought I had, yet I don’t want this thread derailed. Thank you for your consideration.

  115. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach December 22, 2010 at 12:19 am |

    @RD
    Oops, I see there has been a misunderstanding on the example.
    You are answering that part of my argument:

    «You’re earning less wages than me and it creates an inequality between our respective economical autonomy? Let’s try to arrange that, even it out maybe. But please, don’t have sex with me if that’s not what you’re desiring first.»

    Which you read as being directed as strangers. It was not. It was following this line of thought: «*Seeeeee! We’re unjustly judging sex workers while we’re all fine with wives who have sex with husbands in exchange for some material reward!*»

    I was developing on two case examples: the wife who gives sex to husband for shopping money and the woman who blows a guy’s penis for a beer (not being in the actual continuum shown above, but in the same vein of thought).

  116. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla December 22, 2010 at 1:46 am |

    PrettyAmiable: @Miss S, I fail to think of a single instance where a group of trans individuals oppressed another minority group. Unless there’s a parallel split in the trans community amongst white trans people and trans people of color that mirrored the feminist/womanist split? In which case, this is my fault and a mark of my ignorance.

    Thank you for your defense of trans folk, but I think you’re off base here. No group of trans people (or single trans person) has oppressed other people simply by our being trans. But, y’no, white trans folk, such as myself, can be racist gits to POC (trans and cis) just like cis people can. Also, see HBS/WBT (women born trans. oops, TRANSSEXUAL) bashing on transgender folk, binary-gendered trans folk erasing non-binary trans folk, etc.

    In other words: being trans doesn’t erase a trans person’s privileges (white, class, currently-abled, etc).

  117. RD
    RD December 22, 2010 at 3:15 am |

    Also, trans men being sexist douchebags, especially toward trans women.

  118. RD
    RD December 22, 2010 at 3:27 am |

    Ok…I thought you meant that more generally…but it seems like you judge sex work too, or at least think sex work is tragic in the same way you think sex-for-things among lovers is tragic (there, I think it depends on the circumstances personally).

  119. TophrtoO
    TophrtoO December 22, 2010 at 3:38 am |

    Are you the “real” Tamora Pierce?
    What makes you think that legalizing a practice will make it socially acceptable? What in the world kind of person thinks that an individual who who defies social convention is a bigot?
    I wish you would pick a different pseudonym. Ms. Pierce is like my 6th favorite author of all time and your ignorant commentary besmirches her good name.

    Tamora Pierce: Back in the seventies, I was being told by feminists (my mother was one) that my body was my own, and if I wanted to have sex, I should.Then I had sex with young men who wanted to have sex with me–except that afterward, they called me a “whore.”I didn’t understand, because I was only doing what I’d been told was okay for me to do, what I’d come down hard on other people for calling other women.Eventually I realized it had nothing to do with me and taught myself to stop caring about it.But I did and do still care about it when it’s used about anyone.The only reasons for this word’s existence are to make females feel small and helpless and to label a segment of our society as proper targets for police and public self-righteousness.Legalize sex work and there is no reason for the word to remain in use save by the bigots, who will then be highlighted by their use of it.Legalize sex work and those who have been vicitimized by the word in their communities will realize they are not that person (one day), and that their choices are their own.Their bodies are their own.  

  120. Chally
    Chally December 22, 2010 at 6:07 am |

    … That’s the real Tamora Pierce, and she was saying that the word gets weaponised by bigots, and she’s right in that legalisation does make a lot of behaviours socially acceptable.

  121. groggette
    groggette December 22, 2010 at 9:57 am |

    David: Please don’t respond to this post. It was intended as a way of expressing my opinion on matter irrelevant to the original topic. I felt it was important to talk about the thought I had,

    Seriously? Read that disclaimer of yours again David. Can you not see the fucking privilige dripping all through it?

  122. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach December 22, 2010 at 11:02 am |

    @RD
    I admit I struggle with some aspects of pro-sex work discourse. Do I presume that I do not contribute to whore stigma? No. But I dearly would like to get to a place where I can be an ally.

    Sadly, it is not an easy thing. There are some obstacles I’ve been trying to confront for two years, but it is hard to deal with them. I found only partial answers in the literature and in the discourse of pro-sex work folks around me (although I do not claim to have read every piece on the subject), and other concerns were met with the «prude» shaming tactic.

    Just discussing with my girlfriend on the topic is hard. We’ve just made some headway very recently. She often has the reflex of lumping me with the «mean radicals», shuting herself down when I voice concerns and making presumptions over reflections I share and what I mean by them. That does not help. I cannot force myself into believing some things just because I’m asked to. That won’t work. And the damnedest part is, I’ve have some hard time with other radicals as well because I would simply refuse to embrace the idea that giving sexual services for money is exploitation per se in all contexts/times/settings. Yayness.

    There are some concerns I need to voice and hear answers for before I can make progress on the issue. But the hard part is, I’m aware that voicing these concerns may hurt the pro-sex work person, especially if she’s been actually involved in sex work. I don’t want that, but I don’t know how it could be otherwise.

  123. Nathan
    Nathan December 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm |

    Li, If it were just about me, I would never have said a word.

    RD – it cracked me up to write all that. I don’t like trotting out that kind of narrative, but it seems like so often, we don’t have any context about each others’ backgrounds, and end up responding from poorly made assumptions.

    aislingtheach – I find this topic quite challenging to address as well. All of the women I know who have either been involved in prostitution, or did sex for money or other material things felt trapped financially, and mostly hated what they were doing. I’ve never met anyone who actually enjoyed sex work, or felt it was a respectable line of work – it’s only in readings that I’ve encountered this attitude. So, I have come to see it all as more complex, even though the part I have seen is pretty much the exploitive, destructive part.

    I guess for me it all comes down to how do we best support the decisions of adults in a way that maximizes the liberty to be who they are, and minimizes oppression and harm to others. With sex work, and all the tangles around it, I don’t know. But I think being rid of the whore stigma certainly would help.

  124. TophrtoO
    TophrtoO December 22, 2010 at 1:46 pm |

    @Chally:
    My bad, I thought such a successful author would be a more accomplished speller and punctuator.
    It is true that the law is a great teacher, but when the law calls good evil and evil good it is no law at all. We have a civic duty to resist governments which establish bondage, tyranny, and oppression.
    As for the weaponization of words, give me a wee cigarette break! Are there any other parts of our language you suggest we ban? Perhaps you, Clarissa, and Tamora can make a list of things I ought not utter? I wouldn’t want to accidentally injure some one or force them to commit suicide or some other violence by pushing the wrong keys on my netbook!

  125. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm |

    Jadey: PrettyAmiable, I don’t think it’s reasonable for you to assume that you (or anyone) is fully informed on the actions of every trans person everywhere (and, of course, not every trans person is part of a specific trans community or activist movement or even engages with other trans people as a group).

    Given that I ended with that it may be a mark of my ignorance, I don’t think I’m bizarrely essentializing at all. I couldn’t come up with examples. That said, thank you to everyone who provided them later. I stand by the primary sentiment of my comment, but not the underlying implications that are clearly false.

    @Unree, I’m referring to your comment @90, and noting that you commented at 35, ignoring the comment at 36.

    @Nathan, while I appreciate your extended diatribe regarding your ally credentials, nothing you said counters the fact that words have meaning, often to broad groups of individuals, and that in continuing to use them when you know you’re hurting people because you can’t consult google for a more appropriate synonym, it makes you a jerk. If you are knowingly hurting people and it is in your power to stop, then you are a jerk.

    I didn’t say anyone was trolling. I don’t know who you’re responding to when you say that. Also, I said everyone stands a refresher in feminism 101 now and then, myself included. This isn’t a 101 site, and it is not anyone’s responsibility to educate on 101-like issues. If you want to take it upon yourself, great: go for it. But saying something akin to “It’s your responsibility to educate me in my ignorance” is a classic derailing technique, incidentally covered in “Derailing for Dummies” which I linked to above.

    Hurt feelings aren’t an issue. Also, I assume you’ve noticed that no one said the word “triggered” before you did. No? CTRL + F “trigger.” A trigger is a very specific thing; please don’t conflate it with “hurt feelings.” Triggers are typically things that “trigger” a PTSD-like reaction and tend to be very specific to the person. If you don’t feel bad about triggering someone, you’re kind of an asshole. If you hurt someone’s feelings and don’t care, you’re just a jerk. It’s a matter of degree.

    Again. for the sake of reiteration, if you’re hurting a group of people when you can stop, not stopping makes you a jerk. Implying that only one person or very few people are hurt by these language choices is gross minimalization. It’s like pointing out that there are women who aren’t offended by the sexist implications of being called “bitches,” so why should you change your language choices? There are websites that talk about the particular ableism around mental disturbances (none of which I own) and the casual use of “crazy” and “insane” and so on, so it’s not like it’s just me. And before I hear the context argument again, have you heard, “But she was acting like a bitch! What was I supposed to say?” Context is irrelevant when you’re trying to change social stigma.

    Nathan: RD – it cracked me up to write all that. I don’t like trotting out that kind of narrative, but it seems like so often, we don’t have any context about each others’ backgrounds, and end up responding from poorly made assumptions.

    FYI, illiterate, impoverished people who are unable to access rallies? They can be allies as well (or even better!) than you can. I never made any assumptions about you, but am a little disappointed in how you chose to try to prove your street cred (rather than, you know, acting like an ally that doesn’t cry every time his voice isn’t heard).

    Alright. I’m sorry, Clarisse, for the massive derail (oh, the irony, given the content of this comment). I tend to assume that people in the modern feminist community at least try to be respectful of people that are different from them, and when it comes to anyone who is differently-abled, there are consistent failures. It’s just disappointing when I have friends who won’t seek treatment, for instance, because they’re scared of what it’ll mean when the sit for the bar, or if they’re looking for a specific kind of security clearance, or can’t tell their family because they’ll be disowned.

  126. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: when it comes to anyone who is differently-abled,

    Nope, thought about it, and I retract how narrow this is. We still have a ways to go on other isms as well. Apologies for the minimization, to anyone who read that and was hurt.

  127. Tec
    Tec December 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm |

    @Clarisse #92 – “I completely agree with this. I’m not sure I agree that whore stigma/slut shaming can’t be unpacked without also unpacking prude-shaming, though. Could you go into the connections that you see between those concepts?”

    Because they’re two sides to the same coin. If a woman sleeps with lots of guys she’s a “whore”, if she doesn’t she’s a “prude”. Women can’t win! And these stigmas have the same goal – making an individual person ashamed of their sexuality and choices. If we just do one, like we’ve been doing, then it just reverses to be prude stigma, but still pressuring women to act a certain way.

    It’s especially true for younger women IMO that being a “prude” is shameful or weird and that you’re pressured to be having lots of sex b/c that’s what’s Normal(TM) regardless of whether you’re personally comfortable with it or even if you’re able to get a partner at all. It’s not like dating is easy for everyone, especially if you have physical or mental health issues and/or don’t conform to traditional beauty standards. Accidental virgins/incels who are women are treated like some sort of freak b/c society assumes women always have an easy time with getting relationships and sex. Check out some of these articles and blogs:
    Salon article on 30 year old Virgins
    Accidental Virgin
    When you least expect it
    Never had a boyfriend

  128. Chally
    Chally December 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    TophrtoO: @Chally:
    My bad, I thought such a successful author would be a more accomplished speller and punctuator.
    It is true that the law is a great teacher, but when the law calls good evil and evil good it is no law at all. We have a civic duty to resist governments which establish bondage, tyranny, and oppression.
    As for the weaponization of words, give me a wee cigarette break! Are there any other parts of our language you suggest we ban? Perhaps you, Clarissa, and Tamora can make a list of things I ought not utter? I wouldn’t want to accidentally injure some one or force them to commit suicide or some other violence by pushing the wrong keys on my netbook!  

    That remark about Ms Pierce is an unnecessary, petty and personal attack violating the comment policy. I didn’t suggest anything about banning any language; that is a bizarre conclusion to jump to from what I actually said. That said, please don’t minimise the impact words can have on people: jokes about suicide and such are not funny. You’re being placed on permanent moderation; exercise some decency in future, please.

  129. Nathan
    Nathan December 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    PrettyAmiable – 1. Street creds -I’m nothing special. I know that. I’ve been hanging around here for months, and never brought any of that up until this post. 2. Well aware of the classic “ask” for members of oppressed groups to educate me. Thank you. I never asked to be educated. I wouldn’t come to sites like this if I wanted an easy handout. 3. You know, I sometimes go weeks without commenting on here. I just read and watch the conversations, to learn and not interject. Take that how you will, but I’m not just some derailing troublemaker, trying to take down every post.

  130. RD
    RD December 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm |

    Pretty Amiable,
    I actually DO have the direct experience to talk about “crazy” and “insane” having been in psych wards and mental hospitals 8 or 9 times, mostly for suicide, and I say context matters. I hate mental illness stigma too, and I certainly care about not hurting people (unless that person is, say, Pat Bohannon, and then I really don’t), including others with mental illness. But I can’t fathom the idea that context “doesn’t matter”.

    Aisling,
    Without knowing specifically what you’re talking about I can’t respond. What are these things you would like answered? If you can’t say publicly we could email. I can handle it.

    Nathan,
    Why would knowing women who hated what they were doing (my experiences weren’t roses and puppies either) make you want to see sex work as dishonorable? That is *part* of whore stigma.

  131. TophrtoO
    TophrtoO December 22, 2010 at 5:33 pm |

    My bad. I am sorry, Tamora, that I mistook you for an imposter.
    Chally,
    This discussion is an interesting sociological exercise in itself. If I comment on one of my idols being a hasty typist, I am in violator? Or is it that I drew a “bizarre conclusion” vis a vis your notion of political correctness?
    Your eagerness to place dissenters from your particular world view on “permanent moderation” only underlines your censorious tendencies. I do not mean this as an affront to you personally! I am distressed, though, by hypocrites who claim a liberal understanding of all humanity with one hand whilst erecting prejudicial barricades with the other.

    As for making light of suicide, I would suggest that all this rhetoric about bullying is the real culprit there. If you actually buy the mirage of some poor soul being literally made fun of to death you are quite a dupe. One belittles the human spirit who insists on Victorian propriety which refuses to allow open debate and plain common-sense assertion. I do not defend name-calling nor do I endorse harassment of any kind. It seems clear to me, however, that Ms Thorn has embarked on a course which seeks (among other, nobler pursuits) to limit honest expression and frank discourse. I am merely sounding that alarm, and I sincerely apologize if I have slid into combat of a personal nature instead of the more interesting philosophical attacks I intended.

    One further point in reply to Ms Pierce’s comment: I think the sentiment that “our bodies are our own” requires further study. No one is really completely self-possessed, least of all in my experience. We all depend on each other. I am grateful to Tamora Pierce for her work; it kept me sane for a season of my life. Why did she choose to publish her stories? Do they belong wholly to her, or did her audience’s need for them justify their telling?
    What we do with our bodies, and for that matter our words, certainly impacts more than just ourselves. Language can be destructive, but calling a cat a dog won’t make it bark.

  132. Chally
    Chally December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    It’s that you launched a personal attack, as I’ve already said, using a silly justification like punctuation. That’s not my worldview, that is not prejudice, that is not political correctness, that is the comments policy. I cannot censor you as I am not a government. Yes, some people are bullied to death. Really. I don’t see how Clarisse is limiting honest expression but….. just wow. Whatever mate.

  133. Miss S
    Miss S December 22, 2010 at 6:26 pm |

    Someone said that legalization would help remove the stigma. I hope this isn’t a derail, because I would just like to question this a bit more. I think of marijuana use, which is illegal here in the U.S. Yet I don’t think there is really much of a stigma surrounding it. This makes me think that an activity being illegal isn’t the only thing that contributes to stigma. This is a long winded way of me asking: does the stigma come from the fact that women don’t have the societal power to command respect for what they do with their bodies?

    I agree with this RD:
    I think its really good to be aware of how you might be affecting and/or triggering people, and its something I could probably work on, but I think there is a hyper-focus sometimes on word choice to the exclusion of everything else – context, other ways of being upsetting and/or triggering.

    I think that sometimes it’s necessary to look past words and understand the story or message that’s being told. Some of the women of color lyricists/poets I listen to or know use language that some people on this board would find offensive. That’s fair, but it’s not fair to ignore the context that these words are being used in. There are stories that deserve to be heard, even if you don’t agree with the language used.

  134. Nathan
    Nathan December 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    RD, My point above was that I’m trying to balance my personal experiences with what I have read. I didn’t say I think sex work is dishonorable, but I can see that it wasn’t clearly written, so I can understand where your question is coming from.

    Up until a few years ago, all I knew were people who had been exploited and suffered through their involvement. Before I came across writers talking about sex work in a positive sense, I basically had the standard view that sex work was dishonorable and destructive. I actually remember doing some research on sexuality in a Buddhist context, and stumbling on an article by Anne Sprinkle, which then led me to a whole bunch of other sex positive writers. That was maybe 2 years ago. But it was only then, faced with a completely different response to sex work that was offered by a variety of writers that I realized my old views were faulty.

    Clarisse’s writing – and I’ve been over to her blog now – is some of the most well thought out I have seen about the complexities arising from how sex work is viewed by the general public, and how the impact of those views spread far beyond just the lives of sex workers.

    I’m still trying to figure out what to think about the myriad of issues because I still have much more of a sense of the economic and other injustices that lead a lot of folks into sex work, and the various degrees of misery that result from that. The sex positive, sex work as enjoyable and pleasurable view is still pretty new to me, and I haven’t quite figured out to mesh that with the social justice angle I’m more familiar with.

  135. Tec
    Tec December 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm |

    “If you actually buy the mirage of some poor soul being literally made fun of to death you are quite a dupe…No one is really completely self-possessed, least of all in my experience. We all depend on each other…What we do with our bodies, and for that matter our words, certainly impacts more than just ourselves. Language can be destructive”

    Wow, you contradict yourself in the same post. First, words aren’t powerful enough to really harm a person and anyone who thinks that is stupid; then no one is really completely independent and words can be destructive – so which is it then? Or are you purposely just talking complete trollogic nonsense?

    “I am distressed, though, by hypocrites who claim a liberal understanding of all humanity with one hand whilst erecting prejudicial barricades with the other.”

    I am distressed, though, by hypocrites who complain about censorship to their voice with one hand whilst trying to silence everyone else’s voice with the other.

  136. RD
    RD December 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm |

    Nathan, you are still saying that the economic justice view lead you see sex work as dishonorable, before you discovered Annie Sprinkle (I am not a huge fan). Why? You think sex workers who are poor and desperate deserve whore stigma? Only people who get “pleasure” from it get to be respected? Cuz calling sex work dishonorable, is throwing all that shit on them in addition to everything else. I have an economic justice view of most things. Trust me. That is why I see sex work as labor, and sex workers as deserving of labor rights etc.

  137. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla December 22, 2010 at 9:51 pm |

    TophrtoO: As for making light of suicide, I would suggest that all this rhetoric about bullying is the real culprit there. If you actually buy the mirage of some poor soul being literally made fun of to death you are quite a dupe. One belittles the human spirit who insists on Victorian propriety which refuses to allow open debate and plain common-sense assertion. I do not defend name-calling nor do I endorse harassment of any kind. It seems clear to me, however, that Ms Thorn has embarked on a course which seeks (among other, nobler pursuits) to limit honest expression and frank discourse. I am merely sounding that alarm, and I sincerely apologize if I have slid into combat of a personal nature instead of the more interesting philosophical attacks I intended.

    TophrtoO, As one of those “poor souls”, I’ll be blunt: Fuck you.

    At the age of 15, I was very close to committing suicide after having “been made fun of to death” for seven years. You have no fucking clue what it’s like to be bullied for being trans, queer, developmentally disabled for seven years; if you did, you’d have a clue about just how harmful language can be. I still battle suicidal thoughts weekly. The kind of shit you have flung about so cavalierly has no place here.

  138. David
    David December 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm |

    TophrtoO:
    My bad. I am sorry, Tamora, that I mistook you for an imposter.
    Chally,
    This discussion is an interesting sociological exercise in itself. If I comment on one of my idols being a hasty typist, I am in violator? Or is it that I drew a “bizarre conclusion” vis a vis your notion of political correctness?
    Your eagerness to place dissenters from your particular world view on “permanent moderation” only underlines your censorious tendencies. I do not mean this as an affront to you personally! I am distressed, though, by hypocrites who claim a liberal understanding of all humanity with one hand whilst erecting prejudicial barricades with the other.
    As for making light of suicide, I would suggest that all this rhetoric about bullying is the real culprit there. If you actually buy the mirage of some poor soul being literally made fun of to death you are quite a dupe.

    I would like to put a couple things out of the way before I respond to this. First, I am hardly friends with Chally. Second, I find dogpiling on people who are already getting a verbal asskicking distasteful.

    But, really? Seriously? I mean, people have contemplated suicide for reasons far less serious than bullying. Bullying can be pretty serious, even in cases where the person being bullied isn’t already vulnerable for reasons of being socially marginalized. People have killed themselves and killed others as a result of bullying. Your sense of incredulousness seems to me to be misplaced. Bullies obviously can’t force someone to pull the trigger, but they can put the gun in their hand and tell them to pull the trigger.

    @RD

    I think Nathan said “thought” as in the past tense. Your post read like you were referring to his present tense beliefs. Maybe I misinterpreted things, but that makes your latest post confusing.

    Anyway…

    Whore stigma is kind of a tricky subject. I don’t think anyone truly knows where it comes from, but I’d have to guess it has something to do with antiquated notions of female purity with a dash of disdain for people in low skill professions. I know that janitors, for example, aren’t looked upon kindly. Obviously they aren’t looked on with some mix of disgust that prostitutes are in (and I’m speaking primarily from an American perspective here) the United States, but I think if prostitution required a college degree it would be more prestigious (whatever that means)

    I think as a whole, whore stigma is wrong because it is making a judgment about sexuality being inherently filthy. Also, it seems to me to be very victimless as long as the woman and man are both of the age of consent and the woman has not been coerced or forced into something that she hasn’t consented to.

    But I don’t know. It all comes down to individual perception of how the world is. Everybody tries to justify their own emotional perspective with facts, and even if the facts may be true the actual reason for believing usually remains some kind of definitive emotional shift that a person has already undergone. I know that we’d all like to believe that our own positions are unassailable by virtue of logic, but most are not.

    Sex positive feminists seem to be arguing from a perspective of respecting a woman’s right to individuality and choice, as well as fighting back against arguments that seem similar to the religious right. Other feminists (who would oppose sex positive feminists) probably approach this from a view that a woman is debasing herself by acting in this way, and is only doing this because she is being forced to by the patriarchy. Each, I guess, is arguing fervently because each side appears pretty correct if framed in the right way. I do hate equivocation and ambiguous positions on one hand, but it does seem at least more interesting if we “acknowledge” the perspective of the opposition, at least a little bit, before we debate. I don’t know, getting wordy here.

  139. April
    April December 23, 2010 at 2:39 am |

    Clarisse Thorn: As an analogy, I think that bribing a professor with money for better grades is as reprehensible as sleeping with a professor for better grades. You say that a person who climbs the ladder with sex will contribute to an environment in which superiors feel comfortable asking for sex. This is true, but it doesn’t have much to do specifically with sex: A person who climbed the ladder with money would contribute to an environment in which superiors feel comfortable asking for money.

    But in a feminist context, and in our current reality which is one where men are usually our superiors, and they feel comfortable asking for sex in exchange for job-related favors, we’re perpetuating a norm that feminists continue to actively fight against, which is valuing a woman primarily on her looks, sexual harrassment, rape culture… I mean, everything. And it’s not comparable to bribing with money, because having the means, or not having the means, to bribe someone with money isn’t tied in a violent and systemic way to your entire gender.

    The difference between a simple currency exchange and an exchange of sex between someone in power over the other for the purpose of favors on the job, academically, etc., is huge.

  140. Natalia
    Natalia December 23, 2010 at 6:42 am |

    I can’t fathom the idea that context “doesn’t matter”.

    I would agree.

    Oh, and TophrtoO,

    If you actually buy the mirage of some poor soul being literally made fun of to death you are quite a dupe.

    What kind of rock are you currently living under? I mean, is it pretty large? And possibly located on the fringes of the solar system? Because reading the news in the English language fairly regularly (not to mention a couple of other languages), I get struck by just how often we have examples of people, young people in particular, who do, in fact get “bullied to death” and take their own lives. This story is so commonplace that most people are no longer even shocked by it.

    And I honestly fail to see how someone like Clarisse wishes to “limit honest expression”. Is she doing that by wishing to challenge the idea that the people she’s talking about deserve humiliation and scorn?

    Honestly, from the way this thread is going, I wonder if we’re talking about contract killers as opposed to, you know, sex-workers.

    And it’s not comparable to bribing with money, because having the means, or not having the means, to bribe someone with money isn’t tied in a violent and systemic way to your entire gender.

    April, I would actually disagree with that. *Who* has the means and *how* they achieve those means is very important, considering the culture most people live in. I live in a pretty bribe-centric part of the world – and most of the people who have the means to give bribes, large bribes in particular, are men. I wouldn’t call bribes a simple currency exchange, not ever.

  141. Natalia
    Natalia December 23, 2010 at 6:45 am |

    Oopsies, blockquote fail. Trying again!

    I can’t fathom the idea that context “doesn’t matter”.

    I would agree.

    Oh, and TophrtoO,

    If you actually buy the mirage of some poor soul being literally made fun of to death you are quite a dupe.

    What kind of rock are you currently living under? I mean, is it pretty large? And possibly located on the fringes of the solar system? Because reading the news in the English language fairly regularly (not to mention a couple of other languages), I get struck by just how often we have examples of people, young people in particular, who do, in fact get “bullied to death” and take their own lives. This story is so commonplace that most people are no longer even shocked by it.

    And I honestly fail to see how someone like Clarisse wishes to “limit honest expression”. Is she doing that by wishing to challenge the idea that the people she’s talking about deserve humiliation and scorn?

    Honestly, from the way this thread is going, I wonder if we’re talking about contract killers as opposed to, you know, sex-workers.

    And it’s not comparable to bribing with money, because having the means, or not having the means, to bribe someone with money isn’t tied in a violent and systemic way to your entire gender.

    April, I would actually disagree with that. *Who* has the means and *how* they achieve those means is very important, considering the culture most people live in. I live in a pretty bribe-centric part of the world – and most of the people who have the means to give bribes, large bribes in particular, are men. I wouldn’t call bribes a simple currency exchange, not ever.

  142. nathan
    nathan December 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm |

    RD – As David pointed out, I said in the past, I had a negative view of sex work. What I saw were people suffering, and feeling trapped, so that’s where my response came from. In the past.

    At least twice in this thread I have specifically said getting rid of whore stigma is important – for everyone. I never made any division in who should be viewed positively, and who shouldn’t. How many times do I have to repeat myself?

    The point of bringing up economic justice is that even if sex work is treated as legitimate labor – which would be a fine step – most people would not gravitate towards it. I certainly wouldn’t. I simply don’t desire sex without a personal connection. So, if I ended up doing sex work, it would be because I was flat broke and desperate. And the women I have known who were involved in sex work were basically of the same attitude: they really didn’t want to be doing it. Some were immigrant women who were sold or forced into prostitution, and others were simply broke and needed money.

    So, I support those women and men – regardless of economic status – who see sex work as a viable option, and want to be seen as doing legitimate work.

    And at the same time, I think it’s very important to remember that the majority of people are suffering while doing sex work, might be living under coercion and threats from multiple sources, can’t figure out how to get out of sex work, and deserve to be talked about as part of this conversation.

    That’s why I brought up economic justice. It’s not just about legitimizing sex work as labor; it’s about breaking up the oppressive structures that force people in poverty into doing things for money that they don’t want to do. And in the case of women sold into prostitution, it’s about breaking down the structures that turn humans into objects for sale.

    The whore stigma plays heavily into all of this. It deems all sex work dishonorable. It destroys the self-esteem of everyone involved. And for those who are doing sex work against their own desires, whore stigma is powerfully used in society as a way to dismiss the suffering and oppression they experience.

  143. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach December 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    @RD That is very generous of you. Yes, I would like to take your offer. However, I wouldn’t want to disclose my email. Is there a way to proceed about this?
    Also, I’ll be pretty busy in the few days to come (you know, Christmas and stuff;) + work), so that won’t be possible before then. If that’s ok to you.

  144. RD
    RD December 23, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    Paeonia dot d at gmail dot com

  145. David
    David December 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm |

    April: But in a feminist context, and in our current reality which is one where men are usually our superiors, and they feel comfortable asking for sex in exchange for job-related favors, we’re perpetuating a norm that feminists continue to actively fight against, which is valuing a woman primarily on her looks, sexual harrassment, rape culture… I mean, everything.And it’s not comparable to bribing with money, because having the means, or not having the means, to bribe someone with money isn’t tied in a violent and systemic way to your entire gender.
    The difference between a simple currency exchange and an exchange of sex between someone in power over the other for the purpose of favors on the job, academically, etc., is huge.  

    Well, that’s the thing. Some people have a lot of currency and others not as much. One could make a very similar argument to the one you presented, but make it along an axis of wealth vs poor rather than man vs woman.

    It would also be a boon if we could be more specific here. Are we talking about the professor/student relationship, or that of a boss and subordinate? The corporate world, the academic world – even what specific industry we are talking about – these things make a huge difference in the ways that discrimination is or isn’t factored in to things.

  146. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig December 23, 2010 at 11:13 pm |

    Hey, hey, Natalia, don’t pick on the contract killers :) I wish I could get that job. Or that someone would take me up on my tiger preservation plan- it’d be worth millions.

  147. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm |

    @RD — Oh, lovely. I guess since I’ve had sex for money, and sex for other things, that just makes me an animal with no sensibilities.

    Oh man, good call. In my anxiety about how she seemed to feel that I’d stereotyped African women, I completely missed what this might imply about her own stereotypes against sex workers.

    @Tec — Because they’re two sides to the same coin. If a woman sleeps with lots of guys she’s a “whore”, if she doesn’t she’s a “prude”. Women can’t win! And these stigmas have the same goal – making an individual person ashamed of their sexuality and choices. If we just do one, like we’ve been doing, then it just reverses to be prude stigma, but still pressuring women to act a certain way.

    That’s a reasonable argument. Once we start saying “you can’t talk about X without talking about Y …” though, I tend to think that the discussion territory expands infinitely outward. Can’t discuss whore stigma without prude stigma, can’t discuss whore stigma without LGBTQ stigma, can’t discuss whore stigma without consensual non-monogamy stigma … I can see arguments for all of the above. I think what I was trying to get at by questioning your formulation of “can’t discuss without” is just that pretty much everything is intertwined, and if we always insist that we can’t discuss X without Y, then we’ll never be able to focus on anything.

    @Nathan — Up until a few years ago, all I knew were people who had been exploited and suffered through their involvement.

    This is an interesting and thorny problem. It’s one that I have in the opposite sense — while I have been exposed to theory about sex workers who hate their jobs, in reality, almost all the sex workers I have personally met went into the profession completely consensually and like their jobs for various reasons. There are exceptions, but not many, among sex workers I know. So sometimes I think I really need to be exposed to more non-consenting sex workers, or sex workers who went into it out of a sense of desperation rather than a sense of empowerment.

    It gets so complicated, though, because two sex workers doing the same job in the same culture can have such different perspectives on what it is and what it means. And whore stigma strongly affects their own understanding of their experiences — would they hate it as much if whore stigma doesn’t exist? I had lunch recently with a sex worker friend who is starting to regret her decision to do sex work, but that’s not because she didn’t like the sex — she loved it! — it’s because she’s been confronting some of the long-term costs to her life and career, which are bad, and which are entirely the result of cultural stigma against what she did, imposed by people who know nothing about her experience. So now she is feeling frustrated with the choices she made to go into that profession. But this problem is very clearly not about how she felt about the experience itself, of having sex for money.

    And that’s not even the whole of the effects that the stigma has on sex workers themselves, because stigma tends to worm its way into the person, and become internal. This is not a new thing to say, but I think its effects on actual sex workers is underappreciated. RD pointed it out briefly before, but here is a more elaborate example of what I mean: Another book I read in Africa is called Letting Them Die, a really excellent description of an HIV project run among a community of mine workers and sex workers in South Africa. I just posted a gigantic excerpt to my blog (I would have posted it here in a comment, but it’s long):

    http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/litquote-sex-workers-and-whore-stigma-in-southern-africa/

    And the women I have known who were involved in sex work were basically of the same attitude: they really didn’t want to be doing it. Some were immigrant women who were sold or forced into prostitution, and others were simply broke and needed money.

    If you’re comfortable writing more about your experiences, I would like to hear more.

    @April — But in a feminist context, and in our current reality which is one where men are usually our superiors, and they feel comfortable asking for sex in exchange for job-related favors, we’re perpetuating a norm that feminists continue to actively fight against, which is valuing a woman primarily on her looks, sexual harrassment, rape culture… I mean, everything. And it’s not comparable to bribing with money, because having the means, or not having the means, to bribe someone with money isn’t tied in a violent and systemic way to your entire gender.

    Well, firstly, I want to say that I totally agree with Natalia, who wrote:

    *Who* has the means and *how* they achieve those means is very important, considering the culture most people live in. I live in a pretty bribe-centric part of the world – and most of the people who have the means to give bribes, large bribes in particular, are men. I wouldn’t call bribes a simple currency exchange, not ever.  

    Definitely.

    In response to what you are saying about how a woman who has sex to advance in a hierarchy may be perpetuating a norm that feminists fight against … well, I’m not a big fan of those kinds of arguments. You could also say that women who wear lipstick are perpetuating norms that feminists fight against. Or shave their legs. How many women on this thread shave their legs? I’m a BDSM submissive who writes primarily about BDSM. I’ve been accused of perpetuating abusive norms or ideas by doing so. So should I sit down and shut up?

    Restricting women’s behavior on the basis of “it harms feminism’s social goals” is as problematic as doing so on the basis of more conservative arguments like “it contributes to the breakdown of traditional morality”.

    That having been said, I wouldn’t want to work in a company or an environment in which sexual harassment or even sexual favors were the norm. I’ve worked in a somewhat sexist industry before and I didn’t like it. My mother has told me some really appalling stories of what her experience was like in the workplace before sexual harassment laws were passed. At the same time, though, I am having a really hard time seeing how that is fundamentally different from how I would feel if I worked in a place where everyone had more social status than I did, and could get better positions with social status. Or in a place where everyone had more money than I did, and could get better positions with money. I think the experiences would be different qualitatively — in one environment, I’d feel pressured to have sex, and in another, I’d feel pressured to have more money — but I’m not convinced they would be very different morally, in terms of my coworkers’ responsibilities or my bosses’ responsibilities or the negative effects on the hierarchy that arose from people being promoted for reasons other than merit.

  148. Love Bites: Clarisse Thorn | Time Out Chicago » » Sex workers and whore stigma in southern Africa

    [...] 24th, 2010 @ 1:36 pm There are now 145 comments on my most recent Feministe cross-post, Whore Stigma Makes No Sense. Many of them are interesting. One of them inspired me to post a long quotation about sex work and [...]

  149. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm |

    Another few thoughts:

    Miss S. wrote,
    Someone said that legalization would help remove the stigma. I hope this isn’t a derail, because I would just like to question this a bit more. I think of marijuana use, which is illegal here in the U.S. Yet I don’t think there is really much of a stigma surrounding it. This makes me think that an activity being illegal isn’t the only thing that contributes to stigma. This is a long winded way of me asking: does the stigma come from the fact that women don’t have the societal power to command respect for what they do with their bodies?

    Note: decriminalization rather than legalization is promoted by many sex work activists because in areas where it has been legalized (e.g. Nevada) there are often problems with how it is regulated.

    I think the decrim-vs-decrease stigma argument is often circular. “Decrim first!” “No, decrease stigma first!” Neither of these things fails to affect the other. Sex workers who work in areas where sex work has been decriminalized will often still suffer stigma, but at least the law won’t be able to harass them. Sex workers who work in areas where sex work is less stigmatized will at least feel less anxiety, but of course their activities will still be punishable by the law.

    Decreasing stigma will assist with the drive to decriminalize. Decriminalizing will remove some of the tools used to enforce stigma. These aren’t oppositional forces, they’re just different approaches to the same problem.

    But actually I came back here because I wanted to add something to my response to April. Which is: Even if I were to concede that a woman sleeping her way to the top is inherently an unfeminist choice because it backs up an oppressive anti-feminist culture — and again, I think that entire line of argument is extremely problematic — but even if I did concede that, it would still be true that men who do the same thing are not attacked by means of whore stigma. And it would still be true that attacking such a woman by means of whore stigma would be using an unfeminist argument against her.

  150. Kaz
    Kaz December 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm |

    @Clarisse, re: the connection between prude stigma and whore stigma – I can understand why you’re reluctant to consider any “can’t discuss X without Y” type arguments because oppression is so intertwined that we end up having to discuss everything to discuss anything. However, one of the perennial frustrations I’ve had with a lot of discourse in mainstream feminism and sex-positive feminism in particular is that it ignores prude stigma and generally the stigmatisation of lack of active sexuality, lack of sexual desire, etc. in favour of concentrating on the stigmatisation of women who choose to have sex – to such an extent that some of feminist discourse has contributed to prude-shaming and asexophobia. For me as an asexual woman it got to the point where I’ve stopped identifying as sex-positive because when I spent time in sex-positive feminist spaces all I was got from it was people ignoring my problems completely interspersed with some nasty asexophobia.

    Which is to say – I still see your argument, but I think the context is important here. Like Tec says they’re two sides of the same coin (although I tend to think it’s slut-shaming generally and not whore stigma specifically that prude-shaming is on the other side of) and one of them gets ignored, a lot, if not actively supported.

    Back on track. Something that frustrates me is that it often seems to me some of the people arguing against sex work are generalising from their own experiences of sex and therefore not realising that other people may experience things differently. For instance, people who would find having sex for any other reason than enthusiastically desiring it awful (an attitude I can sort of understand as I’d find having sex for any reason awful!) assuming, explicitly or implicitly, that all sex workers must experience it the same way and that it’s not possible to have sex that you don’t have an intrinsic desire for and find the experience OK. But clearly some people can, since they’ve told us so! It feels like we talk about how sex is this very intimate experience in order to explain why proper consent is so important and why it can be so violating when things go wrong but end up going too far in the other direction and saying that sex *must* be an intimate emotionally significant experience for everyone and if someone has sex without quite enthusiastically-consenting it must then be a horrible experience for them.

  151. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn December 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm |

    Kaz, that’s a reasonable point. Arguably sex-positive feminists really do have a greater responsibility to not engage in prude-shaming because our movement has been so thoroughly associated with it.

  152. Natalia
    Natalia December 26, 2010 at 8:16 am |

    Even if I were to concede that a woman sleeping her way to the top is inherently an unfeminist choice because it backs up an oppressive anti-feminist culture — and again, I think that entire line of argument is extremely problematic — but even if I did concede that, it would still be true that men who do the same thing are not attacked by means of whore stigma.

    I think that’s a very important point. I believe that the amount of men who sleep their way to the top is vastly underestimated. Why? Because that sort of thing isn’t normally discussed. Gossiping about a woman’s bedroom habits and how they relate to her career is a norm across eras and cultures. But gossiping about men goes in and out of fashion. I’ve been re-reading Dumas lately, and what struck me recently was the young d’Artagnan’s hope that a possible new lover (Constance, I think) will be able to lavish him with gifts and generally provide him support. Constance is pretty (and, as it turned out, she’s generally just a good person) but her main appeal is that she’s more well-established than d’Artagnan, in spite of not being exactly upper-class.

    I know a lot of very successful men who owe a great deal to former lovers and wives – particularly older, more powerful and/or wealthier women. But this isn’t something that men like to talk about, because it’s “unmasculine.”

  153. Whore-shaming « blue milk
    Whore-shaming « blue milk December 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    [...] Image via Feministe. On one end of the spectrum you have the self-identified sex worker on the street corner and on the other end of the spectrum you have the wife who has sex with her husband knowing they are going to the mall tomorrow. Between the two you have a range of different scenarios. All are women/girls exchanging sex for material goods. “Who do you put in jail”, the image asks? The answer says a lot about the patriarchy (and classism). (That link is well worth the read, and this link too). Plus, the more effort women put into distinguishing ourselves from whores, the less effort we put into actually working on the issues that harm women. Or making common cause with, say, sex workers who aren’t women and therefore get completely disappeared during all this anxious finger-pointing. [...]

  154. Matari
    Matari December 30, 2010 at 1:15 pm |

    Good post: however for me the discourse surrounding the term ‘whore’ just confirms women’s 2nd class status – in other words, no matter where we might place ourselves on this particular spectrum, we are all regarded as sexual beings first and people 2nd by society. So instead of arguing about terminology, it might be an idea to accept that we are all seen as whores by society and move to change this. Women getting the vote and achieving independent earning power has helped – now we need to constantly fight against any derogatory term or image that we see in the media, until society changes. It would be helped by more women in the high placed media positions – again it is to be hoped that this becomes more prevalent as time goes by.

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