Slavery by Another Name: Sex Work and the “Empowerment” Charade in Gender Studies

An Open Letter on Sexual Subjugation and Intellectual Rationalization

by Sunsara Taylor

Some people say that it is wrong to call for the abolition of pornography, prostitution and the entire global sex industry. They claim that doing so only further stigmatizes the women—and very young girls—who are bought and sold and denies these women—and these very young girls—their “agency.” Instead of abolishing the sex industry, these people insist, we should be “empowering” women and girls to “reclaim sex work” and we should be fighting the sense of shame that is imposed on these women and girls for the “work” that they do.

Outrageously, a great many of those making this argument are concentrated in the “Gender Studies” departments at universities and colleges throughout this country and therefore have disproportionate influence over the thinking of young people who are concerned about the oppressed conditions of women throughout the world.

To those who make this argument, and to all those influenced by it, I pose the following:

During the many long and bitter years of outright chattel slavery in the history of the United States, did Black people suffer not only physical brutality, cruelty and disfigurement on a mass scale, but also tremendous psychological trauma, shame, and humiliation as a major part of that experience?


But, does that mean that those generations of enslaved people needed to be “empowered” to make the most of their situation within the confines of slavery? Did they need to be counseled and told not to feel so ashamed or devalued just because they were enslaved?

Or did they need people, millions and millions of people, to fight and to sacrifice to put an end to the back-breaking, spirit-crushing crime against humanity of slavery and, in that process, to repudiate the ideology and culture of white supremacy and Black inferiority which was not only promoted by the U.S. ruling class but which also inflicted deep scars on the psyches of the oppressed themselves?

For anyone with any sense of history and a conscience, the question answers itself.

Applying the same basic standard today, it is simply immoral to refuse to stand up against and demand the abolition of the global sex industry which dehumanizes, degrades, tortures, exploits, traumatizes and brutalizes millions of women and very young girls each year—and which fosters a culture where all women are demeaned, degraded, devalued and endangered. Beyond that, it is impossible to conceive of putting an end to the stigma and the shame that is heaped on women who are used and degraded in the sex industry while simultaneously rationalizing and defending this very industry as it daily treats these women (and very young girls) as nothing more than human chattel.

From Stop Patriarchy, published at Revolution


3 responses

  1. Hear hear – but it must be recognised the Pornstitution Industry treats women and girls as ‘mens’ chattel’ not ‘human chattel.’ Women do not have the institutionalised and individual power to routinely reduce women and girls to ‘chattel’ but men’s pseudo right reinforced by the Male Supremacist System continues to be regarded as sacrosant and must never, ever be challenged or eliminated.

    We women have yet to be accorded our fundamental right of human dignity because we continue to be defined by men for men’s benefit. Hence our demand for Women’s Liberation from Male Domination and Male Power.

    Slavery continues to be viewed as something which only affects men because man’s experiences (sic) are default human ones. Women continue to be objects and/or defined from male perspective.

    Male oppression of women is non-existent within the Gender Studies world because all women and men are supposedly equally oppressed by that invisible unknowable entity which can never be named or defined.

  2. I like this article and I like the parallel. I always use the enslaved Negroes/oppressed women parallel myself.

  3. Hello, and thank you for all your comments. I would like to point out that ‘Negroes’ is an out-dated and offensive way to address black/African/African American/POC individuals, and unless you are using it in an historical context it is inappropriate. I’m sure you are not trying to be racist, and I say this only to impart information. Thank you.

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