Supporting Sex Workers’ Rights, Opposing the Buying of Sex

There are a few topics that still never fail to divide feminist activists, and sex work is one of them — which is why this post (based on this one by Melissa Gira Grant) is so contentious right now. I love our regular guest bloggers Laurie and Debbie, and I posted that piece myself — but I don’t agree with all of it. I am an anti-sex-trafficking feminist. I think sex work is incredibly problematic. And I also support the rights of sex workers. I think you can do all those things at once.

The problem seems to be one of philosophy vs. practicality, and what should dictate policy. My view is basically that sex work wouldn’t exist in the feminist utopia. Why? Because sex wouldn’t be this commodified thing that some people (mostly woman) have and other people (mostly men) get. Sex would be a fun thing, a collaborative thing, always entered into freely and enthusiastically and without coercion. While that view would leave room for some types of sex work — sexually explicit performance, for example, if that performance were no longer primarily a looking-at-women’s-bodies-as-stand-ins-for-sex thing, which is what it mostly is today — it doesn’t leave room for offering money in exchange for sex, especially as we see it now, with men being the primary consumers and sex being seen as something you can buy. (For the record, it also doesn’t leave room for offering other things — social status, commitment, ongoing financial support, etc — in exchange for sex, which would nix a whole lot of “traditional marriages”).

None of that means that I think what sex workers of any stripe do is unethical or immoral or bad. I don’t think there would be McDonalds or Wal-Mart in the feminist utopia either; it doesn’t mean that in the here and now I don’t want to see the workers there have a full range of workplace protections and rights.

And that I think is where we lose each other, and why I often feel like I can’t find a comfortable place in these debates. I tend to “side” with the pro-sex-worker voices, because they’re promoting the kinds of things that are necessary in the here and now to protect women and to promote the voices and needs of women who are too often silenced or ignored. I see the anti-sex-work side simply promoting criminalization, which doesn’t work. I see them casting the net of trafficking a bit too widely, and using that buzzword to fight against hard-won victories like the distribution of safer sex supplies to sex-work-heavy areas.

But I also find the narrative promoted by many sex workers’ rights advocates to be shortsighted. Yes, of course women should have the right to do what they want with their own bodies, and of course there are many sex workers who aren’t trafficked or forced into the trade. But that smacks a bit too much of “I choose my choice!” feminism, which I find to be incredibly intellectually lazy. Part of the problem is that the net of trafficking as been cast so widely that in response, sex worker advocates have cast a similar too-wide net — arguing that sex work is a job like any other, that every job is coercive, etc etc. Both narratives erase the vast grey area of the entire idea of “consent” when money is involved. And in pushing back against the narrative that sex workers are all “prostituted women” who are enslaved entirely against their will, I too often see a similarly reductive argument — that while a small number of women and girls are actually enslaved, the rest are there voluntarily and we should support their choices.

But it’s not that simple. All choices are constrained, and certainly people who work in slaughterhouses or at clothing factories for 16 hours a day are coerced into that employment. But from a birdseye feminist view — from a sex-positive view — sex work is different because it’s commodifying something that should ideally be a basic pleasure, entered into entirely freely and at will. From a practical point of view, there are a whole lot of women in the sex trade who are technically there voluntarily insofar as they aren’t kidnapped and chained up, but who are coerced into sex work in ways that most of us would find intolerable — owing large sums of money to traffickers, psychologically and physically abused by pimps, cast out by their families and communities for doing sex work and believing there are no other options. These aren’t the same problems faced by highly-educated women doing fetish work or other relatively highly-paid sex work in the United States. Putting them all under the umbrella of sex work is helpful in advocating for recognition and certain legal changes, but ultimately it doesn’t mean that more women’s voices are heard; it means that the most privileged of the group dictate policy. I think Audicia Ray is right when she says:

During the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and the sex wars of the 1980s and 1990s, the struggle to define sex positivity with respect to sex work served a purpose. To say that not all people have a horrendous experience of the sex industry, and that many sex workers value sexuality and see themselves as complex sexual beings as well as sex educators was an important statement to make, and one that had not been spoken before. However, it is essential to put this statement in historical context. To continue making the statement that many sex workers have a good experience of the sex industry without also including those whose experiences are negative and making space for them to speak up reveals a deep doubt about the validity of the sex positive argument. If we believe in the positive power of sexuality, we must also examine what happens when people’s lives are infused with sex negativity, and we must listen and support people with this experience in sharing their personal truths.

If we put aside our attachment to the sex positive construction of sex work, we will certainly hear things that will be hard to sit with. But for sex positivity to be a useful framework, one that encourages the pursuit of social justice, it must also engage with the ugly pieces of sexuality, and not in a simplistically reactive way. Otherwise, the concept of being a sex positive sex worker is a self-serving marketing practice, in which the enjoyment of sexuality is being sold as a product to both workers and our clients.

All of that said, the reality here today is that there are millions of people working in the sex trade. And while a small percentage are relatively privileged and fairly compensated, most aren’t. And most sex workers face very real barriers to basic rights like bodily autonomy, workplace safety, and freedom from violence. In there here and now, we need to advocate for what women of all backgrounds and walks of life need; we need to center the voices of women in the sex trade in strategizing how to best meet the needs of women in the sex trade. But the sex industry is a vast place, encompassing a world of women from nearly every background, ethnic group, religion, region and belief system. There are some methods that can best serve most of these women — safer sex supplies, legal rights. But what serves a 14-year-old in a Cambodian brothel whose clients are mostly middle-aged white guys from Europe and the U.S. is not the same as what serves a 22-year-old in New York advertising on Craig’s List. Just like what serves a steelworker in a U.S. auto plant is not the same as what serves a Pakistani migrant doing construction in Dubai.

There are lots of other things I want to write about here — the colonization aspect to many areas of the sex industry, and what it means that the international sex work hubs involve white men going on sex tours so they can sleep with (often underage) women and girls (and often boys) of color; or the fact that in the relatively wealthy northern European cities where sex work is common (Amsterdam, Hamburg) you don’t see many of the beneficiaries of those welfare states doing sex work, and instead large proportions of the sex workers there are migrants from Eastern Europe. When you’re talking about sex for money, you can’t take money and international economics out of it. As I’m troubled by the exploitation of brown labor here in the United States, and by the gross mistreatment of migrant workers from the global south in much of the global north, I’m troubled by the migration of sexual labor and what it says about who “deserves” sex and who provides it.

I’m troubled by the lack of focus on johns, because while I don’t think it’s immoral or unethical to exchange sex for money, I do think it’s immoral and unethical to buy sex. I think it speaks to a view of human sexuality (and women’s bodies in particular, although of course there are men who pay for sex with men and boys) as purchasable; it belies a buyer’s view of himself as entitled to sex as a thing, instead of a party to a mutually pleasurable experience.

But those are different posts. Here, I want to talk about the friction between one feminist ideal of sex as collaborative and enthusiastically consensual, and the here-and-now necessities of advocating for all women and centering the voices of the women who know best what they need. We can do two things at once, can’t we? Push for a world where sex isn’t commodified, while still recognizing that today it is commodified and sex workers, like all workers, deserve to live lives free of violence and social ostracization, and deserve basic workplace protections? Labor movements do this every day — I’m personally a fan of capitalist marketplaces because I don’t think there’s a better system out there, but I also know that capitalism is man-made, and it’s what we make it. We can respond to the basics of supply and demand while not giving corporations outsized power; while building a social safety net; and while instituting physical, legal and financial protections for workers. We can critique the forces that establish patters of exploited migrant labor while advocating for the rights of migrant laborers. Can’t we?


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Crime, Feminism, Labor, Law, Rape Culture, Sex and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

557 Responses to Supporting Sex Workers’ Rights, Opposing the Buying of Sex

  1. Lauren says:

    I LOVE THIS!!!! This is something I have struggled with for awhile, and I think your argument that “we can do both” is great. IT’s a lot of what I’ve been thinking, all neatly laid out in a piece I can share.

  2. apres l'ondee says:

    I see the anti-sex-work side simply promoting criminalization, which doesn’t work.

    You’ve been around this block enough times to know that you left out an important noun from this sentence, the “john” that belongs between “promoting” and “criminalization.”

    The rest of what you say about how buying sex is anti-feminist makes more sense when you insert that critical noun which speaks precisely to the abolitionist perspective.

    • Aeryn says:

      Actually, criminalization clients, workers or both has been proven to be ineffective and dangerous. Sentence looks fine to me.

      • martine votvik says:

        How exactly has criminalizing the johns been proven to be dangerous?

        A recent report from Norway shows that serious physical violence has decreased noticeably.

        There is still a long way to go. Norwegian politicians have yet to implement the measures towards helping women out of the trade that they promised would accompany the law. Norwegian feminists keep pushing for them to keep their word.

      • jemima101 says:

        Erm not sure how you get that result. Every study into criminalization of clients shows it endangers street workers (who are the most vulnerable group) , ahh just clicked the link. if you are using feminist current for your information then you really need to stop, now!

        Here is a translation of the Pro Senet report, which shows an increase in violence

        TW rape and violence against women.

        http://humboldt1982.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dangerous-liaisons.pdf

        Here is an explaination of why the FC article is typical throw sex workers under the bus hatred.

        http://feministire.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/no-new-research-does-not-show-that-violence-decreases-under-the-nordic-model/

        And just for fun, becasue you clearly know this topic inside out, a report into how criminalization of kerb crawling in Scotland has led to horrific abuse of women.

        http://feministire.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/taking-ideology-to-the-streets-sex-work-and-how-to-make-bad-things-worse/

        This last should be required reading for those who claim they want to help women on the margins, when your help does this, seriously go away and stay away.

      • Li says:

        Can we pleaseeeee stop linking from Feminist Current pleasseee? Because I am pretty sure the last thread went over all of the reasons why that is a bad, bad idea.

      • martine votvik says:

        I was linking to feminist current because I knew they had a link to the report in English, the only other place I knew to find it was ProSenterets own home page and I could only find it in Norwegian there.

        The report shows a reduction in women who say they experienced rape from 29% to 15% I think this is significant.

        The Scottish law is disgustingly cosmetic in comparison to the Norwegian law.

      • jemima101 says:

        Read my second link, that isn’t what the report says at all.

      • martine votvik says:

        It is one of the findings of the report if you bother to read through the actual research and not just the interpretation of it.

      • jemima101 says:

        I take it you missed the link i put up to the English language version.

        Do you enjoy hanging out on feminist sites being patronizing? A good shg might help with that.

      • martine votvik says:

        I am participating in damn good shgs on a regular and frequent basis thank you very much. One could possibly say that I should shg less and read more, which would be abt and fair criticism.

        I read the stuff you linked to, I just doubt that the “sex-workers” have a “life time long” experience of being in “sex-work” and therefor I’m less likely to put the same emphasis on the difference.

      • Li says:

        jemima, for the record, I’m really uncomfortable with you telling martine that she needs to get laid. I understand the instinct and how frustrating and draining this discussion is for you but I do think that crosses the line for acceptable discourse.

      • jemima101 says:

        You are quite right, I am just sick of repeating things others have said, and linking to evidence that isnt read. NO reason to loose my temper though.

      • Uh, yeah. Jemima, I’m not comfortable with that either.

      • Urgh, simultaneous post. Sorry didn’t mean to pile on after an apology!

      • Wendy Lyon says:

        Martine, it really doesn’t matter whether you put the same emphasis on the difference. The study itself stated that the lengths of time involved were too dissimilar to be directly compared. And that isn’t even the most significant issue with it. How on earth do you think you can draw conclusions about violence in Norway from research that fails to disaggregate it from violence in countries other than Norway?

        And did you miss the part about “rape” being defined in two different ways, and the reported rate actually being much higher than 15%?

      • apres l'ondee says:

        The study itself stated that the lengths of time involved were too dissimilar to be directly compared.

        The whole report is a comparison of the data. Acknowledging the imperfections and difficulties of obtaining information about prostitution and violence against women is standard operating procedure for researchers that’s never intended to invalidate the research in its entirety.

      • Wendy Lyon says:

        Funnily enough, anti-sex work researchers (like Farley) are rarely as prepared to acknowledge the limitations in their data. It’s to the credit of this study’s authors – who, remember, conclude that overall the situation is worse under the sex purchase ban – that they were honest enough to admit that their quantitative data doesn’t provide evidence for that conclusion. Equally, it does not provide evidence for the opposite conclusion.

        In any case, the report’s disclaimer goes well beyond acknowledging imperfections and difficulties with obtaining information. It says “the numbers can not be directly compared”. That really couldn’t be clearer.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        No, seriously, the approach consisting in cracking on the clients simply didn’t work. It made prostitution go more underground, remote, complicating things for the prostitutes themselves. And it failed to significantly affect trafficking.

        I was all for it at first, but it’s a dead end, at least as it’s been implemented. Let’s not cling to what doesn’t work. Let’s move on. Seriously.

      • Stella Marr says:

        Martine — so good to see you here!!! Remember when you were encouraging me to focus on activism — I took your advice and got connected with a bunch of survivors — now our organization has 85 survivor members — much love to you — hope your days are filled with inspiration
        http://survivorsconnect.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/sextraffickingsurvivorsworldwideunited/

        http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/an-ex-hookers-letter-to-her-younger-self/

      • Jill says:

        Stella, we banned you a long time ago for derailing every thread and for being generally disrespectful. Farewell again.

      • Say What?! says:

        Jill I think it’s really hypocritical that you’ve banned Stella Marr. She’s the executive director of Sex Trafficking Survivors United — and was rather viciously attacked in a thread on Feministe while no moderators intervened.

        I believe she was banned for using the word ‘prostitute’ — which was ridiculous.

        I don’t believe she commented much on any other threads but this one. http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/12/04/what-is-a-representative-sex-worker/

        She was attacked on your blog for discussing the fact that someone convicted of conspiracy to promote interstate prostitution was the founder of a sex workers activist organization — although this was true — and Stella later proved this was a common syndrome with the sex worker activist movement. So she wasn’t being disrespectful — if that’s what you are assuming this was – she was telling the truth.

        Here are the articles Stella wrote which prove this unequivocally, using primary sources.
        http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/pimps-will-be-pimps-whether-male-or-female-or-posing-as-sex-worker-activists-other-conflicts-of-interest/

        http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/how-the-sex-industry-threatens-survivors-speaking-out-while-pimps-pose-as-sexworker-activists/

        Rather than derailing this thread — this info is highly relevant here. It’s important information which should be made public.

        It’s pretty hard to further the human rights of people trafficked in prostitution when you are silencing survivor activists. Just sayin’

      • jemima101 says:

        Marr is not a survivor activist, she is a peddler of lies, disinformation and hate. Reprinting her hate speech shows you are no better.

        http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/tangled-web/

        I suppose Amy learnt how to manipulate people at Julliard, or perhaps Columbia. I wonder how her various books are coming along?

      • McMike says:

        Did they moderate the criminalization of Johns in Sweden? Because if norway criminalizes buying sex they only do so recently. And sweedes whom get caught pay a fine, as if they were caught speeding or something. Its just a way so the gov can get some of that John money.

    • apres l'ondee says:

      The researchers did not spend the money, time and energy writing a hundred page report comparing the data sets for the purpose of telling people to dismiss all their comparisons as useless.

      I don’t know how else to interpret your insistence that a standard disclaimer within the research itself should be taken as the report’s writers telling people to disregard their work.

      • Wendy Lyon says:

        I would assume that they included the (not-standard) disclaimer of “the numbers can not be directly compared” so that people would know that the numbers could not be directly compared. Occam’s Razor. But hey, if you want to compare them directly anyway, then by all means explain how they can be.

      • apres l'ondee says:

        Occam’s Razor would have resulted in no report at all if its main thesis were determined to be fundamentally flawed. It’s rather the opposite of streamlining to put so much effort into supposedly meaningless research.

      • Wendy Lyon says:

        No one but yourself has said it was meaningless. It’s still useful for showing the things it does show, namely, the levels of violence experienced in the past three years and all the qualitative stuff about the general environment under the sex purchase ban.

        You’re totally wrong about its main thesis, by the way. If you look under the heading “The main findings of the report” (Section 1.4), the supposed change in the level of violence doesn’t even feature. Why, probably because the evidence for it isn’t good enough. Something I notice you haven’t contested in any real way.

      • apres l'ondee says:

        Okay, you are 100% wrong that the summary doesn’t mention comparative changes. It mentions several.

        “The terms under which sex work is conducted has changed for a large share of the women who
        provide sexual services.”

        “Harassment and discrimination of women in prostitution from society at large has increased”

        “Some of the survival strategies sex workers mentioned in 2007/08 have been difficult to maintain subsequent to the passing of the sex purchase ban due to large changes in the prostitution market.”

        I’m disengaging from you because you’re not being honest.

      • Wendy Lyon says:

        I am being honest. This is what I said:

        “the supposed change in the level of violence doesn’t even feature”

        And it doesn’t. What you’ve quoted are several comparative changes which are not the supposed change in the level of violence. And are not what you claim to be the report’s main thesis. If it makes it easier for you to understand this, the things you cited are drawn mainly from the qualitative research, not the statistical data which form the subject of this dispute.

        But feel free to disengage, especially if you’re going to continue to bang on about the author’s motivations and refuse to address what the report actually shows (and doesn’t show).

  3. THANK YOU JILL. I know I came down harder on the side of the sex workers on that thread (simply because there were so many people being so disgusting at them), but this is basically how I feel about the whole thing. This.

  4. rox says:

    Yeah that’s the part that gets me, is that to be pro-woman I have to be all “nonjudgemental” about men using a 14 year old in a foriegn country to get their rocks off just because they can.

    There are LOT’s of labor issues and human rights issues that intersect with sex work and that are relevant to ALL types of low paid work and people trapped in unsafe conditions with little realistic alternatives that their capacities match with.

    But I really don’t think that ON THE WHOLE most humans find sex work the same as burger flipping. If I am applying for benefits and they say “You have to apply at this burger place and at least try it before you get benefits” that wouldn’t bother me at all.

    If they do that to me and say I HAVE to try working in a brothel or starve? Most people agree that would be horrific. And yet, if we are to argue they have the same psychological ramifications to most people then why shouldn’t that be a requirement for people struggling with other work before being able to recieve government or charitable aid? We SHOULD encourage people to try to work even in work that isn’t fun.

    But encouraging people to accept things in their body they don’t want in order to eat should damn well make people horrified in a way that cooking burgers does not. Because the resulting trauma is different.

    And I will say that poverty is itself traumatic and bad working conditions ARE bad for the psyche, but sex work SHOULD be treated as something different and we SHOULD protect people from being forced into it due to difficult circumstances.

  5. matlun says:

    I am an anti-sex-trafficking feminist.

    Just a question of terminology: What does that mean?

    I expect all feminists are against sex trafficking, so the trivial reading seems pointless and I expect it has a different meaning in these discussions.

    Do you mean that you are a feminist that is an anti-sex-trafficking activist? Or a feminist that subscribes to certain ideological positions (beyond just “sex trafficking is bad”)?

    • To me, being an anti-sex-trafficking feminist means that I think that cracking down on sex trafficking is an important feminist project. I also use it to draw the distinction between wanting to abolish forced sex work and wanting to abolish sex work. I don’t think that stamping out sex work is a feminist project, per se.

      It also means I believe that there is such a thing as non-coerced sex for money. I don’t believe that sex workers are coerced by definition.

      In the real world, the sex trade is largely ugly and exploitative. But criminalizing prostitutes makes everything worse. Even criminalizing johns is largely counterproductive. It doesn’t deter hardcore sex buyers, it just drives the trade underground where sex workers are more likely to be abused, exploited, and trafficked.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I agree the sex trade is more exploitative than most industries. I think it bares continual repeating, though, that working conditions are ugly and exploitative for almost ALL workers, especially when those workers are women. And that the women who choose sex work are not fools, they are making the right choice given the circumstances (usually shitty) that they find themselves in. Sex work, as bad as it often is, is still better than the other jobs available for those who choose it. So the answer is to uplift all workers and all women, not try to “rescue” women from the industry (even if such rescue attempts don’t involve criminalization but merely involve a condescending program from the outside of self-betterment).

      • Miriam says:

        I agree with the practical points you make (that the best course is to work to uplift all people–not just women) but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that sex workers are making the best choice for them out of a set of crappy choices as a general rule. I think some are, but some are unaware of what their full range of choices really are. That’s not intended as a ding on sex workers–it’s a problem I have with the general position that workers make the best choice for themselves. I think many workers make choices with a lack of awareness of their full range of choices because we’re often operating within institutional structures that work to hide knowledge of our options from us.

      • LotusBecca says:

        By the way, Lindsay, I wasn’t trying to argue with you, just to be clear. I agree with everything you said. I was just adding on to it.

  6. A4 says:

    In a feminist utopia, ALL human interactions would be freely entered and based on pleasure and the recognition of the humanity of all people involved. This basically precludes ANY form of monetary compensation for services because you wouldn’t feel entitled to someone else’s labor (an intrinsically unpleasurable activity) with the simple exchange of money.

    So I call bullshit on this argument, and this pedestalization of sex as a sacred act between humans that should be only based on pure free will and pleasure and sunshine and roses.

    In a real world context, there are many things I will freely and happily do if paid, and that I would not want to do without compensation. Some sex is like that too! Some of my favorite sexual encounters were ones where I got paid and some of my least favorite were those special entered-into-freely kind.

    You wanna talk about how patriarchy is tainting my enjoyment of sex? Have at it! But don’t pretend it’s not doing the same exact thing to your enjoyment of sex, or that since your sex happened after a nice dinner and a martini that it’s any closer to this feminist utopia that people like to talk about.

    • Jill says:

      Well, I do think that sex is different from most other acts that human beings do. You don’t have to agree. But I don’t think sex is comparable to other kinds of paid labor, even while I acknowledge that most other paid labor is by definition somewhat coercive. I do put sex on a pedestal. I do put pleasure on a pedestal. That doesn’t mean that getting paid for sex can’t be enjoyable; it does mean that in my ideal world, the entire concept of paying someone else for sex wouldn’t exist. Because our construction of sex wouldn’t see it as “labor” or as a thing you can get.

      • A4 says:

        Where’s the line though between things that are “Sex” and things that are “Not Sex”? My friend who works as a Dom doesn’t have sex with her clients, but the activity is all about their sexual desires. If I’m dancing in a club with minimal clothing on and satisfying the sexual desires of the customers is that Sex? What about dancing in a theater as part of a prestigious ballet production?

        When is objectification of someone’s body (paying a certain amount of money in exchange for influence over their body and actions) okay, and when is it violating your special zone of sacred sexual pleasure.

        In a world where anything can be objectified with enough money, I admire your desire to fence off certain aspects of your life and activities and say “This is something that money has no power over”, because I do the same thing too, but please do not pretend that your personal boundaries should be everyone else’s because of their intrinsic specialness.

      • EG says:

        Just because boundaries are hazy and permeable doesn’t mean that a thing doesn’t exist or isn’t separate. And Jill isn’t talking about imposing her boundaries on others–she’s saying that she believes that in the utopia she describes, sex would not be commodified because it would be conceptualized differently, not because she would ban sex work, and so it wouldn’t be sold any more than, oh, friendship is today. 100 years ago, rich ladies would pay impoverished upper-class women to be their “companions.” By and large, that’s not a thing we do any more, but not because it’s banned.

      • A4 says:

        in the utopia she describes, sex would not be commodified because it would be conceptualized differently

        And I think if that would be true of sex, it would have to be true of all other human interaction because I do not think a feminist utopia will have people who think paying someone to dig their garden (commodifying their body for the pleasure of gazing upon your beautifully landscaped front yard) but have absolutely no conception of the idea of commodifying sexual pleasure.

        it wouldn’t be sold any more than, oh, friendship is today

        Friendship is most definitely commodified today. All I have to do to see that is take a look at the facebook of Sumner Redstone’s grandson.* Every single post is from someone talking about how awesome it was to hang out and how they should totally get together when he’s in town. People very often choose friends based on the material gains they can offer, exchanging conversation, companionship, and moral support for access to luxury goods and high class spaces.

        In addition, how many people become friends with their personal assistant, someone who is explicitly being paid to support and help them? Do we consider these friendships less valid because they are based on a monetary relationship?

        If you find your money to be tainting your potential for liberated enjoyment of human relationships, please feel free to give it to me.

        *I actually can’t look at it anymore because I unfriended him because he’s not a nice person really.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Great points A4, and I totally agree. Putting sex on a pedestal, putting sex apart from the rest of life, is not a good thing in my opinion. It’s not sex positive. The construction of sex as “a special case” that needs special rules has been part of the traditional patriarchal way of mystifying and regimenting sexual activity between humans. In a feminist, egalitarian society, sex would just be something that two (or more) people did together freely, like giving each other massages, cooking for each other, or playing tennis. Of course, certain individuals would still find sex especially enjoyable or personally meaningful. But sex wouldn’t exist as any sort of distinct ontological category for society at large. At least that’s what I see when I look into my crystal ball, lol.

        There’s absolutely no reason why it’s progressive to view sex as something that shouldn’t happen for money while continuing to think that most things SHOULD happen for money. This is buying into bullshit patriarchal ideas that sex is inherently sacred and that a different set of rules should apply to it than apply to all other human activity.

      • (BFing)Sarah says:

        I guess this is me being a prude, but when two or more people get together and cook, play tennis, or give each other massages that does not and could not lead to STDs and unwanted pregnancies. To me, that makes it different.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Sarah, plenty of sex does not and could not lead to pregnancies. In terms of STDs, yes, there are specific risks involved in sexual activity. There are specific risks involved in ANY form of activity. So I wasn’t trying to say sex is EXACTLY the same as everything else in the world. It’s obviously it’s own thing, just like tennis is it’s own thing, and cooking is it’s own thing. Sex just doesn’t belong in an entirely different category IMO.

      • In an ideal feminist world, it wouldn’t occur to people that sex is the sort of thing you could buy. It would seem like a kind of contradiction in terms, like trying to explicitly buy love or respect.

        Obviously, there are ways that money can help you get love and respect. But every emotionally mature person understands that if you tried to explicitly exchange money for love, you wouldn’t (couldn’t) be getting love in return, even if you got loving behavior in exchange for money. It simply goes against what we mean by love.

        If you embrace the performance model of sex, it’s not really sex if you hire someone to do it with you. You can go through the motions of sex by force, but we all know it isn’t really sex, it’s rape.

        You can go through the motions of sex for money, but in an ideal feminist world, everyone would feel in their gut that it’s not really sex when you go through the motions of sex for money. Money can buy consent, but it can’t buy enthusiastic consent.

        I’m not saying that paid sex is comparable to rape. I’m just using sex vs. rape as an example of a way in which feminist thinking has changed the way we think about sex to make nominal consent integral to our understanding of what sex is. In an ideal feminist utopia, we’d so thoroughly internalize the notion of enthusiastic consent that we couldn’t imagine sex without it.

      • (BFing)Sarah says:

        Yes, but no forms of tennis or cooking could lead to an STD or pregnancy. Everything has inherent risks, but not everything could result in another person being born (in the case of, say, a pregnancy that went too far before being detected to be aborted–which happens all the time). And lots of jobs could not ever result in a serious medical issue (like pregnancy or an STD…or, you know, murder/assault), and not EVERY activity for pay involves a medical or physical risk. Sure, lots of jobs or activities do involve physical/medical risk and we don’t ban them (electrical work, coal mining, skiing). I don’t advocate banning sex work either. But to argue that its just like any other activity– I remain unconvinced.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Well, Lindsay, in my utopia, people enthusiastically consent to everything they do, not just to sex. So I don’t understand why we would want to make a perfect, hippy-dippy world of sexual freedom while leaving everything else a putrid shithole.

        Sarah, not all sex is capable of resulting in pregnancy, as I already said. So if pregnancy’s what you are basing your category on, you should make the category merely include “PIV sex between two fertile people” not all “sex.” STDs aren’t fundamentally different than other types of diseases either. They are just diseases that are spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, which can include sex but often also includes blood transfusions, sharing needles, and so on. Every disease (STD or not) has its own specific way of being spread. So I don’t see why the fact that some diseases are only spread through bodily fluid contact, as opposed to shaking someone’s hand, should be reason to construct “sex” as a special category all to itself.

      • In my feminist paradise there would be plenty of rewarding jobs and everyone would have an equal opportunity to pursue rewarding work, or choose not to work and receive a basic income. Hopefully, most people would like their jobs.

        But I’m not sure that every choice in my feminist paradise would be a matter of enthusiastic consent. There’s a lot of stuff in life that requires consent, but not enthusiastic consent. There are things we rightly do out of obligation, rather than for pleasure. Sometimes, I do my work because I’m getting paid, or because I promised, not because I particularly feel like it.

        Even in an ideal feminist world, people would still show up at work even when they didn’t absolutely feel like it, and that would be okay.

      • Why are so many of these replies talking as if all work is horrible and things nobody would do except for money? It’s drawing a long bow to try to make it comparable with sex. It’s also leaving out the matter of intimacy, physical and/or emotional, that sex involves but most types of work don’t. I hope I’m misreading this, but it comes across less as sex-positive than as sex-dismissive, like it has no other considerations at all, it’s about as important – or potentially traumatic – as farting. The one about the landscape gardener “commodifying their body” seemed particularly silly. It’s not their body being paid for, it’s their skills – and it’s hardly the same as someone paying to do intimate things to their body.

      • Li says:

        I do not typically have sex by just letting someone do intimate things to my body. Sex involves me doing things, it involves skills. It is in some way reciprocal. And this is important, because just as the landscaper is being paid to do things to a client’s garden, so sex workers are being paid, at least in part, to do things to a client’s body. It is not the sex worker’s body being paid for, it is their skills.

        And I understand that many people view sex as particularly emotionally significant to them, but that is not everyone’s life. I have casual sex, for instance, with people I don’t have any particular emotional attachment to. I do it because I think sex is fun, because I enjoy the physical closeness, because I enjoy other people experiencing pleasure and knowing I am giving it to them, but not every time I have sex is a sparkling explosion of lovehearts and emotional significance.

        Now, if that logic applies to the sex I have, I don’t see why I can’t apply it to the sex that workers have (and again, “have”, not “have done to them”).

        Sex doesn’t have to be magical. It is ok for people to use their sexual skills to earn money, and they’re not going to be automatically traumatised by it just because you have a different relationship to sex than they do. “Sex-positive” doesn’t mean “assigning my moral values to all sex”, it means accepting that other people have different values.

      • It’s not that all work is horrible. The idea is that, as long as you must work to live, all work is coerced to some extent. That doesn’t mean that all work is the same. If working conditions are good and the social safety net is strong, work becomes a lot less coercive.

      • Minerva says:

        Okay, so this is the topic that has brought me out lurking ’round the edges and into the pool… nothing like starting out in the deep end, yes?

        Li, it seems to me that in some cases, primarily at the upper end of the spectrum (‘escorts’ and BSDM/fetish workers), skills and experience are indeed what is being paid for, and usually at a markup that takes account of the amount of skill and experience required to do the job well. However for the bulk of the trade it seems pretty clear that what the customer is paying for is access to a compliant body. I agree with you that part of the industry is comprised of the former, however we can’t ignore the reality of the latter (or we do so at the explicit risk of those workers who are already vulnerable).

        For me, the act of using money to obtain compliance has always defined the line between sex work and sex performance, and it is what makes sex work (and sex itself) different from other human activities (even those for which people will be paid). I’m still struggling with this one, and in that I have found the comments you and LotusBecca and others have made incredibly insightful and helpful in my own process of clarifying my thought, but I am still fairly convinced that sex is different, and not because I think that sex is hearts and flowers and unicorns and all that.

        It seems to me that the landscaper clipping the hedges and the fast food worker flipping burgers are both engaged in a paid activity, but that activity does not impinge on their autonomy or bodily integrity, and most importantly, they are not required to participate (either by being explicitly paid or coerced into doing so) in the fiction that they want to be there or are enjoying what is going on. The gardener can be surly or refuse to perform certain tasks (and the skills required to do that work grants the gardener more autonomy to make such choices). The burger flipper has less autonomy and control, but it doesn’t disappear entirely. Granted, it’s a relatively recent thing and always under attack by the more powerful, but law recognizes that even the lowliest burger flipper cannot be compelled beyond certain boundaries, mostly having to do with their autonomy and bodily integrity.

        The sex worker is surly or refuses compliance often at the risk of health, safety or life. That is not to say that the situation isn’t very different at the upper end of the spectrum, because as you rightly point out, possessing the skill and experience to perform more specialized tasks makes a person’s labor more valuable in a marketplace. But that isn’t the reality throughout the spectrum, and my bias is to work to set policy that takes account of the worst case, and to move power and agency to those at the bottom of any spectrum because those at the upper end (with the agency and autonomy that comes along with a valued skill set) will have more power naturally anyway.

        Ultimately, though, I will admit that for me it does come down to a conviction on my part that sex work is different because sex is different. I’ve had some of the hearts-and-flowers type sex, some of the casual/dutiful sex, and lots more that fell all over the middle ground, but at no time were any of those experiences exactly like any of the jobs I’ve had. It would require lots more space to tease out precisely why and how (though it generally revolves around retaining the agency to say no, value as a reciprocal participant, and the autonomy to insist on receiving as well as giving pleasure), but the fact that it’s rather too complicated to explain simply and quickly doesn’t mean that the distinction doesn’t exist and isn’t worth exploring (instead of dismissing out of hand).

        The above isn’t to say that I think all people do or even ought to feel the same way, but in accordance with my understanding of the harm principle, I feel rather strongly that it’s necessary to strenuously question things we do (even when we really want to do them and want people to just leave us alone to get at it already) when the consequences of the things we want to do weigh heavily on others.

        I have a position on sex work which is, like Jill’s, very complicated. I’m against exploitation and trafficking, of course. I am (pretty much reflexively) pro-sex worker, because I am for anything that puts support behind increasing the agency and autonomy of those who are in the devalued and disempowered position in a given social situation (and because they know better than I do what they need for their own protection and to enable them, when they are ready to do so, to move to a new career).

        But ultimately I am against paid sex work, and I feel it vitally important to work toward ending it as a practice. Partially because I agree with Jill as stated above that sex ought to be something that is given freely and at will, but also because I am deeply troubled by the idea that some bodies (women/young/brown/trans) can have a monetary value assigned to them by others who then proceed to conscript or coerce their compliance.

      • Great answers, everyone, thank you.

        It seems to me that talking about work being coerced if you want to eat is unrealistic. If a lion wants food, it has to hunt. If a horse wants food, it has to spend its day grazing. Same applies to humans, whether we’re talking hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers or people working in offices. We have to perform some sort of labour to obtain food and shelter, however many steps that is away from the food source. Is that coercion? I don’t think it is.

        I’m also not disagreeing that sex can be a very simple physical pleasure, or something one brings skills to, but I think Minerva made an extremely important point about the difference between top end, or specialised, sex work that involves skills (and may not even involve bodily penetration) and the being-paid-to-let-a-man-shove-his-dick-in-you-and-look-like-you’re-enjoying-it variety. Yes, people can enjoy sex work very much, but the whole “meh, it’s just sex, what’s the big deal?” line creeps me out when there’s the slightest suggestion that that’s how other people should feel. I find it even creepier than the excesses of putting it on a pedestal, because it reads like it’s dismissing boundaries. I know that’s not the intent but it still comes across that way, and it makes my skin crawl.

    • rox says:

      I get that for you being paid for sex feels ok but do you understand why some of us disabled people might not want to be forced into it in order to eat? If someone wants me to make burgers and is willing to keep me employed even though I’m forgetful and dyslexic and can’t run a cash register and get sick all the time and miss work a lot then I’m cool with that.

      I’m not cool with being forced to let people stick shit up my ass to eat. And I want to protect my fellow disabled people from the world suddenly deciding sex work is the same thing and we should just put all the disabled people to work in brothels.

      Which if it’s the SAME in terms of damage to workers would make sense because it’s a high demand field and requires no math/memory abilities needed for most basic jobs. So if sex workers is the same, how can I protect myself from being forced into it?

      • the world suddenly deciding sex work is the same thing and we should just put all the disabled people to work in brothels.

        what? No seriously what?

        Also, when disabled people are trafficked in the sex trade, we have a word for that: sex trafficking.

        This makes as much sense as coming in and saying “we can’t talk about sex because some people are forced into having sex and if we destigmatise sex then OMG SEX.” There’s a word for that: rape. Which is Not Sex. In the same way that trafficking is Not Sex Work.

      • rox says:

        but if being forced into food service due to need for employment carries the same psychological risk as being forced into sex work due to need for employment, then why would requiring the disabled to do work they may be qualified for be inherently called “trafficking?” vs requiring people to work for food the way food service industry does?

      • rox says:

        What I mean to say is that when I’ve submitted to sex I didn’t want due to terrible circumstances and needs– it felt worse than many times I’ve been raped.

        For me, that felt like torture, and I experienced shock and mental health problems from it.

        I’m just saying can we admit that consent due to horrible circumstance is not the same thing as “Wanting it” and can be traumatic in a way that working at a pizza place isn’t for most human beings? And I’ve worked at food service places and I know it’s humiliating and not fun a lot of times, but it’s not the same as the horror as being penetrated to get basic needs met that some of us feel when we go through that.

      • Li says:

        Rox, I’ve been on unemployment and disability benefits, and for long enough periods to have been pushed pretty heavily into finding work, and this seems to me a pretty unlikely hypothetical. I think we have a very very long way to go before stigma around sex work disappears enough that any welfare officer could get away with cutting off disability or unemployment benefits because someone didn’t accept a sex work job without all hell breaking loose. And in the hypothetical world in which that level of stigma didn’t exist, I’d hope we’d have dramatically transformed how we support people with disabilities.

      • I’m just saying can we admit that consent due to horrible circumstance is not the same thing as “Wanting it” and can be traumatic in a way that working at a pizza place isn’t for most human beings?

        I would consider anyone submitting to coercion to have sex (economic or otherwise) to be being sexually abused/raped. I also think there’s a difference between the level of coercion involved in “fuck this guy or you starve to death” and “fuck this guy or you can’t get your very own two-bedroom apartment”.

      • afb1221 says:

        I really don’t think this fear is that far fetched. I’m not saying it can’t be managed / prevented, but I think it is a realistic concern. Where I live, one can be denied employment insurance benefits (after a certain time) if there is work available. If sex work is no different than any other work, than there would be no basis for the government to say “you have to go off EI because X job is available” and “you have to go off EI because sex work is available.” Of course, we could agree that sex work should be off the table in those circumstance, but then we are agreeing that sex work is different, right?

      • LotusBecca says:

        Rox, how is legalizing sex work going to limit your job opportunities? If you had the ability to work in a pizza place prior to sex work being legalized, why would you lose that ability after it’s legalized?

      • Becca, shhh, you can’t be going around making sense at people! That’s rude! And probably oppresses poor disabled people in some way that I haven’t yet figured out, but which totally applies.

      • Of course, we could agree that sex work should be off the table in those circumstance, but then we are agreeing that sex work is different, right?

        All right, in words of few syllables: when things hurt you, in your body, you don’t have to do them because that’s what we call a harmful thing. Being used in medical research, sex work etc, mean you have to use your body and subject your body to others for their pleasure or use. This can be done together with consent, or forced upon you by someone else. So yes, sex work is different, but so is being made to test vaccines, or submit to new risky operations. They’re all in the same category of bodily violation without free consent.

      • thinksnake says:

        At least in New South Wales, where sex work is decriminalised, sex work isn’t something employment agencies or Centrelink are allowed to recommend.

        That’s nothing to do with it being sex work. It is because sex work is contract based, and employment agencies do not push contract-based work, they push wage/salary based work.

      • A4 says:

        There are already many people who feel forced into sex work in the way that you describe. In their case, they do not have any of the legal protections that other people who are coerced by circumstance into legally recognized jobs that they hate are afforded.

        My interpretation of your comment is that you are worried that if sex work is recognized as a legitimate form of work, then people will be coerced into it in the same way that they are currently coerced into other exploitative low-wage jobs.

        This is already happening, and the people to whom it is happening are raped and murdered at incredibly high and unacceptable rates because the world has decided they are disgusting and criminal.

      • EG says:

        I believe she’s worried about state-sponsored coercion as a condition of receiving unemployment or disability support.

      • A4 says:

        I believe she’s worried about state-sponsored coercion as a condition of receiving unemployment or disability support.

        Yes, I agree that that would be terrible policy.

      • Alara Rogers says:

        I think that you’re saying that if sex work were not considered any different than flipping burgers, people could be forced into it by the state as a condition of receiving benefits… which is possibly true, but also probably a problem we could prevent before it became an issue.

        Some work is specialized because it requires training. The state cannot compel me to go work in a hair salon, even though I am an educated person with job skills, because none of my job skills relate to cutting hair, and I have no training at it.

        I wonder if it would help to require that a legal framework which protects the rights of voluntary sex workers to do what they choose while at the same time protecting those who do not want to do sex work from being forced into it, would be to require industry-specific licensing and internal regulatory boards. It isn’t the state that trains people to cut hair, it’s people who cut hair who do so, but the state can require that in order to cut hair for money, you need to have received training in it. No one is required to get a license to be a babysitter, let alone a parent, but as soon as you are the employee of or owner of a business that sits multiple children at once, you must receive training and a certification.

        Suppose you needed a certification to legally perform sex work, and if you don’t have a cert, you could be fined and johns could be jailed (as could your employer, whether a brothel owner or a pimp). There’s ample justification for it, I think. Sex is, in fact, something that is improved by having greater skills, and we require most people who want to do dangerous work to have a license to do it, even if the thing they are doing is something that, if done for free, does not require a license. We also require people who are handling other people’s bodies to have licenses, including people who cut hair. And we generally place much harsher penalties on people who are employers who are employing people without needed certs than we do on the workers themselves.

        Could a certification process help to identify trafficked women (and men) and help them get out? Maybe… if certs were required, traffickers would certainly fake them for their victims, but fake certs can be uncovered and become inherently an excuse to shut down a business and arrest the owner, and a responsible certification program could have means within it to identify people who don’t want to be there. Yes, some people who are being blackmailed or economically coerced are going to say all the right things to claim they are there of their free will, but if one of the things the cert program does is help people identify “If sex work is not for you, what would be a better job?”, it would reduce some of the economic pressure caused by feeling that you have absolutely no other skills that anyone would pay for.

        The state cannot currently require that you work as a child care provider before it will give you benefits, because that takes training and a license. They can require you to flip burgers because it requires no training beyond what they give you on the job. They can require you to try to get a job in a field you are trained for, even if it’s one you don’t like — if you did in fact go to beauty school and have a certification that you can cut hair, the state could require that you seek work in a salon before you get benefits even if you left hair-cutting because you hated it. But the state can’t require you to work in a field you do not have training for, if training is required as a condition of working in that field, and if the state itself is going to offer people training to make them get jobs, frankly it’s going to offer training in child care and hair cutting long before it offers training in how to give blow jobs.

        Having never been a sex worker, I obviously have no personal understanding of whether this would or would not work, but I’ve never seen it proposed — models that do require licensing seem to require it of the brothel owner but do nothing to require that the prostitutes employed there get any kind of training or licensing — and I wonder, is there any reason why it couldn’t work?

      • A4 says:

        This is a fantastic comment.

      • Anon21 says:

        Alara, I don’t really like that idea. I have three broad objections.

        1. The way you present it at the beginning and end of your comment, it seems like a kludge for a problem that could be solved much more simply and directly simply by saying sex work isn’t an employment option you must exhaust before qualifying for TANF/disability benefits/whatever. There’s no real need to justify this exclusion, but if you want to justify it, just point out, very accurately, that society considers sex to be an activity different in kind from most or all other activities that can be performed for remuneration.

        2. Licensing schemes tend towards cartelization; indeed, outside a few professions where the work is genuinely dangerous if performed incorrectly (medicine, maybe law, probably all sorts of technical/niche jobs I’m not thinking of), the primary purpose of a licensing scheme is to protect incumbent license holders from competition. I don’t know why we’d want to encourage that in the sex industry, in a hypothetical future where that industry is legalized and regulated. There are many problems with the sex industry, but the ease of entry for people who genuinely want to do it doesn’t strike me as one of them.

        3. Your proposal to punish johns for hiring unlicensed prostitutes doesn’t fit at all within the current paradigm of “licensing,” where the license is ostensibly a form of consumer protection. We don’t arrest people for receiving medical care from an unlicensed doctor, legal assistance from an unlicensed lawyer, or a haircut from an unlicensed hairdresser because the whole point of the license is to protect the customer or client from substandard work. From that perspective, it would make perfect sense to punish pimps/brothel owners for employing unlicensed prostitutes, but no sense to punish customers.

        Perhaps this last point is mostly a terminology issue; the benefits you perceive seem to have much more to do with the registration aspect than with the “training” aspects, so perhaps the solution is to have a government registry of prostitutes without having any licensing. (Although in our society, such a registry would almost certainly be abused.)

      • afb1221 says:

        First, I think in some cases (at least where I live) the government can force retraining, at least in certain circumstances. (as in, withhold benefits if retraining is not undertaken).

        Second, one reason why some people may enter sex work is the relatively low barriers to entry. If you require training and licencing, maybe you are hurting those who need / want the low barrier work. (I feel the same way about those who talk about std testing for sex workers; I oppose any government regulation of that because it just end up with some people who need the work but don’t qualify working illegally… leaving us in the same position we’re in now…)

      • Henry says:

        I’m not cool with being forced to let people stick shit up my ass to eat.

        Rox I fucking love you.

  7. the_leanover says:

    Yup, this is all exactly what I was rather clumsily trying to articulate in the other thread. Excellent post… right up to the ‘fan of capitalist marketplaces’ bit, that is :P

  8. Natalia says:

    I think one of the main problems of these discussions is how the sex-workers are described as “those people over there.” You know, people we can comfortably philosophize about, from a distance.

    When it’s different, it’s… different.

    I also think that if you accept capitalism as the best model, you kinda have to deal with the fact that sex *will* be commodified under capitalism – and that it ultimately comes down to the conditions it will be commodified under. ‘Cause that’s what capitalism does. Though *I* certainly don’t know what can be done about it, at this point.

    • matlun says:

      I also think that if you accept capitalism as the best model, you kinda have to deal with the fact that sex *will* be commodified under capitalism

      It is hardly limited to capitalism. As long as there is a system of relatively free trade and exchange of services, sexual services will also be exchanged.

      Prostitution has existed long before capitalism or even money. It has even been observed among chimpanzees.

      • rox says:

        Yes of course because chimpanzee behavior should be the driving model of ethical behavior we strive for as human beings. If god didn’t want me to beat people up why did he make me so capable of violence!? And even APES do violence! So it’s natural and can’t ever be stopped!

      • matlun says:

        This discussion is contentious enough anyway, so there is no need for straw man arguments.

        That was not an argument about morality but only a point about the (lack of) connection between capitalism and prostitution.

      • Elena says:

        Male scientists observed female chimpanzees mating with male chimps who were kind to them and called it prostitution.

      • matlun says:

        You do have a good point there, and I will admit to being wrong about the chimpanzees.

        Looking up the study now, it does not actually seem to describe something I would classify as prostitution.

        That study seems to be about chimpanzees building long term relationships rather than having short-term transactions.

      • Good grief, I didn’t think MRAs had it in them to be scientists … :P

      • amblingalong says:

        Male scientists observed female chimpanzees mating with male chimps who were kind to them and called it prostitution.

        Oh, we’re thinking of different studies then.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/magazine/05FREAK.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      • AMM says:

        Prostitution … has even been observed among chimpanzees.

        Correction: behavior which certain people have interpreted as prostitution has been observed….

        I believe I even saw this story when it came out, and there were lots of ways that the behavior could be interpreted. Calling it “prostitution” was not only a huge stretch, but a classic example of limited imagination on the part of the interpreters.

      • Natalia says:

        Well, yes – on that first part.

      • Ismone says:

        Chimpanzees don’t have money, you dumb fuck.

      • amblingalong says:

        Chimpanzees don’t have money, you dumb fuck.

        Do your research before lashing out. Researchers taught chimps to understand money by allowing them to exchange plastic chips for food.

        People these days.

      • Ismone says:

        I read the research. The study involved supposedly “exchanging meat for sex.” Their were no tokens used. So in the study, there was no money. Also, it doesn’t have to be prostitution for animal sexual partners to receive resources from one another.

        Re: the tokens, you can condition animals to do all kinds of things, like fish to come up for a feeding by ringing a bell. It doesn’t mean fish understand what a “dinner bell” is.

  9. amblingalong says:

    I strongly disagree, but it’s probably due to a difference of values so fundamental it’s not really possible to convince each other. At a basic level, I don’t see sex as any different from any other transaction that involves to people; sure, it has a few more risks and is a lot more fun than most, but that’s all.

    The idea that sex is special and needs to be treated differently seems unfounded.

    But from a birdseye feminist view — from a sex-positive view — sex work is different because it’s commodifying something that should ideally be a basic pleasure, entered into entirely freely and at will.

    This is… lazy. Your entire argument is “sex is different because it should be different.” Every transaction between two people should be entered into freely and at will; you shouldn’t be coerced into making someone a sandwich, either.

    Oh, and all you market-hating people mostly sound eager for another holodomor.

    • amblingalong says:

      two* people. Christ.

    • Yonah says:

      When you say “The idea that sex is special and needs to be treated differently seems unfounded,” do you think the law should at all differentiate between assault and sexual assault/rape?

      • Fat Steve says:

        When you say “The idea that sex is special and needs to be treated differently seems unfounded,” do you think the law should at all differentiate between assault and sexual assault/rape?

        rape =/= sex

      • Ismone says:

        assault =/= cuddles. Your point?

      • Fat Steve says:

        assault =/= cuddles. Your point?

        My point was obvious if you look at the remark I quoted. Yonah equated sex with rape quite clearly. He attempted to dismiss the point “that sex is special and needs to be treated differently” by implying that treating ‘sex’ differently is the reason rape should be treated differently than other types assault.

        So, Ismone, as it is blatantly clear to anyone with simple reading skills that Yonah is equating rape with sex, I must wonder why you have such a problem with my pointing it out.

      • Ismone says:

        He was saying that violations of sexual autonomy/bodily integrity that involve sex are treated (and most of us agree, should be treated) more seriously than violations of autonomy that are physical but not sexual.

        So no, he didn’t.

      • Fat Steve says:

        He was saying that violations of sexual autonomy/bodily integrity that involve sex are treated (and most of us agree, should be treated) more seriously than violations of autonomy that are physical but not sexual.

        So no, he didn’t.

        Yes he did.

        You are only referring to the second part of his comment, which was used as a retort to amblingalong’s comments about sex, that’s sex, not sexual assault, not rape, sex. S-E-X. So go back and re-read the comments a third time and maybe you will understand that you are actually debating a non-point.

    • the_leanover says:

      Anti-capitalist? Stalinist! CRITICAL THINKING.

      • amblingalong says:

        Anti-capitalist? Stalinist! CRITICAL THINKING.

        Find me an alternative to market-based economies that doesn’t inevitably lead to the deaths of millions/billions and I’ll take it back.

      • Ted says:

        Do you believe that capitalism hasn’t lead to the deaths of millions?

      • Minerva says:

        Why assume that capitalism is a religious doctrine which must be accepted as a whole or rejected entirely for some other (as of yet undiscovered and therefore ontologically suspect) system? Why accept that if we enjoy a market based capitalist system for some aspects of our lives, we reject it for others?

        We already do this, to a degree. What is the proper role of capitalism in your relationship to your kids, or your siblings, or your parents?

        Here’s the thing: we can happily exchange apples and iPods and cars and sweaters for money, and we’ve even come up with a way to value the work of the people who pick apples, design iPods, assemble cars and make sweaters. The rules of market-based capitalism work pretty well there, and so long as we ensure that we aren’t externalizing inconvenient costs when valuing products and services, I see no reason to get all that upset about the fact that we do it.

        For a while now we’ve been in rough agreement as a society that there is no proper monetary value for bodies or parts of bodies, in that it’s now illegal to buy slaves or organs. We can have capitalism where it works (and for some things it works better than any other framework we’ve yet created) and work to exclude it where appropriate. Capitalism is not given by the gods, it was created by humans, like any of our other tools, to make a particular set of tasks easier and smoother. However, just because we have a really nice hammer doesn’t mean that some jobs aren’t better done with bolts or screws.

        (really bad pun only partially intended)

      • EG says:

        we’ve even come up with a way to value the work of the people who pick apples, design iPods, assemble cars and make sweaters. The rules of market-based capitalism work pretty well there

        The rules of market-based capitalism have well and truly fucked over those who pick apples, make sweaters, and assemble iPods. The only reason they don’t fuck over those who assemble cars quite as much is a number of bloody union battles.

      • Minerva says:

        I agree with you EG, but unionization is not antithetical to the rules of market-based capitalism; collective bargaining is a means of participating in those rules. Lack of unions for agricultural workers, unskilled labor and skilled pieceworkers is a political problem that we can fight in the political realm, not a failure of capitalism as such.

        The useful example you provide is an argument for more unions to help the system properly value the apples, iPods and sweaters by preventing the externalization of proper labor costs. And yes, in keeping with the topic, I think that unions for sex workers might help keep those who accept money for sex alive, safe and healthy while we work to make paying for sex unacceptable.

      • Sheelzebub says:

        You. . .actually think that capitalism hasn’t led to countless deaths? That it isn’t brutal? Really?

        Any system that puts money over people’s well being is going to fuck people over.

      • Minerva says:

        …nor do we have to accept those political failures as inevitable simply because, you know, Capitalism.

      • Minerva says:

        Sheelzebub, I think it’s more complicated than that. Capitalism isn’t the root of all evil (and I say this as a card carrying Marxist), because a system of private ownership and free exchange is not necessarily bad in itself, and I’d be happy to discuss that at great length anywhere you choose.

        I would argue that those deaths are the result of political choices wherein some lives were valued less than others and therefore made available for exploitation.

        Capitalism is just a tool, a framework for balancing values and enabling exchange. Politics is the system that determines and establishes social value. Capitalism is the kit of tools, politics is the whole practice of carpentry. If the house is badly built, blame the carpenter, not the hammer.

        ps – I ADORE your screen name

    • Anon21 says:

      The idea that sex is special and needs to be treated differently seems unfounded.

      So far as most human cultures are concerned, this is just self-evident; sex is pretty much always treated as different in kind and more important than most other forms of social interaction.

      So maybe in the feminist utopia, that wouldn’t be the attitude, but here in the real world, there are good reasons to be more concerned about coerced sex work than we are about coerced food service work. Neither is right, but one is worse.

      • sabrina says:

        you have yet to explain to this former sex worker and former food service worker how sex work is worse. Personally, I found sex work to be much less exploitative than I found food service work which is why I quit food service work and did sex work instead. I have yet to hear from an anti sex work feminist a well thought out reason WHY sex is different. That statement includes Jill who decided to use circular logic to try and explain her feelings about her personal* utopia

        *I say personal utopia because I’m pretty sure my version of utopia looks very different from Jill’s and vice versa so I don’t think that calling it a feminist utopia is accurate given that feminism is not a hive mind and we don’t all agree about everything.

      • Punchdrunk says:

        Does human psychology as it relates to human sexuality ring any bells?
        Do you really think cleaning house and sucking dick for rent are the same thing?
        Maybe they are for you, there are all kinds of people in the world, but for most humans sexuality has deep, unique, psychological, social, and physiological repercussions.

        You may be Teflon Woman, but most of us are mere mortals with mortal emotions and hormones and social groups.

        And I’m really tired of being told that all menial labor is prostitution. It’s not. Please stop insulting people working in food service, housekeeping, and other low wage jobs by pretending it’s the same thing, and us working class schmucks should just suck it up (see what i did there?) and embrace fucking strangers for money. We should just get over ourselves and get on our knees and on our backs and make some real money.
        How stupid of us to work long, exhausting
        hours and still be broke.
        Psychology is why sexual assault is more serious than simple assault. It’s also why there are far, far more people willing to buy sex than sell it.
        ‘I need to get paid’ isn’t enthusiastic consent, it’s coercive, at best.

      • sabrina says:

        seriously punch drunk fuck you. I’m not telling anyone to go do sex work. I would actually argue that for a lot of people it’s not the best choice. That doesn’t make it a bad choice FOR SOME PEOPLE. I’m tired of being demonized for finding a way to put food on my table that didn’t involve food service which was to me and to many other sex workers a much more degrading form of work. Most of my clients treated me like a human being. The person who talks to their food service worker as human are few and far in between.
        Also, I really love the dehumanizing way you choose to talk to me. No I’m not fucking teflon. I have plenty of feelings thank you very much. The kind of behavior you are displaying is exactly why most sex workers don’t identify as feminists. It is people like you who make the jobs of sex workers so difficult.

      • lynx wings says:

        Punch drunk, you are terrible.

        Ugh, it’s SO DEGRADING to compare sex work to menial labor, because sex workers are dirty disgusting whores and menial laborers are clearly better than that.

        Everything about your comment shows that you have nothing but disdain for sex workers. Why are you even on a feminist site?

      • Ismone says:

        I totally respect your personal feelings regarding sex and its importance compared to other physical acts.

        But please do the same for the rest of us. Many of us would rather be hit or forced into hard labor than to have sex under circumstances other than enthusiastic consent. That is a reality, for many of us.

      • sabrina says:

        Where did I say it’s not your reality ismone? Where did I say that my experience is the same exact experience as everyone else’s? What I said is that my experience is valid too and those of us who are or have been sex workers are constantly silenced in feminist spaces when we try and argue that we aren’t dirty disgusting wastes and that we too have perfectly valid reasons for choosing (freely) the work that we do. I’ve not once said that sex work is a great solution to poverty. It was however, for me a much better and less demeaning solution than other pink/blue collar work.

      • rox says:

        I personally complete respect your reality Sabrina. I think food service is terrible and have been trapped in in myself. My preference is to save all people from low wage labor they feel powerless to get out of. No one should be stuck there, especially while barely or not being able to pay bills and for necessities/food/medical care. I don’t in any way think any person is wrong for feeling like sex works offers hope out of something that feels terrible and into something that feels better.

        My big problem though is that I still consider that level of desperation (not being able to make bills, pay for necessities, pay for medical care) and having tried and failed at attempts to get through school or move up the career ladder– that for some women choosing sex work under these circumstances is still a coercive situation. For SOME women it is a relief because they find they don’t mind the sex for work. For some it is simultaneously traumatic and ALSO a relief because they weren’t really making it before.

        So my point is SOME PEOPLE can consent to sex work and still be traumatized by the sex. Which doesn’t make it anything AT ALL to be ashamed of for the worker herself who is getting by in the best way possible. That said, this state of affairs is problematic because for some women they are still experiencing sex that feels traumatic and don’t see a way out that meets their needs.

        The goal should be to identify the actual needs and provide better support. I.e. safety nets made of lace. (Sorry everyonce in a while I can’t stop the silly) And by safety nets that includes job training that meets specific difficulties managing school or work places– and assistiance finding a job that pays a living ways and has hope of mobility. I think all people should have access to services that help them with this (and disability criteria should be broadened), and that this should part of feminist solutions to women dealing with poverty, feeling coerced into sex work or other demeaning jobs, or otherwise not being able to make it in life. I feel that should be part of women caring about women. My personal focus is not on legal vs illegal distinction but if you want to make policies that are based in the presumption sex work carries the same risk as food service for people on the whole I do have a problem with that because I believe it as problematic to me as saying that sweatshops that expose people to toxic metals should be legal in the states because it could serve people who need jobs and would thus be “benefitted”. I just have trouble getting behind claiming it’s a safe enough industry to pass workers safety considerations because if you open factories that expose people to toxins people WILL sign up for them due to desperation. I personally think protecting workers from hazards they might consent to due to desperation for money is a good thing. And while unfortunately SOME people might do well with sex work, solutions to help them stay in their chosen profession should not open the doors for other people who might sign up due to desperation alone and not because they are psychologically equipped to be exploited. Because unfortunately the side effects of unwanted sex for some people can be very similar to rape. Protecting women from that should be a very important goal of feminism, in my perspective. I also think ensuring women with disabilities or difficulties in the workplace can find jobs and training programs that match their disabilities/differences and help them get a living wage (so that NO ONE is trapped in food service or any low paying profession they hate for their whole life)– should also be a major mission within feminism. Personal preference.

      • Ismone says:

        Sabrina,

        I am replying to this portion of your post:

        “I have yet to hear from an anti sex work feminist a well thought out reason WHY sex is different.”

        My reason is that for many people, sex is different to the extent that they would be less traumatized by other forced labor or being hit.

        So that is the reason that we think it is different, for many, not all people, there is a strong preference for performing non-sexual labor. And this isn’t just based on preferences regarding labor, it has to do with preferences regarding bodily autonomy, particularly as related to sex.

    • tomek says:

      yes it seem a little confusing to me that you are putting forward in serious argument “sex is no different from any other of the human interaction”.

      is it so that being non-consensual force to have sex is same as non-consensual being force to engage in other interaction (which you think as the same). sex only become different when non-consensal is introduced? this seem like hand-wave premise.

      i think in our biology as human we view sex in different way from other action. it is core of who we are, as it lead to reproduction. whether it actually lead to reproduction in current world with contraceptive is not relavant, because our brains have evolved to view sex in this way.

      in clear, i think always there will be demand for sex with woman for money. but i do not buy that sex is no different from other human interaction. if this was so, rape would be considered as bad as simply being held against will and being forced to eat the lunch with someone or something. silly position

      • the_leanover says:

        Dear lord, tomek’s mixture of fake pidgin English and implausibly advanced sentence construction is getting less convincing by the day. ‘this seem like hand-wave premise’? COME ON.

      • mxe354 says:

        Like I said, I can’t help but suspect that he’s someone who used to go by Tomek Kulesza.

    • Do you see sex as equivalent to shelf stacking? Stuffing envelopes? Waiting at tables? Farm work? Building construction? Roadwork? Plumbing? Do they have the same physical intimacy, potential emotional intimacy or potential trauma if you really don’t want to do them but have to? I really can’t see the comparison between most work and sex.

      It’s one thing for people to say “don’t put sex on a pedestal” and there’s much sense in that (though for me it will never be for anything but love) but it seems very odd to talk as if it was just something to be shrugged off. I apologise if I misunderstood you, btw!

      • Natalia says:

        I don’t think people will ever agree on what sex work is like – because people experience sex very differently. Our histories shape us in different ways, hence the huge discrepancies in how it is perceived.

    • karak says:

      I truly believe that saying sex is no different from anything else is implicitly agreeing with arguments that equate the female body with a wallet and being raped with getting your credit cards stolen.

      Bodies are different. Sex is different. Invasion of your space and literally use of your body to stimulate someone else’s orgasm is different from flipping burgers–because I’ve had sex I Did For Obligation and it was fucktons more horrible than the year and half I’ve spent slinging burgers.

      Sex work is not like other work. It simply is not, and the more you try to insist it is the greater disservice I think you do to sexual violence and trafficking victims, and honestly to sex workers, who work in a highly fraught industry and need much more worker’s rights than almost any other industry.

      • amblingalong says:

        because I’ve had sex I Did For Obligation and it was fucktons more horrible than the year and half I’ve spent slinging burgers.

        So have I, and it was ‘meh, bored’ and then I went and did something else. I’d have done that a hundred times before I spent a year in food service.

        See? Not everyone feels the same about sex! Not everyone has the same sex you have!

      • rox says:

        Right. So can YOU amblingalong, acknowledge that others are different than you and for some women unwanted sex can result in dissociation, trauma, PTSD, and mental health problems?

        Does cooking burgers cause those kinds of affects in you?

      • rox says:

        Have you ever been hospitalized while you scream NONONONONONONONONONONNO over and over again watch reality melt in front of you after a long period of unwanted burger cooking? Have you shrieked while it echoes down the hall, tears streaming down you face, god no, god no, god no, god no…

        HAve you endured years of being dissociative and unable to work as a result of unwanted burger cooking? If you can acknowledge that people have different responses to unwanted sex vs unwanted burger cooking, canyou acknowledge that I have personally watched human beings in SHEER TORTURE losing their minds and sanity after unwanted sex, and none of my friends that hate cooking burgers but do it anyway have ever reported that type of extreme trauma responses from their experiences?

      • thinksnake says:

        Right. So can YOU amblingalong, acknowledge that others are different than you and for some women unwanted sex can result in dissociation, trauma, PTSD, and mental health problems?

        rox, can you please stop strawmanning? No-one in this thread is saying this.

        No-one.

        Stop inventing arguments. And stop claiming that you somehow speak for all disabled and/or poor people, or that anyone who argues with you doesn’t care about disabilities and/or class.

      • rox says:

        I’m not speaking for all disabled people or poor people. I think I damn well should have the right to stick up for myself, my family and my loved ones when I want a society that finds it horrific for women who need help to be left with sex work as the only hope. For women I KNOW who have been in that reality and have wanted desperately for that NOT TOBE THEIR REALITY I damn well have the right to speak for them. And when people say that sex work carries the same risk as food service FOR ALL WOMEN, I will continue to argue against that because it is not true and it is harmful. I’m totally cool withSOME PEOPLE feeling it’s the same. Because the risk of trauma FOR SOME PEOPLE is high, the work should be handled by policies that reflect that reality. When you try to destroy my voice andthe voices of women who HAVE been traumatized by these kinds of experiences you yourself are talking over other women. There is plenty of room for people to have a variety of experience but you are literally telling me that standing for people I’ve seen raped by the sex industry is silencing anyone else I call bullshit. I will not let people who have been coerced into sex work be told their trauma isn’t real because others feel like sex work is great for them. And YES saying sex work and food service carry the same risk does exactly that. I damn well will argue against such arguments because they are destructive to other human beings.

      • amblingalong says:

        I will not let people who have been coerced into sex work be told their trauma isn’t real because others feel like sex work is great for them.

        NOBODY IS SAYING THIS.

        Jesus.

      • rox says:

        It has been stated in this thread many times that sex work carries the same risks as food service. I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is a huge difference in risk for the average person, despite individual experiences varying. The risk of sexual trauma involved in sex work, even consented to freely, makes it carry different risks than other forms of labor. I’m not comfortable with a movement that demands everyone agree that sex work carries the same risk as any other work in order to be pro-sex.

        If you’re talking about making sex work legal and also in the same thread talking about it carries the same emotional and psychological risks as any other job, I DO feel concerned. I already feel concerned about the porn industry and what people will consent to for money. There are a lot of women who are shaped by women’s rights activism and if the movement does activism to encourage all activist to state that sex work carries the same risk as any other job I DO believe it’s putting women at risk of making decisions that could result in sexual trauma and experiences that will be very hard to live with for some people.

        Advertising an industry as carrying the same risk as any other industry when I have seen with my own two eyes grown men sobbing hyterically on the floor over what they have let happen to themselves for money, or watched women state how empowered they feel doing sex work and then lose their minds and suddenly it comes out they feel tortured inside and have been ignoring it… these are just things I’ve seen and they happen. If decriminilazation helps women vulnerable to how sex work will affect them that’s great but it’s not in an of itself enough. The porn industry is legal and it still pulls in a lot of foster alumni, formerly homeless and women with mental health issues and abuse histories. That, to me, is a problem. To me, even if decriminilization is part of the picture, we need to do MORE to protect women from this. So yes when people say the food service and sex work carry the same risk, I literally think this is spreading misinformation that could cause people to make decisions that could be harmful to them trusting women’s activists voices to steer them right. Yes people should do more to know themselves than listen to others voices, but for people in crisis, sometiems your own voice is kind of fumbling around inthe dark and looking to other strong women is something many of us, including myself have done. I don’t want any part of steering people into potentially harm while telling them it’s safe and they won’t get hurt.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Roz: Just want to second the commenter above: I f-ing love your comments, too.

    • Let’s stipulate that sex work is work. In a feminist utopia there would be a lot less demand for that kind of work and a lot fewer people willing to perform it.

      There’s a lot less demand for geisha nowadays because gender relations have changed. You don’t need to hire a cultured woman to make conversation at your all-male gathering. You can invite your female friends instead.

      I predict that in a feminist utopia, paid sex will become increasingly anachronistic. It’s already on the decline. The more socially acceptable the NSA hookup becomes, the less attractive paid sex will be for most people.

      In a feminist utopia, even more women will be empowered to pursue casual sex when they want it. The virgin/whore dynamic fade away in feminist utopia, so more men will feel like they can ask for the sex they want from the women in their lives.

      In a feminist utopia, the supply of sex workers will probably be a lot smaller, too. A lot of women would leave sex work if they had better options.

      In my feminist utopia, people would still be free to be sex workers or johns–the same way one is free to be a buggy whip manufacturer today. It’s permitted, and a few people still do, it’s just not in synch with contemporary economic and cultural mores.

      • Miriam says:

        In my version of feminist utopia, sex work would not be anachronistic. It would instead be destigmatized and gender neutral. People of all genders would engage in transactional sex with providers of all genders for a variety of reasons (not in a long-term relationship but not interested in bar/club/online hook up, want to explore a new fetish or type of sex with a trustworthy, experienced practitioner, in a job with frequent travel, has a serious medical issue that has prevented finding a romantic partner).

        To me, sex work is a valuable form of work. I believe the main problems are the stigmas that keeps many sex workers legally, economically, and physically vulnerable. If we can admit that sex workers do exist who are freely choosing sex work, happy with sex work, well compensated for sex work, and generally working in safe, reasonable environments, then I think it’s more logical to set the goal to that all sex workers are freely choosing their work and are working safely and well compensated than to eliminating sex work. In a practical sense, I think the two positions should be advocating identical policies, but I think it matters that one defines sex work as valuable work and the other defines sex work as intrinsically undesirable work.

  10. rox says:

    I guess my point is that circumstantial duress that drives unwanted sex can result in sexual trauma.

    I would argue passionately that sexual trauma is unique as compared to enduring food service work or other unwanted work.

    • sabrina says:

      and I’m going to reiterate my question from above. Why? To all of those of you arguing this position have any of you actually done either sex work or food service? Do you have any idea what food service is actually like? Do you have any idea what sex work is actually like?

      • (BFing)Sarah says:

        Food service could not result in me being pregnant. Food service could not result in an STD. When working in food service, I am in the company of others and not alone with a stranger that could kill me. Those are differences.

      • sabrina says:

        any work you do with the public can give you diseases. As an example I quit my job working as a data entry clerk (entry level work) for a lab company because we were being forced to handle human specimens without being provided with proper safety equipment and my coworker ended up with MRSA because of it. When working in food service you frequently come into contact with people who can make you sick. People who handle cash all day can end up with warts. Jobs taken by poor people with no training who are in need of job to feed themselves are stuck with shitty options all around.

        As for pregnancy, I would concede your point if we had no way to reasonably prevent pregnancy from occurring. BC is 99% effective.

      • (BFing)Sarah says:

        Tell that to the women I know (two) who got pregnant on BC! And, actually, I spoke with woman the other day who got pregnant after having her tubes tied. Apparently, tubes can heal? Did not know that. Anyway, other forms of work don’t carry that kind of risk.

        Are you really arguing that getting a wart from handling cash all day or getting a cold from working with people is the same as contracting herpes or HIV? You could always wear gloves to avoid getting a wart from handling cash, can you wear gloves while being with clients for sex work (which would carry the same risk of getting warts on your hands…but with additional risks as well) and maintain them as a client? And, like you said, there are ways to avoid getting disease when working in a place like a lab, and had the lab been following the appropriate protocol, your co-worker would have been protected from that risk. How can you protect a sex worker from the risk of being killed when s/he meets a client alone? And being murdered is much more likely to occur as a sex worker than any other occupation, which I am sure you know. I don’t get the argument that sex work is the same as any other work. Sex is different from other forms of activities and I remain unconvinced that it is the same. I get the argument that all workers deserve rights, protections, and respect. But I’m just never going to be convinced that working at Dunkin Donuts is as risky as having sex for money.

      • sabrina says:

        Condoms are about as effective at preventing HIV as gloves are at preventing illnesses in a lab. I know that because we were required to sit through 18 hours of lectures about that before we could begin work about why it was important to wear gloves and masks (both of which were not always available) while handling blood products (we handled HIV+ blood with no gloves). I felt far safer as a sex worker alone in places with Johns than I did working food service at 3am in a bad neighborhood. What I don’t like is that we try and set sex work aside by claiming that it is so much worse than everything else meanwhile diminishing the very real problems with things like food service. Yes there are problems with sex work, but most of them can be drastically better if it was above ground and legal. Would sex workers still get raped by Johns? Probably, but that is a result of the culture we live in and not entirely inherent to sex work. It happens to lots of women in professions where they are left alone with men including professional positions. I’m not trying to mitigate the circumstances that sex workers are in. Sex work has very real threats associated with it. I just don’t see them as being any WORSE (different most definitely) than those associated with other forms of work.

      • sabrina says:

        Shfree said what I’m trying to say much more concise and eloquently down below btw.

      • Henry says:

        because of bodily autonomy. until you change the way the brains of most humans are wired, we are going to not want other people that close to us or inside us, or surrounding us just so that we may eat and have shelter. the only analogy I can think of is prize fighting where people consent to what would otherwise be assualts. imagine if the only job available to you was boxing.

      • Agreed, Henry. This whole line of argument is squicking me out.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Well put. Haven’t we heard enough of the “bodies are just meat, who cares what happens to them” from the non-feminists without having to hear it from supposed feminists as well?

      • The idea of having to let some man into my body, some man I did not love and did not desire (they have to go together for me) would be utterly horrific. I’ve done customer service for years, yeah it can be a crappy job on occasion but there is absolutely no comparison with coerced sex (coerced by circumstances).

      • thinksnake says:

        Yes, that’s fair, and it’s entirely understandable. But you aren’t everyone. That’s the key thing that needs to be understood.

      • As someone who feels EXACTLY as you do re: sex, can I suggest accommodating the idea that other people might feel differently?

      • jemima101 says:

        So feminism to you is opposing things that make you go urgh…ok so long as we know the level of the debate.

      • rox says:

        No, the point is that the risk of horrific trauma related to forced sex is something many women (and men) report and have to be medically treated for, sometimes with no cure and lifelong effects. If you can acknowledge PTSD withlifelong health effects is a reality for many people who experience unwanted sex then you might see why many of us see protecting vulnerable humans from that kind of lifelong trauma.

        I have not yet seen anyone claim that unwanted burger cooking can result in psychosis, dissociation, or the need for crisis mental health hospitalization due to trauma effects.

        I am TOTALLY DOWN with the idea some people feel fine about sex for money, sex without love etc. No argument for me if that is some people’s reality. But arguments that specifically put more vulnerable people at risk of severe trauma and PTSD because they decrease incentives to rescue people from coerced sex work (i.e. it’s the same risk as any other work)…. I think that literally puts humans at risk. Once we make sure there is a safety net in lace for women with issues that make them feel unable to safely survive without sex work– then I will support initiatives that focus on the experiences of sex workers who have options/feel comfortable and not traumatized by their experiences. I guess to me, preventing rape is more important than preventing unwanted food service work and is more important than designing sex work policy around the wants and needs of people who believe it carries no greater health risks than food service.

      • rox says:

        It’s very important the safety net be made out of lace.

        …. (place, rather)

      • Minerva says:

        Well, jemima, sort of yes, because the thing that makes me “go urgh” here is the set of corollaries to the idea that some bodies are worth money.

        1. some bodies (white/male/straight/abled/virginal/etc) are too ‘precious’ and special to have a monetary value placed on them.

        1a. if the bodies above lose some aspect of that quality that makes them special, they lose their ability to escape such valuation and lose the protections afforded by society

        2. some bodies (non-white/female/young/gay/bisexual/trans/disabled/etc) are available for monetary valuation, and it is the payer who decides what that valuation will be (with a range of potential violence to enforce such decisions).

        3. paying money for something in a market-based system of exchange produces certain automatic (and undesirable) social/psychological effects

        3a. something that can be purchased is, almost by necessity, reduced to an object (a “thing”) within the medium of market-based exchange

        3b. the act of purchase confers an unavoidable sense of ownership and control; once something has been purchased, the purchaser gets to decide how to use, whether to abuse, and when and how to discard that thing.

        If you have any doubts about 3 and it’s subsets, consider why customer service in all its many flavors and varieties sucks so robustly. The “I pay your salary” attitude is pervasive, pernicious and both morally and ethically reprehensible. I think it’s a lot worse when combined with the hangover of viewing some bodies (non-white/female/young/gay/bisexual/trans/disabled/etc) as less worthy than, and in some cases even as the property of, others. As such, I will work against any practice that encourages the attitude that some bodies can be owned or coerced for money in the hopes that one of these days the act of paying for sex will be seen as just as weirdly anachronistic and morally/ethically suspect as the act of purchasing a body to scrub floors, pick vegetables or care for children.

        In the meantime, I’m willing to discuss anything that keeps any kind of worker in charge of their autonomy and integrity, and especially anything that preserves the life, health and safety of those at the bottom of the spectrum.

        In answer to the question posed above (somewhere), in my at times quite colorful life I have been paid for sex, and I’ve worked in both food service and retail. While I agree that there are factors which are similar across all those practices, it is the differences which stand out for me, and chief among those is the set of attitudes and expectations (primarily those of control and ownership) conferred by the act of paying for something that is performed on and in a body (sex) as opposed to with a body (tree trimming and burger flipping).

      • jemima101 says:

        Erm….straight ,male cis and virginal bodies (or the services provided by the person) all have a value places on them. I know male sex workers, cis sex wokers, able bodied sex workers and am friends with someone who sold her virginity.

        The world is a bigger place than you think. The fact you dont know this, frankly invalidates the rest of what you say.

      • Minerva says:

        Okay, I’ve only lived in the US and France, so maybe I am missing something particular about the experience of cultural attitudes toward sex work in Britain.

        That said, I don’t see where I asserted that straight or male or able bodied people don’t become sex workers, or that someone couldn’t sell their virginity. At least here in the US, the differential opprobrium faced by male sex workers, or gay sex workers, or ostensibly ‘good girls’ who sell something as ‘precious’ as their virginity speaks volumes to the set of cultural pathologies which view some bodies as inherently ‘better’ and more ‘worthy’ than others. I know male sex workers too (though, admittedly, those I know are gay) and honestly I’d say that they were in more danger when working, mostly because of those cultural valuations which consider it more acceptable to sell sex when you are female and straight as opposed to male and/or gay.

        That I was referring to those attitudes (as opposed to asserting some reality about actual valuation of those bodies, or revealing some ignorance about whether or not people with those characteristics enter into sex work) should have been clear from the use of the quotes to call out the valuations, but I apologize if it wasn’t. And I apologize too for apparently forgetting to put ‘special’ in the same quotes up there.

        Oh, and I’ve seen quite a lot of the world, thanks. The fact that you are so eager to lash out at someone who doesn’t automatically defer to you (or to simply assume that they must be stupid), frankly, makes it difficult to see your objections as anything but petulant.

      • karak says:

        I work in food service and I’ve had Obligation Sexual interaction, and yeah, the second was a fuckload worse. Fuck. Load.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Oh karak, that’s just because you’re sooo conservative and sex-negative and oppressive!

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      It’s different for the reason that women are the sex class. We are the ones whose bodies are commodities. Also, gay men and trans* people fall into this category. Why? Because women, gay men, and trans* people are the “Other” – the Non-(white) male other.

      Without patriarchy, there would be no such thing as “sex work.”

  11. polarcontrol says:

    This whole question of where to draw the line about things we want to stay outside markets, is a political one. I’m communist in that sense. I’d like money to play a very limited role in relations between people. But as we live in a capitalist society, we have to draw more realist lines..
    Jill is right to emphasize “You don’t have to agree.”
    But we need the discussion because we need to make political decisions. So those arguing for (more or less full) legalization of prostitution/sex work, should make clear where they want to draw the line. Respond to worries such as those rox brought up.
    Or what do they think of this kind of scenarios: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/1482371/If-you-dont-take-a-job-as-a-prostitute-we-can-stop-your-benefits.html

    • umami says:

      That link is HORRIFYING and everyone who’s been arguing that rox’s scenario couldn’t possibly ever happen needs to read it right away.

      It is from 2005. I assume that the German did something to fix things, or the situation would have degenerated massively since then and there would presumably be international human rights backlash against Germany.

      But I’d really like to be sure. Does anyone know?

      Regardless, the article does show that it’s easier to open the door to that kind of scenario than you’d think, despite it sounding like something out of an MRA’s dystopian wank fantasy.

    • Schmorgluck says:

      I was about to mention that, but just to be safe I double-checked it: it’s been debunked by Snopes and various other sources.

      • hey Schmorg, hope you`re doing better re: health, now.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Working on it. I’d go into more details, but that would be off-topic.

      • polarcontrol says:

        Well thank god it’s not quite that bad. But still, legalising prostitution/sex work would require quite specific regulation as to the normalcy of the work..
        Another bit of relevant news from Germany (but don’t know the full story behind this either):
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/brothel-job-german-teenager_n_2632012.html?utm_hp_ref=business

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but she was told she had a WAITRESSING opportunity at a brothel. Not “spread your legs, woman!” Waitressing.

        I mean, by that count, the librarians at my college are doing exactly the same work as the custodians, because they both work in the same physical location.

      • afb1221 says:

        I agree there is a difference between working as a waitress and actually doing sex work. But, that doesn’t mean the story isn’t a concern. Assuming no one should be made to work, in any capacity, at a brothel if they don’t want to. I don’t think a library is a fair comparison.

      • Assuming no one should be made to work, in any capacity, at a brothel if they don’t want to. I don’t think a library is a fair comparison.

        For fuck’s sake. Yes, how dare that employment bureau find someone a job at a place where Women Of Loose Morals might be! I mean, it’s not like she asked them to find her a job (though she did), or like the job was anything but sex work (though it was), or she was 100% not allowed to turn it down (though she did). Yes. The horror. Clearly she was almost raped just by walking past places where sex might be happening. *clutches pearls*

      • Henry says:

        I just love it when people demand women work at brothels as “staff”. You guys are almost republicans with your work-fare views. Have you ever set foot in one of these places, have you ever talked to cops who work vice? there’s shit going on that will make you rip that pearl necklace right off and cry mac. These bartenders are going to end up being pressured to hook – it’s not a surprise the employers are posting looking for female staff. Stop being such naive assholes and open your eyes. pimps and madames employ a variety of techniques to groom women for prostitution.

      • I just love it when people demand women work at brothels as “staff”.

        I’m sorry, did anyone here DEMAND she work in a brothel? Myself included?

        there’s shit going on that will make you rip that pearl necklace right off and cry mac.

        AND AGAIN, fucknut, I never said she HAD to work there, my point was that she wasn’t being FORCED to work there.

      • For the record, before Henry or rox finds new and fascinating things to accuse me of: I do not support anyone working anywhere they don’t want to. However, I don’t consider getting a letter saying “hey, there’s a job here”, and then turning the job down, to be QUITE on the same scale as being trafficked. People get job offers all the time that they decide not to fucking take up because they find it grody/immoral/inconvenient/underpaid/strenuous/boring/whatever. Forgive me for not thinking a rejected job offer is a symptom of the oncoming THE GUBMINT MAKES ME SELL MYSELF apocalypse.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Mac, I understand that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like nails, but you don’t actually need to ragesaur against everyone you interact with on this thread, even if they disagree with you. :p

      • amblingalong says:

        Assuming no one should be made to work, in any capacity, at a brothel if they don’t want to. I don’t think a library is a fair comparison.

        Why is that an assumption anyone should make?

    • Henry says:

      Oh My F-ing God. Seems they’ve advanced back to the 1940s in Germany – oh wait the policy is not restricted to blond hair blue eyed women…progress, every woman can be forced into hooking.

      Can anyone say European Court of Human Rights?

    • jemima101 says:

      Made up story that never happened, check your facts

  12. rox says:

    I don’t know what circles you folk are in, but among poor people and disabled and mentally ill that I’ve lived among and worked with there IS pressure to do what you need to do to earn money including sex work. I’ve been encouraged to entertain certain john’s, or to do nude modelling or amatuer porn sessions and the the underground networks that connect people to these kinds of work fairly well.

    So it’s actually NOT some out there proposition that people would be shamed for taking disability benefits rather than doing sex work because it already happens. And if sex work isn’t psychologically damaging, then really, disabled people probably SHOULD do sex work. It matches a lot of disability requirements and is in demand and I think people should contribute to society. And social shaming is one method to encourage people to at least try to work and contribute which is a good thing.

    So is sex work doesn’t have any ill effects, why SHOULD people be allowed to not do sex work when they can’t manage other types of jobs?

    • Elena says:

      What about surrogate pregnancies? Should that option be required to be explored ?

      • rox says:

        I think surrogate pregnancy is a concerning ethical landmine, yes. I have been used for womb capacity in the form if infant adoption and the experience was horrifying and traumatizing. And of course I “consented” with my “free agency” so it was such an empowering decision! Yay female empowerment! So glad feminism can tell me how awesome and wanted my experience of losing my child was for me because I consented to it so it was clearly an awesome empowered decision!

        I’ve never deliberately carried a child for the sake of recieving money, but I find that problematic both as an adoptee, and female person with a woman who knows what poverty and desperation can do to many people’s psyches

      • So glad feminism can tell me how awesome and wanted my experience of losing my child was for me because I consented to it so it was clearly an awesome empowered decision!

        PLEASE stop putting words in “feminism’s” mouth. You’re being fucking insulting. If you’re coerced into making a choice you’re not happy with, it’s not an empowering decision. Empowerment is not a concept that can be applied to that.

        But you know what, fine. You don’t have any agency. You’re a meat puppet and ALL WOMEN are exactly like you. No disabled or poor people disagree with your whacked-out reasoning, your frankly insulting ideas about poor people having no agency or self-determination whatsoever, not to mention your tinfoil-hat paranoia about government-imposed prostitution for poor people. If we do, we’re all imaginary. Done talking to you.

      • A4 says:

        Did you know that you are the only person on this thread using the word “empowered” or “empowerment”?

        I personally don’t use that word much because I have no conception of what it is supposed to mean.

      • rox says:

        Ok so do you propose something to protect people in poverty from being asked to do sexual favors they don’t want to do for money in the workplace?

        Do you believe in having any protections on workers against submitting to exploitive conditions due to their own situation of poverty? Or do you think such protections are too paternalistic and we shold abolish workers rights in general favoring instead peoples free agency to guide what toxic/dangerous things they are willing to do for money?

      • rox says:

        I’m genuinely asking so before you continue to insult me, consider that when I ask about your position, I’m genuinely trying to understand.

        I personally think cults and abusive relationships and exploitive employers can really harm people, and that people who are vulnerable to that deserve to be protected from it.

        I get that many people are smart enough to be safe from relationship abuse, sexual abuse, or abuse in the workplace, but for those of us who are vulnerable, do you… you know… care or think protections might be a good idea?

      • Rox, what are you even fucking talking about? This makes about as much sense as that fetal food product ban.

      • I’m genuinely asking so before you continue to insult me, consider that when I ask about your position, I’m genuinely trying to understand.

        Listen here, you disingenuous fucknut. I’m not saying fuck-all about workers’ rights. I’m saying that YOUR fucking RIDICULOUS theory that legalising sex work will lead to poor people being forced into prostitution, which has NO facts backing it up except two debunked stories and one that has fuck-all to do with being asked to do sex-work, IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS. And to turn around and variously accuse me of arguing with you because you’re speaking up for the poor and disabled and saying I want workers to have no rights at all, and then saying I’m insulting YOU?

        I SAID FUCK-ALL ABOUT ABOLISHING WORKERS’ RIGHTS. Seriously, anyone can scroll up and see that I’ve said precisely word zero about it! Why are you even trying to make out like I’m saying that? Why the fuck are you asking me these horrible questions?

        Ok so do you propose something to protect people in poverty from being asked to do sexual favors they don’t want to do for money in the workplace?

        Sexual harassment laws.

        Do you believe in having any protections on workers against submitting to exploitive conditions due to their own situation of poverty?

        Laws against rape.

        Or do you think such protections are too paternalistic and we shold abolish workers rights in general favoring instead peoples free agency to guide what toxic/dangerous things they are willing to do for money?

        Laws for workers’ safety.

        THESE THINGS FUCKING EXIST, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE. THEY ALREADY FUCKING EXIST. RAPE IS ALREADY A CRIME. SEX TRAFFICKING IS ALREADY A CRIME. WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS ALREADY A CRIME.

        Look, I get it. It’s nice in your little paranoid brown-paper-copy of a thought-process. But these things ALREADY EXIST. I DID NOT RECOMMEND REMOVING THEM. WHAT ARE YOU EVEN ACCUSING ME OF SAYING?

        Fuck you, seriously. Just fuck you.

      • rox says:

        I’m saying that if you agree with me that sex due to a situation of coercion, financial or otherwise is rape, than wouldn’t most sex work done for the sake of money be rape? And shouldn’t we have labor laws protecting workers from agreeing to inhumane conditions such as being asked to submit to sex they don’t want in order to have income? I wish you would clarify your position a bit more instead of focusing on insulting me. I honestly have no idea what you’re trying to advocate other than try to insult my sanity and writing style and ideas. I hear that you disagree, can you clarify what your stance even is other than “not mine” and that makes you want to tell me how irrelevent and meaningless I am to you over and over? I’m starting to feel like I’m being gaslighted, honestly. If you want to talk ideas, share your yours. We might have the same vision to begin with and you’re picking at me over semantics.

      • rox says:

        Also, I have not once here mentioned that the solution to my concerns is to make sex work illegal. You’re arguing with me as if that’s what I’m saying. I’m saying “Ok you want it to be legal, how do we protect vulnerable people in need of money from being exploited by their own desperation?”

        Considering we do have laws to protect workers from agreeing to inhumane conditions and we are in agreement that agreeing to sex out of desperation for stable shelter, food, and living expenses for children is rape, shouldn’t we try to find a way to protect people from this? The way we make regulations in work places to protect people from other hazards or health risks? I would say unwanted sex carries a risk of trauma that unwanted coffee making does not quite carry.

      • rox, I answered and it went into mod.

        I wish you would clarify your position a bit more instead of focusing on insulting me.

        I’m trying to do that. My tl;dr is everyone is coerced to some extent to do any work. My wife wouldn’t go to work if she could get paid for staying home, either. Neither would I, or most people!

        If you’re going to speak of direct coercion (say, your boss at your McDonalds telling you “fuck me or lose your job”) that’s a whole other thing, and already covered by existing laws against doing things like…sexual coercion, or rape, or workplace harassment, or whatever. It’s ALREADY covered!

        Indirect coercion of the “well, I can make more money doing sex work than delivering pizzas, so I guess I should do sex work” is no more coerced than, say, “well, I can make more money working 15 hours a week than working 3 and playing video games for 12, so I guess I should work 15 hours a week”. If someone is being barred from doing work NOT sex work, that’s already illegal. If someone is being forced into doing sex work, that’s already illegal! I seriously don’t see what your big problem is.

      • rox says:

        Yes but there are many people who can’t handle showing up to work regularly due to mental health issues. Getting disability benefits is really hard and not everyone who is impaired at working qualifies for benefits.

        I have lived with and worked with many homeless/couchserfing and underemployed people with this problem. I feel like looking out for this population IS a women’s rights issue because sex work is the number one choice for women in this situation and many ARE traumatized by it because they do feel powerless and don’t have many doors open. I can tell that doesn’t matter to you and you want to scream I’m an asshole. Ok, cool.

      • Yes but there are many people who can’t handle showing up to work regularly due to mental health issues. Getting disability benefits is really hard and not everyone who is impaired at working qualifies for benefits.

        You say this like I have no mental health issues or don’t know anything about having to work to pay bills. Fascinating, considering I’ve repeatedly said otherwise.

        I feel like looking out for this population IS a women’s rights issue because sex work is the number one choice for women in this situation and many ARE traumatized by it because they do feel powerless and don’t have many doors open. I

        Which is a question re: reforming welfare systems, not grounds for claiming that the government’s coming to make prostitutes of us all. And, again, has fuck-all to do with people who CHOOSE to do sex work.

      • Oh, and again with the saying that the poor and disabled do not matter to me. Who’s gaslighting who here, lady?

      • amblingalong says:

        I can tell that doesn’t matter to you

        Holy shit, Rox. That is some exquisitely refined assholery, right there.

      • rox says:

        Yes but we don’t HAVE that welfare system in place. That’s exactly my point- without that welfare system in place how can people faced with poverty or sex work be experiencing anything other than rape in choosing sex work over nothing?

        I want to change the welfare system to and I think think should a goal of femists who care about women forced by poverty and difficulty working to do sex work.

        I’m not understanding how you can say, essentially that people who choose sex work because they can’t do any other work are being raped, but then also say that sex work isn’t harmful to people who choose it. So you do believe that people who choose sex work due to poverty are being raped? In which case, you think that type of sex work should be illegal? But who decides whether the person is choosing based on duress or not? In terms of the legal system? If it’s rape, that should be illegal right?

      • I’m not understanding how you can say, essentially that people who choose sex work because they can’t do any other work are being raped, but then also say that sex work isn’t harmful to people who choose it.

        Finally a non-disingenuous question.

        Sex work isn’t harmful to people who CHOOSE it. i.e. it is not a choice you’re making because the other choice is “die starving”. It is a choice you’re making because it earns you more money than your current/former profession, or because it’s better work in your eyes, or whatever.

        I do not consider someone who chooses “X” rather than death to be CHOOSING X.

        To use a non-sex-work analogy: say I’m making a living wage at my current job, A, but it’s boring and I don’t like it. I see a chance to find job B, which offers more benefits and pay, but is much more demanding. The pay and benefits matters to me, and so I choose to do job B. I know that I am capable of doing job A, and can switch back to job A if I find job B too strenuous or tiring, though it may take me a little while to find another job A. In this case, I have a genuine choice between job A and B, so whichever I’m sticking with, I’m choosing.

        On the other hand, if the scenario were: I’m not making a living wage at my current job, A. My kid is in hospital and racking up bills, there’s creditors at my door, I can’t even do job A properly because I’m disabled and stressed out, and CPS is keeping an eye on me and I’m terrified of losing my child. Someone offers me job B, which has enough pay to keep my kid safe and lets me handle my disabilities. At this point, I don’t care what job B is, I don’t have a choice but to accept it.

        I hope that clarifies my analysis.

      • Ismone says:

        macavity, you are crossing some serious lines here.

        Rox and others can disagree with you. The abusive language is really going too far.

      • macavity, you are crossing some serious lines here.

        Rox and others can disagree with you. The abusive language is really going too far.

        Right. My words: disingenuous, fucknut, paranoid, asshole. Fuck you. Words that, by the bloody way, 90% of the commentariat here has used at one point or another. Donna, EG, Jill, Caperton, me, Li, Steve, any of the regulars. None of those comments got redacted, I didn’t get a warning, none of the mods decided to take issue with any of my “abusive” words.

        Her accusations: I don’t care about poor/disabled people, I want to dismantle all workers’ rights, poor/disabled women don’t matter to me, I’m gaslighting her, I’m abusing her, I’m telling her she’s meaningless (none of which I have done and I defy anybody to prove such a thing from any damn comment I’ve left on this thread; saying someone’s ideas are ridiculous and paranoid is not gaslighting or abusing them). Henry’s accusations: I’m “demanding” people work in brothels.

        But I’M the one crossing lines? While they’re just “disagreeing”? Excuse me for getting a little defensive. How about I turn up in the next thread, call you a neo-Nazi transphobic misogynist out of nowhere in really polite language, and see how fuzzy and G-rated your responses are?

      • Ismone says:

        Macavity,

        I have reread your comments and hers, and I stand by my criticism. I know I am not a mod, but I think Rox is speaking from her experience, and you are calling her all kinds of names.

        You can call me what you want. All it does is discredit you.

        But I don’t like seeing someone abused like Rox was for having a different opinion.

        I think you say a lot of great stuff. But you also tend, on this and other threads, to extrapolate a shit ton, and not apologize for misstating/misinterpreting beliefs of others.

        And I’ve been here a damn long time, and this is only like the fourth or fifth time I have called out another long-time commenter. (I don’t count trolls.) So I average well under less than one a year.

        You are of course free to think I am totally wrong in this. And there isn’t anything I can or will do about that.

      • I know I am not a mod, but I think Rox is speaking from her experience, and you are calling her all kinds of names.

        Point me to a statement where I explicitly denied any of rox’s experiences. Or hell, even implicitly. I’d be fascinated, as I’ve done nothing of the sort. I’m allowed to disagree with people’s opinions, particularly when they’re busy telling me I don’t give a shit about poor/disabled women. And repeatedly acting as if I’m not knowing wherethefuckof I speak when it comes to being disabled. Or not-rich. And sure, I called her names, but they’re no more severe than anyone calls anyone here. I certainly didn’t gaslight her.

        I think you say a lot of great stuff. But you also tend, on this and other threads, to extrapolate a shit ton, and not apologize for misstating/misinterpreting beliefs of others.

        Yes, I do this and I am trying to stop. But I find it really fucking hard to believe that rox is somehow saying “fuzzy puppies and kittehs!” when the words are “clearly that doesn’t matter to you and you just want to scream”.

        What beliefs of rox’s am I misstating? What statement am I misinterpreting? Pray clarify. (and I did misunderstand her statement about arguing just because she’s disabled.)

        For the rest, frankly, I don’t give a shit. I can respect someone’s experiences without coddling their whacked-out theories of government-imposed sex trafficking for poor people being a consequence of decriminalisation.

      • amblingalong says:

        I have reread your comments and hers, and I stand by my criticism. I know I am not a mod, but I think Rox is speaking from her experience, and you are calling her all kinds of names.

        You can just fuck right off with the tone-trolling. Rox has said some deeply shitty things, not least of which is accusing Macavity of hating disabled people and poor people when she’s explicitly identified with both of those categories. In the face of that type of gaslighting bullshit you accuse her of being abusive?

        Just… stop.

      • rox says:

        Oh please. The one thing you’re accusing me of is believing macavity doesn’t care about the concerns I’m presenting towards disabled and poor people who might consent to sex work and I said that because it DID seem like she didn’t care about the concerns I was presenting.

        If my understanding is wrong you can correct that without screaming insults and fuck you’s at me. I honestly don’t think our vision of how to create better supports is all that different and I think you’ve determined to make me into an enemy that isn’t even there because everyone is really charged and really raw right now. I get that and I forgive your anger and misinterpretation and hope that maybe some day you can forgive any unclear statements that made you feel I was somehow “against” you.

        Or not, it’s whatever. But I really wish that those of us who want to change things for the sake of women in need would try to work together to do that rather than tear each other apart. I think we need to be making better services to help women who have difficulty getting through school, managing life in the workplace and getting out minimum wage professions that aren’t going any where. We need to create broader disability definitions and provide services to people who are unable to work and need housing and food and help with living expenses.

        If we can agree about all this, why must you scream fuck you at me just because I WILL NOT agree that sex work carries the same risk as flipping burgers? That seems to be the one area that people are getting angry at me over and I think it’s important because the risk of trauma with unwanted sex is huge for some women. Just because I stand by the fact that my friends, my family members who were harmed by consenting to sex in difficult circumstances endured trauma that deserves to be acknowledged, I can also respect that plenty of people don’t mind unwanted sex or want to have sex for money and don’t feel exploited or harmed.

        You seem upset that I accused you of not caring about disabled people. On one occasion you claim I was accusing you of that you missed that I literally was saying the opposite and you’re problem was with my typing. On another occasion it DID seem like my concerns of people being exploited were being dismissed. I don’t think pointing that out is abusive or insulting. I genuinely would like to clear up what misunderstandings are there.

      • rox says:

        No-I pointed out the idea of government enforced sex work as the result of literally believing sex work carries the same risk for most people that food service does.

        You assumed I meant that if we make it legal it would cause government enforced sex work. That was not AT ALL what I said. I said that IF sex work carries the same risk then, why not? Why is that a crazy idea? We already require people work to get food and if they can’t run a cash register due to dyslexia or they tend to me irregular at maintaining a 40 hour work week then why not require sex work? The backlash “Well DUH that would be horrible!” speaks to the fact that most of us, even people arguing sex work is “the same” in terms of risk, is not actually the same. Because unwanted sex work is essentially sexual slavery. Which is different than unwanted food service work, which I also think is a type of slavery but involved very different amounts of trauma and psychological risk. I am NOT worried that decriminalization will result in the government forcing people to do sex work. I AM wondering why you think that’s such a terrible idea if you really believe that sex work and food service carry the same risks to the human psyche.

        What’s more you’re not even the person who has been claiming sex work and food service carry THE SAME risks, so I’m not sure why you entered into this screaming insults at me. My problem is not with decriminalization,per se, but with promoting AS FACT to young women that sex work carries no psychological risks beyond food service and then having no accountability for trying to protect people who enter a newly decriminalized sex industry assuming it won’t harm them and DO get psychologically harmed by their experiences. I’ve seen too many people harmed by having sex out of need to be even remotely willing to agree that having sex out of need for a living wage carries the same psychological risk as pizza making. I’m honestly not sure they we have a disagreement if you would stop putting words into my mouth. I get that FOR YOU poverty means one thing and I believe you know about poverty and disability. I’m not sure that you have as many disabled employment challenged friends who’ve felt trapped in sex work/transactional sex as I’ve had, and if so, I’m trying to understand why you don’t seem sympathetic to the fact that some people in this position feel harmed by doing sex work from that position.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Mac, by the time you’re screaming abuse at a rape survivor who is talking about her experiences, do you ever stop and think “huh, look at me”? Or do you skip that and go straight to the gaslighting accusations?

      • Mac, by the time you’re screaming abuse at a rape survivor who is talking about her experiences, do you ever stop and think “huh, look at me”? Or do you skip that and go straight to the gaslighting accusations?

        Goddamn it. I said I wouldn’t come back, but this is too fucking much.

        1) I didn’t scream abuse at her. I gave Ismone a list of every word I used that was remotely insulting, and you have used every one of those words yourself in comments. Sometimes even to refer to me! Shall I look up those instances of “abuse” on your part and provide you with links? I capslocked “fucking asshole” once because she asked me if I wanted to dismantle all workers’ rights when I had said nothing of the sort. Once.

        2) I did not denigrate, deny or erase her experiences. I disagreed with her opinions re: how her experiences generalise and what she thinks the consequences of destigmatising sex work will be. If at any point I mocked, or erased or denigrated her rapes, POINT IT OUT TO ME. No, seriously, do it.

        3) What?!?! I said “who’s gaslighting who?” once, sarcastically. Other than that, she’s the one who’s been accusing me of gaslighting her! Repeatedly! I made no accusations of gaslighting on rox’s part.

        What the fuck is this comment even? I seriously… I don’t get where you guys are getting this shit from, because it’s sure as fuck not my comments. Even rox didn’t say I was accusing her of gaslighting me!

      • Donna L says:

        Bagelsan, you’re really not being helpful. And you’re hardly in a position to lecture other commenters about being disrespectful in the first place. Just because you prefer sneering at people to shouting at them doesn’t make what you do any more palatable.

      • rox says:

        The only thing I have accused you of macavity is being uncaring. And I stand by that. You are definitely being uncaring toward me and the people I am advocating for. Your insults quite literally make me feel panicked and overwhelmed and it’s much harder to make sense when I’m having PTSD symptoms. I’ve been trying to function with men screaming insults and death threats at me and remaining calm for years, so yes I lose focus and my words make less sense. I also have a learning disability and it makes it hard for me to make my words match what I’m trying to say. I hardly think that makes me worthy of your verbal abuse. And yes telling someone “Fuck you” and the kind of insults you have hurled at me is verbal abuse whether you want to admit or not. Me saying your beliefs sound uncaring is not abuse. You DO seem uncaring. And really harmful and hurtful to people in pain, such as myself.

        “rox has said many awful things.” Um I’ve called macavity out for being hurtful. That’s SO TERRIBLE isn’t it! Look you’re mocking me for wanting to protect women from harmful sexual experiences in sex work. IF that’snot your intent, I genuinely want to understand why you’re so pissed at me for wanting to point out that sex work carries unique risks I want to see women (And men for that matter) protected from. I have not stated crimilization is the solution to my concerns. I simply want my concerns addressed in a form other than “fuck you”. You’re welcome to stop talking to me but I have not EVEN ONCE said that “macavity hates poor people”

        Putting words into my mouth and then screaming fuck you at me for them? Yes that is abusive and it’s bullying. The fact you’r operating as a team and cheering each other on doesn’t make it any more humane.

      • rox says:

        Also your experience with mental health issues and disability and poverty is not the same as everyone’s. For you, your disability might not have made it feel like sex work was the only option to survive. For some people it does. Those are the people I’m talking about putting protections in place for. I’m not even sure that you disagree with me on this point so…. what is really your beef with what I’m saying? That I’m “not respecting your experiences”?

        What would it look like, and what would I say if I was “respecting your experiences”?

        The people I think need protection exist and I believe you that you are not one of them and that you know about poverty and disability and that your experiences are valid. None of that means I have to stop wanting to advocate protections for people who ARE vulnerable to accepting traumatic work due to difficult circumstances.

      • Donna L says:

        I like and respect both of you. I wish this could stop now.

      • Bagelsan says:

        “I didn’t scream abuse at her.”

        Listen here, you disingenuous fucknut.
        YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE.
        It’s nice in your little paranoid brown-paper-copy of a thought-process.
        Fuck you, seriously. Just fuck you.

        Right. Of course. Nothing to see here. Just mac doing her usual thing. 9_9

      • rox says:

        Yeah, unlikely. I have found that macavity has tended to follow me around here heckling everything I say as nonsensical and not worth listening to. I think she has decided I have harmful intents regardless of what I say and there is quite literally nothing I could possibly say that would cause her stop seeing everything I write through the lense I am trying to attack her somehow or have terrible intents of terrible harm.

        At my worst, I am unclear and convoluded, I hardly think that my actual beliefs carry anything so dreadful as macavity has determined me secret malicious disengenuine intents are.

        Out of curiousity, what do you think my intent is macavity? Why do you feel like I have a secret harmful agenda?

      • Caperton says:

        Despite practically everyone involved having valid points and perspectives, this line of discussion isn’t accomplishing anything and is causing a lot of hurt. I can’t ask anyone to divorce their emotions from the topic at hand, because it’s a very emotional topic, but this is a space for impassioned and heated discussion — not fighting.

      • shfree says:

        I have lived with and worked with many homeless/couchserfing and underemployed people with this problem. I feel like looking out for this population IS a women’s rights issue because sex work is the number one choice for women in this situation and many ARE traumatized by it because they do feel powerless and don’t have many doors open.

        But if this is already the first choice for women and it is dangerous, detrimental and coerced, explain to me how it would be WORSE if it becomes legal, when it would be covered by laws that govern all other workplaces? It seems to me that the problem isn’t the sex work in and of itself, but the lack of resources available to these women.

        Basically, yes, these women are getting the shitty end of the stick by feeling pushed into sex work. They definitely deserve more, and they are being failed by the system for not getting the aid they need. However, keeping sex work criminalized will do nothing to change their life circumstances.

      • rox says:

        Yes but all the pro-legalization MEN I talk to have this vision that sex work is great and just like food service because for some women it is. Which means they presume they are off the hook for essentially raping women who don’t know any other way to make money.

        My point is, the legalization claims seemed to be focused around the needs of women who like being in sex work and think it’s healthy and carries no worse effects than food service or other low paying work.

        Men I know who are REALLY ADAMANT that sex work is great for women, don’t understand the reality that many women do feel forced by circumstances into the work. And some of these men are people involved in policy decisions that affect the ability to help protect women from being forced into the sex industry. If sex work carries the same risk as food service, then why bother making initiatives to save women from it? We have to acknowledge that unwanted sex is something that we should protect women from and in order to make those initiatives on the table to protect women, we can’t also be claiming that all women are just as affected by sex work as any other job.

      • rox says:

        Often it’s not the “First choice” for women. It starts off happening because, while men can often couch serf without being required to take it up the ass (homeless men are subject to rape and sexual abuse as well though and it’s just as horrible)– women instead tend to get raped, or to be required to have sex for staying places. Once you get used to it, it becomes the “first choice” by default of greater pressure being put on you to accept it in order to get needs met.

        Plenty of the same guys that do this to women, also let men couch serf without forcing/requiring sex of them. If we make it clear that that behavior is abuse and not “fair trade” then it not only sends the message to the men in all walks of society that abusing people like this is heinous, but it also sends the message that no one deserves to be treated that way. That should not be legal.

      • rox says:

        Also sexual abuse and rape can cause cognitive impairment, memory problems, dissociative disorders, and other problems that make it very hard to do anything other than sex work. When solutions involve things like “Let’s just put these women who feel trapped in sex work into school” the results are terrible because time management, stable energy, memory, and cognition are impaired making it hard to do school or jobs that involve accuracy and focus.

        Which means that by default the more sexual trauma you endure the less your capacity to do other kinds of work. I get that women who feel like sex work is the equivalent of serving coffee FOR THEM, it’s really shitty to proclaim that therefore other women’s experiences that have resulted in severe trauma, dissociation, psychosis, cognitive impairment is “the same” as what happens to people cooking pizza. It’s really basic science that sexual trauma causes different problems than food service industry work, although I think any profession can cause mental health problems when the person isn’t suited to it, their life factors don’t provide a buffer against it, or the conditions are particularly hazardous.

      • rox says:

        I would like to make it clear that I DO NOT think all sex workers are enduring trauma. But because SOME women are traumatized in ways that are unique compared to other work hazards in terms of dissociation/psychosis and other mental health problems worsened or caused by sexual trauma and because sex work that feels forced IS essentially sexual trauma– there should be special precautions UNLIKE OTHER INDUSTRIES to prevent people from being trapped in that kind of work due to difficult circumstances. Feeling trapped in sex work is being a sex slave. Feeling trapped into serving sodas feels like slavery too, but sexual slavery I believe carries different mental health effects and trauma risks.

    • sabrina says:

      We’re not saying that it is not possible for it to be harmful for some people in some situations. We are saying that other alternative jobs can and do cause the same amount of personal trauma. Personally I think we would be better off fighting for people on disability and unemployment benefits not being coerced into taking employment. There are ways to ensure that someone is looking for a job, getting the training that they need to get a job they are better suited for, and not being coerced into a job.

      • the_leanover says:

        We are saying that other alternative jobs can and do cause the same amount of personal trauma.

        Everyone who keeps saying to rox ‘nobody is arguing that sex work and other jobs are the same and have the same potential for trauma!!!’: right here, someone is saying exactly that.

        Let me break this down: for you, personally, and undoubtedly for many others, doing sex work is a less traumatic or degrading experience than working long hours in food service, or domestic work, or whatever. Nobody seems to be arguing with that. What rox is arguing is that the trauma you personally would experience from being coerced into food service (or pick whatever traumatic job!) is not equivalent to the trauma experienced by a woman coerced into sex work. I know it’s not considered cool to play ‘my trauma is worse than yours’, but being coerced by poverty into a shitty job does not have the same mental health implications as being coerced by poverty into being repeatedly raped (and you all seem to agree that if sex work is someone’s only realistic option, as opposed to just a preferable option, it’s rape). You can’t seriously disagree with that. Other jobs do not have the potential to cause the same amount of personal trauma, and I’m talking about the jobs in themselves – obviously things like dangerous working conditions and sexual harassment can cause a working experience to be traumatic; the difference with sex work is that it’s the very nature of the work itself that causes the trauma. That doesn’t mean that anyone thinks that other coerced work is fine and good, and it doesn’t mean I think that women who would rather do sex work should be coerced into doing other work that they find more traumatic. It does mean that sex work needs to be treated as a special case in terms of its potential for trauma, both from a policy perspective and in terms of the ethical implications of purchasing sexual services.

      • rox says:

        thank you thank you thank you.

  13. rox says:

    What’s more social pressure to do sex work to support a family adequately can be pretty strong and again– if sex work has no ill effects- than shouldn’t people do their best to earn an income that adequately supports their children?

    If we can’t admit that for SOME people sex work is horrifically traumatizing- we ARE setting up a framework by which people who are poor and don’t WANT to be penetrated to anyone with cash in hand don’t have a barrier against it. In places where it’s legal and acceptable, women ARE often expected and encouraged to do sex work to support their families if it gets their kids out of poverty.

    If it’s going to cause trauma to the mother, there could be good reasons for the kids well being to not do sex work that would leave her severely emotionally and psychologically disabled in terms of caregiving– so if we can’t allow that to be weighed into the equation and we want to force society to accept that sex work and flipping burgers carry the same psychological risks, we essentially are arguing in favor of all poor people with kids doing sex work.

    • In places where it’s legal and acceptable, women ARE often expected and encouraged to do sex work to support their families if it gets their kids out of poverty.

      CITATION PLEASE.

      we want to force society to accept that sex work and flipping burgers carry the same psychological risks, we essentially are arguing in favor of all poor people with kids doing sex work.

      MOAR CITATION PLEASE. Has anyone seriously ever instituted a government policy to this effect, like you’re saying? “No more welfare, go get raped instead”? I mean no fucking seriously is anyone going to do this, because I’m disabled and verging on poor in this country and if there were people saying this shit ANYWHERE I would be paying attention, by the way.

      • afb1221 says:

        polarcontrol’s comment above has one example.

      • Yes. And I watch Game of Thrones, so I’m also aware of the ice-zombie apocalypse threat. That story’s been debunked, dude.

      • afb1221 says:

        I’m glad it’s been debunked. I didn’t know that when pointing to it and I’m arguing in good faith here. So, the sarcasm strikes me as unkind and unhelpful. Though, of course, you don’t owe me anything.

      • A4 says:

        Mac you are not being nice and helpful enough!

      • amblingalong says:

        How dare you not be nice to the posters claiming you hate disabled people.

      • *reads A4 and amblingalong’s comments*

        *bursts into tears* I’LL BE NICE FROM NOW ON I SWEAR

      • afb1221 says:

        I claimed macavitykitsune hates disabled people? I’m attempting to comment on the ideas up for discussion, not the people expressing the ideas. I agreed with part of what rox said, and expressed my agreement. I did not intend anything personal against macavitykitsune whose contributions I respect.

      • afb, I think they were referring to rox, not you. You’ve never said anything rude to me afaik. (That said, I was being sarcastic because I’m really tired of the strawmen being propped up all over this thread by rox, and her personal attacks on me, and I’m sorry I spewed it at you.)

      • afb1221 says:

        macavitykitsune, thanks and fair enough.

    • Hrovitnir says:

      This comment thread is melting my brain. Decriminalisation helps sex workers. Illegality hurts sex workers: sex workers by choice, coercion or force.

      The idea that sex work is seen as a valid and upstanding job ANYWHERE? Hahahaha. NO. Really not a problem.

      NZ decriminalised prostitution in 2004. Legislation pushed and crafted by a groundroots sex worker collective.

      http://www.nzpc.org.nz/page.php?page_name=About%20Us

      Of course there is a lot of corruption and abuse and it’s a horrific situation for plenty of people. But being criminalised and incredibly vunerable to police is not an improvement.

  14. rox says:

    I’m saying even if the government didn’t force it, if we teach the message sex work is as healthy/neutral/unhealthy for human beings as food service, then why WOULDn’t poor women do sex work to improve their children’s lives?

    The social and circumstantial pressure is already there and if we claim as CERTAINTY that sex work carries no greater risk, then we ARE encouraging people who care about the economic stability of their family to do sex work if they aren’t as good at other work.

    How is it “rape” if you’re arguing that enduring unwanted sex for money is an empowering choice of free agency? I’m just confused why you’re so adamant that it would be rape if “the government” put pressure on a woman to do this but it’s not rape if circumstances themselves put pressure on a woman to do this to support her family? I’m genuinely confused as to what makes you define this as “willing” vs “forced” if both scenarios involve some degree of consent and some degree of social pressure in various forms?

    • Natalia says:

      So? Some people wouldn’t go into the sex trade if it was illegal – but would consider doing it if it was legal and there were guarantees that society wouldn’t shit on you for choosing this line of work.

      As it was already pointed out – keeping it illegal and dangerous isn’t doing anyone favors. It’s not solving issues of poverty, that’s for sure.

      A lot of people pressure women to get into the sex trade *precisely* because it’s seen as an evil and demeaning line of work.

      It’s a great way of punishing the poor for being poor.

      When I publicly “came out” about my problems with student debt, plenty of people pointed out that what I should have done is go into sex work – i.e., “you’re Russian anyway, you people are used to spreading your legs for cash.”

      What struck me about it is the fact that keeping sex work illegal and dangerous is essential precisely to people like *that*.

      But in places where it is legal, I have heard of no overwhelming pressure to force poor women into the trade, because they “have to” now, or something. I’m sure *some* pressure exists – in direct correlation with the overall nature of the labor market. But there has been no stampede of terrified women being corralled into brothels.

      If anything, the bigger problem is always with neighboring countries. Ukraine is a good example – the sex industry is terrifying and completely under the thumb of powerful criminal gangs (most of which have equally powerful connections to government officials). Traffickers are empowered to send women to Germany, et al (many are even eager to go, considering what they have to put up with back home – but they do have their passports taken away and become trapped and cut off from even a nominal support network). It’s a clusterfuck, and the overall labor situation is a clusterfuck, and this negatively affects countries were sex work is legal as well – because no nation exists in a vacuum.

  15. rox says:

    “I would consider anyone submitting to coercion to have sex (economic or otherwise) to be being sexually abused/raped”

    I think you might take note that I’m pointing out specifically most people HAVE to work in order to eat, it’s sort of how capitalism works. Some people work for fun, some people like their work or sometimes like their work or feel nuetral about their work, but everyone HAS to work in order to earn money.

    I don’t think you specifically are arguing that sex work is the same as flipping burger and that’s what I’m arguing against. That for SOME people it might be the same but for some people being economically required to do sex work is traumatizing and humiliating.

    I just want to make it clear what I’m arguing against because I’m worried you’re arguing with me just to argue since I’m concerned about what affect it will have on the poor and disabled women if we doa lot of activism to promote sex work as an equally healthy form of work to the human psyche.

    • I’m worried you’re arguing with me just to argue since I’m concerned about what affect it will have on the poor and disabled women if we doa lot of activism to promote sex work as an equally healthy form of work to the human psyche.

      Christ on a cracker. Yes, I’m totally against poor and disabled women, and that’s why I disagree with your whacked-out idea that the government will totally sex-traffic poor disabled women if we start saying that sex work isn’t necessarily traumatising. (Nobody is saying it CANNOT be traumatising; what we’re saying is it isn’t necessarily traumatising IF CHOSEN.)

      And thank you for implying that I’m only disagreeing with you because you’re arguing on behalf of poor/disabled women. That’s really very grody. Congratulations. It’s not like i know disability or anything, right?

      • rox says:

        Also I think this statement was unclear and it got your panties in a bunch for no reason. This statement is meant to state, “The reason I think we mostly agree and you’re aguing just to argue is that we clearly both care about poor people and are arguing specifics of the best way to support people in poverty and with disabilities.”

        I think you really want to read into it that I’m attacking you when that statement was attempting to do the opposite. I did suggest that if you don’t care about protecting women from coerced sex work then you certainly don’t care about poor or disabled women. Since that is not your position, that accusation would clearly not apply, right? My concern is there is a lot of talk in this thread– NOT BY YOU- mind you, about how forced sex work (Due to circumstances) is the same as forced food service work (due to circumstances). This is like saying that being forced by circumstance to work with lead paint carries the same risk as being forced by circumstance to poor coffee. Sexual trauma (which includes all forms of unwanted, pressured, coerced penetration and sexual activity) carries specific psychological and physical health risk that are unique compared to scrubbing pizza tins or packing boxes. How that affects specific individuals in itself unique and depends on their circumstances– again a person can need money and want to do sex work but also be comfortable to have the sex, i.e. freely choosing to have the sex and ok with it and comfortable with doing it for money. Sure, if that is the case, I would not consider that rape/sexual abuse sex. But the reality for so many people right now is that the safety net is NOT THERE. So pretending that there is not a majority foster alumni and runaway and abused girls in sex work who feel unable to do other forms of work and make it on a daily basis is counter reality. Sex work does feel very forced for many women and for the women in my life who have TOLD ME their experiences felt traumatic and who have serious mental health problems and PTSD from their experiences, I absolutely refuse to claim their experience shouldn’t factor into policy decisions and decisions to render aid. I feel like a lot of the “Well sex work is fine for some women, so those women who get traumatized by it need to deal with their own choices” that I have seen stated in some conversations (not in this thread so save the concept I’m attacking anyone here!) is abusive to women who feel trauma from their experiences in sex work. I am all for creating ways for women who like sex work as an option to have that option once we create a safety net that makes it an actual choice. I am opposed to sex workers being treated as criminals. However I am also opposed to stating that men are off the hook legally for their purchasing. Men use legality as an excuse to claim sex work is therefore not a profession that entrapps many women who ARE in a duress of circumstances and who will often be psychologically harmed by it. Plenty of women want it as a chosen career and their needs, quite frankly, should be addressed after we protect women from being raped which is more pressing than preventing people from having to do food service work.

      • Got my “panties in a bunch” did it?

        Right, but I’M the one abusing YOU. You know what, at this point I don’t trust word one out of your mouth. Just…stop talking to me, and I’m not talking to you anymore either.

      • rox says:

        Hey you have called me a fucktwit. I hardly think saying you got your panties in a bunch is as offensive as that.

      • Hey you have called me a fucktwit. I hardly think saying you got your panties in a bunch is as offensive as that.

        One’s gendered; the other isn’t. ^__^ Have a nice day.

  16. rox says:

    What I mean is, I’m not sure you’re considering the ramifications of encouraging sex work as having the same psychological risks as flipping burgers.

    I’m also saying that you’re not even the person I was arguing with about that statement.

    So what I mean is, I feel like you’re assuming I’m against you when I wasn’t even arguing with you to begin with.

    And I’m saying that “chosen” is going to be way more complex than a black and white “this is freely chosen consequence free sex work” and “this is edconomically forced rape sex work.

    I also feel like saying the consequences of sex work are similar to burger flipping so long as you consent are just plain false.

    • Punchdrunk says:

      They’re more worried about insulting prostitutes than all the working class women who do housekeeping and food service.
      We shouldn’t be insulted by being compared to prostitutes because…sexual objectification and coercion and women as the sex class only does harm if you aren’t getting paid, I guess? I should encourage my daughter and son to exchange sex for money instead of working food service – it just makes economic sense, and it’s exactly the same thing!

      • lynx wings says:

        Comparing a menial worker to a sex worker is only degrading if you think sex workers are less than menial workers.

        That’s the attitude that results in sex workers getting raped, beaten and killed, police not following up or helping, former sex workers getting fired from their jobs and all the guys who call me to yell insults at me because I’m a dirty sex worker.

        So yeah, menial workers can suck up any discomfort they may have at the comparison people are making in this thread.

      • martine votvik says:

        That’s the attitude that results in sex workers getting raped, beaten and killed,

        I strongly disagree with this.

        I think men are fully capable of hating women all on their own and aided by pornofied culture. Men doesn’t rape, beat and kill prostitutes because they are prostitutes, they rape beat and kill women because they are women.

        There is no privilege in the world that makes a woman safe from sexualized violence.

      • lynx wings says:

        @Martine Votvik:

        Because society’s atitude towards sex workers has NOTHING to do with why men can get away with beating and raping sex workers. Or why police refer to cases of murdered sex workers as “no humans involved.” Or why sex workers don’t report rapes, even ones that happen outside of work, because being a sex worker means you’re “unrapeable.”

        Oh, and if you do sex work to pay for school there’s a change that degree will be useless because no one will hire you if they find out.

        The Long Island serial killer called his victim’s relatives to talk about how much he hated prostitutes, so there’s that.

        You’re clearly quite ignorant about the issues sex workers face.

  17. LotusBecca says:

    I’m personally a fan of capitalist marketplaces because I don’t think there’s a better system out there

    This is your problem, Jill. As long as you support capitalism, you will never be able to fully reconcile your support of sex workers’ rights with your support of sex positivity. You believe that sex should be something that’s done freely and for the enjoyment of it. This is true. But it’s not just true for sex. There’s nothing inherently unique about “sex,” it’s just one more form of human social interaction. And ALL human social interaction should be done freely and for enjoyment. NONE of it should be coerced, whether through violence or through an economic system backed by violence. In my opinion, Jill, you’ll never succeed in your hope to eliminate the commodification of sexual activity while insisting that the commodification of other forms of human activity continue.

    • mxe354 says:

      In my opinion, Jill, you’ll never succeed in your hope to eliminate the commodification of sexual activity while insisting that the commodification of other forms of human activity continue.

      Word.

      • Jill says:

        I’m not insisting that the commodofication other forms of human activity continue. But no, I don’t find the commodofication of, say, legal work to be as much of a problem as the commodification of sex. I understand many people disagree.

      • LotusBecca says:

        LOL. Fair enough. My word choice of “insisting” was hyperbolic. I’m aware, Jill, you are more of a lukewarm supporter of capitalism than a diehard. But surely you’re aware that most workers (sex workers or not) don’t have the privilege to be high-status Manhattan lawyers and Guardian editorialists. That’s not the experience that most folks have with capitalism.

      • Jill says:

        Sure. And look, if anyone can show me a system that works better than capitalism, I’ll get behind it! It’s not that I think capitalism is so very awesome. It’s that I haven’t seen anything else function in the real world. I also think the style of capitalism we have in the U.S. is ridiculous — it’s corporatism and it’s inhumane. I think there are a lot of ways we should be reforming our current system that are compatible with capitalism. I’d like to see a stronger social safety net, a higher minimum wage, broader consumer protections, more unionization, more workers’ rights, and on and on. All of those things are compatible with a system where supply is on balance with demand. I think where we part ways is that I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to pay someone for their labor; I don’t think a system of paid labor is inherently a bad one, as long as it has a series of components to make sure that all of the human beings who operate in that system are protected. My issue is constructing sex as labor — as something you do for someone else or in the service of something else, that one person could conceivably purchase. You can call that putting sex on a pedestal, but I don’t think it’s that; I think it’s a difference in where we situate sex in our lives and how we think sex should function in a society. In a patriarchal society, sex is a bargaining chip — for status, for marriage, for money, whatever. I’d like to see that go away, and for sex to be purely pleasurable. Maybe that’s making sex “special,” but I think it’s more recognizing that, unlike most other things we do, sex (when done right and consensually) is an intensely physically and mentally pleasurable thing for both parties. It’s also a physically vulnerable thing. So yes I do believe it’s different.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I hear what you are saying, Jill. I guess I just take your critique of sex as labor and extend it to all of human activity. One of the anarchist theorists I’ve been influenced by is a person named Bob Black. He argues that the construction of any sort of activity as “work” is inherently oppressive and leads to the domination and alienation of vulnerable people. I tend to agree with that. I think all everyone’s needs should be freely provided for by society. This would free human activity to be purely what people decide is important to make themselves happy and those they care about happy. People would no longer do anything just so they could have a bargaining chip to get something else they want. I think viewing things in such an instrumental way isn’t just degrading to sex, its degrading to every facet of humanity.

      • amblingalong says:

        I think all everyone’s needs should be freely provided for by society.

        Where does ‘society’ get the stuff to give people?

      • LotusBecca says:

        Where does ‘society’ get the stuff to give people?

        Society makes it; society distributes it (and distributes it in an equitable manner, unlike now).

      • Jill says:

        Ok… but WHO in society makes it? And how, if we’re each going about our day doing whatever we please? Society isn’t a “thing” that exists independent of the people in it. Without certain incentives — capital, and the organization and institutions that come with moving capital around in a capitalist society — I think you’re going to have an awfully hard time getting people organized enough to create necessary systems to get people what they need to survive. Like food, for example. Or transportation. Or care for the elderly and the disabled and the very young. Or protection from crime. Or homes to live in.

        It’s not that I think your solution is unrealistic. It’s that I don’t understand how you think “society” is simply going to produce what people need, without people being part of that production.

      • amblingalong says:

        Society makes it; society distributes it (and distributes it in an equitable manner, unlike now).

        You understand that society is made up of people, right? It’s not some amorphous thing-maker?

      • LotusBecca says:

        Yes, I understand that society is made up of people (obviously). And that society of people will be what creates things and gets thing done, working together in solidarity. I actually think that a spirit of mutual aid will be a far more effective way of motivating people to meet our shared needs than a spirit of profit. Under a spirit of mutual aid, for example, doctors will care for patients simply because they realize they have the skills to and they desire that their patients get better. Same goes for any person with any particular skill. Everyone would recognize that it’s a a pleasure to contribute skills for the well-being of your neighbors. In fact, this spirit of mutual aid is already what animates a lot of people and a lot of people now. I’m just saying we should make it the primary factor and take coercion and money entirely out of the equation.

      • Jill says:

        I guess that’s what I find unrealistic — although let it be said that I think it’s a testament to your character and your good-heartedness that this is your utopia! I may just be a crotchety, jaded asshole. Taking doctors, for example: I’m not sure what the motivation would be to go to medical school then, which is by all accounts incredibly grueling and exhausting and difficult. As it should be, because we want doctors who are good at their jobs and who have high levels of training. I’m not sure how you incentivize becoming a doctor in the first place — a job that is difficult, that doesn’t allow for much personal time, that involves an incredibly long education process, that puts yourself at risk of disease, that involves touching people or cutting into them or watching them die or doing a wide variety of unpleasant tasks — simply by assuming it’s pleasurable to contribute to society. I mean, my mom is a nurse, and she loves her job, but the bedside nurses and the nurse’s aids who clean up shit and vomit? I don’t imagine a lot of people would do that voluntarily. Or at least not enough people to meet the needs of the vast numbers of sick or elderly or very young folks who need their shit and piss and vomit cleaned up.

        And that’s just looking at the service industry. The bigger challenges, I think, are in infrastructure. How do we conceive of public transportation systems that meet everyone’s needs equally? How do we get those systems designed and then built? Who makes the steel for them, and who mines for the materials, and who gets to decide which design we use, and who operates them day to day to make sure they’re consistently available? Who builds the homes we live in, and who makes sure that those homes are safe and resistant to things like earthquakes or fires? How do we make sure that buildings aren’t full of chemicals and mold that will harm us, or that they won’t crumble, or that people in wheelchairs can get into them? How do we get food in places where food isn’t grown in large enough quantities to feed the local population?

        I guess my point is, we need systems and institutions to organize people efficiently. And skills aren’t simply things people have or don’t have — they’re developed, and it takes institutions and education to develop those skills. Institutions and education don’t exist naturally, and especially when we’re talking about long-term investments in learning or in doing things that are extremely unpleasant, helping people / mutual aid is probably not going to be an adequately motivating force to meet the needs of all people in any given society.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Honestly, I think capitalism does a pretty shitty job of ensuring that the disabled and sick get their needs met. If you look at the countries that have the best health care, they are the countries that have partially taken their health care systems OUT of the market.

        Anyway, Jill, I appreciate the compliments about my good-heartedness! Being kind and compassionate certainly IS very important to me, but I also think the sort of society I’m advocating for makes the most logical sense. I’m not arguing against education or institutions per se. . .or against deferring gratification at times for bigger future rewards. I’m just saying that institutions, if they are to exist, should be organized from the bottom up rather than the top down, and that they shouldn’t be based off of violence and inequality, as they are now.

        Now how to incentivize doctors? I don’t know. Maybe there shouldn’t be as many doctors as there are currently, if being a doctor is such a shitty thing that people will only become one if they are bribed with the prospect of getting to be socially superior. Maybe we could have fewer doctors, but less need for doctors, as people could be healthier (from eating more nutritious foods, getting more exercise, being less stressed, being exposed to less toxic chemicals, and so on).

        Basically, I haven’t mapped everything out in detail. My anarcho-socialism isn’t some elaborate plan I want people to vote yay or nay on, nor do I want to impose it on everyone in a violent revolution. My politics simply derives from my confidence that if human beings work together as equals we can create a better society than if some people are instead focused on controlling others and being superior to others, as occurs under capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and so on. I see these desires for control and superiority as superfluous to the tasks of living–and even superfluous to the tasks of mining for iron ore or building homes for people!

      • LotusBecca says:

        On a more practical level, though, if people do decide through consensus that they want to live in a society with a lot of technology and a highly specialized division of labor, I think there are a lot of ways this could potentially be coordinated without capitalism or a state. I think modern computer technologies, for example, could allow for a lot of sophisticated forms of coordination. The sci-fi novel The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin does a good job of sketching out how computer systems could potentially operate in an anarchist society. Of course, this technology and these forms of organization aren’t going to be developed unless enough people commit to a goal of bringing about a truly egalitarian society in the first place. You can’t get people to agree to certain specifics of something when they aren’t even on board with the general mission.

      • GallingGalla says:

        Without certain incentives — capital, and the organization and institutions that come with moving capital around in a capitalist society — I think you’re going to have an awfully hard time getting people organized enough to create necessary systems to get people what they need to survive. Like food, for example. Or transportation. Or care for the elderly and the disabled and the very young. Or protection from crime. Or homes to live in.

        So what your saying, in effect, is that we *must* have a society that *coerces* people into work in order for society to function. I don’t buy that that is a humane way to organize society. Sure, you propose all sorts of ways to supposedly soften the coercive blow, but all that is just putting a thin layer of velvet on the fist.

        I don’t know exactly what the best alternative is, but I refuse to buy (see what I did there?) that capitalism is anything other than a massive, pervasive system of coercion that benefits a very very few at the expense of the very very many.

      • Jill says:

        No, I’m not saying we must have a society that coerces people into labor in order to function. I’m saying that I have never seen a functional system that didn’t involve some sort of economic coercion. It doesn’t mean that one could never ever exist, just that I’ve never seen it and have never seen it laid out in any sort of functional detail.

      • amblingalong says:

        There are jobs that are very far removed from helping people but are absolutely necessary. It’s easier to imagine a doctor being motivated by a desire to help sick patients (though Jill raises great points); it’s harder to imagine that sense of bonhomie in the people mining iron ore to make the scalpels, even though it’s just as necessary to people getting healthy.

        Others have tried to set up social systems predicated on everyone working out of a general love for their work/ helping society. Turns out people aren’t all inherently so altruistic.

        If you’re interested, check out Charles Fourier and the communes people started based on his work. Or, you know, the Soviet Union.

      • A4 says:

        First Jill, I want to recognize that it’s gotta be hard to administer to a mountain when every rock has it’s own diehard guardian. By which I mean to say, it’s nice when you engage in the comments, but I recognize that you simply cannot do so exhaustively.

        Onward!

        it’s more recognizing that, unlike most other things we do, sex (when done right and consensually) is an intensely physically and mentally pleasurable thing for both parties. It’s also a physically vulnerable thing. So yes I do believe it’s different.

        In a capitalist system, interactions are transactional, and pleasure is already commodified. I’ve had a lot of unpaid sex, and it was still often heavily transactional, with the ideas that both people need to have an orgasm, or that if one person gives head then the other has to also. One does not need to be formally paid for sex to be a capitalist transaction because if pleasure is a valued resource, and we’ve learned to trade resources, then it will naturally follow that the pleasures of sex are treated transactionally.

        Some of the paid sex I’ve had, however, were less inhibited and felt like less of a transaction because we did not need to work to make sure everyone received the resource of pleasure “equally”. It was concretely established that one person was getting money, and the other was receiving pleasure. Did that often include my pleasure too? very much so! But in a society where owing can be a real feeling of insecurity, creating a concrete capitalist transaction can create a more secure, less complicated, and more fun interaction for all parties involved!

    • PM says:

      I hate to do the whole “+1” thing, but I don’t have anything to add. Thanks, LotusBecca.

    • amblingalong says:

      This is your problem, Jill.

      In your time here, LotusBecca, you have written many many words about how capitalism is bad. In that same time you have written exactly zero words about a better alternative, which seems to be par for the course for most anti-free-market folk.

      PS. I think you’re pretty great and you say a lot of deeply insightful things.

      • LotusBecca says:

        PS. I think you’re pretty great and you say a lot of deeply insightful things.

        Thanks, amblingalong! I think you are pretty great, too!

        Anyway, I feel that I have written quite a bit about better alternatives to capitalism. You just don’t recognize these contributions because you either think my alternatives are, in fact, worse than capitalism, or you think that they are not possible or realistic. But I simply don’t think it’s accurate to imply I’ve just criticized and never presented what I consider to be an alternative.

      • amblingalong says:

        What I’ve seen is a lot of principles (everything should be distributed equally, people shouldn’t be coerced, etc.) but not actual policy (here’s how we incentivize labor; here’s how we make sure unpleasant but unnecessary jobs get done; here’s how we make sure things are distributed correctly without market mechanisms).

        I’m truly not trying to be an ass, and I’m totally happy to just drop this, but it feels like we don’t just disagree; we’re not even having the same conversation, and I’d like to.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Part of the reason I haven’t gone into more detail is because most of these threads haven’t been about “outline your ideal socialist society.” Most of the time what happens is I make some passing comment about how I oppose capitalism that’s tangential to the thread topic, someone challenges it, I respond, and so on. Even given the new-ish threaded comment system on Feministe, I have some concerns about going too wildly off the topic at hand, so I’m not about to just type out my entire anarchist manifesto.

        Secondly, going into detail here doesn’t seem to be a productive use of my time. If people seem broadly dismissive of my ideas, why would I want to spend time outlining for them in exhaustive detail every nuance of my ideas? I would rather spend time educating people who seem receptive to such information. Once before, amblingalong, I said if you were really interested in having an in-depth conversation of capitalism/socialism I’d be happy to have it with you over email. You didn’t take me up on it.

        Finally, a core part of my philosophy, as an anarchist, involves not planning out things too much in depth. I can have opinions, sure, but I don’t see my role as coming up with a perfect plan and then getting everyone else to agree with it. I want everyone to have an equal say in how our society evolves going forward; that’s the whole point.

      • amblingalong says:

        I totally forgot about that offer; I often get really busy and drop off commenting for a while. My e-mail address is amblingalong1 [at] gmail [dot] com; I’d love to actually have that conversation.

        Thanks for reminding me!

        [Edited the e-mail address to avoid spambots. -C]

      • Becca, amblingalong, I have no real contributions to make to this but I would love to be in on your discussion, if that’s okay!

      • A4 says:

        Hey Y’all, how about we meet on the open thread this weekend for a rousing round of governmental theories and anti-theories? Or we could probably still use the last open thread if we want to do it right away.

      • mxe354 says:

        Hey Y’all, how about we meet on the open thread this weekend for a rousing round of governmental theories and anti-theories? Or we could probably still use the last open thread if we want to do it right away.

        If you folks end up doing that, I’ll be happy to join!

      • LotusBecca says:

        I totally forgot about that offer; I often get really busy and drop off commenting for a while. My e-mail address is amblingalong1 [at] gmail [dot] com; I’d love to actually have that conversation.

        Cool! I will drop you a line sometime in the next few days, amblingalong.

        Becca, amblingalong, I have no real contributions to make to this but I would love to be in on your discussion, if that’s okay!

        That sounds great, Mac. My email is rebeccaweaver [at] riseup [dot] net. If you want, you can write me so I have your email, too. That way amblingalong and I can forward you our messages, and if you do end up having any contributions, you can feel free to add them to the discussion!

        Hey Y’all, how about we meet on the open thread this weekend for a rousing round of governmental theories and anti-theories? Or we could probably still use the last open thread if we want to do it right away.

        Ehhh. I don’t think that’s something I’d personally want to be part of, no offense. I’ve been a vocal anarchist and socialist for a while, and I’ve had a lot of discussions with random people. I’ve found most of those discussions end up being a waste of my time. I don’t want to talk about this in a public space like Feministe because then any person could come along, no matter how ignorant and annoying, and derail the conversation with their ignorant opinions. And I’ve heard a lot of the same crap on these topics a hundred times and am frankly sick of a lot of it by now. So I prefer to have these conversations in a bit more of a controlled environment with people I actually know and respect and have already established some rapport with. Although you definitely seem cool A4, and mxe354 is cool, too! So both of you can feel free to email me if you’d like to participate in my conversation with amblingalong.

        [Edited the e-mail addresses to avoid spambots. -C]

    • Henry says:

      If it should not be commodified why should it be legal? seems we’d want to work the other way towards making other jobs illegal too. Until we get those Star Trek replicators online we’ll just have to put up with coercing/incentivizing people to do stuff nobody wants to do. Putting stuff inside your privates or on your privates is not something we should be coercing people to do in exchange for food, shelter and some discretionary luxuries. You have life options and want to do it – great, ditto with porn stars – there are some in the industry who absolutely whole heartdly love banging people on camera. I draw the line where this is the only option presented to people – fuck or starve should not be a social policy.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Until we get those Star Trek replicators online we’ll just have to put up with coercing/incentivizing people to do stuff nobody wants to do.

        Er, no. You can put up with capitalism if you’d like, but I don’t “have to” put up with capitalism, and in fact, I’m not putting up with it. I’m very strongly opposed to it, actually

  18. hotpot says:

    Fascinating– while I can’t think of any single factor that makes sex different from other kinds of labor, there’s no question that sex is a uniquely situated human activity so this must be either due to a single overriding factor or a group of factors that work together. I suspect the latter.

    One factor is that sex itself, when conceived as a commodity, a purely physical or carnal pleasure, is inherently objectifying. It deals in a person’s physical features rather than intellect, personality, or overall humanity. It does so more intimately than other forms of manual labor, because in those cases, the body is put to use as the means for some other ends; for instance, to move a box from A to B. But sexual objectification is inherent in the body itself. Hence, labor-saving modern machines that reduced the commodification of human bodies for manual labor didn’t do the same for sexual labor.

    Another factor is that the burden falls very unequally. On women as compared to men, on the young compared to the old, on historically exploited populations, and on underprivileged economic classes. This makes it a particular concern for feminists and social justice activists.

    And thirdly, as Jill pointed out, there is a tension between this commodified view of sex and an alternative view of sex as a mutually enjoyable activity between two people. Since, by definition, all people except for asexuals have the biological ability to experience sexual pleasure, it seems that the more natural conception of sex (as well as the more humane one) among sexual people revolves around mutual pleasure.

    With all of that being said I do think that it’s possible to do sex work that makes heavy use of the worker’s intellect and personality, and in some kinds of sex (ones that involve more than vanilla sex, or that reward building relationships) work it’s undoubtedly a necessity. There’s definitely a huge gray area between what’s sexual but still aesthetic and/or artistic and what’s just a stand-in for sex. With for example, purchasing companionship / friendship in some way on one end of the spectrum, and purchasing someone’s body to masturbate in on the other end.

    • LC says:

      Since, by definition, all people except for asexuals have the biological ability to experience sexual pleasure

      A side note to the main conversation, but I’m pretty sure that asexual generally refers to lack of sexual desire, not lack of ability to experience sexual pleasure.

      (That’s doesn’t really affect your main point in any way, I just thought it a point worth noting.)

      • hotpot says:

        I know you’re right, but suffice it to say that when I was typing the post I wasn’t thinking there was any difference between the two, so read it whichever way makes the most sense. I know that we can get into pages and pages of uncovering the nuances of this, but I feel that would be better for a separate discussion.

        In any case, on second thought I also think we need to distinguish between the commodification of sex with the commodification of bodies, since we’re really only talking about the former and the latter is actually much more universal. The commodification of sex is only unique in that it’s an unequal commodification of bodies; one person’s body is more commodified than the other’s, and the difference is made up by some other exchange (such as money, social stability, or whatever). But even without the commodification of sex, the commodification of bodies would still be rampant. Only it would be a more equal commodification because others means of exchange would not be considered.

      • LC says:

        I know that we can get into pages and pages of uncovering the nuances of this, but I feel that would be better for a separate discussion

        It would and it has been and that’s why I mentioned it as an aside to the main point and yes, not for here and now.

      • thinksnake says:

        Yeah, it’s anorgasmia that covers at least part of lack of sexual pleasure. Something I’ve had in the past (yay mental illness and various medications for!), and was really really shit, but absolutely not something I would compare to asexuality.

  19. rox says:

    Wait wait, capitalism isn’t necessarily backed by violence. In fact, one could argue it’s a peaceful concept in some ways.

    The idea is that if you don’t have food and you want food, you can’t FORCE other people to give it to you. You have to do work in order to get needs met.

    Socialism is backed by violence to, if people are forced by a military backed government to pay taxes for the well being of the needy.

    The land ownership issue is where it gets murky because if individuals could grow their own food and build houses for themselves there wouldn’t be this situation of essentially dependant serfs (apartment and couchserfing and homeless) wage earners who have no alternative than to depend on whatever land/business owners will hire them with no access to materials and land to build their own business or take the power back unless they can play the game of the school system and corporate businesses or somehow get capital to start their own independant business.

    And I’m going to straight up say that being forced at gunpoint to hand over cash from a cash register- while traumatic and potentially PTSD inducing, is NOT the same thing as being forced at gun point to be penetrated or do sexual acts. If you do research on trauma and the effects, I think you will find sexual trauma IS different than other types of trauma in terms of types of mental illness/PTSD and various trauma effects.

    • LotusBecca says:

      Rox, I assume your comment is largely in response to me, so that’s how I’m going to interpret it. Sorry if I’m mistaken.

      Anyway, under capitalism, a military backed government enforces private property rights. This is how capitalism always has been and always will be, the fantasies of Murray Rothbard notwithstanding.

      Also, I never said or meant to imply that being raped is the same thing as being robbed. I don’t think that at all.

    • mxe354 says:

      The idea is that if you don’t have food and you want food, you can’t FORCE other people to give it to you. You have to do work in order to get needs met.

      Socialism is backed by violence to, if people are forced by a military backed government to pay taxes for the well being of the needy.

      You are thinking about only one kind of socialism. Not all socialism is backed by violence. In fact, genuine socialism – that which is anti-statist – requires no violence whatsoever in order to exist.

      And I’m going to straight up say that being forced at gunpoint to hand over cash from a cash register- while traumatic and potentially PTSD inducing, is NOT the same thing as being forced at gun point to be penetrated or do sexual acts. If you do research on trauma and the effects, I think you will find sexual trauma IS different than other types of trauma in terms of types of mental illness/PTSD and various trauma effects.

      All Becca is saying is that it’s wrong to think that the commodification of sex is the only thing we should oppose because she thinks the commodification of any kind of human activity is wrong.

      • amblingalong says:

        In fact, genuine socialism – that which is anti-statist – requires no violence whatsoever in order to exist.

        In the sense that Santa Claus does not require violence to exist, true.

      • mxe354 says:

        You don’t think anti-statist socialism is a thing? Not surprising. Despite the fact that it’s been around for quite some time, it doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as statist “socialist” ideologies like Marxism-Leninism.

      • amblingalong says:

        You don’t think anti-statist socialism is a thing?

        I think it’s an academic theory, sure. I don’t think it’s a ‘thing’ in the sense of ‘a workable system for running a society.’

        I’ve read my Fourier.

  20. Schmorgluck says:

    There are regulationists, who think that there’s no problem with prostitution so long as it’s properly regulated.

    There are prohibitionists, who favor cracking down on prostitution, often without reguard for the dignity of the persons involved.

    There are abolitionists, who want prostitution to disappear, but find the prohibitionist approach harmful, and can consider some aspects of the regulationist approach as transitionally useful.

    Okay, that’s a quite rough characterization from an abolitionist guy. A point I wanted to make, though, is one should be wary of prohibitionists who disguise as abolitionnists.

    Oh, and I speak specifically of prostitution because I find pornography (despite the etymology of the word) to have a largely different set of issues (with some intersections, like trafficking and exploitation of minors).

    • LotusBecca says:

      Most self-identified abolitionists support the Swedish/Nordic model of arresting johns but not sex workers. In my opinion, this model counts as “cracking down on prostitution, often without regard for the dignity of the persons involved.” That’s great if you don’t support the Swedish model, but that puts you in the minority among abolitionists, as far as I can tell.

      And in practical terms, I don’t see much distinction between prohibitionists and abolitionists in terms the negative impact their activism has on sex workers, which is why I oppose both groups.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        To be honest, I used to support the Swedish model, but I don’t anymore, since it hasn’t proven very efficient against trafficking and ended up harming the prostitutes themselves (I honestly don’t give a shit about the johns).

        I have no real answer in terms of policy. I’m uncertain about the appropriate means. I currently think that uprooting rape culture is the best shot we have.

        But I’m still firmly in the opinion that prostitution shouldn’t exist.

    • Henry says:

      regulationist is what is going to actually work, just like it has worked in other legal professions. We rarely hear of workers in the USA chained to machines anymore – there are still abuses but people can get redress, even agaisnt behemoths like Walmart. Ever try suing your pimp for overtime? The swedish model is not without huge problems, it has not helped sex workers avoid abuse. However until I see regulation come about I will continue to oppose the abusers and those who profit from them. I don’t think customers should be arrested anymore than workers.

    • Miriam says:

      You’ve forgotten about decriminalization, which last time I read the literature is the position advocated by most sex workers. Regulation, at least in practice, tends to impose additional burdens upon sex workers for benefit of non-sex workers in a location (i.e. the NIMBYism that leads to brothels and red-light districts) or customers (i.e. STI inspection). I know of no good models where regulations have been about empowering sex workers.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Mmmh, yeah, I guess I could have added that as a category, although every serious abolitionist group I know is in favor of decriminalization.

      • Miriam says:

        But advocating decriminalization is different from advocating abolition. I’m pro-decriminalization but I am most definitely not an abolitionist. I think sex work is valuable work, so I have no desire to see it eliminated. What I support eliminating is coercive sex work, the stigmas around sex work, and the risks involved in sex work.

        So I think it’s important to keep decriminalization as its own category. It’s the one that too often gets left out of the discussion if people are unfamiliar with the literature on problems with legalization/regulation.

  21. James says:

    First off, I must confess that I want no part of Jill’s “feminist utopia” if her vision of paradise excludes McDonalds, Walmart, and hookers. (Kidding. Kind of. I do crave a McRib every so often…)

    What I find most distressing about this topic as it is discussed in feminist circles is the apparent assumption that ‘my own view or circumstance must be true for everyone. ‘

    To continue with the sex-work/fast food analogy…
    Yes, I think that to some people, sex really can be as trivial or mundane as any other job. And, of course, for others sex holds a different place in the human experience than do more mundane tasks (ie: flipping burgers) and is treated / viewed differently.

    In this instance, I absolutely oppose the restriction of personal choice and rights by the more mainstream (sex is special) set on the minority (sex is fair game to sell) viewpoint.

    There is of course some gray area and overlap of these sets. Some women may choose to engage in sex work with some misgivings, but the bottom line is that legislating gray areas of morality is problematic in a free society, and in MY view of a feminist utopia, women don’t have paternalistic watchdogs preventing them from making decisions about what to do with their personal lives.

    Of course, this only works if there is a real freedom of choice in the first place. Surely we can all agree that victims of sex trafficing and slavery and abusive situations are not the same as an independent woman with an adult Craigslist ad who sets up her own appointments and selects her own clients.

    Its silly to say the woman in that scenario doesn’t have a ‘real choice’ because quitting sex work might cause economic hardship.

    A better analogy than fast food might be that pharmacist a few years ago who felt a moral prohibition against filling a morning after pill prescription. Of course, he too experienced financial hardships (he lost his job as I recall). But he made a choice. He had a choice. So does the Craigslist woman.

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  24. jemima101 says:

    Yeah, I read this, and I felt various kinds of sad, mainly because I like Jill, and the fails were so big and so wide,

    Anyway, someone who knows the proper feminist language wrote this

    http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/theres-a-post-on-sex-work-on-feministe-and-it-is-teh-fail/

    Forgive me for channeling upgoerfive. I am seriously exhausted,

    • Li says:

      Oh, THANK FUCK for someone who actually knows what the word “agency” means.

      (and thanks for the link jemima101.)

    • A4 says:

      Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat was awesome. Thanks for the link. And for your effort on the other thread.

    • Hmm. While I definitely agreed with Jill that a lot of the things she brings up are things I’ve thought about, this article shifted a lot of things around in my vision. I was supporting sex workers on a sort of automatic “fuck you they have rights too” basis on the otther thread, but it’s…hm. A lot more complex.

      Thank you for the link, jemima.

    • hotpot says:

      Wow, this response is amazing. It would be impossible to even list out in any concise way all the things that are good about article.

    • Donna L says:

      Thanks for the link; I was really impressed with that article.

    • Combray says:

      Thank you for the link, that was a fantastic article. I mostly agree with Jill’s posts, but this one really misses the mark, in my opinion.

    • afb1221 says:

      I agree, it’s an excellent article. Thanks for it.

    • Bagelsan says:

      I tried to read it, but it got dumb fast. And the ending frankly lost me:

      The equivalent of “end demand” would be to insist on the end of demand for any industry**** in which workers are exploited. Which is all of them. Which is marxism.

      ‘Cause… no. This is so incorrect that it’s laughable. Every industry is inherently exploitative? Not hardly. Jill made that explicit in her post; reading comprehension issues aside, Jill flat out said it that she doesn’t think the sex work industry and other industries are the same. Reducing demand for the one does not necessitate reducing demand for the others — people need food and medical care and shelter, but not sex. One of those things is not like the other.

  25. dc says:

    WOW.
    Jill,great post.
    this is such a complex issue.
    total kudos to you for this.
    courageous intelligent and really well done.
    thanks so very much…..

  26. Reggie Rock says:

    So sex in your feminist utopia would be ” a fun thing, a collaborative thing, always entered into freely and enthusiastically and without coercion.”

    So what about the loners, those that social standards of the time find ugly (do you really think fads and cultural standards will ever go away), what of the disabled, or those with social disorders that prevent them from forming a relationship but still desire sexual fulfillment? What is going to happen to these people?

    In your feminist utopia sex is something that only happens in specific social relationships and so is limited to those capable of having them. That’s the majority but there is a sizeable minority who are incapable through culture, birth, or psychology of forming these relationships.

    I hire prostitutes. I am a John. I’m an overweight agoraphobic with social anxiety (and I’m not too handsome either). I cannot form the kind of relationships necessary to have feminist utopian sex. Yet I still desire sex and there are those willing to have sex with me in exchange for money. Willing to overlook my weight, my social awkwardness, and my inability to leave my home.

    In the feminist utopia I will never be able to find those people as they will have been shamed and regulated out of existence. And people like me who are not privileged enough to operate in social circles will have yet another fundamental part of human existence cut off from us forever.

    Enjoy your sexual privilege.

    • Jill says:

      Oh please. You know there are plenty of overweight people, disabled people, people with a whole slew of issues (including agoraphobia), people who are also socially anxious and all sorts of other things who manage to have consensual sex with partners they don’t pay? That a whole lot of people who don’t meet mainstream, narrow standards of attractiveness have enthusiastically consensual sex all the time?

      Your problem isn’t a lack of privilege. Your problem is that you’re an entitled asshole. You think you’re entitled to sex because you want it, regardless of whether the person having sex with you wants to be having sex with you. That’s male entitlement and misogyny in a nutshell. Congratulations. And fuck you.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I’m guessing the sex workers who have sex with Reggie want to be doing it–at least somewhat–otherwise they wouldn’t be consenting to it. I’d hypothesize they’re pleased to have a regular, dependable client who provides a stable stream of income for them. I think your anti-client sentiments are showing their ass here, Jill. Is your next move going to be to come out in favor of the Nordic model?

        Also, Reggie raises a good point that people who deviate from the ideal for sexual partners in our society, such as fat people and disabled people, often do have trouble finding partners. It’s not necessarily an insurmountable barrier, of course, but it is harder for a lot of folks. I don’t think your condensation to a disabled, self-identifying “overweight” person is really appropriate. Basically you are saying, “your membership in these oppressed categories can’t be a real problem because other fat and disabled people are doing just fine!”

        Of course, in my personal opinion anyway, the ultimate solution to problems like Reggie’s is to eliminate sizeism and ableism from our society. But in the meantime, I certainly think he’s entitled to make use of the services of sex workers.

      • Jill says:

        I do have anti-client sentiments. I was clear about that in the post. I think johns are scum. I’m not a supporter of the Nordic model because it doesn’t seem to work and in the end isn’t great for sex workers, but that’s why I don’t support it — because I support sex workers, not because I have any love lost for johns.

        I don’t doubt that it’s hard for some people to find sex partners. I’m not being condescending to that fact. Those are real problems. But real problems don’t give you the right to engage in shitty behavior that treats other people like they exist to sexually serve you. I don’t think anyone is entitled to sex. And I think people who want to have sex with people who would not be having sex with them were it not for money are entitled assholes — whether that’s a direct exchange of money, or a husband thinking he’s entitled to sex with his wife because he supports the family, or a guy thinking that because he paid for dinner his date should bang him. The mentality behind all of that is the same: Women exist to sexually serve. That’s misogynist, end stop, no matter how many other difficulties a person might face.

      • Li says:

        whether that’s a direct exchange of money, or a husband thinking he’s entitled to sex with his wife because he supports the family, or a guy thinking that because he paid for dinner his date should bang him.

        One of these things is not like the others Jill. Sex work includes an explicit understanding that sexual services are exchanged for money, and that understanding is on both sides. Someone who thinks that having paid a sex worker means that he is entitled to transgress any of her boundaries certainly falls into the same category as the later two, but I just don’t agree that someone exchanging money for explicitly negotiated sex is acting purely out of entitlement. The negotiation isn’t just projected by the client.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Really Jill. I see. I’m especially glad I said something here then. It’s allowed you to show your true colors on this issue. I doubt any of the sex workers who are reading this thread will view you as an ally after they read this.

        You cannot support sex workers and hate each and every person who pays them for their services. That’s logically incoherent. There are sex workers who enjoy their job and enjoy their clients. And yet you hate their clients and think they are all “scum.” This indicates you don’t have a sympathetic feeling of solidarity with these particular sex workers. You believe your abstract theory of sex-positivity should dictate how you feel about people you’ve never even met (their clients), even when the sex workers themselves tell you their clients aren’t like that.

      • Jill says:

        I think people who hire illegal immigrants off the books so that they can pay them lower wages are scum. I still support the rights of illegal immigrants. How is that incoherent?

        I’m sure many of those people are also quite nice, and are kind enough to their employees and have wives and kids and dogs who they pet often. I am sure that many of their employees are grateful to be making a wage at all, and would report that their bosses are perfectly nice people. But yeah they still do scummy things that I have no respect for.

      • Jill says:

        My basic belief is this: It is entitled and scummy and the sign of a huge asshole to believe you are entitled to sex with someone who does not 100% freely, enthusiastically and without any force or coercion want to be having sex with you. I am sure many men who pay for sex are perfectly nice human beings. I also think they’re entitled misogynists. I’m not sure there’s any getting around that. And again, it’s not just men who pay for sex. It’s men who expect sex in exchange for whatever — marriage, financial support, a nice dinner. They hold a view of sex that is inherently misogynist and dehumanizing. And I’m not going to use nice words to describe that.

      • jemima101 says:

        Then you do not understand sex work, support sex workers and should stop trying to pretend you do to look all nice and third wave.

        A man who expects sex after buying dinner is an entitled [gendered slur redacted], because sex is not part of the arrangement.
        You are confusing 2 very different transactions. Sex with a sex worker is a negotiated time and content limited transaction, I have argued before in some ways it is the most feminist sex (for privileged sex workers like me) since it is the only sex bound by contract outside of 50 shades fuckwittery.

        You seem to be unable to accept that sex workers have agency and are capable of saying no, or that men and women who visit them are capeable of hearing the no.

      • Jill says:

        You seem to be unable to accept that sex workers have agency and are capable of saying no, or that men and women who visit them are capeable of hearing the no.

        Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it’s not. Not all sex workers are totally free agents capable or allowed to turn down clients. I realize many are, but that’s not universal.

        And yes, there’s a difference between a negotiated arrangement and an expectation. But the underlying view of sex — as a service, as a thing that you can get for money — is the same. That’s what I have a problem with.

      • jemima101 says:

        Then I suggest you go away and think deeply about why you have a problem with it. Remove your view of what sex should be and instead rationally consider why money changing hands makes it a bad thing.

      • hotpot says:

        What about women who pay men for sex or sexual services? Or what about sexual surrogacy, people who professionally train other people who are uncomfortable with their sexuality?

        I haven’t seen anyone point out Reggie’s assertion that sex is a “fundamental part of human existence”. If someone views something as a fundamental part of human existence, it’s easy to see how they would think that they are entitled to it. Because how many other fundamental parts of human existence (food, shelter, etc.) do we not view as basic rights? The most powerful way to fight entitlement is to refute this idea of sex as being so fundamental, so unique, so above and beyond all other human experience, and placed on a pedestal; that there’s no pleasure higher than sex; and that if you’re having sex, you’re not a complete man or woman. Which is common as heck out there, it’s pretty much universal. It’s the same as people who say that the most important thing a woman can do is to get pregnant.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I think people who hire illegal immigrants off the books so that they can pay them lower wages are scum. I still support the rights of illegal immigrants. How is that incoherent?

        Actually, that’s a great analogy. Of course, it’s a scummy move to hire undocumented immigrants and pay them substandard wages. But what about people who hire undocumented immigrants at regular wages? Do you think they are scum? If you thought that ALL people who hired undocumented immigrants were scum, regardless of the wage they were paying, YES it would be incoherent to say you also supported the rights of undocumented immigrants. These people are coming here for jobs. If you heap moral condemnation on each and every person who pays them for work, you are saying they shouldn’t be paid for jobs, and you are undermining their efforts to get jobs, which is why they came here in the first place. Similarly, it’s perfectly fine to talk shit about clients who treat sex workers badly. But if you say EACH and EVERY client is doing a wrong thing. . .you are essentially saying that sex workers shouldn’t be paid for their work, and therefore you are an obstacle to ensuring that they get work and are justly compensated for it.

        I have no particular feelings about sex workers’ clients as category one way or another. My main point here isn’t to make you feel guilty about badmouthing them. I’m just pointing out that you can’t support a type of worker if you think the people who enable them to work shouldn’t be doing what they are doing. I’m appalled by the implications your commentary has for sex workers.

      • matlun says:

        Your problem is that you’re an entitled asshole. You think you’re entitled to sex because you want it, regardless of whether the person having sex with you wants to be having sex with you.

        Isn’t that overly harsh?

        He did posit that there would naturally be those who would want to do so (for money), but that those people “will have been shamed and regulated out of existence”.

        I believe that is a misrepresentation of your position (and what you believe the “feminist utopia” would entail), pretty much invalidating his argument, but the above response still seemed pretty unfair to me.

      • Okay, I’m going to say I agree with Reggie, because I could easily see myself having become (a genderflipped) Reggie over time.

        You think you’re entitled to sex because you want it, regardless of whether the person having sex with you wants to be having sex with you.

        See, but… I doubt that all sex workers hate all the sex they have. Sure, the coerced/trafficked ones do, but they’re essentially being raped. But a sex worker who is able to pick and choose their partners uncoerced, and only do anything with someone who’s respectful, considerate/safe, whatever their criteria? I don’t see why they wouldn’t enjoy sex, if they’re picking clients they’d like to sleep with for whatever reason. Idealistic view, maybe, but that’s definitely how a lot of pro Dom(me)s work, and many of them seem to enjoy their work. So…I’d be hesitant to characterise Reggie as a rapist. Seems like if he wanted to have sex with someone who doesn’t it, that’d be his way to go.

      • Kes says:

        Reggie has absolutely no way to know whether the women he is fucking are there consensually or not, because he has no way to tell between a woman choosing sex work out of her own free will without psychological/economic coercion or threats vs. a woman who has been trafficked or has been otherwise subjected to psychological/economic coercion. All kinds of women are trafficked into all kinds of prostitution.

        If somebody doesn’t know – has no WAY to know – if the person who he is sticking his dick in has consented or not, what is that called? That’s called RAPE. The only difference is that with a sex worker, the exchange of money is seen as a stand-in for her consent, so the man tells himself that he doesn’t have to worry about her “actually” consenting. And yes, that was pretty explicit in Reggie’s post – he stated that these women would not agree to have sex with him but for the money.

        It really doesn’t matter if the women wants to be there or not, when we’re discussing the JOHN. What matters is HIS mental state and what it says about HIS conception/treatment of women.

        I’m with Jill on this one 100%.

      • amblingalong says:

        @Jill: You’re becoming increasingly incoherent as the thread goes on. Clearly, you’re trying desperately to find a feminism-compatible justification for your intuitive dislike of sex work.

        But real problems don’t give you the right to engage in shitty behavior that treats other people like they exist to sexually serve you.

        Sort of like you’re scum for thinking the person at Subway exists to make you sandwiches.

        It is entitled and scummy and the sign of a huge asshole to believe you are entitled to sex with someone who does not 100% freely, enthusiastically and without any force or coercion want to be having sex with you.

        You’re just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. ‘Entitlement’ has nothing to do with ‘exchange of money for services.’ I don’t feel entitled to have anyone clean up my dog’s shit for me if they don’t want to, and yet when I hire a dogwalker when I’m out of town, I assume that they’ll do just that.

        Jill, my mind has really been blown by all the things you’ve said on this thread. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m going to keep coming to Feministe while you’re still running it (not that I think anyone is shedding tears at that possibility). I don’t know. This is really shitty of you!

      • Jill says:

        Sex isn’t a sandwich. That’s the difference, and I think that’s the fundamental disconnect here. You think sex is (or can be, or is ok to be) a service. In my view, sex should be something that is mutually pleasurable and a shared act, not something that someone does for someone else. I think the entire construction of sex as a service is a problem. And I think people who view sex as a thing people do for them are entitled. If you view sex as a service or as a bartering chip, then of course it’s fine to pay for it. But I think that whole view of sex as service and of women as the people who embody sex is the basic underpinning of patriarchal society. It’s why virginity is traditionally valuable, because it can be exchanged for commitment/financial security. It’s why we shame women who we think are too sexual. It’s why women feel pressured to have sex if a guy buys them dinner. It’s why marital rape wasn’t illegal until a very short time ago. So yes, I find the entire construction of sex in our society to be totally fucked up, and I think men who literally buy into that construction are doing something morally indefensible.

        And you are welcome to stop coming to Feministe. You can do whatever you want.

      • jemima101 says:

        I fecking enjoy the sex with my clients…look this isnt about you and your feelz, it is about the fact sex workers are dying and the state structures do nothing to help, and some feminists support that fact.

        How you have sex, or think it should be done is irrelevant.

      • amblingalong says:

        In my view, sex should be something that is mutually pleasurable and a shared act, not something that someone does for someone else.

        Someone else responded more eloquently than I:

        That’s what the service industry is: commodifying things people do with other people; even the fun stuff. That’s what dance instructors do, too, for example. They take something people do together for fun (dancing) and that one ideally should only do with others who freely and voluntarily return the sentiment, and they provide that and related activities as a service one can pay for. Again, we’re really just talking about differences in the degree of intimacy, not a qualitative difference.

      • amblingalong says:

        PS- you’re doing a great job responding to everyone except the sex workers who are actually on this thread, telling you to stop misrepresenting their lived experiences.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Seriously Jill. I notice you haven’t responded to either of the two sex workers who have criticized your bullshit yet. Your ideas are basically the velvet glove on the fist of the second-wave, anti-sex-worker hatred that’s smashing sex workers in the face right now (you know, the hatred outlined in the Reason article). People are being thrown in jail and dying because of the sorts of bullshit scripts that you espouse. So maybe you should stick to writing Guardian articles about whether guys should pay for dinner dates and leave fighting oppression to those who actually care about oppressed people. And people criticize ME for being a clueless utopian out of touch with the real world. Shit.

      • Jill says:

        So maybe you should stick to writing Guardian articles about whether guys should pay for dinner dates and leave fighting oppression to those who actually care about oppressed people. And people criticize ME for being a clueless utopian out of touch with the real world. Shit.

        Seriously? Give me a fucking break. There are 500 comments on this thread. No, I have not had time to respond to every single one them, but it’s demonstrably false that I haven’t responded to any of the sex workers who have criticized me. If you think I’m “smashing sex workers in the face” by saying that I support the legalization of sex work and I think sex workers should lead policy on legalization then… I don’t know what universe you’re living in, but it ain’t the real world. From a basic strategic standpoint, it’s probably not the best to go all flame-thrower on people who are on your side because they espouse a slightly different philosophy about johns, which they have said multiple times should have no bearing on policy or law.

        Also, you are welcome to your opinion, and you are welcome to disagree with me vehemently. But you are not welcome to come into my space and be a flat-out asshole to me, which is what the above comment is. Knock if off please, or I will ban you. I appreciate most of your comments and I am good with strong disagreement, but I don’t maintain this space so that I can personally insulted.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Sex isn’t a sandwich. That’s the difference, and I think that’s the fundamental disconnect here. You think sex is (or can be, or is ok to be) a service. In my view, sex should be something that is mutually pleasurable and a shared act, not something that someone does for someone else. I think the entire construction of sex as a service is a problem. And I think people who view sex as a thing people do for them are entitled. If you view sex as a service or as a bartering chip, then of course it’s fine to pay for it. But I think that whole view of sex as service and of women as the people who embody sex is the basic underpinning of patriarchal society. It’s why virginity is traditionally valuable, because it can be exchanged for commitment/financial security. It’s why we shame women who we think are too sexual. It’s why women feel pressured to have sex if a guy buys them dinner. It’s why marital rape wasn’t illegal until a very short time ago. So yes, I find the entire construction of sex in our society to be totally fucked up, and I think men who literally buy into that construction are doing something morally indefensible.

        Not to get all Pulp Fiction-y,but… is giving someone a foot massage a legitimate service? If so then aren’t there some professions which involve intimacy, some might say sexual intimacy (though Vincent and Jules never managed to come to a consensus on that particular one,) yet are a legitimate service?

      • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

        So maybe you should stick to writing Guardian articles about whether guys should pay for dinner dates

        #wayharshtai

      • Jill says:

        I fecking enjoy the sex with my clients…look this isnt about you and your feelz, it is about the fact sex workers are dying and the state structures do nothing to help, and some feminists support that fact.

        And I disagree with those feminists.

        Look: I am not under the impression that my personal beliefs should be legislated for everyone. I’m not trying to make laws here; if I were making the laws, they would align pretty closely with what sex worker activists promote. But part of the point of feminism is to interrogate our culture and discuss ideas in addition to making policy changes. That’s a valuable part of the movement, and it’s why I started out the post by saying that I see a difference between policy ideals and philosophy.

        If there are feminists who are hostile to sex workers and who are advocating for actual policies that harm sex workers — and there clearly are — we need to have a movement-wide shift and we need to discuss it. And yes, fixing the most immediate issues needs to be the priority. Changing the bad laws and protecting sex workers from violence (state-sanctioned and individual) needs to be a priority.

        But having a philosophical conversation matters, too — just like it matters with abortion rights, work issues, child-rearing and on and on. To use the abortion example: Feminists disagree on what the limits of abortion rights should be, and how much (if at all) moral/ethical issues should come into play. There are the feminists who think there should be no limits and there are no moral issues, and there are feminists like Frances Kissling, for example, who engage in nuanced and complex discussions about abortion all the time. But we’re all pro-choice, and we all think abortion should be mostly legal, so I say bring on the diversity and bring on the discussions. They’re crucial. Saying “abortion should be legal up until the moment of birth and any discussion deviating from that means that you HATE WOMEN and are ANTI-CHOICE” is not helpful. It’s self-defeating. At the same time, we can’t be bogged down in philosophical conversations forever and ever; we need to prioritize action.

        And I feel the same way about sex work. I’m a writer; writing about politics and ideas is what I do. I think sex workers should lead the way on policy issues that impact sex work and I think sex work should be legal. I also think there are issues with sex work that need to be discussed within a feminist framework, just like anything else — abortion rights, birth control, marriage, sex. work. I think disagreement is good. What I think is bad is the kind of disagreement that goes, “You are not 100% in agreement with me so therefore you are against me and you are the enemy!” Which is what I see happening in this thread. And it’s ridiculous.

      • A4 says:

        It is entitled and scummy and the sign of a huge asshole to believe you are entitled to sex with someone who does not 100% freely, enthusiastically and without any force or coercion want to be having sex with you. I am sure many men who pay for sex are perfectly nice human beings. I also think they’re entitled misogynists.

        What I think is bad is the kind of disagreement that goes, “You are not 100% in agreement with me so therefore you are against me and you are the enemy!” Which is what I see happening in this thread.

        Yeah I totally see that happening too. And one of the people I see doing it is you.

        It’s a little galling to be spoken down to about your lofty position as a writer and philosophical thinker, but as you pointed out, this is your space, and you have the power to ban, delete, and edit however you feel is appropriate.

        Only a select few can use the threat of banning here to silence the opinions they dislike. The rest of us just have to deal with all the offensive things that don’t cause you to feel upset. There was an astonishing amount of transphobia on the other thread that didn’t receive any of your moderator attention, but I’m glad you can threaten LotusBecca for her remark.

      • SophiaBlue says:

        I’ve stayed out of this thread up til now, but yeah I’m with A4, Jill. I wished you’d responded to Meghan Murphy and martine votvik transphobia with as much anger as you gace to LotusBecca’s sort-of rude remark.

      • thinksnake says:

        So, I just tried to do a re-read of this entire set of comments without triggering a panic attack going through all of it again. Keeping that in mind, I may have missed posts (although I tried to search by usernames as much as possible).

        No, I have not had time to respond to every single one them, but it’s demonstrably false that I haven’t responded to any of the sex workers who have criticized me.

        I found one instance in this entire thread where you specifically responded to precisely one of the critiques of your OP by sex workers – that being your view that clients of sex work are in your words scum.

        This was not the only critique or comment by sex workers in this thread. It was far from the most prominent. They’ve been coming in since the start of this thread, and also in the previous one.

        I get that no, you don’t have to respond to every post, and I don’t think it’s something you should try to. But when an oppressed group keep saying, repeatedly, in thread after thread, that you are not helping, and that your way of conceptualising the experiences of the oppressed group is not helping, then I really think you need to take that on boad. That’s part of being a decent person, and an ally to that oppressed group.

      • Donna L says:

        I’ve stayed out of this thread up til now, but yeah I’m with A4, Jill. I wished you’d responded to Meghan Murphy and martine votvik transphobia with as much anger as you gace to LotusBecca’s sort-of rude remark

        Look, I happen to agree that Becca’s comment crossed the line, not simply because it was personally insulting, but because it seemed to me to be uncomfortably dismissive of what Jill sometimes writes about, along the stereotypical left-wing lines of “we have no time for your petty concerns with women’s relationships; there’s a revolution to run!”

        And I’m willing to give Jill the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was unaware, until afterwards, of what happened during those lengthy discussions with Meghan and Martine, in which one of them refused to acknowledge that her website was chock-full of open transphobia from people including Sheila Jeffreys (a very kind woman, according to Meghan!), or that transphobia even exists, and the other refused to admit that Janice Raymond’s “all transsexuals rape women” statement was hateful; it was just an “investigation” and a “discussion” of the issues, etc.

        I haven’t checked the timing of those discussions, or of Jill’s presence in other threads, to see if she was around at the time. But I hope the issue is moot, since there will now be a way of bringing such things to the moderators’ attention, and in my experience neither Jill nor any of the other moderators has hesitated to cut off transphobic discussions when they’re aware of them, and to ban the commenters (which, as we’ve all been saying, needs to be more clearly defined).

        Would I prefer to have seen a little more outrage, even after the fact? Sure. As I’ve already mentioned, it was quite upsetting to me that even after what happened in the first thread, Martine was allowed to put up 20 separate comments in this thread before I finally said something and Caperton banned her. And it isn’t as if Jill wasn’t around; right in the middle of all of this, Jill banned Stella Marr — based on previous behavior from a long time ago, not the day before — about two minutes after she made one comment.

        So unless Jill simply didn’t read the first thread and didn’t know what was said there, I just don’t understand why nothing was done until I said something, never mind the absence of outrage. I realize that we all agree that “transphobia” needs to be defined in some way so that people can no longer claim that they have no idea what it means or that it doesn’t exist, but I see no ambiguity at all when someone denies the hatefulness of the statement “all transsexuals rape women” and claims that it just represents an investigation of the issues. Does anyone think that that isn’t personally insulting to people like me? I know this isn’t my website, but that was pretty egregious. Regardless of whether Martine said anything particularly offensive in this thread. Would anyone question whether denying the hatefulness of the statement “all Jews drink the blood of Christian children” is anti-Semitic, or think that a person who did that should be allowed to continue to comment even if they were otherwise reasonable?

      • Jill says:

        Donna, what happened is that I wasn’t reading the whole thread. Comments were coming quickly, and when I saw one from Stella at the top of the comment list in the back end, I banned her immediately. It was only then that I saw the comment from Caperton banning Martine, who I thought I had banned without fanfare the day before. And once Caperton saw what was going on, she emailed the Feministe team to put in better mod procedures, which is why we now have the giraffe. Because when there are 500+ comments on several threads happening at once, it is virtually impossible to follow all of them in real time. So we’re hoping the giraffe will be a good, efficient way to flag comments for the mods. Because hours and hours (and sometimes a full day or two) will go by before I have a chance to read every comment on a thread. In some enormous threads, I never have time to read every comment. And this is an ongoing problem, so we’re working on some creative solutions to deal with it.

      • A4 says:

        You think you’re entitled to sex because you want it, regardless of whether the person having sex with you wants to be having sex with you.

        Hey Jill? Guess what?

        When I have a respectful client who would like to pay me to provide sexual services and I decide to take them on, it’s because I want to be having sex with them.

        My reasons for wanting to have sex with them is none of your fucking business

        Do you think this guy’s sex worker would thank you for defending her honor? Do you think she would say “Oh thank you Jill for defending me from this entitled misogynist man”?

        Because if so you are JUST. NOT. LISTENING.

      • Li says:

        My reasons for wanting to have sex with them is none of your fucking business

        Can we please print this out and make stickers? Because it is not said enough. (Well obviously actually it is, but people don’t seem to want to listen so maybe it’s time for a format I can stick on their cars.)

      • taylor says:

        A4, that’s awesome that you choose to have sex with your clients, and that you feel free to do so. I don’t know your situation, and am trying to make few assumptions, but perhaps you could explain a bit further?

        One of the (many) things I find problematic about sex work as a concept is that ability to say no and choose your clients, and I’m trying to clarify my opinion.

        I am self-employed and teach small classes on a regular basis. When I am feeling shitty, tired, or just don’t feel like going to class, I put on a smile and do it anyways, because it’s my job, it’s how I make my living, and my students expect me there. It also solidifies my reputation as a competent and responsible instructor. Obviously if I am really ill, I cancel class. Sometimes this is difficult, but it’s doable.

        But if I had sex with people to make a living, if I was feeling shitty, tired, or just didn’t feel like it, I would imagine that I would probably feel the need to do my work anyways. And if I don’t want to have sex, but did anyways, that would feel pretty awful emotionally, and probably physically too. Way more awful than teaching a class when I’m not 100% into it.

        It seems as though one would have to be in a very privileged place to always “want” to have sex with their clients, and to be able to turn down clients when you don’t want to have sex with them. So I guess my question is, what do you do if you have a client booked, but when the time comes around you aren’t fully into it?

      • jemima101 says:

        If I may answer, I dont meet people if I am ill, but if am having a crap day, I don’t let that impact on my work. It all comes down to your view of sex, as something special and sacred or just another human activity.

        If I have felt very low ( I periodically get visited by the black dog) I dont take bookings, that is because when I am low I do not always take care of myself nor want to go thru the hassle of cancelling.

      • Miriam says:

        Jill, what I think you’re missing is that there really are sex workers who love their work and take pride and pleasure in providing a positive sexual experience for their clients. The sex workers I’ve known are happy to have clients like Reggie because those clients are the reason they like being in sex work. Yes, it’s true that the statistical majority of sex workers are not the well-compensated sexual healers. I agree with you that it is so important not to lose their voices or ignore their needs when crafting legislation. But I think it is just as important not to dismiss the real existence of the sex workers who ARE happy, who LOVE their jobs, who respect and value their clients. There are people (not just women!) who view sex work as a sacred calling. There ARE clients who respect and value their sex workers.

    • Hrovitnir says:

      I do *not* think all johns are scum. I do think a vast majority of them are probably entitled arseholes at best – and abusive in far too many cases – but I support your reason for hiring sex workers, and I think it’s entirely possible to have a good transactional sexual relationship.

      That said, your comment was some self-pitying bullshit.

      Enjoy your sexual privilege.

      This, mostly is what sealed my fuck off reaction. NO ONE is entitled to sex. Sex is not an entitlement. As someone with a very high sex drive I have sympathy but access to sex is not a fucking privilege on a par with race/gender/sexual orientation privilege. Just NO.

      And beyond that, the only people I’ve heard use that phrase before are MRAs that live through a lens of massive stereotyping of who gets laid and totally dehumanise any disabled/unattractive women in this discussion. So excuse me if I am deeply suspicious of this statement.

      So sex in your feminist utopia would be ” a fun thing, a collaborative thing, always entered into freely and enthusiastically and without coercion.”

      So what about the loners, those that social standards of the time find ugly (do you really think fads and cultural standards will ever go away), what of the disabled, or those with social disorders that prevent them from forming a relationship but still desire sexual fulfillment? What is going to happen to these people?

      Guess what? It’s patronising as all fuck to say that it’s impossible for the people you’ve listed to have sexual or romantic relationships. People who fit some or all of those have fulfilling relationships all the time. Yeah, there are unique challenges, and I am in no way disregarding them but as someone who resembles some of that you can fuck right off with that condescending bullshit. You don’t talk for me.

      And again: lots of sympathy for the very small minority that really struggle but NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO SEX. I think it’s great if there are sex workers that want to fulfill this niche but if there’s no one who really, freely wants to do that? Too bad. Are we supposed to see it as a crime against humanity if there are sex workers available but they’re too expensive? Follow that line of reasoning, buddy.

      I hire prostitutes. I am a John. I’m an overweight agoraphobic with social anxiety (and I’m not too handsome either). I cannot form the kind of relationships necessary to have feminist utopian sex. Yet I still desire sex and there are those willing to have sex with me in exchange for money. Willing to overlook my weight, my social awkwardness, and my inability to leave my home.

      Maybe you can’t form non-transactional relationships for these reasons. Maybe it’s because of all of the above – and because no have no time for the foibles of another human being.

  27. Lauren says:

    Wonderful post. I too exist in that tenuous space between being an anti-sex-trafficking feminist and understanding sex worker rights. You touch on the aspect that I feel a lot of sex workers rights activists leave out: privilege. If the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 in the US, what does that say about consent? About coercion? About bodily autonomy? If a 12-14 year-old girl can’t legally consent to sex in this country, how can she consent to prostitution? How can she consent to selling sex?

    While some groups seek criminalization of prostitution, there are some anti-sexual exploitation groups that actively work to decriminalize prostitution for women but instead choose to focus on criminalizing the demand: the men who buy and sell sex.

    Regardless, thank you for this important piece, Jill!

    • jemima101 says:

      The average age of entry isnt 12 to 14, if all you know is Farley, go away read, learn (I put some stuff higher up) and then come back.

      Since the rest of your comment is based on a made up lie its not really worth reading.

      • Lauren says:

        Not sure the harsh condemnatory tone is necessary, but regardless, I’m using statistics that are well-known and well-documented that the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12-14. And if this statistic is well-documented, it’s going to be the one I use.

        http://www.ct.gov/dcf/cwp/view.asp?a=4127&Q=492900

        I am not condemning sex workers, but I do believe that many of their advocates conveniently avoid their own privilege in an effort to promote their rights. While some freely choose to enter into sex work and consent to it, many do not, and a large number of them are women/girls of color.

      • jemima101 says:

        The tone is because it is a lie, and if you read the links you will see that. The fact it is accepted is a sign of how dangerous not calling out the lie every time it is promoted is.

        The anti lobby and its right wing religious supporters are a huge powerful industry, the same people who want to close planned parenthood also want to control womens bodies when it comes to sex work.

      • Wendy Lyon says:

        Lauren, the citation on that page doesn’t work, but I assume they’re referring to a University of Pennsylvania study which is the usual source for the claim that the average age of entry is 12-14.

        The title of that study is “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S, Canada and Mexico”. See that? It’s a study of children in the sex trade. Every single one of its subjects, by definition, entered the industry below the age of 18. It is not a study of the general sex working population (whatever that is), and tells us nothing about the overall average age of entry.

      • jemima101 says:

        I did point that out, around 500 comments ago. I may have to step out soon, being repeatedly told I either dont care or am too stupid to know I am being raped is starting to wear me down.

      • Lauren says:

        I never said that you don’t care or you are stupid to know you’re being raped. Those are horrific comments and I would never make them. I’m sorry if someone else is, but I am unequivocally not.

        All I was trying to do was point out that there is a discrepancy under the law about girls being too young to consent to sex but still prosecuted for supposedly consenting to prostitution. I personally favor the decriminalization of prostitution for those who are prostituted and instead favor criminalizing pimps who sell women like commodities. That’s my two cents. I appreciate that not everyone will agree with me.

    • amblingalong says:

      If the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 in the US, what does that say about consent? About coercion? About bodily autonomy? If a 12-14 year-old girl can’t legally consent to sex in this country, how can she consent to prostitution? How can she consent to selling sex?

      OK, even if these facts are true, nobody is arguing that a 12-14 year old can consent to selling sex. This is a total non-sequitor. The ability of a child to consent to sex has no bearing on the ability of an adult to consent to sex.

  28. Amanda says:

    In the above piece the author said this
    “Because sex wouldn’t be this commodified thing that some people (mostly woman) have and other people (mostly men) get. ”

    In my opinion this is harmful thinking. Not everything that is sold is objectified. We do not say the surgeon, firefighter, police officer, professor, or waitress are being objectified or being turned into a thing that is sold. I completely agree that when sex is thought of as a commodity instead of an act or a service we run into problems. However, by acting as if money is a magic wand that magically turns consensual sex into a harmful commodity we are subtly reinforcing the idea that sex is a commodity.

    We discuss prostitution as the use of a person’s body not a service. That is why there is the idea that you cannot rape a prostitute after money has exchanged hands. The person’s bodily autonomy has been sold. If a woman is selling a sexual act such as a handjob or anal penetration why is it so different from a surgeon selling the use of his hands, expertise and experience during open heart surgery? I feel that by opposing a consensual sexual act that happens to be paid for, we are perpetuating this erroneous idea. We can wrap up our opinions of why it is wrong in feminist language and speak until we are blue in the face about how it objectifies females, how they cannot actually make this choice, of how it is exploitative but that doesn’t change the root issue. Why is the act of prostitution considered selling the use of a person’s body and not the use of their services? Why is selling a sexual act different than selling constitutional knowledge on the supreme court or a waitress serving food to customers?

    • amblingalong says:

      In my opinion this is harmful thinking. Not everything that is sold is objectified. We do not say the surgeon, firefighter, police officer, professor, or waitress are being objectified or being turned into a thing that is sold. I completely agree that when sex is thought of as a commodity instead of an act or a service we run into problems. However, by acting as if money is a magic wand that magically turns consensual sex into a harmful commodity we are subtly reinforcing the idea that sex is a commodity.

      THIS.

  29. Ismone says:

    Okay, how is this. I think ANY kind of work that requires a person to submit to physical contact with another person can be very problematic.

    I think that kind of work is problematic if it bothers the individual person. If it does not, fine, funsies, but please don’t generalize about those of us who find it incredibly violating.

    Signed,

    A woman who hates airport patdowns, hugging people I am not sleeping with/related to/friends with for more than 5 years.

    • Sure! I don’t think anybody’s arguing that people who experience sex work as traumatic experience it as traumatic. We’re just saying that the people who don’t, don’t.

      How about this: some people are traumatised by and terrified of dogs and would never work in a pet shop. Others love pet shop employment, because all those puppies! And both kinds of people are okay and should be treated with respect (i.e. no chucking the first group into the pet shop AND no throwing the second group out of it). Dogs are a value neutral thing in life; nobody’s required to like/dislike them; dog like is not a party line, it’s a personal preference.

      Signed,

      A woman who bases her travel decisions on whether or not there are airport patdowns where she goes, hugs nobody she hasn’t known for <4 years, and gets physically ill being around groups of people indoors.

      • BobChaos23 says:

        This.

        I don’t see why this is so complicated for some people…unless of course they just like imposing their personal sexual morality on people who have a different perspective.

        Sigh….

    • Amanda says:

      Get a different profession then? That is like arguing that nursing is bad because you find handling blood uncomfortable.

      • Ismone says:

        The point being made by Rox and others on this thread is that sex work, for many people, is not *the same* as other types of work.

        People seem to basically be agreeing with that, but some differ.

        While it is fine, IMO, for individual persons to set up a hierarchy of sex is *the same*/*no worse*/*better* than other forms of labor that they find degrading, if we make that a social norm, that is where the things that Rox is concerned about may happen.

        People may be pressured into sexual jobs. And very, very many of us don’t want *anybody* pressured into providing sexual services, for reasons independent than we don’t like capitalism.

        So to draw a distinction and explain why, for some of us, providing sexual services would be more degrading/stressful *TO US* (which is not to say that this means that people who *choose* to provide sexual services are degraded or stressed, would have to look at the research/interview the individuals to work that one out) I explained how forcing physical contact of *ANY* kind, sexual or non, is often stressful for larges swathes of the population.

        So the argument I am making is that for many of us, sexual labor would be different. Now, are the reasons for that somewhat socially constructed? Yes.

        But as macavitykitsune and some on the other side of the debate have said, the issue is bodily autonomy. And we do have laws to deal with that, on the books. (Query how well they work.)

        Basically, I am trying to get at why people on this thread, like macavity and Rox, seem to really be getting into it–what is the source of the conflict, and how could we move forward with legalization/decriminalization/anti-trafficking in a way that addresses both concerns, and unintended consequences for both.

        In these threads over the past few days, I seem to have seen people saying the unintended consequences of anti-trafficking work is higher arrest rates of sex-workers, more harassment, more jail time, and very serious issues with transwomen, in particular, being wrongly arrested as “johns.” I have also seen Rox and others argue that the unintended consequences of legalization or perhaps even decriminalization is legitimating what is a sexist practice, the sexism being on the side of the buyer, and making it “work” that people who are already vulnerable and uninterested may be pressured into. Does that mean that I think sellers are doing something wrong? Nope. Some are acting out of free joyful choice, and even if they aren’t, the only person they are hurting is themselves–they are suffering because of cultural toxicity around entitlement, sexuality, and the like.

      • Amanda says:

        What about sex work makes it different from other work? It is simply a sexual act. I honestly think the only reason people feel this way is because of the prudishness that is part of our culture. Massaging a penis and massaging a back are only different because we as a culture SAY it is different. Why should massaging a back be legal and harmless while massaging a penis is illegal and harmful? Our society gives this weird special status to women’s sexuality as this huge thing that is a part of her rather than simply an act. That idea is extremely harmful to female sexuality and this stuff about prostitution being special because it is sex (notice how no one says that to male prostitutes who are doing the penetrating) is just reinforcing this idea.

      • jemima101 says:

        This has reminded me of a niggle that has been in my mind about the thread. Among the massive assumptions about sex work being trotted out is that it always involves penetrative sex/ I would say less than half of my bookings involve that, and I know I am not unusual. (Normal privileged indoor worker caveat)

      • Bagelsan says:

        Why should massaging a back be legal and harmless while massaging a penis is illegal and harmful?

        Yeah, what’s the whole point about genitals in the first place? Anyone should be able to do what they like to another person’s genitals, and genitals should be a public matter. If I get stiff genitals I like to stretch them in public. I ask my students how their genitals are feeling today. And I’ve applied many a bandaid to a child’s genitals if they scraped them on the playground while genital-wrestling. If someone passes out, there is implied consent for me to fondle their genitals just like there is implied consent for me to start CPR. It’s just genitals!

  30. Thank you, Jill. This is much how I feel. The other thread lost me; I was seeing too much “sex trafficking and sex work are terms used interchangably and therefore being against trafficking means you’re against sex workers!” in the comments. Sorry, when I hear about illegal brothel owners here (Australia) being tried for kidnapping, false imprisonment, theft of earnings, theft of passports and so on of the women who’ve been lured here on the promise of work (ie NOT sex work), I am not hearing a “sex workers are evil” message at all. And the “no police intervention is ever good” notion was making me sick precisely because of cases like these. There IS a huge difference between voluntary sex work (and yes, “voluntary” isn’t automatically a free choice) and sex trafficking, which involve all the crimes I mentioned above plus rape. Claiming it doesn’t makes no sense to me.

    • Hrovitnir says:

      Ah, but Kitty, do you think prostitution should be illegal? Because decriminalisation of prostitution would not stop what you outlined happening. Kidnapping and rape continue to be horrific crimes.

      I understand that for you the idea of having sex for money is incomprehensible but try and look at these discussions from a practical point of view.

      I hate that these discussions genuinely end up centering privileged sex workers but christ, the way they are constantly erased means damn right they (and sympathisers) are going to start yelling louder and louder “I exist! And I matter too!”

      I’m pretty confident a vast majority of sex workers by choice would support helping trafficked and coerced sex workers, generally more passionately than academics discussing such things in theory!

  31. Kasabian says:

    I used to wonder, more as an academic exercise, if there was a feminist way to be a john. A moot point, because I seriously doubt any john has ever been concerned with the feminism of their actions.

    But it’s an interesting line, isn’t it? Is it possible to consume any aspect of sex in a feminist way? Going to strip club? Watching or reading pornography?

    I’m not trying to make any sort of ‘slippery slope’ argument, but I do think it’s an interesting thing to consider, as there’s some overlap between ‘people who consider themselves feminist’ and ‘people who consume some sort of sex product’.

    Or maybe this is derailing / not something we even need to care about?

    • Li says:

      For the record, there is also some overlap between ‘people who provide sexual services’ and ‘people who purchase sexual services’.

      And look, I don’t really want to reopen the porn wars, but feminists did pretty heavily have this discussion about consuming pornography, and I’m not sure that differences between paying someone for their sexual performance and paying someone for their more direct sexual services necessarily lead to a bright moral line.

    • Tizz says:

      “because I seriously doubt any john has ever been concerned with the feminism of their actions.”

      How many johns have you actually talked to? Hm?

    • Amanda says:

      I have personally never found any of that to be problematic. The big thing I wrestled with was how I personally have sex as I enjoy being dominated. I settled on the answer that you do not need to be constantly in control in order to be equal. You can consume pornography and sex without harming another person in a systemic way. Feminism is against systemic oppression so I think you can easily consume pornography in a feminist manner.

    • karak says:

      Most of the pornography I know women to consume sidesteps the issue neatly by being drawn, animated, written, and not involving real bodies. Other people I know seek out “amateur” pornography, which is often done between sexual partners who have decided to film the act of sex, and not paid actors, and they feel it’s less coercive that way.

      I believe one can be a responsible john in the same way you can be a responsible buyer for, say, clothes: research various companies, read reviews, and the like. Specific for sex workers be being things like: look for signs of abuse or coercion, talk to your worker, and most of all, evaluate your own attitude and reasons for buying sex.

      • Kasabian says:

        I’m not sure that completely side-steps it though, because you’re still paying for sex, right? Whether it’s manufactured or grown organically with zero HMO’s, you’re still buying sex. Whether you buy a lapdance, a handjob, an erotic manga or novel, you’re still, at least in part, buying into ‘sex as product’. And if you view ‘sex’ as some sacred calf that cannot be ethically purchased, only freely given…?

        I dunno, I guess I’m going about it a round-about way, but my point is that I think there should be room for prostitutes and porn and those that love them in the feminist utopia.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Nope, it’s not sex. It’s a representation of sex (at best).

        In other words, ceci n’est pas une pipe.

      • jemima101 says:

        Oh just bugger off with your category errors.

      • karak says:

        I don’t have an issue with paying for sex as long as the other person is okay with being there and we have the premise of what’s about to happen.

        As long as there’s a clearly laid-out agreement, and both parties are sober and willing, I don’t care if there’s money, goods, or whatever exchanged.

    • Kasabian says:

      Also, more as a side note, here was my thought process when I first read OP:

      Wait, if there’s no prostitution in the feminist utopia, is there porn?

      Wait, if there’s no porn in the feminist utopia, is their masturbation?

      Wait, if there’s no masturbation in the feminist utopia…

      “I wanted to put a reference to masturbation in one of the scripts for the Sandman. It was immediately cut by the editor [Karen Berger]. She told me, “There’s no masturbation in the DC Universe.” To which my reaction was, “Well that explains a lot about the DC Universe.”
      -Neil Gaiman

      …holy shit, is the DC Universe a feminist utopia!?

      [/silly]

      • Jill says:

        Ha. You know people can masturbate without porn, right?

        That said, I see nothing wrong with images of people having sex. And I’ve said many times that I watch porn and like a lot of it and think it should be legal. But the porn industry today? I think you’d have a really hard time making the case that it’s “feminist.”

      • LotusBecca says:

        Here’s a question for you, Jill. How would you feel about a pornographic actor who really loves his or her job. He or she really isn’t in it for the money, even though most of the other people in this particular film ARE in it for the money. In fact, one could go so far as to say this one actor wants “to have sex with people who would not be having sex with them were it not for money.”

        Is this pornographic actor an “entitled asshole?”

      • amblingalong says:

        And I’ve said many times that I watch porn and like a lot of it and think it should be legal.

        So it’s ok to be paid to have sex if you’re taping it, but as soon as the cameras are off, if there’s any more fucking going on, it’s rape, and the male performer is scum (because as we know only men want sex or pay for it and only women are prostitutes ever).

        Genius.

      • RichardVW says:

        I’m not following this, Jill.

        For the sake of clarity, I’d like to note that I would not procure certain intimate services because of the wide-scale problems involved in the market for those services. I do think, however, that there would be a market (exponentially smaller than the present market) for such services in a feminist utopia (but only if money were a desired thing in the utopia; perhaps it wouldn’t be).

        Isn’t it true that most women who act in commercial porn entered porn for the same reasons other women end up in prostitution?* How are the people who bolster the market for a less-than-feminist porn industry qualitatively different than those who bolster the market for a largely exploitative prostitution industry? I grant, of course, that there is a massive difference of consequence between viewing a porn video and procuring in-person sexual services. To me, however, that seems to be a difference of degree rather than a difference of kind.

        If both porn and prostitution are largely anti-feminist, then why is it cool to contribute to demand for one but not the other? If a difference of degree (as opposed to a difference of kind) is sufficient to categorize one act as bad and the other as fine, then it seems to me that you can’t logically declare that economic markets for sexual activities are inherently wrong. You could only go as far as declaring that they are sometimes wrong.

        *Not a rhetorical question.

      • RichardVW says:

        From LotusBecca’s comment above:

        Is this pornographic actor an “entitled asshole?”

        Further, is it ethically correct to contribute to the demand that enables xir to use porn as a less stigmatized and infinitely more lucrative prostitution service?

  32. Okay, so, I’m going to suggest something revolutionary to a whole lot of people on this thread: have you maybe considered not generalising your views on sex/life/bodies/emotions/pandas to everybody under the sun?

    I find it useful, myself, when dealing with the rest of the world. Or even people I know. Hell, I’m pretty freakin’ compatible with my wife, and we have radically opposing attitudes to sex most of the time! They work together, and we work together, because when we begin statements like “I can’t imagine how anybody”, or “there’s no way somebody”, or “all human being just are” or words to that effect…. we pause, take deep breaths and remind ourselves that the world is not exclusively populated by clones of us. It seems to do the trick.

    • Amanda says:

      I understand why you say this but I dislike this idea. Generalization can be problematic but it is the only one to understand the world or try to understand society as a series of systems. The fields of psychology and sociology REQUIRE generalization in order to do anything. Not applying to EVERY SINGLE SITUATION is hardly a basis to deny that in most cases something works. I find ‘don’t generalize’ a weak argument.

    • BobChaos23 says:

      OMG, a rational persepctive.

      Now, watch everyone fight about it. :P

  33. f. says:

    Hey, so, for anyone who wants to look at some of the systemic issues involved here, I just want to recommend this Saskia Sassen article examining globalization as a women’s issue [will open as .pdf in your browser]: http://www.columbia.edu/~sjs2/PDFs/womensburden.2000.pdf

  34. karak says:

    The number of feminists equating rape (and coerced sex is rape) with boring jobs or bad jobs or whatever else is sickening and frankly embarrassing. Don’t we jump all over people’s asses for being flippant about rape and talking about bullshit like grey rape?

    Servicing a john you don’t want to service is not like flipping a burger when you’d rather be sleeping. It’s not.

    Being a sex worker is not inherently rape, god no. And there are people who get either enjoyment or satisfaction in working in sex work over working at anything else–doctor, lawyer, model, janitor, car salesmen, whatever. And that’s perfectly cool and I want them to be safe and to be able to call the police on a client who tries to push their boundaries or doesn’t pay.

    BUT–A sex worker who has to take a client they don’t want can describe that as rape. Working in sex work because the other option is starving is rape.

    A sex worker, above almost any other kind of worker, has the right to say “no” to their work, at any time, at any point, because anything else is rape.

    • umami says:

      This seems like a crucial point. If you work in the food service industry you can’t arbitrarily refuse to serve certain customers. There actually aren’t that many jobs where it is really safe to do that; even jobs that work on an independent contractor model where in theory you choose your clients are often dependent on premises or businesses owned by another person who wouldn’t be happy about their contractors turning people away without a solid reason.

      But sex workers surely HAVE to have the right to do that without jeopardising their entire livelihood? Don’t they? I’m not sure that the arguments comparing it to other jobs or the arguments claiming “sex isn’t different” help to make the case for sex workers to have more autonomy and control.

      A sex worker should have a lot more autonomy and discretion in their work, moment by moment, than the average worker, even than the average highly skilled worker, gets to have, otherwise there’s coercive sex happening.

      I don’t think I articulated this well; sorry if it doesn’t make much sense. But it seems like an important distinction to me.

      • BobChaos23 says:

        “We reserve the right to refuse service”.

        I am pretty sure all restaurants have this on a sign somewhere in their establishments. Just sayin.

      • umami says:

        What an odd thing to write.

        Do you believe that in
        the establishments that have that sign up, management allow every waitress to refuse to serve any customers she is creeped out by or finds disrespectful or just plain doesn’t like?

        This is not, in fact, the case.

        Or maybe you don’t believe that and were in fact just sayin, with no delusions of relevance. But why?

      • Ismone says:

        Umami,

        At a good workplace, yes. I was told that I could get customers booted from a bar for harassing my sister and I, and we didn’t even work there.

        If the customer is sexually or racially harassing the server (or harassing them based on any other protected class, which varies from state to state) the employer may be liable for _____ discrimination or harassment for failing to protect employees from the harassing customers.

        Now, if the harassment isn’t based on a protected class, the management has more leeway, but, if someone is in danger, and the management doesn’t do anything about it, they can be liable for that, too.

    • Kasabian says:

      Agreed. While I don’t think everyone who works an occupation has the right to refuse service to others (Conservative Pharmacists, I’m looking at you) I think sex workers most definitely should have that right without fear of reprisal / starvation / etc.

      And hey, when Eudaimonia finally rolls around, that’s probably what the world will look like! All of us working jobs we love, and human flourishing abounds!

  35. jemima101 says:

    Well I am back, but not really to argue, because it seems to have degenerated into I dont like casual sex, so no one can.

    May I point out a couple of things though

    Everytime you use the word “john” you sound like my Gran trying to get hip with the kids. No one outside haters uses the term, quick survey last night, on Twitter so not peer reviewed or anything. Clients is pretty universal. This shit matters, because if you claim to not be denying women agency using words they approve of matters. Also, to my second point, client covers men and women. Because the huge fucking elephant in the room here is women go to sex workers too. Female ones.

    As for the people saying its rape , just feck off, you insult every survivor with that. I refuse to even engage If you dont know what rape is thank your particular God, if you think its what is going to happen to me in about an hours time when i exchange sexual services for money take a long hard look at yourself.

    • Schmorgluck says:

      I don’t see the connection to casual sex. At all.

      • jemima101 says:

        Dont you? Must have read different comments to me then where people talked about sex being special.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Well, yeah, sex, is based on the encounter of two mutual desires. If there’s no desire on one side, it’s not sex. I don’t see what casualness has to do with it.

      • Li says:

        Yes, if by “desire” you include “desire for money” and other things other than just sexual desire. Because my consent is actually not based on whether or not I am experiencing sexual desire or attraction towards my partners. It’s based on whether or not I want to have sex with them, and there are a number of reasons why I might want to do that. (I think “desire” can be really loaded term when we’re talking about sex and consent for this reason).

        And I think jemima101 is talking about the people on this thread insisting that their experience of sex – that it is an emotionally special experience they only want to engage in with people they have strong and intimate connections with and desire for – is a universal feature of sex itself. Which necessarily precludes not only sex work but also casual sex.

      • jemima101 says:

        Yup…Swingers, people in open relationships, a whole host of people do not have sex because it is a deep emotional thing. To base your objection to sex work on a personal view of sex, one rooted in Jeudo Christian patriarchy, well It just fails on every level going.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Interesting. Personal issues aside, I’d tend to be a swinger myself, I love new encounters, and I have no issue with having sex with someone I barely know. Yet I’m still attached to a certain amount of personal involvement and emotional connexion, though not necessarily deep.

      • roro80 says:

        Schmorgluck, you seem to be missing a major point here: that’s super for YOU that YOU want feelings and emotional connection. As someone said above, the world is not actually made of clones of YOU. People are different from each other. Stating ones sexual preferences is quite different from expressing some sort of Universal Truth.

      • Andie says:

        Well, yeah, sex, is based on the encounter of two mutual desires. If there’s no desire on one side, it’s not sex. I don’t see what casualness has to do with it.

        But people have argued that asexuals can still have consensual sex even though they may not feel sexual desire. So why can’t we argue that sex workers can have consensual sex without actually feeling desire for their clients.

    • LotusBecca says:

      Hey jemima. . .I did a search through the thread and noticed I used the word “johns” once, and I’d like to apologize for that. I knew it wasn’t the preferred word, but unfortunately it wasn’t something I’d thought through enough previously and so when a bunch of other people are using words like that, I was able to slip right back into it. Not that that can really serve as an excuse. Anyway, I’ll make sure to never use the word again. You raise a good point about how plenty of women go to sex workers.

      And I agree it’s really fucked up to conflate sex work with rape. Abolitionists (among others) do that all the time and it pisses me off so much because it’s just so disrespectful both to sex workers and to rape survivors.

    • martine votvik says:

      “Everytime you use the word “john” you sound like my Gran trying to get hip with the kids. No one outside haters uses the term”

      I prefer the word punter personally, I had no idea John was so inflammatory.

      I understand that you prefer the word client, but using a word such as client does have a lot of connotations that I don’t agree with, so it’s not possible for me to use that word and still make coherent sense.

      Similarly the term sex-worker is difficult for me, because 1) don’t consider it sex. 2) I consider it too wide a term to be useful talking about the problems in the trade.

      • jemima101 says:

        Are you a current or former sex worker? If so I will happily debate this with you.

        If not, what you are or are not comfortable with doesn’t matter to me in the slightest. The oppressor does not get to decide what terms are or are not acceptable.

        I dont have a problem with the term john, it helps me spot the haters.

      • martine votvik says:

        it’s not about what I am comfortable with, I’ll happily use what ever terms you are happy with as long as they communicate what I am trying to communicate.

        I know the reasons why the p word can be difficult to deal with. But if I’m using the p word then you can probably assume that it’s because I’m trying to communicate something that f.ex “sex worker” couldn’t. And some of the time, you can probably assume that I’m not talking about you.

      • jemima101 says:

        If by p word you mean punter, I have no problem at all with it, it just seems rude on a US site to use an British English colloquialism. (You do know that punter is not a term limited to sex work dont you?)

        As for the rest…erm OK, it seems the nasty sex worker having an opinion has rattled your cage…

      • martine votvik says:

        I don’t see why you assume that I think that you’re nasty, or why you think you’ve rattled the cage.

        I live in the UK so I know it can mean different things, including pushing a long boat with a stick ;) I guess I just find it more personal and less clinical than client.

        by the p word, I meant a different word that gets you stuck in moderation :p

      • Oh jeez, I’ve always heard only clients or johns as good words, and “punter” as a hatey one… shall reverse in brain now…

      • jemima101 says:

        Its who uses them really, look through the thread, john is a dehumaninsing term because people want to believe they are one step above rapist. As I said, it was just a twitter chat, but some of the sex workers I asked are very experienced and have been around every block going. They have never come across John being used by anyone except police and antis.

        Sex worker joke…every woman who moans about Johns is probably married to one.

        More seriously, they are just people, using a dehumaninsing and objectifying term is part of the whole sex work is rape myth. Jill saying they are scum shows how little she knows about sex workers or their clients.

        The man I am texting right now with cerebal palsy…scum?
        The couple who take me away twice a year, we eat dinner, drink wine, catch up and have really hot sex, scum?
        The elderly man I see regularly who is sub, who never expressed it until he became a widower who loves having his nipples bitten, scum?

        No they are people, you will know people, Jill will know people who visit sex workers. I understand in the states where sex positivity is difficult in a dominant protestant Christian culture that they will probably never admit it, but they are there.

        If people are willing to objectify one group and other them based on personal prejudice, they tend to be willing to do it to others.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Yeah my jaw dropped when I read Jill’s comment about how all “johns” are “scum.” Like. . .if you think this Jill. .. how do you REALLY feel about the women who enable these scum to be scum? Hmm?

      • Jill says:

        I don’t think women in the sex trade are “enabling” those men to be scum any more than I think workers at Wal-Mart are “enabling” that corporation to be scum.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Jill, that analogy makes no sense. One’s clients are not the same thing as one’s employer. Take you, for example. Your employer is your law firm, not your clients. Wal-Mart as a corporation would be analogous to the owner of a brothel, not the client of a sex worker.

      • LotusBecca says:

        And come to think of it. . .what would it say about you if all the clients you served as a lawyer were scum? Let’s say you exclusively served as a counsel for rapists. Since anti-prostitution folks think all “johns” are rapists anyway, this seems like an apt thought experiment. Would people consider you to be an admirable lawyer, Jill, if all your clients were all exclusively rapists?

      • afb1221 says:

        “Would people consider you to be an admirable lawyer, Jill, if all your clients were all exclusively rapists?”
        In my opinion, one absolutely can be a respected lawyer while representing only the worst of clients. But that’s a lawyer culture thing, perhaps. As in the idea that even the worst of the worst need a lawyer for our constitution to be respected and that it’s honourable to ensure that.

        But I think it is completely different in the case of sex worker’s clients. If “decent” / “good” people shouldn’t be clients, then that leaves sex workers with only the bad people. Obviously that’s a huge problem.

        So, while I think I generally do not think highly of clients (though I wouldn’t universalize – you raise convincing examples), I accept that this is inconsistent with fully supporting sex workers. And I’m really not sure what to do with that.

        I think that given how oppressive this world is, a client cannot know whether a particular sex worker is being oppressed by the work (though of course, some, perhaps even many, are not oppressed). So, playing the odds (everything seems fine so I’ll assume it’s fine) strikes me as unethical when the potential consequences are so severe. I mean, that’s why I personally would not be a client. But, I’m not saying I’ve necessarily got the right approach.

        Does supporting someone necessarily require having no reservations?

        jemima101, though, I want to say thanks for your contributions / for being here / putting up with this conversation. I not 100% on board with everything you’re saying (though I would say I’m convinced of most of it) but I’m grateful for your perspective.

    • BobChaos23 says:

      It somehow reminds me of the fact that the only people who use the word “Darwinism” in a casual debate are creationists, and the only people who use the term “pro-death” are people who do not support a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

      • martine votvik says:

        Darwinism is frequently used when discussing other things too. But I think you’re definitely right about “Pro-death” that one is pretty damning.

      • BobChaos23 says:

        Regarding “Darwinism”, what I meant is that most people who tend to discuss modern evolutionary theory tend to have moved on from Darwin long ago.
        He gave it a good start, to be sure, but I have seen the term used as if evolution is somehow all about Darwin, etc. maight be just my experience online, of course. :)

    • Kasabian says:

      Damn, I used “John” too. Sorry. :(

    • Kes says:

      Noting that the actions of the client are equivalent to “rape” (because he has no concern for the consent of the person he’s fucking) isn’t the same as defining the experience of the sex worker as “rape.”

      Nobody is telling sex workers (or women in general) that they’re being raped all the time. But we can sure as shit point out that when men don’t care if partners want to be there, that’s rape culture and rapist-mentality. And excusing the men for having that mindset? Well, that’s rape apologism.

      • jemima101 says:

        You know nothing of sex workers of clients so go away silly person, your views are pointless, insulting and actually make the lives of sex workers harder.

      • Kes says:

        Really disgusted at all these assumptions from the pro-client crowd that anybody who thinks clients are scumbugs must never have been involved with sex work and are just privileged little idiots. Really disgusted that you’re discounting me, and saying shit about me, just because I disagree with you.

        Honestly, if the clients you have are never scumbags and don’t treat you like crap – if they don’t act like they are ENTITLED to your body and try to manipulate into doing all kinds of crazy shit – then YOU are the one who is ignorant due to your privilege. Holy damn.

        The people who are shutting out sex workers’ voices aren’t Jill and other feminists who agree with her – they’re just trying to tread a fine line, realizing that what’s good for the lucky-ass, white, college-educated escort or cam girl isn’t the same thing as what’s good for the MAJORITY of sex workers. The people who are shutting out sex workers are the PEOPLE WHO CLAIM TO SPEAK FOR ALL SEX WORKERS.

        I realize it may be inconvenient for the “sex work is teh awesome” party line to remember that the majority of people who are involved in sex work (even those who AREN’T trafficked) are engaged in survival sex, or are doing okay but would much rather be doing something else because it beats you down, or have to deal with really shitty clients who love to give sob stories and manipulate/pressure/coerce.

        Are you seriously going to tell me that these people’s lives aren’t real? Are you going to call me SILLY for showing my anger here? Are you seriously going to tell me that their existence is INSULTING to you? And then to

        Does the reality of what clients think/do really INSULT you? Then maybe you should find a different line of work. If you can’t disconnect what the client is thinking/doing from who you are, and what your experience is, then I don’t even know how you manage to make it in the industry. Frankly, I doubt you really are a sex worker.

        Honestly, the level of sheer PRIVILEGE and SELF-ABSORPTION coming off of some of you so-called “sex workers” is vile and disgusting. I am genuinely glad for you that you have such wonderful happy lives and you love getting the dick you get, but for MOST PEOPLE that is NOT true.

        STOP IGNORING OTHER SEX WORKERS BECAUSE YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC POLICY LINE YOU WANT TO PUSH. STOP TELLING PEOPLE TO “LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS” WHEN MANY SEX WORKERS DISAGREE WITH YOU.

        Whatever, I’m done. Jill is brave, and you people should be ashamed of yourselves.

      • jemima101 says:

        When have I ever not acknowledged my privilege or highlighted the victims here are the people killed and raped and abused, who are generally street workers?

        Nice use of “so called” its ages since being educated and well informed has been used as an reason to deny i am a sex worker. Think I just got full house.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Kes, I really appreciate you trying. There is definitely a line being fed to us, here, promoting the “happy middle-class voluntary sex worker” and it’s got no fucking nuance (nor any empathy.)

      • LotusBecca says:

        Kes, saying that a sex worker’s lying about being a sex worker just because she made fun of you is pretty out-of-line and uncalled for. Cut it out.

      • amblingalong says:

        because he has no concern for the consent of the person he’s fucking

        This is really fucking simple.

        1) If a client has sex with a sex worker without obtaining consent, yes, he’s a rapist.

        2) If a client has sex with a sex worker after obtaining consent, he’s not a rapist.

        3) Sex workers, not you, get to define whether they are giving consent.

      • Li says:

        Rape is not defined by whether you have concern or not for the consent of the person you are fucking. It is not defined by your attitude. It is defined by whether both parties have mutually consented to the sex. That’s it. Not being concerned with the consent of the person you are having sex makes you a creepy douchebag who is probably going to rape someone sooner or later, but it doesn’t make you a rapist. Raping someone does.

        And frankly, people tell sex workers that they are being raped and are just brainwashed into not understanding that it’s happening to them all the time. I mean, do I have to go get the private facebook message a friend of mine received after a discussion with some anti sex work feminists about how she’d clearly been so damaged by ‘rape’ that she couldn’t see her own trauma and that if she care about her hypothetical daughters she would get out of the industry now and that all of the STIs she was clearly getting were damaging her womb and that she was going to birth children with fetal abnormalities? Because that kind of attitude is fucking endemic to anti sex work feminists and saying things like “nobody is telling sex workers…” pretty much demonstrates that you haven’t been paying any attention.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Not being concerned with the consent of the person you are having sex makes you a creepy douchebag who is probably going to rape someone sooner or later, but it doesn’t make you a rapist.

        I disagree. If you’re truly unconcerned about whether the person you’re fucking consents then only chance is keeping you from being a rapist, assuming the fuckee does consent — and you don’t care, so why would you dig to find out? And that’s not even getting into the “enthusiastic consent” model of sex, where it’s supposed to be about mutual enjoyment and not about simply holding still long enough to fuck.

    • Ismone says:

      Fair enough about “John.” Will stop using it. I think I got it from cop tv shows, but good points all.

      I think the reason some of the non-sex-workers are hostile to clients as human beings is because we have assumptions about those clients and how they treat those they buy from. The clients you described sound like really cool people.

      If you are willing to say, do you think there are some forms of sex work where clients, on the whole, aren’t so great, or people are more likely to be pressured into selling to bad clients?

      (If you’re not in the mood to educate us all, no worries and sorry for assuming. Thanks)

      • jemima101 says:

        Oh totally, street workers, especially those with multiple oppressions are often placed under massive pressure by clients, and when sex work, and or soliciting is illegal these pressures are magnified.

        It may be cop show cliche, but many street workers testify that when there were/are accepted red light districts the lives of street workers are much safer. They are more able to resist pressure, have support networks and are more easily reached by outreach and other agencies.

        I put this link in before, but it is I think worth repeating.

        TW violence against women

        http://feministire.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/taking-ideology-to-the-streets-sex-work-and-how-to-make-bad-things-worse/

        Now Dana is exactly the sort of person people in this thread are saying needs to be “saved”. No doubt the antis will say that soliciting is a bad thing and must be illegal. But the change in law has simply made her life 1000 times worse, and not stopped her working, since it is her drug addiction that fuels it.

        Another group who seem to be shot on, from my reading/listening are trans* men and women, who often choose sex work for a variety of reasons. The current situation in America, where various states are arresting trans women and prosecuting them as clients is horrific. Sex workers are ending up on the sex offenders register and being abused by the police. All in the name of ending the demand for sex work.Basically everyone who is normally at the bottom of the heap being fucked over by Kyriarchy is by the criminilization of sex work.

        Its interesting cos I and others get accused of self interest for fighting for sex workers rights. The fact is, as Sweden has shown, indoor workers continue to use the net, pick and choose who they see, and are protected from most of the worst results. White college educated cis women rarely get the shit, what we do have is the spoons to fight.

      • Ismone says:

        Thank you for the link, much appreciated. Will read now.

      • SunlessNick says:

        Thankyou for posting that link.

  36. martine votvik says:

    I find it very problematic when people in favor of legalization try to write off objections to “selling sex” as prudish or moralistic in the sense: “You just don’t understand that some people are very casual about sex.”

    My main battle is fighting the notion in some men (and some women) that sex is a commodity and that it can be exchanged for money. I’m mostly interested in the ethics of the “consumer” in relation to this. I know it might sound ironic coming from a rad fem, but: “what about the men!”.

    One look at our planet should be enough to give us a rough idea at what kind of consumers we are collectively, especially in the west. People, myself included, have the information available about how horrible the meat industry is, how damaging the oil industry is and how our consume impact less fortunate parts of the world. We have the information available that the way we are dealing with the world is damaging to it, but collectively we can’t muster enough outrage to make a change.

    In the same way some men know that the women they frequent are doing it under coercion, but they can’t muster enough outrage to stop seeing them or try to change things. They are too busy convincing themselves that they are not responsible.

    Isn’t it time we all helped keep each other accountable.

    • Li says:

      Do you advocate criminalising meat eating because of the animal cruelty involved? Or do you advocate talking to people about ethical food choices and the ways they can make them? Because one of these issues seems to be producing a very different response on your part than the others.

      And I don’t actually see any sex workers arguing that sex is a commodity. I see them arguing that some people have sex for reasons including that they will be paid for their labour, skills and services. To state the fundamental difference, the first assumes that sex is a thing, the second that it is an act.

      • martine votvik says:

        okay, maybe I should have written service instead of commodity.

        But again you are talking about the “sex-workers” while I’m trying to talk about the “consumers”.

        I think talking about things is a very important part of changing things around, but I don’t think that legalization on this point would make things better. Legalization equals Normalization in the head of the consumer and the demand expands.

      • BobChaos23 says:

        You didn’t answer the question…do you support the outlawing of meat eating?

      • martine votvik says:

        Why don’t you engage with the problem I posed first, then I’ll humor you afterwards ;)

      • LotusBecca says:

        I think talking about things is a very important part of changing things around, but I don’t think that legalization on this point would make things better. Legalization equals Normalization in the head of the consumer and the demand expands.

        Fine. If demand expands that means more women will have more economic opportunities available to them. People like me who support sex workers’ rights aren’t trying to “abolish prostitution.” We’re trying to improve the working conditions and lives of sex workers. Naturally, as conditions for sex workers improve, more women might be willing to consider that line of work. That’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned. I trust women to make the choose the best type of job for themselves given whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

      • Li says:

        Legalization equals Normalization in the head of the consumer and the demand expands.

        I simply don’t believe this is the case. Certainly not significantly. I think demand for sex services, like demand for other often-criminalised things like drugs or alcohol or hey, even abortions, is actually fairly independent of whether or not they are legal. I think other factors effect demand far far more, and if you are serious about reducing demand for sex work there are much better places to put your energy than resisting decriminalisation efforts.

      • martine votvik says:

        Looking at studies done in Australia and the Netherlands both suggest that the marked spreads and increases after legalization. There is more illegal business around the legal ones and there is more trafficking into the area. I only have reports from CATW to lean on in this, I’m not sure if you would consider them a legitimate source.

      • Li says:

        I’m not sure if you would consider them a legitimate source.

        Right in one. Maybe try finding independent verification of those stats?

      • Li says:

        Also HOLY SHIT I JUST GOOGLED IT AND CATW AUSTRALIA IS RUN BY FUCKING SHIELA JEFFREYS. Didn’t we *just* get through the whole “please don’t use viciously transmisogynist sources” thing? Why do we have to go over this shit again?

      • jemima101 says:

        Oh I thought people knew, its why I have just been ignoring the stats. CATW is whorephobic and transphobic. Apologies for not warning you. Hope you are OK :(

      • Li says:

        Don’t be too worried jemima, I knew the first already and suspected the second. I just didn’t realise exactly the people involved and Shiela Jeffreys just says so many completely repulsive things that she’s kind of just triggers massive involuntary side-eye from me.

      • jemima101 says:

        Oh I am so glad to hear that. I do think there should be some equivalent of a TW when people use data from Jefferies, Farely, et al, BSW perhaps.

      • Li says:

        Also, look, this is a sideline, but sometimes it is ok for markets that people work in not to be tiny. Because, for instance, if you are a sex worker that would like to specialise in certain types of services (BDSM work, seeing disabled clients, seeing couples) it’s helpful when there are actually enough clients in that area to support your career without you needing to dip into other service areas. So larger markets can be helpful for sex workers in allowing them more control over the types of work they want to do.

      • martine votvik says:

        Which is great if it’s a choice, but not so much if you’re being coerced into it.

        I do understand the desire of sex workers to have a bigger marked so that you can pick and choose. Just try to remember that the clients you have the privilege to choose away, they are still going to get their “moneys worth” somewhere else. There will always be somebody less privileged, hungrier and more desperate than you.

  37. A4 says:

    Reading through this thread again I see two main things:

    1) People trying to describe how their personal view of happy consensual sex can include sex as a paid service they provide to others.

    2) People trying to argue that ALL HUMANS, or all normal humans, view sex as something special and different because that’s how they feel.

    This universalism and refusal to listen to the voices of the people you presume to discuss is a basic failure that they should be aware of.

    No one is trying to say that sex work is the same as everything else. No one is trying to say that being forced into sex work is the same as being forced into something that is not sex work. No one is more familiar with the differences between sex work and other common forms of work than the people who have actually done sex work.

    So all y’all’s dismissive, arrogant, judgmental, and moralistic reactions to sex workers trying to tell you about their experience of sex is just total utter bullshit.

    • LotusBecca says:

      We all made fun of Naomi Wolfe when her recent book came out arguing that the only real, pure, true sex was that which came in the full package of scented candles, bubble bath, and New Age mumbo-jumbo. Apparently that was a bridge too far for people. On the other hand, having sex for money TOTALLY DEBASES THE SACRED EXPERIENCE OF SEX!!! Even though using money to pay for things is totally cool in every other context. But sex is like a super special exception and shouldn’t be part of the market. Jesus would be proud, I think.

      • Li says:

        Slut shaming is bad! Except when we’re shaming sluts!

      • Ismone says:

        Li,

        Thanks for all your comments below, this thread has really been educational for me.

        Do you think that customers usually tend to have the same view of sexual services that you describe below? Are the ones who don’t difficult to deal with?

      • martine votvik says:

        For me it has less to do with debasement, and more to do with the idea that sex is something mutual, that what you get back for sex is the sex itself. To me it’s a bit like you putting sun tan lotion on my back, me putting it on yours, and then one of us pays the other.

        And you might say, but what about the expertise? But I have a big problem understanding why the technical aspects of sex are so clinically removed from the intimacy and togetherness of it.

        I don’t mind casual sex, I’ve had my fair share of it and plan on having more of it in the future. But even when engaging in drunken one night stands, I always felt like it was an equal exchange of pleasure.

        To me it is like this: 1) If there is an equal exchange of pleasure then paying is ridiculous.
        2) if one party needs compensation for the sex then it’s really odd.
        3) the only way I can make sense of it is the punters wanting a power barrier between themselves and the “sex-worker”.

        Why are people paying for something that is free? Why are people wanting to pay for something that is free?

      • A4 says:

        Personally I find receiving a wad of cash an extremely pleasurable experience.

      • jemima101 says:

        Yup. I was bitching to Carter (My Domly one, the blog explains it) one day about clients who ask what I want/like. His reply made me giggle saying that he thought that was when money changed hands.

        More seriously part of the reason so may antis do not get sex work is because they wont engage with the idea that sex can be a service. I see part of my professionalism as being interested in what they want, giving pleasure, providing a good service. That service depends on the money exchanged.

      • martine votvik says:

        I think that’s completely besides the point.

      • Li says:

        Why are people paying for something that is free? Why are people wanting to pay for something that is free?

        Sex may be available for free, but it’s not necessarily easy to get for everyone. It’s certainly not necessarily easy to get if you have a body that’s sufficiently non-normative enough that mainstream sexual culture and practices aren’t accessible to you.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Why are people paying for something that is free? Why are people wanting to pay for something that is free?

        Why do people buy bottled water when there’s water for free on the tap? Why do people pay for songs on iTunes when you can download those same song for free on The Pirate Bay? Why do people pay for food at grocery stores and restaurants when they could get food for free at food pantries and soup kitchens? Why do people pay to exercise at the gym when they could just exercise by jogging around the block and then doing some situps and pushups in their bedroom?

        All these things have their own specific answer, of course. But I don’t think we should be too surprised that many people pay for sexual services in our capitalist economy given that basically everything else is commodified also. Of course, sex should be mutual. I think all social interaction should be mutually beneficial. I don’t really like the idea that when I go to get my hair cut my hairdresser views it as unenjoyable drudgery. I assume she enjoys cutting hair otherwise she would have found another line of work. Of course, many or most sex workers don’t enjoy their job. That just means we need to assist them in improving their working conditions while also expanding access to resources that allow them to change their line of work if that’s what they’re interested in.

      • martine votvik says:

        People pay for certain “things” which might be freely available because they feel entitled to a better version of what is already there. Bottled water in areas where you can drink the tap water is entirely immoral to me, it should be forbidden by law.

        Sex is however, as I’m sure you’ll agree, not a thing.

        It is an activity that takes place between two or more people and it is made to happen equally by all participants and therefor should not require any compensation.

        Sex for compensation is a lie by the patriarchy to split men up from intimate cooperation with women and create the illusion that men can’t have real, equal intimacy with women. Just like it hurts women it also shames men, men down on the pecking order who doesn’t believe they are worthy of being loved like a human being and believe they need to buy it.

      • Li says:

        Sometimes equal doesn’t actually mean people getting exactly the same thing out of an interaction. It means people both get what they want from that interaction.

        If a sex worker is like “My client gets pleasure, I get money, everyone wins!” I don’t actually think that’s intrinsically unequal. Both sides are getting what they want out of it. Just because you think money doesn’t count as a legitimate reason to want to do something doesn’t make that true for all people.

      • Li says:

        I mean, look, I get it, orgasms are magical and whatever and people who think that money is a legit thing to exchange for one are brainwashed sluts who are ruining sex for the rest of us, but sometimes it’s nice to step back and remember that your experience of something =/= the universal experience of something. I legitimately do not understand why this is so hard for people.

      • A4 says:

        It is an activity that takes place between two or more people and it is made to happen equally by all participants and therefor should not require any compensation.

        I don’t know what this is supposed to mean. It’s so nebulous and disjointed that I cannot follow the logic at all.

        Sex for compensation is a lie by the patriarchy to split men up from intimate cooperation with women and create the illusion that men can’t have real, equal intimacy with women.

        Sometimes there are men who don’t want “real equal intimacy with women”. Sometimes they want to be tied up and flogged by men. Sometimes they want to have sex that is about fun and respect but not Deep Meaningful Feelings of Love.

        Just like it hurts women it also shames men, men down on the pecking order who doesn’t believe they are worthy of being loved like a human being and believe they need to buy it.

        Our society is such that there actually is a real pecking order, and there actually are people who cannot easily find someone who genuinely wants to engage in meaningful loving sex with them and who they want to engage with as well.

        When they go looking, however, some of them find people who actually do enjoy spending their time providing sexual pleasure for others. Since we live in a capitalist society where time=money, and paying someone for their services is a sign of respect and a recognition of their worth, people providing skilled and conscientious services deserve compensation for their time.

        But this is only a small part of your shortsightedness. Not everyone is monogamous. Not everyone has the time for courting and deep meaningful conversations but they do have the money to pay a sex worker. Not everyone has the same sexual preferences as you and your Deep Spiritual Sex-as-communing-spirits-and-togetherness-with-one-partner and FEELINGZ and Equality! and Freedom! and Humanity!

        And i don’t know why you can’t grasp this very simple idea.

      • martine votvik says:

        “If a sex worker is like “My client gets pleasure, I get money, everyone wins!” I don’t actually think that’s intrinsically unequal. “

        I can understand what you’re saying, I’d just hesitate to call it sex.

        I could call it aided masturbation in that sort of situation, but I don’t think anybody would find that helpful or covering.

        And I really wish people would stop talking about other people as “sluts”. Slut is a patriarchal construct to shame and intimidate women who doesn’t conform and mark them as fair game for mistreatment.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Sex is however, as I’m sure you’ll agree, not a thing.

        People are not paying for “sex,” they are paying for sexual services. And yes, those sexual services are a thing. They are a commodification of the sex workers’ time, effort, and skill, rendering those into something that can be exchanged for money. It’s basically the same sort of idea as paying someone to give you a massage, or cut your hair, or fix your car. You are paying for their time, effort, and skill. I happen to oppose all of this in a systemic sense because I’m against capitalism and against money. I just don’t see any the point of banging on and on about sex work though, especially seeing how abolitionists typically spare hairdressers and car mechanics from being the target of their ethical pontifications.

      • martine votvik says:

        A4

        why cant people who want uber-casual sex just fck each other then?

        How is it possible for you to line it up like that without seeing the wish for skewed power dynamics from the point of the buyer.

        I don’t care if people want meaningless fcks I’ve had a fair share of them myself, but they were mutual experiences.

      • martine votvik says:

        there is a name for people that want non-mutual sexual experiences, and that’s rapist.

      • Li says:

        Can you please stop defining the experiences of sex workers for them? Like, for instance, calling all of their work rape? Because I know plenty of sex workers who have been raped and holy shit do they know the difference between rape and the sex work they do, and you equating the two is grody as all fuck.

      • Andie says:

        I don’t care if people want meaningless fcks I’ve had a fair share of them myself, but they were mutual experiences.

        If one person is happy to be getting off and the other is happy to be getting paid for it, that IS a mutual experience.

      • LotusBecca says:

        there is a name for people that want non-mutual sexual experiences, and that’s rapist.

        That’s right ladies!! You’ve been raped hundreds of times, and you didn’t even know it! Rape is no longer what happens when you feel you’ve been sexually violated. . .it’s what happens when MARTINE VOTVIK feels you’ve been sexually violated.

        Martine, you are almost as good at re-defining rape as the United State House of Representatives.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Sometimes they want to have sex that is about fun and respect but not Deep Meaningful Feelings of Love.

        I’m tired of this strawman argument. Could you please quit it?

        Sex is about attraction, not necessarily love. If there isn’t mutual attraction, it’s not sex.

      • Li says:

        Sex is about attraction, not necessarily love. If there isn’t mutual attraction, it’s not sex.

        Oh, for the last goddamn time, can people please stop universalising their experience of sex to everyone else? Attraction is not a necessary part of sex for all people. I have fucked people I wasn’t sexually attracted to, and enjoyed it, and had reasons other than sexual attraction for doing so. Just because sex is about mutual attraction for you does not mean that it is about mutual attraction for everyone.

      • roro80 says:

        I know it’s been said before on this thread, but I’d just like to point out yet again how deeply and disgustingly fucked up it is to define sex as rape when the supposedly “raped” person is really fucking certain that she has not, in fact, been raped. It’s probably equally as fucked up as telling someone clearly in trauma after having been raped that it was just sex. So seriously shmorgluck? Martine? Knock it off. You are being gigantic assholes. It’s kind of amazing to me that this needs to be said.

      • BobChaos23 says:

        So, by this logic, since talking about one’s personal problems and psychological issues is, by definition, very personal, should we only be allowed to discuss such matters with close friends…..or can we pay a psychologist to listen to us talk about those issues in a safe, nurturing environment without us reciproicating for them in kind, but instead compensating them with money?

        (And yes, this is a real question)

      • amblingalong says:

        Sex is about attraction, not necessarily love. If there isn’t mutual attraction, it’s not sex.

        Ok, so if I sleep with someone because they’re great in bed, even though I don’t really find them that attractive, I’m being raped?

      • sabrina says:

        these people are also erasing the very real lived experiences of asexuals who have sex with their partner for (reasons).

    • sabrina says:

      thank you A4. I’m crying right now because the modicum of compassion necessary to make that argument is clearly lost on most of these people here.

    • karak says:

      No one is trying to say that sex work is the same as everything else. No one is trying to say that being forced into sex work is the same as being forced into something that is not sex work.

      Yes, actually, they are, with comparisons being made to McDonalds, nurses, and a tons of other forms of labor.

    • (BFing)Sarah says:

      I’m one of those people that is kind of prudish about sex work, I can admit it. I don’t see sex work as the same as flipping burgers, but I do like the example of prizefighting that macavitykitsune mentioned in the newer thread. Both potentially dangerous to the body, things I feel very scared by/triggered by etc. That’s why I feel like sex work should be decriminalized, even if I, personally, can’t agree that its the SAME as any other kind of work. My opinion shouldn’t dictate policy. I can agree to disagree on whether sex is the same as any kind of activity (carries a risk, like any other activity), but that doesn’t mean that I would not advocate for policies that support (and are formed by) sex workers, including the obvious: decriminalization.

  38. Combray says:

    This post and most of the comments in this thread are full of fail, to be perfectly honest. A good portion of the people who frequent this site normally understand intersectionality and privilege and are willing to listen to and learn from people who have direct experience of the topic at hand. ‘Splaining e.g. the nature of transphobia or racism to trans people or POC, respectively, is pretty commonly agreed to be a clueless thing to do. So why is it that after several people with experience from sex work have tried to explain what their work is like and what kind of allies they need, most commenters with no experience are jumping in to point out why and how those people are totally wrong? I haven’t done any sex work, but this thread is an overwhelmingly exasperating read even for me. I can’t even imagine how the sex workers reading this are feeling and how alienating this shit must be.

    • jemima101 says:

      Thank you, I tried to point this out on the other thread. I just find it sad that most sex workers I know just roll their eyes and offer hugs at the fact I am even here. That is a fail that needs to be addressed :(

      • A4 says:

        I was just reading Jill above on how “all Johns are scum” and it drove me fucking off the wall. I just cannot with this superior shamey bullshit anymore. I feel like I’m in bizarro land.

      • Jill says:

        Yes, god forbid someone shame men who feel they are entitled to sex, and that they should be able to pay women to give it to them! Won’t someone think of the poor men??

        I feel like I’m in bizarro land too.

      • jemima101 says:

        No one is fecking entitled to sex can you not get this, your hatred of sex work means you seem to think typing entitlement over and over again is an argument?

        It is a transaction, my clients are no more entitled to sex with me than you are entitled to demand your hairdresser cut your hair!

      • amblingalong says:

        Yes, god forbid someone shame men who feel they are entitled to sex, and that they should be able to pay women to give it to them!

        You keep using that word ‘entitlement.’ I don’t think you know what it means.

        Entitlement does not describe the feeling you have when you exchange money for a service, Jill. We do not criticize people who pay plumbers to fix their sink for feeling ‘entitled to have plumbing done.’

        The only way your argument makes sense is if you believe everyone else is obligated to have sex the way you have sex.

      • amblingalong says:

        Won’t someone think of the poor men??

        Also, fuck you for repeatedly erasing non-male clients of sex workers despite sex workers on this thread repeatedly telling you that this doesn’t reflect reality.

        I honestly have never seen you this bad before. Christ.

      • A4 says:

        You know who sometimes feel entitled to sex Jill?

        Annoying college men who rape women who are passed out.
        Rich executives who are taking a woman out for an expensive date.
        Men who rape trafficked women and then pay their pimp for the opportunity.

        You know who often don’t feel entitled to sex?
        A client who negotiates sex with a sex worker.

        They don’t feel entitled, and that’s why they’re willing to pay for it! Because they realize that the services being provided are valuable and time is also valuable.

        When you pay for a massage, do you feel entitled to another person’s body, or do you recognize that their time and skills are valuable by paying money for their services?

      • Yes, god forbid someone shame men who feel they are entitled to sex, and that they should be able to pay women to give it to them! Won’t someone think of the poor men??

        Erhm. Not all sex workers are female. Not all clients are male. Not all sex-trafficked people are female. Not all abusers of trafficked sex workers are male.

        Your obligatory anti-essentialist note of the day.

      • sabrina says:

        Jill, it is my experience that most Johns (and Janes) don’t actually think they are entitled to sex, that’s why they are paying for it instead of whining that they can’t get laid.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Jill, I join you in bizarro land. Apparently you can’t oppose the buying of sex and still be a decent human, let alone a feminist anymore! 9_9

    • Li says:

      I think that if you reread the last thread you will find an extraordinary amount of cissplaining. I get that it’s really frustrating to see social justice spaces fail, but I really dislike these kinds of comparisons because all three of racism, sexism and whorephobia are consistent problems at feministe even if the precise flare ups can shift a little over time. I’d also recommend thinking about what “people totally have the back of people of colour when racism happens!” looks like to people of colour who actually have to deal with the racism in this space and who may in fact feel pretty frustrated and alienated by lack of support and consistent racefail.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Yeah. In my opinion, I’d give Feministe a B minus on trans issues and a D on race. Feministe has lots of intersectionality fails besides its fails on sex worker rights.

      • Combray says:

        Li, I communicated what I meant badly. I’ve read Feministe daily for a long time, even though I don’t comment very often, and I absolutely agree that listening to the voices of POC and trans people is a big problem here. I in no way meant to minimise the way POC and trans people often struggle in this space and I apologise that I came off that way.

        “people totally have the back of people of colour when racism happens!”

        For what it’s worth, I don’t think this at all. You’re right; I probably shouldn’t have made a comparison between this and the cissplaining and white privilege that occur here, because it sounds like I’m saying that this issue is more of a problem. That’s not what I meant to say at all. I was trying to convey that this is one of those posts (and threads) where it’s particularly frustrating how the personal experiences of the people whom this actually concerns are being waved aside. I should have taken a moment to calm down and think before posting.

    • Miriam says:

      Not just the sex workers, but the clients. It’s very sad to me to see the lack of compassion for people who may be unable to find non-transactional sex (and yes, sex is not a basic human right but come on! Don’t we all understand that for non-asexuals sex is generally a strong human desire that most of us are happier having?). Also frustrating is the persistent gendering of clients as male and sex workers as female when there’s no excuse for not at the least knowing some sex workers are men providing for other men.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        It’s very sad to me to see the lack of compassion for people who may be unable to find non-transactional sex (and yes, sex is not a basic human right but come on! Don’t we all understand that for non-asexuals sex is generally a strong human desire that most of us are happier having?).

        Been walking in those shoes for fifteen years due to social anxiety disorders (and the depression that grew on them). Still don’t care about the clients. Sorry.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Ditto. It’s almost like people who disagree with sex work do so based on thoughts about it, and may even have some of the disabilities that “The Unfuckable John” has! And yet still disagree that people are entitled to sex! :p

      • Miriam says:

        The problems with describing engaging in transactional sex as equaling feeling entitled to sex have been discussed elsewhere in this thread. I don’t find an argument that boils down to “some of us in a similar position make a different choice” to be a persuasive argument for why we shouldn’t have compassion for clients.

      • EG says:

        Why am I supposed to have compassion for them? I don’t generally have compassion for people who order burgers, as one comparison in this thread has it. Doing without sex is not such a hardship that it calls up vast reservoirs of sympathy in me.

  39. Sam says:

    I don’t claim to be well versed on all aspects of sex work, and specifically the exchange of sex for money (as opposed to performance, porn, etc). That might make me ignorant, or perhaps that makes me less biased? Whichever, that’s my starting point.

    This seems to be a practical issue for those who want sex work decriminalized, and a moral one for those against decriminalization. Sex as something essentially different from other activities seems like a normative distinction to me. At the admitted distance I view this issue from it really looks like people not doing sex work are telling those who are to stop, perhaps ostensibly for their own good. Rox’s concern falls into the “stranger things have happened” category, but the idea of certifying sex workers so that only qualified people do it would handle that concern. As an aside, I wonder if sex workers want to be regulated, which would almost certainly be part of deciminalizing sex work?

    Sex trafficing is a huge and ugly problem, but there seems to be no disagreement on that. Concerns about the working conditions and safety of some people (many people?) who weren’t forced into sex work but still deal with abuse and undue risk are real, but aren’t all those ugly problems and concerns better addressed if sex work is normalized? Especially since sex work is happening regardless?

    • jemima101 says:

      I used to think this, sadly in countries like Swizterland it has led to massive abuses of WoC and other oppressed groups, as well as the human rights violations of forced STD tests ect. So most of the sex work unions are campaigning for decriminlization without state regulation.

      I think generally it is never good when the state starts prying into the bedroom habits of private individuals.

      The police in Merseyside (Liverpool UK) have an awesome change in attitude, they designated all attacks on sex workers a hate crime, as treated them as such. The reporting and prosecution of attacks rose massively.

      The solutions are out there, but no one is pushing for them, because its only sex workers getting raped and murdered. Better to argue that the way they have sex squicks people so shouldn’t exist.

      • amblingalong says:

        the human rights violations of forced STD tests ect.

        This is a perspective I’d like to hear more about. I’ve always thought that requiring sex workers to have STD tests was comparable to requiring drug tests for truck drivers or background checks for government workers or whatever licensing/regulatory requirement you pick; absolutely intrusive and immoral to force anyone to do, but reasonable to make a requirement for doing that particular job.

        I’m completely open to hearing why I’m wrong, though.

      • jemima101 says:

        I will get some links, nine knows more about this than me, my position as a privileged independent sex worker means I would have no problem with them, other than the minor inconvienece of the time taken. However it is the reports of street workers who say they feel demeaned and degraded by them.

      • amblingalong says:

        Ok, thanks; I really appreciate it.

        I can understand why having STD tests be a requirement feels demeaning; what I’m trying to work out in my head is how that’s different from requiring airplane pilots, mechanics, etc. to pee in a cup (in fact, even the baggage handlers have to do this too, though I think that one’s a little weird).

        I’m coming at this from a place of relatively immense privilege (financially secure, straight, male, cis, not a sex worker) so I’m definitely not trying to win an argument; I’m just having a tough time working through the distinction on my own.

        Again, really appreciate your help.

      • jemima101 says:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19962636 This is a very good paper on listening to the voices of the most marginalized.

        I think the problem is we are bit privileged, so we do not have the intrinsic fear of the arms of the state many have, the argument is that those who most need help would remain outside any legal framework, as they would resist it. Grass roots projects that win trust are far more effective.

      • Kes says:

        Requiring testing just makes it out as if sex workers are a bunch of diseased, disgusting people. Yeah, there’s a high incidence of disease, but they come from clients. It’s not as if we spontaneously generate gonorrhea. The checks aren’t frequent enough to catch stuff before it’s spread on, anyway, assuming the client won’t use a condom or it’s something that can spread even with the use of a condom. And frankly, I don’t really like the idea of having somebody checking my nether regions out for safety for the general public, as if I’m an elevator or a bridge or something.

        What they really should be doing, if they were serious about protecting sex workers, is demand that clients get pre-approved, including STD testing. The fact that nobody even considers such a thing just goes to show how it’s all about entitlement (on demand access) to our bodies.

        Sure, a guy may not be able to demand access to any particular sex worker’s body at any given time, but he knows that he can go out and get somebody at almost any “price point” at all hours of the day and night (and a lot of that demand is met by trafficking). So I think calling it “entitlement” is exactly right. That’s what runs the system.

      • Sheelzebub says:

        Only if they require testing of clients. Which I doubt very much would happen.

      • Ismone says:

        Can I ask, if you don’t mind (and I totally understand if you are not in the mood to educate) your thoughts on decriminalization vs. decriminalization of selling only vs. legalization?

        I have bounced back and forth between preferring decrim./one-sided decrim. for a while (mostly because of what I believe to be true about people who work on the street, which I realize may not be a good way to think about this AT ALL especially since I have so little knowledge, almost none of it personal) but I have noticed that sometimes people get really angry when people advocate for decriminalization but not legalization.

        Thanks! And in any event, thanks for your comments on this thread. This has really gotten me thinking.

      • jemima101 says:

        Oh wow, thank you :-)

        Well firstly I have to point out I live in the UK, sex work is legal, although advertising, soliciting, and working with others is not. There is a whole host of legislation around “pimping” too, for example my partner could be arrested as my pimp. Oh and of course you have to pay tax. People seem to forget sex workers can be hard working tax payers too!

        Personally i don’t like the idea of legalization cos I dont like the idea of the state intruding into peoples sex lives, anyone’s sex lives so long as what they are doing is consensual. I know the Scarlet Alliance (Australia) feel the same, and the IUSW so they push for decriminlization, the removal of those laws that endanger or otherwise hurt sex workers.

        For example the law on brothel keeping means if 2 or more sex workers share a premises for safety one of them can be prosecuted for brothel keeping , go to prison and have everything they own seized. Laws like this neither protect victims of trafficking or vulnerable women. Decrim would get rid of them.

        I think in the US, because outside of Nevavda sex work is illegal people push for legalization, without necessarily meaning they want state control. But I hope an American with more knowledge of the situation over there can speak better on this.

      • sabrina says:

        after reading this comment I apologize for my reaction to
        your above comment.

        I’m going to reply re: united states because that is where I live and worked.

        I feel like decriminalization of all sex work is the proper way to go. I don’t want it explicitly being made legal for exactly the same reason Jemima101 answered above. The government FAILS miserably anytime they try to write law about anything pertaining to sex.

      • Ismone says:

        Jemima & Sabrina,

        Thanks so much. Jemima, those laws sound awful. Especially solicitation. I mean, I get if people don’t want to be followed about by someone yelling WANNA BUY SEX, but other than that, solicitation just seems so . . . like, what, do clients have to guess if they see someone in public? Sounds crazy.

        And yeah, especially since collectivization = safety I do not like the anti-brothel laws. Maybe if they made the brothels into collectives, that could only be owned by sex workers.

        I am incredibly anti-pimping, but it is also scary to think that a partner/good friend/hired security could be mistaken as a pimp and punished.

        Sabrina,

        No worries, I have said stuff on this thread that wasn’t me at my calmest either. Good point about the us. I am here too, and as a lawyer, I would be concerned about legalization because I don’t want their to be lawsuits about the adequacy of sex worker’s services. I mean, in general, contracts for personal (non-sexual services) cannot be enforced, so I am less worried about that, but legalization might equal standards and lawsuit and ick.

  40. Caperton says:

    I can’t get behind the idea that sex is some precious, special activity that automatically needs to be set aside from other activities. For some people, yes, it absolutely is. For some people, it’s a beautiful sharing of intimacy, and they couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone they didn’t truly love. For others, it’s an amusement park, and they couldn’t imagine not doing it with anyone who was willing to interact on their terms. And there’s an entire spectrum in between, all of which is perfectly valid, because however you feel about sex for yourself is how it’s right to feel about sex for yourself.

    Setting sex aside as something that is always special for all people, and thus should be treated in a certain way under all circumstances, honestly kind of leans into the territory of the abstinence-until-marriage, protect-your-precious-flower crowd, and that makes me uncomfortable. In my mind, this isn’t analogous to the standard “I choose my choice” makeup/leg-shaving debate, because choosing to engage in sex on your own terms is different from choosing to conform to traditional beauty norms. It seems counterproductive to frame the argument as “sex work is good because it’s like other jobs” vs. “sex work is bad because I think it would be horrible.” The issue isn’t about sex being special — it’s about women whose agency is being taken away. It’s about women whose feelings about sex are made irrelevant by the people who are abusing them.

    I absolutely agree that no one who feels protective about his or her sexuality should feel any pressure at all to commodify it — regardless of sex, age, socioeconomic status, or geography. No one should ever be forced or coerced. In any way. Ever. And we need to make efforts to protect and rescue women who don’t want to be doing it, whether they’ve been trafficked or they’re being coerced by their financial situation. No one who doesn’t want to engage in sex work should ever, ever have to do it. And no one who doesn’t feel protective about his or her sexuality, and who is perfectly satisfied and not traumatized by using it to make money, should be shamed for that — and everyone should be protected from ever having to use it in ways they don’t want to. They’re two different groups who need to be protected in two different ways. Conflating them makes it hard to identify the real circumstances that lead to women being forced and abused, and hard to come up with solutions and actions that will actually help those women. It seems like a misuse of resources to split efforts between the women who need/want to be rescued and the ones who don’t.

    • Ismone says:

      Good points all. But to address this, the conflict that has also been gnawing at me:

      It seems counterproductive to frame the argument as “sex work is good because it’s like other jobs” vs. “sex work is bad because I think it would be horrible.” The issue isn’t about sex being special — it’s about women whose agency is being taken away.

      At the point where many of us, as the socialist/communist posters have pointed out, have to work to get by in a capitalist society, and we don’t have the agency to not work at all, or to necessarily avoid work in fields we find demeaning, many people (not all) do seem to feel differently about sex work. Almost certainly a lot of it has to do with our culture, and some of it has to do with bodily autonomy, but for many (not all, macavity, I read your comment) sexual autonomy is different.

      Sexual battery is considered more damaging than non-sexual physical battery (to be very clear, I am not equating providing sexual services with rape–I am just saying that many, not all people, seem to prize sexual autonomy more highly than other bodily autonomy and be more damaged when it is compromised. Money of course can compromise such matters if the sex worker is not making enough simply by doing things zie likes with people zie is comfortable with.)

      So I think many people on this thread are privileging sexual autonomy over other forms of autonomy, and that they may reflect the psychological reality for many people, although clearly not all. I would say that even posters like macavity are doing so, by insisting to Rox that disabled people wouldn’t be forced into sex work.

      That is to say, is there a middle path, one that leaves aside the “sex is special candle magic involving twu wuv” and “sex is no more different than any other labor.”

    • moviemaedchen says:

      THIS.

      Also, it seems to me that a lot of the problems that are being brought up in response to the decriminalization/sex-isn’t-always-special arguments are things that a focus just on sex work will not solve in any case. Things like economic hardship, lack of protection for people with disabilities, culture-wide objectification of women, cissexism, etc. – these things contribute to the current shitty situation of many sex workers, but they aren’t a result just of sex work as sex work. They’re the result of a hypercapitalistic kyriarchical piece of shit system. Sex work as it currently exists is hugely problematic precisely because of where it fits in the current system, as the article jemima linked makes clear. Focusing on fixing those things will help sex workers, and focusing on them alongside sex workers’ rights and decriminalization/etc. would help prevent the predicted negative outcomes of decriminalization. And I don’t see anyone here arguing that we shouldn’t focus on those things. Nor do I think anyone here wants things to just stay the same (i.e. straight up criminalization.)

      So rather than arguing over whether or not paid sex work will be allowed in the Feminist Utopia or not, it makes more sense to me to work towards ending the conditions that put anyone into economic hardship and coerced labor of any sort, and to work towards a society in which all people thus have the ability to freely exercise their agency regarding sexual and other matters however they like, as long as everyone involved is consenting. Getting rid of the economic hardship factor will make this increasingly possible, will help sex workers, and will also help a lot of other people who aren’t sex workers but who need that help too. (I mean, leaving aside the question of rates of trauma in any given occupation, being forced to exhaust yourself working in shitty conditions doing anything, or starve, is fucked up. That’s not a choice anyone should face in the first place.)

      If it turns out that, in whatever sort of utopia we end up with where people don’t have to work to not starve, nobody wants to buy or sell sexual services? Fine. If there’s no demand it’s not a problem! If it turns out that some people do and there are ways for them to do so in place that respect the consent of all involved? Also fine. Because people will be getting what they need from genuinely consenting partners, and beyond that it’s none of my fucking business.

      Whereas, it seems to me, coming up with one single universal model of What Sex Is (Or Should Be) and then attempting to apply it to everyone will inevitably result in fucking over a lot of people, no matter what that model is. Because that in itself is consent-denying and agency-denying. Working towards a society in which people can have differing views of what sex is and whether or not money can be involved, and in which all of those people can meet their needs and desires with consenting others and without being forced into anything, is going to be a freer and more agency-respecting society than one where only one model of sex is Allowed.

      Fixing the economic issues is one necessary part of making that society, and it’s also something we should be doing anyway, just like dismantling rape culture is a necessary part of getting to that society and also something we should be doing anyway.

      For fuck’s sake.

  41. Li says:

    Yeah, I’m out at this point. I just can’t do two full threads of doom in a row. (Which, btw, posting another thread immediately after one in which two groups of marginalised women have had to deal with massive fail about their own lives knowing that it’ll likely also spiral into something hugely emotionally draining for them is kind of a shitty thing to do and a really effective way to push them out of the space. I’m really impressed that jemima has remained here as long as she has.)

    Good luck to jemima, A4 and any of the other sex workers either reading or participating in this thread. You’re tough as all fuck. I just need a break.

    • amblingalong says:

      Sorry to lose you. I’ve been incredibly impressed with everything you wrote here. Thanks.

      • jemima101 says:

        Yes, thanks from me too. You may have noticed I have been a lot grumpier today, and agree that both posts in a row was kind of, well I didnt win that one so I am going to try again.

      • Donna L says:

        Jemima, I feel the same way as you and Li: that after I barely managed to get through the excruciating horribleness that went on in the other thread (and, I just discovered, continued today with another person coming here to whine about how wrong and unfair it is to accuse people of transphobia just because they think trans women are men in dresses), seeing another, related thread immediately thereafter was disappointing. It felt like a pretense that the other thread never happened, and a way of avoiding dealing with the question that I raised in the other thread, and that Galling Galla and macavity and I all tried to address: why does this keep happening here, and what can be done about it?

        It was especially disappointing to me, perhaps, to see Martine Votvik commenting blithely in this thread, as if the other thread never happened and she didn’t say what she said there.

        If a commenter were presented with a statement (made by a writer they had defended) that “all Jews defile the Host and drink the blood of Christian children at Passover,” or that “all gay men are pedophiles,” and the commenter responded to such statements by insisting that they weren’t “hateful” themselves, but just constituted “investigation” and “discussion” of the “issues” even if they were used by others against Jews and gay men, respectively, I find it incredibly hard to believe that such a commenter would not be banned immediately, and would be allowed to continue to comment in other threads, even if they didn’t say things that were quite so offensive about other subjects.

        But to express exactly the same response, as Martine did, to Janice Raymond’s statement that “all transsexuals hate women,” and to continue to insist that such a statement isn’t itself hateful regardless of how it’s used by others? That’s OK, it seems. And the next thread goes merrily along, and she’s part of it. Even though she’s shown herself to be either monumentally obtuse, or equally disingenuous.

        As long as this sort of discourse isn’t immediately stopped on a consistent basis, and the people who engage in it promptly banned (as does happen sometimes, as it just did in the other thread, but clearly doesn’t always happen), then there is no solution, and this will continue to happen, and trans women (and trans people in general) will continue to be driven away from here. We all have limits, and the last thread came close to mine.

      • Donna L says:

        Typo: Janice Raymond’s statement was that “all transsexuals rape women,” not hate women, although I’m sure she believes the latter as well. Apparently my fingers found it too difficult to type the correct word.

      • jemima101 says:

        Massive hugs if wanted . I didn;t see what happened in the other thread, but the general theory of terfs also hating sex workers has just been confirmed.

        Hope you are OK

      • It felt like a pretense that the other thread never happened, and a way of avoiding dealing with the question that I raised in the other thread, and that Galling Galla and macavity and I all tried to address: why does this keep happening here, and what can be done about it?

        Seconding this.

        I ask again: is it possible to have a clear set of guidelines to which commenters can point people being openly transphobic? If not, what reason does the Feministe crew have for not outlining an explicit commenting policy re: transphobia? If individuals disagree or agree, I’d really appreciate knowing who’s opposed to the idea and why.

        Obviously, I have the same considerations re: homophobia, but I see much less of that than transphobia here, so I’m more than willing to take a back seat to ensuring Donna, Becca, Galla etc aren’t being shat on in every goddamn thread that happens here.

      • Ismone says:

        Donna, that is horrible. I guess I need to go back to that thread. I waded in and waded out. Sigh. People say such awful things, and hugs to you.

      • sabrina says:

        I left that thread when I saw that it was dissolving into a train wreck because I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. I’m just about ready to leave this one too as it has drained me of my ability to interact with the bullshit for the rest of the week. The Teflon comment in particular was extremely hurtful. Thank you to Mac, Jemima, Donna, and others who stuck it out! You are awesome. I want to especially thank Li for the smack downs you gave in this thread.

      • Caperton says:

        I am so sorry about this ongoing problem. It’s really not fair to any of you. I didn’t realize Martine hadn’t been banned after the last thread; she has been now. You’re right that we need to come up with a more explicit commenting policy, for transphobia and for all the other areas where we’ve failed to protect our commenters. We also need to come up with a better, consistent way of identifying these issues as they come up in long threads like this. Again, I apologize, and I wish I could undo the stress that this has caused you.

      • Just popping back in to say thank you, Caperton.

      • Donna L says:

        Thank you, Caperton. (Claims elsewhere of persecution and silencing undoubtedly to follow.) Believe me, I do appreciate the efforts that you and the other moderators make. It does get frustrating sometimes, though, and perhaps a more explicit, and prominently placed, commenting policy would help — a policy that, as I’ve pointed out, would have to be more specific than “transphobia and homophobia, etc., are prohibited, given that nobody ever admits that they’re guilty of either.

        I know some websites and forums have “report comment” buttons, as a way of allowing unacceptable comments to be reported promptly to moderators before a discussion gets out of hand, and theoretically avoiding the kind of situation that happens too often here, when by the time a moderator realizes what’s going on, the damage has been done.

        Would it be possible to at least try out such a button here, if it’s available? I realize that there will undoubtedly be a certain number of unnecessary “reports,” but I think it still might help.

      • amblingalong says:

        I really like this idea; my personal favorite would be the way Newsvine does it, where you can give posts thumbs ups and thumbs downs; it provides positive reinforcement for people who are doing good, and mods automatically review comments with a certain number of thumbs downs.

        Just a thought.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I think it’d be cool if Feministe had a Safer Spaces Policy that did specifically outline what constituted oppressive language and behavior and therefore would be grounds for a comment being deleted or a person being banned. And I think spelling out what’s involved in some of the more common types of oppression that crop up here would be useful also. I think spelling out what exactly constitutes transphobia and what exactly constitutes racism would be the most important because (in my opinion) it seems like there are more unacknowledged instances of these than anything else. But the policy could also spell out what constitutes ableism, homophobia, rape apology, anti-Semitism, and so on. I would really appreciate such a policy, at least.

      • tigtog says:

        We’ve initiated one new moderation innovation, there will be a few more to come. Read more »

    • A4 says:

      Ditto to the above. Also you have a really cute avatar

    • Combray says:

      I’m sorry to lose your insight here too. I agree with everything you’ve written in this thread and the previous one (including your criticism of my own post above).

    • Yeah, I’m done too. I’ve wasted a perfectly good day arguing with assholes and being called names for it. Now I’m an abusive gaslighting person who doesn’t care about the disabled or poor and who wants to force people to work in brothels. I guess I should get out of the game before I’m actually called a rapist or sex trafficker.

    • Minerva says:

      For what it’s worth, in my time lurking around before today, I have always looked forward to reading your posts. I appreciate your insight and the generosity of spirit which keeps you posting long after (I am sure) it begins to feel exhausting. Regarding the Raymond quote… well, there aren’t words. Ugh… just ugh…

    • Henry says:

      +1 thank you folks for staying. I haven’t agreed with everything you posted, but I value the discussion. It needs to happen in a non-hate filled atmosphere.

  42. Okay, let me try to break down the “entitlement” argument on both sides of the sex-worker/client thing, as far as I can see it. Hopefully it’ll clarify?

    Entitlement = believing you have the right to a resource/service/attention. (For instance, I can take my wife’s bank card to buy bread without asking her, because I am entitled to ensure that the child is fed.)

    Negotiation = attempting to thresh out acceptable and unacceptable requests. (For instance, I have asked my wife if I can use money from our chequing account to pay for an impulse purchase of an expensive book; because she knows I’ll run through all our money if I do that, she says no, but we buy a book together each month.)

    Service request = asking for a service/resource/attention that can be declined. (For instance, I would totes love if my plumber worked for free. I would also like magical elves to clean my kitchen. Plumber and magical elves do not oblige.)

    So, by this count, if a sex worker were to refuse someone the use of their time/skills, an entitled person would become abusive/rapey, a negotiator would attempt to set up another date/offer an alternative sex act but not become abusive, and a person requesting a service would briefly sadface and then move on to the next sex worker.

    I think that a lot of clients are entitled, simply because sex workers face so much more shit than the rest of us. But it would be a mistake to say that ALL clients are entitled, or even negotiate, simply because that’s a nice comfy black-and-white. I’m a peer tutor, part-time. I get people who want me to do extra tutoring, but I have to turn them down because my hours are maxed out already. Some get upset and angry. Some wheedle. Some just go “oh, bummer. Know anyone else who’s good?” And I don’t see why clients of sex workers would be any different en masse than my clients.

  43. orangedesperado says:

    Sex work, like all other work, has a spectrum of context and experience. For example, a 14 year old working their first job at a very busy fast food chain with hostile, racist management will have a very different experience in the food service industry than a person who has worked at a series of high end restaurants as a maitre’d. What if that 14 year old had to get this job to help support the family because of a parent’s unemployment/dysfunction/abuse ? What if the 14 year old took this job because they wanted to work in the same place as their friends and they didn’t need the money ? What if the maitre’d has a degree or two, but working in the restaurant pays better than their field of study? What if the maitre’d has a degree or two, but a psychologically abusive partner who tells him/her that they will never do better than working in a restaurant ?

    There is a huge spectrum of experience for the people who are are sex workers, as well as the same volume of CONTEXT. I think that we can all agree that at one end of the NOT OKAY spectrum are the sex workers who cannot consent because they are underage. The waters get muddy because there are pimps, there are organized criminals who do use violence, coercion, addiction and a variety of severely abusive tactics to control the sex workers who are working for them. There are also sex workers who are sex workers to survive – because they can’t get welfare, because they have an addiction, because of a million negative reasons.

    BUT – there are sex workers who have chosen to be sex workers for a variety of reasons. Because they like the work. Because they are in control of their hours and their working conditions. Because for them, in their circumstances, they can make more money in one day than they did working 50 hrs a week. Because, for them, sex work is less demeaning/soul destroying and far more positive than working for hostile management with no chance of advancement.

    A sex worker can be a person doing phone sex, cam work, exotic dancing, BDSM, films, specialty fetish cam/video, peep shows, sexual surrogacy. There are more forms of sex work than just PIV prostitution – just like any other form of “work”.

    Some people’s experience as a sex worker was traumatic, coercive, desperate, horrifying. Some people’s experience as a sex worker was that of autonomy, stability.

    More context and thoughtful tolerance, please.

  44. Sheelzebub says:

    You know what? It’s possible to side-eye the sexual double standard of women wanting sex on their own terms as freakish and terrible and men wanting sex on their own terms as totally normal and justifiable, and still think that sex workers deserve human rights and good working conditions.

    It’s possible to think that the system as it stands is fucked up (male sex workers for women may be a thing, but it’s not that common and it isn’t because women don’t like fucking) and still think that sex workers are workers and should have rights and dignity.

    It’s a fucking job. Not liking an industry doesn’t mean that people who work in the industry don’t get to have rights and protections and to be treated with dignity and respect. The culture of male entitlement to women’s bodies and the patriarchal revulsion to the idea that women can be enthusiastic customers of male sex workers (since it’s not nearly as common a thing and it’s not nearly as available to us) is not actually the fault of sex workers.

    Sex workers are doing a job. They are human beings. No matter what you think of the job they do, it’s a fucking job, and they are people, and they deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else.

    And honestly? Most sex workers I have known think that the system and the double-standard is beyond fucked up. But they still have jobs to do, and they aren’t the ones promoting this fucked up system. If anything, a relaxation of this heteropatriarchial bullshit would make their lives–fuck, a lot of people’s lives–easier. And that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t still be sex workers.

    How about we not demonize sex workers? It’s actually quite possible to point out that our culture is fucked up and stifles women’s sexuality without punishing, shaming, or blaming sex workers. But erasing and belittling them is really, really shitty.

    • moviemaedchen says:

      WORD.

    • orangedesperado says:

      Right on Sheelzebub ! Let us not forget the film “Bound” when the Meg Tilley character explains to her jealous superintendent girlfriend who can hear her having sex in the next apartment that she was WORKING. That she was doing the job that she has been paid to do. Which is not the same as when they have sex together.

      This seems to be a big area of confusion for many people.

    • Schmorgluck says:

      As a pragmatic abolitionist, I totally agree with you.

    • sabrina says:

      thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. This x infinity.

  45. McMike says:

    Trying to deny me the buying of sex means getting involved into what 2 consenting adults do and what revolves around my penis frankly is nones business.

    What about people whom get a hot wife flashing their wealth? Do we book them for prostitution just because they pay one big lump sum?

    • Briznecko says:

      MRA Bingo! (does adding all of his recent comments count?)

    • hotpot says:

      What about people whom get a hot wife flashing their wealth? Do we book them for prostitution just because they pay one big lump sum?

      Did you even read the post? Jill explicitly said she’s against this as well.

    • EG says:

      Trust me, nobody here wants to know about whatever is revolving around your penis.

      • Ledasmom says:

        Well, not unless it’s, say, a full set of planets, some comets, an asteroid belt and possibly a few communications satellites, because that would be amazing. And make it difficult to buy underwear.
        (Apologies for flipness; didn’t see this thread until it had exploded; having read most of it now, rather depressed.)

  46. tigtog says:

    Admin note: Due to moderator unavailability today, this thread has been placed into full moderation. Comments will be released as time allows, but may be delayed for quite some time.

  47. lynx wings says:

    I think it’s interesting (read: gross) that you posted two articles about sex work in as many days and as far as I can tell, none of the writers involved have ever been sex workers. It’s not unexpected, but it’s telling.

    Also, ugh, “buying sex is unethical because entitlement.” Nope. That “entitlement” argument pretty much always tells me that the arguer doesn’t actually know what the word “entitlement” means. Here is no different.

    This thread reminds me why I stopped identifying as a feminist despite not changing a single one of my political opinions.

    • Jill says:

      I think it’s interesting (read: gross) that you posted two articles about sex work in as many days and as far as I can tell, none of the writers involved have ever been sex workers. It’s not unexpected, but it’s telling.

      The first piece was entirely about an article written by a former sex worker who interviewed other sex workers. It was linked and called “excellent” and recommended. So I think the accusations that we’re talking about sex workers without giving voice to sex workers is… misplaced. Considering that the previous post was 100% supportive and spreading the word about a piece by a former sex worker.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Jill, do you really think that all of the commenters here are actually reading anything you’re saying at this point? Or reading, period? :p

      • Safiya Outlines says:

        Not since the comments on the infamous “squish movies” post here, has the phrase “so open-minded, your brains are falling out”, been so appropriate.

        Who knew that being completely uncritical of men who pay for sex was the ultimate feminist act? *retrieves eyebrows from hairline*

  48. Cora says:

    I originally posted this in the old thread, my mistake!

    I understand the pro-sex work commenters points, but I was wondering about the effects of sex work on a larger scale, outside of the individual sex worker. What percentage of sex workers are women, and what percentage are men? I once heard a statistic that said about 20% of sex workers are men, but who knows where that came from, if it’s accurate, and if it was including transwomen. Anyway, my point is, if women are the vast majority of sex workers, what effect does this have on people’s opinions of all women? When people see that all the criminals on the nightly news are black, they often think that black people are unusually criminalistic. In fact, my university stopped reporting the race of suspects in campus-wide incident reports just to provide less fodder for racism. (Pretty much every report said the suspect was a black guy.) What will the effect of having state sanctioned prostitution in which a huge majority of sex workers are women? Will it make people think of women in general as primarily sexual objects, even more than they already do?

    Please bear in mind that I’m not advocating one side over the other, because I honestly don’t know enough either way. I’m not saying we should sacrifice the rights of sex workers, but I was just wondering about this point.

    Also, I wish we had a more diverse body of sex workers commenting in these threads. So many sex workers are working class or poor women of color, but most people who frequent feminist blogs aren’t. Feminism has always tended to focus on upper-middle class white ladies, and I guess that’s why as a WOC I often take it with a grain of salt.

  49. Jill says:

    This is a response from Laurie and Debbie:

    We’d like to thank Jill for her respectful and thoughtful response to our post, “What the War on Sex Workers Doesn’t Do” and the outburst of passionate comments that followed its appearance on Feministe. It says so much about Jill that she cross-posted our piece even though she doesn’t fully agree with it: that’s the hallmark of her intellectual honesty and open-mindedness.

    Jill is always a careful thinker and careful writer (as we try to be) and we agree with a great deal of what she said. We reread (and thought about) our post carefully in the light of Jill’s response. We should have stated more clearly that one of the most important ways to support sex workers is to support paths out of sex work, which is something many sex workers report wishing they had. Second, we want to reiterate that our post was very specifically about the role of “anti-sex-trafficking” feminism in the day-to-day lives and options of contemporary sex workers, most specifically those who are not “highly-educated women doing fetish work or other relatively highly-paid sex work in the United States,” as Jill describes.

    We’d like to repeat our concern that the phrase “sex trafficking” has been, and is being, conflated with every conceivable kind of sex work, and one thing this does is dilute the horror that is actual sex trafficking—women, children, transpeople, anyone on the margins being pulled out of their lives and sold into involuntary sex work. Nothing is worse than this and we oppose it down to the very core of our selves. That’s why we want to be clear about what it is.

    We do not believe that the criminal “justice” system, in the United States or anywhere else, does anything useful to improve the lives of sex workers, especially if more than 80% of the prosecutions are of workers and not customers. What improves the lives of sex workers is listening to them and fighting what they say they need, which generally will include available jobs at living wages, education, and women’s rights (and other marginalized groups’ rights). As we said in the post, any energy spent toughening the laws that punish sex workers is energy not spent on the things that actually help the people who have been coerced (ambiguously or otherwise) into sex work.

    We disagree with Jill that “the most privileged of the group (of sex workers) dictate policy.” No sex workers dictate policy. Although the courts are likely (we hope!) to strike this provision down, in the generally progressive election of 2012, California –where we both live—passed a badly designed constitutional amendment against sex trafficking that will, among other things, require people convicted of prostitution to register as sex offenders, and then be subject to lifelong internet monitoring, draconian limits on where they can live, and other penalties that seem precisely designed to keep them in sex work by limiting their options.

    Finally, as Jill says, we don’t know what a feminist utopia would look like. We’re betting that neither sex nor money would be anything like the things we now call by those names, so we can’t say with any confidence what the relationship between two vastly transmuted concepts might be.

  50. Jill says:

    To facilitate the moderation of discussion in what are now three very active threads, I’m closing comments on this one and the one below.

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