This post is a little late, but I’ve been thinking for a long time about how exactly to approach this topic. Since listening to this interesting section on Woman’s Hour [http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01s0djx/] I’ve been thinking a lot about the politics of sex work, and how to think about sex work in a way that empowers the people who work in that industry. I’m fairly new to this subject, but I’ve attended a few seminars on the issue and have carried out a little research online and I feel like I have some valid points.
To hear Andrea Matolcsi arguing that sex work isn’t ‘proper work’ really enraged me, and made me wonder how someone who calls themselves a feminist could completely devalue the work of an entire group of women* and reduce their choices and ambitions down to mere coercion and exploitation. If we are going to get upset about the violence and exploitation of the sex industry, we must be prepared to get equally upset by the violence and exploitation of any industry. As Molly points out with the deep-sea fishing example, any basic capitalist system survives and grows through a perpetuation of exploitation, explicit or otherwise. If you are offended by people selling sex, you must, in my view, be offended by any oppressed class selling any goods or services. It is the same issue. (I understand that the very fact that sex is involved makes the issue more emotive, but I think we need to get past this very narrow-minded view that people selling sex are necessarily exploited).
So exploitation is one thing. Consent and individual agency is another. The crime that many so-called feminists commit - denial of agency - when they talk of all sex workers as ‘victims’, is shameful. Many sex workers consent to their work. Admittedly, many sex workers don’t. I can’t deny that there is often very real violence and risk involved in sex work. But this is still work that many people actively choose. There’s very real violence and risk involved in being a police officer, or a professional boxer, or a security guard. The difference is that these people are protected and represented fully without being marginalised. All of these people are respected – and it’s worth noting that in these examples, the workers are stereotypically assumed as male. By arguing that all women involved in sex work are exploited no matter what their choices are, many ‘feminists’ make the mistake of actually backing up a view of women’s bodies and minds as weaker and more vulnerable.
Sex work is a means of survival which, just like anybody in any role, its workers must submit to. Sex workers deserve the same rights and privileges as we would afford any other group of workers, and they deserve not to be ‘rescued’, patronised, or given a ‘proper job’; but rather, respected and supported.
This is Molly’s blog, which is thoroughly readable and engaging, and she makes so many brilliant points from the perspective of a sex worker: [http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/]
* And men, obviously. But feminists against sex work prefer not to talk about that…
Beautiful, vicious poetry from Rachel Rostad. She makes an excellent point. Actually she makes several excellent points that I wouldn’t have even known how to begin to address in under 4 minutes.
Anita Sarkeesian talking about her experiences with online misogyny and harassment.
I’m getting increasingly irritated by the sexist coverage of Thatcher’s death. If only ‘that hairstyle’ was all she had contributed to British politics.
See ‘Maggie and Me’, the documentary shown by Channel 4 on the night of her death, which focuses almost exclusively on Thatcher’s style and frequently referenced “sex appeal” with barely a passing mention of her policies.
A number of photo galleries have also sprung up in newspaper after newspaper citing Thatcher’s feminine style and ‘power-dressing’ appearance.
Thankfully one interesting article by Caroline Pennock quite eloquently pinpoints some of these issues in the recent media coverage, but I can’t help but feel this issue has been more or less ignored overall.
When David Cameron dies, will we be poring over his shirt-and-tie combos and obsessing over his hair? No. We’ll be engaging in a far more intelligent debate about his policy decisions, failures, and overall contribution to politics.
She may have been the first female PM, but that doesn’t mean all she had to contribute was shoulder pads and hairspray. This woman led the deregulation of the stock exchange (screwing our country in years to come), destroyed the Northern industries, led us into the Falklands - to mention but a few much more significant contributions than simply ‘sex appeal’.