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19 Responses

  1. JBL55
    JBL55 July 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

    I’m reminded of the case in Portland ME (now in the penalty phase) where the victim is described as a prostitute and drug user while the assailant is described as a volunteer firefighter:

  2. Gorb
    Gorb July 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    Ironically, this is a recent piece by Jill; apparently, she imagines a future in which the transactional nature of sex (and all relationships) is gone. She appears to wish we were a different species of animal.

    Neither the female nor male version of the sexual instinct is particularly good at this. This wishing that humans were something else is part of this judgmental urge to “other” prostitutes.

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia July 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm |

      Othering prostitutes has nothing to do with wishing sex were de-commodified. It’s kind of short-sighted and naive to think it does.

      By your rationale I’m othering everybody who has sex in any way.

      Being a human being, I am empathizing over the pain and death of another human being. You might try it.

      1. matlun
        matlun July 30, 2013 at 3:09 am |

        Othering prostitutes has nothing to do with wishing sex were de-commodified

        There is certainly a connection.

        The classical narrative is that it is uniquely problematic to sell sex as opposed to any other service. That this is wrong and that the work of sex workers is fundamentally different from “normal” work. It is not a large step from that to the condemnation and othering of the sex workers themselves. It is perhaps not an unavoidable consequence, but you can hardly say it is totally unconnected.

        1. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia July 30, 2013 at 11:56 am |

          As it is used here, and the article to which Gorb is referring, No, one does not have anything to do with the other. Did you read the articles, or are you simply extrapolating how they might be opposed in theory?

        2. matlun
          matlun July 30, 2013 at 5:11 pm |

          As it is used here, and the article to which Gorb is referring, No, one does not have anything to do with the other

          My response was to your comment and not anything stated in this or Jill’s article.

          In this article (Caperton above):
          “[…] it’s force and coercion, not the commodification of sex, that we should be fighting […] But that othering, the focus on sex work as ideologically okay or not okay, ultimately leaves sex workers in a place of judgment to be deemed okay or not okay.”

          I have no right to speak for Caperton, but I read that as being close to what I was trying to say above.

          In contrast, while Jill did not use the word commodification, she did say “I’d love to see us embrace a vision of sexuality that isn’t transactional or gendered or capitalist”, which is what I believe Gorb reacted to. (Possibly unfairly since except for this single sentence Jill do not push this line any further as far as I can see)

    2. ch
      ch July 30, 2013 at 2:40 am |

      Gorb, that’s totally illogical and I think you know it. First off, when someone (Jill for example) calls for sex to be de-commodified, they tend to be talking primarily about sex in which none of the parties are paying actual hard cash– the model of heterosexual sex as a commodity that men must “buy” from women (who, in the stereotype, don’t actually enjoy sex) with dinners, or jewelry, or commitment, or marriage, or kids, or whatever, is hugely prominent, and IMO pretty damn separate from sex work.

      Second of all, most sex work advocates I’ve encountered want to see sex work viewed not as a commodity but as a service. Seeing it as a commodity leads to all manner of harmful attitudes (like the idea that you can’t rape a sex worker, because you’ve paid for her body, when you’ve actually just paid for her services). Not everything we pay for is a commodity– we don’t commodity babysitting, or plumbing repair, or manicures, but we can pay a professional to perform any of these services for them. This is how sex work and sex workers should be treated, too– not like goods or commoditirs, but as professionals providing a service.

      1. matlun
        matlun July 30, 2013 at 3:24 am |

        Second of all, most sex work advocates I’ve encountered want to see sex work viewed not as a commodity but as a service

        The classical economics definition of a commodity includes services for sale. I am pretty sure that Caperton used the word in that sense.

    3. rain
      rain July 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |

      Don’t want to jump the gun, but is Gorb Gorbachev?

  3. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    The conclusion to which Jones has come reflects my own attitude about sex work — that we have no place dictating to any woman how she should feel about sex, and that if she feels comfortable using it for commercial purposes, it’s not ours to tell her she shouldn’t.

    I would say this is the attitude of all of the friends of mine who I would describe as ‘feminist.’ The people who other women who work as prostitutes are people I would describe as ‘conservative.’

    1. Kungfulola
      Kungfulola July 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm |

      I don’t know, I a bleeding heart socialist feminist and I struggle with the commodification of sex. I recently heard an interview with a researcher who studied how commodifying things changes our relationship to the object/act/relationship that is up for sale….. I wish I could remember his name, or the name of his book. I reserve the right to honour women’s agency and stand with sex workers in the fight for safe working conditions and against stigma, while holding the opinion that the world would be a better place if some things remained priceless.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve July 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm |

        I reserve the right to honour women’s agency and stand with sex workers in the fight for safe working conditions and against stigma…

        That’s the attitude to which I was referring, so I don’t think you’re disagreeing with me. I certainly don’t see anything in your post which others women who work as prostitutes (what I specifically accused conservatives of being far more guilty of than feminists.)

      2. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated July 30, 2013 at 9:56 am |

        This is all a part of the commodification of human beings as laborers. As wages drop, unemployment increases, and households increasingly combine to share expenses, we will see relationships of all sorts commodified. This is becoming evident in pressures to network socially and commercially in order to gain employment or to move up. Sex as a commodity or as a service was traditionally stigmatized by religion, but religious books do not stigmatize other forms of relationship transaction. Modern customer service and sales models definitely urge relationship as a service transaction and we’ve seen recent efforts to legitimize “sexual capital” in the workplace. Transactional relationships due to economic oppression must be destigmatized and the people and factors creating economic oppression should be viewed as the problem, not the people who are simply trying to earn a living wage.

        1. Angie unduplicated
          Angie unduplicated July 30, 2013 at 9:58 am |

          Earning a living should never be a capital offense, and those who kill workers of any kind in the process of making a living should be punished to the full extent of the law and the common law “hue and cry”-something I’ve seen in an actual sentence of a car thief and check forger in TN-should be part of the sentence.

        2. A4
          A4 July 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

          I love this comment

  4. Gerry Dorrian
    Gerry Dorrian July 29, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

    It’s not just sex workers who face discrimination. In Unthinkable, about the abuse of vulnerable girls culminating in the Rochdale trials (in which only one member of a child grooming ring was convicted), Kris Hollingsworth tells that a social worker in a children’s home wrote in a girl’s notes that she was “promiscuous”, when she was actually being gang-raped.

  5. karak
    karak July 30, 2013 at 7:06 am |

    People who commit acts of violence against the vulnerable are dangerous to all people. Someone who targets sex workers, or the disabled, or undocumented in a monster in our communities who gets away with poisoning our society.

    No one should be vulnerable. Someone’s social title shouldn’t be put in front of their humanity. And I’m so, so sorry for this woman, her partner, and her community. She deserved better; her community deserved better.

  6. Alexandra
    Alexandra July 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm |

    A few days ago I was volunteering with some other students providing a service to largely homeless people, in an area that has suffered extreme, malign neglect from the city and state agencies which ought to have been providing services. The gaps are filled – or not – by a hodgepodge of religious organizations, secular charities, and students from the university fulfilling their community service requirements.

    Since I began doing community service in this neighborhood, first as part of a class, and then as part of a club, I have heard multiple stories about women who — disappear, only to be found weeks or months later, beaten or even dismembered, in a field or warehouse or industrial area some small distance away from the neighborhood. There is a lot of prostitution in this neighborhood, some of which is a matter of survival, much of which is done in part or in whole to support a heroin habit (heroin is the most common drug here).

    And so when I talk to people about these women who disappear, the story is always something like — “We told the police she’d disappeared. But they did nothing. And now they found her body, and we know who killed her, but nothing’s going to happen.”

    I don’t know how true it is that nothing is going to happen – as neglected as this neighborhood is, the police usually are even less friendly toward drug-dealers who murder than they are toward women who engage in prostitution for money. But the mood is that, like everything else, the police just exist to clean up messes when they begin to infringe on other neighborhoods. They’re not there to protect residents of this neighborhood, because people who are homeless, who are drug users, who are engaging in prostitution, are seen to be criminal in their very existence. People who have nowhere to sleep but the street are treated much the same as their possessions – as trash that needs to be swept off the street four times a year. I’m having a hard time expressing it. It’s as if not just what they do, but what they are, is the criminal thing that must either be kept locked up in a ghetto, or else purged from the community altogether.

  7. Marie
    Marie July 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

    Thank you for this poignant tribute to Tracy Connelly. Her tragedy could be any woman’s tragedy – a woman who is considered disposable, meaningless, simply because she walks the streets, because she engages in activity not deemed “respectable” by mainstream society. It is a tragedy for society as a whole when women are marginalized and treated as disposables.

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