During last November’s Reclaim the Night march, a group of women broke off from the march to stand outside Spearmint Rhino in order to ‘protect’ the women working inside, and to call for the decriminalisation of prostitution (meaning deregulation, the removal of punitive measures across all parts of the sex industry: buying, selling, facilitating or controlling commercial sex acts). Other women on the march (myself included) sang ‘women’s bodies not for sale’ as a counter to their counter protest.
Reclaim the Night is a march against all forms of violence against women, and radical feminists recognise prostitution and pornography – the sex industry – as a form of violence against women.
The women standing outside Spearmint Rhino identified themselves as socialist and anarchist feminists; there is something truly bizarre in the idea of anarchist women defending one of the biggest, most exploitative global industries there is.
If those women were so concerned about the welfare of the women working there, why weren’t they inside making sure they weren’t being raped in Spearmint Rhino’s ‘VIP Booths’?
Remember, both ‘sides’ here want prostitute women (and men and trans people) themselves to be decriminalised; to have the police take it seriously if they are beaten up or raped (but, with a rape conviction rate of less than 6%, realistically, no woman has access to justice in this country if she is raped); that decent, accessible, non-coercive exit services are made available; that all women (etc.) are offered a better ‘choice’ than between prostitution and poverty.
Once upon a time, socialist feminists campaigned for universal, free, twenty-four-hour childcare, now, it seems, they campaign for the ‘right’ to prostitute because, it is claimed, it’s the only well paying job a woman can fit around her childcare responsibilities.
The Left has a long and ignoble history of failing women, from the trades unions refusing to grant women full membership because they saw them as undercutting male workers, to Fidel Castro telling women to serve the revolution by exiting the public sphere and going back home to be good wives and mothers (See Marge Piercy’s ‘The Grand Coolie Damn’ and Germaine Greer’s chapter ‘Rebellion’ in The Female Eunuch), to right-on lefty men in the 60’s insisting on their right to violent pornography; “I remember in particular a photo of an Asian woman inserting a huge, glass, bowl-shaped jar into her rectum.” Andrea Dworkin, ‘My Life as a writer’ in Life and Death.
The left’s embracing of the sex industry leads to some strange contradictions. An Education Not For Sale/IUSW (International Union of Sex Workers) leaflet says, on the one hand, that the government has the obligation, moral authority and competency to interfere in all our lives by taxing us and then redistributing that income to provide free higher education for all. On the other hand, it says, when it comes to some of the most vulnerable women in society, the government has neither the moral authority nor the competency to interfere, and should instead adopt a neoliberal laissez faire approach, deregulate the sex industry entirely and trust it to self regulate (just like the banks have done!). The response of the Communist woman handing these leaflets out at Fem08 in Sheffield? Everything would be OK after the revolution, when nobody would have to work (and radical feminists are accused of being naive about the way the world works)!
Marxist historians (at least according to the workshop I attended at Marx08,) claim that humans are not biologically destined to conflict, that a Hobbesian struggle of ‘all against all’ is not inevitable. It seems that there is no similar Marxist analysis of the demand for prostitution, of the idea that men have ‘biological needs’ and that these ‘needs’ are inevitable.
The demand to decriminalise prostitution coming from the ECP (English Collective of Prostitutes) and the IUSW goes way beyond ‘safety first’; they are not sex worker advocates – since we are ALL pro sex worker – they are sex work advocates and sex industry advocates.
It is important to be aware of the range of people the IUSW allows to call themselves ‘sex workers’ and to join their union. The IUSW/GMB membership leaflet states that you can join if you work in ‘a shop selling adult videos’, so someone whose only experience of the sex industry is sitting behind the till in a sex shop can call themselves a sex worker, join the IUSW and then speak on behalf of all sex workers (which, to the general public, means that they speak with the knowledge and authority of someone who works as a prostitute).
The IUSW also accepts pimps (Douglas Fox runs an escort agency and is a member of the IUSW; in this 2006 article, he claims to be little more than a receptionist, and that the escorts were selling time not sex; however he now calls himself a ‘sex worker’, and refers to ‘his’ clients, as if he is sexually servicing them himself – this is a deliberate obfuscation), pornographers (from the same IUSW/GMB leaflet, you can join if you work “behind or in front of the camera making adult entertainment”) and brothel keepers (see the BBC article ‘Christmas under city’s red lights’, which reads as nothing more than a press release from the IUSW and states: “The International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) includes middle-aged parlour owners” while the IUSW/GMB leaflet doesn’t specify how one must be working in a brothel to join) as members, and presumably johns too (from the same leaflet: “we also welcome applications for membership from allies, supporters and friends of sex workers”). This is like the International Union of Factory Workers accepting factory owners as members, and allowing those factory owners to speak on behalf of the needs of factory workers.
I cannot think of any other business that has managed so well to be a massive, well-organised, international, multibillion-dollar earning industry, but to portray itself as being individualised, localised and grass-roots, and to get feminist/workers rights campaigners to work and propagandise for them for free. The oil industry has to pay big money for this kind of lobbying.
At the turn of the last century, workers saw themselves as being literally at war with the bosses, but now, in the happy utopia of the sex industry, the needs of the bosses (the pimps, the pornographers, the brothel keepers, the johns) are seen as being perfectly aligned with the needs of the workers (the prostitutes, the pornography performers); and anarchists, who used to try to assassinate industrialists, now stand guard outside big business.
The sex industry advocates, including the ECP and the IUSW claim that trafficking is a myth and that prostitution is ‘work like any other’. There are now a number of pro-sex work academics busy trying to redefine the meaning of the terms ‘trafficking’, ‘harm’ and ‘choice’ to try to make reality fit these claims.
This paradigm is now so entrenched in the main-stream that recently, a BBC presenter suggested to the Amnesty International spokeswoman he was interviewing, that trafficked women may actually enjoy the sex that was forced on them ten times a day.
‘High-class’ prostitution is characterised as a great job and one that lots of women actively want to do; they make a load of money and have a great time. It is even seen as a woman expressing her sexual freedom and autonomy, which is an odd way of looking at being paid to fulfil someone else’s sexual fantasies.
The sex industry advocates will not criticise johns in any way, because they need them to make money. As with the myth that rape is rare and only carried out by psychopaths, not ordinary every-day men, so the harm done to women in prostitution is perpetrated only by a few rotten apples – most johns are lovely, they’re only looking for uncomplicated sex, someone to talk to, a cuddle.
The sex industry advocates then claim that the johns can police the system, even though only 2% of tip-offs to the police re. trafficked women came from johns (who all had sex with the women anyway) (source: The POPPY Project). We read the report, which is not unusual or unique, of a trafficked woman beaten and burned with cigarettes, then forced to dance naked for customers; that means a large number of men must have seen the bruises and burns, but didn’t care. The idea that the johns are on the side of prostitute women is ridiculous.
Invisiblising the johns in this way, and treating prostitution as if it was something women did to themselves, places the onus on prostitute women not to get themselves raped or battered – and therefore blaming them rather than the rapist/batterer – in a way that parallels the ‘safety’ advice given to women to not go out at night etc. in order to avoid being raped. Male violence is treated as an inevitable, unavoidable force of nature, not something that men can and should control themselves (all of which also contradicts the claim that the johns are overwhelmingly nice).
To maintain the illusion that prostitution is ‘work like any other’ that a lot of women want to do, what is actually involved in prostitution, in the need to mentally disassociate mind from body in order to submit to unwanted sex, is not talked about. Sex industry advocates all take an individualistic approach, without looking at prostitution in any wider context.
For example, the UKNSWP (UK Network of Sex Work Projects) ‘Keeping Safe’ guide (all their guides are available as PDFs here) contains the suggestion (p39): “Many sex workers recommend sitting astride (on top of) their customer for vaginal or anal sex […] In this position, you can sit on your knees for penetrative sex and guide how much the penis enters you, particularly useful for large boys and when you are sore!” So, this ‘work’ involves engaging in vaginal or anal penetration even when you are ‘sore’ – a minimising term for ‘in pain’ – never mind that being ‘sore’ means likely to have suffered injury to the membranes of the vagina or anus which makes contacting an STI such as HIV more likely. What other ‘job’ involves these kinds of risks or working conditions?
Another example, from the ‘Working with Male and Transgender Sex Workers’ guide, the section on ‘Anogenital health’ (p13) states: “some sex workers wash themselves too often and may use harsh chemicals.” There is no mention of why this may be, or what the underlying causes are to this behaviour – that would mean having to acknowledge the psychological harm evolved in having to engage in unwanted sex on multiple occasions – which doesn’t chime very well with their claim (p6) that “sex work is, of itself, not inherently exploitative”. The guide’s advice to outreach workers in this situation? Recommend “pH balanced products, which help maintain the natural flora of the skin.” So the only problem here is a poor choice of toiletries and nothing more.
The ‘Working with Sex Workers: Exiting’ guide acknowledges the multiple difficulties of exiting, and the severe health and social problems experienced by women resulting from violence and drug use, but still in some cases is vague about the abuse involved in prostitution. In the section ‘Domestic abuse and sexual assault’ (p20) it states: “For some, domestic abuse will be one factor preventing them exiting and this will need to be addressed alongside their other issues”, it doesn’t say that their partner may also be their pimp and have an active interest in keeping them in prostitution.
To be clear, I am glad this advice is available – a lot of it is very good and valuable – but pro sex industry ideology, ‘choice’ rhetoric, and obfuscation of what is actually involved in prostitution – the act of submitting to unwanted sex – is tied up with it. Helping the most vulnerable people in society should not be contingent on legitimising their exploitation.
These pro sex-work guides at times come across as a bizarre hybrid between alternate-universe etiquette guides and military training manuals – there is no one else outside of the military or the emergency services who is expected to accept this much risk and violence as a regular part of their ‘work’. Soldiers, at least, are allowed to acknowledge that they are in a war zone; sex workers – for the sake of their ‘agency’ – are not allowed to acknowledge that they are being abused, exploited or oppressed in any systematic way, and this again serves to render those who do the abusing, exploiting and oppressing invisible.
If you think the advice for prostitutes is only like this because of the criminal status of most aspects of prostitution in this country, the advice for sex workers in the state of Victoria in Australia, where prostitution is legal, is similar; for example advising ‘escorts’ to stake out the properties for ‘out calls’ to look for signs that a gang-rape is being planned, and to be careful when injecting local anaesthetic into the vagina, since it can mask serious injury.
For an alternative take on such outreach work, I highly recommend the article ‘How to get an activist movement to keep women in prostitution’, written by a journalist who has experienced prostitution herself.
As long as there is demand for prostitution – and especially when the structure of prostitution is entrenched within the state (including the state collecting taxes from prostitution) – then supply for the industry will be found. If it’s not poor women from this country, it will be poor women from another country, and if it’s not poor women it will be women and children more directly coerced.
If prostitution is accepted as ‘work like any other’ it will become reasonable to expect poor women to do it if they don’t want to be poor anymore, and if the local brothel is the only source of employment in a small town, it becomes de facto compulsory for women. The sex industry – escort agencies, strip clubs, ‘web-cam operators’ – is already allowed to advertise in Jobcentres; once prostitution is seen as ‘work like any other’ how long before a poor woman is told: take a job in this brothel or lose your benefits?
What socialist feminists, with their insistence that class is the root of all inequality, don’t seem to grasp is that there are many forms of hierarchy – class, race, sex, gender, sexuality, religion, able-ness – and that they all feed into and off each other. Rape, battery, incest and child abuse happens to women and children of all classes, races and religions.
It is hard to imagine capitalism existing without patriarchy, but not so difficult to imagine patriarchy with out capitalism. As long as men are not prepared to give up their male entitlement and their male privileges – including the ‘right’ to sexually access the bodies of women and children through pornography and prostitution – nothing in society is going to change.
To challenge the sex industry is to directly challenge patriarchy. To accept it, to try and whittle away at the edges to make things ‘better’ is to give up on any hope of meaningful change to society.
This is what we are Reclaiming for.
For a very long time women who had experienced intimate male partner terrorism were told they should accept such terrorism because apparently the men really loved and respected them. Women were also told they should do more to prevent their violent male partners from battering them. Slowly, these perspectives which of course work to invisibilise how male power and control operates are being challenged.
Prostitution though is another matter it is all about prostituted women’s supposed agency and choice. Going to the root of the problem is the fact it is men and masculinity which demands and expects overwhelmingly women and girls to be made sexually available to men as and when they desire.
All the rhetoric concerning advice given to prostituted women is window dressing because on no account must the men who buy women’s and girls’ bodies be made visible and accountable. If these men and their demands were brought out in the open this would immediately show widespread and common is the belief men have a supposed male sex right to women’s bodies.
Capitalism feeds off patriarchy and it is patriarchy (meaning rule of the fathers/males) which has to be challenged and eventually overthrown. Both left and right wings of political beliefs deny the right of women to be fully human. Left wing males believe women are men’s public property and right-wing males believe women are men’s private property. No difference only two sides of the same coin.
Those who advocate decriminalisation/legalisation are not in the least concerned about prostituted women and girls instead their sole aim is to keep women and girls sexual slaves to men’s pseudo biological sex demands. Pro-prostitution lobbyists tie themselves in knots when they attempt to justify and rationalise men’s increasing rather than decreasing demand for unlimited numbers of women and girls being made available for men to rape, sexually exploit and of course financially profit from enslaving individuals who are not deemed human. This includes male prostitutes who are overwhelmingly teenage boys and considered not to be fully masculine but instead ‘feminised’ commodites for the male prostitutors to sexually exploit.
Thanks for this. I do find it extremely troubling that there is such support for the sex trade within supposedly left groups. The sex trade is supported by the state, military, by global ecomonics, by organised crime and many other aspects of society that I don’t correlate with socialism. My anti-porn, anti-sex work stance is an implicit and irremovable part of my anti-war, anti-capitalist politics. I find it very difficult when confronted by others on the left who are working for the same things as me on so many levels but when it comes to the sex trade take a stance which feels to me very conservative and very damaging.
It seems to me that some on the left have bought the lie of the sex trade that it is somehow radical and liberating. And that those within it have complete agency and choice about being part of it. I’ve also met socialist feminists involved in making feminist pornography, claiming its not problematic as they only distribute it amongst themselves. What is so damn radical about imitating a billion pound global industry?
I wonder if its a case of trying to be appealing to the widest audience possible. Are they so desperate to get support for their so called radical left politics that they are willing to sell-out when it comes to protecting wimmin?
Shame, shame shame.
The pimp groupies were apparently told to foxtrot oscar by the RTN regular marchers.
That is RTN LOndon?
There is really no point presenting a pimp with an academic paper.
We owe it to our abolitionist martyrs, to win, and we are not going to win by being nice.
Andrea Dworkin didn’t want me to improve conditions in strip clubs in Belfast, Glasgow or Dublin.
She wanted them shut, no pimp to person dialogue, just shut, & zero compromise.
Which suited me fine
Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition, Belfast, N. Ireland
The International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) campaigns for full human, civil and labour rights and for full protection of the law for everyone in the sex industry and for meaningful consultation of people in the industry about decisions which will affect our rights and safety. We believe that everyone deserves freedom to choose, respect for those choices and the absolute right to say no.
When people deny sex work as labour it forces us to spend our time defending the existence of our work, instead of struggling for its transformation. Alice, migrant sex worker, London 2007
A group of workers organising to improve the conditions of their work is a union, and so the International Union of Sex Workers was the obvious title for our organisation. “International” both because there are many migrants involved in the organisation, and also because we are proud to be a part of the global movement for sex workers’ rights, that spans every continent (except Antarctica!).
Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. Nelson Mandela
We know that the primary difficulty we face is not our work itself but the conditions in which we work. This includes both conditions in the workplace, and in society as a whole – the stigma and social exclusion many of us experience. We see how legal status and social stigma combine to increase our vulnerability and enable abuse and exploitation within our industry. Such wrongs are often then blamed on the nature of our work, sometimes by those who themselves perpetuate them. Sex workers’ exclusion and vulnerability are perpetuated by those who refuse to listen to our complaints of actual violence and real abuses because they consider all our work to be violent and abusive.
If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. Lila Watson, Aboriginal activist in Australia
You seem to miss the point – that there are people like my self who choose to work as an escort. No one coerced me into becoming an escort, it was my choice of my own free will.
That is not to say that there are some who are trafficked or coerced into this work which is bad and wrong.
However in your campaigns I think you need to realise there are more who WANT to be escorts and or work in the adult industry. Those of us who choose to be escorts also want any bad or wrong elements to stop too,including trafficking, it gives the rest of us a bad name. We don’t like being tarred with the same brush as the bad apples in the industry!
I am a member of the IUSW – why? because I am a responsible and ethical escort, there are plenty more like me too.
Hi, i found your article really interesting. now, i am very, very much anti-sex trade, in every possible sense. i am also a socialist feminist, in the sense that i am strongly socialist, and also strongly feminist. i believe socialist feminism is completely compatible with, and in fact demands, opposition to this industry. i have never really met any other socialist feminists in person as such, just others who are both socialist and feminist like me, and they all pretty much share my view. it really hurts me to think that there are people out there who call themselves socialist feminists and support pornography and prostitution. i knew of nina hartley claiming she was a socialist, but apart from that your article was the first time i have heard of socialist feminists supporting the sex exploitation industry, and it is sickening. thanks for the heads up, now i will be more cautious when i meet more people calling themselves socialist-feminists.
p.s. though Fidel Castro may have made some bad moves in terms of gender, and even homosexuality, you must remember that it is in the context of cuba, which is an incredibly macho culture. cuba has made enormous progress in many ways involving gender and race, and now even homosexuality (which is hard with a traditionally homophobic, latino culture), and one of the things which i applaud most is their rejection of the sex trade, including pornography. of course, this brings a whole new wave of criticism from neo-liberals, but they have stuck to it, as they believe this trade to be exploitative, in an inexcusable, capitalist manner. by the way, i am cuban myself.
How long does it take for a post comment to be approved on this blog, or is it a case of my comment isn’t welcome.
Dannii, all comments on this blog have to be approved. I don’t have time to check it every day.
The problem is, you are not just trying to legitimise prostitutes, you are trying to legitimize the pimps, the pornographers, the brothel keepers and the traffickers as well; and also, obviously, legitimise the demand side of prostitution.
To do this, you have to downplay what is actually involved in prostitution, what is involved physically and psychologically in submitting to unwanted sex. Globally, the majority of prostitutes are not ‘high-class escorts’ who can charge £100 an hour, pick and choose their ‘clients’ and have a great time.
You have to ignore the fact that every country to legalise/decriminalise prostitution has not seen a drop in prostitution; it has seen a massive increase in demand and trafficking, and has an illegal sex industry much larger than the legal side.
You have to ignore the men manipulating their teenage girl friends into prostitution – instead you call them ‘sex entrepreneurs’.
You have to ignore the trafficking into the sex industry, instead you call it ‘migration for labour’, even if the woman is held in dept-bondage, subjected to rape and violence, and forced to ‘service’ ten men a day with no way to negotiate for safe sex.
You have to ignore what legalised/decriminalised prostitution does for the social status of all women. The state of Nevada, where brothel prostitution is legal, has the highest rates of rape and domestic violence in the US, and a survey of men at the University of Nevada found that a majority of them thought it was not possible to rape a prostitute.
Yeah well said APF, they ignore an awful lot. What honestly is their agenda?
As someone who worked in the sex industry several years ago (and I’m reluctant to imagine that anything has changed) the rhetoric put forth by the IUSW is absolute rubbish. If 21 (300 years accumulate experience) sex workers maintained that they had experienced nothing but positive behaviours from their clients then I can categorically call them either liars or that they purposefully engineered a misleading representation. Most probably both.
Please stop with the foolery IUSW, and again what… or more likely ‘whose’ agenda are you running? Because I am not fooled that easily.
The UKNSWP made a heroic effort and brought together 21 sex workers from across the country – street workers, “high class escorts”, dominatrixes, parlour and flat owners, and men who sell sex to men. The 21 people around the table had between 250 and 300 years of experience in the sex industry, and all spoke positively about their clients, described the problems caused by our criminalisation, warned that driving the industry further underground would only endanger us and expressed hope this event would be part of a continuing process of involvement.
Sorry, I forgot to include the link.
There is a general mythology being propagated by those who try and discredit human rights for sex workers in respect of Nevada. Even Fiona MacTaggart MP misquoted or at least massaged figures in the House of Commons to support her anti sex worker stance by claiming that Nevada had a higher rate of mortality among women through violence. This was not true as we can see from this email.
I looked at the Uniform Crime Reports for 2006. You can get this data at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/index.html.
This site shows that Nevada’s overall murder rate was 8.5 per 100,000, which is higher than the national average of 5.6 per 100,000. However, that is almost exclusively due to Las Vegas murder rate, which is 10.3 per 100,000. But of more importance is the fact that there are no legal brothels in Las Vegas, so that doesn’t have anything to do with the existence of brothels.
In fact, according to the FBI, in 2007 the murder rate for cities of 1 million or more was 11.1 per 100,000. So Las Vegas is not that different than other large cities.
At a different site, I found murder rates for counties in Nevada (http://www.unlv.edu/cgiwrap/atm1161/report.pl). The overall murder rates for Storey County, where there are 3 of the largest brothels, in 2006 was zero. Nye county, with 3 large brothels had a rate of .05 per 1000. , Elko County had .04 per 1000. In other words, the counties where these brothels are located had negligible murder rates.
I have no idea about the female murder rate as I couldn’t get those numbers by county. I suspect the trend would be the same. High for Las Vegas, as is true in many metropolitan areas. Low or nonexistant in the small towns and counties where prostitution is legal. To say that Nevada has a high female murder rate because of legal prostitution seems a far fetched claim to me.
Department of Sociology
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV 89154-5033″
The majority of sex workers choose to be anonymous for very good reason. Such is the stigma surrounding the work alongside the fact that the nature of the work requires a high degree on anonymity then it is hardly surprising that most sex workers try and get on with their work unnoticed. It is also noticeable that when sex workers do speak their voices are ignored or they are expected to justify their choices and lay their lives open to public scrutiny.
Those who oppose sex work speak only in terms of caricature. All sex workers are victims and all those who support sex workers are pimps or exploiters and clients are rapists. It is a view that is both insulting and derogatory to the free agency of thousands who work in this in dusty. It is also despicable that some use the misery of those who are coerced and trafficked to justify persecution. It is simply wrong to persecute the majority and deny their free agency. it is also dangerous to criminalise an industry and force it underground and by so doing endanger the lives of sex workers and benefit criminals to the detriment of those who are already suffering under bad laws that deny us our human rights.
The new proposals to criminalise clients is simply more of the same. Sex workers along side other minority sectors of our community such as the gay community have been criminalised and persecuted for centuries causing suffering and misery to thousands. Targeting clients is just another stick to beat us with.
If those who persecute sex workers genuinely cared about trafficked and coerced victims they would support the struggle for sex workers rights instead of supporting the patriarchal tyranny that has always abused and tried to control female and minority sexual behaviour and has used the law to teach us a lesson and send out a message. It has never worked and never will unless you judge sweeping offending sexuality under the proverbial carpet and creating a societal sense of communal guilt over being sexual as good. I suspect however some do think this way.
Douglas Fox sex worker, activist for the IUSW and Aamnesty International
I don’t buy the ‘it pushes prostitution further underground’ argument; the johns still have to be able to find it. It’s a matter of resources and political will; previously, prostitution has been treated as a ‘public nuisance’ type of problem, and the prostitutes punished but not the johns (after all, they might be men who matter), seeing it as an abuse of the human rights of the prostitutes then requires a public policy that decriminalises them and places the responsibility where it belongs, with the pimps and johns.
The ‘further underground’ argument can be applied equally well to child prostitution (or to give it a more accurate name, child commercial sexual exploitation), after all, child prostitution is currently underground and in the hands of criminals, and some children, especially in the developing world, may only be able to survive through prostitution.
You ignore the fact that the men involved in controlling prostitution are not criminals solely because they are involved in prostitution, they are criminals because they are willing to rape, beat and murder women; decriminalising prostitution just makes it easier for these criminal gangs to operate because they have a legal end point (brothels, strip clubs, massage parlours) to traffic to.
It is completely disingenuous to compare prostitution to the gay and lesbian community. ‘Prostitute’ is not a sexuality. The gay community happened to overlap in time and space with prostitution because homosexuality was once criminalised, but so what? Paedophilia and bestiality are still illegal, do you see ‘sex worker rights’ as tied up with the rights of paedophiles and zoophiles too, or is that not such great PR?
And you have a nerve talking about patriarchal tyranny, the sex industry is an integral part of patriarchy, the sex industry is intertwined with patriarchy, colonialism, militarism; women and girls are moved around the globe as chattel to meet male supremacist demand for fuckable females. Legitimising male sexual and economic exploitation of women and girls by legitimising the sex industry only reinforces patriarchy.
“Sex workers’ exclusion and vulnerability are perpetuated by those who refuse to listen to our complaints of actual violence and real abuses because they consider all our work to be violent and abusive.”
Show me a pimp in prison because of your kind.
Your outreach is about telling the trafficked they’re workers who need to improve their English.
My position is if a 16 year old ‘worker’ can’t speak English, then I just want to arrest *everybody*, right down to the last pervert customer, who harmed her.
You live in a world were the pimps are managers or investors.
You choose to ignore that sex workers are also male and trangender. Male sex workers like myself are too often ignored in the accusations thrown around that sex work is all about male violation of female bodies.
This attitude also ignores the the free agency of women, men and transgender sex workers who work in this industry and enjoy our work. It also fails to understand the diverse nature of sex work, the reason why people choose sex work and the reason why people, male and female use the services of sex workers.
I am personally tired of the frankly condescending attitude that being poor forces you to become a sex worker. it is both insulting to the poor and to sex workers alike.
Many women and men choose sex work of course for financial reasons but other factors do apply and if you take the time to engage with sex workers you would understand those reasons and why many sex workers make this a full time career and often a very successful career.
To link the free agency of adult sex workers with paedophilia and acts of bestiality again is simply insulting. Laws abound to deal with both those crimes and I have never met a sex worker in my ten years in the business who supports either. What we demand is respect for our right to work in an industry that we choose that is consensual. Every argument I have heard from anti sex worker groups and individuals have simply been moral arguments veneered under a cloak of feminist ideology that all men are rapists and abusers. I have always supported feminism and I would suggest that some of the most radical thinking women you may meet and most independent women are sex workers.
Sex workers rights groups campaign equally against trafficking and exploitation. The difference is we do it with true knowledge of the diverse nature of our industry and with respect to the majority of silent vices who do their best to get on with their work despite the stigma and persecution that is encouraged by those who ignore our voices and speak instead of caricature and in terms of ideology that punishes those who do not adhere.
Most brothel owners are not men but women who have themselves been sex workers or are often still sex workers but who suffer the penalties of bad laws for creating safe spaces for other free women to work. Most brothels are small often with only two or three women sharing.
Criminalising clients is simply another stick to beat us with. you want sex workers decriminalised, wonderful; but you also want to deny us our right to earn our living by criminalising our clients? It is a little like saying you can be a doctor but we will arrest your patients. And how are you going to convict the clients unless you coerce the sex worker to give evidence?
You may not like sex work which is fine I do not like the meat industry which is genuinely far more exploitative but I accept the fact that people will eat meat. With sex work there will always be people like myself who love their work, love meeting their clients and who also enjoy working with fellow workers in the same Job who I can socialise with and speak to about my work. There will alway be those who wish (as most workers do) to work through a third party and that third party of course is then employed and paid to do a job.
OK it it may be capitalism so I suggest that you bring capitalism down first and then come to sex workers and suggest alternative ways of organising our labour. In the mean time stop persecuting us but join us in our struggle for rights and recognition and help us mend the abuses we know exist but which your support of persecution actually encourages and even creates.
It is the patriarchy you hate that abuses sex workers and always has because it has always feared female and minority sexual liberty. It is tied up in centuries of religious oppression that has created a cultural fear of uninhibited sex. Prostitution to use your term along side homosexuality and female sexual expression has been feared by men for centuries and persecuted because of their need to control both us and their urges. This is what makes those so called feminists who side with this abuse of sex workers by the state so wrong. You are letting not only women and men down but bolstering the very abusive system you claim to despise.
Douglas Fox sex worker and activist for the IUSW and Amnesty International
I can honestly say in 5 years of working as an escort, I have never had a bad experience. Five years of doing work that I enjoy. I’m not pimped, never have been, I’m not a druggie. I have met some wonderful people both clients and like minded individuals who enjoy escorting.
I’m not saying my experience is the same for everyone – what I am saying is don’t assume we are all ‘victims’
I Have no regrets what so ever and being an escort hasn’t ‘damaged’ me in any way.
I can think of worse jobs out there where employees are exploited everyday for a pittance!
Dannii – Escort, Agency proprietor, IUSW member
First up, for the love of god, please format your comments better, would it kill you to press return twice and put a line between paragraphs? I’m not going to plough through another block of text like this, I’m going to delete it without reading it.
Anyway, to address your comments in order,
I know there are male and transgender sex workers, but there is no international market in the bodies of men and boys, men are not trafficked from poor countries to rich countries to be ‘mail order civil partners’ and they likely never will be, prostitution is gendered.
I accept that there are a number of women men and trans people in the West who have more of a ‘choice’ about entering prostitution than poor women and girls in developing countries, but globally they are a minority, and decriminalising and deregulating the sex industry will not turn those poor women and girls into ‘high-class escorts’
“To link the free agency of adult sex workers with paedophilia and acts of bestiality again is simply insulting.”
Then don’t try to claim credit you’re not entitled to by linking it to gay and lesbian rights.
“Sex workers rights groups campaign equally against trafficking and exploitation.”
No, they claim trafficking is a myth and go through linguistic contortions to re-label ‘harm’ as ‘not harm’, and ‘trafficking’ as ‘migration for labour’, for example Laura Agustin, who calls prostitutes who are trafficked from country to country by their pimps (in order to avoid them picking up too much of the language or forming friendships) as ‘cosmopolitan subjects, who may consider the world their oyster, not their home’ and ‘the hope of the world’ for ‘having learnt to be flexible and tolerant of people’s differences’. (Laura Agustin, 2004, ‘Daring Border-Crossers: A Different Vision of Migrant Women)
“I have always supported feminism and I would suggest that some of the most radical thinking women you may meet and most independent women are sex workers.”
You’ve supported whatever allows you to maximise your profits. You can slap the label feminism on it, that doesn’t mean we’re going to buy it.
And guess what? I do know women who have been prostitutes, and yes, they are independent women and radical feminists, but no, they don’t think prostitution is ‘work like any other’, they think it’s abuse and support the criminalisation of demand. It’s their voices, not yours, which doesn’t get heard
“Most brothel owners are not men but women who have themselves been sex workers”
Again, so what? They graduated from exploited to exploiters.
“It is a little like saying you can be a doctor but we will arrest your patients.”
No, it’s like punishing those who trade illegally in human organs, while not punishing the people who, due to economic desperation, ‘donated’ those organs.
“It is the patriarchy you hate that abuses sex workers and always has because it has always feared female and minority sexual liberty.”
Yes, I hate the patriarchy, and I hate the abuse of sex workers, but what has being a prostitute got to do with sexual liberty, unless you are claiming some women are just born whores? And you’re back to trying to claim ‘minority sexual status’ again for prostitution, and you’re not entitles to that credit, unless the paedophiles and the zoophiles are too.
I’m glad you have never had a bad experience with a client, but I do not believe that the experience of ‘high-class escorts’ is typical, nor that it justifies the legitimisation of the sex industry.
Also, if you are an ‘escort agency proprietor’ that means you are profiting from other women’s exploitation, and that makes you a pimp too, and means you are speaking for your own vested interests in the sex industry.
“I can think of worse jobs out there where employees are exploited everyday for a pittance!”
Well I can’t think of any other job that requires one to disassociate mind from body in order to function.
I’m not suggesting that ‘bad’ experineces do not happen, I am speaking from my own personal experience.
A pimp coerces and controls people, as an agency proprietor I do neither – I represent ladies who have approached me to represent them and organise their dates. There seems to be a blinkered view of escorts and agencies in general. Please consider that there are those of us who do indeed choose to be escorts.
Ladies with their own minds who are independent in both their outlook and lifestyle.
I find it insulting to be labelled as exploiting women! I am exploiting no one. maybe as female escorts we are exploiting men and not the other way around.
Trafficking is a disgrace and yes there are control freaks out there who have no respect for women – this needs to be stopped, I fully support ridding the industry of this element.
Do you seriously thing criminalising clients and outlawing the industry will make it all go away? It will drive it further underground and the criminal element will still be there.
It will prevent the ethical and respected escorts and agencies from operating, putting those who want to be escorts at risk.
You truly are totally ignorant of the facts of sex work.
Trafficking is a global phenomena that affects all industries. Trafficking is however different from labour migrancy where a person choses to migrate to work in a different country for very good reasons. To judge a sex worker trafficked simply because she is foreign is ignorance.
The actual evidence for trafficking into the UK for sex work suggests that trafficking is minimal. That does not suggest complacency but rather that people like yourself chose deliberately to caricature all sex workers as victims. The evidence is there if you look and listen to prove that this is not the case. The majority of sex workers out side of London for example are not foreign but British yet London figures are used to legitimise claims that 85% of all UK sex workers are foreign. Every service industry in London now has extremely high levels of migrant workers. Some of those will have been trafficked. Trafficking is not particular to sex work just sexier for people like you to exploit to the detriment of the majority.
“Well I can’t think of any other job that requires one to disassociate mind from body in order to function”.
What a ridiculous statement to make and again suggests that you have little knowledge of the diverse nature of sex work.
“Then don’t try to claim credit you’re not entitled to by linking it to gay and lesbian rights”.
As a gay man and a gay sex worker I strongly suggest that I both understand the work I do and recognise the same struggle for recognition. The history of persecution of both sex workers and homosexuals is well documented and was committed as now by the patriarchy you claim to despise.
“You’ve supported whatever allows you to maximise your profits. You can slap the label feminism on it, that doesn’t mean we’re going to buy it”.
What you really mean is that if the feminism of sex workers does not equate with your understanding of feminism and your intolerance then our views are to be dismissed. Be honest.
Antiplondon you and your comrades are the new patriarchy.
Douglas fox Sex worker and IUSW activist.
I do hope that my sentences are to your liking this time. please accept my apologies if they do displease you:)
“You choose to ignore that sex workers are also male and trangender. Male sex workers like myself are too often ignored in the accusations thrown around that sex work is all about male violation of female bodies.”
Fair enough, does that agency you are connected to do ‘schoolboys’ as well as ‘schoolgirls’?
“It was the view of Jim Gamble that someone who gets pleasure from simulated sex in second life is someone who is likely to engage child sex in real life.”
It took me three years to train CEOP to say that,
it only took me 3 minutes to make a pitch to the Home Secretary about something very similar.
She has ‘teacher’ problems, thousands of them. The British govt. want the FBI to not rock the boat.
It is a sensitive area.
“It wasn’t that he didn’t know perfectly well what was going on (otherwise why squirm so uncomfortably about the headmaster who rang up requesting the youngest escort on the books to dress up as a schoolgirl?”
“This includes male prostitutes who are overwhelmingly teenage boys and considered not to be fully masculine but instead ‘feminised’ commodites for the male prostitutors to sexually exploit.”
O’Carroll the pedophile leader attended the NCCL’s gay rights sub-committee at a time they were campaigning against our child pornography laws.
(warning pedophile web-site)
Gay adults use heterosexual youth, for prostitution, and then they refer to them as being ‘gay’ in the same pro-porn magazines that pointed the way to the chickens to begin with, which is not right.
Why do some gays target straight kids?
Julie Bindel hit the nail on the head,
Gay men need to talk straight about paedophilia
Rather than campaign on the age of consent, it might silence anti-gay bigots if some gay men spoke out against atrocities towards children
“When I was a young, idealistic feminist, I used to come out with the nonsense picked up from gay male friends that 99% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by heterosexual men. The truth is that gay men are as likely to abuse as any.”
Douglas Fox, who has now started to tag himself as an Amnesty activist,
Pimp, IUSW leader, and now Amnesty as well, how does he fit it all in? And how open-minded of Amnesty & etc.
the agency he is connected to was doing age role schoolgirls for teachers, and then he blogs like a demon, about ‘rights’ and ‘safety’.
There is no safety in providing faux schoolgirls to teachers in Northumbria.
There is no such thing as a pretend pedophile, there just isn’t.
That themed stuff is the methadone version of pedophilia, it will do, until the pervert can get some real smack.
Jacqui Smith is more likely to meet the Taliban than Douglas Fox.
Well done APL! Brilliant answers to these greedy pimps who have the cheek to pretend feminist sympathies. They’ve rattled out all the stock ‘hoodwinkinky’ responses:
1.Drive it underground (meaningless statement)
2.Womens right to choose (to choose to pretend they like and freely choose oppression)
3. Male and transgender prostitutes too (what has that got to do with the overwhelming trend of the oppression of women?)
…The only stock response they’ve not said yet is:
4. Disabled people use prostitutes (disabled people are incapable of having intimacy without paying for it- nice attitute towards disability)..
I’m waiting Douglas Fox or Danii- when are you going to roll out the ‘disabled punters’ excuse? Surely that’s the one that makes the sex industry seem most cute and fluffy?
Oops and I forgot the insult that ‘feminists are patronising sex-workers’….
Just like people who want to eradicate homelessness patronise those who ‘choose’ to drink themselves to death on street corners…
“Antiplondon you and your comrades are the new patriarchy.”
This is the most idiotic piece of wank you’ve come out with so far.
Quote from the Bug
“I’m waiting Douglas Fox or Danii- when are you going to roll out the ‘disabled punters’ excuse? Surely that’s the one that makes the sex industry seem most cute and fluffy?”
Firstly I do not like the term Punters, Clients is preferable.
Oh, so you are discriminating against disabled people now, how very charming NOT!! and refering to disabled clients as “cute and fluffy” – shame on you. Yes I have disabled clients, what has that got to do with anything?
Sorry if I offend any of you and your views but you are laughable – you really don’t have a clue besides your blinkered vision.
The Bug, not sure of your gender, any of you who are males and married or unmarried, I beg to differ that you have never exploited a woman/wife in return for sexual favours – flowers, chocolates etc or indeed taken the huff when a woman has a headache or can’t be bothered to satisfy your needs. Have never been out on the pull and bought a lady a few drinks expecting something in return later! Get it into your heads many men and women DO choose to be escorts Do choose to be sex workers and enjoy the work that they are doing.
Fight for those who don’t but don’t try and tell those of us who do choose and do enjoy otherwise.
Ah yes, of course, all sex is transactional, and all women are prostitutes really!
Why I myself, in my last relationship with a man, frequently traded sexual pleasure and got sexual pleasure in return!
(and really Dannii, what an odd mixed message, wives and girlfriends have sex only grudgingly, and then only after bribing with chocolates and flowers, but ‘escorts’ do it simply because they love sex so much? Are ‘escorts’ then the only women who enjoy sex?)
To expand on my previous comment;
Prostitution is an intrinsic part of patriarchy. Men’s sexual use of women (or feminised males in situations where females aren’t available) is an intrinsic part of constructing masculinity. It is impossible to challenge patriarchy without challenging the sex industry – to call us ‘the new patriarchy’ because we recognise the role the sex industry has to play in both creating masculinity and enforcing male supremacy is beyond ridiculous.
The biggest con in this debate is that it’s about the individual free choices made in isolation by individual free women; that anti-prostitution campaigners are nothing but nasty radical feminists telling other women what to do.
Prostitution is a system, an institution. The traffickers and pimps understand how this system works when they move women from country to country (or town to town with internal trafficking) and brothel to brothel – to keep them isolated and to feed the demand for ‘fresh faces’. The johns understand this system when they know where to go and how to buy sexual access to women and girls. Governments understand this system when they tacitly condone parts of it, or provide legal (and taxable) end points for trafficking, or when they provide ‘entertainment’ visas to help facilitate trafficking.
The only people who seem to not to understand that prostitution is a system are the pimps who present themselves to the general public as the International Union of Sex Workers, and claim that it is all and only about personal, individual choice.
You claim that trafficking occurs in lots of industries, that is correct, but the experience of, say, picking strawberries, is going to be pretty much the same whether done in ones own garden, for minimum wage, or under debt bondage. Being trafficked into prostitution is to be serially raped, unless you are going to argue that prostitutes can’t be raped, that it’s only ‘theft of services’?
You talk about the ‘diversity’ of sex work, but an IUSW representative stated to the Conservative Women’s Organisation in June 08 that: ‘children who have been sexually exploited sometimes have been so abused that they only feel safe working in sex industry.’ I can’t think of any other industry that can claim ‘you don’t have to be sexually abused as a child to work here, but it helps!’
There is a fundamental dishonesty in trying to claim that prostitution is merely a ‘service’ and ‘work like any other’ but at the same time to try to claim the status of ‘sexual minority’. Again, you are trying to claim a link that isn’t there, I could just as easily say: ‘The history of persecution of both sex workers and paedophiles is well documented’.
Douglas, you are a pimp, you run an escort agency; you are trying to paint yourself as some kind of freedom fighter, but the best you’ll ever be is a capitalist pig.
My Final Word……………
I am a service provider
If there was no demand for the service I provide I would not be in this business, however there is indeed a demand and I am in business – I pay my taxes and NI just like any other business.
Call me what you wish it is water off a ducks back, you have your beliefs I have mine – I know I am not doing any wrong and that is good enough for me. Concentrate your efforts on those who are doing wrong just as I do too 🙂
I should clarify my last comment.
I do not think prostituted women are comparable to paedophiles; I think those involved in the sex industry (so that includes the pimps, the johns, the pornographers, the people sitting behind the till in sex shops) have no right to call themselves a ‘sexual minority’, or to compare their ‘struggle’ to that of gaining civil rights for lesbians and gay men.
Exactly Dannii, it’s about demand. Everywhere that prostitution has been legalised/decriminalised and rendered socially acceptable and ‘work like any other’, demand has gone up. That demand is met through trafficking and coercion.
By signing up to the IUSW, which claims that trafficking is a myth, that the sex industry is the only place sexually abused people can find work, that it’s a job like any other that lots of people want to do, you are doing nothing to protect anyone from abuse, you are helping to render that abuse invisible.
Abuse springs readily to the lips of those who endanger and encourage abuse or so it seems.
So I am now a capitalist pig 🙂
Well sticks and stones they say.
I will continue to work for human rights and the end of stigma and state orchestrated abuse toward those who exercise free will to be sex workers. I will also work to find ways of ending abuse with in that industry much of it caused by the refusal of the state to accept our basic human rights.
I will equally continue to work for safe and dignified treatment of those who are coerced into sex work and indeed any work that is repugnant to them.
My world is very far from the Stalinist state that some on here may find endearing but then diversity is and should be something worth fighting for. That sometimes means accommodating the opinions of those who abhor freedom.
I am very sorry that many refuse to accept others choices or to embrace the diverse nature of human sexuality.
In a world where sex work is viewed by some as only abuse and the voices of sex workers are ignored or worse sex workers are called names then the only thing to do is smile as one always should at bullies and plod on.
We will win.
So first we were the ‘new patriarchs’ now we’re Stalinists? Like you said, sticks and stones.
You really do love this fantasy role you’ve created for yourself, you’re fighting to cement male supremacy, but you call yourself a freedom fighter.
Come on Douglas, why not talk practicalities? Why not talk about the demand side of prostitution? The number of men who are happy to pay to rape trafficked women, or pimped out children, or drug addicts in need of a fix? Why not talk about how profitable it is to treat poor vulnerable women like a disposable resource and make them service ten men a day?
Why not talk about what it means, physically and psychologically, to submit to unwanted sex? To have STIs and unplanned pregnancies as an acceptable ‘work’ hazard?
You may well win, but only because you serve the interests of the patriarchy and the status quo.
“We will win”
You most probably will ‘win’ Douglas because men and the patriarchy usually do. Unfortunately your ‘win’ your ‘battle’ will be fought on the bodies of women and children who don’t have the privilege that is enjoyed by you.
Douglas Fox, I’m a lesbian, don’t you dare link your patronising ableist shit to me under the pretence of ‘gay rights’. I don’t care if you are a gay man, so are plenty of sex offenders.
And you get to define ‘patriarchy’ and ‘feminism’, when you’ve experienced misogyny. Which will not be in this lifetime.
And BTW Douglas. How many female clients do you have eh? Male sex workers (many of whom are underage) are abused by males – the bit you conveniently forget to mention. Oh what a surprise.
APL I wholeheartedly agree with you: ECP and IUSW ‘are sex work advocates and sex industry advocates’ to pretend otherwise is completely disingenuous.
Being in favour of ‘worker’s rights’ implies that people want to work in this industry in the first place. Whereas the truth is that worldwide around 80 or 90% of women in prostitution typically say when asked that they want to leave prostitution.
This is not the same as a cleaner saying they want to leave their job because they would prefer to do work that is better paid and more fulfilling.
Women want to leave prostitution because of the violence, abuse and psychological damage it causes.
IUSW may manage to scrape together a few so-called sex workers who love their job (but have probably never worked as prostitutes anyway), but we know that this is not at all reflective of the majority of sex workers.
[…] London presents What are we Reclaiming For? posted at Anti-Porn […]
Here’s the deal. You have the whole-hearted endorsement of this former prostitute. I understand completely that this is not about you being anti-prostitute, but anti-prostitution. I am not remotely swayed by a bunch of sociopaths responding to your every rational critique of their love of rape by saying that you hate the raped.
I also understand that if almost all clients are men and almost all prostitutes are women, this is still a feminist issue.
I also understand that nothing you said was ablist, but that the implication that a disabled person can’t persuade anybody to have sex with them without money is intensely ablist.
Finally, anarchists for commercial rape are the reason I no longer do anarchist activism. They can tear down their own fucking prisons.
Oh, and when Douglas says that prostitution is done by women and transgendered people and men, he is making a transphobic statement and it should be broadcasted to the people whose liberation movement he’s trying to piggyback. Douglas, do you understand that the transgendered ARE women and men, not a separate category? If so, what’s up with your wording?
Hi Valerie, and thank you for your comments.
I doubt you’ll get a response from Douglas Fox; once one realises that the school yard name calling is just a deliberate obfuscation, and starts asking awkward questions, he (and the other IUSW members) tend to disappear sharpish.
The anarchist stuff really gets me down, the IUSW, essentially a lobby group for the sex industry – one of the biggest industries in the world – has managed to convince almost everyone that they’re some small scale grass-roots organisation. Catherine Stephens is now calling herself a ‘radical anthropologist’ (where does she find the time?) and got a forum at the anti-G20 stuff going on in London last week.
I’m still working out my politics (beyond radical feminism that is) I think I’ll end up some species of socialist-anarchist, and my anarchism is mostly philosophical at the moment. All politic movements in the end are by men and for the benefit of men, even Murry Bookchin, whose The Ecology of Freedom is one of the best books I’ve read, quoted the Marque de fucking Sade in relation to female (sexual) emancipation.
[…] His comment: https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/what-are-we-reclaiming-for/#comment-108 […]
“there is no one else outside of the military or the emergency services who is expected to accept this much risk and violence as a regular part of their ‘work’. Soldiers, at least, are allowed to acknowledge that they are in a war zone; sex workers – for the sake of their ‘agency’ – are not allowed to acknowledge that they are being abused, exploited or oppressed in any systematic way, and this again serves to render those who do the abusing, exploiting and oppressing invisible”
That says it all, really. The ‘work’ is dangerous, it is servicing others, but it is portrayed as ‘liberating’ the prostituted women and girls. I’m surprised no-one has quoted that old chestnut about the criminalisation of ‘clients’ being like criminalising drug users. Well no, because ‘clients’ are paying to use human beings, drug users are paying to use drugs, there’s no comparison. Or there shouldn’t be, but only today on another blog I saw someone making that comparison with no understanding. It really showed how some people treat other human beings as commodities and not as people and really can’t see that they’re doing it.
Yes, there really is no comparison between prostitution and drug use. People aren’t drug addicts because they are poor and it’s the only way for them to make money; and people aren’t in prostitution because they are addicted to it.
The ethics involved are different; if a particular drug was produced by, say, torturing a sentient creature, the ethics of drug use would be entirely different.
I strongly support the anti-porn position
It seems that those who claim it is their “right” to view whatever porn they wish ignore the simple fact that you cannot have rights that dont affect others
You can only view porn if others are involved in making it
if you like certain kinds of porn there will be force involved
but any kind of porn perpetuates the idea of womaen as sex objects
Not so long ago men in this country argued it was their “right” to beat their wives
Men and women still think they should have the right to beat children
and some still think they have the right to own slaves. or to buy and sell arms even if it means there is an increased chance of wars
So the arguements about the “rights” of sex workers are simply not
valid, its like saying the slaves had a right to be slaves