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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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328 Responses

  1. Athenia
    Athenia September 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    I have a friend who does sex cam work—it’s kinda like being a phone sex operator. From what I understand, she prefers cam work to “real life” sex work because it’s safer, physically speaking. Also, if her client requests something she doesn’t want to do, she simply ends the “call.” Now, of course, if a sex worker needs to money, maybe they feel they can’t say no; on the other hand, if you really don’t want to shove a toilet bowl brush up your vagina, no one is necessarily forcing you to.

  2. Outsourcing Porn – Feministe (blog) | What Is A Brazilian Wax

    [...] Outsourcing PornFeministe (blog)… same thing as real-life person-to-person sex, but of course it is a reflection of our cultural values and beliefs around sex; our culture also shifts according to what gets mainstreamed in porn (see, eg, the cumshot and the Brazilian bikini wax). … [...]

  3. Sargon
    Sargon September 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    And now the “mandatory condom” movement for the US porn industry is trying to outsource even mainstream shot-on-video porn, driving the industry out of the country. Which, make no mistake, is exactly what would happen if condoms were mandated. Then every porn “star” would be an underpaid and depowered wage slave.

  4. LC
    LC September 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |

    Wow, I see LiveJasmin ads all the time, but I had no idea it was so huge. I wonder why that one vs other cam sites? I’m surprised to hear that there is an hourly rate, although maybe that’s just averaged for tips or something? (Do you tip? I would assume you tip. Is it a subscription model?)

    I’m not sure how directly the power aspect is impinging on people. I am sure it is a part of the appeal, but I wonder how many of the men involved think of it that way. I suspect it is some section that is very aware of it, a larger section that isn’t but feels free to boss the women around and demand things because “I pay your salary”, and then there is some section that is just like “Oooh! Naked!” I have no idea what the real proportions would be, though. (And I suspect I am being overoptimistic in my first guess because I prefer to think things aren’t as bad as they are.)

  5. anonmouse
    anonmouse September 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    Huh, that’s Ogi Ogas there, he’s been mentioned here before! Not sure how much I would trust his numbers, if at all.

  6. karak
    karak September 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    The question boils down to, “would these woman be working THIS job if they could have a job with equivalent pay and work?” So, if being a receptionist or a janitor paid the same, would they rather do that or do the camera work?

    Some probably would, some possibly would, and some NO WAY IN HELL would ever do it, and that’s the kicker. That’s where it becomes alarming and somewhat creepy and nonconsensual. If I say, “give me money or I’ll shoot you” that’s not you willingly giving me money, it’s a crime. But if you say, “Strip naked or live in poverty,” well gee, that’s all in good fun!

  7. Amy
    Amy September 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    Really great article. I’m pro-porn and pro-sex work myself, but definitely agree with you here. There are certainly aspects that need to be examined and you lay them out well.

  8. Chuchundra
    Chuchundra September 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm |

    The Live Jasmin stats are almost certainly misleading and inflated. Many free porn sites pop up Live Jasmin in a new browser window when you try to view some content. I’m sure that LiveJasmin is counting these popups as visitors, even if most people simply close the window right away.

  9. Maggie
    Maggie September 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm |

    This is a topic that needs to be addressed-Yea,I admit I at times watch porn,but it’s usually very very low profile,very indie and not HARD CORE-no more then in the movies such as better than chocolate or itty bitty titty committee if you see what im saying- but some women do feel that their bodies are all the have to make money,maybe due to lack of education or a past experience that they had no control over that has made them feel that is all they are worth. who knows? I don’t im not trying to say I do-but I am very much against women selling themselves for money-It is sad to see years and years of women right’s activist’s hard work for men to STOP viewing women as sex objects it is like they are ‘ok’ with it now!! kinda sad!!

  10. Nahida
    Nahida September 12, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

    Thank you for writing this Jill. I don’t know nearly enough to comment but I love all the points you make.

  11. Pidgey
    Pidgey September 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm |

    As Chuchundra said, a lot of the traffic to Live Jasmin comes from pop-up adds which most likely get closed right away. Also Ogi Ogas is infamous for his dubious research methods, (see “Survey Fail”) so I would not be surprised if the popularity of Live Cam websites is much lower than he claims. Hopefully the number of males looking for the most exploitative porn possible is much lower than we fear.

    My initial thoughts were that webcam outsourcing wasn’t too bad, since it pays (comparatively) well and doesn’t have the risk of infection or pregnancy that other forms of sex work might involve. But it is hard to judge the ethics of outsourcing webcam models without knowing what kind of a psychological impact the sex work has on the women who may be economically compelled to do work that they hate.

    In the limited discussions I have with friends about our porn viewing habits, I have never heard them mention Live Cam sites. Of course I live in a city filled with strip clubs, (there is even one half a block from where I went to high school) so if my friends or I want to pay to watch live naked women we don’t have to visit websites.

  12. haley
    haley September 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    I think that in many ways “cam porn” is leading towards a more progressive view of sex, sexuality and body image. Not to paint with too broad a brush, but the idea that billions of people would rather see “natural” looking porn than shiny Hollywood (perfectly toned, implanted, etc) stuff seems like a good thing. Yah for DIY!

    As more generations of young people grow up with easy/free access to porn via the Internet, the spectrum of sexual possibilities, desires, acceptability is going to grow as well. Whereas once porn was a specialized field made by Porn Stars, allowing actresses/actors to be stigmatized, now its decentralized and done out of homes…on a massive public scale. Hell, there are probably naked pics of me somewhere on the web. (*cringe*)

  13. And Now Let’s Degrade Eastern European Women! « Clarissa's Blog

    [...] women” some offensive and annoying crap is about to follow. Here is an example. A post at Feministe is discussing some porn site that, apparently, enjoys a lot of popularity: Obviously this isn’t a one-way [...]

  14. haley
    haley September 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm |

    Also, supporting mainstream porn to start using condoms is a good thing. Its good not only for the immediate actors involved, but in also setting an example to regular people/viewers about good and ACCEPTABLE sex-practices. By “acceptable sex-practices” I simply and solely refer to the idea that it can be pleasurable and sexy to have safe sex, i.e condoms. I can tell you, as the first generation of the Bush abstinence-only sex education, having an example of safe sex would have been great!

    Also, I think its possible that having mainstream porn start using condoms would raise industry standards, making it more acceptable for amateur and non-mainstream people to use them as well.

  15. Miku
    Miku September 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm |

    I’ve gotten these LiveJasmine ads (that send you to a random performer’s page) from seemingly innocuous sites, so I’m not surprised that it has a higher number, but as stated previously, the numbers are surely dubious at best.

  16. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    This wouldn’t bother me at all if the women were making more than $8-15/hour. I’m not sure if that is a living wage in other countries, but $8 is the precise hourly wage that I entered into sex work to *escape* several years ago. So seeing that number made me shudder.

    I find most wage work in general to be exploitative and degrading, but I’ve always said I’d rather be exploited for $100/hr via sex work than for $8/hr in other service jobs.

    I know that in America there are a few women who run and profit from their own webcam sites, but I assume that the majority of companies (here and overseas) are owned and run by men who do not in fact take off their clothes but instead make money off of the sexual labor of women and pay them peanuts.

  17. haley
    haley September 12, 2011 at 10:05 pm |

    A couple random points of thought:

    # If the legal age of sexual consent was say, 13 or 14 in the United States, its highly probable that there would be less Western “tourists” in other countries looking to hiring young prostitutes.

    # Many countries in Asia are battling gender imbalance due to sex selection (in favor of males) causing the birth ratios of boys to girls to be dramatically skewed. This creates a “surplus” of men in each subsequent generation, which makes women (sex, partnership, sexuality) in greater demand. The current and potential correlations between this phenomenon and sex trafficking, local prostitution, violence and urbanization is, I think, pretty interesting.

    Any thoughts?

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    [...] and the degree of female "empowerment" in the X-rated entertainment it consumes. …Outsourcing PornFeministe [...]

  19. wl
    wl September 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    I’m surprised webcam models make so little on average. I’ve always seen it as a sort of “sex work lite” that people dabble in while in college, or that some porn actors do on the side for extra money, but I did think it was pretty well-paid. My impression is webcam models definitely have more control over things than in-person sex workers (no violence, can disconnect the session if the guy is an asshole, etc.).

  20. Brett K
    Brett K September 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    A friend of mine did cam work for a while, and if I learned anything from what she told me it’s that experiences of that sort of sex work vary wildly. In her case, it was far from being a safe, at home, hourly wage kind of thing – she was required to work out of a studio with an extremely creepy boss who kept advancing her money then expecting her to “work it off”. She was also paid not by the hour, but by the minute of “live” cam time – meaning that she had to spend a fair bit of (unpaid) time chatting with guys to convince them to start a paid session. If she disconnected, she didn’t get paid, and she had to start over, finding a new customer, etc. (all of which sounds pretty coercive to me). She also later found out that what she was being paid per minute was 1/5th of what the site was actually charging customers.

    Basically, even in a place like Canada, there are assholes out there looking to exploit young women whose only other option is to make minimum wage. Which isn’t to say that some people don’t go into it voluntarily, and which certainly isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of money to be made, but it nevertheless can suck, a lot.

  21. LC
    LC September 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm |

    anonmouse: Huh, that’s Ogi Ogas there

    Oh dear. Yeah, I would say that immediately makes all the numbers suspect.

    Jill: I suspect the American MySpace-ish webcam model is not universal

    My friend who has been doing some cam work says it seems to really depend on the site. Also, there are lots of places where it is basically a room that has a few cams set up and they just rotate the girls through. And in her case, there’s a definitely “by tip/payment from the client” and the site takes a cut. This seems to result in the “superstar/lottery” reimbursement model. Some girls make huge money, the vast majority make next to nothing.

  22. Jasmin
    Jasmin September 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm |

    These ads have always freaked me out, since my first name is Jasmin (without the e); when it would pop up randomly I always assumed that it was some kind of hack that looked up some autofill info on my computer and filled in the name. Glad to know that’s not the case, but still weird!

  23. Azalea
    Azalea September 13, 2011 at 12:00 am |

    karak:
    The question boils down to, “would these woman be working THIS job if they could have a job with equivalent pay and work?” So, if being a receptionist or a janitor paid the same, would they rather do that or do the camera work?

    Some probably would, some possibly would, and some NO WAY IN HELL would ever do it, and that’s the kicker. That’s where it becomes alarming and somewhat creepy and nonconsensual. If I say, “give me money or I’ll shoot you” that’s not you willingly giving me money, it’s a crime. But if you say, “Strip naked or live in poverty,” well gee, that’s all in good fun!

    But there are millions upon millions upon millions who would rather live in poverty. I get what your saying but that isnt a good analogy. There are considerably fewer people who would rather get shot than get naked or give up all their money. I mean thye question ought to be , point blank, is someone forcing her to do this OR is she doing it because she wants to. How many people are willingly working a 9-5 because they love their work as opposed to those who are doing it because they have bills to pay and dont want to be homeless? Are they too being forced to work? Thats a slippery slope.

    Also the creepiest thing I find with this is being able to tell someone who probably can not see you, what to do LIVE. There is something sex slavery-ish about that aspect.

  24. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 13, 2011 at 12:05 am |

    I couldn’t find the linked article but I checked out livejasmine dot com for myself and spent a few hours forming my opinion. (That second bit’s a joke, but I would love to read the full Forbes article, if it’s archived somewhere in someway that escaped me.)

    I visited two ‘adult film’ sets, and met a few ‘stars’ when the radio show I work for went out to LA. I tried so hard not to be judgemental, and most of the people we met were just nice people who consider themselves actors, not sex workers and who am I to tell them what to write on their tax statement. However, we did meet some nasty and exploitative men some of who I had difficulty being in the room with (again, I withheld my judgement til we went back on the radio.) Naturally the nastiest person tended to be the producer (ie. the person making the most money off the deal.)

  25. Bonn
    Bonn September 13, 2011 at 1:36 am |

    I make $8 an hour in my job kowtowing to nasty, impatient people who shoplift and damage merchandise to get discounts and who throw fits when they don’t get their way. No way I would take my clothes off for that much. I guess if I were living in a country where $8 went a bit further, maybe it would be okay …??? If it were the equivalent of say, $25/hr or something …

  26. Random Observer
    Random Observer September 13, 2011 at 2:46 am |

    I’ve got to say, although Feministe has had some good coverage of sex work issues before, this article is not among that. It gives a lot of weight to a claim in one article, and I think there’s a bit of stereotyping going on as well.

    1) The claim that LiveJasmin is among the most popular internet sex sites. What do they back that claim up with? Alexa ratings? If so, there’s a pretty simple reason for that, namely, that LiveJasmin has one of the most aggressive pop-up ad campaigns I’ve come across, and that definitely draws lots of hits. Any evidence that this drives a large number of paying customers, though?

    2) The author seems to be shock shock SHOCKED that Asian and East/Central European countries are source countries for webcam performers. And then proceeds to project the worst assumptions about prostituted 14 year-old Cambodian girls on to them, and assumes that men are seeking out overseas performers because they get off on brutal exploitation.

    I know less about Asia, but I can say for certain that there’s been a very well established sex industry in Eastern and Central Europe since the Berlin Wall came down. Conditions vary from the worst kind stories of human trafficking to very high-end sex workers who are quite knowingly capitalizing on the highly-desired status of Eastern women not only in the sex industry, but in appearance-related industries in general. (A disproportionate number of fashion models also come from Eastern and Central Europe these days.) I need only point to the Livejournal page of the Ukrainian anti-prostitution group FEMEN to note how far capitalizing on sexiness goes in these countries.

    So while I think your concerns over economic exploitation (or worse) are well-directed, reducing the lot of overseas sex workers to victims and calling for a sexual media blackout of those countries isn’t. These are sex workers in need of economic empowerment like sex workers anywhere, and how to be of help to sexual labor in those countries requires some nuance.

  27. Random Observer
    Random Observer September 13, 2011 at 2:58 am |

    haley writes

    # Many countries in Asia are battling gender imbalance due to sex selection (in favor of males) causing the birth ratios of boys to girls to be dramatically skewed. This creates a “surplus” of men in each subsequent generation, which makes women (sex, partnership, sexuality) in greater demand.

    # Any thoughts?

    Except that this breaks down when you bring Eastern Europe into the picture, where I’ll note that, in the CIS and Baltic countries anyway, there’s a sex ratio “surplus” of women, not of men.

  28. karak
    karak September 13, 2011 at 4:33 am |

    @Haley–

    are you suggesting the age of consent should be lowered, or merely that it’s a fact that people seek out minors for sex? Here’s the thing: Traveling to Cambodia or wherever is not cheap. In airfare, food, travel, and overnight stay you MUST be looking at a $1,500, if not more.

    It strikes me as fundamentally alarming that some men would take days of their time, thousands of dollars, travel across the world for an hour of sex with an underage prostitute. I mean, that behavior right there is alarming as hell. If I was going through that much effort for excellent drugs or delicious sandwich I think someone would be sitting down for a kindly chat about my addiction issues; when you do it for sex it seems to slip under the radar of “serious problem”.

  29. MAB
    MAB September 13, 2011 at 7:17 am |

    Your anaylsis is absolutely correct. It is all about power and power being the greatest of all aphrodisiacs. I once knew a man who came into some money and he used to it “persuade” woman who otherwise wouldn’t have said yes to his sexual advances to say yes. If they were hesitant he just upped the number until they said yes. He once told me in conversation that it was the fact the money was making women do things they wouldn’t have otherwise done that was what he was getting off on. He also told me that I would be surprised who would be prepared to engage in sex with him for the sake of a few hundred pounds. I didn’t want to know but from my own experience I’m sure there are many people with skeletons in the closet.

    It seems money can make fools of us all.

  30. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 8:21 am |

    Studies like this make me think people need to stop being so defensive about bringing up exploitation that happens to women in porn. In any industry with high risk, we SHOULD care about the people working in it. We should care why, we should care how they are treated, we should care what percentage is negatively affected by it and we should do quality research to understand the situation and make conditions better. While feminists and sex workers often put a great deal of effort into maintaining the idea that “most sex workers are having a great time”; if that is NOT the reality for a certain portion of sex workers then we need to be willing to explore that in honor of women who ARE negatively impacted by sex work and who DO get into after being abused/neglected/financial hardship.

    While women claim that sex work is empowering, the men who view porn and work in it often believe the opposite. I would like to see more research on men’s perceptions of the women they watch having sex in porn. From what I have read there are a large number of men who believe porn is harmful to women and that no healthy women would let herself be treated that way. If MEN’S perception of women having sex on film is that they are being exploited and harmed and the men are watching it anyway, that is problematic to me.

    “”Performers reported a mean of 7.2 days of poor mental health in the past 30 days, compared with 4.8 days for CWHS respondents, and 33% met criteria for current depression, compared with 13% of CWHS respondents (p<.01). As children, the adult film performers were more likely to have been victims of forced sex (37% compared with 13% of CWHS respondents), to have lived in poverty (24% and 12%), and to have been placed in foster care (21% and 4%) (p<.01). In the past 12 months, 50% of the performers reported living in poverty and 34% reported experiencing domestic violence, compared with 36% and 6%, respectively, of CWHS respondents (p<.01). As adults, 27% had experienced forced sex, compared with 9% of CWHS respondents (p<.01). "
    http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/62/6/639

    "Respondents noted that mental health issues were more severe in women than in men. A current male performer said, “I would say that all of the women that come to porn are definitely broken…they’re coming from an abusive household, they were molested by an uncle, whatever it is.” One male performer stated, “Ninety-nine percent of porn girls are screwed up in the head because (what they’re doing is) not normal.” Mental health issues were not limited to females"

    "A performer described an agent’s behavior in this way: “A girl says I don’t do anal and then an agent will say you’re not going to get as many bookings. They will say that on purpose because they know that if a girl does anal that’s guaranteed work and that’s more money in his pocket. So he’ll try and get the girl to say, okay fine, I’ll do anal.” A female performer said, “The agents want girls to stay there at their place, and they provide everything for them. They expect you obviously to sleep with them or their friends. And then if you don’t, they just pass you off to another person. That’s what happened to me in the first three agents I had.” Another performer said, “An agent is nothing more than a glorified pimp. They certainly don’t warn the people what they’re getting themselves into because the people are nothing more than sides of beef that they’re going to shear off and send out almost unprepared to be slaughtered.” Another performer described how agents find female performers, “A lot of these girls are young and maybe they have a drug problem or whatever and they end up in the business because somebody that calls themselves an agent found them on the street corner and decided to exploit them.” A young female performer who had worked in the industry for 2 years said, “The producer can say, ‘You’re supposed to give me a blow job before we start even shooting. It’s been cleared with your agent.’"
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2629520/

    How is it fair to ignore things like this that happen simply because some women like sex work and are not exploited? Shouldn't we want more in depth research to find out what is really going on ehre and how it affects women in the long term? If there is a lot of exploitation and mental health problems in pornography for women, we damn well should care about that if being a feminist is to mean anything at all.

  31. Brian
    Brian September 13, 2011 at 8:45 am |

    This wouldn’t bother me at all if the women were making more than $8-15/hour. I’m not sure if that is a living wage in other countries, but $8 is the precise hourly wage that I entered into sex work to *escape* several years ago. So seeing that number made me shudder.

    Keep in mind that not everybody lives where you live. While $8/hour is less than minimum wage where I live (Ontario, Canada), it’s 20 times the minimum wage for garment makers in Cambodia (the only industry that has a minimum wage), 10 times the minimum wage in Thailand, 10 times the minimum wage in the Ukraine, 40 times the minimum wage in Belarus, etc. (I choose those countries since the author says most workers are from Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe.)

  32. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 13, 2011 at 9:45 am |

    Oh dear Christ. It hasn’t occured to anyone here that using another person’s body for one’s own sexual pleasure is inherently violent? Coerced sex is called rape. People who are stripping for a webcam for $8 are not doing it for the sheer pleasure of pleasing internet pervs, they’re doing it because they need money. Once again, coerced sex is rape. Why debate the finer points of the situation when the bottom line is that these women are being sexually assaulted and the only cure for that is to change society’s perception of women as objects to be used for men’s pleasure?

    As for refusing to call women victims- that mentality is part of the anti-feminist backlash. If a woman is in fact being victimized, there is nothing inaccurate about pointing out that she is a victim. It is not the word “victim” that un-empowers women, it is the exploitation.

  33. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 9:53 am |

    If we were to discover that there was proof that work in pornography, even with a feminist approach, results in serious long term mental health problems (just a hypothetical, not saying this is the case) would people stop masturbating watching something happen to a real person that they KNEW was causing real long term damage?

    The reality is, I don’t think most men or some women would stop watching it. That’s what scares me, not about porn, but about human beings. There would be lot’s of justifications about how they get paid SO MUCH! And how “those women love being slowly destroyed and get off on it too so it’s ok if I masturbate to their destruction.”

    Because even now many men think working in pornography will have long term affects on the women they watch having sex on screen. Whether it does or doesn’t— many men think it does and they continue to jerk off to it and justify why that’s ok.

    If you are thinking there is any chance the porn you’re watching might involve someone who might be emotionally damaged after performing in it– you should STOP. I don’t care how much they are paid, I don’t care how willing they are. I don’t care if THEY say they are fine with it. They are paid to say they are fine with it. They are paid to tell themselves they are fine with it. They NEED to believe they are ok with it in order to keep going without breaking down. But if YOU think they might be harmed by it, and you believe when they tell you they’re fine it’s a lie— what is your role in the harm that happens to them?

  34. Azalea
    Azalea September 13, 2011 at 9:58 am |

    rox:
    Studies like this make me think people need to stop being so defensive about bringing up exploitation that happens to women in porn. In any industry with high risk, we SHOULD care about the people working in it. We should care why, we should care how they are treated, we should care what percentage is negatively affected by it and we should do quality research to understand the situation and make conditions better. While feminists and sex workers often put a great deal of effort into maintaining the idea that “most sex workers are having a great time”; if that is NOT the reality for a certain portion of sex workers then we need to be willing to explore that in honor of women who ARE negatively impacted by sex work and who DO get into after being abused/neglected/financial hardship.

    While women claim that sex work is empowering, the men who view porn and work in it often believe the opposite. I would like to see more research on men’s perceptions of the women they watch having sex in porn. From what I have read there are a large number of men who believe porn is harmful to women and that no healthy women would let herself be treated that way. If MEN’S perception of women having sex on film is that they are being exploited and harmed and the men are watching it anyway, that is problematic to me.

    “”Performers reported a mean of 7.2 days of poor mental health in the past 30 days, compared with 4.8 days for CWHS respondents, and 33% met criteria for current depression, compared with 13% of CWHS respondents (p<.01). As children, the adult film performers were more likely to have been victims of forced sex (37% compared with 13% of CWHS respondents), to have lived in poverty (24% and 12%), and to have been placed in foster care (21% and 4%) (p<.01). In the past 12 months, 50% of the performers reported living in poverty and 34% reported experiencing domestic violence, compared with 36% and 6%, respectively, of CWHS respondents (p<.01). As adults, 27% had experienced forced sex, compared with 9% of CWHS respondents (p<.01). ”
    http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/62/6/639

    “Respondents noted that mental health issues were more severe in women than in men. A current male performer said, “I would say that all of the women that come to porn are definitely broken…they’re coming from an abusive household, they were molested by an uncle, whatever it is.” One male performer stated, “Ninety-nine percent of porn girls are screwed up in the head because (what they’re doing is) not normal.”

    How is it fair to ignore things like this that happen simply because some women like sex work and are not exploited? Shouldn’t we want more in depth research to find out what is really going on ehre and how it affects women in the long term? If there is a lot of exploitation and mental health problems in pornography for women, we damn well should care about that if being a feminist is to mean anything at all.

    1) The male performer seems to think its “normal” for him to do what he’s doing but women doing it is abnormal. Madonna/Whore complex anyone? Is he not saying that women’s sexuality doesn’t exist because the ONLY way a woman would have sex with multiple people is if she had been “broken” as if being a raped victim at some point in life means you’re permanently broken like ewwww rape victims are whole anymore they are fucked up forever without any hope of getting better. THAT mentality is disgusting, what makes it worse is even with him thinking this, he probably still works with them and doesnt mind “revictimizing” these women. GROSS.

    2. Any person having any kind of sex they don’t want to have is being raped. The lines get blurry when someone places a higher value on money than they do whether or not they really want to perform this sexual act. Do we say she had no agency to say yes or that she’s easily manipulated? Women in porn make more than men on average and it is a competitve thing. How do we distinguish bectween the women who are saying “fine, I’ll do anal” because they don’t want someone else to get the job as opposed to someone saying they will do anal because they fear *insert horrible thing here* will happen if they dont? I mean as much as we dont like it, when sex became work some of the same rules of workforce applies, what you arent willing to do, someone else is for less money too and not doing it could cost you future work if your temporary replacement does well.

    So what I am getting at is, in the case where women are pretty much with sleazy agents who want them to do things they dont want to do and threaten them that if they dont someone else will, what do we do about it? Say they cant mention it to those women? So what would stop them from ONLY hiring sex workers who did EVERYTHING. Would that mean women who didnt want to do everything would stop applying for sex work (which would mean the demand would be high with a very low supply and the women left are making incredible amountsof money)? At the end of the day she could stand to make the kind of money per time it takes to make a movie that would be seriously difficult to make unless she was in middle management or above somewhere. I dont think the answer would be to lower how much they could be paid. So how do we address it? I agree its a problem I just dont know where to begin on a solution.

  35. me
    me September 13, 2011 at 10:03 am |

    This is somethibg I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I was a sex worker from the time i was 17-19. At the time I thought I felt empowered. I was living the high life and making a lot of money so it was easy to be deceived.

    Growing up with the internet and seeing porno all over download sites when I was 7 affected me pretty thoroughly. I had lots of guy friends who’d talk about how lucky girls are for being able to get paid for sex, and I figured, ‘I like masturbating,’ so I guess that made sense to me. But now I’m all kinds of messed up and find it difficult to relate to men in any sort of meaningful way, and I’ve only recently realized that I don’t know how to, outside of the context of being objectified, or to see value in myself beyond how far I can be sexualized.

    Having no positice role models probably made a difference, but I think the attitude towards women that watching pornography gives people is perpetuating an extremely negative standard of self esteem and is normalizing a lack of respect for women. I don’t think making porn or sex work illegal would help, but we need to educate people on what’s real and what isn’t and the real harm pornography causes to try to curb these effects. I don’t mean to be a bummer I just hate the attitude our culture has towards this and hope no other young women wind up in that sort of position. Thanks.

  36. DP
    DP September 13, 2011 at 10:14 am |

    Bushfire:
    Oh dear Christ.It hasn’t occured to anyone here that using another person’s body for one’s own sexual pleasure is inherently violent?Coerced sex is called rape.People who are stripping for a webcam for $8 are not doing it for the sheer pleasure of pleasing internet pervs, they’re doing it because they need money.Once again, coerced sex is rape. Why debate the finer points of the situation when the bottom line is that these women are being sexually assaulted and the only cure for that is to change society’s perception of women as objects to be used for men’s pleasure?

    As for refusing to call women victims- that mentality is part of the anti-feminist backlash.If a woman is in fact being victimized, there is nothing inaccurate about pointing out that she is a victim.It is not the word “victim” that un-empowers women, it is the exploitation.

    While there are no doubt women who are being coerced into these situations, I’m not sure you can spring from economic necessity->rape. It’s not as if the ONLY option for a young, attractive Ukrainian or Cambodian woman is sex work, though it may be the most lucrative option given a certain level of education, experience, access, etc.

    So, there are women who are being coerced into this work and thus are being sexually assaulted. But I can’t quite follow that to taking money for sex or a sexualized performance is sexual assault, because the initial transaction was (one hopes) voluntary and not co-erced.

    I suppose you could get into a whole different discussion about the nature of consent and transaction ability in a stratified class society…a Marxist might well see sex work as the wholesale rape of a segment of the working class.

  37. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 13, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    While there are no doubt women who are being coerced into these situations, I’m not sure you can spring from economic necessity->rape.

    Perhaps you doubt it, but I am sure. Sex is a pleasant experience that two or more people decided to do together. When someone is stripping for a webcam, not for their own pleasure, but to earn money, that is not sex. It’s coercion. It’s exploitation. Sex without desire. This is something generally refered to as sexual assault. If you don’t want to call it rape because there’s no penetration, fine- call it assault. They are, however, essentially the same: using a woman’s body.

  38. DP
    DP September 13, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    Bushfire:
    While there are no doubt women who are being coerced into these situations, I’m not sure you can spring from economic necessity->rape.

    Perhaps you doubt it, but I am sure.Sex is a pleasant experience that two or more people decided to do together. When someone is stripping for a webcam, not for their own pleasure, but to earn money, that is not sex.It’s coercion.It’s exploitation.Sex without desire.This is something generally refered to as sexual assault.If you don’t want to call it rape because there’s no penetration, fine- call it assault.They are, however, essentially the same:using a woman’s body.

    Your definitions don’t work, sorry.

    Exchange of a non-sexual service for money is not coercive. I play the guitar for pleasure, for instance, for friends and family. To play in a theater, or a subway station, or a bar in exchange for money does not mean I’ve been coerced – it means I’ve been contracted to provide a service, entering freely and voluntarily into an agreement. The same goes for work – I don’t particularly want to sit at my desk, or sling espresso, or whatever, but one does so in exchange for money in a voluntary, non-coercive monetary relationship.

    Sexual assault is defined as sex w/o consent, not sex without desire. There have been long arguments here about how asexuals can have sex without desire, as well as plenty of other reasons that someone could have sex without really wanting to. Maybe they want to get pregnant, but don’t enjoy the sex act, or maybe they can’t get off in one way but want to give pleasure to a partner or friend. Or, maybe they want to get paid.

    There are women who have been drugged, kidnapped, threatened, raped, or otherwise put in an untenable position and they are indeed being sexually assaulted.

    But if a legal adult turns a webcam on herself/himself and says “give me money and I will remove clothes/play with myself/pop balloons,” she or he is not being sexually assaulted. You’re wrong on the simple definitions.

  39. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    Right, I think there needs to be distinguished the difference between sexual assault and sexual harm.

    You can consensually harm someone with their permission. If YOU think you are sincerely harming them, then the ethics of that are a bit sketchy. And since a large portion of men/people believe that women are being harmed during pornographic work— the ethics of choosing to watch/participate in/having orgasms over– a person you think is being harmed is pretty sketchy to downright cruel. Someone can give you permission to do something that YOU believe will harm their emotional self/long term well being— and you’re still an abuser if you do it while believe it will cause that kind of harm.

  40. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    I would call it sexual abuse. Sexual assault by definition means there is not consent. Sexual abuse mean a person is being harmed sexually and they are permitting it for a complex variety of reasons that the perpetrator has some knowledge of (that their power in the situation is greater) and profitting from.

  41. LC
    LC September 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm |

    rox: The reality is, I don’t think most men or some women would stop watching it. That’s what scares me, not about porn, but about human beings. There would be lot’s of justifications about how they get paid SO MUCH! And how “those women love being slowly destroyed and get off on it too so it’s ok if I masturbate to their destruction.”

    The same argument has been made about professional wrestling, actually. There is mounting evidence that it (and many other professional sports) do serious damage to the people involved. (I’m choosing wrestling because it has more of a stigma than say, football, which tends to be respected by the culture more.) People know this. They still watch.

  42. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |

    DP: But if a legal adult turns a webcam on herself/himself and says “give me money and I will remove clothes/play with myself/pop balloons,” she or he is not being sexually assaulted. You’re wrong on the simple definitions.

    You’re wrong to get so hung up on one word. OK, so it’s not ‘assault’ by dictionary definition. What it is, is prostitution.

    A sort of ‘collective’ prostitution if you like. Let’s say I hire a woman to come to my hotel room and pay her $1000 to masturbate while I do the same, surely that would be considered prostitution. Doing it via webcam 100 people paying $10 each is merely collectivizing the prostitution experience by spreading the costs amongst the end users (no pun intended,) and considering how many prostitutes are raped, assaulted and murdered every year, web based virtual prostitution does at least seem a much safer alternative to meeting up with strange men.

    So, while I have no qualms with a woman setting up her own webcam and doing what ever she wants with it, I do have serious issues with the webmasters of these sites who are, I would hypothesize (as does the OP,) making an enormous amount of money off the backs of women who are making a fraction of that. I mean, that’s what should be stopped.

  43. DP
    DP September 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    LC: The same argument has been made about professional wrestling, actually. There is mounting evidence that it (and many other professional sports) do serious damage to the people involved. (I’m choosing wrestling because it has more of a stigma than say, football, which tends to be respected by the culture more.) People know this. They still watch.

    Football is probably a great example, actually! I read about the shit that pro footballers go through afterwards and…I feel nauseous, actually. Similar to the way I feel when I read about some of the physical and mental scars that can accompany a long career in hardcore porn.

    Both are still pretty fundamental pieces of our basic national culture, though…

  44. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles September 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    I think it’s pretty fucked up for non sex workers to define sex work as abuse or assault or rape or anything at all. If you don’t do it, I don’t think you should get to decide what to call it.

    (This is directed towards certain comments, not the OP)

  45. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos September 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Porn is not bad, but we sure as shit can judge the parts that are. Let’s start there.

    Can anybody round here needlepoint? This needs to be on pillows and bumperstickers and pins, like, yesterday.

  46. Natalia
    Natalia September 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    I need only point to the Livejournal page of the Ukrainian anti-prostitution group FEMEN to note how far capitalizing on sexiness goes in these countries.

    Well, yeah – but this doesn’t change the fact that the sex trade in Ukraine is extremely fucked up. I won’t even get into the whole “Western men” aspect of it – the sex trade as it is in general is brutal. It’s something I discussed with Anna Hutsol, the woman who started Femen, when I interviewed her in Kiev.

    Unlike Anna, I don’t believe that prostitution needs to be done away with – and she doesn’t really believe that either, she’s a realist, although her position is ideologically abolitionist. I’ve had a lot of friends who are in sex work or have been in sex work – what they needed was greater support from society, not being driven even further underground.

    But Ukraine is still a really scary place for a woman (and even for a man) to do this kind of work – have no doubts about it.

    And as a sidenote – capitalizing on sexiness doesn’t necessarily mean one supports the sex-work model as it is at present. I really like the fact that most Ukrainians aren’t nearly as hung up on “but OMG it’s playing into the male gaze” stuff – I really splash out in terms of how I dress when I’m home, because it makes me happy and I can’t be a snob about something like that. But there is a fucked-up system of corruption and abuse in place, and sex-workers are some of the most vulnerable members of Ukrainian society – they get it from both the criminals who run the system, and from the cops, who have complex “business” dealings with the criminals. Women are regularly “loaned out” to law enforcement officials, for example – and even if their “bosses” would like to protect them, they can’t. It’s really fucked up.

  47. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    “I think it’s pretty fucked up for non sex workers to define sex work as abuse or assault or rape or anything at all. If you don’t do it, I don’t think you should get to decide what to call it.”

    Wrong. I get to decide how I want to treat people and to base that on how I think my actions will affect them. I get to decide whether the research I read and stories of women who have worked in porn indicate there is a possibility of harm and to make my own opinions about that. I get to decide whether I think pornography might harm others so that I can decide whether I want to have orgasms watching these things happen to women or to associate with people who have orgasms watching these things happen to women.

    Every person who considers watching, has watched or will continually watched porn has the right to think about how that might affect the person actually performing the acts and to have a sense of compassion about what that might be. If someone told me I could punch them in the face and they wouldn’t mind and it wouldn’t affect their emotional well being, I have to the right to decide that I think it might affect their emotional well being and NOT PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE. I have the right to think that anyone who WOULD punch someone in the face just because they got permission to is an asshole.

  48. Random Observer
    Random Observer September 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Jill: 1. I didn’t reduce overseas sex workers to victims. I explicitly, actually, said that I’m NOT doing that. What I’m looking at isn’t the actual conditions of sex workers overseas, but the perception of those conditions from Western men, and how that motivates the behavior of Western men.

    Well, then I think there’s a lot of projection going on there too. This claim that men favor the services of sex workers that they perceive as being as forced or abused in some way is a claim I see thrown around a lot among feminists, from the over-the-top claims of Melissa Farley to “big blog” feminists like yourself and Amanda Marcotte. This assumption (and it is a very big assumption) that all or at least a very large portion of men paying for sex in some form have some kind of abusive motivation really requires more direct evidence than simply your worst assumptions about what these men “must” be thinking.

    So what is your evidence that men are going on to webcam sites assuming they’ve found some particularly helpless group of sex workers they can manipulate? If you’ve ever taken a close look at these sites, you’ll see that this is not “cheap sex”. $6 per minute for a sexual performance over cam is typical, and the prices between American vs overseas camgirls (and camboys) run on the same scale. On a per hour basis that would be comparable to escort prices in any major American city. Now I doubt most webcam customers are thinking very deeply about how much of a cut of that the performer herself gets (and that can vary depending on whether she’s an independent vs an on-site employee of a cam company), but the image of commercial webcam encounters as the virtual equivalent of a $20 back ally blowjob is not an accurate one.

    Ogi Ogas’ research on the sex industry, while based on some potentially interesting questions, is a mile wide and an inch deep. And I take his claims that many commercial webcam performers even in the United States are “teenage girls” (implying underage) to be a particularly strong accusation requiring more evidence than he gives. Does he have any idea just how illegal this is? That webcam companies are required to provide 2257 documentation the same as porn producers? It is also likely that he’s confusing webcam “sexting” with commercial sexual webcaming, even those are two entirely different things.

  49. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    outrageandsprinkles: I think it’s pretty fucked up for non sex workers to define sex work as abuse or assault or rape or anything at all. If you don’t do it, I don’t think you should get to decide what to call it. (This is directed towards certain comments, not the OP)

    THIS x’s a bajillion!

  50. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm |

    Note my language: IF you believe that working in pornography is damaging to women and you are having orgisms while watching that happen to women, then you are a participant in abuse of women. Not all people who watch porn believe they are watching women being harmed and many people who watch porn take active measures to find porn that they believe involves women who like what they are doing and who are not in any way negatively affected by their experiences in porn work.

    The only way I believe it’s abusive is if the VIEWER believes that the sexual acts they are watching happen to the performers are going to have a negative impact on the performers in the long run and are still having an orgasm watching it (or that belief ENHANCES their orgasm). That is profitting from abuse.

  51. Mike Crichton
    Mike Crichton September 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    Sargon: “Driving the industry out of the country” is an exaggeration. The 2nd largest producer (Wicked) has managed to stay in business despite being condom only, as did the largest (Vivid) for several years before becoming “condom optional”. Yes, some market-share would be lost, but most porn would keep being produced in California even if they all had to go condom-only.

  52. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm |

    Further more if there is scientific proof that porn work degrades the mental health of performers and you still orgasm to it without taking your own meansures to ensure you aren’t profitting off real exploitation then I think that too is abusive. And yes if you know that wrestling causes real damage to the participants and you not only watch but LIKE that aspect of it, you are also participating in exploitation of human beings.

    We can normalize and accept exploitation all we want, as humans love to do, but those among us who want to actually want to be good compassionate people can do better.

  53. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles September 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    rox:
    “I think it’s pretty fucked up for non sex workers to define sex work as abuse or assault or rape or anything at all. If you don’t do it, I don’t think you should get to decide what to call it.”

    Wrong. I get to decide how I want to treat people and to base that on how I think my actions will affect them. I get to decide whether the research I read and stories of women who have worked in porn indicate there is a possibility of harm and to make my own opinions about that. I get to decide whether I think pornography might harm others so that I can decide whether I want to have orgasms watching these things happen to women or to associate with people who have orgasms watching these things happen to women.

    Every person who considers watching, has watched or will continually watched porn has the right to think about how that might affect the person actually performing the acts and to have a sense of compassion about what that might be. If someone told me I could punch them in the face and they wouldn’t mind and it wouldn’t affect their emotional well being, I have to the right to decide that I think it might affect their emotional well being and NOT PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE. I have the right to think that anyone who WOULD punch someone in the face just because they got permission to is an asshole.

    I think it’s great to think critically about porn and how we view it and why people do it. Same goes for sex work. I am a huge fan of thinking and wondering and figuring out and coming up with ideas and opinions. What I am not a huge fan of is telling someone that what THEY do is get abused or assaulted or raped, regardless of how THEY actually feel about what THEY do.

    And the fact that you describe porn as something that happens to women tells me you don’t have a lot of respect for the idea that a woman might freely and yes, even happily, choose to engage in sex work.

  54. anon
    anon September 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm |

    i liked this column, thank you for writing it.

    i do wonder…the demand that consumers should be aware of young women participating in sex work because they’ve been economically unempowered, is that reasonable?

    i think for most feminists and other conflict-theorists, our worldview presupposes that most of these “relationships” are “consensual” because they involve financial compensation (albeit very little in most cases). but, for the rest of society, this is their everyday life. most people don’t like their jobs and from their point of view, if it pays them enough to not be dying in a gutter somewhere, then it’s the system doing what it’s supposed to do- not a glaring example of why the system is broken.

  55. anon
    anon September 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    i mean to say “our worldview does not presuppose these relationships are consensual”. i hope that clarifies my earlier comment.

  56. DP
    DP September 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |

    Every person who considers watching, has watched or will continually watched porn has the right to think about how that might affect the person actually performing the acts and to have a sense of compassion about what that might be. If someone told me I could punch them in the face and they wouldn’t mind and it wouldn’t affect their emotional well being, I have to the right to decide that I think it might affect their emotional well being and NOT PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE. I have the right to think that anyone who WOULD punch someone in the face just because they got permission to is an asshole.

    Have you considered professional boxing, MMA, tae kwan do, jiu-jitsu and any number of other professional combat sports where people are, literally, being paid to punch each other in the face?

    Or motor racing, which is probably one of the most dangerous sports in terms of death and dismemberment?

    Obviously, boxers and race car drivers have a lot more social power and capital than sex workers, but I think your point is deeply flawed.

    You have every right to your opinion, it’s just that your opinion is wrong.

  57. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

    I do think men who get off not just on sex but on exploitation are irredeemable shitholes, though. And yeah, they should have a legal right to access porn and to pay for sex (with people who are above the age of consent). But I still think they’re shitholes

    I really wish you and Amanda Marcotte would stop repeating this. Feminists telling johns you’re going to let them continue to commit harms against women but they’ll get the feminist stink eye of disgust is a big gift box with a big red bow on it for every john. Misogynists love to disgust women because it proves to them women are weak and unable to stomach the ferocity of manhood.

    Your stated stance also says the best feminism can do about commercialized rape is make an informal complaint, and I think real feminist resistance can accomplish a lot more.

  58. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    When you respond like that, you’re not openminded to honest engagement with feminist solutions, solutions you know exist but reject in favor of your preferred excuse for non-action.

  59. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    Exchange of a non-sexual service for money is not coercive.

    Of course it is. You think everyone would go into work every morning just for the hell of it if they weren’t getting paid?

    I think it’s pretty fucked up for non sex workers to define sex work as abuse or assault or rape or anything at all. If you don’t do it, I don’t think you should get to decide what to call it.

    I think it’s pretty fucked up for ANYONE to look the sexual abuse of women right in the eye and not call it abuse.

  60. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen September 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    The straightforward answer would be to reform sex work so workers don’t have to answer to abusive johns. That’s how democracies (try to) protect labourers from abusive managers, right? Oh wait… that involves regulation, and the Tea Party would never be down for that (unless it involved uteri).

  61. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    “You have every right to your opinion, it’s just that your opinion is wrong.”

    That’s your opinion which you’re entitled to. (And is wrong! LOL)

    Here’s a question. It sounds to me like people are saying “Hey sex workers who feel harmed by the sex industry don’t matter because I like watching porn. I don’t give a shit how the actresses in the porn I watch are affected by it in one year, five years, ten years. If I watch a porn and she SAYS she’s fine with it, she can’ go and feel damaged by it later.”

    The people talk about sex worker “empowerment” seem to be the same people who stomp all over the sex workers who say they feel really hurt by their experiences.

    You know what I have friends that I have watched falling over googly eyed drunk telling me how they love giving their bodies to men and they ARE SO HAPPY and it’s a meaningful gift and THEY CAN’T EVEN HANDLE REALITY. I have watched women get involved in porn/sex work and wind up in states of psychosis. And yes trauma is involved in worsening the symptoms of psychosis.

    Every body just wants to masturbate with out thinking of how these women are affected later and if they ARE affected by it later, no one wants to question their own porn habit. Just blame the woman for thinking she could handle it or feeling so desperate that it seemed like the best thing compared to everything else.

    Well I GIVE A SHIT. I GIVE A SHIT about my cousin who dying of lymphoma and I’ve watched her john’s rich fucking mother fuckers who don’t care how they are totally skrewing her up. I give a shit about the friends who are in so much pain they have to pretend they don’t care at all about sex or what men do to them in order to feel ok.

    I give a shit about all the things men have done to me because I gave consent because there WAS NO ONE ELSE. There was no one. And they KNEW that, they knew exactly what position I was in and how to use that against me.

    And I fucking hate that no one will stand up for vulnerable women out of fear of being too restrictive to the rich women who want to do sex work for fun. I have slept in the bed (well moved to the floor) with my cousin and one of her johns fucking while some guy watched sitting in a chair smoking a cigarette.

    People let all kinds of things be done to them. People let horrible things be done to them, and it fucks people up. I sit around reading research because without research everyone will DENY THIS forever. I am NOT saying sex industry should be illegal, but it is wrong to hurt people and YES the evidence tends to find that horrible exploitation is prolific in the porn business which is already legal so “legalizing” will not make it better. Maybe if people stopped not caring what happens to these womens WHO SHARE THEIR REAL STORIES it would make a difference, but no one wants to care about how women are affected by this. I sure as shit don’t watch fighting sports so I don’t get how you’re trying to justify women being treated like shit with that.

  62. DP
    DP September 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    Bushfire:
    Exchange of a non-sexual service for money is not coercive.

    Of course it is.You think everyone would go into work every morning just for the hell of it if they weren’t getting paid?

    I think it’s pretty fucked up for non sex workers to define sex work as abuse or assault or rape or anything at all. If you don’t do it, I don’t think you should get to decide what to call it.

    I think it’s pretty fucked up for ANYONE to look the sexual abuse of women right in the eye and not call it abuse.

    You don’t understand what the word coercion means, do you?

  63. Katniss
    Katniss September 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    I think it’s pretty fucked up for ANYONE to look the sexual abuse of women right in the eye and not call it abuse.

    And if that person is a woman who is a sex worker and who has looked critically at her involvement and does not feel she is being abused, does her opinion just not count?

  64. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm |

    No antiporn feminist you’ve had debates with in all your years of blogging has ever suggested “just make porn and sex work illegal” as a solution. You’re making up a fake counter argument to deflect the serious unfeminism of your non-action against men you acknowledge are acting in sexually abusive ways.

    If an internet full of men were attacking you sexually, I would not merely declare it a terrible thing and walk away shaking my head. Maybe that makes a philosophically pure civil libertarian, but it makes a shit feminist.

    We already have good laws for regulating commercial businesses and criminalizing sexual exploitation, but prostitution industries ignore them, and you make excuses for not taking meaningful action when they do. My solution is for people to stop ignoring health and safety violations like men who insist on condomless prostitution (filmed or not) and other clearly unsafe acts. It’s for people to stop making excuses for the 1% of the vast porn industry that isn’t grotesquely harmful to the people in it and the people viewing it so they can stay ostensibly “porn-positive” for political reasons that aren’t in the best interests of the thousands of women and children sexually abused for pornographic profit.

    My solution is the Nordic model that puts authoritative power in sex worker hands while protecting their right to stay or leave the sex industry at their will. Under the Nordic model the tiny minority of sex workers who say they want to be prostitutes can keep being prostitutes, but the estimated 20:1 ratio of john:prostitute will be brought more in line. Your solution to fixing the john:prostitute ratio seems to be convincing more people (especially women) that prostitution is just a form of (especially women’s) work we have to accept, and my solution is to reduce the numbers of men who desire to use prostitutes because no man needs to coerce unwanted sex from reluctant, impoverished women for his entertainment.

  65. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    Yesss. I especially like the comments that define other people’s experiences for them. “What? You’re in sex work and say you haven’t been assaulted? Nonsense! I haven’t lived your life, thus, I know better because of my amazing objective lens!” It’s like how I totally know what POC and trans* folks experience better than they do. I’m writing a book to make sure they know. I wouldn’t want them to mistakenly describe their subjective experiences in the comment section of a blog and be shocked when white and cis folks are like, “bullshit!, marginalized population.”

  66. Leila
    Leila September 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm |

    Thanks so much Jill for a subtle analysis of these issues. I spent a few months working as a stripper when I was 18 (young, dumb, etc) and was, for years, a fierce feminist advocate of the sex industry. I still have several close friends who are prostitutes and I will get pretty aggro when people paint them all with the broad ‘victim’ brush.

    Then I too went to Cambodia. It was so, so shit (not Cambodia, Cambodia is the best). I was alone in Sihanoukville (heaven for misogynist assholes) and decided to sit in old man bars and hear these old timers’ stories, cos I’m a weird amateur sociologist/ masochist. They all had very young ‘girlfriends’ and had abandoned their lives (and, often, wives) back home to permanently set-up shop in Cambodia, with a ‘girlfriend’ they paid weekly.

    This kind of prostitution, the ‘girlfriend for hire’ model, is particularly common in Southeast Asia and is, I find, especially troubling. Lots of the prostitutes I know back home, here in New Zealand, have said they could NEVER do it – it’s worse than ‘just’ sex, it’s actually a full-time emotional AND sexual role. And the women are usually from backgrounds where the option is too lucrative to pass up – prostitutes are not viewed kindly there (any more kindly than here, in any case) and it isn’t a profession most women would go into if they could avoid it.

    But then I also went partying with a bunch of sex workers in Bangkok, and they were amazing, badass women who were conning the men who were stupidly ‘in love’ with them and sending monthly cheques from America/ Germany/ wherever. To be clear, I don’t know these ladies WELL and I would never try to argue that all prostitutes in Bangkok are totally empowered subverters of the patriarchy, BUT I feel like I have a pretty good intuition for these things and these particular women, the exact few I partied with, seemed very in control of their destinies.

    OK so what I’m saying is *phew* it’s so fucking complicated. And I’m sick of broad strokes from either direction – all sex workers (EVEN all sex workers in the ‘developing world’) are not victims, but some really ARE. And yes Jill, I totally think some guys get off on that. Sex tourism IS still more expensive than visiting an upmarket brothel back home, and I do think the real or assumed pliability/ lack of agency of the sex workers in southeast Asia plays a role in their allure – at least for a particular kind of man.

    Thanks again for this blog post. I’ve been thinking about these issues for a while now, and I had never yet thought about the implications of the web-cam phenomenon – or of international pornography in general.

  67. Lasciel
    Lasciel September 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    $8-$15 an hour huh…

    Perhaps you doubt it, but I am sure. Sex is a pleasant experience that two or more people decided to do together. When someone is stripping for a webcam, not for their own pleasure, but to earn money, that is not sex. It’s coercion. It’s exploitation. Sex without desire. This is something generally refered to as sexual assault. If you don’t want to call it rape because there’s no penetration, fine- call it assault. They are, however, essentially the same: using a woman’s body.

    You’re assuming they don’t enjoy their work.

  68. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    And if that person is a woman who is a sex worker and who has looked critically at her involvement and does not feel she is being abused, does her opinion just not count?

    There are some women who do not feel they are being abused, which is definitely a sign of privilege. The only way you’re not being abused? If you have other, equally enjoyable and well-paid work opportunities available to you, and you still choose sex work. If you choose all your own johns, and if you have the infrastructure to defend yourself if they become violent (a trusted bodyguard, maybe?) If you keep all the money you make, and none of it goes to someone else. If you are able to leave the industry any time you want without consequences. If you are still able to receive the same quality of community life as you would in another job.

    Know anybody like this? Maybe one? Two? How many prostituted women or sex workers are in this situation? Almost none.

    Statistically insignificant straw argument.

  69. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm |

    “I do have serious issues with the webmasters of these sites who are, I would hypothesize (as does the OP,) making an enormous amount of money off the backs of women who are making a fraction of that. I mean, that’s what should be stopped.”

    I’d like to second this comment. This is where the exploitation is: the webmasters (who are primarily men) profiting from the sexual services of women who are WAY under-compensated (and as far as I know not protected by any labor laws).

    Also – I hate when people trot out the claim about how much more money female porn performers earn compared to male ones. Because it obscures the fact that the only people who are making serious money at all are the MEN who own and run the companies and don’t even DO the sex work. (There are a few exceptions of course, but they don’t represent the way the industry operates as a whole).

  70. rox
    rox September 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm |

    Katniss- does the very real woman who said she felt empowered at the time and now feels like it affected her not count? Yes women who feel empowered by sex work count. But their voices should not override the very real women ONE OF WHOME SPOKE UP IN THIS THREAD who thought they were empowered at the time and feel like it left genuine damage as they got older and reflected.

    How many women who get raped, assualted, pushed beyond their limits, intentionally broken down, deliberately put in situations that will potentially be damaging to their long term well being—- how much of that do we say it’s fine to do women because SOME women like and don’t feel affected afterword. What if some women think they like it AND THEN REALIZE IT DAMAGED THEM LATER. What if some women realize they’ve been using dissociation, being disconnected from their bodies, drugs, mental distortion, depression— all kinds of means of escaping the reality of how having 10 cocks shoved in their mouths while they choke for other people’s entertainment affects, even if they have arousal during some of those acts?

    Does “willingness” or consent mean it won’t affect her later? I want more research, sex workers deserve more research so they can have a better picture of what they are getting into. And maybe so people will open their eyes about what getting choked and beaten and spit on and cum all over all the damn time for other people’s entertainment does to many people’s psyche’s— so that women won’t think they are getting into a business that won’t affect them at all, because the reality is there is DEFINATELY some risk to mental well being. Because so little quality research has been done it’s hard to hash out what, but I hope the research continues and that people will keep trying to understand this and how it affects women better.

    Asking people how they are doing is NOT an effective way to asses their mental health. People in abusive relationships often talk about how happy they are and they LOVE HIM! And there are so many good things and it makes them happy! And then if you look at the whole picture and ask targeted questions, things are all out of whack. So no a persons word that they are “fine” is the last thing I would trust to asses how a profession or experience tends to affects human beings. What’s more it’s irresponsable not to explore the situation beyond peoples words.

  71. Mr. Siegal
    Mr. Siegal September 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm |

    Bushfire:
    Oh dear Christ.It hasn’t occured to anyone here that using another person’s body for one’s own sexual pleasure is inherently violent?Coerced sex is called rape.People who are stripping for a webcam for $8 are not doing it for the sheer pleasure of pleasing internet pervs, they’re doing it because they need money.Once again, coerced sex is rape. Why debate the finer points of the situation when the bottom line is that these women are being sexually assaulted and the only cure for that is to change society’s perception of women as objects to be used for men’s pleasure?

    As for refusing to call women victims- that mentality is part of the anti-feminist backlash.If a woman is in fact being victimized, there is nothing inaccurate about pointing out that she is a victim.It is not the word “victim” that un-empowers women, it is the exploitation.

    Fucking Hell. There is more concentrated misogyny in this post than an MRA convention. I don’t even know where to begin.

    While I agree that coerced sex is rape, paid sex does not always equate to coercion. One can make the CHOICE to be payed for sex. Did you make the choice to find a job? Yes. Are you a slave? No.

    Using someone else’s body for sexual pleasure is FUCKING CALLED SEX. Using someone else’s body for sexual pleasure WITHOUT CONSENT is RAPE. Confusing these two is called MISOGYNY. The stereotype that men have destructive urges and women have no sex drive is one that the feminist movement has been trying to destroy since, I don’t know, it began?

    Most webcam strippers are stripping for a hell of a lot more than eight an hour. Americans, anyway. I agree that in places like Cambodia, they are exploited. This is simply labor outsourcing to third-world countries. If coffee farmers are payed less than they should, do you declare coffee anti-farmer and never buy it again or seek out Fair Trade coffee?

    Your problem is, you see a woman doing a job and declare her a victim, regardless of what she is. She hasn’t made the choice you wanted her to make, and so you declare her exploited. This is called MISOGYNY.

  72. Mr. Siegal
    Mr. Siegal September 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    By the way, yeah, LiveJasmine has a shitload of pop-ups. That’s how they actually get traffic, not people actually visiting the site.

  73. Katniss
    Katniss September 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm |

    rox:
    Katniss- does the very real woman who said she felt empowered at the time and now feels like it affected her not count? Yes women who feel empowered by sex work count. But their voices should not override the very real women ONE OF WHOME SPOKE UP IN THIS THREAD who thought they were empowered at the time and feel like it left genuine damage as they got older and reflected.

    How many women who get raped, assualted, pushed beyond their limits, intentionally broken down, deliberately put in situations that will potentially be damaging to their long term well being—- how much of that do we say it’s fine to do women because SOME women like and don’t feel affected afterword.

    Of course real women who are badly affected by sex work should not have their voices overpowered by the smaller percentage of women who enjoy whatever sex work they do without negative consequences. And of course we shouldn’t disbelieve, discount or ignore the stories of women who were hurt by sex work. I did not say or imply any of that.

    If I’m going to go for full disclosure, I AM a woman who spent time as a prostitute, and I was a woman who thought I would be okay with it. It was immensely damaging to me.

    However, I am also a woman who has modeled for a softcore porn site and done webcam work, both of which I enjoyed. What I do not like in these discussions is the often strong undertone that women who genuinely enjoy any type of sex work simply DON’T EXIST. Again, I don’t think those women’s voices should dominate these discussions because they are the vast minority, generally speaking. But Bushfire’s comments in particular rub me the wrong way because they reek of “if you say you weren’t harmed by sex work, you are obviously suffering from false consciousness because I SAY SO and I know better”. That is infantalizing and insulting, and furthermore it adds nothing of use to this discussion.

    I would like feminist discussions of sex work, basically, to accept both the women who feel harmed by sex work/pornography without the consistent denial that it is therefore impossible to ever make sex work okay or ethical or even enjoyable.

  74. Hugh
    Hugh September 13, 2011 at 10:13 pm |

    “I want more research”

    Do you really think that there’s a dearth of research on sex work? I could point to literally hundreds of research articles and studies in peer reviewed journals and published books.

    I think you’re assuming that there isn’t enough research because you’re assuming that the only reason the research hasn’t endorsed your conclusion is that it’s insufficient. Perhaps your conclusion isn’t completely correct?

    You’ve also mentioned women who feel fine at the time their sex work takes place but who later feel that what happened to them was abusive. Does that really mean we have to discount every woman’s claim to be OK with it because she might change her mind? I take it you think it’s not possible for a woman who feels abused to change her mind and decide what happened to her was OK?

  75. Influence of porn seen as creeping into broader culture – amNY | pornozip.org - Slutes – Babes – Porno – Sex – Live – Party

    [...] of pornographic imagery and behaviors into …Does sexual equality change porn?SalonOutsourcing PornFeministe (blog)Former Brit Lawmaker Advocates Porn RegulationSexIs [...]

  76. Mr. Siegal
    Mr. Siegal September 13, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    Hugh:
    “I want more research”

    Do you really think that there’s a dearth of research on sex work?I could point to literally hundreds of research articles and studies in peer reviewed journals and published books.

    I think you’re assuming that there isn’t enough research because you’re assuming that the only reason the research hasn’t endorsed your conclusion is that it’s insufficient.Perhaps your conclusion isn’t completely correct?

    You’ve also mentioned women who feel fine at the time their sex work takes place but who later feel that what happened to them was abusive.Does that really mean we have to discount every woman’s claim to be OK with it because she might change her mind?I take it you think it’s not possible for a woman who feels abused to change her mind and decide what happened to her was OK?

    Not to mention the unfalsifiable conclusion s/he draws from this. “I hear of women who don’t enjoy sex work. This suits my narrative. I also hear of women who do enjoy sex work. Well, I suppose they are simply fooling themselves into believing it, which also suits my narrative.”

    Could you post a few of those studies you find the most relevant, anyway? Just out of interest.

    Also, thank you for bringing that up, Jill. I’ve been bothered by this in research as well.

  77. Mr. Siegal
    Mr. Siegal September 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    bpbetsy:
    “I do have serious issues with the webmasters of these sites who are, I would hypothesize (as does the OP,) making an enormous amount of money off the backs of women who are making a fraction of that. I mean, that’s what should be stopped.”

    This is known as “capitalism”. I detest it every bit as much as you do, but it’s no worse than all the other souless corporations that control our lives and culture.

  78. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 13, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    Mr. Seigal – Yep, I’m anti-capitalism in general, but I do find the sex industry to be especially problematic. Performing any type of labor when you don’t want to is not ideal, but performing *sexual* acts when you don’t want to is rape. That’s the difference. The exchange of money for such sex acts is NOT an indicator of consent.

    I always get frustrated with discussions like this because as a sex worker myself I feel like I’m supposed to side with the “sex positive” or “pro-porn” crowd who claim to respect women’s agency and self-identification…but to be honest the radfems/anti-porn side seems to “get it” more. They get that the industry is set up precisely to favor male bosses and male customers, at the expense of female workers. And they get, most importantly, that this sort of capitalist exploitation is a special kind of awful because it involves allowing other people sexual access to your body.

  79. Johnny Heartbeat
    Johnny Heartbeat September 13, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    Mr. Siegal: This is known as “capitalism”. I detest it every bit as much as you do, but it’s no worse than all the other souless corporations that control our lives and culture.

    I won’t presume to speak for you, so I’ll just amend before agreeing: “it’s not necessarily inherently worse than all the soulless corporations…” There are definitely such sites which are far worse than the average corporation.

  80. Natalia
    Natalia September 14, 2011 at 2:56 am |

    And I fucking hate that no one will stand up for vulnerable women out of fear of being too restrictive to the rich women who want to do sex work for fun.

    You’re setting up a false dichotomy.

    I’m not a researcher – but most of the sex-workers I have interviewed over the years certainly didn’t come from rich backgrounds. Neither were they in it “for fun.”

    Yet the majority of them wanted to stay in sex-work for the foreseeable future. Their complaints about their jobs centered on how their rights as people and workers are violated – persecution from society at large, lack of safety standards where applicable, etc.

  81. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines September 14, 2011 at 4:54 am |

    Things that are inevitable:

    1)Death

    2)Taxes

    3)On any post about porn/sexwork there will always be at least one hugely affronted man who very cross that any uppity feminist might want to take his toys away hold anti-porn/sex work viewpoints.

  82. Larry
    Larry September 14, 2011 at 6:56 am |

    I’m pleasantly surprised that the % of porn on the net is so small. That said, I was also surprised by the popularity of web cams, less dangerous for the workers but still sad.

  83. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 7:47 am |

    “I think you’re assuming that there isn’t enough research because you’re assuming that the only reason the research hasn’t endorsed your conclusion is that it’s insufficient. ”

    Thanks Jill for pointing out what I was trying to say more clearly. I have seen a lot of research of the kind that you will know the conclusion by the name of the people doing the research.

    What’s more I am particularly interested in the phisiology of the stress/mental illness biomarkers in the body of which we are finding a LOT about right now. I want to see the phisiological markers related to human health— the immune system, the hormonal system, the metabolic system— because these things are all affected by stress and work place stress (all professions) is something I want to see more research done on (In fact a lot is being done right now!!).

    I also think that we will find that how our sexual relationships affect our health will become a much more complex picture than how we think of it now. I think it is possible to be promiscuous AND be happy and healthy. However research tends to show emotional/mental problems correlated with high promiscuity. Therefore, we need to hash out what the details are with that in order to know what kinds of promiscuity can be healthy and what can be hurtful and how the different relationship styles affect different types of people. We are finding that our relationships are in fact tied directly to our physical health. After being rejected you can look at someone’s biomarkers for stress/immune system responses and their body itself had a whole host of responses.

    Anyway, I want more research in EVERYTHING. But then I’m obsessed with neurobiology and how it fits into daily life/professions/trauma/ activities/relationships and experiences… so go figure. : )

  84. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 8:07 am |

    I too noticed that Mr. Siegal was male. Would you make the same kind of aggressive defense of sweatshop labor which is a field in which many/most of the participants are in fact CHOOSING to be there as well? Choice is only as meaningful as the options available to make that choice and that includes a persons internal capacity to see and access an option, not just it’s existance on the table. If there are “jobs out there” that women in GENERAL could hypothetically do, that does not mean that every woman could actually do them. Some women have obstacles to getting through the education system, to being able to show up on time in a structured environment, to have working memory and cognition that allows them to perform as well as expected. PTSD, child abuse, trauma, adverse childhood conditions, childhood with poverty and emotional neglect— these things can all impact a persons ability to perform in the work place.

    A woman might not have been diagnosed with a specific mental health problems, but she may still be struggling to find happiness and success in the workforce. If she feels like porn work is more accesible to her because she has already experienced a lot of exploitive or abusive sexual encounters from men and learned to adapt to that, and the damage of adapting to that has left her less able to work in a regular work place (as abuse and exploitation tends to impair human health and cognition and performance) then she is really not walking into it with fair playing cards. Everyone else has got a deck with some Aces and Kings and Queens and she’s got soem 3s and 4s and a 7 somewhere in her hand and is trying to make the best of it.

  85. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 14, 2011 at 8:27 am |

    Jill:
    Apres, I am open-minded to honest engagement with feminist solutions. But this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. I’ve rejected outlawing porn and sex work as a solution after years of thinking about the issue, reading about it, and studying it. Your comment didn’t offer a solution, it just criticized my stance. So I’m asking, honestly, what is yours? And I’m also saying that if your stance is just “make it illegal,” well, that doesn’t really work, and butts up against other progressive ideals (for me, civil liberties, among other things). I reject that stance not because I’m not open-minded, but because it’s something I’ve thought long and hard about and have concluded is wrong-headed.

    I don’t even think you’re sacrificing you feminism to your other progressive ideals by not wanting to make porn or sex work illegal. To view female sex workers and performers as the criminals in this scenario is a decidedly un-feminist approach in my opinion.

    If some sort of law is enacted, it should be against the organized exploitation aspects of sex work. It makes a lot more sense than arresting someone for filming themselves nude, or receiving a payment for sexual services.

  86. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 14, 2011 at 9:24 am |

    Fucking Hell. There is more concentrated misogyny in this post than an MRA convention. I don’t even know where to begin.

    Actually, there’s not a drop of misogyny.

    While I agree that coerced sex is rape, paid sex does not always equate to coercion.

    Paid sex is coercion. Having sex for a reason other than that you want to, like for money, is coercion.

    One can make the CHOICE to be payed for sex.

    Hardly anyone in the sex industry has a choice. A small number of privileged women have a choice, but this does nothing to negate the choicelessness of countless others.

    Did you make the choice to find a job? Yes. Are you a slave? No.

    I only chose to have a job because I would starve otherwise. That’s not a real choice. It’s coercion. A real choice is whether to eat chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or whether to wear grey or white socks. Getting a job is not a choice- it’s necessary. A slave is someone working without pay, and I work for pay, so no I’m not a slave, nor did anyone ever insinuate this.

    Using someone else’s body for sexual pleasure is FUCKING CALLED SEX. Using someone else’s body for sexual pleasure WITHOUT CONSENT is RAPE.

    When I have sex, I don’t just “use someone’s body”. Sex is an activity between two (or more) people, like a dance, if you will. Can you imagine one person using another person’s body to dance, or play music? When I say “use someone’s body”, I am referring to one person doing the activity, and the other person existing merely as a prop. I do not call this sex.

    Confusing these two is called MISOGYNY. The stereotype that men have destructive urges and women have no sex drive is one that the feminist movement has been trying to destroy since, I don’t know, it began?

    Um, what? I don’t think men have destructive urges. That’s why I think they’re capable of NOT abusing other people. And I don’t think that women have “no sex drive”. I’m not sure where you’re getting this stuff, because I didn’t say anything of the sort.

    Most webcam strippers are stripping for a hell of a lot more than eight an hour. Americans, anyway. I agree that in places like Cambodia, they are exploited. This is simply labor outsourcing to third-world countries. If coffee farmers are payed less than they should, do you declare coffee anti-farmer and never buy it again or seek out Fair Trade coffee?

    Now here’s a good example of misogyny. Calling prostitution “simply labor outsourcing” is intentionally ignoring the fact that poor and disadvantaged women are forced into the sex trade and raped repeatedly. This is not “labor outsourcing” it’s rape of women. It’s a humanitarian crisis. And then prostitution = growing coffee beans? If you’re looking for misogyny, then DING DING DING!!! Here it is.

    Your problem is, you see a woman doing a job and declare her a victim, regardless of what she is. She hasn’t made the choice you wanted her to make, and so you declare her exploited. This is called MISOGYNY.

    This is so delusional I can’t even believe it. The woman isn’t just “doing a job”, she’s being sexually exploited. We don’t know whether or not she had a choice, but the chances are really good that she didn’t. I’m not declaring her exploited just for some sort of sick fun- I’m pointing out real exploitation. Exploiting women is called, as you say, MISOGYNY. Pointing out exploitation is called FEMINISM.

  87. LC
    LC September 14, 2011 at 9:53 am |

    rox: Anyway, I want more research in EVERYTHING. But then I’m obsessed with neurobiology and how it fits into daily life/professions/trauma/ activities/relationships and experiences… so go figure. : )

    Given that my dad is a neurobiologist (now retired), I want to subscribe to your newsletter. :)

    Actually, the wickedly complicated interplay of biophysical markers, stress, and health in all kinds of occupations is something I’d like to see more of. The problem is teasing out causality in what are almost always intricately-layered feedback loops.

    Of course, that’s not the main thrust of this post, but I just wanted to give a “Yay, neurobiology!” shout-out.

  88. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 14, 2011 at 10:25 am |

    Bushfire: Pointing out exploitation is called FEMINISM.

    No it isn’t.

    Exploitation of this sort may not be compatible with feminism, but in no way is that a definition of feminism.

  89. zenit
    zenit September 14, 2011 at 10:53 am |

    It’s really interesting to me that paid cam sites are the biggest earners. I don’t know how much of it though would be the control aspect for the clients, and how much of it (considering its mostly western consumers) is just the culture of entitlement and laziness. I think internet consumption in the West is radically different than in other parts of the world and is extremely tied to perception of self, privilege, and necessity. In countries like the United States, not only are these websites permitted, but we also have the time to consume the product, and the luxury of the internet as a recreational thing, and interact with it the same way we would any past-time or hobby.
    I think if the same privileges were available throughout the world, (time, money and a sense of entitlement) you might see it as a more global trend than a western one. In a place like India for example, highest porn consumption, but not too big on camming, I think the economic aspect plays a huuuuge role. First of all, not many people have internet connections in their houses. Of those that do, very few have access to webcams, or have connections strong enough to support webcam interactions over the internet. A lot of people turn to internet cafes with privacy privileges to rub one out real quick, and since they’re already paying so much just to use the internet, I doubt they would want to spend even more (esp if its going by the dollar) just to interact with a girl on cam. They might get lucky on a website like chatroulette or omegle for free.
    I think another HUGE factor in camming with women is the redefinition of relationships in our culture. People in the west tend to be among the loneliest people on the planet due to extended work hours, anxiety, isolation, or a number of other reasons. Social interactions are not as integral to daily life in many Western cultures as they are in other cultures. I think the webcam creates a new medium through which to interact in a “lonely” world. I mean, even if you look at something as simple as a youtube video, you can see users who have vlogs and stuff like that, tend to address their camera and say “hey guys” or “hey youtubers” or anything along those lines, implying that they feel a sense of community with those who are watching them, but they have no idea who they are, where they are from, and have no way of ever telling, but nevertheless, feel the need to address them in some personal manner.
    To me, it seems it would be a luxury to be able to do something like this. The writer is definitely hitting the nail on the head with the control thing when it comes to a certain demographic, but I think the phenomenon is much bigger than that. I think if the luxury were available to others, it would be a more widespread thing. We totally heard about khaleeji guys going to places like Egypt to find cheap (in a financial sense) girls to have sex with. In the khaleej, many pornographic sites are banned, and that’s why they seem to participate in these types of activities less than others. I think they are probably as active, if not more (due to availability of wealth and time), as others from first world countries, but the data is skewed bc of censorship.

  90. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    “dearth of good research on sex work that isn’t ideologically motivated”

    Another inadequate excuse for non-action. There is no such thing as an un-ideologically motivated study on prostitution just as there’s no such thing as an un-ideological study on climate change. Stalling the debate gives the advantage to the dominator, in this case rapists who pay to prey on their victims and the pimps who profit.

    I find it very hard to swallow that the seven men and one woman who counted the dead bodies to conclude prostitution is the deadliest job are too personally biased for you to believe their research results. “The workplace homicide rate for prostitutes (204 per 100,000) is many times higher than that for women and men in the standard occupations that had the highest workplace homicide rates in the United States during the 1980s (4 per 100,000 for female liquor store workers and 29 per 100,000 for male taxicab drivers).”

    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/159/8/778.full

    Do you demand a recount?

    I’m trying to make sense of why Matt Damon’s defense of teachers against the slander that 10% of them are bad at their jobs gets cheers from the same bloggers who say 100% of all feminist prostitution researchers are bad at their jobs.

    I keep trying to find a polite and practical ending to Jill’s assertion that “Sexually abusive shitholes have to continue to have sexual access to prostituted women because…” but my endings, while practical, don’t manage to come out kind.

    “The problem isn’t lack of interest, it’s (a) lack of funding”

    The legal porn, stripping, brothel, and xxx.com industries haven’t spent millions of dollars on public relations without thorough business reports. Just because the CEOs don’t call the PR department when the results come back doesn’t mean they haven’t tracked the destruction they’ve contributed to the lives of former employees. Rest assured that the day the sex industry uncovers proof that prostitution is benign or beneficial to women, AP and Reuters will get the fax, email and tweet.

    We are feminists discussing the prevalence of rape in the sex industry. When new research about rape hits the ground, usually feminist bloggers commenting on it add that rape is the most underreported violent crime and of course the research is not a perfectly accurate portrait of rape culture but a guide to trends. For some infuriating reason, when the rape victims are prostitutes, suddenly feminist researchers get slammed as too hopelessly flawed to be of use and therefore the gobsmacking amounts of rapes reported must be dramatically overstated.

    Thanks for chiming in, Natalie. What a relief that despite collecting interview data from sex workers and sharing it publicly you’re not a feminist researcher, because I’ve heard from several sources that feminist prostitution researchers are universally too emotional to do their jobs competently.

    One final comment, necessary because of Fat Steve. I don’t expect Jill to take on the enormous weight of shutting down the rape businesses in Cambodia or even New York. She’s a blogger. The bare minimum I think can be expected is that her posts provide accurate, honest information about the subjects she writes on. Therefore, I’m going to outright ask, plead, and beg for an end to any further “make sex work illegal” talk that misleads people like Fat Steve into thinking feminists want sex workers arrested as criminals. It’s 2011, let us finally evolve past the beginner’s level of the prostitution debate that remains ignorant of 1999’s revolutionary Nordic model implementation.

  91. me
    me September 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm |

    I think maybe if you got into sex work without being absolutely desparate, and got lucky by only working with kind people that you could connect with, and then got out, it could have been a not-horrible experience. But I don’t think that’s very common, and it’s a naive mentality to go into it with. Thinking that it’s only horrible for THOSE people – the “everyone but me” thing – might have some nasty consequences.

    I got into sex work thinking I’d be an “escort” and get paid by rich guys to go with them places and have fun and maybe have some awesome sex afterwards. That lasted about a week. Very few guys care to pay for someone’s company, no matter how popular “GFE”(girlfriend experience) is supposed to be. It’s more likely they just want to fuck and GTFO. I kept a list of all of the people I had sex with that I could remember afterwards. Some were in their 40s, but a lot more were 50+, my oldest being 92. If you really want to be picky and “in control” of who your clients are, and think you’ll only take the ones who are clean and not disgusting, you’ll probably never work a day. I never met a Richard Gere. And I guess there were a few times here and there that I’d get to go party in fancy back rooms with famous people or go to school reunions, but I was more often a whore than an escort.

    I still thought I was hot shit though. I thought I was the one in control, that these guys paid me for my TIME, and because I was just so great. Why would anyone want to actually WORK when I get paid so much for being pretty.

    One once told me about a site where johns rated pros online and I checked it out. Someone had created a profile for me and I had tons of reviews, and people pointed out every single thing wrong with me, from any cellulite in one spot, to a mole on another, to how I was shaved, or whether my eyes were too close together, or too far apart, or whether my boobs are too small, or not shaped right, and just tons of comments on any bodily feature you could ever think of. If you ever have a sudden desire to feel horrible about yourself be a pro and check out your reviews online. Unless you’re absolutely perfect – then there’s nothing to worry about. Some people commented on my personality, but most things were physical, and about whether I’d bareback or swallow and all sorts of horrible stuff. Someone said I smiled too much.

    One sick asshole got off to being violent, and times when I really needed money I’d be forced to call him. He’d give me 2000 for a night, and then cover the hospital expenses when he was done.

    So I don’t know. Maybe I just did it wrong. Maybe there’s a way to have sex for money without losing your dignity or self esteem, and without feeling like an object. But I’m really not sure how it could be good for anyone. If you like sex, have it with people YOU choose, rather than letting people choose you and pay, because when they’re paying, you lose control.

    Also, since it’s a job that depends on continuously finding business, if that is what your JOB is, and how you make your money, when you can’t find work for a while, you don’t have as much choice in what you do. You could say you’ll only ever use protection, but once you’ve been doing it for a while, and then suddenly need money, and the only people you can find won’t use protection, you stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I still don’t think making it illegal is the solution, but reading some comments is sort of painful. Some sex workers might be enjoying their work, but only until they run out of luck and options, and by that point, they might just be in too deep.

    And I agree that most johns do get off on the exploitation thing. I think most people might think of the situation and think about lonely geeks online that can’t get laid, but in my experience, those aren’t the people hiring sex workers.

    Thanks for reading. And thank you rox.

  92. Katniss
    Katniss September 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm |

    One sick asshole got off to being violent, and times when I really needed money I’d be forced to call him.He’d give me 2000 for a night, and then cover the hospital expenses when he was done.

    And I agree that most johns do get off on the exploitation thing.I think most people might think of the situation and think about lonely geeks online that can’t get laid, but in my experience, those aren’t the people hiring sex workers.

    Jesus. I am so sorry you went through that.

    My experience with sex work is also that “lonely geek” stereotype isn’t common. I maybe met one or two of the “lonely old man” types who seemed genuinely nice, but all in all that was not the norm.

  93. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    3)On any post about porn/sexwork there will always be at least one hugely affronted man who very cross that any uppity feminist might want to take his toys away hold anti-porn/sex work viewpoints.

    Only one? I’m assuming that there are probably dozens more caught in the spam filter.

    I really really hate those guys. There’s one from an email group I used to belong too who’s stalked me on Jezebel in order to passive-aggressively whine at me about how he thought I supported sex worker rights and what happened to turn me to the dark side? When my comment was about the customers, not the sex workers, who I didn’t insult in any way at all.

    Actually that’s my favorite rhetorical trick that those guys use – they really love to conflate sex workers and customers, and to suggest that anyone who has ethical issues with the customers is attempting to shame the workers. Which is when I start wanting to hit them upside the head with some Marx and Engels.

  94. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen September 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm |

    Does anybody else feel déjà vu here? Look, some sex workers hate sex work, just as some housewives hate housewiving and some retails workers hate grovelling to retail giants. Some sex workers like what they do — they’re in the minority, not because sex work is necessarily crappy but because ALL jobs have crappy rates of satisfaction. Even among chemical engineers, whose jobs have the highest satisfaction rates, their job satisfaction is only 54 percent. (And I’m just referring to legal sex work — it’s virtually impossible to prevent exploitation in criminalised lines of sex work, like prostitution in the States.)

    I suspect most normal humans fall somewhere in the middle — I don’t love my side job in retail, but I like my clients, and I had the choice (and privilege) of choosing an employer with a better record than Walmart. You want to know an institution with disgraceful levels of exploitation? Try the U.S. military, where almost half of servicewomen report being sexually assaulted while serving (and that’s without taking unreported assaults into account). Plenty of pundits will argue the solution to rapists raping servicewomen is to ban women from the military — but outside Tea Party circles, most of us would consider that a moronic solution. Ultimately there’s no reason why labour laws shouldn’t be implemented to make sex work less exploitative — except for reasons of ideology.

  95. Mr. Siegal
    Mr. Siegal September 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm |

    I’m really, really sorry about what I put up here last night. I was pissed about some other things for some other reasons, and I kind of confused what I was arguing about with here with things I was mad about elsewhere

    I apologize for calling anyone a misogynist and being so rude. The GIFT got to me. I’m not even really sure what I was arguing about.

    I was going to start over and try to express my feelings on this issue more clearly, but I think it’s best if I recuse myself from this topic. I’ve already been far too rude and offensive.

    My apologies especially to Bushfire, whom I attacked viciously for no real reason.

    I hope I can one day rejoin this community with the fairness people on this site deserve.

  96. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm |

    @ me – Your description of your experiences maps very closely to the experience of a friend who started as an escort and found, well, the same things you found out. Although none of the guys who hurt her ever offered to pay her medical bills, and it would never have occurred to her to ask, because she was at a point where she really didn’t have the option of refusing clients.

    I have a question to ask that I’ve never yet received a decent answer to – why, when these discussions happen in feminist communities, is there such an emphasis on ensuring that everyone stops and acknowledges the reality of the small minority of sex workers who’re not exploited and who’re happy with their work? I’m not asking why we talk about that at all – I’m asking why it’s being centered in the conversation, over and over again. Is it just because those particular sex workers tend to have more access to resources (internet connection, education and therefore good writing skills) and therefore more of a voice than, say, the teenager in Cambodia, or the survival-level street worker in New York? Why aren’t we centering, say, people like “me”? Because there are a whole lot of people like her out there. Of the women I’ve known who’ve done sex work, most describe their experiences as falling somewhere between what me is describing and what katniss is describing. The ones who always felt that they were in control and had an overall positive experience exist, and I no some, but even in my case where my peer group naturally slants very privileged in terms of who I know well enough that they’re going to disclose that kind of information those people are a minority.

  97. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    Damn, that last sentence is a mess. What I was attempting to say is, OK, so, I know quite a few former sex workers. And because of my own place in the kyriarchy, most of the people I know well enough that they’d be disclosing personal information to me are fairly privileged. And yet, even for me, most of the women I know who’ve done sex work describe something either like what me describes or, for the lucky ones, something like what katniss describes. The number of women I know who’ve done sex work and said that they came out of it totally unharmed mentally/emotionally currently stands at 1. So my question is, why do these discussions tend to center that 1 rather than everyone else?

  98. Natalia
    Natalia September 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm |

    Thanks for chiming in, Natalie. What a relief that despite collecting interview data from sex workers and sharing it publicly you’re not a feminist researcher, because I’ve heard from several sources that feminist prostitution researchers are universally too emotional to do their jobs competently.

    I am a journalist. My name is Natalia. Your “sources” kinda suck.

    I don’t collect data – I collect people’s stories. I find them useful – because they tend to show a wide spectrum of human experience. I find it hard to think of the world in stereotypes. The “happy hooker” vs. “the REAL people in the sex industry, who all hate it” doesn’t get us anywhere.

  99. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    Echo zen— have you ever had 10 guys cum all over your face? Have you ever said, “Hey I really don’t like anal sex” and had someone say, “Well we need anal sex or we’re kicking you out of your job” and decided to let it happen anyway?

    Do you REALLY believe that getting fucked up the ass and trying to hold back tears while people who know you wish it wasn’t happening are fucking you up the ass and filming it is the same as being sick of doing software development and really wishing you could go home because it’s exhausting and boring and repetitive?

    DO YOU REALLY?

  100. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    CassandraSays — *such* a good question.

  101. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    apres l’ondee: Therefore, I’m going to outright ask, plead, and beg for an end to any further “make sex work illegal” talk that misleads people like Fat Steve into thinking feminists want sex workers arrested as criminals. It’s 2011, let us finally evolve past the beginner’s level of the prostitution debate that remains ignorant of 1999’s revolutionary Nordic model implementation.

    Jill was not misleading me into thinking that ‘feminists’ want that. There certainly people out there (a majority of whom are not feminist at all,) who do want sex workers arrested as criminals. I was merely agreeing with her that it is the wrong approach,

  102. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm |

    Natalia— is there any chance that you don’t understand or represent sex workers as well as you think? “Sex workers” are a huge group of people.

    YOU YOURSELF said that “sex workers mostly want…”

    So much speaking over sex workers voices rather than speaking with them huh?

    As if taking some notes in a few interviews gives you some deep insight. Yeah when you’ve held your cousins hand while she’s insane in a prison and you WATCH these men and the shit they do… when you watch people lose their sanity, break down, the sobbing, the dissociation, having to hold on to drug use to make it by, everything fall apart— when you live among women living this and you watch it and you see it—

    what are your notes really? I don’t think a damn thing is wrong with women for trying to make their way through sex work. But DAMN it if you’re going to excuse men for fucking people over like this. These men KNOW they are hurting women. They KNOW it hurts women. The women say they are fine, but so many men think that deep down it will affect her, but it’s ok to do if she let’s you or gets paid enough. If you’ve had friends for many years who do sex work MOST OF THEM TELL YOU THEY ARE FINE AND THEN LATER ARE SO EMOTIONALLY HURT AND DISSOCIATING AND FACING BREAK DOWNS AND NEEDING DRUGS. So many men don’t think they’re fine, they pressume they are fucking up her shit by having sex with her for money or watching those 14 guys throat fuck her while she chokes.

  103. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Does anybody else feel déjà vu here? Look, some sex workers hate sex work, just as some housewives hate housewiving and some retails workers hate grovelling to retail giants. Some sex workers like what they do — they’re in the minority, not because sex work is necessarily crappy but because ALL jobs have crappy rates of satisfaction

    Echo Zen, you’re making it sound like sex work is just any other job. It’s only “just any other job” for a very small minority. For most women in prostitution, it’s not a job, it’s sex trafficking, it’s coercion, it’s rape, it’s violence. Sex work is “necessarily crappy” for most people in it- in fact it’s much, much worse than just crappy.

  104. Mztress
    Mztress September 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm |

    Fun fact: TONS of women do sex work. And there’s a good amount of them turning tricks in the good ole, rich USA. It is easy to imagine impoverished third world women fucking strangers for cash, but believe me, there are plenty of American women with a legal day job who still perform light sex work to supplement income from a minimum-wage, part-time, no benefit job, or to avoid dropping out of college during an unusually expensive semester (which is a goddamned shame, since the point of college is to better one’s circumstances).

    Usually, no one really calls it by the names of “sex work” or “prostitution.” They call it “surviving,” or “getting by,” or “paying the rent this month.” So couple of handjobs for gas money, or a session of unsatisfying penetration for groceries becomes par the course. I’ve been there, and I’ve known so many others who have. And I’ve never been unemployed more than four months at any one time in my adult life. I have often worked two jobs. The cost of living in a big America city is a son of a bitch, especially when it’s laid out next to the rarely-raised minimum wage.

  105. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    Also, I don’t think it makes sense to roll all the different forms of sex work together for the purposes of this conversation. The one woman I know who did sex work and came out without a single mental scar or even bad memory really was a pro domme, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I know some women who’ve been strippers and who would take more the line that katniss was taking above – it was a mixed bag for them, but definitely changed their attitudes towards men in a negative way. The women I know who were in specific jobs where they actually had sex with customers, though, all describe some sort of lasting mental or emotional scars as a result. So I think the specifics matter a lot.

  106. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm |

    Sorry for the name mistake, Natalia.

    Fat Steve, if you re-read the post you’ll see she was not using the possessive plural pronoun about mostly-not-feminist people when she wrote, “if your stance is just ‘make it illegal,’ well, that doesn’t really work.”

  107. Natalia
    Natalia September 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    Rox, I’m going to go ahead and ignore the presumptuous bullshit part of your comment, if that’s alright with you.

    Now, what I am saying, is that talking about this in terms of “rich women who do it for fun” and “everyone else” is stupid. Very stupid. Financial security does not automatically mean that someone is in it “for fun,” and lack of it does not mean that someone is automatically in it out of desperation – and “fun” in general is kind of a concept that can differ wildly from person to person. A lot of people have “fun” as a component of their job – it doesn’t mean that, say, their job is safe, or that their rights as workers are not violated, for example.

  108. SmJ
    SmJ September 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm |

    apres l’ondee:

    It’s 2011, let us finally evolve past the beginner’s level of the prostitution debate that remains ignorant of 1999’s revolutionary Nordic model implementation.

    I don’t get this as a solution. Won’t this mean that the only clients sex workers can expect are those prepared to break the law. That effectively destroys the demand from the “small number” of pretty decent clients, and only leaves the abusive exploitative clients. On the other hand, decriminalisation would mean that the abusive exploitative clients can be arrested and charged without fear, while the pool of decent clients is increased. Is there something I’m missing?

  109. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 14, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    CassandraSays: So my question is, why do these discussions tend to center that 1 rather than everyone else?

    It’s because people reduce the question to “Should prostitution be legal?” when the real question has more to do with social and economic inequality. Should something be illegal if people can happily participate in it together without hurting anyone? No. Should we change the overall economic structure such that people aren’t forced to do things that they don’t want to do to survive (and frankly, to me, this includes things like ‘unwanted drug peddling’ and ‘underground boxing’ or whatever the fuck)?

    But the second we start moving into territory where we start
    calling into question everyone’s feminisms and declaring other women victims because of their profession rather than specific life circumstances, we lose sight of the second question.

  110. No Sugarcoating
    No Sugarcoating September 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm |

    SmJ: I don’t get this as a solution.Won’t this mean that the only clients sex workers can expect are those prepared to break the law.That effectively destroys the demand from the “small number” of pretty decent clients, and only leaves the abusive exploitative clients.On the other hand, decriminalisation would mean that the abusive exploitative clients can be arrested and charged without fear, while the pool of decent clients is increased.Is there something I’m missing?

    Yes, you are missing something. In the USA, for example, the only clients a sex worker can expect to see are those prepared to break the law… This doesn’t change with the Nordic model.

    Jill, you spent half your post apologizing for daring to criticize part of the porn industry, and making sure that people wouldn’t accuse you of believing that every single woman in all of history was coerced into the sex industry. You came off as very timid, but I can understand why after reading these comments. Feministe is effectively hijacked by industry shills. After all that unnecessary qualifying, there were STILL people that accused you of victimizing women. Can’t you see the forest for the trees?

  111. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 8:07 pm |

    Natalie— “Now, what I am saying, is that talking about this in terms of “rich women who do it for fun” and “everyone else” is stupid.”

    Right, and my point was that sex workers who claim to be empowered and happy or whatever should not crap all over women who feel harmed or had more complex experiences.

    My biggest thing is that I don’t get how people who care about women can buy/watch porn and just go on as usual without saying TOO MANY PEOPLE GET HARMED BY THIS.

  112. SmJ
    SmJ September 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm |

    No Sugarcoating: Yes, you are missing something. In the USA, for example, the only clients a sex worker can expect to see are those prepared to break the law… This doesn’t change with the Nordic model.

    I don’t live in the US, but thanks for the US-centrism. I live in a place where sex work is mostly decriminalised. There are still problems, certainly, but it was only a few months ago here where a client was on trial for failure to pay.

  113. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen September 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm |

    I don’t know a single sex worker — retired or current — who feels that, because she’s had positive experiences, she can speak for or crap over those who’ve had negative ones. Experience is a continuum, not a dichotomy — hell, sex work itself is a continuum that includes more than webcams or prostitution. It would be indisputably anti-feminist for anyone to speak for other women without consent, because that would be generalisation — the antithesis of feminism. This isn’t brain science.

  114. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    Echo zen, then why does it sound like you don’t care at all about the people I have seen wind up having PTSD and totally destroyed after pornography and sex work? Why do people just watch it and not care? How can anyone not care? How can people jsut use people for their sexual pleasure and just not care, just not get a shit if they are destroyed afterwards are not and no one can know if they will be THAT PERSON who doesn’t realize how much they will be destroyed after so you NEVER CAN KNOW. I see all these liberals and feminists and people who say they care about human rights and I just don’t understand how people can do this, just use people and not care if they are damaged afterward or bad they hurt inside and how much they are pretending they are not hurting because everything is so broken they just can’t even feel– I don’t understand how people who say they are compassionate can participate in this happening to women and it just makes me sob and not believe that anyone in the world is capable of caring people enough to stop and look at the human being in front of them as a human being instead of a source of orgasm. That no one can STOP and say this person in front of me might be hurting, they might be affected by this later. This might not be good for them, are they ok? I want to know they have support, I want to know they have someone who cares from them later on.

    We do people not care if someone is broken in front of them? How can people not care? I don’t understand.

  115. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm |

    Sorry that was *a bit* incoherant. LOL Damn PTSD is a bitch ain’t it.

  116. SmJ
    SmJ September 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm |

    I do see you’re point rox, but this ethical dilemma isn’t unique to sex work. Pretty much all medical knowledge about hypothermia comes from evil Nazi experiments. Should that knowledge not be used, even if it can save lives today? Is the 1994 film, The Crow, evil and devoid of all merit because an actor was shot and killed during filming? It did achieve critical acclaim after its release. Stunt people injured in the making of a film? YouTube videos played for humour about people injuring themselves (‘fail’ videos)?

    That isn’t to say I don’t broadly agree with what you’re saying, just this is incredibly complicated and far from a simple issue issue.

  117. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm |

    People who defend the sex industry should know that, unless you specifically state otherwise, you are defending male bosses & male customers, and as such are NO ally of mine. The interests of pimps and johns (and many porn consumers) are in most cases diametrically opposed to the interests of the women actually performing sexual labor. Their “civil liberties” do tangible damage to sex workers. We have the scars to prove it.

  118. Katniss
    Katniss September 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    rox, I sincerely think that no one here is truly indifferent to the fact that the majority of sex workers do NOT have good experiences with the industry. I am certainly horrified by many of the stories I hear and am aware of how awful parts of my own experiences are. It’s why I want the sex industry in general to get a very hard look from society and want it to be regulated to protect sex workers. I don’t think it’s impossible to have non-coercive sex work, but I do think we’re a long way from achieving that.

  119. rox
    rox September 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm |

    “Pretty much all medical knowledge about hypothermia comes from evil Nazi experiments. Should that knowledge not be used, even if it can save lives today?”

    How is orgasming over something happening to someone that might harm their well being later in any way the equivalent? One is just using someone for pleasure— the other is trying to save lives.

    People will say anything to justify having an orgasm instead of having active empathy when seeing a porn scene and being concerned over someones well being rather than just using them for sexual pleasure.

  120. SmJ
    SmJ September 15, 2011 at 12:41 am |

    My point was that the media already exists. Which is why I included the other examples. The question is what happens to it then. What do you propose happens to it? Destroy it? Very few people just choose to watch it? Ideally, of course, abusive or exploitative material doesn’t get made in the first place.

    If you watch a movie where a stunt person was badly injured during its production and enjoyed the movie, is there a problem? What if you didn’t know the stunt person was injured? Are all action movies (say) inherently a problem because one can’t know if someone was hurt during production? The whole point of the stunt profession is to risk one’s life as safely as possible for other people’s enjoyment.

    Or is sexual pleasure somehow ‘lesser’ than excitement from watching on-screen explosions? Again, not saying that I don’t get your point. I do broadly agree with what you’re saying, but I think the same ethical questions are broader than just sex work. Should any performer have the right to have their work recalled/destroyed if they decide later on that they were harmed in it? I don’t know that there’s an easy answer, especially if you don’t want to use the assumptions that any particular sex act is inherently degrading or exploitative, sex inherently makes people, women particularly, ‘dirty’, or that women cannot enjoy and do not want sex.

  121. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen September 15, 2011 at 2:27 am |

    For Pete’s sake, will someone burn this straw man already?! Nobody on Feministe disputes that the sex industry is deeply problematic — otherwise we wouldn’t be trying to reform it in order to protect workers and prevent abuses (despite massive resistance from political elements here in the States)! And nobody on Feministe disputes that most sex workers have negative experiences in their line of work either! But claiming sex work is inherently negative is as insultingly simplistic as claiming marriage is inherently sexist, or religion is inherently coercive. Countless sex workers have had terrible experiences with sex work — but in case you haven’t noticed, not all sex work is the same. And more significantly, sex workers don’t speak with one voice — they never have, because there’s no universal experience. Everyone enters the industry under different circumstances.

    I know workers who experience coercion, exploitation and outright assault (especially in the criminalised field of U.S. prostitution, where 70 to 80 percent of workers have been raped). I also know workers who regularly con clients out of their (not-so-hard-earned) cash and share a laugh with me about it afterward. I know workers who do sex work out of necessity, and I know some of these same workers still find moments of pleasure and empowerment in their work. I know workers who explore their queer identities through their sex work. There’s no universal sex worker narrative.

    And frankly I’m scornful of anyone presumptuous enough to tell my friends, “No, you’re supposed to hate everything about your work because it’s inherently degrading and everyone else hates it.” That’s not feminism — that’s misogyny, attempting to brush away the experiences of millions of women through broad generalisations. Feminism’s defining characteristic is its acknowledgement that all people are different. I advocate for sex worker rights because I believe they deserve protection and that it’s up to workers themselves — not me — to define their experiences. If we don’t reform the socioeconomic and patriarchal conditions that make sex work so problematic, don’t be surprised if sex workers continue having negative experiences.

  122. Natalia
    Natalia September 15, 2011 at 2:29 am |

    Natalie— “Now, what I am saying, is that talking about this in terms of “rich women who do it for fun” and “everyone else” is stupid.”

    Who is this Natalie you speak of?

    Right, and my point was that sex workers who claim to be empowered and happy or whatever should not crap all over women who feel harmed or had more complex experiences.

    You appear to be having an entirely separate discussion. Possibly with the voices in your head.

    My biggest thing is that I don’t get how people who care about women can buy/watch porn and just go on as usual without saying TOO MANY PEOPLE GET HARMED BY THIS.

    Actually, most people who have a realistic perspective on the global sex industry, do say exactly that. Approaches to the problem, however, must also be realistic.

    Guess what – most miners don’t have a great time of it either. Still, as members of society, a whole lot of us benefit from the coal industry in one way or another. And in attempting to address the horrible things that happen to miners – not to mention pollution! – we must keep in mind the basic fact that simply putting these people out of a job will not do.

  123. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 15, 2011 at 8:03 am |

    I’m sorry that you were ill. I am grateful that you were feeling well enough to respond to the nasty anti-sex worker garbage that’s been going on in this thread. I’m sorry to say that, because I’ve never been in the industry and don’t personally know anybody who has been, I was uncomfortable speaking up. I apologize for not trusting my instincts and for putting the task to you when I should have said something myself.

  124. rox
    rox September 15, 2011 at 9:31 am |

    I want this conversation to be good, because dammit if people who care about feminism can’t look at all the nuance involved in these issues who can? So I want to hash out where we agree and disagree because I actually think some of the disagreement is merely an issue of framing and semantics. If we can clarify that we might be able to identify what kind of fundamental disagreement may or may not be present. (More often than not there is in fact not as much fundamental disagreement as people think.)

    So here’s what it seems like most of us in this thread, both sex workers and not seem to largely be in agreement about (obviously if you disagree with what I’m seeing then share!)

    1. There are some women who do sex work who feel like the experience is both good and bad, like any other job, and feel like overall they are not deeply or in any way damaged by their experiences any more than anyone else might be damaged by be tired of making coffee and doing it anyway.

    2. There are some women who have been sexually abused and experienced confusing arousal while being abused and feel like they are bad, like the people who use them for their sexuality and that they only fit in with people are aroused over expoitation and will hurt them. They feel like men can do whatever and they really only fit in with hurtful men anyway and have figured out how to see and find whatever love is there in that context and make do with what is. (Just describing myself and some of my friends here.) Sex work feels harmful, but you get numb and you learn to find ways to be ok.

    3. There are some people who think they are ok while doing sex work, and think they feel empowered but later in processing their experiences feel that they have been deeply harmed. If you discount such people exist you are discounting real human beings in this thread.

    4. No woman should be shamed for how she tries to make it through life, how she views her own experiences, or what sex work means to her.

    So here are some open questions:
    How can those of us who have empathy choose to use women’s body for pleasure and pay them money when there are many women who say they THOUGHT they were ok at the time and later realized it caused them harm? How can anyone with a conscience, with compassion for others, not be concerned that the human in front of them or on their TV screen might be one of those women? How can one ignore the potential harm that MIGHT (which I think we agree MIGHT be taking place) and still simply orgasm as usual?

  125. rox
    rox September 15, 2011 at 9:49 am |

    I would say that I DO in fact know a lot about transactional sex and that my experiences are prefectly valid in conversations about transactional sex. I know what it feels like to be completely alone and feel like your sexuality is so messed up you can never REALLY fit in with people who don’t know what sould destroying fucked up sexual energy is like. I know what it feels like to have so much pain that no one wants to be your friend. I know what it’s like to have a man say, “I will let you talk to me about your feelings but I require that you have sex, and also it has to be anal sex” and saying “but I don’t like anal sex” and him saying, “Well those are the requirements of me being your friend, and no one else wants to be your friend, do they?”

    I know what it’s like to feel like you are in a position of powerlessness and diconnected from human beings and you have to grab on to whatever is there. I know what it means to adapt to whatever is going on even if it’s totally whacked out and to tell yourself and others around you that you’re “fine” and sort of even believe it even though you know there is more going on inside. I know what it means to normalise what’s going on inside you, “Well life is just hard, this is just how it is, don’t go being silly and hoping for more than this, look how many others are in this situation too? It’s ok. It’s just fine like it is. Men will do things to you, but they will be nice to you sometimes and sometimes they will even give some affection and maybe there is even something genuine in that. And after all no one else wants to be my friend so they are after all doing me a favor that no one else will do. Provide social interaction and listen to me talk about how I feel. I am grateful. The anal sex kind of hurts, it sort of feels like everything feels so empty. But after all I can just be fine and not see it like a big deal. It’s not a big deal, right?”

    I know the mental processes of letting people do horrible things to you and finding ways to make yourself feel ok with it— inside and out. I know the meaning of making do with what is. I know the meaning of finding gratitude toward people who are using you for sex and giving you something you need in return.

    But then when I look at the males involved in this— when I look back at who they were and what they said and what they did— I don’t think it’s ok. And I have the right to be concerned about what is happening to women in sex work even if they say they are fine with it.

    I know what it means to say you are fine with and to be aching inside. and I would want any human being in the world to do me the honor of looking beyond my words when I say, or even think that I am fine. Not to control me, not to belittle me. But to see me for things I am afraid to even see within myself. Not to define them for me, but simply to be willing to look and to care when I’m not even sure I can handle giving myself the space to do so.

  126. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 15, 2011 at 10:43 am |

    The fundamental problem with your worldview is that you assume that sex work is just another occupation under capitalism. For most women in sex work, their “job” is not a job at all but slavery, rape, abuse, trafficking. It is not “anti-sex worker” to point this out. I can’t believe this needs to be said over and over.

    There are some women who do not feel they are being abused, which is definitely a sign of privilege.

    Or it could be a sign that the person is not being abused and knows their own situation better than you do.

    This does nothing to counter what I said. Of course not being abused means not being abused. The person in sex work who is not being abused has privilege over those who are being abused. Those with privilege like to say “I’m not being abused” over and over as if that will somehow make it ok for us to assume the women who ARE being abused have “chosen” sex work like they have.

    The only way you’re not being abused? If you have other, equally enjoyable and well-paid work opportunities available to you, and you still choose sex work.

    So sex workers must have more privilege than most people working within capitalism.

    What the fuck. I am not demanding that sex workers have “more privilege”. Everyone with privilege has a choice of what job they do. People who are forced into a lousy, low-paying job are definitely being abused, even if that job is not sex work.


    What level of choice are we talking here? Most sex workers will push for the right to refuse clients, and it’s the first right business owners take away when our rights are impeded. As for “infrastructure”, most sex workers do not use bodyguards, any more than any other worker who operates in close personal proximity to clients does. Some use security, but they are not often present during the service. We rely on our own intuition, ability to defuse situations, and the simple fact that most clients aren’t violent.

    So even though sex workers are regularly raped and murdered, you think that “our own intuition and our ability to defuse situations” is enough security. Utter bullshit. You are speaking from a position of privilege. Try talking to a sex worker in Vancouver’s downtown east side, and see if their “intuition” keeps them from being murdered.

    How many people who aren’t sex workers can leave their job at any time without consequences? How many of them would you label “abused”? You are putting an unfair burden on sex workers compared to other workers.

    Sure, the consequences of quitting a job working at a bank and escaping from an abusive pimp are exactly the same.

    I have a question to ask that I’ve never yet received a decent answer to – why, when these discussions happen in feminist communities, is there such an emphasis on ensuring that everyone stops and acknowledges the reality of the small minority of sex workers who’re not exploited and who’re happy with their work?

    Firstly, I haven’t seen this emphasis you speak of.

    IT’S ALL OVER THIS THREAD, INCLUDING IN YOUR OWN WORDS, FOR EXAMPLE HERE:

    Secondly (and more importantly) it’s a total myth to speak of sex workers who are not exploited as a small minority. We’re just not…. but it’s not accurate at all to say that the majority of sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Most, I’d say, are just people doing a job.

    What fucking planet are you living on? Women forced into sex work by poverty, trafficking, incest, etc, don’t exist for you? Most of them are just people doing a job? You can call me ignorant all you want, but comments like these just reek of your privilege and your own denial of the reality of prostitution speaks for itself.

  127. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 15, 2011 at 11:00 am |

    SmJ, lawbreakers and violent criminals aren’t necessarily the same people. Eliot Spitzer was a lawmaker who worked on the anti-trafficking laws he violated, and Ashley Dupré said he went beyond breaking anti-john laws into violent criminality.

    He was holding me down. He pinned me to the bed. That didn’t bother me. But when he grabbed my throat, that was too much. I remember trying to push myself up off the bed, which made him apply more pressure. I’ve never been worried about my safety, but I was really concerned.

    We’ll get to how to handle remaining non-violent johns later. Probably not in my lifetime.
    Natalia, as you say, the coal industry vitally benefits society and without coal people would suffer and possibly die. No man suffers for lack sex-based entertainment. Hurting women is just a fun way to pass some time for johns, and it’s an enormously destructive one.

    When coal miners choose to leave their jobs there is no threat from management of violent reprisal or threat of being forcibly dragged back to work. Prostitutes frequently need exit programs to escape from their pimps like no one with a job needs professional assistance quitting. Prostitution is domestic violence.

    Jill, the problem isn’t a forced choice between black and white (hello grey-zone Nordic model again), it’s your choice to feel genuinely bad for raped prostitutes but do nothing to stop their rapists, and then call that noble. Giving sexually abusive shitholes the right to sexually use some women because to stop them would be against liberty is brave new feminism indeed.

    My best friend and a former lover were both prostituted. One died young from AIDS and the other is putting the shattered pieces of her life back together. I speak for them. Do anyone have a problem with that?

  128. apres l'ondee
    apres l'ondee September 15, 2011 at 11:02 am |

    blew the block quote, sorry

  129. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    “but it’s not accurate at all to say that the majority of sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Most, I’d say, are just people doing a job.”

    This is simply dishonest. Why does it get a pass here?

  130. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    “but it’s not accurate at all to say that the majority of sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Most, I’d say, are just people doing a job.”

    This is simply dishonest. Why does it get a pass here?

  131. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |

    “but it’s not accurate at all to say that the majority of sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Most, I’d say, are just people doing a job.”

    This is simply dishonest. Why does it get a pass here?

    Also, Natalia — making a nasty spirited joke about “the voices in” rox’s head? Really shameful.

  132. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    sorry for the (semi) double post. It got hung up, and then I edited it & added to it while I was waiting and hit “submit” again.

  133. Esti
    Esti September 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    Kathleen: “but it’s not accurate at all to say that the majority of sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Most, I’d say, are just people doing a job.”This is simply dishonest. Why does it get a pass here?

    Yes. Yes to this a million times.

    I think (almost) everyone on this thread has done a good job of acknowledging that there are at least two different experiences of sex work — people who enjoy it or at least feel it’s a job like any other/it’s not harmful to them, and people who are really damaged by it and/or are doing it because they are being forced (or coerced) to do so. Acknowledging those two realities is a starting point, but it is irresponsible and disingenous to stop there and fail to recognize the massive disparity between the number of people in the first group and the number of people in the second group. That is not denying sex workers the ability to define their own experience. It’s about recognizing the reality that sex workers who post on feminist blogs are not as numerous as those who are being pimped out against their will (or at least without any other options) in Cambodia and here in the U.S. and around the world.

    Some of this, as others have said, is a definitional issue. Sex work can mean porn, or web cams, or phone sex lines, or fetish modeling, or stripping, or working in a sex-worker owned brothel, or working for an escort service, or advertising sex on Craigslist, or standing on a streetcorner, or having a pimp, or being trafficked. If you only talk about some of those categories, or only talk about them in some countries, then there might be less of a disparity between sex workers who are okay with their job and sex workers who are hurt by what they do. But if you are talking about sex work generally, throughout the world, as this post was — about everything from the well-regulated parts of the U.S. porn industry to sketchy web cam businesses in Eastern Europe to 12 year old girls in Cambodia being sold by pimps — then it is a fucking lie to say that there are just as many sex workers who are okay with what they do as there are sex workers who are exploited.

    The problem with this conversation on feminist blogs is that it always goes like this: a post criticizing some small part of the sex industry is made; several people post things related to that part of the sex industry; one person says all sex work is inherently coercive or exploitive; and then the whole conversation becomes a fight between that philosophical position and the personal experiences of the couple of commenters who have done sex work and didn’t feel damaged and don’t want someone defining their experience for them. Which is all well and good, until you realize that the discussion on a post about outsourcing sex work to poor countries where 12 year old girls are being pimped out has been focused on whether sex work is a job like any other. If it’s a job like any other for you, that’s fantastic. It is also privilege, because that is not reality for most people in the worldwide sex industry.

  134. rox
    rox September 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm |

    “My biggest thing is that I don’t get how people who care about women can buy/watch porn and just go on as usual without saying TOO MANY PEOPLE GET HARMED BY THIS.

    Actually, most people who have a realistic perspective on the global sex industry, do say exactly that.”

    How many people do you think have a realistic perspective on the global sex industry and how many people in social activism or who care about human rights do you think have actually stopped using porn because of these concerns?

    “More than 70% of male internet users from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography

    Aside from the feminist anti-porn movement (largely consisting of females) and some weird religious anti-porn movements that tend to be extremely anti-sex, anti-masturbation, anti-sexual fantasy: I have yet to run accross a liberal/human rights activist man who says he just doesn’t watch pornography because he’s concerned that he can’t tell which woman might feel harmed afterward or not.

    I don’t know that there is such a large section of people aware of human rights issues that do make such a decision.

  135. groggette
    groggette September 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    Kathleen: This is simply dishonest. Why does it get a pass here?

    What the fuck is dishonest about it? She is a sex worker herself who works for the rights and proection of sex workers. I’d say she’s easily one of the most knowledgeable people about this topic on this thread.

  136. groggette
    groggette September 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    Bushfire: Women forced into sex work by poverty, trafficking, incest, etc, don’t exist for you?

    That was never said by anyone on this thead. Not even the comment you quoted.

  137. Gregory A. Butler
    Gregory A. Butler September 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    And they’re consuming porn that is produced at bargain-basement prices by women who have significantly less financial autonomy than many American and Western European women. At the same time, there’s plenty of porn out there that involves American and Western European women, or actresses who have greater bargaining power and are paid much higher wages. I wonder how much of the thrill, for some men, involves the potential for exploitation — the power that comes from being able to pay a woman to do something for you, on your terms, that she might not do if she had a broader range of options.

    I’m sorry, that sounds like projecting to me.

    I seriously doubt that men going to an interactive porn site are thinking like that. Speaking as a man who is a porn user, I would assume that they go to livejazmine.com because it’s cheaper than other comparable sites.

    I seriously doubt the guys are sitting there getting turned on by low Third World pay scales!

    Maybe that’s why Milton Friedman watches porn – but that doesn’t apply to the rest of us!

  138. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar September 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm |

    “how many people in social activism or who care about human rights do you think have actually stopped using porn because of these concerns?”

    For the reasons I stated here at Feministe in “I Can Never Tell”, I have not been willing to pay for commercially produced porn since … well, long enough that I can’t pinpoint the year. More than five years I think.

    FWIW, and I’m expressing a personal solution rather than trying to construct a mandate, if I want something to get turned on to, I prefer sexually oriented discussion groups and social networking (for me, as a BDSMer, particularly Fetlife). When someone creates a profile and posts their own content, they can control the content and they can present themselves as they choose.

  139. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    That was never said by anyone on this thead. Not even the comment you quoted.

    Here’s the money quote:

    Secondly (and more importantly) it’s a total myth to speak of sex workers who are not exploited as a small minority. We’re just not. It’s just as inaccurate to say that all sex workers are totes happy and love the work all the time, because we’re not a monolith either way, but it’s not accurate at all to say that the majority of sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are exploited. Some sex workers are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Most, I’d say, are just people doing a job.

    Although she doesn’t say specifically that trafficked women don’t exist, she dismisses them completely, and talks as if they don’t exist.

  140. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    Esti, I agree with your point about the massive disparity in numbers. For whatever reason, these types of discussions bring out people who are extremely invested in obscuring the disparity.

  141. me
    me September 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    This is mostly unrelated, but just something I was thinking about.. I think part of why prostituting impacted me so horribly is for a few reasons, besides it just being a bad experience. I’d never had a positive sexual experience of any kind before I started whoring. I’d been with a few guys that pressured me into going further than I’d wanted to, who were rough with me, and didn’t really care how I felt about it. So when I started whoring it was just more bad experiences, one after another, and I internalized the feeling of worthlessness I felt, along with associating sex of any kind with something bad. Maybe if I’d had even just one decent experience prior to whoring, I might have been able to better cope with the emotional demands that go along with it. If I felt comfortable enough with my body, and knew how to orgasm, maybe I could have enjoyed it enough of the time so that it wouldn’t have had such lasting emotional damage. Obviously, even in that alternate reality, I couldn’t have enjoyed it all of the time, because some guys are really just horrible, disgusting, assholes, but the times that weren’t so bad might have balanced it out.

    I think I was probably 6 or 7 the first time I saw pornography online. It was a little before that Pam Anderson/Tommy Lee video was plastered all over every warez site on the planet. Friends I had watched it regularly, so I started to also, and as a kid I was a total tomboy, and mostly hung out with guys, and I think there might have been times where they completely forgot that I was female. Between the things I saw in online porn and the things I heard from the people I was around, I managed to internalize an enormous amount of misogyny, with a whole lot of it directed at myself. It made it even harder to relate to other women, and without other women to talk to, I never really knew how sex was supposed to be. Today geekfeminism.org has a link to http://makelovenotporn.com/ with little examples of differences between many people in my generation’s expectations of sex that come from pornography, compared to the real world, and it’s things like that that I was completely oblivious to. I think maybe women that were prostituting before internet pornography was so rampant might not have had the same sort of experience that I did.

    It’s been three years since I stopped prostituting and I’m still no where near over it. I get anxiety around people, I always feel horribly about myself, mirrors can make me cry, I’m deathly terrified of men, especially police, and to this day I’ve never managed to have an orgasm with anyone, in the hundreds of guys I’ve slept with. I couldn’t even bring myself to comment online until just recently.

    So I don’t know, maybe with the right circumstances it might not destroy someone, but this is just something I was thinking about..

    rox: It’s rare that I speak to anyone I can relate to.. If you would be willing to talk with me please email me at followermm@yahoo.com

    Thanks for reading.

  142. rox
    rox September 15, 2011 at 7:25 pm |

    me– will do. I too have not really been able to reintigrate with human beings because of the same kinds of symptoms.

  143. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm |

    Wow, ‘me’, thanks so much for sharing all that with us. Maybe it was off-topic, but sometimes a girl needs to vent. I hope you have a trusted friend and also a therapist you can talk to. I would totally give you my email, but I haven’t had any of those experiences, so I wouldn’t be able to help. I bet if you call your local women’s shelter or rape crisis centre they could direct you to a support group or a telephone line or something. Best wishes for your healing! I hope things turn out well for you.

  144. rox
    rox September 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm |

    Something to consider for those who don’t know what having PTSD or trauma that you’re pushing away— in order for me to write in conversations like this it fucks up my shit. I rock back and forth the whole time, I turn into a puddle of sweat, things start looking blurry, things you have to not think about– don’t think about that aaah I curl up in a ball, I sob, I make horrible moaning sounds.

    I’ve trained myself in body awareness and meditation techniques and I can observe go into the feelings/symptoms, stay present and come back to stability. But the kind of symptoms I have are the kind that when I DIDN;T know how to work with them wound up with me in the mental hospital in utter terror, screaming, dissociating, reality turning into a blur.

    The people who are the most broken by their experiences are the least likely to be able to talk about them. This is why I will NOT stop sharing my voice, even it comes out incoherant— it’s the best I can do. And speaking is better than the silence or no one will ever know what it’s like. I have seen too many people fallen, who will never share their stories in spaces like this.

  145. small city reporter
    small city reporter September 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm |

    As a sister journalist, I couldn’t read the following article without thinking about this thread with every sentence.

    http://pressthink.org/2011/09/we-have-no-idea-whos-right-criticizing-he-said-she-said-journalism-at-npr/

    This is he said, she said reporting, one of the lowest forms of journalism in existence, in which the NPR reporter washes her hands of determining what is true. The new Kansas regulations may be a form of harassment, intended to make life as difficult as possible for abortion providers in that state. Or, alternatively, these rules may be sane, rational, common sense, sound policy: just normal rule-making by responsible public officials.

    According to this report, NPR has no idea who is right. It cannot provide listeners with any help in sorting through such a dramatic conflict in truth claims. It knows of no way to adjudicate these clashing views. It is simply confused and helpless and the best it can do is pass on that helplessness to listeners of “Morning Edition.” Because there is just no way to know whether these new rules try to make life as difficult as possible for abortion providers, or put common sense public policy goals into practice in Kansas. There is no standard by which to judge. There is no comparison that would help. There is no act of reporting that can tell us who has more of the truth on their side. In a word, there is nothing NPR can do! And so a good professional simply passes the conflict along. Excellent: Now the listeners can be as confused as the journalists.

    He said, she said is kind of three-way pact among journalists and the two most obvious sides in a predictable dispute. Groups on the left get their quotes. Groups on the right get corresponding quotes. The journalists at NPR get protection. It’s the listeners who get screwed.

  146. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm | *

    It’s not at all clear that there are more sex workers who feel that they have been exploited, than sex workers who feel that they were not exploited. If anyone can produce solid research that can give us something even approaching numbers on this issue, that would be great, but for reasons already discussed on this thread, said research is incredibly hard to come by. Until we have that research, you don’t actually know what the numbers are either way.

    It’s also not at all clear that the division between “exploited” and “not exploited” is straightforward, even for people who are analyzing their own experiences. It’s not always clear what “privilege” means in this context: Does it mean having money and “options”, or is it not that simple? Does it mean having a middleman, or not having one? Does it mean living in a place where stigma is lower, so sex workers have higher access to services etc, or in a place where stigma is higher, so sex workers’ profession is more likely to elicit pity? And so on.

    One book on HIV/AIDS research that especially struck me was called LETTING THEM DIE, by Catherine Campbell. I posted a very long quotation on sex work to my blog at one point:
    http://clarissethorn.com/blog/2010/12/24/litquote-sex-workers-and-whore-stigma-in-southern-africa/

    The basic point of that passage is that stigma is such an overwhelming and complicated force in shaping identity that sometimes, it seems legitimate to say that sex workers’ experience is shaped just as much by the stigma and outsider narratives that surround their profession as by the experiences they have. It’s a really excellent analysis overall, though.

    All this having been said ….

    One of my wise social justice friends once pointed out to me that “Any social justice movement will inevitably center the most privileged people in that movement.” This is perhaps a simplistic maxim, but I think there’s a lot of wisdom there, and it’s worth asking how much this happens in sex workers’ rights activism. I applaud those conversations, but I don’t like the way so many people are disappeared in them.

    Sex worker activist Audacia Ray wrote a post about a year ago called “Things That Are Broken: Sex Worker Activism”, but I can’t find it now … it looks like she’s moving her site around or something. She was writing about how she’s been coming to terms with her own privilege and how that’s affected her activist perspective. It was a great post and I hope it does get reposted at some point.

    It’s worth noting that AR pioneered the awesome “Speak Up” trainings, which are all about helping sex workers find their own voices:
    http://www.redumbrellaproject.com/speak-up-2011-media-training/

    Snip from the site:

    The impetus for developing Speak Up is based on a real need expressed by members of our community for more resources and skills training on how to (a) respond to media requests effectively and safely, (b) engage with the mainstream media in order to get a particular message out, and (c) create our own media products. Sex workers, like many other marginalized communities, find the mainstream media a crucial site of resistance due to the harmful misrepresentations and stereotypes that it produces. This is especially true when the job the sex worker does is illegal and becomes further compounded by factors such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, relative poverty, drug use, family status, immigration status, and age. All too often, sex workers simply choose not to engage with the media due to potential social and legal repercussions or sex workers get in over their heads and are unwittingly exploited by the media without getting anything out of it.

  147. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    @ rox – Your last paragraph is why I asked the question I did upthread. What concerns me about how this discussion plays out in feminist spaces is which voices are missing, and if there’s any way to rectify that.

  148. wl
    wl September 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    We sex workers are a community dealing with a lot of trauma, personal and collective, especially those of us living under criminalization. That’s why we have the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, for one thing. I’m sorry people are feeling invalidated. Of course people have horrible experiences. I did. And this thread triggered me too. This is why we need to organize for change, as a community. The sex workers rights movement has been amazing for me personally and it’s not as dominated by the privileged as it looks from outside (it is somewhat but I and others are working on it). I’ve met multiple former street workers in the movement, current and former drug users, survivors of things like child porn.

  149. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    rox and me — I hope some of the people in this thread who have been cruel & dismissive will come back and apologize to the two of you, but for what it’s worth I just wanted to say that your mutual kindness to one another here has been wonderful to witness.

  150. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 7:23 am |

    “a few people rush in to insist in often voyeuristic detail how abused and exploited we all are.”

    Uh, I never said that ALL sex workers are exploited. The statement you just made is extremely cruel to the sex workers in this thread who SAID THEY FELT ABUSE. That is not me your angry at, that’s other sex workers.

    If you’re pissed at other sex workers than yourself for being damaged for their experiences, why don’t you just come out and say it.

    They’re messing up your agenda, aren’t they?

  151. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 8:13 am |

    Also, I think you’ve demonstrated that sex workers themselves can have a huge bias– so peer research should be part of the body of research but all research has bias. Let’s not pressume sex workers don’t have their own biases against each other.

    “In their 2003 study
    from nine countries on five continents, Farley et al (7)
    found that prostitution was multi-traumatic and that close
    to 70% of the women surveyed about their current and
    lifetime history of sexual and physical violence met the
    criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
    Farley M. Prostitution harms women even if indoors.
    Reply to Weitzer. Viol Ag Women. 2005;7:950-984.
    doi:10.1177/1077801205276987.

    Now this which you might be familiar with is from a Dutch study of legal prositution in which conditions are much better for workers:
    “In Vanwesenbeeck’s classic study (29) of Dutch
    commercial sex worker’s well-being and risk, she found
    that sex workers fell into three groups. About a quarter
    felt and acted like professionals, managed quite well
    as sex workers, and had better health than a non-sex
    worker control group. Another quarter suffered from
    considerable strain and had a negative attitude toward
    their profession and poor physical and psychological
    health. The remaining half fell midway between these
    groups, with somewhat worse health compared with the
    controls but a more professional attitude. Studying burnout
    among female sex workers, Vanwesenbeeck (28)
    found that only the depersonalization score of burnout
    distinguished female sex workers from controls. Over
    40% of the variance in depersonalization was accounted
    for by not working by choice, stigma, experiences of
    violence, and lack of control in client interactions. These
    data suggest that agency and context rather than sex
    work as such are the major contributors to poor mental
    health.”
    Vanwesenbeeck I. Burnout among female indoor sex workers.
    Arch Sex Behav. 2005;34:627-639. doi:10.1007/s10508-005-
    7912-y.

    It seems that for women with childhood abuse and prior mental health issues, the risk of harm is much greater:
    “That is, those with childhood sexual trauma
    do poorly, while those who have good mental health do
    very well. Månsson & Hedin concluded that those who
    have resources in sex work do better than those who
    have a deficit in coping skills and mental health, with
    the latter ending up in an even worse situation.”
    Månsson S-A, Hedin U-C. Breaking the Matthew effect – on
    women leaving prostitution. Int J Soc Welf. 1999;8:67-77.
    doi:10.1111/1468-2397.00063.

    Seventy percent is a lot of people with PTSD.

    The reason legalization is not a “solution” to the trauma associated with working in pornography is that PORNOGRAPHY IS ALREADY LEGAL.

    So what can we do to protect vulnerable women from being harmed by this industry, as that is what this thread is supposed to be about that you are trying to silence so much?

    Is your answer nothing? Because that’s not good enough. I have been scouring pub med, the university library, google scholar– for non-biased study that go in depth with mental and physical health outcomes for women working in pornography and there are about three studies done in the past few years, none of which being comprehensive and it’s no where near enough to assess what is going on here.

    You know what I see a shitload of? Studies about how porn affects males. SHITLOADS. All the studies are about the men and how they are affected. And that is anti-sex worker right there. We NEED more research and we need to come up with better ways of protected women from getting broken by people who don’t give a crap out of them producing pornography.

  152. Laurelin
    Laurelin September 16, 2011 at 8:23 am |

    Just commenting to register my support for Kathleen and Apres, and especially for Rox. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you, Rox, to be going through your PTSD to comment here, but please know that there are those of us outsiders who are listening to you- and who are revolted at the treatment you are receiving on this thread. All best.

  153. Laurelin
    Laurelin September 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |

    Also ‘voices in your head’? That is a disgusting comment. Take it from someone who was once misdiagnosed as having a psychotic disorder (turned out to be OCD). Not funny. No excuse.

  154. John
    John September 16, 2011 at 8:59 am |

    I first saw this article in The Guardian (a broadsheet UK newspaper)’s website. The comments there are still going strong, mainly focussing on the SE Asia bit and paedophile sex tourists.

    My own view of sex work is that i would be appalled if my daughter ended up doing it, so why should anyone else’s daughter be coerced into it? That goes for cam work as well. Urgh, repellent.

  155. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |

    John:
    I first saw this article in The Guardian (a broadsheet UK newspaper)’s website. The comments there are still going strong, mainly focussing on the SE Asia bit and paedophile sex tourists.

    My own view of sex work is that i would be appalled if my daughter ended up doing it, so why should anyone else’s daughter be coerced into it?That goes for cam work as well.Urgh, repellent.

    Wow, yours sounds like a thoroughly nauseating and suffocating household. It’s the kind of thing that could make a girl turn to porn.

  156. Nia
    Nia September 16, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    I wanted to say so much along those lines. But I feel like every time I speak up as a sex worker around here, and in feminist circles generally, I get shot down, told that I’m “privileged” as a way of not listening to me, etc. It gets exhausting. Your whorephobia, your discomfort with who we are, what we do, and our diverse experiences, is exhausting.

    Elena Jeffreys said, with regard to sex workers vs. feminists in her experience,: “This is why we won’t perform our tragedy for you. Because to live our lives with strength, you need to accept us at our best.”

    WHY can we never talk about the awesome stuff about doing sex work, the advantages, etc, without being told we are “privileged”? stigma aside, it IS a labor issue. Sex workers who love what we do and are happier for it SHOULD be talked about, and listened to, because a future for labor without slavery and exploitation, in every industry, would be a really great thing to create.

    You aren’t helping us to create it when you insist that sex work is inherently exploitative (unless I work in some chic anarchist collective brothel or something, or never do hardcore porn, etc, etc, etc.)

    LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS. All of us. And when our lives, experiences, and ideas don’t fit your little “tragic whore” box, stop calling us “privileged” and shutting us down. As though we’re too dumb to be horrified by slavery and labor exploitation, IN ANY INDUSTRY, when we see it. NO ONE is in a better position to improve the industry than those IN the industry.

  157. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    I have an idea. The first thing is obviously to make sure young women have better connection to support to talk about their abuse, get help, and deal with impaired functioning as a result of. That will take a lot of time though.

    Another is that we up the requirement of materials about consent given to women entering porn work. We create something that creates the best picture of research that’s been done, including a discussion of research bias– present a variety of porn worker experiences– positive- mixed- and negative experiences– provide helpful tips from women who have made in the porn industry and know how to care for their emotional selves within it, and also some (optional) self assessment materials a woman can do or not do that will help her identify how well she knows her boundaries, what she will do when they are continually pushed, how well she understands her own sexual history, how much support she has and where to get it, what to do if she wants out of the work she’s doing but feels trapped, how to assess how she is being emotionally impacted by her work, knowing what her own issues with work outside of the sex industry are and assessing whether there are resources that might help her find other work that she’s not aware of etc.

    These are things that I’m not sure producers are required to provide women with and I think perhaps that is an area we could try to make sure that women know about other options and support, are aware that if they have a history of abuse they will be at a higher risk of adverse affects from working in porn (and that there ARE resources to help them with impaired functioning in the normal work environment due to the abuse!!!)

    The biggest thing is that we don’t really HAVE good resources for women whose ability to work has been affected by adverse life experiences. That’s what we need to work on, and we need to make sure that women know those resources are there (men deserve such resources too BTW but as we’re talking feminism here that’s my focus)

  158. Nia
    Nia September 16, 2011 at 10:21 am |

    I just re-read my comments, and need to clarify what I mean by “awesome” with regards to sex work:

    – I can pay my bills
    – financial worries ease, and I feel less stressed, I get to think about other things than constant $ worries
    – I feel beautiful
    – I get to play dress up
    – Sometimes, I meet interesting people
    – Sometimes, I can satisfy desires / senarios that my primary isn’t interested in
    – I GET PAID

    This is not a bunch of over-privileged fluff. These are real concerns, shared by many adults, shared by me, satisfied by my work. And yeah, there are days I don’t feel like going to work. And I do anyway. Like lots of people. And it doesn’t mean I’m being exploited, any more than any other independent contractor in a capitalist society.

    Obviously my working conditions are not the only working conditions that exist – both in terms of what’s good and what’s bad about them. But all this talk about “horrifically exploited asian sex workers tragic whores” etc, is… I can’t see it as helpful. There are PLENTY of sex workers rights organizations all over Asia. They are, like, forerunners in the sex workers rights movement. They deserve ultimate respect for their work. They have made demands; they have out right stated what would be helpful to them.

    When are feminists going to help with the work of fulfilling those goals, set forth by organized sex workers? That would be a hell of a lot more helpful than all the back and forth about whether what we do is inherently evil or not.

    Also as a last note: to all the people who come off like “I’d be horrified if my daughter did that” etc: as one who has to lie to her parents about what she does and what makes her happy, I just need to say, you’re not helping. I wish, when I do good at work, or when I make a payment or get out of debt with my labor, my parents would be proud of me. It’s never gonna happen, pretty much because of attitudes like yours. But I’m fighting for that day.

  159. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 10:26 am |

    “WHY can we never talk about the awesome stuff about doing sex work, the advantages, etc, without being told we are “privileged”?”

    This was a thread meant to allow discussion of damage and exploitation that can/does happen to women in sex work.

    Who is silencing who? Sex workers who are having an awesome time are REAL. Sex workers who go in and out of it and feel like they had some really awesome experiences and wouldn’t change a thing are REAL. Activism to support them and their existance is needed!

    But in your fight to support women who like sex work– you are literally trying to stiffle a conversation giving space to talk about the very REAL women who come out of sex work emotionally harmed.

  160. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 16, 2011 at 11:41 am |

    let me explain why I think your arguments are made in bad faith. At one moment, you say you want sex work to be considered just one more kind of job. Great! Okay. Are we allowed to talk about it in the way we talk about other jobs, ie, address social inequality and exploitation that shape the kinds of jobs people are willing to take?

    OH NOES!!!! WE MUSTN’T!!!! We have to hear all about how sex work is super rewarding and, especially, how the clients and bosses of sex workers are groovy and sadly misunderstood. This is stuff that somehow never comes up in discussions of, say, factory work or farmwork. If I were to come on here and wax on about how society just doesn’t understand that factory owners care about their workers and are just hated on because everybody is all puritanical and uptight, I’d be laughed out of town.

    Okay, so sex work is special then? It’s NOT like other work and some kind of special standard should apply? Fair enough! It’s a kind of work mostly done by women and children, and it’s care work. The comparison raised *all the time* by activists like her (including in the video she linked in one of her previous posts) is to the cleaning up of poop (or cleaning toilets). That maybe YOU would not want to clean up poop / clean toilets, but cleaning up poop is a job and should be protected and decently paid.

    The reason I think “poop cleaning” is the go-to comparison for these activists is because poop cleaning (and toilet cleaning) is sometimes done for love, and in those circumstances, almost always by women. Babies, seniors, people with long-term disabilities or short-term illnesses, may get their poop cleaned up as a loving service.

    And, when no one is available to do this out of love, they get it done by paid workers. who, yes, should be protected and decently paid.

    Here’s the thing, though. NOBODY CLEANS POOP FOR ITS OWN SAKE; IT IS *ONLY* DONE AS A SERVICE. The cleaning of poop is not part of being (for most people, caveats about asexuality acknowledged) a fully-realized human being. Poop cleaning is not a revelatory experience through which one realizes the pleasure-capacities of one’s physical body and through which one can feel fully and joyfully realized as a person.

    Poop cleaning does not provide pleasures often denied to women and often reserved for men, cross-culturally and through history.

    The fact that paid sex is mostly done by women and children for men, and that it frames sex as a service provided by women and children for men, *does* make sex like poop cleaning. Is this a feminist triumph? Do we think as feminists in a world of sex-gender equality this state of affairs would stand? OR do we think sexuality is one of the key sites of struggle, and thus, that sex work IS INDEED DIFFERENT THAN OTHER KINDS OF WORK, but not in a way that requires special pleading of a variety we would scoff at if invoked in the context of blueberry picking (I feel so empowered by it! and my boss! he totally gets me! AND IT IS OFFENSIVE TO POINT OUT THAT THE ME DOING THE BLUEBERRY PICKING IS MOSTLY POOR AND OF COLOR OH MY GOD YOU ARE OFFENSIVE I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU BROUGHT THAT UP)?

    I think putting more tools in the hands of police to harass sex workers is a terrible idea. I think that the Christian right phonies who create lurid campaigns around ‘sex slaves’ are disgusting. But you know what? That doesn’t mean I have think this argument isn’t heartless, deceptive, and yes privileged as hell in its own way.

  161. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 16, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    that this framing also categorizes sex as inherently gross — *this* is the “sex-positive” side of the argument?

  162. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 16, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    that this framing also categorizes sex as inherently unclean — & this is the “sex-positive” side of the debate?

  163. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines September 16, 2011 at 11:59 am |

    Fat Steve: Wow, yours sounds like a thoroughly nauseating and suffocating household. It’s the kind of thing that could make a girl turn to porn.

    A family where the father doesn’t want his daughter to service the sexual needs of men for money is “suffocating and nauseating” and you as a man, are perfectly happy and feeling ever so right on for writing that on a feminist blog?

    Really?

  164. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm |

    RE The sex work is like cleaning poop argument, here’s another reason that doesn’t work. I have OCD, and I’m a huge germphobe. These things combined mean that being required to touch things I see as dirty freaks me out. However, much as I don’t like the idea of cleaning other people’s poop, I can’t say that doing so would ever give me PTSD. But we have women in this very thread who have PTSD as the result of doing sex work.

  165. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |

    Kathleen: let me explain why I think your arguments are made in bad faith.

    followed by

    Kathleen: Are we allowed to talk about it in the way we talk about other jobs, ie, address social inequality and exploitation that shape the kinds of jobs people are willing to take?

    OH NOES!!!! WE MUSTN’T!!!!

    I want you to find me where she said that we aren’t allowed to address social inequality and exploitation that shape the kinds of jobs people are willing to take.

    Ohhh, she didn’t? Mayyybe we should review our thoughts when we say people are arguing in bad faith, no?

    It’s like you forgot this thread was going splendidly and focusing on the topic until this offensive BS was spun out: “Perhaps you doubt it, but I am sure. Sex is a pleasant experience that two or more people decided to do together. When someone is stripping for a webcam, not for their own pleasure, but to earn money, that is not sex. It’s coercion. It’s exploitation. Sex without desire. This is something generally refered to as sexual assault.”

    Yeah, imagine a marginalized population that frequently visits this blog, one of whom is a mod, getting irritated that their experiences were completely wiped from a blog. Their blog.

  166. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines September 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Go Kathleen!

    This all sex work is ok, all the time narrative, is seriously unpleasant.

    I do not want a world where it is even more easy and acceptable for men to purchase the sexual services of women. The proliferation of porn, strip clubs, stag weekends to Amsterdam and the like has not made the world a better place. For all the cries of pro-sex and sex positivity, it has not made women’s sex lives a better place either.

    The only people who benefit from the growth of the sex industry this are men and a small, select group of sex workers. That’s not whorephobia to point that out.

  167. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm |

    To clarify (need coffee so I may not be too coherent here) – I have a very active aversion to anything I see as dirty, and I still can’t see cleaning poop as ever producing the level of trauma that, say, “me” is expressing. Whereas most sex workers probably don’t enter the industry already having an active aversion to sex, and yet still some come out of it deeply traumatized. So it’s not a very good analogy.

    It would, however, be interesting to see how a person’s overall mental health going in and whether or not they already have prior sex-related trauma affects how the work affects them, psychologically/emotionally. Out of the people I know who’ve done sex work, the ones who came out most deeply scarred did already have prior sex-related trauma in their lives before they entered the industry.

  168. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm |

    “Perhaps you doubt it, but I am sure. Sex is a pleasant experience that two or more people decided to do together. When someone is stripping for a webcam, not for their own pleasure, but to earn money, that is not sex. It’s coercion. It’s exploitation. Sex without desire. This is something generally refered to as sexual assault.”

    There is absolutely nothing offensive or incorrect about this, PrettyAmiable, and the thread was certainly not going fine when it was all about the happy, happy strippers.

  169. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    “A family where the father doesn’t want his daughter to service the sexual needs of men for money is “suffocating and nauseating” and you as a man, are perfectly happy and feeling ever so right on for writing that on a feminist blog? ”

    I felt the same thing. I was moved by John’s comment actually and was thinking how I wished I had a dad who cared about what happened to me sexually like that or how men treated me. I guess I just didn’t even have a relationship with either of my fathers, I think they would have cared if they had been around.

  170. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    I wish that more people would ask themselves:

    1.Would i be worried about my daughters well being if she were in porn? Would I be worried she might be harmed by it later?
    2. Whatever their answer is to that apply that to whether or not they participate in porn by being a consumer.

    And yes I think it’s perfectly possible to be proud of your child for being a good person and trying to do what they feel they need to do, and simultaneously be worried about how their chosen profession migh affect them or what the context/belief system of them entering into it is.

    I would be really worried about my son if he joined the military. I would still love him to pieces and be proud of him, but I would be really worried and would want to know why and if it was JUST to get a college education/structure, make it in the world and not out of a deep desire to protect his country from harm then I would try to empower him to access something that matched his goals better without so much risk of harm. If he wanted to do it because he felt like it was the only way to experience his masculine power, or be seen as special and meaningful, I would want him to know there are other ways to do that do that are much safer.

  171. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Yeah, I don’t really feel “suffocated” by the fact that my Dad wouldn’t have wanted me to go into sex work. I’m guessing that the assumption here is that anti sex work dad = dad who’s so conservative that he’s meeting his daughter’s dates at the door with a shotgun, but that wasn’t my experience at all.

    Now if my Dad was still expressing a desire to control what I do for a living and/or who I have sex with now, at age 38, I would find that suffocating. But when I was in high school? Yeah, at that point your parents still have a say.

  172. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm |

    “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality” by Catherine MacKinnon

    http://harvardcrcl.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/MacKinnon.pdf

  173. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    I also think using the military as a comparison (which seems to have a much higher rate of PTSD, trauma, physical injury and death) is also problematic because it’s saying that the physical and psychological injuries these people sustain are worth it for the goal of protecting our country from harm.

    Is serving male (or female) orgasm worth causing human beings emotional trauma? Is the goal of giving orgasms to people worth emotional destruction? Are they in fact comparable at all? If you worked in the sex industry and then discovered you were someone who DID wind up with depression/PTSD/newly developed drug addiction to deal with it– would think “Well it was worth sacraficing my well being for the sake of human orgasms?” Do you think the people who HAVE wound up with PTSD, depression, anxiety, drug addiction that developed while doing sex work— was the damage caused to them worth the cause of human orgasm?

  174. Nia
    Nia September 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    I don’t know how to use the quote mechanism, but there is so, so much about this that is offensive and, more damagingly, unproductive. Rox, this thread started about sex workers in southeast asia. There are a lot of orgs comprised of South East Asian sex workers, woulda been nice to hear from them. It quickly devolved into “sex work is bad”. Sex workers who read this blog then felt obliged to defend themselves. That’s at least what happened on this end.

    Listen: I’m not a “happy hooker”. WTF does that even mean. There are PLENTY of issues I have at work, none of which are addressed here. What’s being addressed is certain women’s aversion to sex work and sex workers.

    When you aren’t a sex worker, and you start writing sentences like “most sex workers probably…” or “sex workers don’t…” just don’t, okay? If you’re not one, you don’t know. There are plenty of things we want dealt with and improved in the industry. We have outlined them, many times over, and sex workers in Asia have lead the way in many respects.

    Whenever I hear “privileged” thrown around in these contexts, I flinch. It’s not meant to analyze oppression. It’s meant to shut up the sex workers on this blog who are speaking out.

    What would be useful is to listen to sex workers, and then support us in the ways that we’re asking to be supported. You wanna talk about sex work in Cambodia? Maybe listen to Cambodian sex workers first. They have organized. They have spoken up. It is not useful to shut down those of us who are speaking up by saying, essentially, “if they even can speak up, they are ‘privileged’ and not worthy of being listened to.”

    After reading this, you think for one second I’m going to bring my work place and / or personal issues to feministe? F*ck it, y’all aren’t my allies. That’s clear. I keep coming back to feminist spaces because I’m concerned that women are going to lose all of our reproductive rights, basically, but beyond that, idk what I’m doing here. Labor issues, and human rights issues, in sex work have always been addressed by sex workers orgs themselves. My energy’s going there.

  175. ElkBallet
    ElkBallet September 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    The reason it is considered privileged to make the argument that you enjoy sex work is not because women who enjoy sex work don’t exist or are wrong or anything similar. It is because the disproportionate amount of time spent arguing that yes, there are women who enjoy and choose what they do, makes it impossible to have any kind of meaningful discussion about the majority of sex workers who had negative experiences. I don’t say majority because of my own beliefs but because of what I have heard from the sex workers (mostly ex-prostitutes) and from numerous studies including one that interviewed 854 women in 9 countries, 89% of whom wanted out and a similar study in Vancouver that found that 95% would leave if they had the means.

    So much time is spent avoiding making generalizations about the majority of sex workers hating it so as not to offend women who like it that no meaningful point ever seems to get across. We get it. Some women like sex work and choose it. The whole world gets it. But arguing over and over and so loudly that we shouldn’t make generalizations (even though they’re supported by most data) because we might offend the small number of women who like sex work is ludicrous. It makes it impossible to ever get past the idea that only sex trafficking is ever bad.

    The other part of the privilege that comes from this is that in fighting so hard to make sure that not only is the voice of the minority heard equally, but louder than the majority, is that to support women who enjoy sex work requires the continued silence and exploitation of the women who don’t and/or don’t have other options.

  176. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    Nia — what about the sex workers who *don’t* repeat your narrative? “Listen to the sex workers” doesn’t involve hearing only one message. Pointing out that the sex workers who are Feministe commenters perhaps do not represent all sex workers everywhere is not “offensive”, as much as you would prefer it be framed that way.

    Look, I have critiqued on other feminist websites the invocation of extremely lurid “sex slave” narratives as unrepresentative and in the service of a punitive right wing sex phobic woman hating agenda. Somehow, had you been there, I don’t think you would have jumped in with “listen to the sex worker!” in that case. I don’t know what percentage of sex workers those narratives apply to; I do know they are convenient to the promotion of puritanism. I think puritanism is a product of patriarchy, and would disappear without it.

    I don’t know what percentage of sex workers your narratives apply to. Neither, by the way, do you. I do know your narratives are convenient to the promotion of paid sex. I think paid sex is a product of the patriarchy, and would disappear without it.

  177. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm |

    It quickly devolved into “sex work is bad”.

    That’s because in the majority of cases, sex work is bad, and this idea that we should focus solely on those rare women who like it and pretend that most of them are like that, is damaging.

    I’m not a “happy hooker”. WTF does that even mean.

    It means the image of the woman who freely chooses sex work and enjoys herself, which is not the norm and which is used to legitimize the use of countless unwilling women as prostitutes.

    Whenever I hear “privileged” thrown around in these contexts, I flinch. It’s not meant to analyze oppression. It’s meant to shut up the sex workers on this blog who are speaking out.

    Actually’s it’s meant to analyze oppression. No one hear is shutting anyone up. Everyone is free to speak.

    What would be useful is to listen to sex workers, and then support us in the ways that we’re asking to be supported.

    I do listen to sex workers, which is how I know about the violence they experience. I’ve been paid for a sexual favour once. I don’t generalize my experience onto other people, because my experience was not the norm- it was a safe encounter that I chose willingly. Similarly, if whoever happens to be safe at work, that’s great, but that’s not the norm.

    When you aren’t a sex worker, and you start writing sentences like “most sex workers probably…” or “sex workers don’t…” just don’t, okay? If you’re not one, you don’t know.

    So if I read books on prostitution, I can’t report what I read? Does that extend to other people too, like if I’m not a republican, does that mean I can’t say “Republicans don’t…” because I’m not one?

    It is not useful to shut down those of us who are speaking up by saying, essentially, “if they even can speak up, they are ‘privileged’ and not worthy of being listened to.”

    Again, no one’s shutting anyone down. We’re talking. And nobody said that people are privileged just for being able to speak up. We’re saying that if you are in a position to truly have a free choice whether to go into sex work or not, that’s a privilege that not a lot of women have. Most women in sex work are there because of poverty.

    After reading this, you think for one second I’m going to bring my work place and / or personal issues to feministe? F*ck it, y’all aren’t my allies. That’s clear.

    We’ve got different definitions of what an ally is. I think that researching the reality of women’s oppression and fighting to change it is being a good ally for women. I don’t think that propping up people’s narratives about how women are empowered and having a great time while men are paying to abuse their bodies is being a good ally to women. I’m not interested in being an ally to patriarchy enthusiasts. They’ve got LOTS of allies already.

  178. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    Safiya Outlines: A family where the father doesn’t want his daughter to service the sexual needs of men for money is “suffocating and nauseating” and you as a man, are perfectly happy and feeling ever so right on for writing that on a feminist blog?

    Really?

    I would have no problem if those were his reasons. He said he would be ‘appalled’ if his daughter did ‘sex work.’ No mention of not wanting his ‘daughter to service the sexual needs of men for money.’ He also referred to women who do cam work as ‘repellant’. So his comments are based purely on being a judgmental prick. I didn’t notice an ounce of actual concern for his daughter in the post, only judgement.

  179. jamayla
    jamayla September 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    I don’t understand all the reluctance to state that most sex workers have experiences that are generally unpleasant. What, did people suddenly forget that capitalism (and other coercive hierarchies that hurt working people) exists or something? Most people’s work experiences fall on the distinctly unpleasant end of the spectrum; so I don’t see why sex work would be any different than work in other sectors.

    Strange how people who’re otherwise somewhat left-leaning suddenly fall all over themselves to be ideological ‘libertarians’ when the sex work topic comes up: “You can’t say that most (sex) workers are unhappy! Different individuals have different individual experiences! Everyone is an individual! Stop generalizing about pesky shit like hegemonic paradigms & whatnot!”

    Mztress’ post has been buried in a lot of this noise, but I think it deserves reposting.:

    Fun fact: TONS of women do sex work. And there’s a good amount of them turning tricks in the good ole, rich USA. It is easy to imagine impoverished third world women fucking strangers for cash, but believe me, there are plenty of American women with a legal day job who still perform light sex work to supplement income from a minimum-wage, part-time, no benefit job, or to avoid dropping out of college during an unusually expensive semester (which is a goddamned shame, since the point of college is to better one’s circumstances).

    Usually, no one really calls it by the names of “sex work” or “prostitution.” They call it “surviving,” or “getting by,” or “paying the rent this month.” So couple of handjobs for gas money, or a session of unsatisfying penetration for groceries becomes par the course. I’ve been there, and I’ve known so many others who have. And I’ve never been unemployed more than four months at any one time in my adult life. I have often worked two jobs. The cost of living in a big America city is a son of a bitch, especially when it’s laid out next to the rarely-raised minimum wage.

    Obviously, I don’t have precise numbers (and neither does anyone else, most likely), but based on personal experience & observation, I’d wager that ^this experience is far commoner than involvement in some actual sector of the sex industry (e.g. porn, cam work, escort services, etc.). That kind of work is the sole product of poverty and desperation. If capitalism didn’t exist, it would disappear. But then, this is my opinion about most work; sex work is no exception.

    As someone whose sympathies lie entirely with labor here, I’m entirely opposed to any criminalization of or police infringement upon sex workers’ lives; I oppose the stigmatization of their work (and yes, I think the asinine idea that sex work is somehow more degrading than work in other sectors is part of that stigma); and coming across upper-class, white people in academia (*cough*MacKinnon*cough*) yapping about low-income sex workers while taking not a single step to listen to and empower them enrages me.

    However, none of this means that I have to sit back, shrug my shoulders, and say, “It’s just a job. Sometimes bad; sometimes good. But I’m not generalizing here!”

    I’m going to generalize and say that it generally sucks, just as all work generally sucks. This shouldn’t be controversial.

    (An addendum about me: I live in the US, so my post might come off as US-centric; so I apologize for that. I’m also a low-income black woman who’s done cam work before, if anyone cares. I’m sharing this information to stave off the potential tide of “You’re just a middle-class, white ‘college feminist’ who’s tokenizing poor/brown/etc. sex workers to suit your argument!” accusations.)

  180. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm |

    jamayla: I don’t understand all the reluctance to state that most sex workers have experiences that are generally unpleasant. What, did people suddenly forget that capitalism (and other coercive hierarchies that hurt working people) exists or something? Most people’s work experiences fall on the distinctly unpleasant end of the spectrum; so I don’t see why sex work would be any different than work in other sectors.

    Well, you point out the very reason yourself…it is not a problem unique to sex work.

    And to clarify something, just because I responded to John’s comment about being ‘appalled if his daughter went into sex work’ by referring to his attitude as ‘nauseating’, doesn’t mean I am saying I would happy for my daughter to go into sex work. As someone who doesn’t believe sex should be transactional I would definitely feel like I had failed as a role model and example, but i would feel even more so if my son went into sex work on the exploitation end. That, is an instance in which the word ‘appalled’ might apply. But for John, it only applies to his daughter…

  181. jamayla
    jamayla September 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    Fat Steve: He also referred to women who do cam work as ‘repellant’.

    Are you sure? I’m not sure that’s what he meant. He said “Urgh, repellent”, but that could just as easily refer to the job itself – I find it ‘repellent’, for instance, that some factory workers have to soil themselves into diapers because they aren’t allowed to take bathroom breaks. This obviously doesn’t mean I find the workers themselves ‘repellent’.

    That aside, even if he wasn’t making some jab at women who do sex work, his comment left me with the feeling that he somehow thinks sex work is wholly more degrading than other forms of work, which offends me.

  182. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    Jamayla would you tell your daughter that sex work was like any other work? Would you encourage to get a job at 18 doing sex work to help pay for college? Would you give her any information about job risks? Young women (and all women) come to feminism to get the heart of what these things mean to them.

    If we are to say “sex work is like any other job” what does that tell young women? And IS IT TRUE? does it carry the same risk of trauma, PTSD, depression, increased drug use as ANY other profession? Or does it fit in a high risk category that we might consider protecting vulnerable populations from being exploited by? Do you REALLY think the risk to your daughters well being are going to be THE SAME as working as a waitress? Food services sucks ass and I’ve done a shitload of it, but it can NOT COMPARE to the experiences I’ve had of getting fucked up the ass out of desperation for human contact. (Which I consented to BTW so if you want to call it rape consider what that means for the sex industry)

  183. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm |

    I would have no problem if those were his reasons. He said he would be ‘appalled’ if his daughter did ‘sex work.’ No mention of not wanting his ‘daughter to service the sexual needs of men for money.’ He also referred to women who do cam work as ‘repellant’. So his comments are based purely on being a judgmental prick. I didn’t notice an ounce of actual concern for his daughter in the post, only judgement.

    I wouldn’t want my children to have to service the sexual needs of men for money, either. If I had children, I would want a better life for them than that. I want sex to be a joyful, mutual activity that people choose out of real desire, not the need for money. I want women to be viewed as people, not meatsocks to be bought and used.

    The quote in question did sound a bit judgmental, I admit, but I can understand the sentiment behind it.

  184. rox
    rox September 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    For the record I don’t call unwanted sex that is consented to for coplex reasons of difficult circumstances/prvious sexual abuse/feelings of owing sex to people etc rape.

    I call it sexual abuse/sexual exploitation. When you know someone doesn’t want to voluntarily give you sex but that you can bargain with them into consenting to it based on leverage that you have and they don’t.

  185. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    jamalya – best comment on the entire thread, IMO.

  186. delphyne
    delphyne September 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    Jill you need better analysis than the idea that men who want to pay to see women shove toilet brushes up their vaginas (see the very first response on this thread, totally ignored), or sexually abuse poverty stricken women in Asia, are “irredeemable assholes”. How does that assessment move the debate on?

    If this mythical non-harmful porn that sex-industry positive feminists want to support is going to exist, you are going to have to fight your way through all those “irredeemable assholes” aka racist rapists, to get there. Because they want to pay for the bad stuff, they want to see women exploited, they want to see women with toilet brushes and whatever else stuck into them, they want to see poverty stricken women be degraded for tiny amounts of money. So how do you plan to do it?

  187. delphyne
    delphyne September 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    “irredeemable shitholes” even

    Still rapists is more accurate.

  188. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    Bushfire: There is absolutely nothing offensive or incorrect about this, PrettyAmiable,

    Besides you erasing women on this blog? Well, no. Not to you, when you seem to think only one marginalized narrative is worth hearing out.

  189. jamayla
    jamayla September 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    rox: Jamayla would you tell your daughter that sex work was like any other work?

    Yes, because it is. The extent to which it differs is the extent to which it is criminalized by the state & stigmatized by wider society.

    What do you think ‘sex work’ is? You’re behaving as though you’re describing a monolith, as though cam work is high-paid escort work is glossy California porn is walking the stroll while dodging cops. Not so – just as working conditions vary with non-sex work, the same is true of sex work.

    Personally, I find my current, non-sex worker job (cleaning up other people’s messes as a janitor) a lot more degrading than I found cam work. Cam work wasn’t ‘degrading’ at all – it had its fun moments (many of the orgasms I had on camera were genuine), but it was mostly just boring. Paid well (i.e. better than $15 per hour), though.

    Would you encourage to get a job at 18 doing sex work to help pay for college?

    If my daughter were having unavoidable financial problems I couldn’t remedy & was considering sex work already, I would encourage her to do something relatively safe and low-stress like cam work – if you’re a solo performer, there’s no STD or pregnancy risk; customers aren’t able to touch you; and if you choose, you can list a fake location so they don’t even know where you actually live.
    (And no, I’m not saying cam work is perfect, or that low-stress and low-risk are the same as no stress/risk.)

    Obviously, though, I wouldn’t want to see my hypothetical child doing riskier sex work, though, just as I wouldn’t want to see her doing riskier any-kind-of-work.

    If we are to say “sex work is like any other job” what does that tell young women? And IS IT TRUE? does it carry the same risk of trauma, PTSD, depression, increased drug use as ANY other profession? Or does it fit in a high risk category that we might consider protecting vulnerable populations from being exploited by? Do you REALLY think the risk to your daughters well being are going to be THE SAME as working as a waitress?

    Again, what is ‘it’? Specifically, what kind of sex work are you talking about?

    From my perspective, giving blowjobs to scrape by with rent money is far more unpleasant than waitressing; but there is plenty of sex work (e.g. cam work, operating my own website) that I’d strongly prefer and actively choose over waitressing, if I still could. The idea that ‘sex work’ is some monolith that’s wholly more degrading than any other type of work is absurd.

    I feel as though you’re alluding to specific forms of high-risk sex work (e.g. low-income women with no support system walking the stroll), comparing those to run-of-the-mill jobs (e.g. waitressing), and using that to argue that sex work is wholly more degrading than other forms of labor, which is intellectually dishonest.

  190. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm |

    Bushfire: I wouldn’t want my children to have to service the sexual needs of men for money, either. If I had children, I would want a better life for them than that. I want sex to be a joyful, mutual activity that people choose out of real desire, not the need for money. I want women to be viewed as people, not meatsocks to be bought and used.

    The quote in question did sound a bit judgmental, I admit, but I can understand the sentiment behind it.

    I would question the sentiment as well. Note how you said ‘children’ he said ‘daughter’. You said you don’t want them being used, he said he would be appalled by her.

    More importantly, the benefit of having the perspective of people who’ve worked in the sex industry as part of this conversation is really adding to the positive nature of this discussion. I don’t think it is at all helpful to repay their self-disclosure by implying that their fathers would be ‘appalled’ at their behavior. It’s just not a very nice thing to do…so I was not very nice in my response to it. My views may not be totally unsimilar to yours on the matter of sex work, but I feel we disagree strongly about how to conduct a public discourse.

  191. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |

    It just occurred to me why that comment in particular really annoyed me – the insistence that we have a more sympathetic attitude towards the clients (and that if we express negative ideas about men who buy sex we’re suggesting that those men are demonic).

    Supporting sex workers? Sure, I’m happy to do that. Trying to be an ally to sex workers? OK. Trying to be an ally to the men who buy sexual services? No. That is the point at which we hit a hard limit for me. And also where it starts to really matter to me which specific sexual services we’re talking about.

  192. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |

    I agree with your sentiments, delphyne, but I don’t know why it would be Jill’s personal responsability to fix the problem. How about everybody?

  193. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm |

    “Are you sure? I’m not sure that’s what he meant. He said “Urgh, repellent”, but that could just as easily refer to the job itself – I find it ‘repellent’, for instance, that some factory workers have to soil themselves into diapers because they aren’t allowed to take bathroom breaks. This obviously doesn’t mean I find the workers themselves ‘repellent’.”

    I got the sense that he was referring to the job, not the people who do that job, as repellent. Partly because men who consider the women who do the job repellent are prone to ranting at great length and in great detail about the women specifically, and he didn’t do that.

    This is something that always bothers me in these conversations, though. There are a lot of people who find transactional sex in and of itself repellent, but who don’t consider the people who do the work repellent. The same goes for the customers – lots of people, especially women, find the people buying repellent, but not the people selling. But in these conversations everything tends to get all conflated and people start assuming that if someone expresses revulsion towards the buyer, they mean the seller too. And that is not in fact what many people mean, at all.

    Which is why that comment bothered me so much. I’ve seen the idea that if you hate the customers you must also hate the sex workers floated before, most often by men who’re trying to take advantage of the fact that most feminists have at least some fellow feeling towards sex workers because we understand how patriarchy and economics work (this goes double if you’re both a feminist and a Marxist). A lot of men do this thing where they go, oh, you said something critical about men who go to strip clubs all the time, WHY DO YOU HATE STRIPPERS? It’s a rhetorical sleight of hand, and I’m not going to let them get away with it. In that case I know why they’re doing it, and it’s for reasons of clear self interest, which it’s easy to call them out on.

    But I also see it sometimes from sex worker activists, this idea that feminists should be less critical of the men who purchase sexual services, and I’m really not seeing any good feminist reason why we should do so.

  194. Random Observer
    Random Observer September 17, 2011 at 12:39 am |

    “It just occurred to me why that comment in particular really annoyed me – the insistence that we have a more sympathetic attitude towards the clients (and that if we express negative ideas about men who buy sex we’re suggesting that those men are demonic).

    Supporting sex workers? Sure, I’m happy to do that. Trying to be an ally to sex workers? OK. Trying to be an ally to the men who buy sexual services? No. That is the point at which we hit a hard limit for me. And also where it starts to really matter to me which specific sexual services we’re talking about.”

    Not so sure about “ally”, but how about simply “neutral”? Because yeah, there is a contradiction between fully supporting the right of fully willing sex workers to ply their trade and saying that anybody who would actually partake of those services are rapist scum who belong in jail. Because eventually you’re going to have to arrive at a position that any sex worker who doesn’t loath what they do is either a willing abetter of a crime or a victim with one hell of a case of false consciousness.

    (As to supporting sex workers who aren’t so willing while hating their clients, that’s a different story. That’s victimization and their “clients” are victimizers. I don’t think there’s much disagreement about those cases.)

  195. SmJ
    SmJ September 17, 2011 at 2:16 am |

    CassandraSays:
    It just occurred to me why this comment in particular really annoyed me – the insistence that we have a more sympathetic attitude towards the clients (and that if we express negative ideas about men who buy sex we’re suggesting that those men are demonic).

    Well, yeah. It seems to me, that to unfairly attack all clients of sex workers is to attack sex workers. If no one was prepared to pay, sex work would not be a viable vocation. A potential client who approaches a sex worker with respect and treats them as equals (within a client-provider relationship) would seem to be the best kind of client, and also the kind to be most likely to be law abiding, non-violent and generous.

    Put another way, there are always abusive assholes. Demonising all clients, criminalisation and the nordic model only dissuades the better clients. The abusive assholes will be unperturbed. The solution is to reduce the stigma and allow the law enforcement to clean up the abusive assholes.

    Perhaps the other thing to keep in mind with this poster, if she doesn’t mind me saying so, is that she lives in place where sex work is largely decriminalised. The sex workers she’s around are therefore more likely to be happier. They can afford to turn away / have arrested the abusive assholes because there is a greater pool of ‘better’ clients.

  196. Natalia
    Natalia September 17, 2011 at 3:23 am |

    Like rox, I suffer from post-traumatic stress. Unlike rox, I don’t believe that post-traumatic stress is an excuse for deliberately mischaracterizing someone’s position, making a slew of problematic assumptions about them, and then screaming your head off about how “but I have PTSD, so don’t expect me to be reasonable in this debate.”

    Here is why I expect people to be reasonable – stupid legislation and stupid social norms kill sex-workers. Every day. In places where sex-workers are not organized – my native Ukraine automatically springs to mind – sex-workers are unable to receive even the most basic kinds of help, whether they need to leave the industry or stay.

    You have to be real about these issues – you can’t just go, “but oh my God, it’s so horrible.” Yes, it’s often horrible. Wringing your hands about it doesn’t help.

  197. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    Besides you erasing women on this blog? Well, no. Not to you, when you seem to think only one marginalized narrative is worth hearing out.

    I’m not erasing women- I’m trying to bring marginalized people back into the conversation, because some people are trying to squeeze them out.

  198. jamayla
    jamayla September 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm |

    I’m angry at the people insisting, based on nothing, that “most” sex workers are exploited.

    Can you do it without claiming … that brown sex workers are more exploited than white sex workers..

    Where is this place where most workers (regardless of whether their occupation involves sex) aren’t exploited? Where brown workers aren’t generally disadvantaged (i.e. ‘more exploited’) with respect to their white peers? Please tell me; I’d like to move.

    or that sex workers who speak up and say that we’re not exploited are blinded by privilege…

    Because our work experiences are constrained by capitalism (and racism, ableism, transphobia, etc.), having a positive experience with work generally springs from some form of privilege; whether that work involves sex isn’t relevant.

    In my case, I’m a thin, conventionally-attractive cisgender (one site I cammed on didn’t allow trans women) girl who could afford fast internet access and a high-quality camera. I also had the privacy and free time to do cam work while in the safety & convenience of my own bedroom. These are privileges that enabled me to pursue an extremely safe, low-stress type of sex work that I sometimes enjoyed.

    I don’t think it’s acceptable for people to dismiss someone’s perspective based on the fact that their work experience was positive; but that positive experience is still coming from a place of privilege.

    or that sex work should be considered a special case when examining these social factors?

    I get the feeling that you’re both doing that – rox seems to think that sex work is wholly more degrading than other forms of labor, while you seem to (perhaps?) think that sex work exists in a mysterious bubble, immune to anti-capitalist, anti-racist critiques.

    I say ‘perhaps’ because I’m not sure what your politics are, so I could be wrong in assuming that you wouldn’t say things like: “Most working people aren’t exploited!” and “Hey, stop assuming that brown workers are more exploited than white workers!”

    Every time this topic comes up I’m amazed by how flatly wrong the anti sex worker side is when it comes to what it is that we actually do at work.

    Gee, I guess I must be ‘anti-sex worker’, then – I also think poorly of men who purchase certain (though not all) sexual services, just as I think poorly of people who purchase certain non-sexual services. Sorry, but my sympathies are with labor. They don’t lie with capital, and they only lie with consumers insofar as consumer demand doesn’t oppress labor.

    There probably is no ‘at work’ for most people who perform sexual labor for money, because most aren’t involved in some actual sector of sexual industry. Again, I say ‘probably’ because I have no actual numbers. But then, neither does anyone else.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure how thinking poorly of people who purchase certain services means that we also think poorly of or marginalize the workers who provide them.
    Pretty much every day, I see one or two women standing out on the main street near my house, trying to make money; and yes, I think the men who pay them for sexual labor are vile.

    How hard would it be for these men to just give the women a few bucks and drive away without touching them? I’m willing to bet that most of them wouldn’t be opposed to tossing a homeless guy a few bucks without expecting him to grovel & beg first, so how is this any different? Probably because women aren’t people to them, and they aren’t interested in helping us unless their dick is getting something out of it.

  199. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm |

    I went to my university library to find some resources on prostitution. This book particularly caught my eye because of the title: “Is prostitution work or exploitation? Further Consideration is Needed”. I thought, here’s a great idea, this paper bridges the two main themes being addressed on this comment thread. This paper was published by Conseil du Statut de la Femme (The Quebec government’s status of women). Here is the internet link to the resource: http://www.library.yorku.ca/find/Record/1712414

    Here is some relevant information from the book:

    Here as elsewhere, prostitutes are mostly girls and women offering heterosexual relations.
    Of course, male prostitutes exist, but they are mainly minors involved in homosexual
    relations. In Québec, young people enter prostitution at 15 and 16 years of age.
    Worldwide, the demand for younger and younger prostitutes is on the rise.
    Everywhere, we find a common background for this situation: the women are poor,
    vulnerable and marginalized. Many of them are from modest milieus where tension,
    alcohol or drug problems prevail. In Québec, few have completed a secondary level
    education; those who work as prostitutes in places other than the streets are usually older
    and more educated.
    In certain regions of Canada, Native women are clearly overrepresented in prostitution. In
    other countries, Aboriginal women are also involved in prostitution in disproportionate
    numbers.


    On average in Canada, women represent 70 to 90% of prostitutes.
    • In most studies, the average age of adult prostitutes is 23 or 24 years of age.
    • According to an international study sampling 475 prostitutes in five different
    countries, 81% of them have been threatened, 73% have been physically abused,
    and 68% have been assaulted with a weapon. In addition, 62% claim to have been
    raped since they began prostitution.
    • An international survey establishes that 67% of prostitutes show symptoms of
    post-traumatic stress syndrome.
    • Although the figures vary, certain studies demonstrate the link between drug
    addiction and prostitution. Indeed, 75% of the street prostitutes in San Francisco
    are drug dependent, while 27% are alcohol dependent. In the Atlantic Provinces,
    the rate of male and female prostitutes who reported suffering from drug abuse is
    50%, while in the Prairies, the rate is 42%.


    Violence ranks among the gravest difficulties women prostitutes face: violence on the
    part of johns and the pimps who want to reaffirm control over their prostitutes. Violence
    is also experienced at the hands of the police, other prostitutes and the population in
    general. From North to South and East to West, women prostitutes are subjected to
    violence.
    The physical and psychological consequences to women are so serious as to often lead to
    post-traumatic stress, with symptoms like memory loss, agitation and cardiac or
    respiratory problems. The level of stress of women prostitutes is reportedly greater than
    that of the Vietnam War and the Gulf War veterans.

    Yet, many women want to leave prostitution. An international study aimed at identifying
    the needs of prostitutes reveals that 92% of them would like to be able to quit.
    Furthermore, this solution was stated before any other, be it training, legalization or
    protection by a pimp.


    Sex Trafficking: On the Rise
    • An investigation by the CIA revealed that 700,000 to 2 million women and
    children are trafficked in the world each year.
    • 99% of these victims are women and the overwhelming majority will end up
    in prostitution.
    Sheila Jeffreys, The Idea of Prostitution, 1997.
    • According to the UN, the income generated by the trafficking of persons went
    from C$3.2 million in 1990 to C$14 billion in 2001.
    • A study conducted by Solicitor General of Canada found that between 8,000
    and 16,000 people enter Canada with the help of smugglers related to
    organized crime. This activity costs the economy from $120 to $400 million
    yearly.

    As you can plainly see, most women in prostitution are abused, most of them want to leave, most of them got in to prostitution while they were under the age of consent, and many of them got into prostitution as a result of trafficking and poverty.

    There is absolutely no way you can say this is “just any other job” for these women. Perhaps it’s just a job for you, but it is extremely ignorant to think that it is like this for most, and it is extremely ignorant to assume that I’m making this shit up. This is only one book I’ve quoted, but feel free to read any other book on prostitution anywhere to find the same results. Your insistence that the abuse of women is “just a job” is misogynist.

  200. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    “Sadistic sex acts are in the minority, and often consensually negotiated and charged at a premium fee.”

    I see that the very strong resistance you are finally encountering on this thread is making you take a few steps back. That’s great. In fact in previous threads you have been totally unwilling to tolerate any discussion of poverty and inequality as shaping people’s choices, declaring it an “offensive” point to raise at all. Finally you’ve been called on that enough to cut it out.

    It’s related, though, to your continued insistence that johns are a misunderstood, misrepresented population. Your point about cruelty coming at a premium — well, this is precisely a repetition of the free-market think you keep trotting out, that assumes there is a “market” for sex, and “buyers” and “sellers” come to it as to an even playing field. You are using the market metaphor as if it described reality — it’s a common mistake, produced by the heartless neoliberal bullshit ideology of our era which you seem to buy into wholeheartedly.

    You seem truly to believe that if this “market” could operate “freely” it would reach some sort of happy equilibrium — willing buyers and sellers exchanging money for services, and every service reaching its “market value” (cruelty costs extra!).

    Because you want this to be true, any time anyone raises obvious objections (of the same sort, by the way, that are raised to free market ideology generally) to the effect that the structure of society is such that a “free market” system cannot magically be produced in the world of sex work, that sexism, racism (sorry for bringing it up again! I know it offends you!), and poverty (ditto!) do shape and will continue to shape sex work, you can’t really muster any coherent defense of your position; you just get mad.

    The reason not everyone is persuaded by what you have to say is not because we are “whoreophobes”. It’s also not because we have a silly and baseless dislike of johns. It’s because your case is not convincing.

    Finally, you and your supporters on this thread would never be convinced by the case you are making were it about the manufacture of children’s toys or any other economic sector. That’s because you’d recognize it as the right wing crap that it is. Somehow, though, because it’s about sex many people’s (including, sadly, many feminists’) ability to think sensibly and fairly goes right out the window.

  201. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |

    I could have sworn I wrote a comment and hit “submit” and usually they say “waiting for moderation” or something but it’s just gone. Just checking to see if I’ve been banned or deleted.

  202. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    Ok never mind, it wasn’t there and now it is. Still in moderation. Ok toodles!

  203. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    “Sorry, but my sympathies are with labor. They don’t lie with capital, and they only lie with consumers insofar as consumer demand doesn’t oppress labor.”

    Thank-you. This is what I’ve been trying to articulate on this thread.

  204. wl
    wl September 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    I think people on this thread are misrepresenting. Don’t you think someone who was a homeless teen might actually know a thing or two about poverty?

  205. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |

    Ok, you didn’t believe the research that I got from a university library (and published by a government), so, if you’re interested, how about sharing your research? If you share it, I will read it.

  206. jamayla
    jamayla September 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |

    I would say that in most developed countries, a majority of workers (even if it’s not a large majority) have basic care taken for their well-being whilst at work.

    ..and I would say that this statement is nonsensical, and has nothing to do with the experiences of factory workers who have to soil themselves into diapers because they’re barred from bathroom breaks, with poor people whose asthma is exacerbated from breathing noxious chemicals in the workplace, food service workers forced to work while sick with the flu, etc.

    While true that the average US (or in a similar setting) worker has an easier time of it than, say, the Chinese workers who assembled my pants, that doesn’t mean exploitation magically disappears for us.

    I mean, are you honestly suggesting that low-income people who are forced to spend most of their waking hours in degrading McJobs aren’t exploited simply because their employers aren’t constantly poking them with sticks or something?
    That quote seriously sounds like something out of an Ayn Rand fan page or something. Not something I’d expect to hear from a mod on an ostensibly feminist website.

    Furthermore, why are you suddenly shifting the goalposts to focus on people living in ‘developed countries’? I don’t think the average person on the planet lives in a community that can be described that way.

    At least you’re acknowledging your prejudice.

    I’m also enormously prejudiced against people who buy De Beers diamonds. Color me ‘bigoted’, I suppose.

    Viewing our clients as mostly human and reasonable, as they mostly are, is an important step in respecting and supporting our work.

    Who is “our”? Sex workers aren’t a monolith, and neither are their clients – the men who use expensive escort services aren’t necessarily the same men who go to strip clubs for fun aren’t necessarily the same men who pick up women walking the stroll aren’t necessarily the same men who paid really good money to watch me masturbate.

    It’s pretty simple: I don’t think poorly of men who purchase ANY sexual labor; but because certain forms of sexual labor are particularly unpleasant, I think poorly of men who purchase that labor. Similarly, I don’t think poorly of people who purchase ANY jewelry, but because of the unique history of oppression wrt De Beers, I think poorly of their customers.

    Again, I’m applying the same standard to sex workers as I do workers in other industries; so I’m not sure what your objection is here.

    I don’t think most working people in developed countries are exploited, unless you believe that capitalism is inherently exploitative of all workers.

    Actually, I do. I’ve said so several times.

    A person has the right to voluntarily enter into a work agreement of their own free will in conditions that we would consider exploitative and to not consider themselves exploited.

    1. I don’t support any criminalization of sex work whatsoever, so I’m not sure what your ‘the right to etc.’ argument is meant to do.

    2. There is nothing fucking ‘voluntary’ about capitalism; and as someone who’s been seriously harmed by capitalism, I’m enraged by the very suggestion. Obviously, employers don’t forcibly coral people into shitty McJobs; but that doesn’t make these arrangements ‘voluntary’ by any stretch.

    I’m not claiming that all sex workers are exploited or raped by default; but when the majority of people (‘workers’) are forced to either sell their labor or starve, this isn’t ‘voluntary’.

    Someone can still be extremely underprivileged on a number of axes and have a positive experience in the sex industry…

    Yes, I understand. Or did you miss the part where I also identified myself as a black, low-income woman? My point was that the things that enabled me to choose & excel at a form of sex work that I found safe & fun (e.g. access to high-speed internet, a nice webcam, privacy, youth, conventional attractiveness) were privileges, and that this is generally true of others. Nowhere did I state that people who have positive experiences with sex work are ‘privileged people’, all around.

    And you think that doesn’t impact how you view the workers and what they do at all?

    Again, not sure what point you’re trying to make – they’re not ‘vile’ because there’s something inherently nasty about sex (and by extension, sex work). They’re vile for purchasing labor performed in appalling conditions.

    It bears repeating: I’ve done sex work before, and I enjoyed it – most of the men were polite & respectful; and many of the orgasms I had on camera were real. If I still had the means to do the work I was doing before, I’d go back to it. Furthermore, I don’t think sex work is inherently ‘degrading’, and I think some forms of sex work are far less degrading than what’s otherwise available.

    Sorry if the bold print makes it look like I’m yelling at you. I just felt like putting that out there again, because I feel as though you’re trying to paint me as some kind of pearl-clutching ‘outsider’ who thinks sex work is somehow more ‘gross’ than other forms of labor. Not so.

    Personally, I’d be insulted if I was trying to solicit and what I thought was a client threw me “a few bucks” and drove off.

    Um, just how much do you think women walking the stroll are making in a mid-sized, Midwestern city? The going rate for a blowjob around here is no more than $10. Yep, that’s a paltry ‘few bucks’, indeed.

    Another way of explaining the question: How hard would it be for men who’re thinking of shelling out $10 or whatnot for a blowjob to think, “You know, maybe I’ll just give her the money I was going to use as payment for this sexual favor as an act of human kindness instead of withholding it on the condition that she please me.”?

    Equating sex workers with begging homeless people is a little offensive…

    I never equated sex workers (which covers a pretty wide variety of people who do all sorts of work) with homeless people. I likened the desperation a homeless person feels to the desperation that low-income women walking the stroll (one very specific form of sex work) feel; and as someone who’s experienced dire poverty before (to the point where I seriously would have sucked someone’s dick for a warm place to sleep), I feel comfortable making the comparison.

    You might feel tempted to be super-petulant and ask, “Well, how do you know they’re desperate?” about women who’re exposed to danger from cops & clients. If so, I suppose you can ask yourself: Why would someone work at Wal-Mart? Why would someone pick produce in the blazing heat for shit wages? Why would someone stick with a workplace full of noxious chemicals that trigger asthma attacks?

    no offence meant to begging homeless people, but I like to think sex work is a little higher on the career ladder.

    Uh, what?

    This is a nasty, mean-spirited comment, especially considering the fact that plenty of sex workers are either homeless or facing homelessness. There hasn’t ever been a radical atmosphere on this blog; but hey, maybe it changed into a right-libertarian enclave while I wasn’t looking. Who knows.

  207. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm |

    Cosigning everything that jamalya said. Also I think it’s interesting that you assumed that I meant sex that involves sadism. I’m a domme – I’m OK with a lot of sexual stuff that many others may find uncomfortable, as long as certain conditions are met (freely consenting participants, it’s the sub who gets to set the rules about that kind of stuff, any sign of coercion and the community steps in and does something about it – I really wish the last one happened more often). In fact where I personally tend to draw the line is between services that involve full sexual contact and services like cam work, stripping, etc where there’s little to no direct sexual contact involved. Not that I’m saying that everything on one side of that line is OK and everything on the other is not, but I definitely have a different attitude to the consumers. I also have a different attitude to the consumers depending on a. whether or not they express an active desire to degrade sex workers (and I don’t much care if they’re willing to pay extra for that), and b. whether they seek out situations that maximize the power differential between themselves and the sex workers.

    I also find the idea that those who have qualms about some forms of sex work are just too ignorant to know what they’re talking about amusing. It was the period where my family lived in Thailand that really firmed up my feelings about sex work (and made them far more negative), and my ex’s descriptions of what he saw as a child in Manila only reinforced that feeling. Getting to know a group of sex workers in London also really pushed me onto the “this can in theory be OK, but most of the time it isn’t” side of the fence.

  208. rox
    rox September 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm |

    “A person has the right to voluntarily enter into a work agreement of their own free will in conditions that we would consider exploitative and to not consider themselves exploited.”

    So I take it you’re pro-sweatshop labor, child-labor, etc? i take it you would fight AGAINST providing such workers alternate jobs that they had the skills to do and were safer/healthier for human beings?

    My biggest thing as a person with disabilities that impair my ability to work as well, is that I think we need to find better ways of employing people who are capable of work but need a flexible arrangement the way sex work can work.

    I have chosen to accept help from others rather than do sex work and quite frankly i don’t think it’s degrading for someone with impairment to seed the help they need without feeling obliged to give sex to everyone because they need it.

    Trust me, i have lived with the feeling that i owe everyone sex because of my diability and impaired work ability and extra need of help and i don’t believe the feeling is true.

    right now, in order to be a meaningful member of society, i don’t believe you owe everyone sex in order to get the help you need, if your ability to work in other sectors is impaired. I think conditions could be better for you and many other human beings in the world and I’m not sure why you would want to work AGAINST improving conditions for human beings.

    Note— just because I believe you DO NOT OWE PEOPLE SEX JUST BECAUSe your ability to work is impaired— it doesn’t mean you can’t have sex with whoever you would like to. I’m just saying, you do not owe the world your body simply because your ability to work in other fields is impaired. you are however free to give it if that’s what you like.

  209. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm |

    Vi: Viewing our clients as mostly human and reasonable, as they mostly are, is an important step in respecting and supporting our work.

    jamayla: Who is “our”? Sex workers aren’t a monolith, and neither are their clients – the men who use expensive escort services aren’t necessarily the same men who go to strip clubs for fun aren’t necessarily the same men who pick up women walking the stroll aren’t necessarily the same men who paid really good money to watch me masturbate.

    It’s pretty simple: I don’t think poorly of men who purchase ANY sexual labor; but because certain forms of sexual labor are particularly unpleasant, I think poorly of men who purchase that labor. Similarly, I don’t think poorly of people who purchase ANY jewelry, but because of the unique history of oppression wrt De Beers, I think poorly of their customers.

    Again, I’m applying the same standard to sex workers as I do workers in other industries; so I’m not sure what your objection is here.

    I think that ‘our’ could apply to anyone in the service based industry. I also didn’t interpret this to mean that she knows exactly how a majority of the men who use the service sex-worker. I thought that she was saying SHE and anyone else who CHOOSES to, should have the CHOICE to view her customers as ‘mostly human and reasonable’ because having the OPTION is, in her words ‘an important step in respecting and supporting’ people in the sex industry.

    I don’t want to defend the male end user’s role in sex work, because I think it is a prime example of inequality. Dashiell Hammet once said that a man ‘doesn’t pay a prostitute to have sex, he pays her to leave’. Myself, I would incredibly embarrassed to pay money to a woman in order to find me less repulsive sexually, which is kind of a lame and shallow reason. So, I can’t really say that whether or not a man pays for sex reflects positively on him

  210. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm | *

    I have a lot of sympathy for a lot of different commenters on this thread. I have thought about this subject a lot, and gained experience from a number of different sides of the coin, and I hope that I can make pro-sex worker activism a consistent and meaningful facet of my life. These days, my feelings are primarily shaped by two beliefs:

    1) Capitalism is inherently exploitative of all workers. Yup, I’ll gladly come down on that side of that debate.

    2) Experience is inherently different for all people, and things that are perceived as negative or damaging or painful for one person will almost always be perceived in a more positive light by someone else who has performed actions that look very similar from the outside.

    I can sometimes have meaningful discussions about harm reduction, pragmatic activism, and so on with people who disagree with me on either or both of these premises — but I find that I can’t bring myself to agree with them 100% on a philosophical level.

    One thing that I struggle with is that — as I already noted in my comment #150 — stigma, and beliefs about sex work, have a really profound impact on how people experience sex work. So while I can often make common ground with people who stigmatize sex work or who spread narratives about it that I find problematic, I find myself wondering how much their words and stories are contributing to the actual problems we’re trying to fight.

    The actual problems, in my book, being:

    * People feeling required or being coerced to do work they don’t want to do
    * People lacking access to important services (e.g. health services, housing, etc.) because they do work that doesn’t hurt anyone
    * People feeling ashamed of any form of consensual sexuality
    * Sexual pressures in all their myriad and horrid forms.

    I’m sure there’s some I’m forgetting. :P

  211. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    jamayla: when the majority of people (‘workers’) are forced to either sell their labor or starve, this isn’t ‘voluntary’.

    ? Um…wuh? Unless you plan on growing all the food you need for a well-balanced diet, I think you’re going to have to sell your labor under any system or starve.

  212. wl
    wl September 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |

    Where I might differ from you – if I’m not misinterpreting – is I think spanging or “begging” is legitimate labor too, and yeah someone just throwing a few bucks at you while you’re trying to work could be condescending, but I don’t like this whole idea of jobs “further up the career ladder” being better or less deserving of stigma. It is also weird to me because where I live IMO most people consider spanging to be more respectable than sex work, or at least than some kinds of sex work.

  213. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |

    I have no idea where you quoted the LASH study, or what LASH stands for. Could you help me out?

  214. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm |

    Vi: I’m actually a little taken aback by the assumption that a sex worker/woman would automatically find you “repulsive” if you booked her.

    I was merely being self-effacing. I could have just as easily said’ more attractive’ as ‘less repulsive.’ Besides I was making the point that my reasons for not using sex workers (embarrassment at not being able to attract a woman based purely on my personal qualities,) was a pretty lame one, so by disagreeing with my reason, you are agreeing with my larger premise (i.e. that you can’t make any assumptions about someone’s motives.)

  215. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    @ wl – I agree that her experiences make Australia sound like a pretty great place, compared to a lot of other places. That’s kind of the point that some of us are making, though – that her experiences may not be terribly representative of what life is like for most sex workers on a global scale. They’re certainly nothing like most of what I’ve heard from anyone I’ve known who’s worked in the US, or the UK, or in Thailand (the places I’m most familiar with). The only person I knew in the UK who had a positive experience was a pro-domme who never had full sex with her clients.

    (And in fact I actually sat in on/participated in one of her sessions once, with the agreement of one of her clients, and so I know she wasn’t just putting a positive spin on things – that experience was a lot of fun. But it’s really, really not the norm.)

    BTW since this thread seems to be heating up – I may be gone for a while since I’m going to work in a bit. If I don’t respond to people it’s not that I’m ignoring you, I’m just not anywhere near a computer.

  216. LC
    LC September 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm |

    The original paper that she’s summarizing is here – http://bit.ly/nftNXE – all 153 pages of it. It isn’t a study, it cites figures from a number of other studies from what I can tell. They may have done some original research, but without reading the whole thing it isn’t obvious.

    The age of entry bit you discussed seems to come from the Fraser committee report in 1985, which was (as near as I can determine) specifically about street prostitution.

    (Just figuring that since I can read French, and this was a Quebec paper, I’d add that in.)

  217. wl
    wl September 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    Do you think there is less stigma against sex work in Australia than in say the US? Maybe that accounts for some of the difference (that *seems* to be there, I don’t know that for sure, but I have known another sex worker and activist who was from Australia, and it is my impression), if there is more respect for sex work there even in criminalized and licensing systems.

  218. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    “And here’s what we keep coming back to… what are you basing that on?”

    The fact that other than her and one other woman who was a stripper in the US*, every single other woman I’ve known who’s done sex work has hated it and stated very clearly that they found it traumatizing.

    And no, I’m not assuming that sex workers in Thailand are exploited because they’re brown. I’m assuming that many of them are exploited because that was the reality that I saw on the ground in Pattaya, and what many of them reported to friends/family who knew them.

  219. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm |

    * Even the woman I’m referencing here, though she had an overall positive experience, also says that she feels that it was damaging to her in some ways, particularly to her view of men and thus how she relates to them. Which is a lot better than PTSD, to be sure, but still not an overall positive experience in the way that the other friend’s was. I do think the reason for that is the level of control each person had over what they did and did not do in terms of specific sexual stuff.

  220. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm |

    “I may also be looking at it from the wrong angle. There may be cultural factors (media, religious influence) that make people in the US more whorephobic.”

    Having lived in many different places, I’d say that the US is…not so much whorephobic specifically as phobic about women and sex in general to an extent that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

  221. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm |

    Addendum – Except Saudi Arabia.

  222. wl
    wl September 17, 2011 at 11:00 pm |

    I think you can’t really untangle underpolicing of crimes against sex workers from whorephobia – take the situation described here in italics, where I think it’s pretty clear that whorephobia was the *cause* of the underpolicing of the crime. Same (I think) with Robert Pickton et al.

  223. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 17, 2011 at 11:08 pm |

    From the article you linked:
    Client violence is another issue that faces sex workers. While 5% to 10% of brothel and private workers have reported some form of violence in their work (e.g., robbery with violence, rape, bashing, stabbing) (Perkins & Lovejoy, 2007) for street workers violence is a more pervasive issue. Upwards of 50% of Sydney street workers report violence at work (Boyle et al., 1997; Harcourt et al., 2001; Roxburgh et al., 2006; Seib et al., 2009).

    This is some pretty serious crime. You’re advocating that sex work is just any other job, but most jobs don’t have 5% of people reporting robbery, rape, bashing and stabbing. And if you’re gonna tell me that other jobs involve violence, then I’ll answer that already- then I believe that those jobs are oppressive too!

    The whole article is on brothels in Australia. What about the rest of the sex trade? Just because prostitutes in Australian brothels are doing relatively ok (if a 5-10 percent rate of serious violence can be considered ok), doesn’t mean that other parts of the sex trade are like this. They aren’t.

    One thing I’ll never agree with you on- when men are paying to use your bodily orifices as if they are toys, they are not treating you as a human being. I firmly believe that sex is a joyful activity chosen freely out of real desire, and that means desire on the parts of all participants. Just allowing someone to use your body for their own pleasure for money, is not sex, under my definition, it’s exploitation. I don’t think the capitalist system is ok at all- and neither is selling your body, whether it’s for labor, or sex acts, or whatever. And for goddess’ sake, that doesn’t mean I’m against the people who do it- you do what you can in a fucked up system, and I’m part of the working class as well.

  224. LC
    LC September 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm |

    Vi: Thanks for that! Does it clarify the methodology of that bit at all? Specifically, does it state whether the survey data on age of entry was collected from people in all age brackets or only from people who entered the industry underage? I strongly suspect from the use of the term “young people” that it’s the latter.

    Not sure, because I can’t find the original of the Fraser. What I can find about it seems to indicate it took its numbers from the Beagley report earlier, which was focused on Adult prostitution, but then did some surveying of the child population. My suspicion is that yes, that number is probably “of those who began underage, this is the age they began at”. It does look like that the number 16-20 is cited as the age range they found for when people started, but there’s no data spread.

  225. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm |

    So you’re just going to ignore the fact that part of the reason I think there’s a lot of exploitation in Thailand is that sex workers there complained to me, and others, about hating their jobs?

    Also, there’s the age issue. Sorry, but I don’t think there’s any reasonable way to argue that pre-pubescent children in sex work, or children who’re just barely into puberty, aren’t being exploited. And I saw far too much of that in Pattaya. (Mostly boys.)

  226. LC
    LC September 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm |

    CassandraSays: Having lived in many different places, I’d say that the US is…not so much whorephobic specifically as phobic about women and sex in general to an extent that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

    Seconded. Not knowing anyone from Saudi Arabia or ever having visited, I can’t comment on your addendum.

  227. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    Also, re Thailand – so, there’s this guy my Dad used to work with who married a Thai woman who was a sex worker when he met her. She’s a family friend, and I grew up around her and her kids (though I’m about 10 years older than her oldest kid).

    I always thought that the way her husband treated her was both sexist and racist. He was a good old boy from Florida, so no surprise on the sexist part, but the racist part was really unpleasant to watch. However, she stated very clearly that even though he expected her to do everything for him, was much older, was not very attractive, etc., she still felt that marrying him was a big improvement in her life compared to when she was a sex worker in Thailand. Part of the reason she married him was because she had a daughter, and she wanted to make sure that her daughter wouldn’t end up following her into the industry.

    You keep making the assumption that I’m drawing the conclusions that I’m drawing by sort of vaguely glancing at a sex worker in passing and deciding that I know how she feels about her work, and that’s really not the case. My feelings towards sex work are based entirely on how the women I’ve known who’ve done it have felt about their experiences.

    (Since I don’t count the one session I participated in with the pro-domme friend as sex work – I didn’t get paid for it, and I basically did it because a. I was curious and b. I wanted to hook up with her, and since we were both too dominant to really be a good sexual match, it seemed like a good way to get around that problem and still be able to be sexual with each other.)

  228. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 11:26 pm |

    Also, in terms of the vast difference in experience, my suspicion is that maybe sex workers who hate their jobs and want to get out of the industry just don’t join sex workers’ rights groups. Kind of like how people in jobs where there is a union sometimes don’t join that union if they don’t see the job as a long term thing/don’t plan to make a career of it.

  229. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm |

    CassandraSays: “And here’s what we keep coming back to… what are you basing that on?”The fact that other than her and one other woman who was a stripper in the US*, every single other woman I’ve known who’s done sex work has hated it and stated very clearly that they found it traumatizing. And no, I’m not assuming that sex workers in Thailand are exploited because they’re brown. I’m assuming that many of them are exploited because that was the reality that I saw on the ground in Pattaya, and what many of them reported to friends/family who knew them.

    Huh…well, without statistics here we’re just dealing with anecdata. FWIW, among clients who were sex workers (mainly street full service) the problem seemed to center around (1) law enforcement, (2) pimps, (3) health care, and (4) child care rather than clients. I would say about half were looking to get out and the other half were looking for better outcomes on the issues described above. Then again, this was in the context of poverty law, so again FWIW. Among friends that have done varying amounts of phone sex/stripping/cam work, the reactions were positive. Among friends that have done full service, a sample size of two…one call service, one legal brothel, but both higher end…they thought it was better/preferrable to a day job (which they both had at one point).

  230. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 11:43 pm |

    Just about to step out the door but it just occurred to me that my previous comment could be misinterpreted. I’m not trying to distance myself in a “well of course I’d never do that for real” way – I’m pointing out that I basically approached the whole thing as a lark, and was able to do so because of privilege. So basically I was being a tourist rather than actually doing sex work in an I-have-bills-to-pay kind of way.

  231. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm |

    Yup, it worked very well indeed!

    I’m with you on the “even if an option sucks it’s still better than not having that option” thing. It just bothered little socialist kid me that those were the only options available to her, you know?

    Also as far as the kids are concerned, yeah, part of what made it so upsetting to watch was the fact that again, there may not have been any better options available. I had a lot of “this situation sucks, and I really hate the world right now” moments in Thailand.

  232. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 12:22 am |

    Ack…I can’t believe I forgot to mention…almost all the younger teens I worked with that I knew or *suspected* were engaged in sex work wanted out.

  233. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines September 18, 2011 at 2:46 am |

    Drug use is not the same as drug addiction and I’m disturb that your phrasing avoids talk of the latter. To talk of drug use being compatible with sex work, while ignoring the many women who enter sex work to fund drug addictions and are then extremely vulnerable to exploitation and harm is missing the point.

    Before you say, “That’s patronising, denial of agency, etc”, think about how generally poor our services are for treating drug addiction. These women aren’t making a choice on a level playing field, sex work is far easier to access then drug rehabilitation services and these women are extremely vulnerable to unscrupulous pimps and general poor treatment.

    Finally, again, disliking the sex industry is not being anti-sex and it annoys me deeply to see such patriarchal issue shaming tactics used in a feminist space, you might as well call us frigid or hysterical and have done with it. The only people the sex industy generally benefits are men. I don’t see what is ‘sex postive’ about that.

  234. rox
    rox September 18, 2011 at 8:34 am |

    “Of the ones I have spoken to about it (including myself) all of us are glad sex work was an available option, and all of us reject the idea that we were victimised just because we were doing sex work underage.”

    I care about everyone who has ever been in this situation, but you will never ever ever convince me that an adult should legally be able to have sex with an underage minor– and despite that as children we accept what we are given and we don’t have to look at ourselves as victims simply because we went through sexual acitivities with adults if we don’t want to— you are normally something that is wrong.

    I know exactly why you are doing it, it feels so much to make everything ok. All you have to do, is decide everything is ok and then it’s like magic, IT IS! It’s ok, guys do stuff and that’s what they want in exchange for whatever and that’s ok because it’s kind of them to be givers and it’s nice for them to get what they want sexually.

    no. Any adult who has extra money to give to an underage child should donate that to an organization working with homeless young adults to provide housing and shelter. I believe in harm reduction, but i do not believe it is ok to give a pass to men who are harming people.

    Right now you are defending predators. I understand why you are doing it, because those predators made things possible in your life no one else was willing to give you money like that, or shelter like that, right? I understand, you make peace with what is there— but in normalizing this you are advocating adults be able to use children and people in vulnerable situations this way. The answer is not to punish children or people in vulnerable situations— BUT TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO WHAT PEOPLE NEED.

    A lot of people experience violence in childhood but do not feel victimized by it. They may advocate strongly that violence, beatings with belts, slapping kids, a good beating is a healthy part of discipline and they feel fine and not victimized by their experiences of violence in childhood.

    That is how abuse gets perpetuated. Normalize, repeat.

  235. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 18, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    rox: I care about everyone who has ever been in this situation, but you will never ever ever convince me that an adult should legally be able to have sex with an underage minor– and despite that as children we accept what we are given and we don’t have to look at ourselves as victims simply because we went through sexual acitivities with adults if we don’t want to— you are normally something that is wrong.

    rox, I do agree with your general stance against underage sex work. My view is that the huge number of people who supress their memories/feelings about abuse suffered as a child, does make the sort of anecdotal evidence provided on that level rather difficult to assess. I also think you are entitled to your opinion that these comments defend predators, but you really don’t need to psychoanalyze her motives.

    But you ruin your points when you speak with such broad brushes such as to say ‘you will never ever ever convince me that an adult should legally be able to have sex with an underage minor,’ well, that’s just so random because you haven’t even stated what an ‘underage minor’ or ‘adult’ is. My wife is 8 months older than me, so when we met freshman year in college, she was an 18 year old ‘adult’ and I was a 17 year old ‘underage minor’ until December of that year. By making these blanket statements you take away from your original point about exploitation, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had a relationship with an ‘adult’ at age 16-17.

  236. jamayla
    jamayla September 18, 2011 at 11:10 am |

    Kristen J.: ? Um…wuh? Unless you plan on growing all the food you need for a well-balanced diet, I think you’re going to have to sell your labor under any system or starve.

    Actually, in an ideal world, I would raise most of my own food and have little or no involvement whatsoever with market economies. The problem is that the bulk of people (also known as ‘workers’) are coerced into selling their labor to the parasitic owning classes (e.g. bosses & other property-holders). This is called ‘capitalism’, and it gives rise to a host of abuses.

    But that’s off the topic of this thread; and I’m not in the headspace to give someone an ‘Anti-Capitalism: 101′ lecture, anyway. Read a book, yo.

    Of course it doesn’t. Because I wasn’t talking about them.

    ..because you think that doesn’t apply to most working people in ‘developed countries'; and I’m telling you that you’re wrong.
    The working poor aren’t some tiny minority. Newsflash: We exist in droves, but we’re usually invisible to you. Few people ever think about who cleans that toilet, who picked that apple, etc.

    Nope. But I think the implication that working at McDonalds is automatically “degrading” is extremely classist.

    If you think that characterizing fast food service (or any of the other jobs low-income people are forced to take) as degrading is ‘classist’, you don’t know what that word means.

    Having to beg and scrape to get just enough hours to pay the bills is degrading. Having your schedule randomly changed with no consultation or input from you is degrading. Having no way to speak up against an asshole supervisor is degrading. Being treated like a profit-maximizing robot with no consideration for your individual needs (e.g. physical disability, childcare needs, etc.) is degrading. The high turnover rate amongst fast food workers belies the fact that it sucks.

    I know sex workers who draw the line at full service, but think nothing of sessions involving piss and etc. … I don’t think you can label any one form of sex work as generally “unpleasant”.

    Again, you’re shifting the goalposts – I never argued that there’s anything inherently unpleasant about certain sex acts. Criminalized, high-risk sex work in which women are extremely vulnerable to police abuse and have no means to fight back against crappy clients is unpleasant, period. This is true of any line of work.

    What makes street based sex work automatically “appalling conditions”? … I don’t think you can decide that someone is working in appalling conditions simply because they’re soliciting clients outside.

    Your arms must be pretty tired from beating that straw man – I never said that outdoor sex work is inherently awful by virtue of being outdoors, aside from possible exposure to bad weather (which applies to any outdoor job). Street soliciting is illegal in most locales, which means that workers are exposed to police violence and have absolutely no recourse against clients who are abusive or won’t pay up.

    This can only be seen as a favour if you think of the sexual service as something that demeans or harms the sex worker.

    Please. This is completely out-of-touch with reality – ask someone with, say, a cushy & well-paid job (in a non-sexual sector of industry) whether they’d feel insulted if their employer said, “You know, here’s your pay for today. You don’t even have to do anything!”

    Do you honestly think they’d be ‘insulted’ that their work isn’t being ‘valued’?

    I said that I think sex work is a little further up the career ladder than begging, not that sex workers are further up the career ladder than homeless people.

    Ah. A clumsy, semantic sleight of hand. Gee, but don’t you think that having those broad opinions of ‘begging’ says something about your general opinion of homeless people? I’m being a bit sarcastic here, echoing your previous remarks about how broad opinions about certain forms of sex work implies some indictment of the workers.

    Also, the identity politicking thing just doesn’t work – “I’m a sex worker, too!”, “I was homeless once!”, “I’m a brown woman, too!”, etc.

    I’ve learned pretty quickly that people who look like me and/or share certain aspects of my history aren’t immune to having fucked-up ideas; and people who engage in right-wing, pro-capitalist apologetics aren’t my allies, anyway. I think we’re speaking different languages here; and there’s nothing productive that’ll come from continuing to engage with you.

  237. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |

    jamayla: Actually, in an ideal world, I would raise most of my own food and have little or no involvement whatsoever with market economies. The problem is that the bulk of people (also known as ‘workers’) are coerced into selling their labor to the parasitic owning classes (e.g. bosses & other property-holders). This is called ‘capitalism’, and it gives rise to a host of abuses.
    But that’s off the topic of this thread; and I’m not in the headspace to give someone an ‘Anti-Capitalism: 101′ lecture, anyway. Read a book, yo.

    Lol, read all those in grad school. Always surprises me how much this strain of “marxism” resembles Rand’s anarchism. I guess all the people with differring skills and differring abilities should just starve rather than be oppressed by trading their labor. But then I’m not in the headspace to give someone a “Pragmatism” and “Choice” 101 lecture.

  238. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 11:40 am |

    As for book recommendations you might start with Rawls and word your way down from their with those who have put a good deal of thought into what equality means and how to deal with things like “brute luck.”

  239. JP
    JP September 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    Kristen J.: Lol, read all those in grad school.Always surprises me how much this strain of “marxism” resembles Rand’s anarchism.I guess all the people with differring skills and differring abilities should just starve rather than be oppressed by trading their labor.But then I’m not in the headspace to give someone a “Pragmatism” and “Choice” 101 lecture.

    Calling jamayla’s views a strain of Marxism does enormous disservice to Marx, whose views bear no resemblance to the simplistic quasi-critique of capitalism she gives here.

    jamayla: The problem is that the bulk of people (also known as ‘workers’) are coerced into selling their labor to the parasitic owning classes (e.g. bosses & other property-holders). This is called ‘capitalism’, and it gives rise to a host of abuses.

    Even though she seems to attribute this line of thinking to Marx, in fact what Marx actually thinks is this:

    This obscurantist foists on me the the view that ‘surplus value,’ which is produced by the workers alone, remains with the capitalist entrepreneurs in a wrongful manner [ungebührlicher Weise]. But I say the direct opposite[.]

    In my presentation, the earnings of capital are not in fact ‘only a deduction or ‘robbery’ of the worker.’ On the contrary, I present the capitalist as a necessary functionary of capitalist production, and show at length that he does not only ‘deduct’ or ‘rob’ but forces [erzwingt] the production of surplus value, and thus helps create what is to be deducted; further I show in detail that even if in commodity exchange only equivalents are exchanged, the capitalist – as soon as he pays the worker the actual value of his labour power – earns surplus value with full right [mit vollem Rech], i.e. the right corresponding to this mode of production.

    (from the 1879 Notes on Wagner)

    By “this obscurantist” Marx means Adolph Wagner, but it applies to jamayla just as well. Marx is very clear that he does not consider capitalist exploitation – by which he means the extraction of surplus value – an injustice. In fact, although Marx thinks that wage labourers are indeed coerced, and not freer as a class than slaves or serfs, he does not think this coercion is unjust. That is one of the reasons he strongly rejects the use of moral notions like “justice” as the basis of social criticism.

    And the idea that Marx would feel any affinity towards the anarchistic return to subsistence which jamayla peddles is risible.

  240. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    Yes, well, valid point. But you must admit “marxism” has travelled quite far from its originators intent. Lots of people do call that school of thought “marxism”, rightly or wrongly.

  241. LC
    LC September 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    Vi: Thanks for looking!

    You’re welcome. It’s the science writer in me. Also, since the document brushfire (it was brushfire, I think? If not, my apologies) brought up was an English summary paper of a French report and I can read French, I thought getting to the source might help.

    As a side note, I came across this summary of prostitution law in Canada. (It’s from 2003, so doesn’t go into the recent Supreme Court of Ontario rulings, of course.) It seems the Fraser Committee leaned slightly towards a decriminalization approach, but then proposed a hybrid solution that didn’t go over well with anyone.

    CassandraSays: since we were both too dominant to really be a good sexual match, it seemed like a good way to get around that problem and still be able to be sexual with each other.)

    What a good solution! (since it seems to have worked out well for you).

    I’ve avoided weighing in on the overall debate here because all I could do would be to add second-hand anecdata.

    However (and largely tangental to the main post, so more just something I want to throw out before I forget), something that came up in a back and forth between you and rox struck me though, concerning desire and consent. I’ve often pointed out to people that “desire does not equal consent”. Even if you desire me to your utmost, you may not actually consent to do anything. (A situation I’ve been in. Clear mutual desire, but the situation is one where acting on it is something one of us does not want to pursue.)

    It never particularly occurred to me to think whether or not that means that consent does not require desire in all cases, but there is some aspect of that being argued here.

    OK, derail over, thanks for indulging me.

  242. JP
    JP September 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm |

    Kristen J.:
    Yes, well, valid point.But you must admit “marxism” has travelled quite far from its originators intent.Lots of people do call that school of thought “marxism”, rightly or wrongly.

    Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying than people calling Michelle Bachmann a feminist. There’s travelling far, and then there’s saying the exact opposite.

  243. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    OK, since everyone seems to be ignoring one of my main points, and I’m interested to see if anyone else has input on it, I’ll try pasting an excerpt from the post that I already linked to:
    http://clarissethorn.com/blog/2010/12/24/litquote-sex-workers-and-whore-stigma-in-southern-africa/

    The quotations are from South African sex workers who live in a squatter settlement and primarily work with mineworkers.

    The question I am trying to ask is: Does it seem conceivable that the very act of stigmatizing this work and spreading narratives about desperation, etc. was one of the primary factors that made it unpleasant for the women who participated in it?

    How do people deal with having a spoiled identity, the stigma of a shameful profession? … One way was through a series of justificatory discourses. Predominant among these was the discourse of “having no option”.

    S: “I give my clients respect by telling them I don’t like doing this job. I tell them I only do it due to poverty.”

    W: “This is a job that lowers our dignity. We discuss this often, that we should look for other jobs. But the truth is that there are no alternatives.”

    Virtually every woman said she had been “tricked” into starting the job. They all spoke of having been recruited by friends, who tempted them away from their rural homes with stories about jobs in Johannesburg, without telling them the nature of the work. They spoke of arriving and initially refusing to sell sex. Eventually they had been forced into it by a combination of hunger and the lack of transport money to return home.

    … In a paper reporting on similar interviews with sex workers in Gambia, the authors use somewhat judgmental language, variously describing sex workers’ accounts of their lives as “lies”, “fiction” and accounts that “could not be trusted”. Possibly this was also the case in the Summertown study. Peoples’ stories of being tricked into sex work were remarkably similar.

    … In relation to sexual health-promotion among this group, however, the objective veracity of their accounts is not the most interesting or key feature of the life histories. What is more important is how people reconstruct and account for their life choices, given that these accounts reflect the social identities that are crucial in shaping sexual behavior. In this context, the main interest of these stories of origin lies in the role that they play as a strategy of coping with a spoiled identity — the way they are used by women to distance themselves from this stigma in as many ways as possible.

    … Women did not have happy memories of home. Their home lives had often been sites of deprivation, conflict and abuse. On the one hand, their choice to become sex workers had resulted in the dangers and stresses of their current daily lives. On the other, abandoning their claims to conventional respectability (in coming to the mines, abandoning their children and setting up lives as single women with few responsibilities to anyone except themselves) represented a radical break from the drudgery and restrictions of conventional womanhood.

    Buried in the interviews, amid all the talk about their intentions to return home at the first possible moment, their shame at abandoning their children and the indignity of the work was a range of comments reflecting this dichotomy. Some said how they enjoyed the wild, often riotous lifestyle of sex work, where in its good moments life felt like a continuous party. They appreciated the freedom from responsibility and decorum. Y feared she would be quickly bored by the domestic routine of cooking, cleaning and child-care that would have been required of her at home. W said she was at her happiest when drinking at the bar with her friends. P reflected the ambiguity that many women felt about the home identities they had given up in a comment in which she started off by idealizing home as “a place where one did not have problems”, but ended up by saying that she would struggle to cope with its staid routine:

    P: “When I’m at home I don’t have problems. My friends and sisters are always there so I’m always happy. But I’m also scared that I might get drunk and do funny things that might make me argue with other people. At home men have responsibilities to their wives — if a man were to buy alcohol for me his wife would come and argue with me. Here there is no such problem — I don’t have to answer questions to anybody.”

    … Despite its dangers and uncertainties, sex work gives women some independence from patriarchal restrictions and the endless responsibility and drudgery of their more conventional roles in situations of poverty. In certain respects it offers women an unusual degree of independence from male control and from the restrictions of the identities of wife, mother and home-maker. Such a sentiment was expressed directly by only one of the interviewees:

    C: “I can say I am happy at the present moment because I know how to make a living. I don’t depend on anyone like I used to before, where I used to be shouted at if I had to ask anyone for help. I am happy because there is no one who is questioning me. When I do this job, I don’t have to ask anyone for anything — I just work hard, and then I can buy anything I want.”

    Interviewer: “Would you like to have a boyfriend?” [Most women expressed a strong desire for a man who would fall in love with them and support them.]

    C: “I can’t say. I’m no longer used to having a partner any more — I don’t think I would manage to have a boyfriend …. Since I’m no longer used to waiting for someone to give me money or to depend on. I’m used to being independent. If I were to find a boyfriend I wouldn’t manage to go home as often as I am used to doing. He would want more kids. I would have to stop selling sex — this would interfere with me caring for my family — and I can’t stand that.”

    C, cited above, was an exception in the sample in a number of respects. First, she was younger and better dressed than her colleagues. Unlike them, she had experiences of sex within the relatively sophisticated urban context of hotels in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg. Here sex work was practiced more openly, for better money and received greater recognition as a profession. Second, she was one of the few women interviewed who saw the job as a way of making money to support her family. She herself was one of the children that had been left with an old grandmother by a sex worker mother shortly after her birth, but had taken great pains as a teenager to track down her mother to her workplace in the study community [Summertown]. It was only because she wanted to live near her mother that she chose to spend only part of her time in Hillbrow and the rest of her time in Summertown. Her life’s goal was to save enough money to buy a plot in her rural area of origin and to save money so that her mother could retire from the job and have a dignified old age.

    However, despite the fact that she was so atypical of the women interviewed, she was one of the few women who had the confidence and the vocabulary to express what for other women was “unspeakable”. This was the fact that, for all its dangers and stigma, their profession did offer some advantages. For most informants sex work was the profession with no name, an identity so stigmatized and so spoiled that they often avoided naming their work even to one another. Within this context women lacked the discourse to articulate the fact that, although their work was seen as a departure from the conventional and respectable identities available to women as mothers, wives, family members and homemakers, it did have something to offer women in terms of autonomy and independence.

  244. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm |

    “I am against responding the sweatshops by criminalising the people who work in them or the people who buy their products,”

    Just read it, again and again. This is right-wing bullshit equivalence, this would be laughed out of town if it were about anything but sex work. Seriously? the “buyers” of sweatshop labor — the ones who *know* they are buying from a sweatshop — sure as fuck should be criminalized. Seriously, is it this easy to turn off the critical faculties of listeners / readers?

    Kirsten J — the sale of labor is specific to capitalism. lol grad school?

    JP — oh my god. You are confused.

  245. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Kathleen: Kirsten J — the sale of labor is specific to capitalism. lol grad school?

    Eh? Who said the sale of labor was specific to capitalism? I’m saying the sale/trade of labor is specific to eating for any community of people regardless of the system.

  246. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    I know you genuinely have the best interests of sex workers in mind (perhaps one specific subset of sex workers more than others) but I also detect, as others have pointed out, a strange and disturbing right-wing/libertarian sentiment in many of your comments that is difficult to reconcile with all the good stuff you advocates.

    Also, the repeated insistence that our clients are mostly nice, harmless people rings false to me, and is also one of those things that we don’t have reliable data for one way or another. I mean, should we just take your word for it? The other sex workers I know (myself included) have had quite the opposite experience. (I always feel like it is such a rare & special treat to find a decent client, and end up trying to do everything in my power to keep him as a regular). I know you are against generalizing about the sex industry but saying that the majority of clients are benign strikes me as a huge generalization. (And again, we don’t have solid statistics showing that they are all violent either – to me the most accurate thing to say is that clients are a mixed bag, and quite unpredictable.)

  247. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    the “buyers” of sweatshop labor — the ones who *know* they are buying from a sweatshop — sure as fuck should be criminalized. Seriously, is it this easy to turn off the critical faculties of listeners / readers?

    But we all buy stuff made from sweatshop labor. It would be completely impracticle to criminalize everyone.

    Is there a dichotomy going around here whether you’re either completely for sex work or you’re for banning it? No one has said that specifically, but it’s a feeling I’m getting.

    Clarisse, I’m unclear as to what you were trying to say. I think I’m missing some of the previous context. Perhaps I missed a conversation somewhere?

    By the way, whoever called me Brushfire instead of Bushfire, that’s actually kindof a cool name for me. :-)

  248. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |

    Kathleen: Seriously? the “buyers” of sweatshop labor — the ones who *know* they are buying from a sweatshop — sure as fuck should be criminalized.

    Where do you recommend poor people shop for clothes in the absence of good thrift shops?

  249. llama
    llama September 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm |

    I am not so much anti porn, so much as it so far down on my list of priorities that I haven’t ever spent any money on it. I also know my wife is anti porn which I thought would be a pretty mainstream feminist position. I am surprised that there are feminists that are pro-porn, can anybody throw me a link to something that can explain the reasoning behind why some feminists are pro-porn?

  250. JP
    JP September 19, 2011 at 12:19 am |

    Kathleen: JP — oh my god. You are confused.

    I don’t want to derail the discussion further, so this will be the last thing I say on the matter. Presumably, if you are at all familiar with Marx’s own writings (which sadly few people are these days), you cannot think that I am confused either about Marx utterly rejecting the silly Proudhonist line about capitalist “parasitism” that jamayla was pushing, or about him being utterly inimical to her anarchist primitivism. So presumably you think I’m confused about whether he considered capitalist exploitation unjust. I am not.

    There is a tendency in some circles to misrepresent Marx as just another liberal moralist advocating for workers’ rights and justice. But he is not. He advocates – vigorously and contemptuously – for the abolition of capitalism on a wide variety of grounds (it prevents the attainment of a variety of non-moral goods, like health, security, self-actualisation; it hinders the further development of productive forces). However, he rejects the idea that it should be criticised on moral grounds, in particular in terms of demands for rights and justice, which he dismisses as ideological obfuscation (he is also a moral constructivist, and rejects the notion of an eternal morality independent of the prevailing mode of production – but is not a relativist, and thinks that workers are bound by bourgeois morality that justifies exploitation to the extent that morality is binding at all). In all his writings after 1843 (when he talked about the “categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken and despicable being”) he never criticises capitalism for violating anyone’s rights or being unjust, and makes many disparaging remarks about those socialists who engage in such moralistic talk.

    He thought one of the major accomplishments of his historical materialism was that it had “broken the staff of all morality” and enabled the replacement of a moral critique with the critique of the rational content of society.

  251. EG
    EG September 19, 2011 at 12:30 am |

    it prevents the attainment of a variety of non-moral goods, like health, security, self-actualisation; it hinders the further development of productive forces

    Marx believed that historical materialism was an alternative to morality; that does not mean he was correct or that he himself did not implicitly make moral critiques and judgments. What else could it mean to say that capitalism is bad because it prevents the attainment of health, security, and self-actualization, except to be assuming that people should be able to attain health, security, and self-actualization? That is a moral claim.

  252. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 19, 2011 at 1:00 am | *

    Bushfire, I think the biggest question raised by #264 is whether discourses that describe sex work as disgusting, degrading, horrible, etc. are in fact a major factor that makes sex work disgusting, degrading, horrible, etc.

  253. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 19, 2011 at 1:01 am | *

    … the above comment should read:

    Bushfire, I think the biggest question raised by #264 is whether discourses that describe sex work as disgusting, degrading, horrible, etc. are in fact a major factor that makes sex work disgusting, degrading, horrible, etc. for the sex workers who feel that way about their jobs.

  254. JP
    JP September 19, 2011 at 1:28 am |

    EG: Marx believed that historical materialism was an alternative to morality; that does not mean he was correct or that he himself did not implicitly make moral critiques and judgments. What else could it mean to say that capitalism is bad because it prevents the attainment of health, security, and self-actualization, except to be assuming that people should be able to attain health, security, and self-actualization? That is a moral claim.

    This is really going to get us into exegetical details about Marx that are out of place here, so I’ll really shut up after this.

    First, he didn’t think historical materialism was an alternative to morality itself, but rather that we can use its insights to remove moral talk from our critique of society. Second, there is a genuine temptation to read veiled moralism into Marx’s many bitingly negative observations about capitalism despite his denials. Certainly some people have argued precisely that he was just confused about what he was up to when he talked about rejecting morality.

    But this is both uncharitable and unconvincing. Marx follows Kant in distinguishing between “moral” and “natural” goods (or “the good” [Gut] and “well-being” [Wohl]) – in contrast to the Utilitarians like Mill who think moral goods reduce to the natural ones. But he diverges from Kant by thinking the pursuit of natural goods is more fundamental and can systematically override the pursuit of moral goods (which are, unlike natural goods, dependent on the mode of production). That opens up the space for him to say that capitalism should be abolished – to usher in greater attainment of natural goods – even though it is just. One could characterise this attitude as a normative one, but not a moral one.

    So for Marx, saying things like “people should be able to attain health” certainly does not express the idea that people have a right to health, or that denying them health is an injustice. Rather, it expresses something like the thought that health is a natural good to people, and it is in their self-interest to bring about a society in which they attain it (and, assuming the totality of the surrounding social theory, in our self-interest as well). To the extent that this is a moral claim at all, it does not rely on the bourgeois liberal notions of “rights” or “justice.”

    For a somewhat different take on Marx’s attitude on justice and rights, there’s a great old paper by the Kant scholar Allen Wood. http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/AllenWoodTHEMARXIANCRITIQUEOFJUSTICE.pdf

  255. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 2:18 am |

    “How dare you say that that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m saying that people who have engaged in underage survival sex are often glad the option was available to them. That says nothing about whether the people who provided payment (who may or may not have been adults, the people who provided me with shelter, food, drugs and alcohol for sex generally were not) “should” be engaging in sex with them.”

    Ok, then why one year (16) is it a horrible crime for an adult to do this to a child and the next year (17 in my state) we pressume that there is no exploitation and as long as the teen says yes everything is fine and defending her from exploitation is a violation of her freedom of choice?

    If she’s 16 the guy is a monster. All of here would yell CHILD PREDATOR! Defend the child! Get the child some real support for crying out loud! But at 17 suddenly the same girl is not being exploited?

    I’m pointing out that your defense of purchasers of pornography that depicts barely legal girls doing a lot of high risk activities— It doesn’t make sense.

    It doesn’t make sense to persecute a producer for getting a one year to young girl for a film like he’s a terrible human being who needs prison time, and turn around and say that within months, the same girl is not being exploited?

    I support all rights for sex workers under the sun but NO I do not support the people who buy porn from an industry that is NOT accountable about the experiences of women in it.

  256. EG
    EG September 19, 2011 at 3:07 am |

    That opens up the space for him to say that capitalism should be abolished – to usher in greater attainment of natural goods – even though it is just.

    What makes capitalism just? It has been a while since I’ve read Marx, but for one reason and another I’m very familiar with a lot of his thought and the thought that followed him, and that doesn’t sound like something I’ve read/known before.

    Marx follows Kant in distinguishing between “moral” and “natural” goods (or “the good” [Gut] and “well-being” [Wohl]) – in contrast to the Utilitarians like Mill who think moral goods reduce to the natural ones.

    Ah, that does make sense, by which I mean, I understand why Marx believes himself not to be making a moral argument if that is the ground he is working from. I disagree with him, but my relationship with Marx is contentious and complicated for a variety of reasons!

    But this is both uncharitable and unconvincing.

    Well, charity is not one of the virtues I care much for, so what can I say?

    we can use its insights to remove moral talk from our critique of society.

    What, in your opinion, does Marx see as the advantage of doing so?

    Rather, it expresses something like the thought that health is a natural good to people, and it is in their self-interest to bring about a society in which they attain it

    That does seem to me to illustrate an issue I have with Marx’s theory in this respect: a lot depends on people acting in their own self-interest. Obviously, people often don’t, but that’s not even the bit that concerns me right now. What concerns me is that if acting in self-interest is the issue, then health/self-actualization/the rest of it depends on the majority of people caring that you receive these things. That is fine if one is concerned with the inability to achieve these things based on class exploitation, as by its nature, the working classes have to be far more populous than the capitalist classes. But when one is concerned with the inability of a minority to attain these things…well, it is in the self-interest of white people to maintain racism and of men to maintain patriarchy, etc. Surely nobody can take the notion of “false consciousness” seriously at this point, or the idea that patriarchy/racism/etc. are merely diversions that are generated by class-based exploitation. This seems problematic.

  257. JP
    JP September 19, 2011 at 7:34 am |

    EG, those are good questions/objections, but they plunge into huge topics and I really don’t want to derail this further. I wasn’t so much concerned with defending various aspects of Marx’s thought as with dispelling a crass misinterpretation of it that was floating around here. On some of your questions about his moral philosophy, the Wood paper I linked may clarify it for you further. For a thoughtful and unsparing critique of the Marxist theory of ideology and false consciousness, I’d recommend Michael Rosen’s excellent book On Voluntary Servitude.

  258. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 7:52 am |

    “And this is why I say it is perfectly reasonable for a fifteen year old to say they did not feel victimised by engaging in underage sex work… but it should still be a crime to be a client of that fifteen year old if you are an adult, because the law says you can’t be sure of their emotional capacity to consent (the age of consent in my area is 16 for non-commercial sex, 18 for sex work).”

    Ok but you also say you are opposed to research on the effects of getting throat fucked by 20 guys– how related it is to PTSD, to bipolar, to dissociative mental illness.

    Did you know that dissociation during during sexual trauma mediates the difference between schizophrenics who do and don’t have hallucinations? Are you a neurobiologist? Are you a mental health professional?

    How can sex workers without any knowledge of how sexually traumatic experiences– whether consented to or not– affect the development and trajectory of mental illness and well being– make a meaningful consent?

    You are actually moving to supress such research because you say only sex workers should research themselves.

    From this I can only guess that you do not want the details of how the profession correlates with the progression of mental illness to be available information to women choosing to enter sex work.

    I believe all consent to high risk activities should be informed consent with detailed information of the potential risks involved available. I don’t believe we’ve done detailed analysis of the physiology, neurobiology, health, and mental health risks involved using devent measurable science measures.

    There fore to me, there can not currently be informed consent. I think you’re afraid that if it came out how related some forms of sex work/pornography can be for the performers that it would be harder to get good clients who are pretty decent because they’ll be too worried about the well being of the sex worker.

    Even if that is true, that is not a good enough reason to supress women’s stories who experienced damage during their work as sex workers, or do more detailed research on what is or isn’t true.

    I think using more measurable physiology measures, such as hormonal and immune system biomarkers, anylisis of neurotransmitter functioning in the brain— combined with smart and critical efforts to deduce what does or doesn’t wind up leaving sex workers experiencing a great deal of harm–

    Why would you want to PREVENT women getting into sex work from having such knowledge?

    I get that you are saying you don’t feel expoited by the men that exploited you, but I think you’re downplaying those affects to your person. Because sexual abuse is deeply tied to the development of a host of mental illness. Current research is finding that environmental factors play a huge role in people developing or not developing mental illness. I’d like that research to continue and if you want to say that women are capable of informed consent to do high risk sex work/pornography, I think you would side WITH more detailed research on the affects to mental and physical well being, so that the possibility of informed consent could be more meaningful.

  259. Random Observer
    Random Observer September 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |

    @213

    Ok, you didn’t believe the research that I got from a university library (and published by a government)

    Since when is that a standard for establishing the accuracy of a claim? For anything, really.

  260. LC
    LC September 19, 2011 at 10:53 am |

    Bushfire: By the way, whoever called me Brushfire instead of Bushfire, that’s actually kindof a cool name for me. :-)

    That was me, and I am always happy when I am in error but it turns out ok. :)

  261. Jadey
    Jadey September 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm |

    Safiya Outlines: So we should all be quiet then and not question one particular viewpoint of the sex industry? Would that be a happy and tidy thread?

    Considering the personal experiences some people have discussed here, I think it’s dreadful behaviour to dismiss this thread as a “bull-crap festooned mess of a thread”.

    You’re right and I apologize.

    I did not read the whole thread, just some parts at the beginning and toward the end. This usually means I disqualify myself from commenting, but it was late and I made a bad judgement call – personally, I hate when uninvolved people come into a thread that I’ve made a big investment in and suggest that it was a waste of time (even if it was, people who didn’t participate don’t get to make that call). I actually don’t recall reading any of your comments so I can’t speak to any points you argued – my interpretation was based on what I saw as people misrepresenting points again and again, and I wanted to throw in a little support because I hate the idea that we might be chasing away yet another fantastic Feministe contributor with bullshit comment threads.

    But that doesn’t justify A) butting in on a thread I wasn’t going to properly participate in, and B) suggesting broadly that debate around the sex industry and pornography isn’t meaningful or productive, even if I’m finding the comments in this particular thread that I actually read (which definitely wasn’t all or even most of them) frustrating and unproductive. I apologize. I don’t retract my support of the poster, but I do retract my slam on the thread.

  262. Li
    Li September 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm |

    rox, I’m not going to quote your entire comment at 283, but WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

    Do you know what the major barrier to my getting proper mental health care from counselors was when I first developed post-trauma anxiety/depression? Their repeated insistence that I had developed depression because I was in a polyamorous relation/ what they then projected about my promiscuity rather than what I actually told them about what was making me depressed. And your comment just reeks of the slut shaming I have received from multiple mental health professionals over the years and is exactly the I Know Better Than You bullshit that characterises the worst parts of the mental health sector. You’re damaged and you just don’t know it.

  263. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    “And your comment just reeks of the slut shaming I have received from multiple mental health professionals over the years and is exactly the I Know Better Than You bullshit that characterises the worst parts of the mental health sector. You’re damaged and you just don’t know it.”

    Yes but Li you’re reversing that to people who are saying they DO feel hurt by some of their experiences and saying “So sex work is fine. No one gets hurts and when they do that is really rare and doesn’t happen often so no one should do anything preventatively to protect people from getting hurt”

    I’m just not likeing that there is no addressing considering preventative measures to prevent people from getting hurt in the way some people say they have been hurt?

    Why would are you ignoring that they have been hurt by saying that their suffering isn’t worth preventing in others? I genuinely don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to prevent suffering in others?

    Research ALL has bias and ALL research, each individual study should be criticised thoroughly. Mental health care is ridiculous right now. Feedback about research on sex workers from sex workers is essential; criticisms of research should be heard and used to make research better.

  264. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 7:14 pm |

    I guess what I mean to say is that in order to acknowledge some people might be hurt by experience x– you have to acknowledge that.. some people are hurt by it.

    So knowing that some people are hurt by the sex industry, should at least matter enough to say there are risks women should know about going into it, right? And if they were bombarded with messages about how sex work is empowering and there are no risk, how is that informed consent if they turn out to be someone who gets hurt?

  265. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm |

    Jadey: I don’t usually participate in discussions on sex work/pornography either, because it always seems to cycle around to the same old arguments.

  266. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm |

    rox: Did you know that dissociation during during sexual trauma mediates the difference between schizophrenics who do and don’t have hallucinations? Are you a neurobiologist? Are you a mental health professional?

    Yeah, you’re being such a jerk when you totally advocate for traumatizing women even though you in no way did that ever.

  267. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    Really, Li? I read comment #283 too, and it was advocating for more research so that women can make more informed decisions. This is offensive how? This is slut shaming how?

    If your counsellor wasn’t listening to you during counselling, that sounds like a bad counsellor. There are bad counsellors in the world, and the mental health system is famously fucked up. Rox advocating for research correlates to your bad mental health counsellor how?

  268. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 19, 2011 at 10:30 pm |

    Since when is that a standard for establishing the accuracy of a claim? For anything, really.

    Because university librarians specifically choose quality materials that will benefits student’s learning. And democratic governments in free countries attempt to do proper research to benefit their populations. Do you figure that Canadian government or York University have some sort of bias?

  269. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

    “And this is why I say it is perfectly reasonable for a fifteen year old to say they did not feel victimised by engaging in underage sex work…”

    I’m sure I’ll get banned from here any time now, but, seriously? You think a 15 year old can be in sex work and not be victimized? I don’t care anymore if I’m “trolling”. If this is the state of feminism today, I want to barf. On planet Earth, underage sex work is called abuse. I have much higher standards than you for the way women should be treated.

  270. Random Observer
    Random Observer September 20, 2011 at 3:29 am |

    Bushfire @290:
    Because university librarians specifically choose quality materials that will benefits student’s learning.And democratic governments in free countries attempt to do proper research to benefit their populations.Do you figure that Canadian government or York University have some sort of bias?

    Wow! You just can’t make responses like that up. The scary part is that you are probably typing this with a straight face. Small point: don’t believe everything you read. Even if you happen to find it in a university library.

    University libraries are simply large libraries with a bent toward collections of specialized academic work. And guess what? Not everything that manages to be published by an academic source is automatically accurate or even good research. Would it shock you to know that you can probably find plenty of published research in your York University library that will probably contradict other published research found there?

    And “democratic governments in free countries do proper research to benefit their populations”? And “policemen are our friends,” right? In all seriousness, surely you’re aware that even democratic governments are capable of bias? And quite capable of sponsoring or repeating bad research when it suits their purposes? I mean, surely we don’t need a “Critical Thinking 101″ talk here, do we?

  271. Joan Kelly
    Joan Kelly September 20, 2011 at 4:05 am |

    Bushfire – I haven’t read anything but your comment above [not because I don't care about this subject or thread or what anyone else has said - but because it's 2am and I'm flipping around the internet as I get drowsy and sometimes I just click on the most recent comment, that I see listed on the home page] and although it may be an offshoot entirely to what she said, and therefore irrelevant to why it bothered you, I wanted to note that it’s possible for 15 year old girls to “not-feel victimized” by stripping, whoring, doing porn, whatever, without it meaning a goddamn thing about whether the males who *consume* them are predatory and abusive. So I think both can be true at the same time, is what I’m saying. I personally do believe both are true at the same time – I don’t think that how a 15 year old girl/young woman feels about what she is doing with or for an older man mitigates his actions and their implications, at all.

    I know when *I* was 15, you couldn’t have told me a fucking thing about my body, or anyone else’s right to say I should or shouldn’t fuck somebody my age or older. And if it was something I had ever gotten to do, and wanted to, it would not be true that I was just in denial about being a victim. It would mean that my consciousness = consensual person making a choice; and the 25 (or more) year old man’s consciousness = sexual predator.

  272. Natalia
    Natalia September 20, 2011 at 6:03 am |

    I agree that these experiences make Australia sound like a pretty great place, compared to a lot of other places. That’s kind of the point that some of us are making, though – that her experiences may not be terribly representative of what life is like for most sex workers on a global scale.

    Cassandra, exactly – it’s not representative. Coming from a country such as Ukraine, I certainly wish it were more representative. That’s why I consider this insight to be very important.

  273. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 20, 2011 at 7:52 am |

    rox’s argument, that sex workers cannot know their own mental health, that sex work must be traumatic, produce barriers to sex workers accessing mental health services.

    Sex work is traumatic. Even in the recommended study, 5-10% of the respondents reported incidents of serious abuse. You don’t think that having a regular probability of serious abuse is traumatic?
    I’ve had a social worker, a GP and a psychologist here in Canada who really listened to me about why I was depressed and didn’t attribute it to my own promiscuous behaviour or my queerness. There’s no reason for a mental health professional to project biases onto you- they should not- but that doesn’t mean sex work is not traumatic, it means that people should listen to their patients.

    @Random Observer
    I mean, surely we don’t need a “Critical Thinking 101″ talk here, do we?

    I’m quite capable of critical thinking, thanks. That’s why I’m a radical feminist, instead of a patriarchy enthusiast, as this blog tends to attract. When I selected research to post here, I selected something that wasn’t too old (many of the sources I found were from the 1980s) and something that had many contributing authors, and something that explored the other opinion as well as mine, in order to avoid bias. She assumed the methodology was incorrect without actually looking into their research- I can’t help that. I’ve also found sources that were really old and had very small sample sizes, and I rejected those. I’ll be going to the library to get more books to read up on prostitution, because now that I’ve found out there’s a whole whack of “feminists” who are pro-prostitution, I will need to sharpen my debating tools.

  274. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 20, 2011 at 8:00 am |

    That I don’t think most sex workers are exploited, that I do believe most clients are harmless, and that decriminalisation will benefit sex workers.

    This is the problem I have too. I’m not telling you you’re lying about your own experience- I’m sure you’re telling the truth. But you are in severe denial that sex work is exploitative for a lot of people. In the field of sex work there are women who were forced into it, women who were trafficked, women who were abused as children and have never seen their body as anything other than a vehicle of sexual pleasure for men, women who maybe got in willingly and then can’t get out- all manner of people. I don’t have any exact statistics, but I’ve read stories of survivors of sex work who have said these things, and just because it wasn’t your experience, doesn’t mean it wasn’t anyone else’s. I do listen to sex workers’ words, and I do believe them. That’s how I know a lot of them are being exploited.

    As for decriminalisation: I’ve never said I was against it, and this thread is really long, but I don’t remember anyone else saying they were against it. The feminist revolution will not happen over night, and I would like to see the demand to abuse women’s bodies eliminated, but until then, I fully support any laws that will make the lives of sex workers better. In a post-patriarchal world, women could freely choose sex work without danger of exploitation and abuse, and then it would be like any other job.

  275. rox
    rox September 20, 2011 at 8:25 am |

    “Would you support someone who was anti-abortion who promoted excessive studying, including “hormonal and immune system biomarkers, anylisis of neurotransmitter functioning”, of people who have had abortions, with the aim of demonstrating that abortion caused mental health problems?”

    No, I would immediately call out the bias, say it’s shit research AND THAT LESS BIAS RESEARCHED SHOULD BE DONE. If people who have an agenda want to keep pumping out research that’s fine and maybe will drive the creation of real research that’s actually done by people who have less bias.

    What I would not do is then say only people who believe abortion is fine for women should be allowed to do research. There are definately women who feel emotionally affected after abortion and I DO think we should continue the body of research to help us understand what factors play a role in some women feeling emotionally affected or not.

    I brought up dissociation because I experienced as a response to manipulated sort of consented to sex with an adult when I was underage and combined with losing my daughter it resulted in visual distortions and psychosis for me.

    So you want to talk about telling others how they feel? It’s possible for girls to not fee affected by that YES!!! I feel that you are being totally dismissive of how *I* have been affected by my experiences and the huge amoung of reading I’ve done on the development of bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, and PTSD. I don’t believe you’ve been sitting around reading every new study that comes out on pub med like I have or you would have noticed this:

    “Compared to both healthy and non-hallucinating clinical controls, hallucinating patients reported both significantly higher dissociative tendencies and childhood sexual abuse. Dissociation positively mediated the effect of childhood trauma on hallucination-proneness. This mediational role was particularly robust for sexual abuse over other types of trauma. Signal detection abnormalities were evident in hallucinating patients and patients with a history of hallucinations, but were not associated with pathological dissociative symptoms.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21896238

    I am not defining your experience, I AM TELLING YOU ARE OVERRIDING MINE. You keep saying “most of the time these things don’t affect people.”

    Nonsense. Current research is finding that everything affects our health. The experiences of our parents, the conditions in the womb, the love we do or don’t get from our parents in early childhood, the type of environment we’re in the experiences of abuse/rejection/hurt.

    The reality is that we are unravelling how intimately connected the experiences of our lives are with our health.

    If you acknowledge that I exist and that some people are extremely negatively affected by sexual experiences and that can sometimes happen even when consent is given but the consent is contingent of complicated circumstances—

    then don’t say it’s not worth trying to prevent women from experiencing it, right? I absolutely one hundred percent support harm reduction. I believe you that the situation you’re in right now feels healthy and safe and good for you. If you look at the kinds of things that happen in porn though, I think it would be unfair to the women being requested to do those things to not try to find out what the long term effects of roleplaying sexual violence/gang bangs, etc.

    I have really liked the amount of conversations that happen in BDSM about how to know yourself and how to stay safe, and how to be careful with others and tell signs that they might not be tolerating the experience as well as they think and step back.

    I don’t think the kind of violence and roughness and excessiveness in a lot of porn is done with this same intent. The producers want money. Even some portion of male performers SAY they think the women are fucked up and the porn work is damaging them. The people MAKING the porn believe it’s damaging and harmful and they are doing it anyway.

    How can you are argue AGAINST trying to stop women being treated this way?

    I REALLY REALLY REALLY understand why thinking about it in terms of abortion debate, in terms of sex work being legal/illegal—- then all research seems scary. I mean what IF they really found out that there were some harms that happen? To women who have abortions, or to women who work in sex work? Well the answer is harm reduction.

    Give women the knowledge and create ways to help them avoid feeling trapped by something.

    Do you thinks it’s empowering to feel trapped into an abortion? No. There are many women who don’t want to have abortions but everything is fucked and they have no idea how they could reasonably find maternal instincts and create a healthy homelife and earn the money they need and do all the bazillion nurturing enriching things kids need– in the circumstances they’re in.

    These are probably the women who are more likely to be negatively affected by it–i.e. women who really felt deeply they didn’t want an abortion but felt trapped. It’s hard to tell because so far a lot of research gets pumped out by people with agendas, but so far the less biased research tends to find that for a small portion of women there can in fact be some potential for mental health to be affected.

    The answer is to address the obstacles women in that state are facing. NOT making abortion illegal. What sort of needs are there? Does she need domestic violence support, does she need drug addiction support, does she need healing activities like yoga and meditation and peer support and help getting financial resources and getting a job that she can do? Does she need housing? There are ways to meet these needs while keeping the mother and baby together IF that is what the women hopes for. We can not fix everything, but what we can fix, we should try to. What I mean to say, there will probably be women who don’t want abortions (or adoption) but we are unable to provide enough support to make the difference and healthy parenting will not be possible.

    So what I mean to say, if there were concrete harm of say getting gang banged/throat fucked cum all over every day for a year had a deleterous effect on mental/physical health— I think we SHOULD aim to find out IF there are such affects and what they are. NOT in order to control women, but in order to generate the knowledge to make more empowered decisions.

    What’s more I don’t want anyone to feel trapped and I think we need to work on creating better tools to empower all people who are struggling. When you feel traped you sometimes give up so completely, it can take a lot to see that there is hope. I want to do everything we can to help people not feel trapped.

  276. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 20, 2011 at 9:12 am |

    I just wanted to say that given the content of what rox has had to say about her life experiences, the treatment she has gotten here is shocking. Natalia — you still owe her an apology for making a joke about the “voices” in her head. And “oh, fuck off”? nice. She doesn’t have the same power to protect herself that a moderator does in this conversation. You can ban people; she can’t.

  277. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 20, 2011 at 10:21 am |

    Vi: I’ve made three claims: That I don’t think most sex workers are exploited, that I do believe most clients are harmless, and that decriminalisation will benefit sex workers. I don’t see how you can say that any of those things are demonstrably not “representative” of sex workers in countries other than Australia. How can you possibly know that (everywhere but Australia!) most sex workers are exploited, most clients are violent, and decriminalisation will not help sex workers?

    I don’t think Natalia (or ‘Natalie’, if she decides to be officially renamed ;)) is saying your thoughts on those three points aren’t ‘representative’ in the sense that they wrongly represent sex workers. It sounded to me like she was saying that they are valuable, a lot more valuable than someone with less experience with the issue, even though you haven’t solicited the opinion of every single person on the planet involved with sex work.

  278. Natalia
    Natalia September 20, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    I don’t know what it’s like “everywhere” – but when I say it’s not representative, I’m talking specifically about decriminalization. I think decriminalization would help deal with many serious problems! Only there’s very little ground being gained in this debate in the overwhelming majority of countries. What it comes down to is, “Whores are bad, mmmkay?” And, in places where corruption is rampant, it also comes down to, “Whore are profitable, mmmkay?” Criminals and officials who are in cahoots with the criminals are NOT interested in having a legitimate sex industry operating out in the open, with workers entitled to basic rights. Exploitation is what allows them to reap greater benefits – or so they believe.

    So when I say, “it’s not representative” – it’s not a dismissal, it’s a concern about the fact that there are some decent models in place for people to take note of, but those models are being ignored and/or passed over in favour of total bullshit (did you hear about one of the latest stunts Ukrainian police pulled? They decided to “fight” prostitution by contacting women’s families with messages that amount too “your daughter is a whore!” I have to wonder how many of these women ended up homeless as the result of that so-called “information drive.”).

  279. rox
    rox September 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    ” When it’s something that you believe in, like abortion, you’ve immediately jumped to “They were traumatised because they didn’t really want to be doing it.” But when it’s something you don’t believe in, like sex work, you insist that it’s inherently harmful, anyone can be harmed, and we need! more! research! You’re moving the goalposts.”

    Not at all, I think it’s likely that women who feel trapped in sex work are the most likely to feel damaged by it. I think it’s possible abortion has some health effects whether the woman feels fine with it or not— I think it’s important to leave any possibility open in research. So far there hasn’t been much evidence for that, but I’m open to whatever comes up.

    Adoption however tends to result in really horrific trauma for a lot of women and the research funded by adoption agencies and coalitions in favor of adoption, are awesome at fucking that up as well. “See they like it!”

    If you look at first parent narratives however you find the entire story of WHY they like giving up their kids for adoption is that all the pain is worth it for their child to have abetter life.

    Meaning what they (women with this narrative) want is for their child to have a good life.
    They do not WANT to lose their children, rather they felt like giving their child a good life was not possible with them.

    I want to change that by creating better options.

    In all areas of life, I do not want anyone to feel trapped into something that feels so horrific. And I DO think that when people consent to things we SHOULD use our heads and find out WHY they are consenting if it’s something that could be really harmful if they only consenting because they don’t feel like they have any other options and they are going to have a negative experience.

    I just think that the risk of sexual trauma is way higher on the list of traumas than not feeling like making coffee and doing it anyway, and yes because inherant to sex trauma can happen– then it worries me deeply.

  280. ElkBallet
    ElkBallet September 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm |

    I’m wondering why the discussion of the Swedish model went away since it seems like the ideal middle ground. Why is there only illegal and legal? Under the Swedish model sex workers who like what they do can continue to work without fear of arrest and can seek help when/if they need it and workers who really want out have exit programs. Complete decriminalization does not address the needs of women who are in it against their will or who want out, and every study I’ve ever seen on the subject shows that in places where sex work is decriminalized that area becomes a hub for trafficking since now they can set up legitimate fronts.

    The only “benefit” complete decriminalization has over the Swedish model is that it helps out johns. I don’t really care if you say the johns aren’t violent or if they really are “nice guys,” it is not OK and certainly not feminist to further encourage the idea that women exist solely for the purpose of sex with men, which encouraging the purchase of sex with women absolutely does.

    Also by your rule that only sex workers should do research on sex work, that means your LASH study must be flawed as well. Or is it only studies that disagree with your viewpoint that can be biased and wrong? I have a huge problem with any study that uses actual sarcasm in scholarly writing. And they do, multiple times, when they discuss the Swedish model. In fact they completely dismiss it before even attempting to examine it’s effects. This is apparent not only from their abundant sarcasm, but also from the fact that they only cite two studies, one of which is the legal details of the program and the other talks about China. Not to mention the fact that the impact on women in Sweden is not even mentioned, except in sarcasm.

    Also this has been bugging the crap out of me, why is OK for you to refer to sex workers as whores (you do whenever you claim people who don’t agree with your viewpoint are whorephobic) but anyone who uses the word prostitution gets banned?

  281. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm |

    I’ve seen a study that found that over 20% of British nurses had experienced violence, including sexual violence, on the job. It is not sex work that is inherently dangerous, it is work that puts you in close one-on-one proximity to clients, especially male clients.

    The difference being that it is necessary to have nurses in the world but it’s not necessary to provide people with sexual favours. Orgasms are not medically necessary.

    I explained the flaws in the methodology quite clearly. I note that you haven’t actually addressed any of them whilst insisting that your study is sound.

    I haven’t insisted the study was sound. All I did was remark that you dismissed it without actually looking into their research. I do plan to do more research myself, but I haven’t had time yet, and hopefully when I do, this horrible train-wreck of a comment thread will be over anyway, and we can all live in peace, and I can do research for my own knowledge instead of to try to prove someone wrong who is never going to change her mind no matter what.

    Yeah, I wrote a run-on sentence. I’m ok with that.

  282. Matt
    Matt September 21, 2011 at 2:32 am |

    I find it amusing that people claiming that sex workers don’t understand the possible harms of sex work think that sex workers would be much more likely to go for alternate occupations if they did know. For someone to claim a high amount of understanding in psychology and then make this claim is pretty shocking to me. Even if sex work were inherently destructive, and possible sex workers knew that, that is only a single factor involved in the decision.
    I don’t think that it is true that sex work carries a higher degree of risk than most other professions, but even if it were and we had proof and people were informed, certain posters are vastly overestimating the impact of that set of circumstances.

    Sex work belongs to a sort of loose group of activities including alcohol and marijuana use that regardless of the objective harm of the activity itself, is only made massively more dangerous by criminalization.

    As for the age of consent, I consider it somewhat arbitrary and in some cases harmful, but to not have it would be so much worse. I prefer graded models, 14 min, 14-18, 16-20, 18 and done. Although in some cases 15 and 22 is not a huge difference, we cannot know that the 15 year old is okay, and its pretty likely that the older the adult involved is, the more likely that they are a predator. Although I do not believe in conscious will, and my standard is less the underage person’s ability to make good choices, and more the interaction between the amount of power the adult is able to exert, and the strength of the ingrained experiences and social programming of the underage person with regards to evaluating danger, and behaving safely concerning pregnancy, disease, and emotional distress.

  283. Natalia
    Natalia September 21, 2011 at 2:43 am |

    The difference being that it is necessary to have nurses in the world but it’s not necessary to provide people with sexual favours. Orgasms are not medically necessary.

    What IS IT with the obsession with other people’s orgasms on this thread…

  284. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 21, 2011 at 4:08 am | *

    Man, we just can’t help covering the same ground ten million times, can we?

    ElkBallet, many sex worker activists contend that the Swedish model is harmful to sex workers as well as johns. There are plenty of threads on this blog and on various sex worker blogs around the Net that explain why. Maybe someone else will have the patience to post links, but in case nobody does, I suggest that you check around a bit more thoroughly.

  285. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines September 21, 2011 at 6:19 am |

    Vi: claims

    The simple answer to that being, how can you possibly know that they’re not?

    It’s also very telling that the profession most quickly named and compared to sex work, is nursing. The only two things as a job of work, sex work and nursing have in common is that they are female dominated. Funny how nobody mentions physiotheraphy or radiography?

    To compare the two shows how little you know about the nursing profession and how inaccurate the ‘handmaidens’ label is to what nurses do. If you call me whorephobic for saying that, I’ll call you nursephobic right back.

  286. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines September 21, 2011 at 6:58 am |

    Read it. She’s not a nurse, she’s a care worker. There’s a huge, huge difference. The fact you expected me to read that and think “Oooh yes, ladies and bodily fluids, it’s just the same” shows how little you know about nursing.

    Without going off on a huge derail about what nursing is, how it has changed and exactly why (and in whose interests it serves) to minimise the intellectual requirements of the nursing role, I’ll just reiterate that it’s a lazy comparision, based more on stereotypical views on what is deemed as innately womenly work, rather then actual reality.

  287. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn September 21, 2011 at 7:21 am | *

    Safiya Outlines: It’s also very telling that the profession most quickly named and compared to sex work, is nursing. The only two things as a job of work, sex work and nursing have in common is that they are female dominated. Funny how nobody mentions physiotheraphy or radiography?

    Way to generalize … when I’m looking for a skilled, somewhat risky profession to compare to sex work, I usually reach for coal mining, which is unmistakably male-dominated. I happen to know I’m not alone in this, although no one’s done it on this thread, which obviously means that no one ever does it :P

  288. rox
    rox September 21, 2011 at 7:48 am |

    Here’s where I think the heart of what we see different is– You say, “There is inherant risk in sexual relationships but there is nothing we can do”

    I disagree. I don’t actually think transactional sex is itself inherantly wrong. I think it’s confusing to have this conversation in this thread because I’m not having a legal/illegal conversation but we’re discussing this in the context of a legal/illegal discussion which means your feeling attacked (and your maintain patience and your truth in an amazing way) and I don’t think we’re hearing each other the same way if we had just met up somewhere and were chatting— BUT I hope you can tell that I am coming at this not from a legal/illegal discussion, but from a very different way of looking at sexuality.

    I think because of the risk of harm to peoples hearts in all sexual relationships, that people should be kind and careful with each other and get to know where they are coming from before doing potential risky activities. I think that lessens the risk of harming someing when they didn’t realize they would get hurt and I think we should all do that for each other.

    One concern about the belief that people “need” sexual intimacy is that I’m not sure that it’s true. In a sense if people NEED sexual intimacy then if we are compassionate we should just give it them, right? I have operated from this model and it ached, but I understand deeply the feeling that people need sexual intimacy. I feel that i any man is lonely or sad or needs sexual intimacy he should have anything he wants from me. Because I want people to be happy. So I really really understand. I just realized that what I want from men is not really sexual as much as emotional and more long term. And I realized that these were people who were not really giving back anything that was meaningful to me– I was feeling empty. The transactional model of money for sex seems to assume this risk is there for the giver of sex (the sex is done for the person seeking sexual service) and that something should be given to the other person– money. But in order for this model to make sense there is an inherant lack of intimacy for the giver and they are accapting money instead of having that space filled.

    HOWEVER I have a similar background as you in at least some ways and I also think that once you have realize that harm can come from anyone, how can you really even want to get to know someone enough to have “intimacy”? Intimacy is almost like pain itself. To build trust, is the most terrible thing because it is only in the context of trust that someone can commit the most horrible things against you. Take away trust and you’re safe (mostly). (Not really… but sort of, in a way, totally.)

    And so therefore I see how coming to transactional sex if you came to it in this way it could offer a safe structured opportunity to have sexual intimacy, even though the long term emotional intimacy is there— but the feeling of permanence can be found by knowing you’re getting continual access to sexual intimacy, just with different people. But I don’t see any way that that space– where something other then money should be there— wouldn’t still be present.

    When I was in a really horrible abusive relationship, I felt like he needed the sexual intimacy. Like it was a biological need that hadn’t been met in childhood and I needed to fill it. He also did really horrible things, and once I had accepted this as need (can’t say no) which was how it worked from the start, everything was terrible. But yet looking back, I’m not sure there were any other options to have intimacy for either of us. It really makes me want to work harder to make sure highschoolers, teens, drop outs have safe places to build relationships that aren’t sexual and have a sense of family.

    My whole life is about increasing options and understanding and caring about human beings wherever they are– and I think it needs to be done. I think we CAN do more to keep people safe. I don’t think we should leave people out there in the “well sure this could traumatize them, but there’s nothing we can do about that”

    There is always something we can do. I thank you for sharing this conversation with me– it’s been quite exhausting for me and I imagine for you as well and quite frankly I think elsewhere we’d be having a pretty awesome conversations (although maybe still have difference of opinion.) (Or rather hopefully this conversation has been helpful to other peoples thought processes?)

    It’s interesting because I think everything you say is valid and important. I just also think that “there is nothing we can do to prevent terrible harm” is not true. HOWEVER— I think you’re thinking I’m talking about making sex work illegal when I say that and that is SO not where I’m coming from in any way.

  289. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 21, 2011 at 7:57 am |

    I don’t really care if you say the johns aren’t violent or if they really are “nice guys,” it is not OK and certainly not feminist to further encourage the idea that women exist solely for the purpose of sex with men, which encouraging the purchase of sex with women absolutely does.

    That’s whorephobic shit.

    So a feminist opinion is “whorephobic”? Under patriarchal oppression, women do exist in perpetual sexual availability for men, which encourages a lot of abuse. You are defending the patriarchy by saying that it’s ok for men to purchase women’s bodies for sexual use. Discussing this does not indicate a fear or hatred of individual women caught up in the system.

    Unless you consider mental health to be part of the body.
    Of course mental health is part of the body. That does not mean it’s necessary for men to purchase women’s bodies for sexual use.

    What IS IT with the obsession with other people’s orgasms on this thread…

    That was the first time I mentioned an orgasm, so I don’t think that would amount to an obsession, but if other people have mentioned them upthread, I would guess it’s because they’re relevent to the conversation.

  290. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 21, 2011 at 9:22 am |

    Silly person having pride in your work. Don’t you realize you should hang your head in shame? Sex is special and completely unlike other forms of human contact and care. And comparing sex work to other “upstanding” professions is insulting to those professions. You should really just compare sex work to other “immoral” professions like say lawyering. ;)

  291. LC
    LC September 21, 2011 at 10:44 am |

    Matt: As for the age of consent, I consider it somewhat arbitrary and in some cases harmful, but to not have it would be so much worse. I prefer graded models, 14 min, 14-18, 16-20, 18 and done.

    That’s pretty much where I fall on that issue as well. I actually liked what we used to have in Canada concerning >14 (age of consent at the time) but with one partner over 18. It was legal, but with a caveat of “unless the adult is in a position of trust and authority”, which was just vague enough that you could make a case for anyone if it looked like the power differential was being leveraged in an abusive way. (And it took things like babysitters and teachers and such right out.)

    I don’t really understand the rest of your statement (you don’t believe in conscious will?), but I feel it is likely a massive derail, so perhaps another time.

    Clarisse Thorn: Man, we just can’t help covering the same ground ten million times, can we?

    Well, I’d say no more than 3.87 million, but then I’m not as well-read on the net as some. :)

    Vi: for example, and if your reference was available in English I would probably research further for my own interest. But faulty research doesn’t deserve to be read.

    For the record, while the main report she cited exists only in French, because it is a report from the Quebec provincial government, the studies it cites are largely in English. Specifically, the Fraser committee report with the age of entry (which is what you specifically questioned) IS in English, although not easily available on the web, from what I could find.

  292. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 21, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    Linkies to another discussion from a few years ago:
    http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2008/09/sweden_prostitu
    http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2007/09/government_may
    There are also a few links inside the articles, feel free to read them.
    One thing I find mildly irritating about these discussions is that the opposing arguments always seem to be the same and seem to boil down to “sex is bad and oppressive, therefore sex work is oppressive”.

  293. Jared
    Jared September 21, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    Seems like one of the biggest obstacles to feminists becoming an true allies of sex workers is a wide spread fear that they might accidentlly wind up helping Johns. To fully lose their whore-phobia, they’ll first need to work through their John-phobia….

    Hats off to you, you’ve shown the patience of a saint, but if I’m right about the above you’ll need the patience of Death.

  294. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 21, 2011 at 11:33 am |

    Bushfire: So a feminist opinion is “whorephobic”?

    Your opinion is not THE feminist opinion. I think telling someone they’re a victim and refusing them any kind of agency to feel their own emotions is actually pretty anti-feminist. Seriously.

  295. rox
    rox September 21, 2011 at 11:38 am |

    To me the ethics of consent are about MORE than legal vs illegal. It could be legal to accept someones consent to do something that you think would be exploitive to them and then say it’s find because they say it’s not exploitive. But if you’re say 45 and you like the small young thing because she feeds your need to overpower someone, you have assets she doesn’t. Understanding of life, experience in the real world, knowledge of how to psychologically over power someone—

    So to me, legal vs illegal is only the top of the issue. Being a good person requires more than just avoiding breaking the law. Sex in not inherantly bad, but for many people who HAVE been hurt (who are very real people) we want to look out for others. Yes that means I question one person using another person sexually without seeing the whole person and wanting to know how your actions will affect them in the long term.

    Caring about human beings as more than just “what they will consent to” is a good thing. I think this should be an inherant part of all human interactions– and what’s funny is that in a lot of spaces where human rights are discussed, people tend to agree with these things. Suddenly sex work comes up and hurting people becomes necessary collateral damage.

    I don’t think any human beings suffering should be seen as collateral damage for any industry whatsoever.

  296. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl September 21, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    To fully lose their whore-phobia, they’ll first need to work through their John-phobia….

    Is that something like the equivalent of speedwalking for the Oppression Olympics?

  297. Kathleen
    Kathleen September 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    oh, Jared honey. This argument was already like shooting fish in a barrel, and then you come along festooned with dynamite and underwater lights.

  298. ElkBallet
    ElkBallet September 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

    The straw man arguments in this thread are amazing. Perhaps I should write a book about it called “how to make sure a discussion goes nowhere.” When you claim things people say are phobic and objections to the sex industry in general because of violence/abuse/sexism are attacks on the workers in it, you are refusing to offer anything productive to the discussion and attempting to bring the conversation to halt. Because rather than actually respond in a coherent way to what was said, you simply contort it into some kind of personal attack, when it wasn’t. The mental gymnastics behind it are amazing.

    When people raise concerns about the way a particular company is treating its employees, no one makes the argument that those people are making personal attacks on the workers. Likewise, no one makes the argument that people choose to work there because their choice to work in that industry does not change they way they are treated.

    I already explained to you why I thought your LASH study recommendation was problematic, but you chose to disregard it. I will give you the main things:
    They are supposed to be objective but choose language that shows heavy bias.
    They actually use sarcasm in a scholarly work, which is unacceptable and shows huge bias.
    When they discuss the Swedish model they don’t cite any actual studies about impact on the women. They only use two, one from China and one that isn’t a study but a description of the legal details.
    Not to mention the LASH study didn’t paint a rosy picture about abuse, violence, and health dangers.

    So while the LASH studies had some very interesting/important things to say about current working conditions especially (only really) in regard to STDs, their recommendations on decriminalization were based solely on opinion and were not backed up by studies or even by coherent writing.

    You’re not showing any kind of patience, you’re just sitting there refusing to engage in a discussion by making absolutely everything about you personally and refusing to look at what the majority of studies on this say because they disagree with your personal experience. It’s impossible to argue with someone who a) won’t actually respond in any real way to the content of your argument, b) refuses to listen to anyone or any studies or any anecdotes that don’t agree with her personal experience, and c) throws out ad hominem attacks that have nothing to do with anything that was said (that any disagreement comes from a phobia).

  299. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    it boils down to “sex is bad and oppressive, therefore sex work is oppressive”.

    I’m sure this applies to me, because I seem to be an enemy here, so I will answer that I don’t think sex is bad or oppressive. When men buy and sell women as if they are commodities, that is oppressive, and it is not sex, it’s abuse.

    Your opinion is not THE feminist opinion. I think telling someone they’re a victim and refusing them any kind of agency to feel their own emotions is actually pretty anti-feminist. Seriously.

    The opinion that women are oppressed by the patriarchy is a feminist opinion. I didn’t invent this opinion, it was a feminist opinion long before I came around. I don’t tell people who are not victims that they are victims. I only refer to people who have been victimized as victims, because that is correct usage of English. I have not called anyone else victim. I am not doing anything to take away anyone’s agency. If I was actually taking anyone’s agency away, then yes, that would be anti-feminist.

    Seems like one of the biggest obstacles to feminists becoming an true allies of sex workers is a wide spread fear that they might accidentlly wind up helping Johns. To fully lose their whore-phobia, they’ll first need to work through their John-phobia….

    Feminists aren’t whore-phobic. If whore-phobic means disliking whores, which I assume it does, then the people who don’t like whores are the religious right and the johns and pimps who view them as commodities to be bought and sold. If I am john-phobic it is for good reason- because I’m a feminist and I’m against the abuse of women. I do not believe that being an ally to sex workers means denying patriachal oppression. That doesn’t help anybody, it just reinforces the status quo.

  300. LC
    LC September 21, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    Kathleen: This argument was already like shooting fish in a barrel, and then you come along festooned with dynamite and underwater lights.

    Love that image. :)

  301. Li
    Li September 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm |

    PrettyAmiable:

    Your opinion is not THE feminist opinion. I think telling someone they’re a victim and refusing them any kind of agency to feel their own emotions is actually pretty anti-feminist. Seriously.

    This. Also, remember when some “feminist opinion” was really racist and ableist and heterosexist and cissupremicist and otherwise actually fucking unhelpful to a whole bunch of women? And by “was”…

    Bushfire, Claiming that your argument is feminist does not give you a pass from criticism, nor is it an argument against that criticism. Feminists have said and done some pretty shit things during Feminism’s long history (and, you know, in this thread).

  302. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm |

    Bushfire: I don’t tell people who are not victims that they are victims. I only refer to people who have been victimized as victims, because that is correct usage of English.

    You equated webcam stripping with sexual assault, and *now* you’re being a stickler for correct English?

  303. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    @Bushfire,

    What makes sexual services different from other personal services?

  304. wl
    wl September 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    Elkballet – maybe I would consider the Swedish Model to be more of a middle ground if its proponents where I live actually worked on decriminalizing prostitution for the sex workers. Somehow that part of it gets dropped in the US and the “End Demand” proponents just work on john schools and raising penalties for johns. I think that’s all they actually genuinely care about doing.

  305. wl
    wl September 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm |

    Well, those who dont actually work on making criminalization worse that is – like in Rhode Island.

  306. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    Kristen J.:

    What makes sexual services different from other personal services?

    I was thinking about this exact point (and this whole thread,) today. I’m paying a tutor $45 for an hour of their time to teach me a foreign language. I can’t specifically tell you why it’s different than paying for a sexual service, but perhaps it provides a good example for comparing the two.

  307. wl
    wl September 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Oh, and there are even those who shut down advertizing venues, which puts sex workers and trafficking victims in danger, all in the name of rescue and fighting demand!

  308. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 21, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    I’m a sex worker who happens to be john-phobic. And by “phobic” I mean scared for my life, and hateful towards the men who threaten it. But! Don’t let this affect your opinion of the sex industry! It’s really no big deal. After all, I’m constantly being told that I fall outside of “the majority” of sex workers. I suppose I forgot that social justice work = centering the experiences of the majority.

  309. Bushfire
    Bushfire September 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    You equated webcam stripping with sexual assault, and *now* you’re being a stickler for correct English?

    Indeed I did. If someone is poor and their only option to make money is to strip for a webcam, that is not genuine consent. Sex acts without consent are sexual assault.

    What makes sexual services different from other personal services?

    Personal services like cutting hair? You don´t see the difference, really? On the one hand, a person cuts someone´s hair. On the other hand, someone allows a person to use their body as an object for sex acts that are not desired by the person in question. Pretty big difference there.

    If youŕe going to bring up something about the way capitalism works, let me save you the trouble and tell you now that I think capitalism is exploitative and oppressive too.

  310. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm |

    Bushfire: Indeed I did. If someone is poor and their only option to make money is to strip for a webcam, that is not genuine consent. Sex acts without consent are sexual assault.

    By that logic, if someone is poor and their only option is flipping burgers, it doesn’t mean that they’re being assaulted.

    How is defining someone else’s experiences in this way not doing anything to take away anyone’s agency”? How telling someone that unless they follow your specific guidelines they are being abused (even if they don’t claim it themselves) not anti-feminist?

  311. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm |

    Nope. Don’t see any difference between using your body parts to cut hair and using your body parts to massage someone’s face or back and using your body parts to make coffee and using your body parts to write a memo and using your body parts to bring someone sexual pleasure.

    I don’t consider sexual desire to be different from the desire for nice hair or delicous coffee or the relaxation that accompanies a massage or legal services. They are all simply things some people would want.

    I don’t consider my vagina to be sacred as compared to my hands or my brain or my mouth so that using them to accomplish a task that someone is willing to pay me for is demonstrably different from any other task except to the extent I have a preference for one task over another.

  312. Jared
    Jared September 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm |

    @Q Grrl I’m not sure I understand you and I’m not sure you understand me. I’m not saying that we need to gather round and talk about the poor oppressed Johns, I’m saying that if someone sees those who buy as disgusting they’re going to have a warpped view of those who sell.

  313. Jared
    Jared September 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    @Kathleen, Then light me up, sucker.

  314. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    Bushfire: The opinion that women are oppressed by the patriarchy is a feminist opinion.

    Yes. But that’s not what you’re opining.

    The opinion that all the wimminz are incapable of describing their experiences because you personally know better? NOT FEMINIST. Seriously, get over yourself.

  315. Jared
    Jared September 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |

    @bpbetsy: My point is not that you should not be wary of Johns; people are dangerous and Johns are people with whom your work neccessitates you be alone and vulnerable with and come from a population that has a track record of doing you harm. Sound the freaking claxons we have a dangerous situation.

    But, (and this may be extrapolating too far from what you’ve written so I appologise if I am putting words in your mouth), it isn’t their very nature as Johns i.e. males looking to exchange money for sexual favours, that makes you fear them. It’s the fact that they may turn out to be violent pieces of shit who attempt to do you harm. I know this isn’t the case with all Johns, and I’m guessing that this isn’t the case for *all* of your Johns either. (for context I, also, am an Australian where there is decriminalisation. Also, I’m not a John; I don’t even watch cam shows ;) )

    The point that I’m making is that the idea that all men who attempt to buy sex are, by virtue of that desire, disgusting loathsome misogynists who need to be hunted down and punished, is harmful to sex workers. It simultaneously decreases the population of your potential clients while increasing the proportion that do mean you harm. Furthermore (where as a result of this idea selling is legalised but buying is not) it ensures that sex workers must interact with their clients in “outlaw” spaces, further increasing your vulnerability.

    It sounds like you’ve had bad experiences; I in no way seek to minamise that. I am fully aware that your voice deserves and needs to be heard.

  316. Jane Whatsername
    Jane Whatsername September 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm |

    Hi Hi,

    I am a sex worker and a carer (thanks for the link) and yes, carer, not a nurse, so apparently according some commenters here this means i either dont have a brain, dont use my brain at work or… dont deserve a brain. But happy to inform you all that it turns out i do have a brain and i frequently use it.

    If any of you are ACTUALLY concerned about saving sex workers from exploitation and violence, please please consider reading my letter to feminists

    http://becauseimawhore.wordpress.com/an-open-letter-to-feminists/

  317. Jane Whatsername
    Jane Whatsername September 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm |

    PS, We could easily play “compare the profession” to piles of industries. Another favorite of mine is childcare.

    I heard that the sex industry is the only industry where women get paid more than men. Obviously its problematic that womens worth as providers of sex is more highly valued than our many many other skills… BUT THAT ISNT THE FAULT OF THE SEX INDUSTRY!!!
    Did you ever think for a second, did you ever consider, that other industries are at fault for not valuing women as much as the sex industry does? controversial i know.

  318. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy September 22, 2011 at 12:56 am |

    Your support for decriminalization and sex worker’s rights is where we agree.

    Where we disagree is on your other two claims – that “the majority” (however you measure it) of sex workers are not exploited, and “the majority” of clients are harmless. I just don’t know how we can know this. It’s a blanket statement that lacks evidence beyond personal testimony – which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that the personal testimony of sex workers varies tremendously (just look at the two of us!).

  319. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve September 22, 2011 at 7:38 am |

    Bushfire: Personal services like cutting hair? You don´t see the difference, really? On the one hand, a person cuts someone´s hair. On the other hand, someone allows a person to use their body as an object for sex acts that are not desired by the person in question. Pretty big difference there.

    What a poorly worded and disingenuous comment. Why do you assume that the sexual acts are not desired by the person in question but the hair cutting is? I know plenty of people who would rather have sex than cut hair.

  320. evil fizz
    evil fizz September 22, 2011 at 8:21 am | *

    Hey everyone,

    Since the thread is ceasing to be productive, Jill has asked me to turn off comments. However, I don’t have the privileges to do that, so all comments from here on out will be kicked to the mod queue and deleted. Jill’s traveling at the moment and doesn’t have internet access, but will be shutting this thread down as soon as she does.

  321. Nix
    Nix September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    CassandraSays: Supporting sex workers? Sure, I’m happy to do that. Trying to be an ally to sex workers? OK. Trying to be an ally to the men who buy sexual services? No. That is the point at which we hit a hard limit for me. And also where it starts to really matter to me which specific sexual services we’re talking about.

    Ok, so I’m a woman who has both done sex work, and employed the services of sex workers. Do they cancel each other out? Do I deserve your alliance or not?

    Seriously, the number of comments on here saying, explicitly or implicitly, that feminism & support of sex work (whether it be as worker, client, or activist) are mutually exclusive views has just amazed me.

    Under patriarchal oppression, women do exist in perpetual sexual availability for men, which encourages a lot of abuse. You are defending the patriarchy by saying that it’s ok for men to purchase women’s bodies for sexual use. Discussing this does not indicate a fear or hatred of individual women caught up in the system.

    Bushfire, I believe that you are confusing two issues here: that of patriarchal oppression, and that of sex-work. You are also ignoring the substantial part of the industry which does not simply involve penetrative sex of a female sex-worker by a male client – for example, the web-cam services which sparked off this whole extended debate.

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