QotD: “the prostitute is not a human being, but a symbol of sexual transgression, with which one can adorn oneself, like an earring”

At the time [that implementing the Nordic Model was being considered in Sweden] there were all the “old-fashioned” arguments: “Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world,” or “A man just can’t help needing sex.” The “modern” arguments came up later. Suddenly, it was: Prostitution is liberated sexuality, and whoever is against it, is a puritanical moralist. That had something to do with the strengthening of the queer movement, which defined prostitution as hip and cool. The problem is, this movement may have called norms into question, but not power relationships. In this discourse, the prostitute is not a human being, but a symbol of sexual transgression, with which one can adorn oneself, like an earring. So I decided to write a book, in order to bring some facts into the debate. For example, opponents of the anti-john law have always claimed that the law was just the doing of social workers and radical feminists, and that no one had ever listened to the prostitutes. But when I looked at the studies, I realized that this was not true. In the 1970s, there had been a complete change of perspective among researchers. Whereas before, people used to look on prostitutes as criminals and not a part of society, later they began to go into their milieu, and ask questions of them. Ever since then, studies about prostitution have drawn their conclusions from the world of prostitution: from prostitutes themselves, but also from pimps and johns. Their testimony forms the basis of our law.
[…]
Yes, and it’s interesting to look at it from a historical viewpoint. A hundred years ago, people argued very differently in order to defend prostitution. Back then, they said: Prostitution is necessary in order to keep families intact. If a man can’t go to prostitutes, they said, then he wouldn’t be able to stick it out in his marriage. He would become wild and unpredictable, and civilization would break down. But if he could go to a brothel, he would come home calm and level-headed. So prostitution used to be sold to us as a marriage-saving device, but today, the [liberal sex positive] movement is pushing prostitution as a means to break up the crusty old family model. To legitimize prostitution, therefore, whichever argument best fits the spirit of the times is the one that gets used.

Kajsa Ekis Ekman, Swedish feminist and author of Varat och Varan, discussing prostitution in an interview with EMMA (a German feminist magazine)

(Found at Next Years Girl)

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3 responses

  1. Great quote. Ekis Ekman’s book Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self is a devastating takedown of the ideologies deployed to justify the sex industry. She also examines the expanding commercial surrogacy industry in the same light: poor women’s bodies placed on the the global market on a mass scale, all of it facilitated by ‘money from the right, rhetoric from the left’.

    Comparing the two industries as part of the same phenomenon, which declares that a women’s body is not a part of her own being, she writes:

    ‘We create it as the being and the bought, the Self versus the product, the private life versus the trademark, my psyche versus my body, my real smile versus the false waitress’ grin. It is this division that is prized in capitalist societies, exactly this split that forms the foundation of the story of the sex worker: a Self that ‘owns’ a body has come to characterize all of femaleness today. A women’s Self is declared equal to a man’s while her body becomes an object.

    This division has deeper roots in patriarchal society: between reproduction and sexuality, the virgin and the whore, image and text, practice and theory. It is women being forced to bear male psychological complexes, complexes that have become industries. Thailand delivers women for having sex with. India delivers women for bearing children. The earth is structured, literally, in man’s own image, according to man’s desires.’

  2. Brilliant quote, thank you

  3. […] At the time [that implementing the Nordic Model was being considered in Sweden] there were all the “old-fashioned” arguments: “Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world,” or “A man just can’t help needing sex.” The “modern” arguments came up later. Suddenly, it was: Prostitution is liberated sexuality, and whoever is against it, is a puritanical moralist. That had something to do with the strengthening of the queer movement, which defined prostitution as hip and cool. The problem is, this movement may have called norms into question, but not power relationships. In this discourse, the prostitute is not a human being, but a symbol of sexual transgression, with which one can adorn oneself, like an earring. So I decided to write a book, in order to bring some facts into the debate. For example, opponents of the anti-john law have always claimed that the law was just the doing of social workers and radical feminists, and that no one had ever listened to the prostitutes. But when I looked at the studies, I realized that this was not true. In the 1970s, there had been a complete change of perspective among researchers. Whereas before, people used to look on prostitutes as criminals and not a part of society, later they began to go into their milieu, and ask questions of them. Ever since then, studies about prostitution have drawn their conclusions from the world of prostitution: from prostitutes themselves, but also from pimps and johns. Their testimony forms the basis of our law… […]

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