Why does the left want prostitution to be ‘a job like any other’?

The go-to perspective on prostitution from many progressives in Canada these days seems to be a fairly hard and fast vote for decriminalization or legalization. Even many of our beloved East Vancouver lefties  seem convinced that the most progressive position to take is one of ‘sex as work’, arguing that debates around prostitution should prioritize labour rights, allowing women to come out from the underground and ‘into the light’ as free and autonomous workers.

The gaps in this logic are all at once complex and simple. While I have long been a supporter of labour rights, of unions, and have counted myself as a fighting member of the working class who has waivered somewhere between socialism and Marxism from the moment I understood the concept of class struggle, I’ve found myself suddenly misaligned with some of those with whom I share my end of the political spectrum.

These are the people I vote for. They represent my interests and ideologies and yet, when it comes to the issue of prostitution, it feels as though we’ve been pitted against one another.

On one hand there seems to be a distinct lack of class analysis – we forget that there are reasons that some women are prostituted while others are not, that some women have a ‘choice’ while others do not. On the other, because decriminalization has, in part, been framed as a labour issue (i.e. that this is a job like any other and, therefore, should be treated in the same way any other service sector job is, in terms of laws), the gender and race factors fall to the wayside and we forget that prostitution impacts women and, in particular, racialized women in an inordinate way. Prostitution simply doesn’t happen to men in the same way that it does to women. It is no mere coincidence that the missing and murdered women and that Pickton’s victim’s were, largely Aboriginal women, that many of the women on the streets in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver are Aboriginal. Where is the race, the gender, and the class analysis within decriminalization rhetoric? How will licensing help women who cannot ‘work’ legally? How will decriminalizing male buyers, male abusers, pimps and johns keep women safe from these men? Particularly when so many of the women being bought and sold have little choice in the matter?

Why has decriminalization been positioned as the progressive position to take in Canada?

On November 4th, Forrest Wickam asked, in a piece for Slate Magazine “What did the founders of socialism think of prostitution?” Strangely, for those who count themselves among the group of progressives who maintain that the violence and abuse that is so much a part of prostitution can only be negated via a normalization of the industry via an ideology based in workers rights, those who brought us our class struggle, who provided us with the idea of a working class, did not view prostitution as ‘a job like any other’. Rather, it would seem as though they were, in fact, abolitionists.

Wickam explains that: “Karl Marx viewed prostitutes as victims of the capitalist system,” hoping that prostitution would vanish alongside capitalism. He goes on to say that Marx “viewed the abolition of prostitution as a necessary part of ending capitalism.”

So why are progressives promoting the idea that prostitution is simply the selling of a service? Why are abolitionists being paired alongside the Christian right? Why is the conversation around prostitution not one that is framed by a desire for freedom from oppression but, instead seems rooted in a starting place that says, decidedly, “well, we give up”.

And indeed, when our work is to normalize the industry rather than to provide exiting programs, social safety nets, public education programs, and other options for women who find themselves without a way to support themselves or who are vulnerable, I do think that we are giving up.

Decriminalization seems to assume that prostitution is inevitable and that, therefore, male power and dominance is inevitable and, as such, all we can do is to make the best of it.

Why are progressives giving up on women? And not only that but why are they giving up on men? Why is there an assumption that men must treat women as things to be used for their pleasure? Is the message we want to send out in Vancouver and, more widely in Canada: “this is what men do” or “this is what we expect from the society we live in”?

Not only that but when we frame sex as work, we work from an assumption that sex can be something that exists only for male pleasure. That sex can be something that happens to women but does not require that women feel pleasure as part of the act.

The reason for a man to buy sex from a woman is, without a doubt, because he desires pleasure without having to give anything in return. This is a male-centered purchase. If we are to define sex as something pleasurable for both parties then how on earth can we define prostitution as sex work? There is something decidedly unprogressive about calling something ‘sex’ when the act is, in fact, solely about providing pleasure for one party (the male party) without any regard for the woman with whom you are engaging in this supposed ‘sex’ with. Doesn’t this defy the whole enthusiastic consent model?

While I certainly support human rights and worker rights, I also support women’s rights and believe that, as a feminist, I cannot and will not work towards normalizing the idea that women can and should be bought and sold. I certainly will not promote this as part of my progressive politics.

Prostitution exists because of the inextricable link between capitalism and patriarchy. The two, under these circumstances, cannot be separated. Desperation, poverty, abuse, addiction, a lack of other opportunities for work, a need to pay the rent and feed the kids, a history of colonialism and racism, and of course, a misogynistic culture that treats women as things that exist to feed the capitalist wheel, to sell and to be sold,  all work together to create a society wherein prostitution not only exists, but thrives (if you consider an abundance of men profiting from prostitution and sex industries ‘thriving’). Why is the response to the abuse, to the exploitation, to the deaths, and to the trauma that many women experience as a result of being prostituted, to treat this as simply ‘a job like any other’? What other job demands that the employee be violated? Maybe raped? Maybe abused? Maybe murdered? Maybe called horrid names until self-confidence has been worn down to a thread? Maybe develop PTSD? What progressive person would argue that this kind of treatment should be legitimized? That women’s bodies, indeed, should be available for purchase by men? And that men should feel A-OK about that?

In what profession is it expected that ONLY women must provide for ONLY men as part of equitable workplace legislation (and I don’t believe I should have to remind everyone that yes, the vast majority of prostituted women service men)? How is it progressive to institutionalize gender inequity? Women as things that can be bought or sold when under duress, to men who have the means, is not a progressive position to take. Why our fellow left wing politicians and comrades have not explored alternatives to the normalization of sexism and abuse, such as the Nordic model remains somewhat of a mystery to me.

We want women to be safe, but we also want women to be human. We want women to have rights, but we also want women to have real choices. We want respect and equitable treatment for women but we don’t believe that johns will ever provide this. No man who thinks he has the right to purchase women is a man who believes in real equality and a man who can legally do this is a man who thinks that this is what women should do for him. No woman should be thrown in jail for having to do what she needs to in order to survive, but certainly we don’t need to accept and legalize exploitation from men in order to decriminalize the women?

Simply, no person who views themselves as progressive and who believes in working towards an equitable society should, from my perspective, also believe that an equitable society can exist in one where women are prostituted.

I support my left wing allies and my progressive representatives but I cannot understand how we can share a desire to end capitalism or corporate greed or oppression in any form and not all at once desire to end prostitution.

 

 

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Grasping at Straws: Comparing Slutwalk and Occupy Wall Street

Recently, there have been a slew of articles written about women and Occupy Wall Street. Particularly, the need for a feminist presence in the movement and the recognition that women are often the ones who suffer the most under an inequitable economic system.

In an unfortunate, but hardly surprising, male-centric lapse of judgement, some dudes decided that the best way to get folks out to protest was to turn women into sacrificial lambs, with a site and video called “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.” I mean, why bother paying any attention to women if they aren’t turning you on? In fact, why bother doing anything at all if you can’t reinforce your male power by objectifying women?

Though this kind of attitude towards women in progressive movements is nothing new, this particular brand of douchebaggery doesn’t seem to at all be representative of the Occupy  movement as a whole. This is, in fact, a movement that is very much relevant to women and very much needs a feminist perspective within it. As pointed out by , in a piece posted at the Ms. Magazine Blog:

Because we are already starting from a disadvantaged position, women are often among the hardest hit in economically troubled times, and this is especially true for women of color. Women are also disproportionately impacted when states slash public services, as so many have done in recent months. Because they are far more likely than men to be single parents struggling to provide for a family on a single income, many women are devastated by cuts to family assistance programs. And as we have seen repeatedly with the threatened federal cuts to Planned Parenthood funding, as well as several individual states’ recent cuts to family planning programs, women’s health services are considered by many politicians to be expendable.

This is a movement that is very much about us, the 51%. Not only is corporate capitalism a system that is tied to and thrives via a deep connection to patriarchy and a hierarchical  system of power that is racist and sexist at its core, but it thrives on the backs of women, literally.

A flier created by New York feminists, Rebecca Sloan, Cathy Barbarits, and Kathy Miriam that is being handed out at Occupy Wall Street, points out that the unpaid (and underpaid) labour done by women are the legs of the capitalist system:

Global capitalism is made possible by women’s unpaid work in the household…In Canada unpaid work is estimated to be worth up to 41% of the GDP.  The shifting the burden of domestic labor from elite women to the domestic laborers (maids) culled from subordinate groups of women (immigrants; women of color; poor women) is another part of this same process of exploitation.

Women of colour, in particular, are most often the ones who are left behind and stepped on in a system that functions on economic inequality.  They are the ones who end up doing the work that white women of privilege don’t want to do and they are the ones who are least likely to be able to climb past the glass ceiling and into positions of power.

It is also imperative that we recognize the way in which these exploitative systems lead to and encourage sex work and trafficking, another industry that impacts marginalized women and women of colour particularly. As pointed out in the same flier:

Trafficking occurs in a context of global economic inequalities and a failure to respect the human rights of a majority of the world’s population. Enormous amounts of people find themselves unable to provide for their families and are forced into situations of extreme desperation.

Women who are poor and women who are vulnerable are often the ones who have no choice but to resort to sex work, who are prostituted, and who are trafficked.

Indeed, the Occupy movement, is about us, the 51%.

So, how does this all relate to Slutwalk, as the title of this article implies? Well, it doesn’t, really, although in what is perhaps an act of desperation on the parts of Slutwalk organizers and participants who are watching their briefly novel movement drift into the background in the face of a movement that is truly radical and potentially revolutionary, a couple of people have tried very hard to link the two movements.

An article by Bryce Covert, at Alternet, imagines that Slutwalk and Occupy Wall Street are linked via ‘raw emotion’, and because both movements are ‘calling out the culture at large.’

In another piece written by Hanqing Chen, entitled: NYC SlutWalk Gets OWS Fever, the author writes that SlutWalk’s activists “said the Wall Street protests have paved the way forward in building attention for their own movement,” imagining that they will “partner with Occupy Wall Street to spread their own message.” So first Slutwalk tries to co-opt feminism, and now they want to co-opt the Occupy movement? Well, good luck.

The differences between the two movements are numerous. But perhaps most important is that which was recently pointed out by Eve Ensler:

The genius of Occupy Wall Street is that so far it is not brandable and that’s what makes its potential so daunting, so far reaching, so inclusive, and so dangerous. It cannot be defined and so it cannot be sold, as a sound bite or a political party or even a thing. It can’t be summed up and dismissed.

The key to Slutwalk’s popularity was that it was brandable right from the get go. It was salable. Slutwalk was loved by the media and by many because it provided exactly what mainstream culture wants and needs in order to sell a product: women’s bodies. It replicated images and messages that are easily consumed by the dominant culture, that is: women are consumable and they are to be looked at. It told us that which we already know: don’t bother looking at or listening to women unless they are up on a stage, dancing around in their underwear for an audience.

Whereas the Occupy movement is a direct response to a neoliberal capitalist system, Slutwalk was a ‘movement’ (if you want to call it that) that sprang from and embraced neoliberal capitalism. It sold women and it sold sex work as empowerment. Slutwalk bought right into to everything that we are being sold, turned it around and told the world that this was the route to liberation. Most of all, it sold a message of individualism – the key to the success of the capitalist system. Capitalism is all about the message of indivualism vs collectivism, man is an island under a capitalist system, and we are all to believe that if we work hard enough, as individuals, we can be successful. Health care, social safety nets, affordable housing? Those things are all a pain in the ass if you’re already wealthy and privileged. Those things don’t affect you if you aren’t poor or marginalized, so why bother? Other people aren’t your responsibility if you are a capitalist and if something makes you feel good then gosh darn it, you should do it!

Sound familiar? Slutwalk argued, right off the bat, that this was a movement all about individuals and that, if what they were doing, as individuals, was impacting other women negatively, well, too freakin bad. If you think sex work is great, then it’s great, regardless of how it impacts and hurts and exploits other women; women with less privilege than yourself. If you want to call yourself a slut and encourage men to call you a slut (because now that’s empowering!), then do it! Even if it throws other women under the bus in the process.

Slutwalk followed the rules. They bought into a patriarchal, neoliberal, capitalist message and tried to sell it back to us as revolutionary. But it wasn’t.

The Occupy movement never followed the rules. They did not partner with the cops and they didn’t ask for permits.The Occupy movement, rather, is challenging and confronting  ‘the rules’ and is taking on the ideologies of capitalism and individualism. They are not asking for permission.

Occupy Wall Street did not build a movement that would be salable to the mainstream media. They did not build a movement with the specific intention to attract the attention of the media. They did not need a shocking and controversial name to sell themselves and they certainly did not need pole-dancing women to build momentum.

This does not mean that the Occupy movement is free of, or should escape criticism.

Peter Gelderloos notes, in an article for counterpunch.org that this movement must be careful to build on what has been learned from past progressive movements:

All of these [past radical] movements constitute lessons learned that can be passed down to aid future struggles. So often, the mistakes that defeat a revolutionary movement are repeated.

Gelderloos goes on to say:

In general, people in the United States face severe disadvantages in fighting power. The popular struggles of past generations were brutally crushed and critical lessons were not passed on. People have to start from scratch in a society constructed to meet the needs of money. In part because of this, people in the US have a unique opportunity to influence struggles worldwide, should they overcome the obstacles and turn these protests into something powerful.

And we, as feminists, must ensure that this movement includes an analysis of the way in which women are particularly disenfranchised under a capitalist system and ensure that women are not relegated to a position that requires they are ‘seen and not heard’ as the ‘Hot Chicks of Wall Street’ video does.

Yes, there are flaws in the Occupy movement, but it hasn’t begun from a position that is complicit in the very systems it claims to confront. It has not sent a message of individualism and it hasn’t told those who dare to critique it that if they don’t like it they can sit down and shut up.

Any comparisons between Slutwalk and the Occupy movement are desperate, if anything, as the focus moves away (finally) from half-naked women with the word ‘slut’ plastered across their faces and bodies, to a movement that demands the system change, and doesn’t simply aim to re-frame oppression and encourage women to make the most of  what we’ve got. What we need is something new, something drastically different – and that is going to take more than media coverage and personal catharsis.

 

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Slutwalk NYC: More of the same

I’ve got to be honest here. I truly believed that Slutwalk NYC was going to be different. Not different enough to lose the ‘slut’, and therefore, not different enough to convince me that this ‘movement’ was one I wanted anything to do with, but perhaps different enough to hold validity beyond personal catharsis. Maybe this Slutwalk would actually say something radical. Maybe this Slutwalk would comment on systematic oppression. Maybe even this Slutwalk would present a challenge to male power.

It didn’t.

Today, this video was posted, along with a blog which notes, among other things, the frustration felt by many about the way in which the media has focused “on the most elaborately undressed and risque marchers.”

 

 

Strangely, this video did just that. Which leads me to believe that maybe, just maybe, that’s what Slutwalks are actually like? Maybe those images we see of women marching down the streets in their underwear holding signs that read: “sluts say yes!” are an honest representation of what actually happens at Slutwalks? Is it really just the media manipulating the message?

In any case, there are a few reasons I thought this particular Slutwalk might, just might be different:

a) Slutwalk has been critiqued to death by so many feminists that one could fairly assume that some of these critiques might actually have sunk in.

b) This semi-promising promotional video which, unlike many other Slutwalks, actually mentions the word ‘feminism’:

c) I actually spoke with some Slutwalk NYC organizers who seemed to have put a lot of thought into this particular event and didn’t necessarily agree with the idea that we could or should be working to ‘reclaim slut’

d) Wishful thinking?

 

And hey, I wasn’t there. There are women who were there this past weekend, at the march, who reflected on it with mixed, though relatively positive feelings.

But then there was the video.

Between the women dancing and posing on stage in their underwear, the women with ‘tramp’ and ‘slut’ inked onto their bodies, the slogans: “I have the pussy so I make the rules”, the pole-dancing, and the men, standing on the sidelines grinning, leering, and taking photos, this video really says it all. Or it says a lot, at least.

A feminist ‘movement’ wherein men take photos of women dancing around stripper poles? Sounds radical!

I’ve talked about Slutwalk with so many people, coming from so many different places (participants, organizers, criticizers, and those who’ve never even heard of it before) that I think, at this point, I have a fairly good understanding of why women participate. Slutwalk does make many women feel empowered. It does make women feel as though they no longer are alone, or that they no longer need to feel ashamed about their sexual assault. And that’s great. But where do we go from here? How do we make change so that women actually aren’t raped anymore? So that men no longer feel that they have the right to access women’s bodies? So that women no longer feel like every move they make is being watched and sexualized?

These are all questions that I feel continue not to be addressed by any Slutwalk. Somehow, connections between objectification, the oppressive male gaze, sex industries, and rape culture are not being made. And when they are made, they are quickly shut down with retorts that accuse critics of being either ‘sex-negative’ (spoiler alert! There’s no such thing!) or of hating sex workers. And again dialogue is squashed, critiques are silenced, and Slutwalk rages on, claiming to have ‘reinvigorated the feminist movement.’

Now, I think we can reasonably excuse some of the mistakes made by the original Slutwalk held in Toronto. It was reactionary and it was organized very quickly as a direct response to an incident which happened in Toronto. This is not to say that we should not have critiqued this event, as there were many, many problematic aspects of that original Slutwalk which deserved critique and questioning, but rather that, at this point, I would have thought things might have changed a little. I thought that, perhaps, after all this discussion and debate, some of this discussion and debate might have been heard and then reflected in future events. But no. Instead, we see the same old thing.

As many have pointed out, and Keli Goff points out, once again in an article called ‘Dear Feminists, Will You Also be Marching in N***erwalk?’: “you can’t  “reclaim” a word defined by a predominant group in power unless you are a part of that group.” And to that, I would add: you can’t ‘reclaim’ the male gaze. It doesn’t belong to you and it doesn’t empower you. It is a disempowering gaze. Which is why I find it so absurd that this march, supposedly against rape culture, is so focused on performing for the male gaze and calling it empowerment.

One woman in the video states: “we should not blame women for their own sexuality,” – but what does that mean? Is pole-dancing about female sexuality? Or is it about performing for the male gaze? Is rape about female sexuality? Are fishnets about female sexuality?

There appears to be some deep, deep confusion about the difference between what men, in a patriarchy, have decided is ‘sexy’ and what ‘female sexuality’ is. The fact that we don’t even know – that we can’t even imagine such a thing as ‘female sexuality’ without dancing around on a stage in our underwear or without calling ourselves ‘sluts’ is depressing. And when we go so far as to point out that, in fact, stripping, stilettos, and the word ‘slut’ are things which are used to disempower and objectify women, rather then to celebrate women as human beings that don’t exist to service men, we are told that we are attacking this elusive ‘female sexuality’.

The reason Slutwalks have become so popular is because of the name and the sexy photo ops. It isn’t because anything is changing, it isn’t because Slutwalks are revolutionary, and it isn’t because the media are just so freakin excited about female liberation. Women on stripper poles have always been able to capture the gaze of their audience but never have these images provided women with equality or humanity. And yes, I know that lots of women do this work and that these women are not to blame for our oppression. The men who hold power and privilege and have treated women like pieces of meat for eons are to blame. But replicating and celebrating this imagery challenges nothing. It doesn’t celebrate female sexuality, it celebrates male privilege and male pleasure.

If these marches were actually challenging patriarchy and male power you can bet most of those men would not be standing on the sidelines, smiling and taking photos. They would be angry.

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And in other news, your body is no longer attached to your being.

According to , who published a piece in The Guardian today entitled Men buy girls, not sex’ and other myths of anti-prostitution moralists, your body is no longer connected to your existence as a human being. Even though women’s bodies have long been the only signifier of their existence as lesser beings, it is now clear, thanks to Grant’s willingness to set us all straight, that when men buy access to women’s bodies they are not, in fact buying a person, like a person attached to a body, but are merely buying sex…Which clearly has nothing to do with anyone’s body! Simple.

She claims that ‘anti-prostitution moralists’ (who these mystery moralists are, it isn’t clear. There is Ashton Kutcher, and then there’s the abolitionists. Who are all the exact same and they’re all confused. ) believe that “the way to end exploitation in the sex trade is to “end demand” for the sex trade – that is, end men’s desire for sex they can pay for.” Interesting. Because I never really thought we could end ‘men’s desire for sex they can pay for’. I thought, rather, that we simply wouldn’t let them do it. That we would educate the public about how, you know, women are human beings and that it was not acceptable to treat them like objects. That maybe, someday, it simply would no longer be acceptable for men to treat girls and women as things which exist to use and abuse. Whether or not men continue to ‘desire’ to buy sex is, sadly, not something I’m sure anyone is able to accomplish at this point. Because apparently there are millions of men in this world who like to hold power over women. And who get off on treating women like garbage. You could say they ‘desire’ it. But you could also say that’s what men are taught that this is acceptable (in a patriarchy) and that they are then taught that abuse is sexy (in a patriarchy) and also that power is not something many give up willingly (particularly if you are a man who loves living in a patriarchy).

Not only are we (we, Ashton Kutcher, we the ‘anti-prostitution moralists’, and we the abolitionists) confused about what it is men are actually buying (recap: buying sex with women’s bodies / buying access to women’s bodies is not the same as buying actual women human beings because our bodies are things which are completely separate from our selves), but Grant wants us to know that women are not objectified by the men who treat them as bodies which exist for their consumption, they are objected by people who point this fact out! So. New rules. From now on, pointing out oppression makes you the oppressor. Pretend that oppression is actually empowering, and you, friend, are now empowering the previously oppressed. Yay!

On one hand Grant seems frustrated by what she calls the “end men’s demand’ rhetoric” because, well, it’s not those poor men’s faults they ‘desire’ to buy sex, on the other she is right on. As she points out, men buy sex from women because women need to survive. And, often, women who need to survive have no other choice but to sell their bodies to men who want to buy them. This is indeed why women who are marginalized in our culture are overrepresented in survival sex work. And this is indeed what men take advantage of when they pay for access to these women’s bodies. A man knows you need the money and so he takes advantage of that need by paying you to use your body. And that’s how exploitation works.

You use your power to your advantage in order to exploit another’s need.

The reason, Melissa, that people fixate on ‘male demand’ is (based on my understanding of this, from having actually spoken to people who do desire to end prostitution and not just from having watched CNN and from following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter) because this is where the violence and the abuse and the exploitation comes from. Men.

Interestingly, Grant blames the media and politicians for making this mistake, though here in Vancouver, it is apparent that governments often leave the men out of the equation. When the City of Vancouver released a report on the survival sex trade in the city, a meeting was held and one of the biggest criticisms, according to some attendees, was the lack of focus on the root of the exploitation. i.e. the people who are doing the exploiting. i.e. men.

When it is men who are doing the buying, the exploiting, the abusing, the raping, the assaulting, it would make sense to focus on them when looking at a way to end said abuse, yes?

In an article published in the Vancouver Sun, written by Andrea Woo, Jenessa Greening was quoted as saying at the meeting yesterday:

“The most notable gap is the lack of reference to who is abusing the power imbalance — those who are violating these women, those whose actions are initiating and exacerbating the long-term, devastating impact these women will experience.”

So, Melissa Gira Grant, I do believe there is good reason to address demand. I also believe that when a man buys a girl or a woman to have sex with, that girl or woman is a human being. And whatever he does to her body, he does to her, as a human being. Sex is attached to the body and the body is attached to the human.

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Why reproductive rights and prostitution are not the same thing: A response to one decriminalization argument

I received a link to this blog post just hours ago via a feminist listserv; a listserv that has, just like much of the feminist community elsewhere has, experienced A LOT of heated debate around prostitution, sex work, abolition, and decriminalization.

The author claims to desire a ‘genuine’ answer to some specific questions she puts to abolitionists and, implies, by the title of the post: Choosing Our Battles: Why the feminist movement needs to stop arguing and support the decriminalisation of sex work, that what she truly desires is to end the infighting and to do what’s best for women, which of course, is really what we all want….That said, the post, and even the title of the post hints at something different than a desire for genuine discourse. Not only does it suggest that decriminalization is the only possible avenue for the feminist movement to take in terms of finding a solution to prostitution and male exploitation of women, but the questions she asks seem to, once again (I say once again because this is, unfortunately, such a common thing coming from arguments against abolition and for decriminalization), display a complete lack of research, an unwillingness to listen to and understand what abolitionists argue and fight for, and the imposition of a word, ‘prohibitionist,’ that shows, again, a complete lack of understanding in terms of the arguments that are being made. When we begin a conversation which pretends to desire authenticity and immediately misrepresent and misunderstand the other side of the argument, is it difficult to take seriously that intent.

This means that two out of three of the questions the author claims to pose genuinely, are actually unanswerable by abolitionists:

2) How, in practical terms, does prohibition work towards the goal of abolition

3) Where has prohibition been an effective tool for changing social conditions or altering social practices?

Prohibition is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. Women are not alcoholic beverages. They are not products to be bought, sold, manufactured, or traded, though I suppose this perspective is telling in terms of those who might like to use this term; perhaps they do indeed believe women to be consumable ‘products’ that should be bought and sold freely?

Abolition refers to a desire to put a stop to something, a practice. It first was used in terms of the movement to end slavery and the slave trade. It is now used by feminists to refer to a movement to end prostitution and the trafficking of women. Feminists who fight for abolition believe that prostitution is a form of exploitation and is an example of male privilege and power. Can you see the similarities here? I feel like if we were asking ‘genuine’ questions we would get the terminology right.

The author goes on to ask: Who should be criminalised? Sex workers, johns, madames, members of the kink community, bachelor parties, bar/club owners? Again, to me, this question shows something sincere, that is a sincere lack of research, a genuine intention to not hear what women are saying. Abolitionists do not argue for the criminalization of sex workers. They argue for the complete decriminalization of prostituted women and the criminalization of the pimps and johns. Simple as that. For those who are sincerely interested in hearing the actual arguments from actual feminists and abolitionists, I’ve linked to some references here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There is a lot more information out there, including here on our website and on EVE’s website, as well as many, many more resources I haven’t included here

The abolitionist argument has never been about ‘cracking down’ on women who work in the sex work industry but rather has been about ending male privilege, male violence, and the exploitation and abuse of women and women’s bodies. It is about pointing out that, in a truly egalitarian society there is no ‘deal’ in which men are allowed access to women’s bodies simply because they have the cash and women need the cash. In a truly egalitarian society we would not believe that men have this right or that men somehow need to use women’s bodies lest they become violent or rape (which is an argument commonly used to support prostitution).

For decades, feminists have repeated over and over that criminalising abortion will not stop abortions.’  How can the continuing criminalization by sexist, right wing men of access to abortion for women – whose lives are on the line, either in botched procedures or birthing – be compared to attempts by feminist women to impede sexist men’s entitlement to the bodies of women whose lives are also on the line?  Reproductive rights provide women with control over their lives and bodies.  As the author points out, ‘Women die when abortion is not accessible.’  Women should get to choose whether or not they have to give birth.  Whether or not they want to raise children. They ought to get to make those decisions; not men.  But women also die at the hands of pimps, johns, brothel owners and traffickers.  Abolitionists have no desire to criminalize the prostituted: they desire a world where sexist men can no longer buy sexual violence against women, where male privilege doesn’t mean that women are put in the position of having to sell their bodies to men.  The only valid comparison is that the criminalization of abortions by men hurts women and the tolerance of men’s demand for prostitution hurts women.  Abolition and abortion rights both demand freedom for women from a patriarchal society which locks women into the roles of tools for sexual use of men.

In response to this post, and this author’s supposedly genuine desire for a sincere conversation, I suggest we begin with a) research, b) the correct use of terms with which we describe the abolitionist movement, and c) actually listening to people when they talk. When right off the bat your argument begins with an assumption that abolitionists argue for the criminalization of prostitutes and continuously calls the movement ‘prohibitionist’, all it shows is a lack of interest in conversation, in sincerity, in women’s voices, and in the truth.

Try again.

 

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