At the end of last year I wrote a piece examining the ways in which radical feminists/prostitution abolitionists are smeared as being ‘in league with religious fundamentalists’.
In it I wrote: “It’s almost as if it’s possible for two groups, with wildly opposing views, to have one small area of overlapping agreement, without either group suffering from any internal inconsistency!”
But let us, as a thought experiment, pretend the smearers are right, and that if your politics has one small area of overlap with another group’s politics, then you are in league with them, and think exactly the same way they do!
In that case, who are the sex industry advocates in league with?
France came close, last year, to adopting an abolitionist approach to prostitution (also described as the ‘Nordic’ or ‘Swedish’ model, where the john is criminalised, while the prostitute her or him self is decriminalised), but the law stalled in the senate.
This, then, places sex industry advocates in league with the male-dominated establishment in France, where Dominique Strauss Kahn’s ~alleged~ rape of Nafissatou Diallo is seen by many as “the master having his way with the servant.”
Christine Delphy, a feminist sociologist and writer, believes the Carlton trial shows attitudes are changing but, she says, “only marginally and very slowly”. “I still hear people claiming the Sofitel incident was a conspiracy or blaming it on American puritanism and defending what DSK did with the ‘private life’ argument,” said Delphy. “This is France, a country where many white politicians asked how it was possible that a black, immigrant chambermaid dared to make a complaint against a powerful man, where Nafissatou Diallo was treated as a liar and a gold-digger. A male commentator said what happened was simply a case of the master having his way with the servant.
If, in the UK, in the future, the new Tory regime decides to decriminalise the sex industry, it won’t be because of a genuine concern about marginalised women, but because of a neoliberal ideology that sees all human beings as nothing more than economic units making rational economic choices, in a free market that can magically regulate itself; or because of old-fashioned patriarchal ideas about men ‘needing’ a sacrificial class of prostituted women, who aren’t good for anything else anyway, and that some women are just ‘born whores’.
The risk of being ‘in league’ with right wingers/religious fundamentalists/etc, is never a concern for sex industry advocates. So even if they did get their way under the Tories, that would never be seen as proof that they were in league with them (despite the neoliberal leanings of some sex industry advocates).
Funny how that works isn’t it?
QotD: “Something that frustrates me about some of the third wave rhetoric around rape is the refusal to accept that ‘victim’ is a perfectly apt, accurate word”
Something that frustrates me about some of the third wave rhetoric around rape is the refusal to accept that ‘victim’ is a perfectly apt, accurate word, and when stripped of patriarchal connotations (like victims LET things happen to them or even ASK for them—this is only for female victims of rape, of course), victim is the only word used for raped women that actually directs some attention to the VICTIMIZER.
The word survivor does not make sense for every woman who was raped. I was raped twice and neither time did I feel like my life was in danger. Neither time, when a stranger took off my clothes and raped me while I was unconscious, or when my ex disregarded my withdrawal of consent, did I feel glad that I had SURVIVED. Because not surviving wasn’t a tangible risk in either case. Saying I’m not a victim I’m a SURVIVOR actually deals quite a few blows to feminism.
-raped women feel revictimized by the negative connotations of ‘victim’ despite how sensible the term is
-forces raped women to compare her actions as a self-identified victim to those of a survivor, creates two ways of perceiving raped women (with victim being negative and survivor being positive)
-women are encouraged to drop the label of victim, which implies a crime was willfully done against her, to survivor, which implies ‘yeah you got raped, but at least you’re alive’. Takes the focus away from the perpetrator. Suggests raped woman should be grateful her rape was only a MERE RAPE and not a rape/murder
-what about the women who don’t survive? Victim is okay for them? Did they survive the rape but not the murder, or is it okay to call raped women victims only when they die?
-what about the women who were raped, did not die at the hands of the rapists, but later go on to commit suicide? Survivor is not exactly a very fucking nice way of putting that, is it?
Patriarchy has a lot of ways of making women hate the words used to describe us. Sometimes we try to reclaim them and sometimes we swap them out. I understand why. I did survive multiple rapes—I was raped and I’m alive. But men made me a victim (against my will, as everyone should but doesn’t infer from the word). Their lack of desire to see me dead was why I survived—I don’t thank them for that, nor do I celebrate that my rapes did not end in my death. I’m a rape victim and so-far survivor of male violence. I won’t smile and be thankful. I won’t soften the phrasing or redirect the blame.
Victim doesn’t mean you invited danger. Victim doesn’t mean you deserved it or had it coming or should have expected it. Victim doesn’t mean you put yourself in harm’s way, it doesn’t mean you were bad or foolish or too trusting or too quiet or too scared. These are all rape myths. It means someone felt so entitled to your body that they took your rights from you. It means egregious harm was done you based SOLELY on the decision-making of a rapist. Being a victim means it wasn’t your fault.
So let’s not reclaim slut and call would-be rapists slut-shamers. Let’s not call raped women ‘sluts’ against their will. Because when rapists and other men hear ‘slut-shame’ they don’t think “a man was a misogynist pig to a woman whose likelihood of being raped is about 1in4.” They think “A slut got rightfully called out on/abused for her sluttiness,”
When the term victim is verboten yet slut draped widely over every woman, we have lost a battle of language. We have shifted from naming the agent—the shamers, the victimizers, the GUILTY—because they are violent and scary and for some reason women are still supposed to marry and fuck them.
Women are not sluts, victims are not stupid, and surviving rape puts the onus on the raped women. Rapists make victims. Don’t make it so difficult to use such important framing.