Thursday, 14 August 2008

On Choices (Part 2): Prostitution and the Agency of Johns

Introduction

This post is a follow-up to my previous (March 2008) post On Choices.

A couple of important points I had made in that post:

1/ Prostitution is a global industry of sexual exploitation in which sex is traded for money, clothing, food, drugs, shelter, or favors. Prostitution includes strip bars, lap-dancing clubs, massage parlors, brothels, saunas, adult and child pornography, street walking, live sex shows, phone sex, prostitution rings, Internet pornography, escort services, peep shows, ritual abuse, and mail order bride services.

2/ The 'sex' industry has done a great job in focusing the debate on "women's choices", while the focus of any discussion on the subject should be on the consumers who CHOOSE to use pornography, and, in the case of prostitution, on the johns who CHOOSE to buy women for sex.

Agency: Who really has it?

One of the most common misrepresentation and accusation that gets thrown at radical feminist who take a stand against pornography and prostitution is that we're somehow "denying women's choices" or that we're "ignoring women's agency" in all this.

I know that in my previous post I stated that I acknowledged the lack of choices that most women who enter the 'sex' industry have. I still do. I meant that, in a patriarchy, women in general have more or less limited choices and that our agency is often shaped by patriarchal logic, by male supremacy. I meant that most of the women and girls who end up in prostitution are the female human beings with the most limited choices.

Still, I'll tell you what I think of this "rad fems deny women's choices" accusation:

Rad fems do not "deny women's choices."

Yes, we, women as a class, do have agency, but it is somehow more or less restricted within the boundaries of patriarchy. The male-supremacist system is not here to benefit us, which always more or less limits our choices.

Accusatory people haven't properly read our work or haven't paid enough attention to all our words. I, myself, in my post On Choices, wrote:

"I believe it is possible that there are a few women out there who do freely choose to enter the industry, are fully aware of what's involved and/or make a lot of money. Still, I do not believe it is honest people focusing all their attention on those few somewhat privileged women while ignoring the vast majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to choose a better life, who are being controlled and mistreated by pimps, and who are used and abused by johns."

In another post, Prostitution, Trafficking and Law, that came after that, I wrote:

"Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis!"

The fact is that Melissa Farley, a feminist researcher on prostitution, and some colleagues of hers conducted a large-scale study interviewing 854 people (who were in prostitution) across nine countries. The results of this research can be found here. 89% of those prostituted or prostituting people (most of them women) stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately. Which makes it obvious that their choices and agency were limited within this cruel industry.

Farley has carried on researching on prostitution ever since, one of her most recent studies being on the 'sex' industry in Nevada. Farley was repeatedly slandered and misrepresented by the pro-prostitution lobby and its followers. She was repeatedly slandered and misrepresented by some women who claimed they advocated "the rights of women".

But what was most unfair and disturbing was that the voices of the 89% of those prostitutes who said they wanted out of prostitution were denied and silenced by the pro-prostitution lobby. People who claimed they "defended sex workers' rights" refused to hear those important voices. The voices of those so many prostitutes, who'd made it clear that prostitution is not a "career choice" but abuse and violence on a daily basis, were silenced by the pro-prostitution lobby in order to try to promote their agenda (i.e. "prostitution as work").

"Melissa Farley is lying", "Biased research" or some other foolishness, the pro-prostitution lobby and its followers said. No, there was no way that lobby was going to believe such a comprehensive research and the voices of the so many prostitutes who had been interviewed in it. . . because, obviously, there was so much 'vested interest' in protecting the 'sex' industry for those pro-prostitution folks, right? (rhetorical question)

Recently, I left a comment on Rebecca Mott's blog, telling her that she was NOT the only 'example of the harms of the sex trade' (as she put it). I’ve met women in the radical feminist movement who are survivors of the sex trade. I’ve been in touch with an anti-prostitution organization that helps women exit the sex trade. And most of the members of that organization are radical feminists and they are very pro-Swedish model abolitionists because they have worked with so many prostituted women and girls who wanted out of the sex trade, not “better working conditions”.

I also said to Rebecca:

"You are far away from being the only survivor of prostitution. I’ve read and heard so many stories similar to yours. These important stories have so much educated me on the harms of prostitution. Two years and a half ago, I was ignorant, i.e. I had no idea that all of this was happening in prostitution ’cause I had never read nor heard stories like these."
I love Rebecca. She's one of my favorite writers. And, by speaking out her truth, she's hoping to help many women who are or have been in the sex trade to be heard and/or speak out on the harms that are inherent in prostitution.

Thing is that when we criticize pornography and prostitution, we sometimes hear (but not always) someone say "But my friend does porn or strips or prostitutes and she likes it". Well, here is how I would respond to this: I would never judge your friend for her choices and I don't know her exact circumstances or what the experience really means to her. I think she is an exception because the circumstances within which most women and girls who enter prostitution and pornography are as follows:

-- past experience of child sexual abuse, rape or physical abuse; because when a woman or a girl has been raped or molested (sometimes repeatedly) in childhood, she is more likely to be re-victimized, and more vulnerable to recruitment for pornography and prostitution. By this, we do not imply that a woman who has been abused in the past is incapable of making choices, but we are just trying to shed light on all the complex feelings that abuse (especially rape) entails: it is very traumatic and it can make you believe that you're just a "sexual object" or a "thing", that it is your only value or purpose in this world. Abuse in general often leads to self-hatred in the victim, and the victim sometimes needs to find a place where they can have a feeling of "being loved" or "empowered" (even if it's fake). All these feelings and more. To summarize study findings, research carried out interviewing prostitutes (some of whom had pornography made of them) and clinical literature on different types of prostitution, it is estimated that between 65% and 95% of those in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children;

-- poverty, economic hardship, or homelessness; because, yes, serious money problems can lead some women to entering the 'sex' industry;

-- international and domestic trafficking; because some women are transported by pimps from one place to another for the purpose of prostitution. And many of the practices systematically used by pimps to control women in prostitution -- sensory deprivation, dehumanization, threats to family, deliberately induced exhaustion -- are the same as those used by military torturers, as also recently reported in Traffick Jamming;

-- and socialization to the pornified culture; because we, radical feminist, do acknowledge that some women choose to enter the 'sex' industry but also acknowledge that most of the choices of those women are probably uninformed, i.e. some young women have only seen the "glamorization" side of the pornstitution industry and are not fully aware of what it entails.

As I wrote in On Choices:

"There are many agencies that specialize in recruiting young women to the porn industry with the promise of making big money and becoming a star. Indeed, the money is an attraction for mostly young, working-class women who face limited choices in a harsh economy. Given those economic realities and the glamorization of pornography, it’s not surprising that some young women will see this as a viable career option. Undeniably, the whole culture promotes the "porn star" job as a glamorous job. In TV shows, the image of the "porn star" is shown as "liberating" and "empowering" for women."
We do not imply that every woman who makes certain choices is poor, uneducated, and/or horribly abused. We are not saying that every single woman or girl in the 'sex' industry has had exactly the same experience. We just want to point out to the fact that most women in prostitution (i.e. that includes pornography) are the female human beings who have entered the 'sex' industry with choices that are not really free. We are saying that their agency, in general, has been somehow unfortunately constrained, limited or influenced by patriarchal (il)logic and we deeply empathize with them.

And we, radical feminists, sincerely empathize with those women because WE KNOW they are being terribly harmed in the pornstitution industry. Here is another page on things to know, based on research, not mere guesses.

Now, the REAL question is: Who really has agency in this patriarchal society?

I will tell you who really has it in a patriarchy:

It is the john who really has it, the porn user, the strip club patron, etc. It is HIM.

He has the agency of buying a female body, the body of another human being, and do whatever he wants to her, whether she wants it or not.

He has the agency of buying, renting or downloading movies that contain images of her naked body wounded or hurt, her personality dehumanized, her self humiliated and degraded, her mind so harmed (sometimes beyond recovery), her face sometimes shown onscreen as enjoying the torture because the pimps control the script and run the show for the johns. Movies and images of her to which the john/porn user cruelly jerks off to.

He has the agency of going to clubs where her body is exposed, objectified and degraded for his own selfish pleasure.

He has the agency of creating the demand for an industry within which she, for the most part, will not have full agency and will be hurt.

He can insult her. He can beat her. He can rape her. He can tie her up. He can throw money at her and say "That wasn't rape 'cause I paid you".

He can reproduce the image of her being degraded, tortured and/or hurt, this image being used as a 'jerk-off' material, and share it with other men at an exponential rate, technologically speaking (i.e. internet porn, etc.).

He can do anything to her. Because HE has the full agency to do so.

Within patriarchy, his agency is, more often than not, unlimited. Because the patriarchy works toward his advantage. Male supremacy serves him, fulfills his purpose.

He'd rather try to prove his "masculinity" to his male friends by using porn or buying prostitutes. He'd usually rather go toward that direction instead of questioning the whole concept of masculinity altogether. Generally, he doesn't even know that masculinity is not innate, that he could choose humanity instead.

His agency is thoroughly defended in a patriarchy. However, within a society that purports to be egalitarian, the patriarchal defense of his agency to use and abuse women has to be implicitly expressed under the cover of "her agency", i.e. framed in arguments such as "That woman, she wants it, they all do" or "women freely choose to prostitute" and blah, blah, blah. . . ad nauseam. . . ultimately tacitly meaning (in fact): "I, the man, want to degrade her and use her for my own pleasure, thus I have the 'right' to do so" or "I, the man, freely choose to have her as my prostitute, my 'fuck object' or my property". This is what you hear when you get to the core of his thinking.


"Subhumanity": Who really sees prostituted women as 'subhuman'?

I already explained why we, radical feminists, refer to women in the 'sex' industry as 'prostituted women' somewhere in there.

There is an unfounded accusation that has been thrown at radical feminists and that stuns me: "Radfems see women in the sex industry as 'subhumans'". Blah-the-fucking-blah.

I will tell you who really sees prostituted women ("sex workers") as 'subhuman':

The male with the pornographic mind does, NOT radical feminists.

As Rebecca Mott recently posted on her blog:

"When men rape prostitutes, it is not real. How can there be a rape, when he has paid.

Injuries on prostituted women and girls don’t matter, it just rough sex. Men know her fear or lack of reaction is just part of the act.

Hadn’t he seen in porn over and over that women like her like to be raped. Women like her enjoy violence with sex.

Didn’t porn say that whores will do anything for money.

I know in my body as it remembers the tortures men did to me, that they saw me as real-life porn. I know as I remember their contempt, their laughter at my injuries and not believing that I could feel pain.

God, I remember those men posing me on the bed, against the wall, in alleys, on top of graves, in back rooms at the club. At those times, flashes of photos from the hard-core porn went over me.

I know I was infected by porn, as I became a robot performing the sex acts the men wanted."


I certainly do not believe that the men who bought and abused Rebecca were seeing prostituted women as real human beings. I believe that they saw them as 'subhuman'.

It is not uncommon to encounter this type of men. The men with the pornographic mind. Many non-prostituted women frequently meet those men in real life. But prostituted women, unfortunately, are the ones who are the most horribly abused by these men.

These men believe in the sexual philosophy of the Marquis de Sade (whether they know it or not), which is, to quote:

". . . there is no more selfish passion than lust; none that is severer in its demands; smitten stiff with desire, 'tis with yourself you must be solely concerned, and as for the object that serves you, it must always be considered as some sort of victim, destined to that passion's fury. Do not all passions require victims?"
-- Sade, in Juliette, p.269.

I totally disagree that "all passions require victims." There are many sexual and sensual passions that can be enjoyed with the inclusion of the respect toward another person's dignity, the inclusion of the caring, the connection, the equality and the mutuality.

Sade was a rapist, a batterer, a child abuser and the world's foremost pornographer. Sade has his apologists and his 'libertarian' defenders who mistakenly portray(ed) him as an "avatar of freedom". Sade helped pave the way for the unfair 'leftist' defense of pornography we've been confronting for years.

Here is de Sade's conception of sexuality served to the male pornographic mind (translated in its full cruelty): "All that matters is your own selfish male pleasure. Do not care about being cruel to women or treating them as objects. There is nothing more important than your orgasm even if it requires necessary victims." Cruel conception indeed.

As Andrea Dworkin wrote in Pornography: Men Possessing Women (p.100):

"[Sade's] convictions are ordinary, expressed often in less grand language. . . they are fully consonant with the practices. . . of ordinary men with ordinary women. . ."

It is to wonder what those ordinary men are influenced by?

Dworkin also wrote:

". . . pornography and prostitution were one and the same thing. We know that the world's foremost pornographer, the Marquis de Sade, tortured, raped, imprisoned, beat, and bought women and girls. We know that influential male thinkers and artists who enthused about rape or prostitution or battery had, in many cases, raped or bought or battered women or girls and were also users and often devotees of pornography."
Seriously, I will tell you who sees prostituted women as 'subhuman':

Not radical feminists, we fully empathize with women in the sex industry. We realize that most of them have had a somehow limited agency in patriarchy and that they are being terribly abused by abusive johns.

The johns, the tricks, the porn users, the strip-club patrons, etc. are the ones who really see prostituted women as 'subhuman'.

They are the ones who think it is their "male right" to treat women in the sex industry as 'subhuman' objects.

They are the ones who have the, barely questioned, agency to see women in the sex industry as 'subhuman' through pornography, in the act of prostitution or at the strip club, etc.

They are the ones who believe there are necessary victims required for their self-centered orgasm.

They are the ones who create the demand for these widespread crimes against women that are called pornography and prostitution.

They are the ones who believe it is their "male right" to use, objectify, degrade, hurt, harm, abuse, rape, beat up, torture and/or (sometimes) kill women.

They are the ones who believe it is 'male nature' to do so, without seriously thinking about how culturally trained their porn use, etc. have been within a culture that unfairly condones such an unfair abuse of female human beings by describing it as "adult entertainment" or "sex work".

These johns, tricks, porn users, strip-club patrons, etc. are the ones who have to stop seeing prostituted women as 'subhuman' and who have to stop creating the demand for a brutal misogynistic and racist pornstitution industry that relies on the discrimination and the ill-treatment of half the world's population to cater to its consumers/johns' cruel appetite for the degradation of women and girls.


Postscript: for another excellent resource on prostitution, please see also my previous post Prostitution, Trafficking and Law.

ETA (08/25/2008): For another excellent resource on prostitution, please see also Heart's new post Voices of Survivors of the Sex Trade: Prostitution Is Sexual Slavery, Gang-Rape, Sexual Abuse.

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29 comments:

rmott62 said...

This is a very clear post.
I get so bored and sickened by the women-blaming, rather than seeing it is men that creates the demand for porn and or prostitution.
Men are made invisible by blaming the women or by saying it is their choice. When the men are made invisible, then the damage to women and girls becomes unimportant.
That is how a whole group of women and girls in the sex trade are made "subhuman" because if the damage does not matter - then all her claims of rapes, batterings, torture and games with life and death are viewed as lies or aspects of a mental illness.
Thanks for this, Rebecca.

Maggie Hays said...

You're very welcome, Rebecca.

Thanks. :)

laurelin said...

Excellent post, Maggie. Wow.

xxx

Anastasia said...

I kind of think that you heap a lot of blame on men, but there are –sorry to say- many women that run escort agencies, brothels and work freelance. Yes, their clientele is, by the largest percentage, male, but the way the industry stands today, especially in certain parts of the developed world, males are (like women) a part of the equation. They all contribute equally. Now in other parts of the world where trafficking is rife, it is the opposite, so prostitution can no longer be considered on unified issue. It varies in the United States, the UK, etc. Prostitution in the US is different from that in third world countries, and no, all divisions aren't addressed equally, but it doesn't help to sweep them all under the same carpet.

If I had no choice but to be a prostitute in Thailand (I'm not a sex worker in real life), and I didn't know any better (based on poverty, economy, upbringing, a whole array of factors), I would be unhappy or resigned to my lot in life, and most likely desire a way out. Now, take the high earning prostitute in the western world, that earns thousands per week, and likes doing it because she likes the money (I'm not one to really believe the, "I like pleasing clients/strangers" excuse, I'm too old for that crap). Is it really a male/patriarchal issue or is it more a financial issue?

In some parts of the world, service industries are booming but these occupations are based on commissions, minimal wage and daily abuse from clients (non sexual). It is a form of psychological abuse to sit behind a desk and be yelled at by a customer over the phone. It may not be violent, as in the occasional scenario for some sex workers, but it's still abuse. There is no workplace that is really free of abuse. Some women balance the pros and cons: would they work for ten dollars an hour in a call center or would they work for a few hundred dollars an hour having protected sex with a John? Some would take the latter. This issue shouldn't be one of morals, as in 'which women have more morals,' it's a cut and dry economical issue. For the percentage of women who do take the leap and enter sex work, their thinking with dollars in mind, unfortunately most jobs or 'ordinary jobs' offer few incentives. Women still battle sexual harassment in the ordinary workforce today. So it's not like conventional workplaces are really better.

All being said, you do make valid points. Prostitution isn't for the faint of heart and spirit. I see it as a spiritually grueling career choice, and regardless of thinking that women do have choices and have a right to make their choice (if sex work is for them), I also - deep down - feel that this work does have an impact on relationships with men. I base this view on my own work in cabaret nightclubs bartending, seeing female performers date clients/patrons, and the after effect. Even in my own experiences in these nightclubs, I've seen the other side of men, the superficial side or side that still wrestles with the Madonna/Whore issue/binary, and even though I didn't engage in sex work, and only served drinks, it has impacted the way I view relationships, because there are dualities in people (men and women), and I can't say I'm really comfortable about sacrificing my autonomy for marriage, because I know that I'll have to (at some point or another) have to deal with things like prostitution, infidelity, or some ugly surprise that I can't be bothered dealing with at my age.

Maggie Hays said...

Although "sex work" is not a term that is in my dictionary and I disagree with some of your points, I still published your comment, Anastasia, because I have to admit you did respect my comment policy in some ways (thank you) and I do agree with some of what you said. Thank you.

Let me now address your different points one by one:

I kind of think that you heap a lot of blame on men, but there are –sorry to say- many women that run escort agencies, brothels and work freelance. Yes, their clientele is, by the largest percentage, male, but the way the industry stands today, especially in certain parts of the developed world, males are (like women) a part of the equation. They all contribute equally.

I put the blame on the johns, porn users, etc. the ones who think it's okay to use and abuse women for their own selfish orgasms. These guys believe the sexual philosophy of de Sade (as I wrote in my post above) IMO, whether they know it or not. Anyway, I will not advocate the rights of the johns. You did say that the clientele is mostly male, yes. I believe men have to change and stop creating the demand for a pornstitution industry that abuses women.

As for the pimps/madams, in my previous post "I blame the Porno-iarchy" (http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot
.com/2008/07/i-blame-porno-iarchy.html )I addressed that point when I wrote:

"I believe that the 'sex' industry is largely male-controlled (even though there are quite a few women who are now sexploitation business entrepreneurs & who abuse other women)"

Now in other parts of the world where trafficking is rife, it is the opposite, so prostitution can no longer be considered on unified issue. It varies in the United States, the UK, etc. Prostitution in the US is different from that in third world countries, and no, all divisions aren't addressed equally, but it doesn't help to sweep them all under the same carpet.

I'm sorry but, although I can imagine how the situation is in poor countries (i.e. worse), I simply cannot separate the issues of prostitution, pornography and domestic or international sex trafficking. I believe that the 'sex' industry is a huge system of interconnected forms of sexual abuse. And trafficking is everywhere.

If I had no choice but to be a prostitute in Thailand (I'm not a sex worker in real life), and I didn't know any better (based on poverty, economy, upbringing, a whole array of factors), I would be unhappy or resigned to my lot in life, and most likely desire a way out. Now, take the high earning prostitute in the western world, that earns thousands per week, and likes doing it because she likes the money (I'm not one to really believe the, "I like pleasing clients/strangers" excuse, I'm too old for that crap). Is it really a male/patriarchal issue or is it more a financial issue?

I do believe it is a patriarchal issue, i.e. the way men have been culturally trained to objectify and (ab)use women in this culture via pornstitution.

On the capitalist issue:

"Industrial sex" is sexuality which has been put on the market as a commodity, through prostitution and pornography. Although capitalism enhances industrial sex's profits for the corporate pimps who control it, it is patriarchy that primarily causes industrial sex. When sexuality is turned into a commodity, it is devoid of its connection to meaningful emotions and intimate communication between people, and of its humanity (and you might agree with that, I dunno).

Even if a few women get paid an awful lot for performing in porn or prostitute, I do not believe that it means that the money should excuse the extensive physical, psychological (i.e. related to PTSD) and emotional harms done to them. The fact that a woman has been paid does not mean that the torture committed against her body should be expiated, certainly not! I believe that no amount of money whatsoever should excuse any harm done to a woman's body and I'm sure you will agree with that.

In some parts of the world, service industries are booming but these occupations are based on commissions, minimal wage and daily abuse from clients (non sexual). It is a form of psychological abuse to sit behind a desk and be yelled at by a customer over the phone. It may not be violent, as in the occasional scenario for some sex workers, but it's still abuse. There is no workplace that is really free of abuse. There is no workplace that is really free of abuse. Some women balance the pros and cons: would they work for ten dollars an hour in a call center or would they work for a few hundred dollars an hour having protected sex with a John? Some would take the latter.

I do not agree with this, sorry. There is No type of work in the world that should require having your body being used and abused by men. Prostitution is NOT work.

As I wrote somewhere else before:

"What kind of a world is this, in which many women have to go through the pain of being penetrated vaginally, orally and anally by five to ten men a day in exchange for money -- which for the most part goes to their pimps -- and then all of this gets defended as "sex work"?

What kind of a world is this, in which the very same acts which are done to these women, whose bodies are being sold, are filmed or photographed and then all of this gets defended as "sexual freedom" or "free speech"?"

What kind of a world is this, in which you cannot ask either of the two questions above without being called a "prude"?" (I'm not saying you're calling me a prude -you're not- but that's how some 'leftist' defenders of prostitution call us).

This issue shouldn't be one of morals, as in 'which women have more morals,' it's a cut and dry economical issue. For the percentage of women who do take the leap and enter sex work, their thinking with dollars in mind, unfortunately most jobs or 'ordinary jobs' offer few incentives. Women still battle sexual harassment in the ordinary workforce today. So it's not like conventional workplaces are really better.

There is NO workplace where sexual harassment and abuse is intrinsic parts of the 'job'.

I'm sorry but I'm against the legalization of prostitution and I do not believe in the "sex workers should be unionized" theory. I'm very pro-Swedish model law (that would decriminalize prostitutes while criminalizing johns, pimps & traffickers) as this law has worked .

(See my "porno-iarchy" post- I linked to an article from the Herald Tribune that said:
"Swedish officials have vowed to step up the fight against prostitution, using a unique law that targets sex buyers instead of prostitutes. [. . .]
"Sweden is not a good place for (your) business," Justice Minister Beatrice Ask said in a warning to those who buy sex or are involved in trafficking. "(There's) a very big risk of getting caught, and getting caught big time."
Sweden's unusual prostitution law, which allows the sale of sex but prohibits the buying, faced ridicule when it was introduced nine years ago. However, other countries are now considering emulating the Swedish model, which officials say has reduced the demand for prostitutes and reshaped attitudes toward the sex trade. [. . .]
The plan boosts policing against sex buyers and expands rehabilitation centers for sex workers and trafficking victims. It also trains hospital workers and social services employees to deal with suspected cases of prostitution and trafficking.
Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni noted that men are the primary buyers of sex.
"Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes is a serious barrier for social equality and equality between the sexes," she said."

Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/ 2008/07/16/europe/ EU-Sweden-Prostitution.php
(Had to make 2 spaces coz the link was too long, but I linked to it in the "pornoiarchy" post))

The thing is to be able to understand the Swedish prostitution law and its success, more people must understand the harms intrinsic to prostitution itself. More people must understand that prostitution is not "work", it is violence against women, as the failure of legalization and the success of the Swedish 1999 legislation have proven.

All being said, you do make valid points. Prostitution isn't for the faint of heart and spirit. I see it as a spiritually grueling career choice, and regardless of thinking that women do have choices and have a right to make their choice (if sex work is for them), I also - deep down - feel that this work does have an impact on relationships with men. I base this view on my own work in cabaret nightclubs bartending, seeing female performers date clients/patrons, and the after effect. Even in my own experiences in these nightclubs, I've seen the other side of men, the superficial side or side that still wrestles with the Madonna/Whore issue/binary, and even though I didn't engage in sex work, and only served drinks, it has impacted the way I view relationships, because there are dualities in people (men and women), and I can't say I'm really comfortable about sacrificing my autonomy for marriage, because I know that I'll have to (at some point or another) have to deal with things like prostitution, infidelity, or some ugly surprise that I can't be bothered dealing with at my age.

Thanks, Anastasia, for recognizing that I make some valid points although I do believe that prostitution is a "career choice" (even though I have acknowledged the agency that some women have, though limited in a patriarchy- see original post for my points on the 'choice' issue). Prostitution is harm to women and girls, as comprehensive research has proven.

Prostituted women's psychological dissociation via PTSD results from the trauma of having had their body used and abused.

As I made the point in this very post: the porn-using men, the johns, etc have full agency in a patriarchy. The male-supremacist system unfairly works toward their privilege as men (don't get me wrong on this point, I am not a 'man-hater'; I believe men should change, as I said- see also original post for my points on that).

That being said, thanks for sharing your story, Anastasia, about your experiences in nightclubs. I'm guessing that in seeing these men's side wrestling with Madonna/Whore issue/binary, you have noticed the misogyny that impacted on them (at least that's the way I see it from what you've told me).

Thanks for sharing your story, Anastasia. :)

Maggie Hays said...

Sorry, I meant to write:

'Thanks, Anastasia, for recognizing that I make some valid points although I do NOTbelieve that prostitution is a "career choice" '

I forgot the 'Not' in my above comment, I was tired. Of course I do NOT believe that prostitution is a "career choice"...

stormcloud said...

Some women balance the pros and cons: would they work for ten dollars an hour in a call center or would they work for a few hundred dollars an hour having protected sex with a John? Some would take the latter. This issue shouldn't be one of morals, as in 'which women have more morals,' it's a cut and dry economical issue. For the percentage of women who do take the leap and enter sex work, their thinking with dollars in mind, unfortunately most jobs or 'ordinary jobs' offer few incentives. Women still battle sexual harassment in the ordinary workforce today. So it's not like conventional workplaces are really better.

Just to address this paragraph from Anastasia. I would call this 'the illusion of choice' (within patriarchy/captialism). Whereby females have in general, less decent career opportunities, slower career paths due to childbearing breaks, contrasted with 'an industry' patriarchy wants an endless supply of fresh female flesh is financially rewarded higher - whilst the downside (ie. violent johns) is dramatically downplayed.

So of course some females will *choose* pornstitution when the alternatives seem unrewarding and the harms of the pornstitution industry are downplayed.

But that is not an entirely free choice. It is an uninformed choice.

Once within the industry, many women find it extremely difficult to exit - either because of drug addiction, or simply that the 'glamourous profession' of 'sex work' is not in reality seen that way, and subsequent employers are likely to ignore anyone with: 1990-95 Hooker, on their cv.

It is not a question of morals, or whether or not women are 'more moral', but that they are effectively hoodwinked into the business, and discover the reality once they get there.

Maggie Hays said...

Yeah, I agree with what you said, Stormy (Stormcloud).

I have acknowledged the agency that women have, though more or less limited in a patriarchy.

Anastasia- In case my reply sounded angry, I wasn't angry at you. I am angry at the johns/porn users who always have a 100% free choice in the pornstitution matter, as patriarchy works toward their male privilege.

feminazi said...

Yes!! and I love what you're doing.

Just wanted to come over here and give you big huggies!!

{{{Maggie}}}

NOLA radfem said...

Hi, Maggie. I saw on one of your posts recently that you said you attended the Stop Porn Culture conference. I was wondering if that was Austin or Wheelock (which is Boston, I think). I ask because I was at the one in Austin and ever since I found your blog, I thought your name sounded so familiar to me. I'm Carolyn, from New Orleans, talked about my daughter and raising her in a porn culture, etc. Were you, by chance, in Austin,Texas, with me in February??

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks, Miss Andrea ('feminazi'). (((Big Hugs back))) :) I love your work too. :P

Nola- No, I wasn't in Austin in February. I was at the Wheelock conference in Boston in March 2007. Nice meeting you, Carolyn, though! :) I will add you to my blogroll.

Daisy- No, although I liked reading The Second Sex, I disagree with Simone de Beauvoir's defense of Sade (in "Must we burn Sade?"). And, no, I don't think that it deserved a mention in my post. Also, your comment bored me a little, which is why I didn't publish it (my blog, sorry).

Everybody- I know I said that "I do NOT believe that prostitution is a 'career choice'", sorry, I, in fact, meant to say: "I do NOT believe that prostitution is a 'career'", period.

Although prostitution can be a choice for some women (and even Janice Raymond of CATW told me that), I believe it is important to highlight who's always got 100% free choice in the pornstitution matter, i.e. johns, porn users.

allecto said...

You sure can say it sister, I'm hearing you loud and clear.

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks Allecto, sister! :)

Maggie Hays said...

Rebecca: I get so bored and sickened by the women-blaming, rather than seeing it is men that creates the demand for porn and or prostitution.
Men are made invisible by blaming the women or by saying it is their choice. When the men are made invisible, then the damage to women and girls becomes unimportant.


Stormy: I would call this 'the illusion of choice' (within patriarchy/captialism). Whereby females have in general, less decent career opportunities, slower career paths due to childbearing breaks, contrasted with 'an industry' patriarchy wants an endless supply of fresh female flesh is financially rewarded higher - whilst the downside (ie. violent johns) is dramatically downplayed.

So of course some females will *choose* pornstitution when the alternatives seem unrewarding and the harms of the pornstitution industry are downplayed.

But that is not an entirely free choice. It is an uninformed choice.


Rebecca & Stormy- just to let you know that the points you've made above were so right on, btw! :)

It is important to acknowledge that most prostituted women haven't had choices that are free. All the while knowing that the conversation has to be directed toward the johns who always have 100% free choice to create the demand for an industry within which they can (ab)use women for their own selfish male pleasure. Enough is enough. There has to be some justice here! The johns' abuse have to stop being made invisible or downplayed.

Men have to stop using porn and stop buying prostituted women, because these atrocious widespread misogynist crimes against women that are called prostitution and pornography are so horrifying and intolerable. :(

The whole patriarchal porno-iarchy/prostitution system has to be overthrown in order to further women's equality.

Damn patriarchy!

pisaquari said...

"we're somehow "denying women's choices" or that we're "ignoring women's agency" in all this."

Which is ridiculous.
Ridiculous because:
1. Most of the time we're talking about the johns not the women
2. To focus on the women's agency is to DENY the problem which is NOT women but johns.

A rather patriarchal distraction, if you ask me.
There is a big difference b/w "denying women's experience" and *denying johns give any sort of shit about women's agency*.

At this point, if someone still needs proof men don't give a shit about women's bodies (past their wanka of course) then I must announce the biggest denial has already happened: the existence of patriarchy--the silencing and destroying of women's existence.

Maggie you just rock the hell on--always happy to read your work (no matter how long it may take me). ;)

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks a lot, Pisaquari. :) You rock too.

Dissenter said...

Hi Maggie,

I notice that someone calling herself Maggie Hays has created an LJ account and friended my Mermaid's Garden journal. I just wanted to double check that the account was created by you, and not someone who is impersonating you. Sorry to be paranoid, and I hope it IS you so I can friend you back. Dissenter.

Maggie Hays said...

I just wanted to double check that the account was created by you, and not someone who is impersonating you. Sorry to be paranoid, and I hope it IS you so I can friend you back.

Yes, it was me, Dissenter. Please friend me back. :)

JENNIFER DREW said...

Quite right Maggie - who has the real agency and who has the real 'free and informed choice.' Not women but most certainly the Johns, pimps and porners because they are the ones with the real power and our society condones and justifies it. Same old story - always attempting to hide male accountability and instead focus on women involved in the so-called sex industry or rather sex slave industry.

I don't see opponents of sweatshop industries claim the workers have 'agency and 'choice.' Instead what I hear is women and men being forced to work for 'peanuts' in a vain attempt at trying to survive. But apparently forced to work under such conditions is totally different to the porn industry and its brother prostitution. The porn industry spends large sums of money trying to portray their sexual exploitation of women and girls as 'respectable.' Hence all the lies and claims women involved in porn make huge amounts of money. Also reason why some women do earn huge amounts of money but they are the 'token' women used to distract and silence those seek to expose the realities of porn.

Maggie Hays said...

True, Jennifer, you are so right! :)

Anastasia said...

Firstly, excuse my lateness in replying, it's an extensive topic. Don't worry about the angry bit, I just had a lot of stuff to do this weekend and the subject (of the post and commentary) is quite extensive.

Prostitution will always be a controversial issue due to society (religion, cultures, etc), that's a definite, and believe me, I was raised within a culture that totally abhorred and abhors prostitution. In my culture, women that choose prostitution, are never respected and they're often derided. But that doesn't justify anything, and reflects fear and a traditional outlook; to completely go against prostitution and view prostitutes as vermin is to support traditional religious (ie patriarchal, as the three dominant religions on this planet are patriarchal) views and to view prostitutes as victims (in all societies) can be viewed as condescending (escorts who willingly enter this profession or like it after they enter it) by the sex workers themselves. Which way to go? It's difficult. Ultimately I believe that there ought to be services that aid women should they wish to leave the sex industry, but at the same time, if women choose to stay within the industry, then the question follows: do they deserve being marginalized because of their profession if they find that this profession suits them, their financial goals, etc (the reasons are endless).

Definitely the majority of clients are male. That's how it's always been. I can't say that I'm thrilled with that, but that isn't solely due to prostitution, it's more than that; social roles, sexual stereotypes/behaviors, cultural beliefs – these are factors as well. Although there are women who do play significant managerial roles within the sex industry, most of the owners of brothels I have known have been male (who put females in managerial roles, as madams/managers), that is fair enough, but even if women were owners, the issue would be the same in terms of client base. Maybe the fact that most clients are male also relates to the endless social double standards relating to the sexuality of men and how men often escape being viewed as 'sluts.'

Maggie, by saying 'patriarchy', as in it being the patriarchy, I feel that you're ignoring or denying the role of women in maintaining the momentum within the sex industry. Throughout history, there have been women who have behaved the same way (as men) in negotiating their power. Women are equally capable of being ruthless and violent, and that isn't because men have forced them to be that way in history. There is boudiccea, Catherine the Great, Lucrezia Borgia (whose father was a pope), Cleopatra, and it goes on and on. I believe that throughout history, women have had many opportunities to revolt against men if they needed to do it, but they didn't. Why haven't they? Because life and society cannot evolve without both genders, so there have been compromises made along the way.

The idea of prostitution not being work varies from one person to the next. Not all men violate women. There are men who simply go for a massage and relief, they don't even penetrate the women or hit them. What about the use of sexual services for those who are unable to find companionship? Are they destined to a life without any physical touch because of the idea of prostitution being 'evil'? What about a disabled man who requires some relief? What if he can't find it in real life?

In regard to the legislation of prostitution, I believe this is to reduce the taboo status of it. It gives sex workers a voice, and the incentive behind legislation is to make the public aware that prostitutes aren't second class citizens. This could also reduce occasional violence as well, as 'johns' would be legally accountable for their actions.

I'm not one to agree 100% with prostitution because I know that there are darker sides, and I'm usually the first to be annoyed when women promote it as the ideal career on the Internet. To be completely honest, if I had a daughter I'd monitor her Internet usage like a fascist because I don't believe that prostitution is the first career choice a female teenager would make, and I have difficulty reconciling the open promotion of it as a career on the web, that pretty much enables teenage girls to find this information, and a lot of the information isn't honest, it's edited with most of the negatives removed. I had a foster relative of mine who entered this profession. It's a really long story, but the short version is that she left home due to constant disagreements with her parents. She was eighteen years old, ended up hanging round in the wrong crowd, was recruited by a 'high class' operation here in Sydney, and went on to service wealthy clientele, and had a great waterfront apartment provided for her and two other girls. Now my foster family was in complete denial about her job, but I was the one to point it out when I found out about it, and the rent she paid for her apartment (her portion of the rent was four hundred dollars a week, so we're talking about an uber penthouse for three girls), and no eighteen year old can earn that kind of money on her own, not for rent. Anyway, she was caught out in the most ironic manner. Her uncle accompanied a friend of his to the escort agency, both men were looking for girls, and they looked through the photo album of escorts, and the uncle saw his niece in the album and experienced the shock of his life. It all came out to the fore, and it was subsequently discovered that she was also using drugs. How this girl left the industry? One of the guys (not a john) she knew, during her nocturnal outings to nightclubs/discos at the time, got her out of the industry. She dried out completely, and returned home. Her one regret related to the financial part, and in her words, how silly she was not to save all the money, instead she blew it on cocaine and the usual trinkets girls buy (clothes, etc). she actually told me that if she saved all the money she earned in one year she would have had the deposit on her own house, but that wasn't to be, and I guess that many young girls don't think of the serious things, so this girl spent one year and a bit sleeping with how many clients with absolutely nothing to show for it, and that to me, not in a moral or virtuous sense, but a practical sense, was rather stupid and pointless.

And the other thing Maggie, the fact that lifestyles get more expensive (as economies fluctuate) in the western world, means that more girls will be susceptible to entering an industry that pays a handsome amount, but there is no such thing as an easy ride, often the industries that pay well require sacrifices. Take modeling as an industry. To the magazine reader or fashionista, modeling is about clothes, right? But how many models double as escorts or may as well be escorts? There are many modeling agencies that receive calls from clients requesting girls attend corporate or promotional functions. Modeling is similar to prostitution. So in a weird way, an individual's economic goals may also determine career choice. People who want or seek a faster track to financial wealth (even if temporary) will often seek the easier option, and that may not even relate to the patriarchy per se, but may relate to an individual's personality and upbringing.

Maybe it's a terrible admission to make, but at my age now (37), I've pretty much seen a lot in my real life/over the years, and in a sense, feel that if women decide on specific careers then that is their choice to make, and their burden to carry, regardless of the outcome. As a society, or as far as governments are concerned, there ought to be community services that help women rather than ostracize.

In response to the porn issue, and women earning more money...very few porn actresses earn a high amount of money. For every Jenna Jameson, there are hundreds that don't even earn a quarter of what she has earned. I think the 'women make more money' in porn may be true to the extent that a woman may make a a few thousand dollars per film, compared to a male (men are only used per scene and different men are used per film), but that is peanuts really, when you consider that the women take incredible/silly risks with their health by choosing not to use condoms.

Maggie Hays said...

(NOTE: Spaces in URL links before the ".com", ".org", or ".co.uk" -or elsewhere- are made by me when links I'm quoting in the comment thread are too long- so please omit spaces in your browser when you copy & paste them)

Good to see you back, Anastasia. :)

Firstly, excuse my lateness in replying, it's an extensive topic. Don't worry about the angry bit, I just had a lot of stuff to do this weekend and the subject (of the post and commentary) is quite extensive.

It's alright, we've all got lives outside of the Internet. And I agree that the debate is heated. Ideological debates about prostitution, that it is choice and work on the one hand, or violence and exploitation (my POV) on the other, are so polarized that progress is difficult to make, and women in prostitution need help.

to view prostitutes as victims (in all societies) can be viewed as condescending (escorts who willingly enter this profession or like it after they enter it) by the sex workers themselves.

While it can be mistakenly viewed as "condescending" by some pro-pornstitution women, I don't think it is, as I wrote in "I blame the Porno-iarchy":

"There is such an incredible victim-blaming in this society and that spreads like sickness. Being a victim is not a character flaw. A rad fem friend once told me about this: Only in a society which regards women who have been abused as responsible for their own victimization, only in a culture that moans that the oppressed should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, can the word "victim" be seen as an insult.

Calling someone a victim is seen as much an insult as calling someone oppressed to some people, including in the academia. Also, the word "victim" also implies that there is a victimizer, which can be very disturbing to recognize for some women who want to feel empowered, such as the 'sex poz' feminists for instance.

Some women just do not want to face their oppressed status. And I've been there myself once, at some point in my life. I used to live in some sort of 'denial' 'cause I wanted to feel empowered and desirable to men a few years back. Because the reality of my inferior status to men would have been just too painful. . . to realize.

I believe that we, women, should all start understanding our inequality, we should all become aware of it in the hope of changing the world in which we live (a world ruled by the patriarchy and the porno-iarchy) and working toward genuine equality between the sexes.

As I said, I believe that discussions on prostitution should now be directed toward the johns, who always have 100% choice in this matter."

For instance, I, myself, Maggie Hays, am a victim/survivor of rape & sexual coercion and I don't believe that rape crisis centers acknowledging my victim/survivor status is "condescending". I, on the contrary, am very glad that some women recognize the fact that I have suffered abuse at the hands of men.

In the above post, I wrote:
"...I’ve met women in the radical feminist movement who are survivors of the sex trade. I’ve been in touch with an anti-prostitution organization that helps women exit the sex trade. And most of the members of that organization are radical feminists and they are very pro-Swedish model abolitionists because they have worked with so many prostituted women and girls who wanted out of the sex trade, not “better working conditions”...
...We do not imply that every woman who makes certain choices is poor, uneducated, and/or horribly abused. We are not saying that every single woman or girl in the 'sex' industry has had exactly the same experience. We just want to point out to the fact that most women in prostitution (i.e. that includes pornography) are the female human beings who have entered the 'sex' industry with choices that are not really free. We are saying that their agency, in general, has been somehow unfortunately constrained, limited or influenced by patriarchal (il)logic and we deeply empathize with them."

Which way to go? It's difficult. Ultimately I believe that there ought to be services that aid women should they wish to leave the sex industry, but at the same time, if women choose to stay within the industry, then the question follows: do they deserve being marginalized because of their profession if they find that this profession suits them, their financial goals, etc (the reasons are endless).

Definitely the majority of clients are male. That's how it's always been. I can't say that I'm thrilled with that, but that isn't solely due to prostitution, it's more than that; social roles, sexual stereotypes/behaviors, cultural beliefs – these are factors as well.


The idea of prostitution not being work varies from one person to the next. Not all men violate women.

Anastasia, I believe in RESEARCH FINDINGS, which is why I will not advocate the rights of the johns:

When prostituted women are asked if they want to leave prostitution, consistently around 90% say they want out immediately but the decision is out of their hands. For most prostitutes, prostitution is not really a choice that is free. However, prostitution is always 100% a free choice for the johns. And the johns, as Pisaquari pointed out above, generally do not care about women's agency. When they go to a brothel, massage parlor, etc., all the johns want is to get serviced. The johns usually do not make any difference between the few women who genuinelly want to be there, the women who are there due to lack of choice, or trafficking victims. Johns want to have the ability of controlling another human being through prostitution. In the prostitution transaction, it is the one who pays who has the power.

To summarize major research findings:

Prostitution is an act of violence against women which is intrinsically traumatizing. In a study of 854 people in prostitution (most of them women and children, but also men, and the transgendered) from nine countries (Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia):
57% reported having been raped in prostitution;
73% reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution;
49% had pornography made of them;
75% were currently or formerly homeless; and
89% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately. (Farley et al., Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; 2003)

Of 200 prostitutes interviewed in San Francisco:
96% were runaways prior to starting prostitution;
38% had had sexually explicit photographs taken of them when they were children for commercial purpose;
85% had been molested or raped as children (2/3 of the molesters were fathers, stepfathers, or foster fathers);
78% had started prostituting before age 18;
75% had had a religious upbringing;
62% had been beaten by their parents;
70% had been raped in prostitution; and
44% had attempted suicide. (Silbert M., "The Effects on Juveniles of being used for pornography and prostitution"; in Zillman D. and Bryant J. ed., Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations; 1989.)


78% of 55 women who sought help from the Council for Prostitution Alternatives in 1991 reported being raped an average of 16 times a year by pimps, and were raped 33 times a year by johns. (Susan Kay Hunter, Council for Prostitution Alternatives' Annual Report; 1991, Portland, Oregon.)

As I wrote in On Choices (part 1):

http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot .com/2008/03/on-choices.html

"... Unfortunately, most people do not understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the mental process of dissociation. Of the 854 prostituted respondents interviewed by researchers, 68% met the criteria for PTSD. Women in prostitution whose tricks or pimps had made pornography of them had significantly more severe symptoms of PTSD than did prostituted women who did not have pornography made of them. While it is hard to tell how another person feels, we do know that prostituted and pornographized women often have their mind splitting into different parts of the self in order to be able to cope with what they do.

Dissociative disorders are common in prostituted women. Seeing a prostituting woman on a screen smiling and saying that “she loves her job” does not necessarily mean that she is happy . She might believe that she is happy while being shielded in a form of protective denial with the purpose to protect herself from the painful reality she lives in: the ongoing abuse which occurs in the sex trade. [...]

The average age of entry into prostitution is 13-14 years old (Sources: M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, "Victimization of street prostitutes", Victimology: An International Journal, 1982; and D. Kelly Weisberg, Children of the Night: A Study of Adolescent Prostitution, 1985). Many women in pornography are only 18, and are easily used and discarded by the industry. Most pornography performers have a very brief "shelf life", they find themselves being overexposed so, even if they initially command a high rate per scene or per movie, their market value as "fresh meat" declines rapidly. Some ex-porn 'actresses' and people who knew pornography performers, are also known to have revealed that most women in porn are indeed survivors of childhood sexual abuse..."

Melissa Farley, a prostitution researcher who has interviewed hundreds and hundreds of prostitutes and who has so many times been misrepresented and slandered by the pro-prostitution lobby, wrote:
"As has been well documented in psychological investigations of other forms of torture, overwhelming human cruelty results in fragmentation of the mind into different parts of the self that observe, react, as well as those that do not know about the harm. [...] In prostitution, she is depersonalized; her name and identity disappear. She shuts down her feelings to protect her self. [...] Whether she is coerced at gunpoint, or whether she "acts the part" in order to survive for so long as the mask takes over -- either way, she doesn't stay a whole person. She constructs a self that conforms to the masturbatory fantasies of johns, a self that smilingly accomodates verbal abuse, sexual harassment, rape and torture. Over time, the prostituted self takes over more and more of the rest of her. She is disappeared. The harm she experiences in prostitution is made invisible... [...] Dissociative disorders are common among those in escort, street, massage, strip club and brothel prostitution, and frequently accompanied by posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse. [...] One would make the same prediction for other types of prostitution... [...] Dissociation permits psychological survival, whether the repeated trauma is slavery, military combat, incest, or prostitution. Dissociation is an elaborate escape and avoidance strategy... [...] Drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors potentiate dissociation, and they obscure the reality to the dissociated person. The high rates of depression among prostituted women tell us however, that none of these strategies fully shield the traumatized person from despair, demoralization, and hopelessness. [...] Many women with dissociative disorders who have been prostituted appear to be re-enacting and mastering some aspects of childhood trauma. Sometimes women feel that in prostitution they are in control of when sex acts [...] take place, with whom, and where, and furthermore they are paid for it. [...] In order to survive the brutal commodification of their sexuality in prostitution, women dissociate, and appear to accept the view of themselves as sexual commodities."
-- Melissa Farley, clinical psychologist and researcher (whose research on prostitution has been used by state governments, as well as by advocates and organizations providing services to prostituted and trafficked women), in her book Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress (2003).


Researcher and sociologist Lisa Kramer found that, in her survey obtained from 119 women who were prostituting in escort agencies and on the street in Phoenix (Arizona), 90% of the women reported negative emotional experiences & feelings during performing acts of prostitution.
Source: Lisa A. Kramer, Emotional Experiences of Performing Prostitution, http://www.haworthpress .com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?sid=
V61RLQ3VMP0F9HCBCT8E1V615WBV2T44&ID=40455


Here are 2 research papers that refute common myths about prostitution and johns:

http://www.healthscotland .com/uploads/documents/6772-Challenging_Men’s_Demand
.pdf

http://womenssupportproject .co.uk/files/pdf/prostitution-fact_fiction

Maggie Hays said...

In regard to the legislation of prostitution, I believe this is to reduce the taboo status of it. It gives sex workers a voice, and the incentive behind legislation is to make the public aware that prostitutes aren't second class citizens. This could also reduce occasional violence as well, as 'johns' would be legally accountable for their actions.

The legalization of prostitution does NOT work. Cases in point:

- Janice G. Raymond, co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, explained and mentioned the studies that prove that legalization/decriminalization of prostitution:
-- is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry;
-- promotes sex trafficking;
-- does not control the sex industry, but expands it;
-- increases clandestine, illegal and street prostitution;
-- increases child prostitution;
-- does not protect the women in prostitution;
-- increases the demand for prostitution by encouraging men to buy women for sex in a wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings;
-- does not promote women's health (as many johns still demand sex with prostitutes to be without condoms); and
-- does not enhance women's choice (as most women in prostitution did not make a rational choice to enter prostitution from among a range of other options).
Source: Raymond J., Ten reasons for not legalizing prostitution, http://www.prostitutionresearch .com/laws/000022.html

- Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect
women from violence in prostitution:

- "The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW) has conducted
2 major studies on sex trafficking and prostitution, interviewing almost
200 victims of commercial sexual exploitation. In these studies, women
in prostitution indicated that prostitution establishments did little
to protect them, regardless of whether they were in legal or illegal
establishments. The only time they protect anyone is to protect the customers.

In a CATW 5-country study that interviewed 146 victims of international
trafficking and local prostitution, 80% of all women interviewed suffered
physical violence from pimps and buyers) and endured similar and multiple
health effects from the violence and sexual exploitation (Raymond et
al: 2002).

The violence that women were subjected to was an intrinsic part of the
prostitution and sexual exploitation. Pimps used violence for many different
reasons and purposes. Violence was used to initiate some women into prostitution
and to break them down so that they would do the sexual acts. After initiation,
at every step of the way, violence was used for sexual gratification
of the pimps, as a form of punishment, to threaten and intimidate women,
to exert the pimp's dominance, to exact compliance, to punish women for
alleged violations, to humiliate women, and to isolate and confine women.

Of the women who did report that sex establishments gave some protection,
they qualified it by pointing out that no protector was ever in the room
with them, where anything could occur. One woman who was in out-call
prostitution stated: The driver functioned as a bodyguard. You're supposed
to call when you get in, to ascertain that everything was OK. But they
are not standing outside the door while you're in there, so anything
could happen.

CATW's studies found that even surveillance cameras in prostitution establishments
are used to protect the establishment. Protection of the women from abuse
is of secondary or no importance."
Source: Raymond J., Ten reasons for not legalizing prostitution, http://www.prostitutionresearch .com/laws/000022.html

- A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries (Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden) concluded the legalization in Australia and the Netherlands led to a dramatic increase in all facets of the sex industry, a dramatic increase in the involvement of organized crime in the sex industry, a dramatic increase in child prostitution, an explosion in the number of foreign women and girls trafficked into the region, and indications of an increase in violence against women.
Source: Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University, 2003, http://www.scottish.parliament .uk/business/committees/lg/inquiries/ptz/lg04-ptz-res-03.htm

- According to the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, 81% of women in Nevada legal brothels urgently want to escape prostitution.
Source: http://www.nevadacoalition .org/factsheets/LegliznFactSheet091707c.pdf

- Legalization in Victoria (Australia) was intended to eliminate organized crime from the sex industry. Exactly the reverse has happenned: legalization brought with it an explosion in the trafficking of women into prostitution by organized crime.
Source: Mary Sullivan and Sheila Jeffreys, Legalising Prostitution is Not the Answer: The Example of Victoria, Australia, source: http://action.web .ca/home/catw/attach/ AUSTRALIAlegislation20001.pdf

- One of the arguments that supported legalization was that it would help end child prostitution. However, there are 3000 children, some younger than 10, in the Australian sex industry, which includes brothels, escort work, street prostitution, pornography, sex for favors and stripping. 59 of 2,992 prostitutes studied for a report conducted by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution And Trafficking) were between 10 and 12 years old. 15 were under 10 years old. Two-thirds were girls. Child prostitution has increased dramatically in the state of Victoria compared to other Australian states where prostitution has not been legalized. In Australia, the highest number of reported incidences of child prostitution came from Victoria.
Sources: ECPAT report, Agence France-Presse, 13 April 1998. ECPAT Australia, Youth for Sale: ECPAT Australia's inquiry into the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Australia; 1998.

On the other hand, the Swedish Model, i.e. the decriminalization of prostitutes while criminalizing johns & pimps, DOES work, as I have indicated above.

For more information on Sweden's prostitution law see:

http://www.peaceworkmagazine .org/pwork/0506/050616.htm

http://sisyphe.org/article.php3?id_article=2035

http://www.captivedaughters.org/lisahoward.html

if women choose to stay within the industry, then the question follows: do they deserve being marginalized because of their profession if they find that this profession suits them, their financial goals, etc (the reasons are endless).

The small number of somewhat privileged women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution, after all, they are NOT being criminalized in Sweden, and consequently not oppressed. And, as I said above: "Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis". I also believe that the few women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution as a "free choice" should NOT be arrested, just like I believe that NO prostituted or prostituting woman should be criminalized. I believe in the decriminalization of prostitutes and the criminalization of johns & pimps, but not outright legalization of the whole 'sex' industry as it does not work and, to me, it has been proven through thorough research.

Women are equally capable of being ruthless and violent

Yes, I do know that. But that does not change the fact that the overwhelming majority of cases of sexual violence are perpetrated by men against women. And most wars are started by men.

Maggie Hays said...

Maggie, by saying 'patriarchy', as in it being the patriarchy, I feel that you're ignoring or denying the role of women in maintaining the momentum within the sex industry. Throughout history, there have been women who have behaved the same way (as men) in negotiating their power. Women are equally capable of being ruthless and violent, and that isn't because men have forced them to be that way in history. There is boudiccea, Catherine the Great, Lucrezia Borgia (whose father was a pope), Cleopatra, and it goes on and on. I believe that throughout history, women have had many opportunities to revolt against men if they needed to do it, but they didn't. Why haven't they? Because life and society cannot evolve without both genders, so there have been compromises made along the way.

Of course there have been and are powerful women and madams in patriarchal society. However, generalization by saying 'patriarchy' does NOT deny the few exceptions. I've already explained that I believe that pornstitution is largely male-controlled by male pimps, but that does not deny the fact that there are female pimps ('madams') sexploitation entrepreneurs.

WRT women having had the chance to revolt against patriarchy and their unfortunate inferior status, I believe that the oppression of women has a very very long history, and it used to be (and still is, in some countries) thoroughly enforced by patriarchal religions. I believe that women have not had had the real chance to rebel so far because the reality, the fact that women, of all social status, do share a common condition is constantly obscured. The reality of the patriarchal oppression of women is constantly more or less hidden from female human beings. I believe that if women were fully aware of what's happening around them, if they fully knew about patriarchy as a fact and all the institutions that enforce male supremacy, if they really all knew how to confront all this, then, I believe, women would start a REAL feminist revolution.

I will not deny that patriarchy still exists though many people do so in order to protect the male-supremacist system.

Most forms of feminism have challenged patriarchy as a social system that is adopted uncritically, due to millenia of human experience where 'male physical strength' was seen as the ultimate way of settling social conflicts. In radical feminist theory, the opposite of feminism IS patriarchy. Radical feminists do not propose to replace patriarchy with matriarchy (as some detractors claim), rather they argue for equality.

As I wrote before in "My Story" article:

http://www.againstpornography.org/mystory.html

"I think there is a difference between "discovering" patriarchy and "noticing" it. I believe most women have discovered it somehow, this unequal power between the sexes in this society. However, I believe that most women, unfortunately, have not yet found the right language to speak about it. I used to be in that position. All the events described above happened when I was in that position. I used to think that I was living in a world where there had been women's liberation, REAL liberation I mean. The fact is that only the days of overt and public dominance are over. Now the oppression of women is even more dangerous. It takes place very often in the private sphere. It is fully understandable why so many second-wave feminists brought up the fact that "the personal is political." They wanted the complete overthrow of patriarchy. They didn't want the oppression of women to be merely pushed to the private sphere, away from the public eye.

It is so obvious how the mainstream media typically lies to you: it magnifies the few "empowered" women in the society here and there while obscuring the more common everyday reality of so many women who do not have such power in this culture.Thus, when a woman is mistreated or abused by a man in this system, as many are -- you hear people say: "That's her fault. She did this or this or that! She shouldn't have done this or this or that!" Another way the media lies to you is in how it magnifies "the progress women have made" so far, shouting "post-feminism" while ignoring or refusing a proper analysis of why women are not yet equal to men in this society...

... I read about Andrea Dworkin and her unbelievably courageous fight for women's genuine rights to equality and freedom from abuse. I was so touched by this militant feminist, her prophetic writings, and her call for the change of the whole society, for the complete overthrow of patriarchy itself. She had such a passion for and a commitment to women. She and many of her fellow writers helped me understand all the different power structures in this society. No doubt I had discovered some of them before, but through the radical feminist writings, I could better recognize them and find words to describe them.

Thanks to radical feminism, I could also try to look for a language to see things. For instance, when, in this society, you hear something like "Men are only after one thing;" after reading the radical feminist work, I want to say that this is not true; I want to find a new language in which I could say something like "Many men have been culturally trained to be only after one thing and men in general have been historically socialized to be only after one thing" instead. And after that so many people are going accuse feminists of hating men? Such a ridiculous claim.

It was very painful noticing patriarchy though, especially when you know that the male supremacist system is so real and at work and yet so invisible to most people. It is a system within which people in its culture are routinely trained to eroticize domination and subordination; they are also increasingly being desensitized to violence, their humanity is being erased, and their empathy is dying..."

Prostitution will always be a controversial issue due to society (religion, cultures, etc), that's a definite, and believe me, I was raised within a culture that totally abhorred and abhors prostitution. In my culture, women that choose prostitution, are never respected and they're often derided. But that doesn't justify anything, and reflects fear and a traditional outlook; to completely go against prostitution and view prostitutes as vermin is to support traditional religious (ie patriarchal, as the three dominant religions on this planet are patriarchal) views

Never will I see prostitutes as "vermin". As I also wrote before in "My Story" article:

http://www.againstpornography.org/mystory.html

"... The patriarchal Church once used to dominate the society and control women's lives, rights and sexuality -- and still dominates and controls many women's lives, rights and sexuality nowadays. Now pornography primarily dominates the society and controls women's social and private lives and their sexuality. Pornography censors women's sexuality by training men to shape it so that it fits them. Pornography is merely a continuum of patriarchy. It is now patriarchy's new face... Accusing radical feminists of siding with right-wingers is utterly ridiculous. Right-wingers want ownership of women and girls in marriage -- while many of them probably secretly use pornography and buy women in prostitution -- and Left-wingers currently seem to want ownership of women in pornography and prostitution.

"I'm sorry to say this for those of you who believe in religions because you need something to hold onto (in such a depressing world), but I'm afraid that whether you defend Christianity or pornography, what you defend is patriarchy. (5) I was so glad to discover radical feminism because truthfully I don't get along with any sides of this patriarchy. On the one side, the right-wing religious men would call me a "whore" because I don't believe sex should be restricted to marriage and I had a few casual affairs in my life while I was trained by this pornified culture. And on the other side, the non-religious "libertarians" would call me a "prude" because I do not match the pornographic "fantasy" -- i.e. I don't enjoy or want degradation in sex, I'm not "dirty" enough... But look at my father for instance: he was going to the church every Sunday and he was also using pornography and had been a john. Similarly, I read that many Christian men use pornography too. Both pornography and Christianity are manifestations of patriarchy. Radical feminism rejects the patriarchal "virgin/whore" dichotomy of Christianity and pornography.

"I'm so happy I found radical feminist writings within which I could get to understand better how this world works and see things more clearly. I needed to know about those writings and speeches! They had been censored from me by the mainstream media when I was a teenager in the 1990's, as radical feminists had been so unfairly kicked out from the public debate! The radical feminist work gave me a new language to express the nature and history of my oppression (of our oppression as women), as well as the way that I was feeling as a woman. Radical feminist theories were like this little voice I used to hear at the back of my mind, not quite clearly, things I had somehow known, felt, or vaguely identified about us women, coming suddenly to the front of my thoughts and consciousness... Which is to say, frankly, radical feminist theories are realities. And knowing them, acknowledging them, should stir you into taking actions against the cruelty of patriarchy. As Andrea Dworkin said in Our Blood, "[f]eminism is an exploration, one that has just begun." Feminism has already fought many battles. But there is no doubt that we still have a lot of work to do. We shouldn't lose hope however. I will fight until my last breath..."

-- from http://www.againstpornography
.org/mystory.html


Also:

http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot
.com/2008/03/rad-fem.html

"I learned from radical feminism that I was living in patriarchy, that is to say a society largely controlled by men. I learned that most men were not the way they are by nature, not only as a result of being born male but as a result of being men having been socialized to benefit from patriarchy and male privilege, having been socialized to repress their empathy and get off on the suffering of the other half of the world's population -- women. I thought (and I still think) there is a hope if men are not born that way, but made to be that way."

Maggie Hays said...

What about the use of sexual services for those who are unable to find companionship? Are they destined to a life without any physical touch because of the idea of prostitution being 'evil'? What about a disabled man who requires some relief? What if he can't find it in real life?

Fact: Most johns are fully abled men who are married or in a relationship, research has also proven that. And if you ask me to choose between the rights of the "lonely guy who cannot 'get laid'" and the rights of the prostituting woman who doesn't really want to have sex with him but is forcing herself to, I will choose to advocate the latter person's rights rather than the former's.

WRT disability I do not find it very sad and unfortunate. :( I do have disabled people in my family and I love them very much. But, there are also many women who are disabled in this world and who cannot find love or relief...

Ultimately I believe that there ought to be services that aid women should they wish to leave the sex industry

there ought to be community services that help women rather than ostracize

Yeah, I totally agree with that.

Kathleen Barry once said:
"Female sexual slavery is present in ALL situations where women or girls cannot change the immediate conditions of their existence; where regardless of how they got into those conditions they cannot get out; and where they are subject to sexual violence and exploitation."
-- Kathleen Barry, in Female Sexual Slavery, p. 40.

This above quote means a lot to me, as a woman, you know, because I believe it acknowledges both prostituting and non-prostituting women's common condition of oppression in a patriarchy.

there are women who do play significant managerial roles within the sex industry

Regarding Madams' and 'sex poz' feminists'choices, Rebecca Whisnant wrote:

http://www.againstpornography .org/feminisminpornculture.html

"One claim central to second-wave radical feminism is that women are a class sharing a common condition. Now this claim sets off a lot of people’s alarm bells, and sometimes with good reason, as it is subject to widely varying interpretations. If we take it to mean, for instance, that all women face the same problems, have the same beliefs, values, and priorities, make or ought to make the same choices in life, and so on, then it is clearly problematic. If we take it to mean that women are not also members of other politically important classes -- racial, ethnic, economic, and so on -- which multiply complicate their relationships to other women, to men, and to feminism, then it is clearly problematic. But the claim that women are a class sharing a common condition does not mean any of this. It means that there exist patriarchal forces and structures which, regardless of how any particular woman feels about them or chooses to relate to them, objectively function to uphold the power and privilege of men while keeping women as a group down. And this in turn means that, as Andrea Dworkin once put it, “the fate of every individual woman -- no matter what her politics, character, values, qualities -- is tied to the fate of all women whether she likes it or not.”

So understood, the claim that women are a class sharing a common condition suggests a particular aim and purpose for feminist endeavor: namely, to figure out as best we can what serves the interests of women as a class (not just our own personal interests) and then to try as best we can -- imperfectly, messily, but in good faith -- to do that, support that, be that. Or, to put the same point a different way: what we do as feminists is figure out what the institutions, ideologies, and practices are that keep women down, and then try as best we can to challenge them, chip away at them, withdraw from them, take a sledgehammer to them, or in any other way diminish their power to harm and to subjugate women.

It is instructive to contrast this approach with an injunction commonly heard in third-wave circles: namely, “don’t be ‘essentialist’.” Now again, it’s important to clarify: charges of essentialism are often made in connection with the failure to recognize racial, class, and other such hierarchical differences among women. Although this is an important challenge, it is not the one I am targeting here. Rather I have in mind the oft-expressed reluctance among third-wave feminists to, as Jennifer Gilley has put it, “speak in an assumed -- and potentially false -- solidarity.” (9) In short, the idea seems to be this: if I say that some act or institution X is bad, sexist, patriarchal, and so on, then I am implicitly assuming something about “all women” (that’s the essentialism part): namely that, as women, they don’t like and thus would never freely choose X. But then what about some woman somewhere who does, apparently, like or choose X? I must be saying she is stupid, self-deceived, and/or a bad feminist (or not a feminist at all) -- and that doesn’t seem like a nice or sisterly thing to say.

Second-wave feminists also famously developed the slogan that the personal is political. We all know this story: through formal and informal consciousness-raising, the women of the second wave discovered that various experiences that they had previously thought were unique to them -- from sexual harassment to rape to feeling burdened by domestic labor -- were in fact common to many women’s lives. This discovery opened the door to seeing such experiences as having political and feminist significance, as revealing something about the condition of women as a group -- rather than merely as unfortunate, but quirky, features of one’s own personal life. Thus second-wave feminists newly claimed certain “personal” or “private” areas of life -- home, sex, marriage, relationships, laundry, and more -- as the domain of politics. Now this is great, in that it enables one to express righteously political outrage about all manner of things that one would previously have suffered in silence. But there’s a flip side to it, too: in recognizing the personal as political, second-wave feminists also recognized and embraced responsibility for the broader implications and consequences of their own “personal” choices around everything from work, family, and parenting to beauty, sexuality, and self-defense.[...]

Now I’m going to ask you to indulge me in a bit of heavy theory here. Structurally speaking, as a person facing oppression of whatever kind, one has two choices. One can resist the oppression -- in general, or in any particular instance -- in which case one is likely to get viciously slapped down. Alternatively, one can obey, that is, act in ways that please the oppressors, perhaps in hopes of gaining some limited reward (or at least of avoiding the oppressive system’s very worst consequences). As you may have noticed, neither option is altogether attractive; as the feminist philosopher Marilyn Frye points out, oppression systematically puts oppressed people in double binds, catch-22s, situations in which, as we say, they “can’t win for losing.” But the crucial point for our purposes here is that one way, arguably the central way, in which oppressive systems perpetuate themselves is by giving individual members of the oppressed group an apparent stake in toeing the line. At the very least, we “go along to get along” in many situations, and we may find that the more we curry favor with those in power, the more we are rewarded on an individual basis.

Because of this dynamic, if some role or practice X harms women as a group in that it sustains and reinforces patriarchy, it is utterly predictable that some women will choose it. Thus, again, the essential feminist question is not whether some individual women like or choose or benefit in certain ways from X, but whether the overall effect of X is to keep women as a group subordinate to men.

Feminism is about ending the subordination of women. Expanding women’s freedom of choice on a variety of fronts is an important part of that, but it is not the whole story. In fact, any meaningful liberation movement involves not only claiming the right to make choices, but also holding oneself accountable for the effects of those choices on oneself and on others..."

-- from http://www.againstpornography .org/feminisminpornculture.html

Maybe the fact that most clients are male also relates to the endless social double standards relating to the sexuality of men and how men often escape being viewed as 'sluts.'

Most johns are male partly because of the way sexuality is generally constructed and viewed in this patriarchy (domination, subordination, violence, etc.), and many men want to shame women by calling them "sluts", a real misogynistic term if you ask me.

In response to the porn issue, and women earning more money...very few porn actresses earn a high amount of money. For every Jenna Jameson, there are hundreds that don't even earn a quarter of what she has earned. I think the 'women make more money' in porn may be true to the extent that a woman may make a a few thousand dollars per film, compared to a male (men are only used per scene and different men are used per film), but that is peanuts really, when you consider that the women take incredible/silly risks with their health by choosing not to use condoms.

That is also exactly peanut when you consider how much the corporate pimps/producers/distributors make of selling and re-selling the image of their sexual subordination. And Jenna Jameson also says so. I agree with you regarding health risks but, however, I believe that most porn 'actresses' are being pressured by the industry into not using condoms ('cause porn users don't wanna see condoms). Also, some men make a huge career in the industry abusing women and make more money.

http://www.againstpornography.org/thingstoknow.html

http://www.againstpornography.org/takeacloserlook.html

I'm not one to agree 100% with prostitution because I know that there are darker sides, and I'm usually the first to be annoyed when women promote it as the ideal career on the Internet. To be completely honest, if I had a daughter I'd monitor her Internet usage like a fascist because I don't believe that prostitution is the first career choice a female teenager would make, and I have difficulty reconciling the open promotion of it as a career on the web, that pretty much enables teenage girls to find this information, and a lot of the information isn't honest, it's edited with most of the negatives removed. I had a foster relative of mine who entered this profession. It's a really long story, but the short version is that she left home due to constant disagreements with her parents. She was eighteen years old, ended up hanging round in the wrong crowd, was recruited by a 'high class' operation here in Sydney, and went on to service wealthy clientele, and had a great waterfront apartment provided for her and two other girls. Now my foster family was in complete denial about her job, but I was the one to point it out when I found out about it, and the rent she paid for her apartment (her portion of the rent was four hundred dollars a week, so we're talking about an uber penthouse for three girls), and no eighteen year old can earn that kind of money on her own, not for rent. Anyway, she was caught out in the most ironic manner. Her uncle accompanied a friend of his to the escort agency, both men were looking for girls, and they looked through the photo album of escorts, and the uncle saw his niece in the album and experienced the shock of his life. It all came out to the fore, and it was subsequently discovered that she was also using drugs. How this girl left the industry? One of the guys (not a john) she knew, during her nocturnal outings to nightclubs/discos at the time, got her out of the industry. She dried out completely, and returned home. Her one regret related to the financial part, and in her words, how silly she was not to save all the money, instead she blew it on cocaine and the usual trinkets girls buy (clothes, etc). she actually told me that if she saved all the money she earned in one year she would have had the deposit on her own house, but that wasn't to be, and I guess that many young girls don't think of the serious things, so this girl spent one year and a bit sleeping with how many clients with absolutely nothing to show for it, and that to me, not in a moral or virtuous sense, but a practical sense, was rather stupid and pointless.

Very interesting story you've shared above. Thanks. I don't believe she was silly, because, you know, many prostituting women use drugs (both illegal ones and prescription ones) in great amount in order to be able to numb themselves to the continual objectifying intimate use of their bodies and the pain of being used and abused. Thank you for recognizing the darker sides of prostitution, Anastasia. Many agencies and pimps or madams lure young girls into the life of prostitution with false ('glamorous') promises.

Ultimately, you may disagree with research findings but I will not, thus we could be arguing on prostitution for ages and ages... You are fully free to have your own POV and disagree with my views I have expressed above, but I just wanted to fully clarify my viewpoints, as radical feminist points of view are often misrepresented by malestream media and 'sex poz' feminists.

Thanks for sharing this civil consersation, even though we do not agree on everything.

Pro-prostitution views are usually not allowed on my blog because (1) I could argue endlessly with my commenters and I'm not the kind of blogger who's got the time for that (I work, study, and I'm currently musing on a new piece to write), (2) I provide safe spaces (i.e. away from pornified culture) for anti-pornstitution people, women who have been harmed, and radfems, etc who recognize the inherent harms of the 'sex' industry, and (3) I have already explained this here:

http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot
.com/2008/03/to-those-who-whine-about-being-censored
.html

That being said, I am glad to have made this exception this time, Anastasia, as you did express some negative views about prostitution. Thank you.

Take care. :)

p.s. My comment was so long that I had to cut it in 4 parts, sorry.

Maggie Hays said...

Anyway, in all this, it is the johns who have full agency...

Anastasia said...

I agree that research is important, and anonymous research may provide more information that what can be garnered through ‘Confession’ type blogs that are written for reader masturbation and titillation. Trust me, I’m not a big fan of Belle De Jour, and I think that the supposed glamorous life depicted is bullshit, because I do think that a woman (even a man working as a prostitute) would have to split themselves into different parts or try maintaining separate segments, to navigate their life away from work, as well as their relationships. But the main reason behind my abhorrence of books like Belle De Jour relates to the fact that they tend to refract public attention from the disturbing aspects, such as young children being forced into prostitution in developing countries, etc and focus it on the novel/glam element. I actually don‘t like the film Pretty Woman, with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The reality within everyday society is that the majority of potential relationship partners would not be thrilled if their potential partner said, ‘I work as a prostitute,’ despite the use of condoms and/or other prophylactic measures for sexual health.

I’ve written about prostitution in my blog (http://www.chaosnoir.com/anastasia/2006/12/prostitution_it.html), and mentioned the legislation of prostitution as a career and how it doesn’t serve the purpose, but if it can - on some level - make psycho clients accountable for their actions, at least it’s something. On the whole though, where I live, prostitution is legal, meaning that brothels can still operate without any legal consequence, however that hasn’t stopped certain operators from trafficking women/importing them on the pretext of finding them work (to gain an Australian visa), for the women to end up in brothels servicing hundreds of clients, for a minor portion, and I agree that this is one area that is seldom discussed. But even if it was made illegal, how would this work? Would the women be arrested? The criminalization of prostitution doesn’t work either Maggie. Women can just go out on their own, and hope for the best, and if something did happen to them, then they’d have no real legal standing and be doubly penalized for illegal activity.

I don’t disagree with the research findings, but years ago, prostitution was illegal, and it still continued. Then (where I live) it was legalized, and the presence of organized crime hasn’t gone away. And I know that many sex workers would deny the presence of organized crime, but organized crime groups always seek to earn an easy buck, and the easiest way is sex work. In my time, working in clubs, I’ve met pimps, I even dated one (without knowing he was one until months later when things didn’t add up, and no words can describe my disgust), I’ve known people within organized crime syndicates by face or association (working in nocturnal hospitality establishments, it comes with the job), and the usual side operation (business wise) was always prostitution. Now, a percentage of females in this industry may need to deny that in order to feel a little better, because organized crime is ugly, and men within organized crime are sociopaths (there is no other word, that is what they are), that are motivated, not by their own idea of patriarchal authority or maleness, but by one thing that is separate from that - greed.

In posts I’ve written, that would no doubt be viewed with derision by some, I’ve completely deconstructed the view of women (escorts, etc) having ‘power’, but this view came later on in life. In the beginning, I’d view it in the polite way, that of women choosing to be economically independent through whatever way they thought comfortable, but at the end of it all, I can’t see how an individual can maintain a double life for a long time, or really be able to view men in the same way - to feel wholly comfortable to have a relationship when they see the other side each day at work. Finally, the idea of having ‘power’ is an illusion because the women don’t have any control over their client selection; they make their decision based on money, not love or even ‘like’. I’ve had friends in the past who have entertained the idea of working as escorts for the money, and although we’d joke about it, one thought would dominate my mind and that was the definite possibility of looking at a familiar face or a man that I’d never - in my real life - consider sleeping with or would find repulsive. And in some strange way, I view those that do do it, in an unfazed manner, and take my hat off to them. If they can do it (and I mean that within an economically sound society, where they are given choices and decide all by themselves to enter this job), good luck to them, but I’m no one to tell them what to do.

I find many things oppressive to women. I find fashion magazines oppressive. I view the fact that news anchorwomen in Australia being ‘dismissed’ as soon as they hit forty, pathetic and oppressive. I’m disgusted by people who view breast feeding as a sexual act, when it’s clearly a biological act to nourish another life, and it goes on and on. Do women recognize their oppression? I think they do, on many levels, but I think few actually admit it because it’s not polite to be angry at the obvious crap within society, so the small things are given more focus. As for myself, I can handle the choices women make now, even if some choices boggle my mind, but prostitution is complex, and I know that I’ll never be 100%, ‘you go girl and enjoy your career,’ type of person.

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks, Anastasia, for believing research findings, agreeing with some of my points, and acknowledging that legalization does not work.

Just this:

But even if it was made illegal, how would this work? Would the women be arrested? The criminalization of prostitution doesn’t work either Maggie. Women can just go out on their own, and hope for the best, and if something did happen to them, then they’d have no real legal standing and be doubly penalized for illegal activity.

Excuse-me, Anastasia, but I have NEVER said that I favored the criminalization of prostitutes. I favor Sweden's law (which has worked - see above). I will let you know exactly what Heart (of Women's Space) said on her blog a few hours ago:

"I am in favor of decriminalization and support the Swedish model, as I have written many times: decriminalize prostitution, criminalize the buying of sex. If your comment was premised on an inaccurate understanding of my views, please rework it. I don’t want to have to straighten stuff out here that is based on an ongoing mischaracterization of my and other radical feminists’ views."
-- Heart (emphasis mine).

I'm afraid I will have to reiterate what I have said above:

the Swedish Model, i.e. the decriminalization of prostitutes while criminalizing johns & pimps, DOES work

For more information on Sweden's prostitution law see:

http://www.peaceworkmagazine.org/pwork/0506/050616.htm

http://sisyphe.org/article.php3?id_article=2035

http://www.captivedaughters.org/lisahoward.html

The small number of somewhat privileged women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution, after all, they are NOT being criminalized in Sweden, and consequently not oppressed. And, as I said above: "Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis". I also believe that the few women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution as a "free choice" should NOT be arrested, just like I believe that NO prostituted or prostituting woman should be criminalized. I believe in the decriminalization of prostitutes and the criminalization of johns & pimps, but not outright legalization of the whole 'sex' industry as it does not work and, to me, it has been proven through thorough research.

Also, Sweden's law does make psycho clients accountable for their actions.

I find many things oppressive to women. I find fashion magazines oppressive. I view the fact that news anchorwomen in Australia being ‘dismissed’ as soon as they hit forty, pathetic and oppressive. I’m disgusted by people who view breast feeding as a sexual act, when it’s clearly a biological act to nourish another life, and it goes on and on. Do women recognize their oppression? I think they do, on many levels, but I think few actually admit it because it’s not polite to be angry at the obvious crap within society, so the small things are given more focus. As for myself, I can handle the choices women make now, even if some choices boggle my mind, but prostitution is complex, and I know that I’ll never be 100%, ‘you go girl and enjoy your career,’ type of person.

Yeah, I agree with some of that, though I will not advocate pro-pornstitution, anti-abortion, etc choices (that hurt other women) some women make. And we, radical feminists, have a complete passion for being angry, as our anger often suppresses our sadness or pain. But, of course, male-supremacist society particularly dislikes angry women.

WRT choices, let's not forget that, in all this, it is the johns who have full agency.

Thanks again for sharing this civil conversation, even though we do not agree on everything. :)

I do agree that "glamorous" culture is oppressive to women.

I have looked at your blog and will carry on looking at it, even though I may not agree with everything that's written there. You do make some valid points. :)

Now, I hope you will forgive me but I'm currently very busy on musing on a new piece to write and post on this blog... so, as I said, we could be arguing on and on about prostitution for ages and ages. It could go on and on and on and you are fully free to have your own POV and disagree with some of my my views I have expressed above, but I just wanted to fully clarify my viewpoints, as radical feminist points of view are often misrepresented by malestream media and 'sex poz' feminists.

I hope you're having a nice time in Australia. :)

Maggie Hays said...

Sorry, somewhere I in fact meant to write instead:

WRT disability I do find it very sad and unfortunate.

I only noticed that now...