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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...

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Mon 24-Dec-12 00:59:13

Rosabud: sperm donation for money is over and done with in about 10 minutes. Egg donation is a complicated and potentially risky procedure; surrogate pregnancy even more so. If these are paid at the same rate (ie fee for doing the deed, not hourly) then don't you think there might be some issues of power imbalance?

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 04:08:34

"they are taking advantage of the imbalance of power between the genders in our society"

What does that mean exactly?

An example of a person who I came across recently, who fully and freely admitted use of prostitutes, I will leave it to you to decipher gender:

"I generally used hookers to get my own back- it allowed me to choose all kinds if exotics in various combinations and pretend I wasn't really cheating- rather convenient>> >> On one memorable evening in Rio Styx(partner at the time) and I did a two Brazilian teens together in a posh brothel. Xx>> >> Sent from my iPhone"


rosabud Mon 24-Dec-12 09:22:26

Why do I think "ordinary" men don't use prostitutes? What do you mean by "ordinary?" I should imagine all sorts of men use prostitutes. Why does the fact that "ordinary" men use prostitutes, make prostitution OK?

I have no idea whether ex-prostitutes suffer form PTSD. Let's imagine that all ex-prostitutes are very happy and laughing all the way to the bank (from my layman's knowledge of prostitution I would IMAGINE that's unlikely, nevertheless, let us supopose that it is true), how does that change the fundamental fact that prostitution only exists because of the imbalance of power based on gender in our society and should be discouraged for that reason?

I don't think choosing to be a prostitute necessarily "damages" other women but prostitution clearly emphasises the idea that men are the gender that need sex and women are the gender that allow them to have sex (either for payment or for love or whatever). This is a double standard that continues to say that sex is something for men. It's a double standard that continues to say that it is all right for women to be less entitled to something than men are and, to that extent, it does "damage" women's rights to equality which, I suppose, is "damaging" for all women.

rosabud Mon 24-Dec-12 09:54:06

^"they are taking advantage of the imbalance of power between the genders in our society"

What does that mean exactly?^

I'm afraid if you do not understand/have not noticed that there is an imbalance of power based on gender in our society, then it's very unlikely that you will be able to follow a debate about the role of prostitution within that society. Perhpas it would be a good idea to go and read up on this before you come back to the discussion?

FestiviaBlueberry Mon 24-Dec-12 10:19:04

Have now read the article and a couple of other things struck me.

"This isn't about evidence, not for "Neo-Victorians", not really. It's about morality, just as it was two hundred years ago"

No, that is where people like Laurie Penny are really thick on this issue. It isn't about morality, it's about a political principle: the principle that women are human beings just like men, not wank-socks for men's use. And that sex is something that should be freely entered into, which cannot happen in a context of patriarchy where women are seen as being there for men's use.

I also think she must have been incredibly thick when she was young because she claims she went to women's groups with the following outlook:

"...their simple solution to gender oppression: stamp out porn and prostitution and the rest will follow, and social relations between men and women will settle into easy equality."

Which women's group ever said that then? I've never heard any feminist come up with anything as simplistic and stupid as that. She's either making it up, mis-remembering, or didn't understand what they were saying at the time.

"as a feminist and a socialist I am proud to take my position on sex work from those who have, and to honor their experiences. " She takes her position from the ones who have who tell her what she agrees with, not the women who have sold sex who disagree with her. She doesn't honour Rebecca Mott's experiences, for example.

Frans the point about the clients, is that they have this enormous sense of entitlement - that they are entitled to use women for sex, as long as they pay for it. That is by definition, misogynist. Men who think women are equal human beings, want their sexual encounters with them to be equal - IE willingly and enthusiastically entered into. If you're happy to stick your dick into a woman who doesn't really want it there (and the clue is that she's charging you to allow you to) then you are a prick who doesn't like women. That's not just with regard to prostitution, that's with regard to all those ghastly husbands out there who think it's OK to fuck their unenthusiastic wives because they have a right to use that particular woman as their wank-sock occasionally. Any situation which validates the concept of men having an entitlement to use certain women as wank-socks in certain situations, is one I disagree with.

FestiviaBlueberry Mon 24-Dec-12 10:22:49

And also yes, I accept the depressing reality that many "ordinary" men do see women as being there for their use.

It's one of the reasons so many ordinary men are so disappointing. And it's one of the reasons patriarchy has not yet been dismantled.

KRITIQ Mon 24-Dec-12 10:45:32

I can see this thread has gone the way threads on this subject always go, so won't bother engaging further.

However, as you say Festivia, the article falls into the trap that so many commentators fall into - the idea that there are only ever two complete polar opposite views on any issue, particularly any issue related to sex, sexuality or feminism.

I remember Gloria Steinham, I think it was, saying she remembered many writers professing outrage that feminists didn't hang, draw and quarter Bill Clinton over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky - believing the default position for feminists was that of being sexually conservative and puritanical. Pah.

Laurie's done the same thing here with a sloppy shorthand that goes something like, "If you are critical of any person having sex in any way with any person, you must follow a Victorian code of sexual morality." Well, insofar as Victorian campaigners like Josephine Butler wanted the laws changed to protect vulnerable girls and women who were involved in prostitution from violence and abuse, both by punters and by the authorities. Oh wait . . .

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 17:06:57

way to go rosebud completely avoid answering the Q.

And yes IMO "ordinary" men (and also some women and couples) do visit sex workers. The random guy you sat next to on the bus, the guy you passed on the street, your next door neighbour, the shopkeeper you bought groceries from, your child's schoolteacher... you get the idea... are all typical people who might visit workers.

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 17:11:35

If anyone wants more reading from a sex worker btw here is a blog by Laura Lee who is an escort and a member of SCOT-PEP which campaigns for the rights of workers.

rosabud Mon 24-Dec-12 17:56:05

I didn't diasagree with the idea that "ordinary men" visit prostitutes, I answered that point by asking why that makes prostitution OK. So, by simply reiterating the point that "ordinary men" visit prostitutes, you are the one who has avoided the question. I feel that is an example of what I pointed out in my previous reply, that your lack of understanding about the imbalance of power between the genders in our society will prevent you form engaging in the debate in any meaningful way. Sorry, but there it is.

MiniLovesMinxPies Mon 24-Dec-12 18:23:58

"So congratulations, both you and SCASE made me cry today. You made me cry for the women of my past, those women who are lost forever, either through sex work or through drug addiction or through sheer poverty" from Laura's Blog

She seems to accept that women are lost (could that be short hand for emotionally harmed or worse!) some do it to feed drug habits and many are lost to poverty (what ever that means)

I do hope people don't think that Laurie Penny speaks for the vast majority of socialist feminists. She talks about furthering workers rights and freeing workers from exploitation but doesn't touch upon the basic question of why so many women go into sex work. She doesn't touch upon why women are economically disadvantaged. Instead she makes the case that selling sex is a pragmatic response to their economic situation, how else will they pay the rent, they may become homeless

Why not instead focus on why so many people lack economic and social power. Why are ALL workers exploited and why is it that women provide sex as a commodity and men are almost always the consumers. Tackling the economic inequality at the root of the problem would almost certainly mean that fewer women went into the sex industry.

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 21:10:54

"the basic question of why so many women go into sex work"

I don't have a clue what streetwalkers charge (prob very little in comparison to escorts), but I know escorts charge between £100 and £200 for 1 hour. And for overnight companionship up to £1,000 can be charged. Streetwalkers are a tiny minority of sex workers if escorts are included.

On a minumum wage one might need to work 48 hours a week to get by. Offering time and companionship for 1 hour means one might only need to work for 3 hours a week to get by. Sometimes escorts travel to clients but some do only work from home which means they won't even have to travel to work.

And to answer rosabud's Q about "what makes it ok". The answer is there are lots of things people do that other people aren't going to agree with. But what 2 people choose to do in their own privacy should be no business of anyone else's.

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 21:13:10

"Why are ALL workers exploited"

Sounds like a loaded question. Have you asked all workers to see if they agree with you?

MiniLovesMinxPies Mon 24-Dec-12 21:33:59

All workers are exploited under capitalism. They are exploited for their capacity to create from their labour a commodity to be sold. The capitalists profit come from the surplus value btw what someone is paid and what he sells the commodity for. Under this system you have people working for peanuts and others who have significant wealth and therefore social power. Men have far more social power and under capitalism that power is conveyed to them in the form of economic advantage.

MiniLovesMinxPies Mon 24-Dec-12 21:35:22

I don't need to ask workers if they feel exploited, confused because I am not talking about working conditions or toilet breaks, or whether they enjoy their work. Those are all totally subjective things.

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 21:40:29

"All workers are exploited under capitalism"

Are you talking about work in general and not just sex work? I'm sure not many people like work but that's life. The alternative would be communism which I'm not too sure about.

MiniLovesMinxPies Mon 24-Dec-12 22:39:21

"It is these women that the capitalists most willingly employ as home-workers, who are prepared for a monstrously low wage to “earn a little extra” for themselves and their family, for the sake of a crust of bread. It is from among these women, too, that the capitalists of all countries recruit for themselves (like the ancient slave-owners and the medieval feudal lords) any number of concubines at a most “reasonable” price. And no amount of “moral indignation” (hypocritical in 99 cases out of 100) about prostitution can do anything against this trade in female flesh; so long as wage-slavery exists, inevitably prostitution too will exist. All the oppressed and exploited classes throughout the history of human societies have always been forced (and it is in this that their exploitation consists) to give up to their oppressors, first, their unpaid labour and, second, their women as concubines for the “masters”. Lenin

All workers are exploited but women are exploited in ways in which men are not, both within the private and economic sphere.

SolidGold, often draws attention to the fact that women trade sex for love. If that is the case then marriage and prostitution are two sides of the same coin. Something I would agree with. However if sex can not be traded for one form of economic security rooted in marriage and private property relations why can it be traded for money? What is the difference?

Frans1980 Mon 24-Dec-12 22:46:40

But as I mentioned above, up to £200 an hour is not a "monstrously low wage".

MiniLovesMinxPies Mon 24-Dec-12 22:59:52

What would society look like if unskilled, educationally disadvantaged working class women could command £200 ph for any work other than sex work?

FestiviaBlueberry Mon 24-Dec-12 23:43:11

"what 2 people choose to do in their own privacy should be no business of anyone else's." That argument is completely apolitical. Everything that involves parties with a difference in status and power, is subject to political analysis.

"The alternative would be communism". Only if you have no imagination.

"However if sex can not be traded for one form of economic security rooted in marriage and private property relations why can it be traded for money? What is the difference?" Good point, feminists don't think women should have to trade sex for economic security. That's kind of one of the basics of feminism actually - that a society where women have to trade sex for economic security is sick and needs changing.

Frans1980 Thu 27-Dec-12 00:50:43

"Everything that involves parties with a difference in status and power, is subject to political analysis."

Should we politically analyse one night stands while we're at it and maybe push for politicians to pass a completely unenforcable law banning casual sex to make us feel good about ourselves?

MiniLovesMinxPies Thu 27-Dec-12 10:22:11

The business of politicians is to make laws that protect people from "economic" exploitation, nothing more. Many of our laws, such as taxation, market regulation, small claims, corporate law, monopoly laws, trade agreements, contracts and labour rights/regulations are concerned with ensuring that people are not exploited financially. (of course in practice this isn't the case) Even enforcing law and order boils down to this, we lock up robbers, people who commit fraud and people who upset the status quo btw politics and capitalists, such as terrorists and activists. We fail however to lock up rapists.

One night stands sit firmly outside of this and should be free from political analysis. Rad fems may disagree because of their emphasis on the "personal is the political" I can't speak for others but I agree with you that what happens btw too individuals is their own business as long as one is not being exploited, economically, physically or mentally/emotionally.

Interesting read here, which seeks to bridge the divide btw radicals, liberals and marxist/socialist feminist perspectives.

"Rethinking Commodification and Prostitution"

MiniLovesMinxPies Thu 27-Dec-12 10:26:09

that a society where women have to trade sex for economic security is sick and needs changing

Bang on the button, That sums up exactly what is wrong with marriage (under patriarchy) and what is wrong with prostitution and the sex industry under our latest vehicle of oppression......capitalism.

JuliaScurr Thu 27-Dec-12 11:41:55

one night stands should be outside of political analysis? limited definition of politics - attitudes to studs/sluts are political - derive from social/economic power differences. sex practice, dominant ideology of penis-in-vagina sex is also derived from same. or do we believe it's just coincidence that 'individuals' spontaneously behave the same way? unlikely.

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