I’m back from a long absence, and I’m a bit Feminist Hulk
by Ms Dentata
Well I’ve been AWOL for a bit of a stressful time (more about that later). I’m not at uni any more, and I’m moving back to my mum’s house soon for some family times while I do a bit of therapy and self-care. I need a stress break, and being around babies and farm animals will provide that. I hope. Anyway, I got directed by the fantastic Heather to an article, on Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Mayhem, about how basically privileged experiences of the sex industry don’t constitute REAL sex work, but are more like dating for ‘compensation’. I shit you not. Let’s start off with just an excerpt. One of my favourite parts of this “class analysis”
“Thus, someone who owns property and has a secure job cannot actually experience what it means to be a sex-worker because hir prime vocation is not one where s/he is forced to sell her body as an economic necessity. Sex labour in a context of class privilege is an activity, a game, where one’s material reality produces a different set of options: you can always stop, you have a far greater margin of choice (your clientelle are more like dating options on Craigslist but with reimbursement attached), and by-and-large you are not a sex-worker because this is simply compensated dating––it is not the material institution of prostitution defined by labourers who have no other choice but to sell their labour in this institution. You are not part of this institution’s army of labour; you are not part of its reserve army of labour when you aren’t working.”
Right. The author starts by calling those who believe sex work and feminism can work hand in hand, and that sex work can be empowering, “stupid”. Continuing on, I’m hit with an accusation of “call-girl slumming” and an assertion that my sex work (ie middle-class, university educated white female) is not part of radical politics. The author is pretty explicit in hir belief that abolishing prostitution is part of abolishing patriarchy, and asserts that the global sex trade is clearly patriarchal and exploitative when analysed on the control of profit and means of production, and the customers of the sex industry. Ze concludes by stating that pro-sex work feminists operate on an individualistic mind set and are successful only in legitimising the ‘pimps’. I have a few problems with this.
2) Working is not like dating for me. I am white, cisfemale, university educated, able-bodied, within the usual range of body shapes considered ‘sexy’ by societal messages, and from a family that had some years of relatively hard times, but is now quite comfortably middle-class. I recognise my privilege, I know that all of these aspects of my life have benefited me in many ways. I know my experiences as a sex worker, particularly, have been more positive than what seems usual. I know there are many things about the sex industry’s structure and dominant culture that impact really negatively on a lot of sex workers (who, just by the way, are not all women). But the fact remains that I would not date people who I constantly had to distract from trying to finger my anus, I would not date people older than my parents, I would not date people I don’t find physically attractive, and I would not want to do all of the fantasy services I provide in a dating situation. While I have the right to refuse customers, accepting or declining professional services to someone is NOT equivalent to picking ‘dates for compensation’.
3) The logic you use is questionable. I posit that it stems from a belief that sex work is inherently exploitative. I understand this is what you’re arguing, and I understand that current economic structure limits all people’s choices, and that economic necessity can alter the ‘choices’ made as regards employment in the sex industry. I would not dream of denying that many are trapped into sex slavery, and working in unsafe conditions. Sex slavery definition However, taking these examples as the definition of sex worker and limiting your dialogue in a way that excludes other experiences as ‘real’ sex work is just an example of using Marxist theory to justify your own abolitionist views. I believe lived experience should be respected. I agree many discussions about the sex industry are dominated by more privileged voices, but here’s your shut-the-fuck-up-‘stupid’-feminists preaching telling me that I’m not even a ‘real’ sex worker hurts in a way similar to suggestions that some rape is ‘more’ rape, or that my belief I can provide sexual services for money in an empowering way means I’m not a ‘real feminist’.
4) I have experienced social oppression as a result of sex work, and you are recreating it here. Ignoring certain sex worker voices happens often. It really pulls my tit. My relationships, my employment chances, my housing choices are all affected by people ignoring my lived experiences and supplementing their own stereotypes.
This is all.
Within the next few days I should have a copy of the letter to Rosemary Mcleod about to be put on the ladygarden.org