QotD: “When sex is coerced, we have a word for it: rape”

All work is coerced under capitalism.

When sex is coerced, we have a word for it: rape.

Could you maybe see how being raped for a living is a little bit different from being coerced in to standing behind a cash register?

Witwitch

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4 responses

  1. In what sense is all work coerced under capitalism?

    Sure, we all have to do some kind of work in order to live, but nobody is coerced to do a particular kind of work.
    In particular, nobody is coerced to be a porn performer (or in cases where they are, it’s treated as a crime).
    Performing in porn may be the most lucrative option available to some people, depending on their skills and qualifications, but it’s never the only option.

    Moreover, regarding the “sex is different” argument: Actors in Hollywood films often kiss (or simulate sex with) people they don’t necessary like or want to kiss as part of their job, in exchange for money.

    Historically, this hasn’t been the case in all cinemas; for example in Indian cinema, screen kisses were/are largely absent, and would have been seen as obscene or pornographic.

    Shouldn’t people be free to set their own boundaries about what they are prepared to do with their own bodies as part of their work, rather than have them dictated to them (“kissing acceptable, penetration bad”)? Always assuming people have a genuine choice in the matter.

    Do you also oppose arthouse films that feature “real sex” onscreen? (Intimacy, Nine Songs, Shortbus etc.)

  2. Ok, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your questions are genuine, rather than you being a disingenuous troll who gets a kick out of using up my time, but, really, would it have killed you to actually read this blog to see what I have already said on the subject?

    In the right-hand side bar there is a search box, a list of recommended posts, a list of most popular posts, and a list of categories. If you had just read back through two pages of current posts, you would have seen me ask this question:

    If a desperately poor man signed a contract to work in a factory with a piece of machinery that was known to be dangerous, and that piece of machinery ripped his arm off, would you argue that it was his own fault because he ‘chose’ to be there? Because he was being paid to be there? Would you argue that he signed a contract, that he knew what he was getting himself into? That nobody was holding a gun to his head and forcing him to work with that machinery?

    No?

    Then why do you think women being sexually abused on a porn set is fine because they signed a contract, because they get paid, because nobody is holding a gun to their head?

    Society has collectively decided, through heath and safety legislation, that people cannot ‘choose’ to work in dangerous conditions that can risk their health or their lives, even if they are poor and desperate. You are free to choose to juggle blood stained knives in the privacy of your own kitchen, but if your kitchen is also your workplace, even if you are your only employee, health and safety legislation still applies.

    The term ‘all work is coerced under capitalism’ is used by sex industry advocates who claim to be left wing to try to prove that ‘sex work’ is no different from any other kind of work – if it’s all coerced, why single out ‘sex work’?

    Radical feminists see this as a dishonest argument, being coerced into sex is different to being coerced into washing dishes.

    The term ‘all work is coerced under capitalism’ is true, because, as you said, we do all need money and do all have to work. The idea that there’s always other work available is either naive, or callous, the vast majority of women in the sex industry are there through lack of choice, a drug-addict with a chaotic life is unlikely to be able to hold down a minimum-wage, zero-hours job in the service industry, and certainly won’t be able to fund a drug habit on their pay. The idea that they should be able to ‘choose’ pornography or prostitution, rather than get help with their drug addiction (and the things that led to that drug addiction, like a history of child sex abuse, or being manipulated into it by a boyfriend/pimp), is essentially washing your hands of a whole group of people as being good for nothing else.

    Some young women do go into porn freely, with the naive idea that it will be glamorous and make them rich and famous. Read Feminist Current’s review of Hot Girls Wanted, after a few ‘amateur’ shoots they up doing extreme scenes or they don’t work any more.

    Have you actually seen any porn, or read any descriptions of contemporary pornography? Porn lobby groups argue that the ‘sex’ on a porn set is so violent that condoms can’t be used – do you think that is an acceptable ‘choice’ for anyone to make – to ‘choose’ between a condom that could rub you raw, and then break (assuming that the pornographer will agree to shoot with condoms), or no condom at all, under a STI testing system that has been shown many times to be inadequate?

    Do you think it is acceptable for a woman to ‘choose’ a job where she ends up eating vomit? How about ass-to-mouth or double anals? Do you think deliberately causing ones anus to prolapse is a reasonable ‘choice’ for anyone to make?

    Do you think a fair and reasonable society should allow people to ‘choose’ to sign a contract for work that they know will cause them psychological and physical harm? If you are ok with women ‘choosing’ to be abused on porn sets, do you then think that men can ‘choose’ to work in mines they know will collapse on them, or machines they know will rip their arm off?

    Regarding kissing and simulated sex scenes in mainstream film and TV, there are issues, especially for young women just starting out in the business, with feeling pressure to do naked and more explicit scenes (think all the brothel scenes in Game of Thrones, for example). But, sex scenes in mainstream film and TV are faked; effort will be spent to make sure the actors’ genitals do not come into contact, using stick-on patches, and eg, sheets will be glued on so that nothing is revealed, also, hopefully filming will be done considerately, so that the actors feel comfortable with what they are doing (although this does not always happen, Blue is the Warmest Colour being an example of when that did not happen). Kissing can be shot in a certain way to make it look more ‘involved’ than it is (eg a particular angle so you can’t tell if they are using tongues or not).

    Also, and obviously, all porn involves unsimulated sex, not all acting has to involve simulated sex, or even kissing.

    Your they can’t do that, that’s illegal! argument with regards to coercion on porn sets really doesn’t cut it. Women on porn sets are bullied, manipulated and coerced, it would be impossible to make porn otherwise, and if a woman walks off set, she will never work again.

    I’m not aware of a single case of a woman who felt she was abused on a porn set getting any legal redress; if she did try to go to the police, what do you think would happen? She’d be told she wasn’t being held at gun-point, that she ‘chose’ to be there, that she had signed a contract. (So far, only the victims of child commercial sexual exploitation and ‘revenge porn’ – eg ‘good victims’ can sue the pornographers or the porn consumers.)

    Porn companies now distribute what they call ‘out takes’ of all the moments when a woman becomes hysterical from the pain and abuse she is experiencing on set; it’s sold as something funny and is almost a porn genre in it’s own right.

    Linda Lovelace, when she went public about the abuse she experienced during the filming of Deep Throat, was not believed; men told her to her face that they had seen the film and they though she looked like she was enjoying it, so she must be lying now when she said it was abuse. Women and girls who are raped are routinely not believed, how is a woman who wasn’t forced onto a porn set at gun-point going to get her case heard?

    Regarding what counts as ‘porn’ and what counts as ‘art’, this is a red herring. I am not actually interested in policing every single sexually explicit image in existence, and the existence of a hand-full of arthouse films with ‘real’ sex, or a hand-full of porn films that might be good enough to count as art is irrelevant compared to the massive multi-billion dollar porn industry that nobody is actually confused about in the real world (least of all the pornographers and the porn consumers).

  3. […] In the comment thread under this post I said: “I’m not aware of a single case of a woman who felt she was abused on a porn set getting any legal redress”, well, I’ve done some googling (up to page 11 for the search engine term “porn star sues pornographer”), and below are the only cases I could find that even came close (none of them are specifically and directly about the conditions of making pornography, except, perhaps, for the case of syphilis exposure). […]

  4. An obvious point I didn’t make directly: there is a big qualitative difference between kissing someone you are not attracted to, and submitting to unwanted sex acts (particularly the ultra-violent sex acts of modern mainstream het porn), it is possible to do the former simply as an act (it’s not as if smiling at, or holding hands with, someone you don’t like is actually traumatizing), the latter is psychologically and physically harmful.

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