Rejecting the ‘not in my back yard’ approach to feminism


1:00 pm - June 29th 2010

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contribution by Elly

Feminist anti-sex work campaigners are busy this month. On June 17th Bristol Feminists Network announced their opposition to a license application (now at appeal stage) from a strip club in the ‘Old Market’ area of Bristol’s City Centre.

On the same day, Demand Change (run by Object and Eaves For Women), launched an ‘Action For Men’, leafleting men on the issue of criminal law regarding prostitution.

But the problem with opposing lap dancing clubs in city centres suggests a ‘not in my back yard’ approach by the feminist groups involved.

The Bristol campaign has been made possible by a law change from April this year, which means lap-dancing clubs in England must now apply to councils for a licence which has to be renewed annually. The venues are now classed as ‘sex establishments’ rather than as pubs or cafes, making it easier for people to say they are ‘inappropriate’. Licenses range in cost from £4,000 to £30,000 depending on the council.

Rather than considering the complex issues surrounding lap-dancing and stripping as forms of employment, they focus on their own distaste at the sex industry, and their sense of threat from it. As the Bristol Feminists’ opposition document to the license states:

I have lived in Bristol my whole life, and ever since becoming an adult, I have felt unsafe and unwelcome in Old Market, seeing it as a place that is clearly geared towards the sex industry. It is not somewhere where I feel comfortable going or even passing through.

But what about the safety of the women who work in the clubs? If clubs cannot operate in city centre venues they won’t just shut up shop. They will go to other, less salubrious parts of town, where the women dancers’ working conditions will be less regulated, and their journey to and from work more dangerous.

This approach to challenging the sex industry privileges the needs and ‘rights’ of one group of women over another.

The Demand Change campaign stems from a recent law passed which criminalises those who pay for sex with sex workers who are coerced, including trafficked workers. Earlier this week, OBJECT ran an ‘action for men’, putting leaflets in men’s toilets of pubs in London’s trendy East end, warning them of the consequences of hiring a prostitute.

The leaflet states:

pay or attempt to pay for sex from ist April 2010 and you risk: a court summons; a criminal record; a letter through your door; a fine; your name in the paper. Your partner, employer, family or friends could find out. Don’t risk it. Don’t pay for sex!

Apart from the fact that the information on these leaflets is inaccurate (it is not illegal to pay for sex: it is illegal to pay to have sex with workers who are coerced/trafficked), targeting men as potential clients of sex workers is unethical in my view and does nothing to reduce demand for sex work.

The assumption made here is that the majority of men in pubs are potential clients of sex workers. The wording implies that paying for sex is ‘shameful’ and it suggests that men are naturally going to become clients of sex workers rather than sex workers themselves. The leaflets also give no information, for example, on safer sex or sexual health, which could be useful for the targeted group of men.

Both these campaigns are worth noting because they are being run by influential feminist organisations who have already affected law changes this year. They are worth challenging because they do not represent all feminists’ views.

They are worth criticising because they ignore the voices and the interests of women working in the sex industry in this country. I know the groups involved also highlight the poor employment conditions and pay of women working in the sex industry, but this relates to all service work; why not picket MacDonald’s or Novotel instead?

I am not an ‘apologist’ for the excesses of the sex industry. The exploitation, particularly of women, in the global sex industry is a serious socio-economic issue and an international human rights question. But

I don’t believe that lobbying local councils and men out on the town is going to do anything to address the real problems involved. It is an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach and it doesn’t help the people who are most likely to be exploited by a huge, unregulated, under-scrutinised industry.

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Reader comments


Great post. I think much of what Object do demeans the status of sex workers (and their clients) in an attempt to raise the status of women generally. I don’t think that strategy is very effective.

The Bristol Feminist Network does not oppose the consensual decisions made by individuals about sex, sexuality or sex work.

Some members of BFN oppose the licensing of a particular establishment in Old Market, some do not. We have made details of the licensing process and methods for participating available to our members so that they can speak for themselves.

It is misrepresentative to describe BFN as being in opposition to this particular license application. It is a generalisation and unfair to the variety of views within our network.

hi elly

as the co-writer of the statement you quote i would like to raise a few points.

i sent the statement to the council as an individual, not as a representative of BFN. just as with feminism, within BFN there are many many views about sex work, and we strive to not present a homogenous view that does not represent the opinions of all our members.

at the top of my statement i write:
I am making this statement on behalf of myself, as an individual, and as a member of the Bristol Feminist Network.

I present myself as a member of, not representing, BFN. i called myself a member of BFN as my feminism informs my perspective. on our website we have made the statement:

BFN does not oppose the consensual decisions made by individuals about sex, sexuality or sex work but has valid concerns of the direct negative impact another strip club will have on Old Market and the indirect damage caused by sexual objectification.

this clearly, in my view states the fact that we are not opposed to consensual sex work (altho, in my opinion, not BFNs, sex work is hard to define as consensual) but that the rise in sex entertainment establishments can have a negative impact.

Secondly, in response to your accusation of NIMBYism. yes, for the residents of Old Market (which isnt in bristol city centre) there have been protests about not wanting yet another strip club in their backyard. but that was not the force of my statement, or the objection of many feminists who, like me, live a good few miles away from the proposed site.

you write:
“They will go to other, less salubrious parts of town, where the women dancers’ working conditions will be less regulated, and their journey to and from work more dangerous.”

Exactly! Old Market IS a less salubrious part of town. in effect, we agree that by opening another strip club in old market we are putting sex workers’ safety at risk.

You take issue with my statement that i don’t feel safe or comfortable in old market, as if my right to enjoy freedom of movement in the city i have lived in since i was 4 is of less importance than the right for men to pay to objectify women.

you write:
This approach to challenging the sex industry privileges the needs and ‘rights’ of one group of women over another.

No it doesn’t. i challenge the sex industry precisely because i don’t privilege one group of people’s rights (men’s so-called right to sexual contact) over another (women’s right to not be treated as a body for sale/object). Women in sex work don’t have a lot of rights at the moment do they? they have to pay to go to work, so they don’t get the right to sick pay, or holiday pay. they are often refused the right to be protected from sexual harassment, or legal protection when a man offers to pay them for sexual contact. move into brothels and street prostitution and even the basic human right to be protected from violence is often removed.

It is a fact worth repeating that sexual harassment and assault goes up in areas where there are strip clubs. i can confirm that from anecdotal experience. don’t women, all women, have the right to freedom of movement, the right to walk down the street and feel safe from objectification and violence?

finally, one of the reasons the initial application was turned down was because the strip club owner applied to open a restaurant, but on the plans a number of the items needed in a kitchen for a restaurant to be ran were missing.

i challenge the sex industry because i want to live in a world where a woman’s right for sexual autonomy and pleasure trumps a man’s so-called right to have sex and sexual contact on tap. because i want to live in a world where women aren’t treated as objects designed for men’s sexual pleasure.

i always enjoy talking to you on twitter and on your blog because i am interested in your views – i find them challenging and they give me the chance to think about my own beliefs and ideas. but i feel it is vitally important that you make it clear that the statement i and some members of BFN wrote was not a statement that came from BFN as a homogenous group and in fact does not represent the views of the entire network.

i also think that by picking one quote, rather than the pieces in the statement that explore:

illegal activity in lap dancing clubs
violence around lap dancing clubs
sex workers working rights/safety
the huge holes in the appeal document
Practical implications of smoking area/restaurant

misrepresents the views put forward in the statement, and twists the words to give an appearance of nimby-ism. it was a long long statement that went into detail about all the points i raise above and more.

BFN are always very careful not to speak on behalf of its members and to respect that there are many different opinions on a multitude of issues, including sex work. perhaps you could amend the piece to reflect this?

also:
“Rather than considering the complex issues surrounding lap-dancing and stripping as forms of employment, they focus on their own distaste at the sex industry, and their sense of threat from it.”

i take serious offence that i have not considered the complex issues. it is precisely because i have considered the complexity of sex work as a form of employment that i wanted to object to the application. again, picking one paragraph that specifically relates to the impact on the evironment surrounding the proposed site

(The statement on page 7 on the environmental impact of a lap dancing club does not take into account the problems that may be caused for women living and passing through the area. It has not taken into account whether women feel safe around lap dancing clubs, or the level of abuse that women experience when walking past lap dancing clubs.)

whilst not quoting or acknowledging where i and my co-author discuss the other, many issues around the proposal is of course going to give your readers that impression and misrepresents the statement and the work so many feminists are doing in bristol to try and combat objectification and violence against women. i would recommend speaking to the volunteers at one25 about their understanding of the complex issues.

5. annifrangipani

Have you heard of the Nordic model of prostitution/sex work? This has proven that explaining to those who pay for sex, mostly men, and criminalising THEM has greatly reduced the demand for paid-for-sex.

The assumption made here is that the majority of men in pubs are potential clients of sex workers.

I really do have to take issue with this statement. I think this is grossly naive. The campaign is aiming to reach out to men, who may, or may not pay for sex. I don’t know much about the campaign but I am sure the group researched some of the best ways to reach out to this group. Do you take issue with all advertisers in toilets? Car insurance in service station toilets because everyone who drives a car will have a crash or cause damage?

6. James from Durham

This is nonsense. Err, yes, Elly, paying for sex is shameful! Reducing a human being to an object for rent is shameful. It seems to me that in trying to be feminist and not offending any “groups” you are tieing yourself in knots. I am afreaid that Sinaushka’s position sounds far more coherent.

The world of prostitution is heavily linked to crime, rather like drugs. The presence of these establishments will indeed be taken as threatening by those who do not participate in this kind of sexual activity.

When you compare the “working conditions” of prostitutes with McDonalds workers, I wonder if this is a serious article at all.

No it doesn’t. i challenge the sex industry precisely because i don’t privilege one group of people’s rights (men’s so-called right to sexual contact) over another (women’s right to not be treated as a body for sale/object).

What do you mean by “so called right”.

A woman does have a right not be treated as a body for sale/object
A woman also has a right to be treated as a body for sale/object
A man has a right to sexual contact with this woman who has the right to offer her body up for sexual contact

The whole point of the campaign to get the legislation changed was not so much ‘not in my back yard’ as ‘not anywhere, at all, ever’. In that respect, it doesn’t matter whether sianuska is a member of Bristol Feminist Network or not: his/her membership merely signals a greater political commitment, especially on this issue, which translates into a greater readiness to object. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that a ‘flying picket’ approach to posting objections to licencing any kind of club is a cinch for a well-connected web-based group of feminists who disapprove of sex work (or merely of the men who pay). For such groups, the change in the law acts as a pretext for shutting down all the clubs, not to regulate them more effectively or ensuring the women have decent pay and conditions..

Secondly, having repeatedly positioned women who work in lapdancing clubs as victims, campaigners can scarcely run campaigns against them, so for years the target has been the men who pay/attend, largely on the basis that…well, they’re men and what they do is indefensible on principle (neatly dodging, for example, issues of consent, whether it is to sex or to paying/being paid for a legal activity or service). I’m not surprised at the misleadingly worded leaflet directed at men: campaigners wanted the ‘Nordic Model’ of total prohibition, but that’s not the UK law: even ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith recognised there were contexts in which commercial sex could take place. Scaring/guilt-tripping men with the threat of prosecution is simply one step up from accusing them of being abusers/rapists when paying for sex.

Lastly, the only reason some feminists keep seeing sex work as a gender issue is because the male buyer/female seller model is simply the most common version, unlike sex work involving gay men. If the same objections apply to the latter as to the former (which any law would have to do), then the issue isn’t women, it’s the disapproval of paying for sex on principle, regardless of which gender is the buyer or seller. For such feminists, the demand for women’s sexual autonomy never seems to include the autonomy to agree to consensual sexual services in exchange for money – but then this is less about feminism than about other people’s sexual choices (see also other forms of contentious sexual behaviour, such as porn and BDSM). That was the problem during the ‘sex wars’ in the 1980s; it looks like a swathe of the contemporary feminist movement is about to make the same mistake all over again.

Well, knock me over with a feather – Quiet Riot Girl misrepresenting feminists – and on Lib Con too. What’s next?

Have you heard of the Nordic model of prostitution/sex work? This has proven that explaining to those who pay for sex, mostly men, and criminalising THEM has greatly reduced the demand for paid-for-sex.

Whilst the number of transactions have probably been reduced the demand has not.

The Scandinavan male demand for sexual fulfillment is as great as before (it is not at all susceptible to a feminist tongue lashing) but, by criminalising prostitution, the authorities have forced it underground where the dangers for the sex workers are much greater.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/may/27/prostitution-norway

Hi all
Thanks for the comments so far.

I thought I would respond to the BFN and Sianushka first as I agree that I thought the objection to the license was made by the BFN and not by an individual. So apologies for that. I first saw it on the UK Feminista site, and as it was posted under ‘BFN’ on that site, I thought it represented the network as a whole. I am glad that your network is supportive of diverse views amongst feminists. I am not arguing that people don’t have the right to make objections to councils on any issue of license or planning application.

And again to Sianushka I apologise for only printing that one para that did indeed focus on the issue of women and walking around the city and safety. I did put the link to the whole document though!

I think Sianushka you make some interesting points and do refer to some of the complexities of the issue here, that were not apparent from the document you submitted to the council. License objections, as with blogposts, are subject to word counts I expect! However I still disagree with the objection to the license and the idea that it is in the interests of women sex workers and women in a city in general. I think issues around safety of both strip club dancers and women who live and work/use an area can be better dealt with than through banning specific clubs. It would be brilliant if there was an initiative for example that aimed to engage both the women working in that area and the ones who use it for work or leisure. Maybe to approach the council on issues such as street lighting, policing, or information to people about street harassment/violence and how to deal with it. You say:

It is a fact worth repeating that sexual harassment and assault goes up in areas where there are strip clubs. i can confirm that from anecdotal experience. don’t women, all women, have the right to freedom of movement, the right to walk down the street and feel safe from objectification and violence?

Strip clubs and sex work are not going to go away. So I think feminists should work together to find ways to tackle violence against all women including sex workers, that goes beyond campaigning to reduce/remove the sex industry from our towns and cities. Gender violence is most endemic in people’s homes. In terms of street violence, it is more prevalent in some areas than others, sure, but this is not because of the sex industry but to do with wider socio-economic and geographical factors. Like we both said, the sex industry is expected to operate in ‘certain areas’ of town, and these are often areas where there is more deprivation and social problems.

I think deep down our differences come down to whether or not we think it is a worthwhile aim to try and reduce/remove the sex industry or sex work. I have no interest as a feminist in working towards this aim. If it was a by-product of other feminist activity that improved economic prospects for all women, then so be it. But as an aim in itself I do not support it.

will return to the other comments soon.

12. gorilerof3b

Elly, *your* lack of understanding of the ‘complex issues’ involved is made plain by this statement alone:

“sex workers who are coerced, including trafficked workers”

Why can’t you bring yourself to call these women and girls (and sometimes men and boys) what they are?

A person who is coerced or trafficked is not a ‘worker’. She/he is a slave.

James from Durham: I do not agree that paying for sex is shameful. Men do it, women do it. I believe in trying to make people who pay for sex feel ‘shame’ we are also suggesting it is shameful to sell sex. How can one be shameful and the other side of the transaction not be? I am against any campaign which trades on this way of treating people who for whatever reason choose to pay for sex at some point in their life.

I agree with Dave and Nick that the arguments of anti-sex industry campaigns do privilege those who focus on the rights of people not to be objectified by sexual economics and culture. I am pleased someone (Dave) said that the right to buy and sell sex should also be respected. My aim is for us to campaign on ways of making working conditions better for sex workers, so they are not so badly exploited and to challenge violence against women in particular who work in the sex industry.

As for the action for men. I will concede that a minority of men who drink in pubs also pay for sex. But so do minorities of men who teach in schools and work in the police force and go to church. It is easier to flyer pubs because there would be resistance by men in those other establishments I expect, about being approached about their sexual habits. Because of the assumptions that would make. I thought the leaflet was very sensationalised and did not put the issue of paying for sex in any kind of helpful context. It focussed on all the bad things that happen if you pay for sex. I think we should all feel able to talk about these kind of issues and not encourage stigma. But that would be a more difficult conversation than just a leaflet saying ‘don’t do this or you will get in trouble’.

Hi gorrilerof3b I don’t tend to use the term slave in this context. I think trafficked coerced worker is a better term. I have some contacts who work in this field in international development. I will send them this link and see if they have any information on the terminology.

I have to agree with Dave (comment 7). Surely it’s a woman’s right to choose whether she is treated as a body for sale or an object?

And although no man has a “right” to sexual contact with anyone, he certainly isn’t wrong to objectify a woman who is happy to be objectified, as the case would be if the gender roles were reversed – which certainly isn’t unheard of.

“A person who is coerced or trafficked is not a ‘worker’. She/he is a slave.”

Except there is virtually no one in that situation in the UK. No one has been found to have been coerced despite several dramatic police raids in recent years. It is a non-problem

Lots of people, on the other hand, have had to accept much lower standards of working conditions and face greater personal risks because their work hasn’t been regularised, and their basic employment/contract rights protected. Attempts to ban sex work will not improve this actually existing problem, as opposed to the sensationalised fictional “sex slavery” problem.

Thanks redpesto for your excellent comment. I agree with it in its entirety.

Hi Nick
Thanks for pointing out the issue of the UK context of trafficking and coercion. I agree the problem has been exaggerated. This is partly why I object to the wording of the leaflets by demand for change. They suggest men who pay for sex are quite likely to be paying for sex with coerced workers, when in the UK they simply are not. And, as yet, it is still perfectly legal to pay for sex with a consenting sex worker in the UK. But that doesn’t sound so snappy on a leaflet.

@6 (James from Durham): People are frequently treated as objects or as little more than machines. Many people work in jobs they find degrading, why should we single out sex work? I think it’s important that as a society we work on ensuring that no job is degrading – but this has nothing to do with the type of work per se, but the overall context and conditions faced by the worker. There are sex workers of many types (porngraphy producers and actors, models, sex chatline workers, escorts, etc) who enjoy great job satisfaction – why should we stigmatise them?

In a mature liberal democracy we should accept that many moral judgements should be left to the individual – this should include whether we pay or accept payment for sex. At the same time we should focus on how to avoid the unwanted consequences of how the sex trade sometimes works. If this includes better lighting and policing in areas where sex work happens that’s all to the good. The police can be trained in how to work with sex workers to keep them , their clients and other individuals safe.

I’ve held a high opinion of BFN for quite some time, and while I don’t agree with everything said by the members, I’m encouraged that BFN openly encourages members to develop their own opinions – that seems to be rare in organised feminism.

I don’t know if they mean me, LibCon, or feminism? Which is stranger?

Liberal Conspiracy – as far as I can see it is the only one which doesn’t do what it says on the box (I am assuming you are quietly rioting whilst typing…).

21. Shatterface

Wow, a grown up attitude to sex work on Liberal Conspiracy – whatever next?

Prohibition has been an abject failure and it’s about time people woke up to that fact. At ‘best’ it marginalises vulnerable people more.

The ‘right’ not to be offended by lap dancing clubs – and ‘offence’ is the worst threat they pose – does not trump the right to safe employment in those establishments – or the rights or safety of customers *either*, for that matter.

Dress it up however you want but the taboos surrounding adult entertainment or the sex industry proper are regressive, reactionary, illiberal and irrational.

I just had a chat on twitter with some feminist activists, and they found these links about trafficking cases in the UK in recent years.

http://tinyurl.com/25llny3 http://tinyurl.com/2cs7gpz http://tinyurl.com/2ebs4d4 http://tinyurl.com/283kana

Hope the links work.

I am not a denier of the violence and exploitation that occurs within the sex industry. I just do not believe that criminalising clients of sex workers and shutting down strip clubs in certain areas of town will solve the problems. I do also think there are some ‘scare’ stories about the level of trafficking in the UK. But I’d never say it doesn’t happen. Any more info on this would be welcome.

Thanks Pagar for the link to the article on the ‘Nordic Model’. I am inclined to agree with you. Here is an article via another shy twitter user, about the way the sex industry tends to get portrayed by its detractors:

http://bit.ly/9BWKxD

25. BookElfLeeds

The biggest problem I have with the licence is that it can be opted into by the local councils. In Leeds, where I live, there are over 20 lapdancing clubs, gentlemen’s clubs, etc. I used to work in a busy bar/club on Boar Lane, down the road from two lap dancing clubs. The bar I worked at also had poles in the windows, and the DJs used to run lapdancing competitions (where men and women entered) and would give ‘rewards’ for sexiness amongst the ladies. It was very very popular with stag and hen dos, that flock to the city, especially as it was round the corner from the train station. I was constantly harrased whilst working as a barmaid, groped and fondled as a matter of course. There was only one occasion when I felt seriously threatend, because the bouncers couldn’t see me or the guy who was groping me, whilst I had my hands full of glasses. I’ve worked in bars and clubs since I was 16 (glass collecting!) so I’ve always got used to it. One job I had selling shots of drinks around bars opposite two lap dancing clubs (one of which had silluettes of naked women in the window) I used to dress very provocatively (I was working on commision and it was just easier) and was constantly msitaken for a prostitute and offered cash for sexual acts. These occasions, without fail, were done by men on stag parties or business trips/ birthdays- out in large numbers, usually not from Leeds, but from the neighboring small towns.
Leeds City Council know full well the massive amount of lap dancing clubs bring revenue to the town, and every other bar plays up to the ‘sexy’ side of Leeds. A big club night got a right bollocking last year for advertising their clubs as ‘SEX nights’, but still use semi-naked women on huge posters all over town to advertise. There is very little chance I think of Leeds City Council accepting the licence act.
However, in the small town where I originally come from, they don’t want a lapdancing club, and the council has backed it full force. ‘Not in my backyard’ definatly applies here. I am going to make a massive assuption that most of the men from the country who would quite happily fondle the bum of a ‘city girl’ earning minimum wage, then go ogle a women dancing for them for money would be horrified if a sex club sprang up in their quiet neighborhoods.
Thats what I think anyway, it isn’t fair. Its patriachal capatalism and its exploitative and unfair.

@15 – Cheers, but of course a man has the right to have sex with a consenting woman who is above the legal age.

and vice versa

@23 QRG

Looks like these links were from 2008 when there was still some excitement that the dastardly crime of sex trafficking was real and could be discovered and prevented.

Fast forward to October 2009 when it would appear that despite the fervent hopes of many people, such crimes only existed in the fevered imaginations of the sexually correct.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/government-trafficking-enquiry-fails

The human trafficking unit was disbanded and should probably have been charged with taking money under false pretences.

Wow, yeah thanks for that nice little round up of the feminist position on sex work in Bristol Riot Girl.

FYI there are two charities in Bristol dedicated to giving practical support to people damaged by sex work and trafficking. It was the first city in England to win compensation for the rape of a women who worked as a prostitute. There are already community led projects against gender based violence. It has a very informed response to the negative impact of the sex industry and – brace yourself Riot Girl! – many of the people involved are feminists!

It is laughable that your ObjectWatch blog is seeking to scrutinise critics of the sex industry.

Why don’t you do a bit of homework before bashing and misrepresenting the people who actually roll up their sleeves and do something useful?

this is from the UN pagar who i *think* might have some expertise in this issue

http://www.unodc.org/documents/blueheart/Fact_sheet_english.pdf

Thanks for your comment BookElfLeeds

I think you convey incredibly honestly how for many women workers in the service industry, their sexuality is already being made into part of their labour. For me, this shows that tackling the ‘objectification’ of women and violence against them is not going to be achieved through restricting the locations and activities of sex entertainment venue. There is a brilliant writer called Lisa Adkins who discusses this issue of women, gender, sexuality and work across a number of sectors.

I like your mention of the countryside, where NIMBY attitudes are probably rife!
But there is always a train into town to enable people to partake in what isn’t on offer in the villages. Great comments thanks.

31. Sinless69uk

Don’t forget the Big Lie that the Lilith Project told about Camden rape figures i.e. that rape rose 50% between 1999 and 2002 during which 4 large lap dancing clubs opened.

Look at the figures for y/e May 09 and y/e May 10 from the Metropolitan Police website

http://www.met.police.uk/crimefigures/datatable.php?borough=ek&period=year

i.e 45 rapes in y/e May 09
84 rapes in y/e May 10

Rape figures can vary more than 50% from one year to the next!

They got the 50% figure by picking years which suited their argument.

“this is from the UN pagar who i *think* might have some expertise in this issue”

Indeed. The UN has tremendous expertise in raping and pimping out women and children, especially in war torn country. Its expertise is comparable to that other great international aid agency, the Catholic Church!

Thanks Rubbish!

I am glad there are a variety of feminists in Bristol campaigning on behalf of a range of women. I do that myself.

My Objectwatchblog is http://www.objectwatch.wordpress.com

I scrutinise feminist organisations such as Object because they are very influential in pressing for legislation which I think overall does not help women. I don’t think the way OBJECT portray gender and sexuality is supportive of the idea that women are sexual agents, just as men are. This matters to me as a feminist and so it is one of my feminist activities.

What surprises me isn’t the ongoing contention between the anti and pro groups, it’s the continuing myth regarding the legality of selling sex. I’ve been informed of it’s illegality from people who really should have know better – people who work for social support groups, friends of sex workers, and even sex worker who didn’t report a rape due to her belief that what she was doing was illegal.

I often compare sex work to working as a waitress (or McDonalds). As someone who has experience in both, sex work would win hands down. Not only do sex workers get better treatment, they also receive better pay (of course I’m not referring to trafficked girls, but lets not forget that other workers are trafficked as well). Yet despite the difference in treatment re: sex worker vs waitress, which one is socially acceptable and which one is abhorrent??

Sex workers don’t sexualise my body when I walk down the street or when I worked tables. Men do, other women do, advertising does and society. I’d love to live in a world where my worth wasn’t based on how big my boobs are, unfortunately with or without sex work, we do not live in that world (I mean, just look at the vilification women get in the media in the country, it’s deplorable).

Disagree hugely with the article.

I believe that it is unprincipled to adopt a moral relativist position for this problem, especially when you start firing at people trying to resolve it. Look, you’re on the same side of the line as the misogynists here.

It’s also deeply regressive – you are just supplying misogynist prostitute-abusers (‘users’ is a hugely disrespectful term!) with ammunition from a woman.

It’s not any more mature to be a moral relativist – don’t kid yourself. On an issue like this, it’s insidious to muddy the waters.

A legalised and regulated sex industry would create a culture shift towards acceptance and reverse gender equality progress.

BookElfLeeds: Leeds City Council know full well the massive amount of lap dancing clubs bring revenue to the town

And by changing the law to require a licence that costs up to £30K that’s another useful revenue source for a hard-up local council during a recession. Moreover, you shouldn’t be harrassed at work by drunken idiots , whether it’s a bar, lapdancing club, or anywhere else.

My two cents on sex trafficking:

Just because there are fewer instances of the stereotypical sex trafficking story of kidnap, deception and coercion than the press or misguided policing initiatives would have us believe doesn’t mean that exploitation of women in the sex trade isn’t a problem, and migrant sex workers are often more vulnerable.

A UK sex worker from Thailand, Moldova or Bromley could find that she is forced to hand over all her earnings to her pimp, or that she has no ability to refuse customers or practice safe sex, or is subjected to violence or prevented from leaving. Misleading media coverage and misguided policing mean that where she came from and how she got there is the focus rather than protecting her human rights.

Thank you for your comment Taryn. You put it much more succinctly than I did, the point about sex work being legal in our country and why this matters. My main objection to the action for men campaign was the way it suggested paying for sex was not legal. That this assumption also exists among sex workers themselves is worrying, as you say, because it can inhibit them from getting support when needed.

This link is interesting it points out how some feminist campaigns on sex work erase the voices of sex workers. It was posted on twitter by @audaciaray who campaigns on sex work issues and does a lot of work with sex workers all over the world.

http://thecurvature.com/2010/06/28/ny-bill-allows-sex-trafficking-victims-to-clear-prostitution-convictions/

Varus- I am no moral relativist. I don’t use the term ‘users’ and I don’t side with misogynists.

But I disagree with you about the regulation and legality or otherwise of the sex industry.

I have a very definite stance on this subject. It is in opposition to the misogynistic exploitation of women (including trans women) in the sex industry. It is also in opposition to the ‘moralising’ stance of feminists who support prohibition-style legislation and discourse.

There are more than two positions in most debates!

“This approach to challenging the sex industry privileges the needs and ‘rights’ of one group of women over another.”

/

HI Sajarina
Thanks for your comment. My argument here is not at all that sex trafficking does not happen, but that the current legislation is not helping solve any of the problems of exploitation in the UK based sex industry. I find in particular the targeting men in pubs who may at some point pay for sex, that may involve a sex worker who is coerced to be particularly useless. But it is difficult to target those who organise and profit from exploitation of workers. Difficult, but also from a capitalism point of view, not what capitalist states tend to focus on due to their investment in such exploitation…

42. Chaise Guevara

For my part, I think it’s a mistake to automatically assume that sex work is wrong, or that paying for sex is wrong. Sure, prostitutes are ‘used’ for their bodies, just like the men are ‘used’ for their money. But if you work as an academic, you are being ‘used’ for your brain. I don’t understand the logic that states 1) a man prepared to pay a woman for sex must assume that this is the be-all and end-all of her existence and/or b) the fact that this happens means that society as a whole will end up thinking the same way.

We have an instinctively negative view of sex, a fact implied by comments like “Elly, paying for sex is shameful! Reducing a human being to an object for rent is shameful”. I’m sure the person who posted that would claim to have a well-adjusted view of sex, but if so why say that a transaction between two willing adults becomes “shameful” just because sex is involved?

Of course, sex gained through exploitation is horrendous, even worse than most other forms of exploitation, because of the deeper psychological harm it can do. But that doesn’t make all sex workers exploited. If you actually want to deal with exploitation, rather than simply telling people what they can and can’t do with their own bodies, then surely the answer is to legalize the industry, bring it into the open and regulate the hell out of it.

Chaise Guevera- Thanks for your lucid comment. I can’t dispute a word of it.

‘If you actually want to deal with exploitation, rather than simply telling people what they can and can’t do with their own bodies, then surely the answer is to legalize the industry, bring it into the open and regulate the hell out of it.’

Agreed. what I wonder is, do the capitalists and the government want to deal with exploitation, in the sex or any other industry? I think exploitation is their bread and butter.

44. Chaise Guevara

*Update to the above, in case anyone cares:

When I say that a prostitute is ‘used’ for their body while an academic is ‘used’ for their brain, I do realise that there is a real-world difference simply due to the fact most people would probably hate to work as a prostitute but feel neutral about being an academic. I’m not saying that they are equivalent. The point is that any transaction between two willing parties can be described in terms of both parties being used.

45. Chaise Guevara

You’re quick off the mark, Quiet Riot Girl!

“Agreed. what I wonder is, do the capitalists and the government want to deal with exploitation, in the sex or any other industry? I think exploitation is their bread and butter.”

I’d agree with this in many cases, especially in terms of international trade. Here, though, I think it’s more to do with political expediency: most people see prostitution as a ‘vice’ and therefore as a bad thing, so the best thing for politicians to do is to appear to take a tough line regardless of the actual ethics involved. On the other hand, some politicians do clearly have strong, genuine feelings on the matter, such as Harriet Harman (not that I agree with her approach on the issue).

This is a fucking awful article. Sunny, Dan, what is it doing here?

I’d offer some point-by-point refutations but I’m actually too angry to even begin. How dare such a short-sighted, ill-thought out set of half-points go under the banner of opposing NIMBYism.

I’ve really nothing more to say, as crap on this sort of scale doesn’t deserve anything more than being called crap.

This is a fucking awful article. Sunny, Dan, what is it doing here?

LOL.

Thanks Paul Sagar. I do like your frankness. Sunny, what IS this crap doing here? Has it got a license?

This is a fucking awful article. Sunny, Dan, what is it doing here?

Actually, Paul, I think it’s quite…………..er………….progressive…….

Excellent thoughtful response Paul, well said! /sarcasm

I’d offer some point-by-point refutations…

There are those who would doubt this without some sort of proof. I, however, am not one such. Your word here is good enough for me.

What we want, I think, is more articles on feminism by men or by approved women at least. How dare this Ellie woman have her own opinions?

51. Chaise Guevara

Pagar, Paul’s obviously right. After all the article doesn’t “deserve anything more than being called crap.” And, as we all know, crap is really crap! Ergo Paul is right.

On a more serious note: when I first read this article and scanned the comments, my heart sank. I must just have been in a bad mood, but all I saw were authoritarian arguments and all this illogical stuff about objectification. On a second, more careful read-through, I’ve realised that there are a lot of sensible comments either about personal liberties, working conditions or both. This being a leftist blog, I’d have thought we were all for that sort of thing. I don’t condemn people who want to outlaw prostitution, I can understand how they feel, but I do wonder what their priorities really are.

Paying for sex isn’t evil; forcing someone to have sex with you is. Just like any other industry in the world.

52. Chaise Guevara

Blast! Dave’s sarcasm reflex is faster than mine.

53. Shatterface

‘I’d offer some point-by-point refutations but I’m actually too angry to even begin. How dare such a short-sighted, ill-thought out set of half-points go under the banner of opposing NIMBYism.’

I suspect your anger is a lot more coherent than any ‘rational’ argument you could come up with. Why engage with an argument when an expression of incandescent rage will do?

Sort of off topic, but I think this is quite a good move by Sunny to publish this, rather than the usual party-line feminism that’s normally here. not that I agree with the article, but it’s certainly an interesting perspective and the debates need to be had (not just getting angry like @47..!)

55. Shatterface

‘ I don’t condemn people who want to outlaw prostitution,’

I would. Why pretend to be civil to those who seek to punish others for what they do with their own bodies? These people would happily see others fined or imprisoned or driven into a more dangerous areas just to satisfy their own feelings of disgust.

Sagar’s rage is the kind of unthinking hatred you’d find spewing from the Christian Right whenever abortion is discussed. How dare these unruly women befoul their bodies – do they not know their role is procreation only?!?

Dave Weeden: ‘What we want, I think, is more articles on feminism by men’

I know that remark was made in the context of a bit of a joke-around, but actually I would LOVE to see more articles about feminism from men. Men who engage seriously with gender politics. Because leaving feminism to women just keeps it in a ghetto and as far as I am concerned, feminism is really only about all of us challenging inequality when it occurs, particularly along the lines of gender as it interacts with sexuality, masculinity, femininity, class, ethnicity, geography, age, occupation etc etc. More men writing on feminism? Yes please.

57. Matt Munro

“I have lived in Bristol my whole life, and ever since becoming an adult, I have felt unsafe and unwelcome in Old Market, seeing it as a place that is clearly geared towards the sex industry. It is not somewhere where I feel comfortable going or even passing through.”

So have I pretty much, and like most Bristolians I wouldn’t go through Old Market on my own at night either – I’d think twice about it in broad daylight to be honest.
I don’t know about the sex industry, my impression is that it’s geared up towards violent assaults and muggings.

58. Chaise Guevara

“Because leaving feminism to women just keeps it in a ghetto”

You’ll suffer for that one, you know. Watch as your opponents expertly take it out of context and use it to suggest that you think women are inferior to men!

I’ve been a-lurking on this site for a couple of weeks now, Quiet Riot Girl, and I’ve always been surprised at the amount of hostility that seems to be directed at you. I keep expecting you to say something outrageous and vindicate the aggression.

You haven’t. In fact, throughout this discussion you’ve been keeping your own head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. Keep up the good work.

Hi Matt

Thanks for your comment. I admit I am not from Bristol. But I have lived all my life in urban connobations, and, though I know there are specific issues around the sex industry and how it operates in cities, the violence, crime and fear that can go with living in cities, I believe, is not a result of the sex industry. I can’t think of a city that doesn’t have those problems. Putting it all on where the lapdancing clubs are doesn’t address the question. I grew up in a ‘red light’ district, before the days of internet organised sex work, and it was no more dangerous than any other part of town. That is anecdotal. I will look for some more evidence on this subject.

60. Chaise Guevara

“I would. Why pretend to be civil to those who seek to punish others for what they do with their own bodies? These people would happily see others fined or imprisoned or driven into a more dangerous areas just to satisfy their own feelings of disgust.

Sagar’s rage is the kind of unthinking hatred you’d find spewing from the Christian Right whenever abortion is discussed. How dare these unruly women befoul their bodies – do they not know their role is procreation only?!?”

I don’t blame you, and if everyone who opposed prostitution thought about it in those terms, I’d agree. But that’s not the case.

Feminists who oppose prostitution think they’re doing the sex worker a favour. They’re not evil, just misguided, and I have to recognise the fact that they are at least trying to do good.

I admit I have to clench my teeth when people start denouncing any combination of sex and money (prostitution, lads’ mags, whatever) as ‘objectification of women’, though. Firstly, as has been pointed out, the language used often reflects the fact that the speaker couldn’t give a shit about men, can only view males as aggressive and destructive agents. Secondly, while I know they don’t see it that way, what they’re saying essentially boils down to “I don’t want women to work as prostitutes in case someone associates them with me”.

As Sianuskha said, in a far from aggressive or unreasonable post, “don’t women, all women, have the right to freedom of movement, the right to walk down the street and feel safe from objectification and violence?” Leaving aside the ridiculous notion that you have the right to ‘feel’ anything in particular, the clear message is “I should be kept safe from these prostitutes and the danger that their behaviour will reflect on me as a woman”. Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

Thanks Chaise Guevara. It is nice to have a word of support. I did actually get some nasty comments last time I commented on a post here at LC. But I have been pleasantly surprised here today that the criticism has not been as personal this time.

I love feminism. It is where I am from. I will defend it by being the only feminist I know how to be. Myself.

sianushka: You take issue with my statement that i don’t feel safe or comfortable in old market, as if my right to enjoy freedom of movement in the city i have lived in since i was 4 is of less importance than the right for men to pay to objectify women.

But that’s precisely what Elly is taking issue with, and I would too. This argument isn’t that further from conservative ‘community leaders’ who take action against places (gambling / prostitution) they don’t like. While I have sympathy for those who have to live near such establishments, in the case of sex workers I think Elly is perfectly right to say that it is a ‘not in my back yard’ approach.

don’t women, all women, have the right to freedom of movement, the right to walk down the street and feel safe from objectification and violence?

Yes they do. Definitely. But you haven’t shown any evidence that if such establishments are set up they increase violence against women. It is more likely to do with the fact that these places are usually set up in seedy areas. You’d have to show evidence beyond anecdotal.

misrepresents the views put forward in the statement, and twists the words to give an appearance of nimby-ism.

She may have mistakenly said your view represents that of all of BFN, but doesn’t the above still apply to you?

Someone else:
It’s not any more mature to be a moral relativist – don’t kid yourself. On an issue like this, it’s insidious to muddy the waters.

I’m sorry but this won’t do. The whole point of this space is for the left to discuss issues. If I’m being asked to censor stuff just because it might help the right a bit, in favour of pretending that different opinions don’t exist on an issue, then people might as well fucking go home and the left is fucked. Nothing is worse than people who can’t even deal with someone else having a different opinion than them.

I have been thinking about this issue of ‘fear’. I understand that it can be scary walking through streets at night in a city. I’d suggest that fear applies to men as much as women, who are statistically more likely to get attacked by a stranger.

But I think we do have a ‘fear’ a ‘phobia’ of sex workers and their clients in this culture. I believe it may operate to some degree in a similar way to homophobia or transphobia for example. Homophobia has historically been justified by emphasising the potential danger of being ‘attacked’ by gay men. I think the discourses are quite subtle, but this language of fear and violence that is used in discussions about sex work, I think, in a complex way, contributes to the fact that when sex workers themselves are attacked and murdered, society tends to shrug it’s shoulders, because they weren’t worth caring about anyway. I will return to this somewhere else as I have only really just started processing the idea. There may be some writing on it already.

64. Chaise Guevara

“If I’m being asked to censor stuff just because it might help the right a bit, in favour of pretending that different opinions don’t exist on an issue, then people might as well fucking go home and the left is fucked. Nothing is worse than people who can’t even deal with someone else having a different opinion than them.”

Hear fucking hear.

Sunny Hundal:

If you read the statement of objection that i sent to the council then you would see that i do in fact, do all of those things that you are suggesting i haven’t taken into account or done. Unfortunately my comments have
a) been taken out of context to fit a specific agenda
b) been taken to represent a whole group of people

In fact, even you have taken one aspect of my earlier comment out of context to support your criticism of me!

My views have nothing to do with nimby-ism. again, if my whole statement was taken in to consideration, this would be clear. i don’t live near old market for a start!

i appreciate that elly apologised for presenting my individual view as BFN’s views, but a simple fact check/reading my statement would have avoided such a mistake. it isn’t much to ask. the fact that the top line of my statement makes this clear seems to me a pretty easy thing to understand.

There is evidence to suggest violence goes up in areas where sex entertainment establishments are set up. both anecdotal and statistical. please see Object’s research, EAVES research and crime statistics. I know that this article criticises Object – a stance which i find confusing and based on a lack of engagement with Object’s work.

I really take issue with the fact that my views have been so misrepresented and therefore a lot of this debate has rested on that misrepresentation. If this was a newspaper i would have every right to request an apology and lodge a complaint.

I take issue with the fact that the article is riddled with inaccuracies, not least the claim that Old Market is in the city centre and that i want to push sex work into less salubrious areas.

I do not take a NIMBY approach to sex work. Again, perhaps if this article gave a more honest, accurate view of what i wrote and of the geography of Bristol we would have all saved a lot of time. Instead it is making sensationalist and silly complaints about an issue and a city that seem to me to rest on lack of research, a lack of understanding of Bristol and the issues Bristol face, an uncertainty over the work of BFN and gross generalisations about people’s opinions, actions and viewpoints.

chaise guevera
“Nothing is worse than people who can’t even deal with someone else having a different opinion than them.””

exactly.

Hi sianushka

I can see why you directed your last comment at Sunny, as he had responded to you. But I think the main body of your comments are directed at me.

I have apologised to you and BFN for not realising that your objection statement is not on behalf of BFN. If you want to lodge another complaint about that please feel free to do so! Let’s not get into the language of the national press and their complaints systems hey? They really are not relevant here I think.

I have read your full statement to Bristol city council re: the lapdancing club. This article was intended to spark a debate about the issue of how feminism engages with the sex industry, which it has. I admit I pinpointed a particular aspect of your statement, but that was because I wanted to keep my article of interest to everyone, not just Bristol residents. I agree I should have checked the geography of Old Market. I think that is a very good criticism!

As for OBJECT> I am sad to say I have engaged with the work of OBJECT much more than I find interesting and enjoyable. I really OBJECT to their stance on the sex industry. I believe I have made my reasons abundantly clear. Every time I write about them somebody says: ‘what are your objections?’ and I keep repeating myself over and over.

I object to a feminist organisation placing the concept of ‘objectification of women’ at the heart of their campaigns. I find this demeans women’s agency as people and as sexual beings. It also ignores exploitation on non-cis women, men, and non-gender binary people.

I object to the way OBJECT lobbies for criminal laws against the sex industry, for the reasons I have listed above.

I object to middle class feminists picketing Tescos in their pyjamas to complain about lads mags, rather than thinking about the way we all interact with sexuality, consumerism and consumption regardless of our gender. And without considering the fact that the sex industry/magazine industry is a massive employer across the globe so we can’t just say we don’t like the products it produces without exploring socio-economic factors on a global scale.

I object to how OBJECT are a charity and should be accountable to the public but they never reply to my emails and never identify themselves if one of their members speaks to me online. e.g. Hi, my name’s X and I am a member of OBJECT. I object to an air of secrecy about how they operate.

I object to the way feminist organisations seem to operate as a kind of club that I would not want to be part of anyway, but that excludes the diverse voices and opinions of feminists across the UK. I have interacted with UK feminista online and they have said things like ‘we don’t agree on this issue but lets have a debate’. But if they are a national feminist network, how can they disagree with a feminist who is a member of their network? They should not be so partisan.

I am really glad we had the discussion about the sex industry without referring to any of these ‘feminism’ conflicts at such a specific level as it detracts from the issue at hand. But the state of feminism in the UK is an issue at hand that is very important to me. I don’t know how to engage with ‘official’ feminist organisations because I don’t like their exclusivity and their approach. But I won’t stop trying because feminist organisations need to be reminded about the vast range of feminist identities and views that exist.

This comment is not intended to be directed personally at sianushka. My beef is with the feminist organisations I have mentioned above.

p.s. this is not just a question of ‘differing opinions’. Organisations such as OBJECT, The Fawcett Society and Eaves have real power in our political culture. I would not be spending so much time challenging them if they didn’t.

“Nothing is worse than people who can’t even deal with someone else having a different opinion than them.”

Genocide, maybe.

70. Mike Killingworth

If a woman sells her body in a back street, she’s a prostitute. What she should be doing of course is spending money to improve her looks so that she can attract a rich, powerful man who will then spend far more on her than she could ever get from f*cking in the back-street. IMHO her morals are just the same. The objectification of women is just like treason:

Treason doth never prosper –
what’s the reason?
If it doth prosper
none dare call it treason.

Therefore the answer is to set up a charity to provide prostitutes with the seed-corn capital to buy the clothes, cosmetics, fake tans, gym memberships etc etc to give them the bodies that will get them the rich and powerful men.

Or have I missed something?

Well Mike you have missed the point that there are plenty of prostitutes/sex workers whose clients are rich and powerful men. Not every man or woman is looking for a spouse. Some just want a nice simple fuck. This I believe can only ever be bought cash up front. Everything else gets way more complicated.

As for charities for sex workers that help them improve their opportunities in life: there are some brilliant ones and I’d be up for some more.

72. Mike Killingworth

[71] And you, QRG, have missed the point that a woman who services a rich & powerful man is a courtesan or even a mistress, not a common whore. (Yes, sex workers are labelled according to who they work for.) No one has ever suggested that such women are oppressed or in need of re-education, unless they have also believed – as indeed I do – that the “nice simple fuck” does not exist.

The price paid for sex differs between men and women, between rich and poor, between gay and straight, and there are several currencies in use with fast-fluctuating rates of exchange, but there is always a price.

Is sex without love “nice”? Is it “simple”? Is, indeed, sexual love either of those things?

I join in the “sex” threads on Liberal Conspiracy with trepidation, the ice is always thinner than I think – but the confusion of the first seventy comments on this one surely shows – if it shows nothing else – that the conceptual apparatus of all concerned is simply not up to the task placed upon it. This is not to cheer or boo any particular contribution – rather it is to suggest that where political philosophy, let alone economics or ethics, do not give us a ladder that will bear our weight as we seek to cross the ice, then we do well to turn to psychology.

And that, I have found, is a discipline which scares the bejaysus out of yer average Liberal Conspirator…

I am afraid I am not really an experienced contributor here Mike. You are right to point out the different class/economic/status issues involved in sex work. I don’t think they lead to different ‘categories’ of person though.

The situation for women and men with few economic options who are the most vulnerable to exploitation I believe is the most important.

I am interested in some of the philosophical/psychological debates around our ideas on sex work too. No fear here.

I join in the “sex” threads on Liberal Conspiracy with trepidation, the ice is always thinner than I think – but the confusion of the first seventy comments on this one surely shows – if it shows nothing else – that the conceptual apparatus of all concerned is simply not up to the task placed upon it. This is not to cheer or boo any particular contribution – rather it is to suggest that where political philosophy, let alone economics or ethics, do not give us a ladder that will bear our weight as we seek to cross the ice, then we do well to turn to psychology.

What does that mean? Can’t anyone around here speak normally around here. Its like thesuaraus challenge

Dave,

I join in the “sex” threads on Liberal Conspiracy with trepidation, the ice is always thinner than I think – but the confusion of the first seventy comments on this one surely shows – if it shows nothing else – that the conceptual apparatus of all concerned is simply not up to the task placed upon it. This is not to cheer or boo any particular contribution – rather it is to suggest that where political philosophy, let alone economics or ethics, do not give us a ladder that will bear our weight as we seek to cross the ice, then we do well to turn to psychology.

What does that mean? Can’t anyone around here speak normally around here. Its like thesuaraus challenge

OK. I’ll try to translate this into something simple… Basically Mike is aware that is easy to put your foot in it on threads about sex but is claiming that the way everyone is thinking about this is confused and wrong, and that all relationships should be seen as transactions with give and take, and that there is no such thing as just sex. To understand this, he recommends using psychology as no other subject can do this, but gives us no example of how this works, unless his social-class based labelling is meant to do this.

76. Sinless69uk

“There is evidence to suggest violence goes up in areas where sex entertainment establishments are set up. both anecdotal and statistical. please see Object’s research, EAVES research and crime statistics”

As I previously pointed out, The Lilith/Eaves Object statistics are not truthful.

They states that rape figures rose 50% between 1999 and 2002 and imply lap damcing clubs are responsible.

However, see here from the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/nov/17/photography-law-pornography-ben-westwood

This shows 72 rapes in 1998/9 and 96 in 2001/2.

It also states 2007/8 figures had fallen from their 1998/9 levels.

Going to the Metroplitan Police website for some recent info

Note stats for y/e May 09 and y/e May 10

http://www.met.police.uk/crimefigures/datatable.php?borough=ek&period=year

These show Camden rape figures 45 for y/e May 09
84 for y/e May 10

Combining these we get
98/9 72
01/02 96
08/09 45
09/10 84

This shows that Camden rape figures vary hugely in percentage terms.
To talk of a 50% rise over 3 years is non-sensical when numbers can vary by more than 50% from one year to the next.

Why should we take notice of Lilith/Eaves/Object when they are clearly telling porkies abou rape figures?

Hi Sinless69
I agree there is a lot of misinformation that has been presented by OBJECT and co, with the purpose of lobbying politicians to change the law, which they have achieved.

I am trying to collect examples of this so I will keep the information that you’ve put on here.

Many organisations play with statistics to some extent. For me that is not the worst crime of OBJECT etc. My main problem is that they promote a view of women’s sexuality that is all about being objectified victims of men, which I find insulting to women. It falls into the same way of looking at women’s sexuality as the Daily Mail, just on the other side of the coin.

“I think deep down our differences come down to whether or not we think it is a worthwhile aim to try and reduce/remove the sex industry or sex work. I have no interest as a feminist in working towards this aim.
A few points:
1 I asked you a number of questions on your object watch blog and you still have not responded to them but here is the same piece trotted out where lots of your ‘critiques’ have already been responded to. I applaud the patience of the people who have responded so patiently again here.
2 This article is shoddily written and badly researched, as many of the responses here have highlighted.
3 please stop with the lazy – and false – bracketing of feminists involved in anti-sexual exploitation work as middle class nimby’ers. We’re not. I’m working class, so are most of the feminists i know who are involved in this work and it’s tiresome to continue reading your ignorant falsifications.
4 You state ”I think deep down our differences come down to whether or not we think it is a worthwhile aim to try and reduce/remove the sex industry or sex work. I have no interest as a feminist in working towards this aim.”
what exactly is your stance on the sex industry? Are you saying that it’s not exploitative? What would your answers be to address the obvious problems inherent in it? Why do you think it should be maintained?
5 you call yourself a feminist. I’m curious to know your definition of the word & how that might apply to you
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Scottish-Coalition-Against-Sexual-Exploitation/175173580913

Dear enddemand:

1: link, please. What questions, and how does asking questions, whether or not they’ve been answered, change anything?

2. Ouch! Abuse.

3. I think you’ve misunderstood Elly’s point. I can see how NIMBY-ism is related to owner-occupancy, and hence to being middle-class (although working class people own their own homes too), but I believe Elly was referring to the ‘Not in my back-yard’ state of mind. She wasn’t “bracketing” anyone with anyone else; nor was she calling anyone ‘middle-class’. You’ve taken offence where none was given.

4. I don’t see why the sex industry has to be any more ‘exploitative’ than, say, professional golf. Some people have physical attributes that others are willing to pay money for. Exchange is made; both parties are happier.

5. Is there an exclusive, ring-fenced, definition of ‘feminist’? As used by the papers (mostly the Guardian), it seems interchangeable with ‘woman with a brain’.

Hi enddemand. Nice to see you again! 🙂 How are your friends at OBJECT I’d love to meet them too.

I will continue to explain and state my case against OBJECT, and I will continue to educate myself about the specific global context of the sex industry. But it is a big job. I believe I have made it perfectly clear why I don’t agree with what you and OBJECT do. My earlier comment in response to sianushkka adds to this list of objections I have.

I think you and sianushka have misunderstood my use of the term ‘not in my back yard’. It is meant to suggest an attitude that wants to remove the sex industry from view, and to restrict its activity in a locality, rather than address the actual socio-economic contexts in which the sex industry operates.

As for me calling myself a feminist. Fuck it. Let’s say that for the sake of this debate I am not a feminist. Because I don’t align myself with a feminism that moralises and judges women and men simply because of their life circumstances, choices and sexual activities. I am an ‘ex-feminist’.

81. Just Visiting

QRG

So you’re now not a feminist. OK

In 80 you wrote:
“I object to a feminist organisation placing the concept of ‘objectification of women’ at the heart of their campaigns.”

Surely, a lobbying group can choose their own focus?

> I find this demeans women’s agency as people and as sexual beings.

Not at all. Unless you think there is no objectification of women….

> It also ignores exploitation on non-cis women, men, and non-gender binary people.”

Silly argument. Like saying the RNIB ignore the plight of deaf people.

Well Just visiting, maybe i should have said I’m not a ‘FEMINIST’ I am a person who is a life-long supporter of feminism, as I choose to define it, and as it evolves. But my feminism is very far removed from that of OBJECT and co. I can’t be arsed to respond to your other points as they are really rubbish.

”I object to middle class feminists picketing Tescos in their pyjamas to complain about lads mags, rather than thinking about the way we all interact with sexuality, consumerism and consumption regardless of our gender.”
Quote from the author in comments above.

I don’t know anyone from Object!, I just agree with their stance and, as I said in my comments on your blog, I wonder about your agenda in targeting them.

It would be useful, in my opinion anyway, if you educated yourself first about the sex industry and then come back in a few months/years time to write about it.

I merely asked about your definition of feminism, said nothing about your right to apply the term to yourself. Again, you display your ignorance – or deliberately ignore the facts – about the feminists you criticise. I think you’ll find that many of us actually work with women in the sex industry, or have been involved ourselves and are strongly committed to ending the violence, abuse and exploitation of the women involved. There is no judgement or moralising.

On the other hand, comments like this:
‘I don’t see why the sex industry has to be any more ‘exploitative’ than, say, professional golf. Some people have physical attributes that others are willing to pay money for. Exchange is made; both parties are happier.’
I reserve the right to judge to my hearts content as utter nonsense, vomited out by someone without a clue.

See much of this in professional golf Dave?

‘Australian prostitutes’ rights organisations recognise prostitution to be a high-risk occupation in terms of violence and coercion. Their guidelines contain risk management procedures that include introducing safety devices (panic/alarm
buttons) in workrooms and video surveillance to screen clients (see, for example, Sex Worker Outreach Project, 1996, p.30). This emphasis, though, is changing as the focus is progressively on ‘worker control’, suggesting the obvious unworkability of these tactics to prevent harm to women..Pacific Martial Arts is a typical example. Its promotional material suggests that its course ‘allows employees in the sex industry to react to threatening situations in a number of ways, often behind submissive but protective postures and teaches them how to create a common vision with an aggressor, which can often lead to a compromise of initial harmful intentions..Other advertising catchphrases
include ‘controlling self-violation that pre-empts negative outcomes’; ‘creating a common vision that shares an empathetic rapport with the violator’; ‘de-escalation negotiation’; ‘maintaining “first strike” advantage’ (ibid). This program is suggestive of crisis management for hostage situations. In what other non-military profession can hostage negotiations be deemed necessary to cope with the normal workday?..’
http://action.web.ca/home/catw/attach/Sullivan_proof_01.pdf

Or what about this Dave?
http://www.examiner.com/x-24740-Human-Rights-Examiner~y2010m6d11-New-Zealand-high-child-prostitution-rate-and-legislation-allowing-a-12-years-olds-consensual-sex

enddemand: we both have access to stats and documents supporting our case. we wont reach agreement by chucking references like hand grenades.

Its ok to be in opposition to another organisation/individual politically.

This is part of my political opposition to you and Object. You have enough influence to make it worthwhile opposing you. That is something to be pleased about from your point of view!

Dear endemand, I said, “has to be” not “is”. Please read me more carefully. My position stands.

86. Chaise Guevara

Can we at least stop with all this “You’re not a proper feminist” crap? The term is almost as widely and wildly used as ‘freedom’. Some people who call themselves feminists (the ones I like) mean that they want equality between the genders. Others mean that they’re interested in women’s issues in general. A few seem to believe that the only way to solve society’s ills is to either put all men in jail or start a program of state-sponsored castration for any man who has been overheard to remark that some women are actually jolly attractive. Fighting for ownership of the term is stupid – in fact, it’s the reason that many people won’t use the word to describe themselves – so why not stick to the issues instead of trying to claim that one person is a better feminist than the other?

87. Mike Killingworth

My internet link packed up around yesterday teatime and has only just been restored…

[74][75] My previous contribution was inteneded to be read in a sub-Swiftian sense*

Since when the ice has been melting further, to the point that the term “feminist” now appears to have no other meaning than in the irregular verb** I am a feminist, you are a sex worker, he is a pimp.

Obviously all paid-for sex is transactional. I myself have bought women meals, taken them home and bedded them (obviously this was a very long time ago, before most of you were born) and I used to amuse myself asking “feminists” how this differed from prostitution. Answers varied from “it doesn’t, really” to “because she could’ve afforded the meal without sleeping with you” to (the one I liked best) “don’t be disgusting”. Maybe back in the day almost all women were part-time tarts.

Now I am old and grey I think all transactional sex is dysfunctional. I tend to agree with Erich Fromm that a precondition of healthy sex is love, and the precondition of healthy erotic love is the capacity to love the rest of the human race (in a fraternal way, obviously). This is no doubt easier to do the more money you have (but only up to a certain point, studies show***) which is why I made my original suggestion. Apart from Swift. Of course.

***

* In his “A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift famously suggested that the issue of malnutrition in (18th century) Ireland could be solved if only the Irish would eat their own babies.

**A satirical conceit developed in the TV series “Yes, Minister”. It appears in most of the episodes, all of which are on youTube.

***Alas I don’t have a link for this – I’m sure there’s something about it on “Stumbling & Mumbling”

Hello Mike
I think you and your poetry and your reference to Erich Fromm are marvellous!

I agree about love as well, and loving the human race. But I also think it is worth engaging with campaigns and individuals on the ground, even if they don’t have such a subtle understanding of philosophical approaches to identity, gender and human relationships as you do.

I’d let you buy me dinner anyday! 🙂

@87

Mike.

Sorry, probably misrepresented you then. Although your viewpoint does appear to be based on a judgement about whether certain types of sex are functional or not, which seems either machine-based or moralistic to my reading. Surely sex is functional if it fulfils the function required, which may be sexual release? And, as with many functions (such as internet connections) fulfilment of the function does not mean no further problems or functions required.

QRG,

At the risk of simplistically paraphrasing a complex argument, are you having to argue with self-labelled feminists about whether women have the right to do as they wish with their own bodies in a setting which can be publically seen? Not sure how their argument differs from that of a beared cleric holding forth in say Iran myself, but I’m sure there are nuances I am missing. Still, any definition of feminism which denies freedom to women is somewhat unusual…

@83 – Not in golf but certainly in the armed services, police, ambulance drivers, coal miners, teachers et al.

The sex industry is not the only one that contains risk, and certainly not the most dangerous.

Watchman said: QRG,

At the risk of simplistically paraphrasing a complex argument, are you having to argue with self-labelled feminists about whether women have the right to do as they wish with their own bodies in a setting which can be publically seen? Not sure how their argument differs from that of a beared cleric holding forth in say Iran myself, but I’m sure there are nuances I am missing. Still, any definition of feminism which denies freedom to women is somewhat unusual…

Sadly watchman, this ‘Bearded Cleric’ (love it!) version of feminism, I believe, is becoming the norm in the U.K. Especially in terms of the feminism that holds sway with policy makers and funders of charitable campaign organisations.

I am sticking with the feminism I know and love though, where we are aiming towards liberty and equality for all…

92. Amy Clare

Surely, lap dancing clubs etc only exist at all because of gender inequality. Men have always had more money than women, and because of this they have been able to buy what they desire from women (or other, poorer men or boys), and couldn’t get any other way – most notably sex. Thus sex is turned into a commodity. Because of this a sense of entitlement has grown up among many men, an entitlement to sexual contact that persists today.

You can see this very clearly when you consider how much sexual arousal is built in to daily life for straight males. You buy a newspaper, there’s a pair of breasts to titillate you. Walk into a newsagent, a plethora of semi naked or wholly naked women on any number of magazine covers. Sexual images of women adorn adverts on billboards and television. Advertisments for sexual services cover phone boxes and the back pages of many magazines. And of course there are many lap dancing clubs available to titillate men further, making sexual arousal a part of even the working day, as many business executives take clients there for meetings. As a (mostly straight) woman I simply can’t imagine what it would feel like to have the world set up to try and turn me on in this way. (There is only one male lap dancing club in the UK, in Streatham, London.) Thankfully, not all men respond to these efforts.

The sense of entitlement all of this fosters is unfortunately rarely left at the door of sex work establishments like lap dancing clubs. BookElfLeeds described very well how many men felt entitled to grope her even though she was just selling drinks. This isn’t an isolated incident.

This is of course not the fault of sex workers but sex buyers, and the society that tells them the whole world exists just to give them a hard-on. To accuse sianushka &co of NIMBYism and of hating on sex workers, etc is to miss that point. It’s my opinion that an increase in gender equality, and a concurrent increase in women’s ability to earn more money and power, will mean a decrease in lap dancing clubs etc. Yes, people will always be horny, but perhaps more men would do what most women do now – just have a wank – rather than feel entitled to use the body of another human being.

93. Amy Clare

Also:

Having just read sianushka’s statement in full, I came across this bit:

“Statements are made about low key signage and blacked out windows. This is disingenuous. It is the effect that these establishments have on a community by normalising the objectification of women. Otherwise you fall on the facile argument that what you can’t see won’t hurt you.”

Isn’t that the exact opposite of NIMBYism?

94. Watchman

Amy,

Surely, lap dancing clubs etc only exist at all because of gender inequality.

No. The fact that (assuming sexual desires etc to be constant across genders) there are more lap dancing clubs for male may reflect gender inequality, or merely different gendered interpretations of sexuality. But I do not see how having gender equality would remove the sex industry, which is there to meet a demand. There are female-orientated aspects to the sex industry, which by your argument presumably represent pockets of inequality towards men?

And the presentation of sexualised images as common in society is relatively recent (it didn’t happen when I was a lad…), but my general impression is that behaviour towards women has improved. There are a core of idiots with ‘neanderthal behaviour’, but this is nothing to do with sexualised imagery but rather a lack of social skills and a belief in male superiority (even if not expressed as such) which is in the same vein as thinking as refusing to wear a condom. If you had tried most nightclubs fifty, thirty or even ten years ago, the same poor behaviours would be more prevalent, and much more socially acceptable – hence the lack of complaint at the time.

I think your problem here is an old one – assuming objectification of women means someone like me (who appreciates images of women (most women are attractive, so this does not need to be said) cannot distinguish between you as an object and you as a person. Be reassured, I do not think I am replying to a table or something – you are definetly a human, however you look. The simple ‘objectification’ argument, whilst ignoring the right to self-determination of other women, also assumes men can only see women in one way. To which the obvious response is that the first encountere most men have with women is with a very different model, also commonly used in adverts and popular imagery, the mother figure. Why should men’s relationships with women by defined by sexual images and not maternal images (or images of teachers, or wives, or colleagues, or barmaids, or newsreader). It takes a rather blinkered approach to assume men are that shallow.

And this is why I used the analogy of the bearded cleric above. Because feminism is sometimes so unthinking in its criticisms of men and women that it sounds like a religion, and not a particularly forgiving one at that.

95. Watchman

Whoops – missed a tag then…

It’s my opinion that an increase in gender equality, and a concurrent increase in women’s ability to earn more money and power, will mean a decrease in lap dancing clubs etc.

And you would be entirely wrong.

Why do you think there is only one male lap dancing club in the UK? That is because men and women are sexually excited by different stimuli and in quite different ways. And that ancient curse from God on the human race is the elephant in the room whenever gender politics is discussed.

Without making any value judgements, it is a certain fact thata concurrent increase in women’s ability to earn more money will result in an increase in sales of cosmetics and scented candles, not in a decrease in lap dancing clubs.

97. Watchman

Without making any value judgements, it is a certain fact thata concurrent increase in women’s ability to earn more money will result in an increase in sales of cosmetics and scented candles, not in a decrease in lap dancing clubs.

pagar,

I have a horrible impression, having read your post, that women are turned on by cosmetics and scented candles (interesting pulling outfit for single men…). But a point here is that this may be gender stereotyping, not gender difference per se, and what the feminists sometimes seem to be seeking is a total renegotitation of gender roles and views (and considering there have been societies where men were expected to be sexually aroused by young men, not women, these are clearly negotiable). The key argument is not whether lap dancing or a liking for scented candles is inherent or not (it is only inherited as a social norm) but whether these things should be seen as free expression, or whether we have a duty to eradicate scented candles (which, my normal social liberalism aside, can only be a good thing for those of us who have to dust). It is essentially the normal argument between those trying to create their own utopia and those like QRG who have the same essential political ideal but recognise that individual’s have their own utopias. Every movement has these disputes – reformists versus reactionaries, ultras versus moderates – but the differences appear starkest in feminism than in almost anything else.

Although I suspect your scented candles jibe may just unite all factions of feminism against you (or almost all factions – is there a scented candle branch of feminism?).

Watchman:
Be reassured, I do not think I am replying to a table or something – you are definetly a human, however you look.

Love that take on ‘objectification’, especially as some people’s kink actually involves BEING a table or some such piece of furniture.

I am pleased people are starting to put into question this whole concept of ‘objectification’ and what it means in gendered society. It is a very interesting one. Yet another thing that annoys me about OBJECT the organisation, is that they assume they know for sure the correct meaning of the term ‘objectification’, when actually, like most things, it is up for debate.

I also don’t believe that gender equality will bring an end to the sex industry. I went to see some male strippers the other week, and in MY gender equality utopia, that type of event would be a regular fixture on my calendar.

Watchman: Every movement has these disputes – reformists versus reactionaries, ultras versus moderates – but the differences appear starkest in feminism than in almost anything else.

I agree. I think calling feminism ‘a movement’ is mistaken. Feminism is about striving for equality across the whole population, so it is not going to be something people agree on. My problem is though, that there is a ‘feminist establishment’ that claims to represent feminists, which holds sway with government, funders and trade unions etc. I challenge that establishment as I would any establishment.

Turns out Bristol council have passed the legislation so strip clubs in the city will have to apply for special licenses from now on.

101. Sinless69uk

One problem I have with the anti-sex industry feminists is their assumption that EVERYTHING they dislike about masculinity is automatically socially constructed rather than a reflection of an inate propensity to do something.

Let me take an example which appears to be a tangent but gets the point across – the Olympic 100m Final.

All recent winners of this event have been of West African origin.
This may well be because people of West African origin may have a small genetic advantage. This small genetic advantage becomes significant when it comes to the top level of sprinting.

By the same token, men may have a small genetic difference which leads to them being more stimualted by watching women strip than vice versa.
Small differences can make a significant difference at the level of society.

I can’t prove this but I think we should be wary of assuming dogmatically that all gender differences that some people dislike are to do with social conditioning.

102. Chaise Guevara

Bloody good point, Sinless.

Men like looking at scantily clad women because men like looking at scantily clad women. It’s a fundamental evolutionary urge. Taking the fact that men like looking at scantily clad women and extrapolating it to declare that men don’t respect women is ridiculous. It’s entirely possible to find someone physically attractive and respect them. Isn’t that pretty much the basis of a healthy marriage?

Sinless69UK chaiseguevera I don’t want to undermine my own campaign,as I like where you are going, but THIS WOMAN also likes looking at scantily clad men. A lot. I don’t have many clubs where I can go to do this, but I would if I did….

I think sexuality is not catered for by the current commercial offer, just as anything else isn’t adequately. we all complain about lack of decent coffee, clothes, music venues etc in our cities. I’d add to that, lack of decent places to ogle male totty!

104. Amy Clare

Watchman:

“But I do not see how having gender equality would remove the sex industry, which is there to meet a demand.”

I didn’t say that it would remove the sex industry, I said it would lead to a decrease in lap dancing clubs etc, in my opinion.

This is because I have observed two things: 1. The most powerful, wealthy groups in society rarely work in the sex industry. In other words, when there is the opportunity of earning a living not in the sex industry, people generally take it. 2. Many women working in the sex industry don’t particularly want to do that work. Many find it degrading and traumatising, many feel at risk of sexual assault (or have been assaulted on a regular basis), many want to leave but find it difficult or impossible to do so. Not all, but many.

I see an increase in gender equality (and I should have mentioned, an increase in class equality and racial equality) as key to allowing women who don’t want to work in the sex industry to make their living another way, and to allow girls to pursue what they *want* to do out of a full range of options (and if they truly want to be strippers, then that’ll really be a choice). Part of this is having a more equal representation in govt etc, to send a clear message that women are not second class citizens, and can have any career they like.

Tell me, if 50% of the boardroom staff of a FTSE 100 company were women, would clients still be entertained in Spearmint Rhino do you think?

“There are female-orientated aspects to the sex industry, which by your argument presumably represent pockets of inequality towards men?”

I think they represent a wish to emulate the behaviour of the male-orientated sex industry, in a misguided belief that this means equality. Like the ‘ladette’ phenomenon. But yes, I do think there is an inequality there too; to give another example, middle aged, wealthy white women often go on holiday to poor countries, where they have a ‘holiday romance’ with local, young men who then ask them for financial help. This is prostitution by any other name and it does involve inequality – class and race inequality. I very much doubt these men would look twice at these women if they did not see a financial opportunity there, so yes the inequality between them does cause the selling of sex.

I personally would not go to a male lap dancing club, not because I don’t find men attractive, but because I don’t have double standards regarding sex-buying!

“And the presentation of sexualised images as common in society is relatively recent (it didn’t happen when I was a lad…), but my general impression is that behaviour towards women has improved.”

I agree, I think the behaviour of men towards women has improved *a bit*, however it is nowhere near ideal as BookElfLeeds’ and others’ experience has shown. The presence of more sexualised images these days, imo has more to do with the lack of religious prudery which traditionally has been the force holding back porn etc. With the secularisation of the country (which I think is generally a good thing!) and the relaxing of many moral codes surrounding sex, more sexual images have resulted, and they illustrate the gender inequality in our society that has always been there. Sadly, they also play a role in perpetuating it.

“The simple ‘objectification’ argument, whilst ignoring the right to self-determination of other women, also assumes men can only see women in one way.”

I don’t see how women objecting to being seen as objects (!) ignores other women’s right to self-determination. I certainly don’t think men can only see women in one way, I think there are several stereotypes that inform *some* men’s (and some women’s) attitudes to women – ever heard of the madonna/whore binary?

In any case my argument was based more around the sense of entitlement that many men have to sexual contact, rather than objectification per se.

“It takes a rather blinkered approach to assume men are that shallow.”

But you see, I don’t believe men are that shallow – or *have* to be that shallow. Men are in fact encouraged to be ‘shallow’ from boyhood, and our society constantly tells us through various media that men are obsessed with sex and how women look. This idea that men ‘can’t help themselves’ and are driven wholly by their penises is actually a patriarchal idea, not a feminist one (it’s one of the main rape myths in fact). I actually have higher expectations for men which is one of the reasons why I’m a feminist – the men I am friends with wouldn’t dream of going to lap dancing clubs or groping bar staff or buying Nuts magazine, this is because they realise that these things are sexist. And such standards aren’t mutually exclusive with finding women attractive.

Pagar:

“Why do you think there is only one male lap dancing club in the UK? That is because men and women are sexually excited by different stimuli and in quite different ways. And that ancient curse from God on the human race is the elephant in the room whenever gender politics is discussed.”

Aside from your ridiculous ‘scented candles’ comment (I don’t own any scented candles – does this mean I’m not a proper woman?), it is you who is wrong to make such a statement as through it were fact. Can you prove, or at least provide evidence, that sexual excitement, firstly *is* as gender-differentiated as you claim, and secondly, that this is due wholly to biological rather than social reasons?

Also, I’m quite sure that not all women have identical sexual responses – in fact Quiet Riot Girl has stated that she’d love to see ‘male totty’, and who is anyone to disbelieve her?

105. Watchman

Amy,

I think your logic breaks down on these assumptions:

This is because I have observed two things: 1. The most powerful, wealthy groups in society rarely work in the sex industry. In other words, when there is the opportunity of earning a living not in the sex industry, people generally take it. 2. Many women working in the sex industry don’t particularly want to do that work.

You assume that if women become more equal they will be amongst the most powerful wealthy groups in society and therefore rarely work in the sex industry. Yet this analysis only works if you either a. believe that in a more equal society all women will earn the same or b. believe women are a single social group. Personally I think there will be less women forced to work in the sex industry by social need in a more equal society, as do you, but I do not think there will be no need – if nothing else, a reduction in supply of women prepared to lap dance would result in a rise in wages, attracting more potential lap dancers (who do apparently earn more than the average wage for women already remember).

You also assume many women don’t want to be in the sex industry. Probably true, although I have no evidence to go on here; the only ones I have any knowledge of however have made and defended their choices (they also tend to be feminists). But a more equal society would have one other aspect you seem to have forgotten – that the moral condemnation of women for ‘unseemly’ behaviour by my favourite bearded clerics would have less force, less support, less potency. And therefore women (and to be fair, men) who wish to use their sexuality would have less social mores stopping them from entering the sex industry. So whilst increased prosperity might allow women to avoid entering the sex industry by default rather than choice, increased social freedom would allow more women to explore or market their sexuality in ways that involve the sex industry. So there may be changes to the availability of sex workers and lap dancers, but these changes operate in different ways. And you yourself say “Part of this is having a more equal representation in govt etc, to send a clear message that women are not second class citizens, and can have any career they like.” So women can chose to have a career in sex then…

My overall concern here though is still the bearded cleric (yes, I like that phrase) tone, by which you assume sex work is inequal and wrong. I cannot see this: so long as it is voluntary and not forced in any way, what people chose to do is up to them. The equal world for which we both long would be a good thing, as it would also destroy the ‘entitlement’, as you put it, of certain men. But I do not think entitlement derives from pictures of naked women or even female behaviour. I think it is tied to a picture of right and wrong, whereby women who exploit or display their sexual nature are seen as wrong and therefore fair game. And I cannot see how your moralistic outlook changes that – men will still hear from you that sex work is wrong and those doing it are inferior, because the sort of man who has ‘entitlement’ will not hear the nuances of your argument. At the moment you and the radical imam who encourage burqas are in a peculiar alliance, damning sex work as insulting and demeaning to women, whilst holding back the liberal forces that allow everyone to be who they want and do what they want. The more I think on this, the more I see the danger that QRG’s original argument is addressing – what I (not QRG) would summarise as feminism risks harming women through reinforcing certain gender roles because it is applying moral judgements, and morality is still fundamentally a gendered issue.

@103, If you want somewhere to oogle naked men in your city, open one! Dont claim your a feminist and then moan that no nasty men have opened a male strip club near you.

107. Amy Clare

Watchman:

“You assume that if women become more equal they will be amongst the most powerful wealthy groups in society and therefore rarely work in the sex industry.”

Why don’t middle-class men work in the sex industry, Watchman? Why don’t middle-class women, for that matter?

“You also assume many women don’t want to be in the sex industry.”

This isn’t an assumption, it’s an opinion based on researching the subject. As just one example, Rebecca Mott’s speech at the Feminism In London conference last year: http://www.fil.btik.com/p_rebecca.ikml

“But a more equal society would have one other aspect you seem to have forgotten – that the moral condemnation of women for ‘unseemly’ behaviour by my favourite bearded clerics would have less force, less support, less potency. And therefore women (and to be fair, men) who wish to use their sexuality would have less social mores stopping them from entering the sex industry.”

I find it interesting that you assume lap dancers, etc are using ‘their’ sexuality. Lap dancing is nothing to do with women expressing their own sexuality and everything to do with women expressing men’s sexuality (or what men’s sexuality is deemed to be). Surely part of meeting a ‘demand’ is giving the customers what they want? Do you believe that what a lap dancer does to titillate a man and thus earn money is also coincidentally what happens to turn her on too?

‘Unseemly’ behaviour for women doesn’t necessarily involve showing off your body for male attention. Unseemly can be refusing to shave your armpits, legs or pubes. It can be having short hair and wearing no make up. It can be enjoying food and showing no wish to be a size zero. It can be demanding that we receive pleasure rather than just give it. It can be deciding not to reproduce. The idea that a more equal society will lead to legions of women ‘expressing their sexuality’ by becoming lap dancers is just bizarre. I suggest you read Ariel Levy’s ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ for a more thorough analysis of this raunch=empowerment idea.

“So women can chose to have a career in sex then…”

I believe I said that in my second comment. Let me remind you: “to allow girls to pursue what they *want* to do out of a full range of options (and if they truly want to be strippers, then that’ll really be a choice).”

“You assume sex work is inequal and wrong.”

Can you direct me to where I said ‘sex work is wrong’ please? I believe it springs from inequality and is fostered by it (and in turn, fosters it in a vicious cycle) but to say that I simply believe it is wrong is putting words in my mouth.

“I cannot see this: so long as it is voluntary and not forced in any way, what people chose to do is up to them.”

And my point is that it is very often not a choice. The fact that it is often not a choice is down to inequalities in society. And the fact that there is a demand for it is partly down to inequalities in society. Men who see women as equals generally don’t go out and buy sex.

“I think it is tied to a picture of right and wrong, whereby women who exploit or display their sexual nature are seen as wrong and therefore fair game.”

Firstly, I have never said that women are ever ‘fair game’. I don’t think this is true under *any* circumstances so please don’t put words in my mouth.

Secondly, I dispute that women are using their own sexuality, as I mentioned above. I don’t understand how anyone can assume that women’s sexuality = giving pleasure to men.

“And I cannot see how your moralistic outlook changes that – men will still hear from you that sex work is wrong and those doing it are inferior, because the sort of man who has ‘entitlement’ will not hear the nuances of your argument.”

Again, I didn’t say ‘sex work is wrong’ and I certainly have not said that those doing it are inferior! That’s not what I think at all – I think that those doing it are often forced into it by inequalities in society. If you choose to interpret my outlook as ‘moralistic’ that’s up to you – although where you are getting that from is a mystery to me – and if people can’t hear the ‘nuances’ in my argument that’s frankly their problem. You’re basically just repeating the stereotype and the myth that any woman who has problems with the sex industry is anti-sex.

“At the moment you and the radical imam who encourage burqas are in a peculiar alliance, damning sex work as insulting and demeaning to women, whilst holding back the liberal forces that allow everyone to be who they want and do what they want.”

What a load of bollocks. Sorry, but this is extremely offensive. Comparing me to a radical imam? I don’t know where to start with that. How am I holding back liberal forces? In what possible way could you interpret my argument as being in favour of burqas and the like? Like it or not many sex workers *feel* insulted and demeaned by the work they have to do. Are you going to deny their experience by slating those people who are sticking up for them as ‘moralising’? It seems so.

I think I should bow out of the discussion here because clearly I am arguing with someone who misses the point I am making entirely, and that is a waste of my time. Thanks for the debate!

@Watchman: Exactly. If there was total gender equality, more men and women would respect female sex workers like any other person. For many people the hate for sex workers stems from an assumed “deviance” of female promiscuity. I assume this because I’ve never heard people pity an average man for getting paid for sex with women, more the opposite.
I believe that in a really equal utopia slut-shaming wouldn’t exist. Women who do it wouldn’t be faced with stigma, or at least it would be significantly reduced. That would remove most negative aspects of sex work and thus make it more attractive.

109. Watchman

Amy,

Why don’t middle-class men work in the sex industry, Watchman? Why don’t middle-class women, for that matter?

This isn’t an assumption, it’s an opinion based on researching the subject. As just one example, Rebecca Mott’s speech at the Feminism In London conference last year: http://www.fil.btik.com/p_rebecca.ikml

I have little experience of the sex industry, but those bits I have seen have had a variety of accents, and those people I have knowledge of come from a range of backgrounds. So I don’t accept this point at all. Do you have any evidence that does not come from the aspects of the sex trade we have both expressed the desire to see disappear incidentally? Ms Mott’s speech is of her experiences, not a statistical sample.

I find it interesting that you assume lap dancers, etc are using ‘their’ sexuality. Lap dancing is nothing to do with women expressing their own sexuality and everything to do with women expressing men’s sexuality (or what men’s sexuality is deemed to be). Surely part of meeting a ‘demand’ is giving the customers what they want? Do you believe that what a lap dancer does to titillate a man and thus earn money is also coincidentally what happens to turn her on too?

Sorry. Easy shorthand on my part. Using their body then. I have no more problem with people using their body than their sexuality (or would you ban models, sportspeople and soldiers as well?).

‘Unseemly’ behaviour for women doesn’t necessarily involve showing off your body for male attention. Unseemly can be refusing to shave your armpits, legs or pubes. It can be having short hair and wearing no make up. It can be enjoying food and showing no wish to be a size zero. It can be demanding that we receive pleasure rather than just give it. It can be deciding not to reproduce. The idea that a more equal society will lead to legions of women ‘expressing their sexuality’ by becoming lap dancers is just bizarre. I suggest you read Ariel Levy’s ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ for a more thorough analysis of this raunch=empowerment idea.

Well, hopefully most of those things are not unseemly to most people (any more at least), and the key point of my argument was not about things being unseemly, but about the dangers of arguing things were. As to the numbers of lap dancers, can I suggest you are confused about my argument. My argument was not that there will be legions more, just that equality works both ways. One woman may jump at the chance to have short hair and piercings, another may decide to become a lap dancer. On what grounds is it possible to argue either are wrong, if both activities are not unseemly? And why are you so convinced women who are not you (and clearly not me) would not chose to become lap dancers without the social barriers that exist now? I doubt either you or I know exactly what would happen, so all we can do is guess – what I did was suggest your guess was only considering one factor, and threw another factor of equality in the mix.

I believe I said that in my second comment. Let me remind you: “to allow girls to pursue what they *want* to do out of a full range of options (and if they truly want to be strippers, then that’ll really be a choice).”

Fair enough – my problem is your refusal to believe that would be a really equal choice, which might just be my reading.

Can you direct me to where I said ‘sex work is wrong’ please? I believe it springs from inequality and is fostered by it (and in turn, fosters it in a vicious cycle) but to say that I simply believe it is wrong is putting words in my mouth.

My assumption is inequality=wrong. Sorry if this is not how you meant it, but sex work comes across as something that you oppose vehmently, and I assumed this meant you disagreed with it.

And my point is that it is very often not a choice. The fact that it is often not a choice is down to inequalities in society. And the fact that there is a demand for it is partly down to inequalities in society. Men who see women as equals generally don’t go out and buy sex.

Hmmm. Any evidence for that? Otherwise we are again operating on suppositions, and I am not so sure about that as you are. Of course, men who buy sex may not mention this to female friends (or any friends).

“I think it is tied to a picture of right and wrong, whereby women who exploit or display their sexual nature are seen as wrong and therefore fair game.”

Firstly, I have never said that women are ever ‘fair game’. I don’t think this is true under *any* circumstances so please don’t put words in my mouth.

They’re my words – describing the picture I see, not the beliefs you hold. I never meant to imply you had any deliberate association with such beliefs, just to show how your anti-sex industry views seem to fit in with this sort of belief.

Secondly, I dispute that women are using their own sexuality, as I mentioned above. I don’t understand how anyone can assume that women’s sexuality = giving pleasure to men.

As I said, I’ll accept body. However, I am confident enough that some women enjoy giving men pleasure, in the same way as some men enjoy giving women pleasure etc. Sexuality is not purely about your own pleasure but about the whole way in which you conduct it remember, so I am less sure your distinction works here. It is anyway irrelevant to me, as I am equally happy for people to use their bodies or their sexuality as they wish.

I do wonder though if this is not us both framing the debate – me implicitly suggesting that there are sexual benefits from the sex industry by chosing sexuality, you trying to emphasis that this is nothing to do with that by deliberately focussing on opposing my choice of word.

“And I cannot see how your moralistic outlook changes that – men will still hear from you that sex work is wrong and those doing it are inferior, because the sort of man who has ‘entitlement’ will not hear the nuances of your argument.”

Again, I didn’t say ‘sex work is wrong’ and I certainly have not said that those doing it are inferior! That’s not what I think at all – I think that those doing it are often forced into it by inequalities in society. If you choose to interpret my outlook as ‘moralistic’ that’s up to you – although where you are getting that from is a mystery to me – and if people can’t hear the ‘nuances’ in my argument that’s frankly their problem. You’re basically just repeating the stereotype and the myth that any woman who has problems with the sex industry is anti-sex.

Sorry, did you notice the word nuances there? I am well aware there is more to your argument, but unfortunately the headline is the sex industry is a bad thing. Even if the next line is that its performers are victims, this doesn’t help – it just portrays women as weak to someone who is inclined to see things that way. As for moralistic, it is a clear moral view to believe that an industry depends on inequality to run.

“At the moment you and the radical imam who encourage burqas are in a peculiar alliance, damning sex work as insulting and demeaning to women, whilst holding back the liberal forces that allow everyone to be who they want and do what they want.”

What a load of bollocks. Sorry, but this is extremely offensive. Comparing me to a radical imam? I don’t know where to start with that. How am I holding back liberal forces? In what possible way could you interpret my argument as being in favour of burqas and the like? Like it or not many sex workers *feel* insulted and demeaned by the work they have to do. Are you going to deny their experience by slating those people who are sticking up for them as ‘moralising’? It seems so.

And here we have a nub. There is explotation and inequality in the sex industry, but your wholescale condemnation and attempts to marginalise the industry as a whole are not how you deal with this sort of thing. Make the industry more open, more normalised, and society will start to focus on those bits that are bad, rather than assume the whole thing is. I do not think you are like any radical imam (unless they are perhaps a feminist radical imam?), but I cannot see the difference in what you seek to attain.

I wish you luck in sticking up for sex workers. Perhaps seeing those who are not forced into prostituting themselves for drugs or money or by manipulative others as also being victims of inequality is a bit irresponsible though. If they are there of their own choices, sex workers should not be shown in a negative light – indeed, even those who are forced into it suffer from being stigmatised as sex workers, because you and many others see it as a bad thing. I agree being forced into the sex industry is vile and wrong; I do not agree that this means that the industry can be attacked and marginalised as a result.

I think I should bow out of the discussion here because clearly I am arguing with someone who misses the point I am making entirely, and that is a waste of my time. Thanks for the debate!

I suspect we are arguing at cross purposes rather than missing the point. You seem to start from the point of view of the victims and seek a solution to their experiences, whilst I start from the point of view of free choice and the fact that victimisation is more difficult in the light of day than in dark corners of the night. Perhaps this is more about socialism versus classical liberalism/libertarianism than anything else, but the way you look at this debate does seem important.

If you choose not to contribute any further, I will regret that. Thankyou also.

@Amy: There are so few Middle-class males working in the sex industry for women because there’s simply no market for more than a few. I guess that’s because most women still see sex as something that they give, and something that the man has to work for. The “she’s easy to get-attitude” is still shockingly wide-spread.
From what I’ve heard I assume that in the gay market there are not few middle-class males, but there hasn’t been done any studies on that (at least none that I could find) Studies with female sex workers show very diverse results, depending on which segment and region of the industry one examines.
Middle-class women do work in the sex industry, although it’s difficult to determine the proportion.

111. Mike Killingworth

Aren’t manual workers working-class by definition? I suppose a courtesan could be “labour aristocracy” like a train driver. But I doubt she would see much that a Trade Union could do for her.

As ever – if I’m wrong, I’m wrong…

You have a point.. I think when one speaks of middle-class sex workers most mean people with a typical middle-class background and education. Also, there are many sex workers, both in the highest and lowest- priced sectors, who only work part time to supplement their income.

113. Chaise Guevara

On a side note, but related to the most recent comments, I’ve generally noticed that people often see street-walkers as disgusting/victims, but are pretty much ok with the idea of a call girl who earns thousands of pounds a week. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but there does seem to be a general attitude that says the Belle De Jour model of prostitution is dramatic and exciting.

Obviously, one factor is the level of choice involved. If a woman feels she has to work as a prostitute to be able to afford a roof over her head, that seems pretty exploitative. If she decides to work as a prostitute so she can move to a posher house, it doesn’t. What worries me about that is that it basically means working-class prostitution is wrong but middle-class prostitution is fine. Still, interested in your thoughts.

Dave, Id love to open a male strip club, but under the new licensing laws, I could not afford the cost of the license!

Thanks everyone who has made this discussion interesting and lengthy. I think it is an important subject and it looks like quite a few other people do.

But where, I wonder are OBJECT in all this? I wish they would come out from behind their net curtains….

116. Mike Killingworth

[114] Obviously the libertarian economists aren’t reading this thread or they’d be explaining how the cost of the licence shouldn’t deter you since you just knock it off the rent you pay… anyway, you only want to open the joint for the pleasure of close personal vetting of the credentials of the staff… 😆

Nordic model:

would be a coincidence that ever since the Swedish prostitution law took effect, Thailand has become the most popular tourist destination for Swedes?

@#2 Bristol Feminist Network writes:

BFN

“The Bristol Feminist Network does not oppose the consensual decisions made by individuals about sex, sexuality or sex work.

Some members of BFN oppose the licensing of a particular establishment in Old Market, some do not. We have made details of the licensing process and methods for participating available to our members so that they can speak for themselves.

It is misrepresentative to describe BFN as being in opposition to this particular license application. It is a generalisation and unfair to the variety of views within our network.”

I am responding to this rather late in the thread, but I was surprised that in the 100+ that nobody caught this. Several months ago, BFN tried to block a burlesque performance by Dita Van Teese at a privately-funded event at Bristol City Museum:

http://www.bristol247.com/2010/04/27/row-over-dita-von-teese-show-at-bristol-museum/

http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2010/05/bristol_city_mu

They claimed that this kind of event did not belong in any public institutional space period. They also have stated that if this event had taken place in a private space, presumably such as a strip club, they would have no objection. Now we see they are trying to block licensing of a private space too, and once again trotting out rhetoric to the effect that they do not object to “consensual decisions made by individuals about sex, sexuality or sex work”. Yet they consistently try to block erotic performances in venue after venue. Is there in fact any venue that BFN would deign to hold such a performance?

119. Chaise Guevara

“Is there in fact any venue that BFN would deign to hold such a performance?”

Of course not! Sex hates women, you know that…

BFN may kindly allow its members to hold their own opinions, but it’s worth asking why liberal feminists choose to associate themselves with the anti-sex league.

120. Mike Killingworth

[119] Much of the answer, CG, is that freedom includes a woman’s right to be comfortable with her own and her friends’ sexuality but less so with other peoples’ and to organise around this perception of the world. (There will of course be women who are additionally jealous of their newly adult/adolescent daughters – it is probably better they engage in this kind of mallarkey than cause chaos inside their own families.)

A liberal may be defined as someone who will put up with any amount of hypocrisy rather than surrender the smallest crumb of freedom – and a Stalinist is precisely the opposite.

Thanks Iamcuriousblue

I have studied the BFN website and although they state a liberal belief in feminists’ rights to have whatever relationship with the sex industry they choose, they clearly priorities anti-sex industry campaigns and ideas. As do ALL feminist networks that call themselves ‘feminist networks’ in the UK.

Feminists who work in support of the sex industry in whatever area, do not organise as ‘feminists’ as such but in specific campaigns, eg the International Union of Sex Workers, or Proporn formations, or sexuality based projects such as Filament Magazine or Coffe Cake and Kink or in sexual health projects.

I agree with Mike that ‘liberalism’ is only ever tolerance, and only ever up to a point. I am definitely not a liberal! Not least because liberals don’t tolerate me!

122. BookElfLeeds

Leeds Licencing working group have decided to accept the conditions and are going to be taking it to full council next week- meaning that sex encounter venues will have to have their own licence from next year.

If this makes it less acceptable to objectify women in the service industry, and stops more people working in bars from being assaulted then I’m all for it, to be honest. The arguements for it kind of make sense to me.

If this makes it less acceptable to objectify women in the service industry, and stops more people working in bars from being assaulted then I’m all for it, to be honest. The arguements for it kind of make sense to me.

I don’t think the license laws are going to reduce the number of people in bars who get assaulted-it is not going to change the gender dynamics in the service industry.How could it? All it will do is make strip club owners work harder at getting round the laws, either by paying the licenses and then making other cut backs in their establishments or by trading illegally or informally in different kinds of venues.

One of the many problems with this kind of feminism is that it thinks it is reducing the extent of the sex industry. It isn’t and never will…It is a little bit arrogant to think it ever could.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Rejecting the 'not in my back yard' approach to feminism http://bit.ly/cEY2B6

  2. Sarah Long

    RT @libcon Rejecting the ‘not in my back yard’ approach to feminism http://bit.ly/dDh2Eh

  3. Nicolas Redfern

    @quietriot_girl http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/29/rejecting-the-not-in-my-back-yard-approach-to-feminism/

  4. Elly

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/29/rejecting-the-not-in-my-back-yard-approach-to-feminism/ my Libcon piece on sex work.

  5. Elly

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/29/rejecting-the-not-in-my-back-yard-approach-to-feminism/ @mngreenall can you answer the 'slave' q?

  6. Elly

    http://tinyurl.com/2ddqldk @DrPetra My Blogpost on @LibCon about sex work and feminism

  7. Dan Marner

    RT @quietriot_girl: http://tinyurl.com/2ddqldk @DrPetra My Blogpost on @LibCon about sex work and feminism

  8. lorelei

    RT @libcon Rejecting the ‘not in my back yard’ approach to feminism http://bit.ly/dDh2Eh

  9. Not In My Back Yard? | OBJECT Watch

    […] http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/29/rejecting-the-not-in-my-back-yard-approach-to-feminism/ […]

  10. Pod Wangler

    @SwearySocialist This sums up what I thought about that group you asked about at conference – http://bit.ly/cEY2B6

  11. Sex work, legislation, feminism « Quiet Riot Girl

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  12. Elly

    @kristina_lloyd http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/29/rejecting-the-not-in-my-back-yard-approach-to-feminism/ More complainying from me!

  13. Laura

    RT @libcon: Rejecting the 'not in my back yard' approach to feminism http://bit.ly/cEY2B6

  14. Paul Sagar

    @CathElliott – have you seen this piece of shit article on LibCon? http://bit.ly/9hkq4L Short-sighted doesn't even begin to cover it…

  15. Elly

    RT @paul_sagar: @CathElliott – have you seen this piece of shit article on LibCon? http://bit.ly/9hkq4L Short-sighted doesn't even begin to cover it…

  16. Celsajoy

    Rejecting the 'not in my back yard' approach to feminism | Liberal …: It would be brilliant if there was an init… http://bit.ly/9AQZ5X

  17. Elite Courtesans

    RT @libcon Rejecting the ‘not in my back yard’ approach to feminism http://bit.ly/dDh2Eh (Bristol)

  18. Rebecca Jade

    Interesting reads both: @sianushka's article http://tiny.cc/7ijur in reply to @quietriotgirl's original piece http://tiny.cc/4qpr5 #feminism

  19. Hannah M

    RT @RebeccaJade: Interesting reads both: @sianushka's article http://tiny.cc/7ijur in reply to @quietriotgirl's original piece http://tiny.cc/4qpr5 #feminism

  20. Billie Lister

    RT @libcon: Rejecting the 'not in my back yard' approach to feminism http://bit.ly/cEY2B6 an interesting article.





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