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Feminism: chat

French feminists - Virginie Despentes and prostitution

8 replies

FingonTheValiant · 12/06/2021 09:32

I had a fairly sizeable row with two good friends yesterday (one male, one female) who both adore Virginie Despentes which finished with them telling me I'm narrow minded, inflexible of thinking, lacking compassion, generally a wrong 'un because I wouldn't agree that men who use prostitutes are suffering just as much as the women are and we shouldn't say negative things about them. They refuse to acknowledge it's anything other than a choice for women, and have totally bought into Despentes' argument about "the men behind the clients". The man told me I understood nothing about male desire, that no man actually wants to visit a prostitute, it's because they have no other choice Shock. Oh and also said it's not like rich men are going to prostitutes, they don't need to, girls with no self-respect throw themselves at them.

I was totally gobsmacked. And thought it was pretty bloody outrageous they were suggesting I was the one who hadn't properly thought about the topic. And was scolded for not approaching it with understanding.
Female friend said that if she was a widow and a hot young man offered her sex and then said she had to pay for it she probably would, and seemed to think that won the argument.

My feminist reading has been in the U.K. Do you have any ideas where I can find voices that contradict Despentes please? (Although I doubt they'll listen, they talk about her like she's an Oracle). Thanks!

OP posts:

EmbarrassingAdmissions · 12/06/2021 12:36

There may well be some useful links for you in this thread (and you might enjoy other podcasts from them - there is one specifically about sex work):


334bu · 12/06/2021 12:42

Marguerite Stern might be worth looking up.


NiceGerbil · 12/06/2021 22:39

French feminism- not that I know a lot about it!- seems to often be very far from what I would think is a good plan.

That's from articles and stuff I've read on here.

Hopefully another poster might know more!


EmbarrassingAdmissions · 12/06/2021 23:16

There was some discussion of feminism in France in today's WHRC webinar (they'll probably upload it next week). It will the the 12 June recordings:

Feminist Question Time Live with speakers from Bolivia, North Macedonia, India, France and the UK
Saturday 12 June 3-4.30pm UK time (2pm GMT)
Jimena Bautista, WHRC Country Contact, Bolivia

A feminist from North Macedonia

Madhulika Agarwal, lawyer & feminist, India

Laetitia van Haren, president-founder of Smart Access to Health For All, France

@stilltish, socialist, gender abolitionist & blogger, UK


PurgatoryOfPotholes · 13/06/2021 01:13

This isn't specifically French, but it might be something for you all to think about.


PurgatoryOfPotholes · 13/06/2021 01:28

Study abstract

Violence is pervasive in prostitution and can cause traumatic brain injury (TBI). is study estimated the prevalence and demographic correlates of TBI among 66 women and transwomen in prostitution. Ninety-five percent had sustained head injuries, either by being hit in the head with objects and/or having their heads slammed into objects. Sixty-one percent had sustained head injuries in prostitution. The women described acute and chronic symptoms resulting from head injury and/or concussions. These included dizziness, depressed mood, headache, sleep difficulty, poor concentration, memory problems, difficulty following directions, low frustration tolerance, fatigue, and appetite and weight changes. Screening for TBI is crucial to the care of prostituted women.


Prevalence of Traumac Brain Injuries

A recent meta-analysis found that the prevalence of TBI in general populations of women in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand averages 8.6% (Frost, Farrer, Primosch, & Hedges, 2013). In contrast, rates of at least one TBI range from 14% to 20% among Iraq War veterans (Tanielian & Jaycox, 2008) and have been estimated at 61% of retired football players (Guskiewicz et al., 2007). Postmortem examinations of the brains of 111 National Football League players found that 99% showed physical neurologic damage resulting from TBI (Mez et al., 2017).


So, I would be showing your friends this study, and asking them what percentage of clients they think are given head injuries by prostituted women.


quixote9 · 13/06/2021 08:25

I've nothing useful to add. I just need to boggle that people can hold views like your friends. I can understand women currently in prostitution or other forms of selling themselves saying that because it could be necessary to get them through the day. But everybody else? Why? What does that massive delusion do for them? Does it give them that big a kick to feel "progressive"?


FingonTheValiant · 14/06/2021 15:16

Thank you so much for all the links everyone. I’m going to read through them all.

I spent the weekend with them and got home yesterday afternoon. Before going to bed I ranted for a while with DH, also French. I was feeling really unsure of myself and he was really supportive and basically called their replies out as entirely crap. He said he didn’t see how it could be anything other than trolling for someone to try to suggest that men just have «no other choice» and that «no man wants to visit a prostitute», he was frankly mind-boggled.

I also mentioned the «you know nothing about male desire» thing, and DH said «well I hope you told him where to stick his views on everything to do with women then». Funny how men can declare themselves feminists, but we’re not allowed opinions on the male sphere of experience...

@quixote9 honestly, I was gobsmacked. And they definitely think of themselves as progressive.

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