Feminist viewpoints on prostitution and sex work Volume 2

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remind remind's picture
Feminist viewpoints on prostitution and sex work Volume 2

from here

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Why, when even you have nothing more to say?

Loretta

From the previous thread-

p-sto wrote:

Loretta, I would have liked for you or someone else critical of the decriminialisation movement to have addressed the ideas that I raised in post #50.
I should likely say more on the subject but I'm having a difficult time composing my thoughts on something so complex for the moment.  I can imagine various scenarios that could be harmful but I'm still having trouble with the idea that improving the status of sex workers is necessarily bad for the remainder of women.

Post #50 was -
p-sto wrote:

As a male I'm rather curious about the suppostion that the sex trade is fundamentally degrading to women by creating disposable women and sex on demand.

Ideally speaking a sex worker should be allowed to refuse any client she wishes and have control over the terms of sex.  In practice this fails because because the worker may face violence from the person she refuses, violence from a pimp, fear of losing a client due to not meeting their demands, emotional coercion or she may be compelled by financial requirements.  These concerns excluding pimps also exist outside the sex trade in more socially accepted relationships.  I very much doubt that men would treat their partners or women in general in this fashion do so because they have learned it from sex workers.

As opposed to claiming sex work degrades women I am more inclined to believe that there is a significant portion of society that does not respect women and this lack of respect plays out more frequently within the sex trade as it is viewed as more permissible.

For the record Susan I am in support of decriminialisation.  However, I consider the law and the police to really be the smallest part of the battle.  A respecting sex trade can't really exist in a society that does not fully respect women.  The law is very little if it is not supported fairly by society.

Good luck in your struggle.

 

Thanks for your question, p-sto. I find it interesting and somewhat confusing that those who don't support full decriminalization are seen as somehow are not in support of improving the lives of women who are working in prostitution. I'm not aware of anyone here who is defending the status quo. I've said this a number of times.

 

Complete decriminalization, as I understand it based on what susan davis is presenting here, is a vision of commerce unfettered. The idea that most women working in prostitution have that kind of autonomy over their work life is romantic but I don't believe is reality. When the overwhelming majority of women working as prostitutes are doing so in the absence of choices, this is not about freedom. So, to me fully decriminalizing means that we say it's OK for women to be forced into this work for survival. Instead, we need to stop the reversal of gains made by the women's movement, reverse the cuts to social programs, and provide those who are marginalized with opportunities for a better life.

 

Sadly, the gathering of support for the Conservatives means that more and more women (and men) are finding themselves without adequate supports, which puts many at risk. We ring our hands around this sociological problem -- I don't think it's that at all. It's a political problem. We elect those people who shape the legislation and policies that determine how we live. It's a frickin' shame that we continue to elect people who would promote treating anyone in this way. This, to me, goes against a collective response for the well-being of all.

 

 

 

MegB

What if, for the purpose of discussion, we just took sex out of the equation, and looked at labour sectors dominated by women?  Are there any traditionally female-dominated employment sectors that aren't - now or in the past - in some way devalued and debasing to women?

Take early childhood education.  A woman can earn better wages and benefits working for Tim Hortons or Walmart than caring for our children.  The work requires significant education, responsibility, is under-compensated and under-recognized.

Midwifery.  Inroads have been made, but the profession is still denegrated and undervalued by a persistently patriarchal medical model for childbirth.

Administrative Assistants.  Just because they aren't called secretaries doesn't mean their work is valued or fairly compensated.

Sex trade. Potential for good pay and considerable autonomy and self-determination, but all too often dominated by organized crime, drug trafficking, exploitation and dangerous working conditions due to criminalization and lack of protective regulation through labour legislation.

There remain many many outstanding equity issues in gendered work that go beyond what the work actually is.  Why does working in the sex trade pay better than working as an admin assistant in an office? Because the compensation is equal to the value of the work established by the dominant culture, which still happens to be heterosexual and male.  Bickering about whether sex trade workers can be feminist is completely counterproductive and leads us away from the core issues at hand - inequity, non-representative balance of power, and class warfare through economics.

Stargazer

That was a quote my stats professor used to say all the time. Stats are and can be faulty, along with the methodology behind them. We have no real idea in most cases what types of questions were asked (open ended? Closed ended?) nor the way the data itself was gathered - through a survey, through mailing lists?Nor who the target market r sample was, how much this sample represents the real world etc. all I'm sure you know.

 

The thing with stats is you can pretty much make them show whatever it is you wish, but that doesn't mean the stats are correct or are free of methodological problems.

p-sto

Loretta wrote:

Thanks for your question, p-sto. I find it interesting and somewhat confusing that those who don't support full decriminalization are seen as somehow are not in support of improving the lives of women who are working in prostitution. I'm not aware of anyone here who is defending the status quo. I've said this a number of times.


Fair enough. I think it can be agreed that every one in this debate is strongly concerned with the welfare of women, I'm sorry if my words implied that you were not.
I think the reason I take the position that I do is that it's not apparent what the abolitionist route would do protect women who wish to stay in the sex trade, even if they are significantly a minority. Still I shy away from saying something such as "people opposing the sex trade only wish help women so long as they are willing to leave the trade". Similiar comments have been made about the decrimialisation camp only helping women so long as they wish to stay. Then again I feel it's pretty apparent from all that Susan's said that there is strong support in the decriminalisation camp to get out of the sex trade those who are being victimised by it. I suppose the effectiveness of tactics is the key to debate here.
One question that still hasn't been answered. It's been claimed many times that there is something inherent about the sex trade that degrades women. I put forth the agrument that it's not the sex trade that is degrading but society in itself and the sex trade recieves the worst of it due to society's tendancy to look the other way. Do you think that it is possible for a woman to accept money for sex with out being degraded, without degrading the way society looks at all women.
Perhaps the difference in our positions is that I am being driven by idealism attempting to find a solution that may or may not be feasible in our society. While those that are opposing the sex trade are more pragmatic, they consider a safe sex trade where women are respected impossible so they are trying to stem the damage the best they can. Then again perhaps I have not done your position justice and we have separate ideals.
Stargazer wrote:

There are lies, and then there are statistics...

 

There are also statistics that claim strong conclusions based on weak relationships between numbers. I wouldn't call them lies because I'm sure often time the parties providing them believe in the results. However, these numbers are just as misleading. Statistics can be surprisingly inexact.

p-sto

Haha, I think I've heard that line before, seemed familiar.  Given the recent sensitivity about accusations of lying I thought I'd err on the safe side. Wink

Stargazer

I figured as much p-sto Laughing

Loretta

Which is exactly why I have not used these kinds of figures. Also, regarding whether sex trade workers can be feminist is not a statement I have made. I have questioned promoting an argument based on feminist ideals when the arguments being presented aren't necessarily reflective of that (such as making men feel good, etc).

p-sto

Sorry others have, while others have expressed discomfort with the idea.  The question is pretty much open to anyone though.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Quote:
Do you think that it is possible for a woman to accept money for sex with out being degraded, without degrading the way society looks at all women.

 

Ultimately, no. Not in this culture, and cultures take a long time to evolve. I think that this is part of the crux of the dispute and not something that it is going to be possible to resolve.

Lee Lakeman

Timebandit wrote:

Quote:
Do you think that it is possible for a woman to accept money for sex with out being degraded, without degrading the way society looks at all women.

 

Ultimately, no. Not in this culture, and cultures take a long time to evolve. I think that this is part of the crux of the dispute and not something that it is going to be possible to resolve.

Great exchange!

No I do not think it is logical/ethical or wise to permit a man to buy sex from a woman and then expect him to see her or other women as equal members of society

No I think it is not possible that society permits a man to pay for sex without society degrading the woman he is buying and all women

Michelle

Quote:

the woman he is buying

Do you really think that men who pay for sex end up owning the women afterwards?  If you buy sex from a woman, you've bought the woman herself?

I consider the essence of myself as a person to be more than my sexual actions, personally.  So if I were to sell a sexual service, I would not consider myself to then be the property of the person who pays for that service.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

How about renting?  Yours for the period agreed upon?

Snert Snert's picture

What about the word "hired"?  Seems sufficient for pretty much all other work.  Mind you, it's not "loaded" language or anything -- all it does is describe the situation accurately.

Lee Lakeman

I am tempted to try a word change but I think it is more to the point to say that I believe we have no permanent essence that is I do not have an essentialist view.  Rather I believe that what we do and what is done to us and the context in which both happens and how we and others think about that shapes who we are and that combination accumulates over time. 

So I do not think society can permit men to buy sex without degrading both the women they claim to buy it from and all women.  

But my point really was that there are two acts: the buying and the permission giving which are degrading

Lee Lakeman

"Hiring" is of course as loaded as "slavery" but in my opinion less accurrate

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Snert wrote:

What about the word "hired"?  Seems sufficient for pretty much all other work.  Mind you, it's not "loaded" language or anything -- all it does is describe the situation accurately.

Most other forms of labour do not involve invasive access to your body.

It still remain that: 

Timebandit wrote:

Quote:
Do you think that it is possible for a woman to accept money for sex with out being degraded, without degrading the way society looks at all women.

 

Ultimately, no. Not in this culture, and cultures take a long time to evolve. I think that this is part of the crux of the dispute and not something that it is going to be possible to resolve.

 

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Most other forms of labour do not involve invasive access to your body.
 

Very well. But how does that translate into "bought"? You've noted a difference, but how is it significant to the choice of the word "bought" over "hired"? 

Is a surrogate mother also bought? If a friend were to be a surrogate, would you say to her "way to rent out your uterus!"?

What about an egg donor?  That's also a pretty invasive procedure, but it doesn't seem to carry the same loaded perception of "selling your eggs".

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Access for a price = commodification.  It has an effect on how women's bodies and access to them is regarded in our culture. 

IIRC, there have been concerns voiced by a number of groups regarding payment for donation of eggs for fertility treatment as well.  However, that doesn't have quite the same connotation and resultant objectification of women in general that sex for payment does.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
However, that doesn't have quite the same connotation and resultant objectification of women in general that sex for payment does.

 

Does it seem to you that choosing terms like "bought" or "rented" supports and helps foster those connotations and the resultant objectification? I guess that's what I'm responding to here -- the sense that these terms are being chosen to actually create the context of an object for sale, and not the other way around.

 

I also noted on another similar thread that there seems to be a lot of discussion of sex in terms of "ejaculation response" and sex workers "selling their vaginas", and it really seems to me that this serves only to try to frame it with as little dignity and agency as possible. Do you have kids? Would you be offended if I repeatedly chose to refer to them as your "spawn" and you as a "breeder"? This feels like the same kind of thing to me. Unnecessary, if nothing else.

p-sto

There once was a time where within dating, marriage and casual sex where men coerced women and degraded them.  Though the situation may be some what improved from then there are still frequent instances where women are not treated with dignity within these institutions.

Timebandit admitted that a respectful exchange of sex for money can conceptually happen but not within our society because the exchange will ultimately become degrading based on how our society is structured.  Why are the above mentioned instutions worth fighting for to be made respectful towards women but the sex trade is not and should be abolished?  If you can, please go beyond objectification as that can occur without money as well.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Snert wrote:

Quote:
However, that doesn't have quite the same connotation and resultant objectification of women in general that sex for payment does.

 

Does it seem to you that choosing terms like "bought" or "rented" supports and helps foster those connotations and the resultant objectification? I guess that's what I'm responding to here -- the sense that these terms are being chosen to actually create the context of an object for sale, and not the other way around.

 

I also noted on another similar thread that there seems to be a lot of discussion of sex in terms of "ejaculation response" and sex workers "selling their vaginas", and it really seems to me that this serves only to try to frame it with as little dignity and agency as possible. Do you have kids? Would you be offended if I repeatedly chose to refer to them as your "spawn" and you as a "breeder"? This feels like the same kind of thing to me. Unnecessary, if nothing else.

Firstly, if you have a problem with someone's choice of words, take it up with them.  I didn't phrase anything that way and I'm not going to be drawn into a big discussion about it.

I'm not creating the context, either.  It's there already and it is what it is.  And I'm reacting to the objectification that sex work reinforces in the first place.  It's not going to evaporate by opening the doors wider.

Which is not to say I don't support most aspects of decriminalization.  I do.  I don't like it, but it seems like making the best of a nasty situation.  Personally, I'd prefer sex work didn't exist at all.

remind remind's picture

Our vaginas are our vaginas, how would you like us to refer to them?

I would hope that you as a man would not be trying to tell us how to frame our vagina talk, snert.

 

There is a distinct difference between an orgasm, and an ejaculatory response and I use the phrase to distinguish the difference between the 2.

A  man is not purchasing "sex" when he is having a 2 min ejaculatory response in the car or bathroom from a hand job, or blow job.

He has purchased an ejaculatory response and nothing more.

 

This topic does not need fancy terms to dress up what is going on in the vast majority of cases.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

p-sto wrote:

There once was a time where within dating, marriage and casual sex where men coerced women and degraded them.  Though the situation may be some what improved from then there are still frequent instances where women are not treated with dignity within these institutions.

Timebandit admitted that a respectful exchange of sex for money can conceptually happen but not within our society because the exchange will ultimately become degrading based on how our society is structured.  Why are the above mentioned instutions worth fighting for to be made respectful towards women but the sex trade is not and should be abolished?  If you can, please go beyond objectification as that can occur without money as well.

The sex trade has an inherent power imbalance between customer and worker.  This is something we frown on in terms of other sexual relationships, ie: professor and student, even where there is consent.  I'm not sure that can be made respectful without removing the monetary aspect.  Certainly, changing such things as resources considered held in common within marriage and division of assets in divorce has made marriage a more equitable institution.  I don't see how that can be remedied in sex work.  He has something she needs (money), she gets it only if she performs to his satisfaction.  It's a transaction, not a partnership.

I don't think you can actually go beyond objectification.  Or perhaps you can, but I can't.  Again, it is what it is.  You can call a duck a swan but it won't make it so.

ETA:  Now that I think of it, I don't think I admitted anything.  I said that it was not possible within our current culture and pointed out that cultures are very slow to change - ie:  not in this lifetime.

p-sto

Not in this life time was implied by what I typed, I hope you don't think I was trying to twist your words.  My argument was, perhaps clumsily, attempting to point out that there are many women who did not/will not see a respectful marriage in ther life.  The struggle continues.

I think the power differential aspect you pointed out is something distinct from objectification.  A healthy sex relationship requires the partners to be equal.  Something worth reflecting on.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

The power differential results in objectification.  One doesn't objectify an equal. 

Lee Lakeman

Might I add that to objectify a woman who has the inborn right and social potential to take her place as your equal is to recreate inequality or to worsen the inequality already being experienced by both of you.  And for any of us to witness it and not object is to collude with that oppression

remind remind's picture

snert wrote:
would you be offended if I repeatedly chose to refer to them as your "spawn" and you as a "breeder"? This feels like the same kind of thing to me.

Going to come back to this, as I do not believe I  addressed it enough...

If you call a child/kid a "spawn", you are not insulting the mother or father.

...indeed you are insulting a person, as in the child itself,  thus making them less human, so for me I find it a bit icky of you to compare a child, to a vagina, or indeed even worse,  ejaculatory fluid, that is just a hazardous waste by product, at that point. It is also a very patriarchial notion to diminsh humanity in order to satisfy  notions of male privilege.

 

 

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Our vaginas are our vaginas, how would you like us to refer to them?

I would hope that you as a man would not be trying to tell us how to frame our vagina talk, snert.

I would hope it's evident to others that my point had nothing to do with telling women how they should refer to their body parts.

Quote:
I find it a bit icky of you to compare a child, to a vagina, or indeed even worse,  ejaculatory fluid

At no point did I say "a child is like a vagina, or semen, because...".  Or really, anything that compared an actual child to anything.

fortunate

Lee Lakeman wrote:

"Hiring" is of course as loaded as "slavery" but in my opinion less accurrate

 

 

How so, exactly.   You would have to prove that slavery is taking place, that the exchange of money means the buyer can take the entire person home with him for life. That is the definition of slavery after all, and the connotation of "bought" and "sell".  It is to imply that this is not a service, or a temporary activity, but that something beyond a service is exchanged, in which case someone at some time is going to have to explain just what "item" the client (not man, don't oversimplify it and assume there are no women please)  is able to take away with them.   A tomato, as indicated somewhere else?   From where?  Out of the vagina?   It is very confusing and a little disconcerting to imagine that my clients are leaving with tomatoes that I don't know about.  Especially those who don't even get access to my vagina.

I don't even like tomatoes.  Something should be done about this.Surprised

fortunate

Timebandit wrote:

The power differential results in objectification.  One doesn't objectify an equal. 

 

That can apply to employer and employee, but sex work does not fall into this categorization for the majority (remember, that 80% here by choice, indoor workers, left other lucrative employment to do this instead, and so on.  a million reasons as many as people doing the work, not a statistic or an assumption).  Sex workers are owner-operator, self employed, for the most part, including the street workers after all.  More lawyer-client than a power differential.  The lawyer depends on the client to pay the rent, but they are not defined by the client, nor do they feel less worthy than the client even tho it is the client who decides to engage their services. 

Rather than make assumptions based on dubious news stories (see susan davis's comments on her words being grossly misquoted and misinterpreted elsewhere) and movies and so on, if anyone really wants to know something, just ask.   If you have a question that you would like many (like dozens or a hundred or so) to comment on, I will forward your query in the appropriate areas to get their POV and come back and let you know.   Just as I did when I asked and 126 indoor sex workers replied to let us all know that the under 18 age "statistic" is grossly misrepresented in public reports.  Actual figures based on survey put the % of those who started sex work under 18 at less than 16%  -- an overwhelming 84% were all over 18.  A surprising over 16% started at 35+.

All of those surveyed spoke for themselves.  Some work via mps, most independently or with a colleague for safety.   None forced, none trafficked, none feel unworthy, most feel empowered and love what they do, many feel that their self-esteem is higher after they started than before.    You can ignore the facts, or adapt to them, as you wish, when forming opinions.  But I will take issue when someone who has no real experience makes an assumption based more on what they should think about sex work rather than what actually occurs.

 

fortunate

I should also say, a big thanks for the concern and consideration people have for the street workers and beyond.  That I would prefer that the needs of these women and men be your main focus, and not whether or not tomatoes are coming out of my vagina.

remind remind's picture

....drew the parallel snert  by likening the use of  the words "ejaculation response" or "vagina" to the use of the word "spawn" for "child"

 

Indeed, your point had everything to do with stating to women that perhaps we had no right to use the word vagina in respect to commodification of penus access to it. Apparently had no problem with the use of the word "mouth".

 

 

Stargazer

I didn't see snert's post as even remotely offensive nor referring to women using the word vagina.

 

 

remind remind's picture

whom was he referring to using it then?

Loretta

Snert wrote:

Quote:
Most other forms of labour do not involve invasive access to your body.
 

Very well. But how does that translate into "bought"? You've noted a difference, but how is it significant to the choice of the word "bought" over "hired"? 

Is a surrogate mother also bought? If a friend were to be a surrogate, would you say to her "way to rent out your uterus!"?

What about an egg donor?  That's also a pretty invasive procedure, but it doesn't seem to carry the same loaded perception of "selling your eggs".

Surrogacy for money is not legal in Canada, neither are the sale of eggs or sperm. Not a valid comparison.

remind remind's picture

Quote:
(remember, that 80% here by choice, indoor workers, left other lucrative employment to do this instead, and so on.  a million reasons as many as people doing the work, not a statistic or an assumption).

we are talking prostitution, and not workers in  non-genital contact activities.

choice is relative.......

 

not that it matters, because really of concern with me is the status of all women....

susan davis

Sealed

susan davis
remind remind's picture

Yes, it is a warm fuzzy feel good piece, isn't it?

 

however, body massages are skin to skin, not genital/mouth/hand to genital....

 

having partaken in both areas of contact several times in my life, I understand the 2 cannot be confused as the same...even though some apparently are trying.

Loretta

I don't think the comparison between physiotherapy or massage therapists and prostitution holds, given the power and social location of phsyiotherapists/massage therapists in comparison to most women forced into prostitution through lack of options.

Also, this article is written from the point of view as someone who makes the comparison between what the services offered might look like, as a recipient. It strikes me as the author is saying, "It feels so good that I can relate to the people who purchase prostitution services". I doubt any of us here don't get that men who purchase sex feel good as a result, otherwise what would be the point? Is that the measure of whether women are better or worse off through complete decriminalization?

ennir

Thanks for the link to the article Susan.

Women have a right to choose what they will do with their bodies.

remind remind's picture

We most certainly do in leisure time pursuits...and when there is an actual choice available....or a choice that is not skewed by an overwhelming foucus on patriarchial privilege.

ennir

Once again, women have a right to chose what they do with their bodies regardless of whether or not you think their choices are  skewed by patriarchy, this argument reminds me of the abortion debate in that within that debate there was one side that clearly thought they should have the right to choose for all women. 

G. Muffin

I don't know how meaningful the concept of choice is when you're addicted to drugs and have no other way to feed your addiction.

remind remind's picture

Hmmm, doesn't remind me of that at all, actually, and again I go back to actual choices, that ECE women do not have to make...

 

....am reminded of the reality that feminists recognize that one act of  violence against women, like that which is coming up in less than a month, is an act of violence against all women.

And  about the reality that when a man murders/batterers his wife/partner/girl friend it is an act of violence that benefits all men in a patriarchial society.

 

 

ennir

Who gets to decide who is making a free choice and who is making a choice out of desperation? It seems like you have decided that you do and within your decision no one else has a valid right to even suggest that some women might have a right to disagree.  LOL

I have heard no-one say that they support women being forced into being sex workers.

As to this idea that every sex act that takes place between a sex worker and client is an act of violence it is disrespectful of the voices we have heard here say clearly that it is not.  Perhaps the world is more complex than your view, perhaps you could treat the sex workers who have spoken here in favor of sex work as truthful and respect that they are speaking from actual experience.

 

G. Muffin

ennir wrote:
Who gets to decide who is making a free choice and who is making a choice out of desperation?

How about the sex worker herself?  Does she even get a say?

Quote:
It seems like you have decided that you do and within your decision no one else has a valid right to even suggest that some women might have a right to disagree.

Yes, I believe that the drug addicted, while addicted, do not have the capacity to exercise free will.  I said nothing about anyone having or not having a right to disagree.  Try to stick to arguing what people actually say.

Quote:
LOL

Can we have a new rule?  Can we only use LOL if the writer actually laughed out loud?  It's got to be the most obnoxious internet mechanism around.

Quote:
As to this idea that every sex act that takes place between a sex worker and client is an act of violence it is disrespectful of the voices we have heard here say clearly that it is not.

We've also heard selling sex referred to as practicing love (or a similar phrasing).  Doesn't make it accurate. 

Sure, it's perfectly possible that Susan Davis and some others absolutely love their work.  So what?  I'm sure you could find some telemarketers who love their work.  The fact is both industries are a blight.

ennir

G. Pie wrote:

ennir wrote:
Who gets to decide who is making a free choice and who is making a choice out of desperation?

How about the sex worker herself?  Does she even get a say?

............

Sure, it's perfectly possible that Susan Davis and some others absolutely love their work.  So what?  I'm sure you could find some telemarketers who love their work.  The fact is both industries are a blight.

Have you read my posts? What do you mean, "How about the sex worker herself?"  I find it offensive that you insinsuate that I am not listening to all the voices expressed.  I have said no woman should be forced into sex work, is that not clear enough for you? Is that how you think you win arguments?

If you feel that strongly perhaps you could put some energy into a thread on telemarketing. .

As to LOL, hey sorry you find it all so offensive but believe me I am laughing.  I have to laugh or I would be cursing or crying at your absolute unwillingness to even entertain the idea that you don't know it all.  So enjoy your point of view, I won't be wasting my time engaging in this thread any longer.

 

G. Muffin

ennir wrote:
Is that how you think you win arguments?

No, I win arguments by falsely attributing opinions to my opponents, claiming to find humour in the patently unfunny, and then leaving in a flounce when I'm not being engaged on the terms that I decree.  I call it the Debating Trifecta and it's a beauty.

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