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Good piece on sex work by Laurie Penny

(498 Posts)
SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Thu 20-Dec-12 15:43:42

Here. She puts it a bit more elegantly than I usually do...

CailinDana Thu 20-Dec-12 16:02:35

Interesting article. I have to admit prostitution is something I find hard to come to terms with. For me, the thought of selling sex seems absolutely abhorrent, and I just can't imagine being ok with it. So I suppose that puts me in the "saving women from themselves" camp - I would always assume, however erroneously that a prostitute has been pushed into for some reason, rather than doing it by choice. That said, I freely admit I haven't a clue - I have never met a prostitute and I have no idea what their life is really like.

I would be interested to know what your thoughts on this are Solid - what's the political argument that this piece comes from? I see what she's saying in the article, but would she be in favour of regulated brothels and prostitution being presented as a career choice on a par with any other? Or is that missing the point?

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 20-Dec-12 16:35:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 20-Dec-12 16:39:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AlexanderS Thu 20-Dec-12 16:54:04

"The UK Feminista founder, Kat Banyard, who does stalwart work training activists, claimed in the Guardian that "astronomical rates of post-traumatic stress disorder" among sex workers are evidence of "the inherent harm at the heart of this transaction". That there is little evidence that sex workers experience any more or less sickeningly unacceptable levels of rape and childhood abuse than women who don't sell sex, according to a study by the Journal of Sex Research, is beside the point."

Um, you can have post-traumatic stress disorder without being raped or abused. I read somewhere about a well-respected study that showed prostitution tends to destroy a woman's sexuality - generally prostitutes eventually get to a point where they no longer have sex for pleasure. Which is common sense if you think about it - I don't think I'd enjoy sex any more if I had to do it over and over with men I didn't fancy, even if it was my choice to do it for the money. This same study showed that prostitutes tend to feel contempt towards their clients, which can't help either. Oh, it must be a miserable business.

MooncupGoddess Thu 20-Dec-12 16:58:13

The comments underneath are worth reading.

I find it quite odd that the article doesn't mention men at all... and this paragraph is very strange:

'This sort of ugly moral judgement is what feeds the myth, widespread amongst both clients and law enforcement, that it’s impossible to rape a prostitute. So-called 'radical' feminist groups point to high rates of rape and assault experienced by sex workers as if this were an inevitable, natural consequence of selling sexual services rather than an atrocious working condition made actively worse by the fact that so many sex workers are even more afraid than other women to report their rapists to the police - particularly if they are black, Asian or transsexual. It’s as if someone who sells sex should have no expectation of consent at work.'

I have never yet met a radical feminist who thinks it's impossible to rape a prostitute. It's a bizarre thing to say.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Thu 20-Dec-12 17:02:01

MooncupGoddess, I think she's saying that clients and law enforcement subscribe to the myth that a prostitute cannot be raped, not that RadFems do.

AlexanderS Thu 20-Dec-12 17:09:26

I don't know this for sure, but I suspect even if prostitutes were quite happy to report rapists to the police they would still be more likely to be raped because by its very nature prostitution encourages the objectification (and therefore abuse) of women.

MooncupGoddess Thu 20-Dec-12 17:11:27

Well, one can read the beginning of the paragraph like that... but the next sentence is all about rad fems, and she leads straight from that to 'It's as if someone who sells sex should have no expectation of consent at work.'

OldLadyKnowsNothing Thu 20-Dec-12 17:17:12

Actually, thinking about it, the RadFem attitude is that a prostitute is raped every time she has sex with a punter, so hardly likely to deny it happens.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 20-Dec-12 18:19:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LapsusLinguae Thu 20-Dec-12 23:13:08

What changed my mind was beginning to listening to sex workers who they say that what they need is protection from abuse, better conditions at work and the ability to work without fear of arrest, thank you very much.

I don't like this implies.

Radfems want sex workers to have protection from abuse! Also to remove fear of arrest (Norwegian model).

I need to re read her book (female flesh ) loads of that seemed very radical when I read it...

LapsusLinguae Thu 20-Dec-12 23:13:42

*don't like what this implies

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Thu 20-Dec-12 23:17:27

I think perhaps what she was getting at is that the insistence by some feminists that sex work is always rape is another denial of the agency of the sex worker; not allowing the sex worker to distinguish between sexual activity that is pre-agreed and paid for, and a sexual assault where there is no agreement and no pay.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Thu 20-Dec-12 23:46:50

Radfems want to protect prostituted women (they don't like the term "sex worker") from abuse by denying them an income stream, and putting them at risk of homelessness.

Radfems have their view of "abuse", sex-workers (and sex-positive feminists, aka funfems) have a different viewpoint.


KRITIQ Fri 21-Dec-12 00:37:36

There are feminists who would not describe themselves as either radical feminists nor liberal/libertarian feminists who believe prostitution is a form of violence against women (and largely homophobic violence where sex is bought from men and boys,) that selling sex should be decriminalised but that seeking to purchase sex should be an offence and that increased resources are needed for effective programmes to support those leaving or who have left prostitution.

Penny's article isn't based on evidence, but rather her conversations with a handful of people who are currently involved in prostitution. More mileage would be gained talking also to those who have left prostitution. In my experience, when one feels "stuck" in an undesirable situation, you sometimes sort of lie to yourself that things are okay as a way of coping. Fibbing to others that all is tickity boo may be an extension of that.

Frans1980 Fri 21-Dec-12 05:55:06

This is interesting to watch. Recently on Sunday BBC politics Dr. Brooke Magnanti a former sex worker debates with a rather nervous and hesitant MSP Rhoda Grant over a consultation (which is now closed) over criminalizing the purchase of sexual services.

MSP Margo McDonald makes an excellent point around the 3 min mark. If a man is arrested on suspicion of paying for sex, then to get a conviction the sex worker will need to give evidence against him in court. Do you really think that is going to happen? Do you think sex workers are going to want all their customers in prison?

As for the whole "reduce demand" thing I pretty much doubt it. Have the laws on drugs stopped people getting hold of cannabis for example? If anything any clients who are deterred will be the ones who treat the sex workers well. The abusive/dangerous clients certainly aren't going to be put off by any new laws.

Another good point Brooke makes is at the moment with sex work being legal sex workers and clients are often the best source of information on trafficking which they pass onto the police (that's right, clients of sex workers often inform the police if they suspect the worker they were with is trafficked).

Frans1980 Fri 21-Dec-12 05:56:37

Radfems want to protect prostituted women (they don't like the term "sex worker")

I get the impression sex workers themselves detest the term "prostituted women".

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 21-Dec-12 11:07:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Fri 21-Dec-12 11:55:51

Kritiq: And there you go again, insisting that sex workers don't know their own minds and you know better than them.

Frans1980 Fri 21-Dec-12 13:50:41

I said I got the impression I didn't say it was fact.

The only people I've noticed use the term "prostituted women" are the radfems.

Frans1980 Fri 21-Dec-12 13:54:51

A lot of sex workers use the term to try and enforce the fact what they are doing is work, and they should have the same rights as any other job.

Countries which do implement laws against sex work often do so without consulting the views of sex workers. It must be the only profession where that happens.

ThaliaS Fri 21-Dec-12 23:29:09

"The only people I've noticed use the term "prostituted women" are the radfems."

That's such an obvious lie. Prostitution is now and has been for many, many years called prostitution and the women in it have been called prostitutes by everyone who doesn't use nasty slang terms to call them worse. On the other hand "sex worker" is ideological jargon mostly known only to in-crowd persons which serves to blur lines between various sexual exploitations. Prostitution is different from stripping is different from phone sex operator, but "sex work" puts Dita Von Teese's face on the magazine cover as the new face of "sex work" instead of the non-white, impoverished young women who make up the majority of the world's prostitutes.

Laurie Penny trying to pin the blame for male violence against women on other women is no better than all the other anti-feminists who try to blame women for men's violence.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Fri 21-Dec-12 23:33:13

I don't think it is a lie. Prostitutes have indeed long been called prostitutes, but there's a difference between a woman who works as a prostitute, and a "^prostituted woman^" who has her prostitution forced upon her. Active, rather than passive, although of course Radfems don't believe that anyone, anywhere, has "freely" made the choice, and they deny the agency or free will of prostitutes.

Ideological jargon indeed.

ThaliaS Fri 21-Dec-12 23:38:15

To 99.9% of people there is no difference between "prostitute" and "prostituted woman" and any differences there might possibly be are not determined by whether she is forced or not. Public consciousness of prostitution is not where you think it is.

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