Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women


10:30 am - July 25th 2010

by Sian Norris    


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We live in a society that has very successfully sold the sex industry to us as an empowering ‘lifestyle’ choice where women exploit men’s ‘need’ for sex in order to extract money from them.

We are told that it’s a free choice and feminists who criticise that choice are prudes, anti sex and anti women.

This cultural narrative is a chimera that disguises the real story of the sex industry, a story that involves PTSD, sexual assault, drug abuse and sex trafficking.

A recent article on Libcon accused Bristol Feminist Network and Object of being motivated by nimby-ism in members’ objections to the sex industry.

It suggested that feminists who oppose the sex industry do so out of ‘distaste’ and deny women who work in prostitution a voice. I would like to show why these accusations are false.

The rhetoric of free choice is also a chimera that hides how, in a world with decreased social mobility, where the pay gap still stands, and where women’s worth is still too often calculated on their physical appearance, women’s choices can become very limited. The sex industry is very much a class issue.

A recent application in Durham to open a lap-dancing club is a good example. During the planning process, the applicant was asked how they would deal with ‘inappropriate touching’ in the club.

The applicant replied that the offender would be ejected. However, this response completely ignored the fact that ‘inappropriate touching’ is, in fact, a criminal incident. It is either selling sexual contact or its sexual harassment. The appropriate response would be to report the customer’s crime. The magistrates turned the application down.

We all know that ‘inappropriate touching’ occurs in lap dancing clubs. In fact, one report in Vancouver found 100% of dancers surveyed had been inappropriately touched by customers. The report ‘Challenging men’s demand for prostitution in Scotland’ found that prostitution was routinely offered in lap dancing clubs – a claim supported by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme interview with Philip Kolvin.


(in Amsterdam – from Flickr)

Prostitution
It is a fact worth repeating that most women in prostitution do not enjoy the lifestyle depicted by Belle de Jour, and most don’t get their stories published in glossy magazines selling the ideal that prostitution brings with it Prada handbags and Jimmy Choos (Marie Claire, March 2010).

Behind the façade lies the knowledge that women in the sex industry are 60-100 times more likely to be murdered than women who aren’t in the sex industry (Salfati, James, Ferguson), and that trans women who work in prostitution are at an even higher risk. We know that 2/3 of women who work in prostitution routinely suffer client violence (Church, Henderson, Barnard and Settings).

We know that 1.2 million people are trafficked as sex slaves and that 500,000 – 600,000 people every year are trafficked into the sex industry over national borders (International Organisation of Migration). We know that 68% of women who work in prostitution suffer from PTSD (M Farley) and that between 50-75% enter prostitution before they are 18 years old (Paying the Price).

So when feminists campaign against the sex industry it is because they want to end the very real and horrific dangers that these women and men face every day – violence, coercion, rape, trauma. It has nothing to do with nimby-ism or distaste. It has everything to do with ending the idea that it is ok to put someone’s safety, and mental and physical health at risk so that someone can pay to masturbate in or over her/him.

Offering a voice
The accusation that feminists deny women who work in prostitution a voice is an accusation that is borne out of ignorance and an unwillingness to engage in the evidence. For example, in The Equality Illusion and Living Dolls, two books on feminism published this year, women who work in the sex industry speak out.

There are many blogs where women who have exited prostitution talk about the horrors they faced. On Object’s website you’ll find voices crying out to be heard and taken seriously, voices ignored by our dominant cultural narrative that tells us prostitution is empowering.

In Bristol, women from charity One25 go out on the streets and talk to women who work in prostitution who have been sexually assaulted, listen to them, and let them speak about what has happened to them. And there are many more examples.

I believe that it is, in fact, those who promote the sex industry who more often deny women their voices. Because they are so invested in supporting and propping up an industry that too often makes its money from violence and exploitation, they refuse to give space to the voices that contradict their narrative.

Whilst I recognise that some people enter prostitution and find it empowering, many more do not. In refusing to hear the stories of the men and women who are damaged by the sex industry, and only giving space to the voices that support their agenda, the pro sex industry lobby are doing a grave disservice to the men and women who feel trapped and silenced, as their bodies are sold to be used for the sexual pleasure of others.

This closing quote is taken from an interview with a lap dancer in The Equality Illusion.

Lap dancing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve found it tough, soul destroying… you are forced to behave in a way which is completely demeaning and submissive…The last thing they want is a clever lap dancer. You have to play dumb, that’s the way to make the most money…and perhaps most importantly pretend to find them attractive when you do not find them attractive. (pg 136-37)

Please don’t silence her voice.

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About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Equality ,Feminism ,Sex equality

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Reader comments


You seem to be using term “the sex industry” interchangably with ‘prostitution’ here – is that your intention? It’s my understanding that the former is a much broader term, and as far as I can see your negative examples and anecdotes are all about the latter.

Sorry, on re-reading I see that your examples include lap-dancers too.

My interest in campaigning for sex workers’ rights has come specifically from reading and hearing the views and perspectives of those workers. I have not had any investment in ‘the sex industry’ historically. I was brought up as a feminist who opposed prostitution and the sex industry just like you. I changed my mind as a result of listening to the people who work in that industry. I support their demands for recognition as workers, I support their unionisation and I support their contribution to debates on this issue. Not all feminists agree on this subject and not all sex workers/ex-sex workers agree either.

Here is a video of some sex workers last week, demonstrating at the UN international AIDS conference. Please don’t silence them either!

http://www.harlots-parlour.com/2010/07/video-sex-workers-demonstrate-at-aids.html

Excellent article. I tried to argue the same thing from a more conceptual angle a few months ago, focusing on the point that talk of women’s choice in the sex work debate is often a red herring distracting from other issues:

http://badconscience.com/2010/04/20/prostitution-and-choice/

I think it’s a good and passionately written article, and I’m slightly afraid of what the comments thread is going to look like. But I don’t agree with everything in it.

First I think it is 100% wrong to suggest that “dominant cultural narrative that tells us prostitution is empowering”, Belle du Jour not withstanding. In fact, I’d argue that Belle du Jour’s unique selling point – for good or bad – was that it flew in the face of the conventional picture of prostitution as the very lowest rung on the social ladder.

Secondly, the main question is not whether the sex-industry is good or bad, but what we should do about it. Even the most sex-positive feminist should acknowledge that in the real world many prostitutes suffer all kinds of horrendous abuse. But they would argue that campaigning against this is rather like campaigning against cancer – yes it wrecks people’s lives, and yes it would be wonderful to stop it, but realistically no amount of well-intentioned campaiging is likely to make the slightest difference. A more pragmatic option is to bring the whole thing out into the open so that the industry can be properly regulated, and such abuse as happens will not take place in secret, behind closed doors. From my perspective that’s the main debate to have, and you don’t seem to engage with it.

P.s. I think it is bullshit to say ‘the media’ presents the sex industry in a positive light. Most articles I read in the mainstream media, nearly all, are negative about sex workers and the sex industry. I’d be interested to see some positive representations of the industry and those who work in it to support your argument.

I just got a tweet from Matt Greenall who works in International Development on sexual health, with many sex workers and he said: ‘I’m constantly stunned by the claim that ‘the media’ is overwhelmingly supportive of the sex industry’.

http://twitter.com/mngreenall/status/19486381918

But what does he know? It’s just an area he is very experienced in an knowledgeable about, on a global and localised level.

Good article.

Your opposition to the sex industry revolves around the complaint that it exposes the women that work in it to terrible risks. This is true, but I’d suggest that if it’s impossible to get rid of the sex industry (which I expect it is) then the best strategy in terms of womens safety is to a) legislate to bring the industry into the mainstream as much as possible so that the safety of those working in it can be maximised and b) try to ensure that no woman working in the industry is doing so out of coercion.

You don’t seem as opposed to the sex industry as you are to the risks that it brings for women working in it. Like the drug trade, driving the industry further underground is a quick recipe for making it far less safe. Bringing the industry further into the mainstream acknowledges the inevitability of the world oldest profession and affords a woman the right to use her body as a commodity in a safe environment should she wish.

Larry said
‘ Even the most sex-positive feminist should acknowledge that in the real world many prostitutes suffer all kinds of horrendous abuse. But they would argue that campaigning against this is rather like campaigning against cancer – yes it wrecks people’s lives, and yes it would be wonderful to stop it, but realistically no amount of well-intentioned campaiging is likely to make the slightest difference. A more pragmatic option is to bring the whole thing out into the open so that the industry can be properly regulated, and such abuse as happens will not take place in secret, behind closed doors. From my perspective that’s the main debate to have, and you don’t seem to engage with it.’

Well I don’t think the sex industry is like cancer, Larry! I think it is much like any other exploitative capitalist industry in the world. But I agree that an open, legal and regulated sex industry is a very good aim to have and one which I campaign for.

I think it is right to have a bit of a debate here; as while there are some horrendous things that go on in the sex industry and general and prostitution specifically, it is disingenuous to say these would continue should legalisation and regulation occur. It is in general easier for abuses to occur when the practice is out of sight, and the people involved have little or no voice, and the sex industry is no different. I don’ think legalisation would make all abuses magically disappear, but it would give victims far better recourse when bad things happened.

Perhaps a good question to ask would be: “were it legal, what protections could we offer that we cannot now?”

(While I am not fond of making analogies to support points, here’s one anyway to demonstrate why you can’t necessarily say the status quo will persist if something illicit is legalised, but feel free to ignore it if it doesn’t fit: during Prohibition there was lot of gang violence over rum-running and distribution of moonshine, plus drinkers had to trust the distillation process – something susceptible to contamination; yet it would be incorrect for someone from 1920s Chicago to say ‘these problems will continue if we male alcohol consumption legal again’.)

Lap dancing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve found it tough, soul destroying… you are forced to behave in a way which is completely demeaning and submissive

Be assured that in a lap dancing club it is not the dancers that are exploited.

Sainsbury’s are always looking for check out operators but no doubt this girl would have found that equally demeaning and it would have paid a lot less?

Please don’t silence her voice.

Nobody is trying to silence her voice but what she is saying is extremely hypocritical and that needs to be pointed out.

On the broader issue, I can see how the act of prostitution seems to reinforce the feminist view of the unfair patriarchy. In some instances this must be true- it is not always about empowerment and choice for the woman involved.

However prohibition, which seems to be what the post is arguing for, is not the answer.

Not close to the answer.

Full credit to Norris for lining up all the usual evidence from the anti-sex-industry side of the argument (e.g. name checking Melissa Farley). Others such as QuietRiotGirl will doubtless be able to cite all the sex workers articles such as Norris’ usually ignore. These days, the only two groups citing ’empowerment’ are the dumber parts of the media, and anti-sex work feminists who need a straw figure to argue with (see also the inevitable citing of Belle de Jour, who – unlike her critics – is fully aware that her experience is not typical). If the question was about merely earning a living, we might have a different debate, if we’re lucky. The only voices articles such as this ever cite are the ones that fit the ‘sex work is wrong’ argument (while repeatedly claiming such voices are silenced), despite the grudging admission that for some women sex work is just a means to pay the bills. It’s much easier to get a hearing by invoking unease about other people’s sexual choices and practices, or by citing only the worst examples to garner support.

As for criticising ‘choice’, the choice is no less restricted when a woman chooses not to do sex work, yet there is repeatedly ‘something’ about sex work that is used to make it the exception when it comes to having a choice about earning a living. What might ’empower’ sex workers in the long run might be a stronger legal framework to enable them to do their job without fear or interference, better legal and social protection from violence, and better support from the police and other agencies, whether they choose to enter the industry, stay in it or leave it. There are as many positive and negative examples of sex work as there are sex workers – something both the media and feminist critics of the sex industry regularly fail to acknowledge.

12. Rowan Davies

Good piece, wholeheartedly concur. And pleasantly surprised by the tone of the discussion so far.

On the whole, the sex industry doesn’t empower women, no.

Legalisation of it probably would, though – as suggested by other commentators here

There was an interesting Thinking Allowed programme on Radio 4 last week about the ethnography of lapdancing. It should still be available here ( ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00t28dg/Thinking_Allowed_21_07_2010/ ) for a short time.

The ethnographer who had carried out the research had herself worked as a lapdancer and a stripper.

Adam Grace:

…then the best strategy in terms of womens safety is to a) legislate to bring the industry into the mainstream as much as possible so that the safety of those working in it can be maximised and b) try to ensure that no woman working in the industry is doing so out of coercion.

You’re right, but unfortunately the dominant ‘narrative’ within feminism at the moment seems to reject this (or at least option [a]) in favour a strategy of criminalising the men (for…well, it depends: the argument does tend to shift around a lot), and decriminalising the women (which would make it legal to sell sexual services, but an offence to pay for them…go figure).

“We know that 1.2 million people are trafficked as sex slaves and that 500,000 – 600,000 people every year are trafficked into the sex industry over national borders (International Organisation of Migration).”

I have looked on the IOM’s site but I can’t find this figure. I may well be wrong but it sounds as if the figures for those who are actually “trafficked as sex slaves” and those who are illegal immigrants who work in the sex industry are being conflated.

The idea that working as a prostitute would be empowering is bizarre, (though with human nature being what it is there’s bound to be some very rare examples of anything, no matter how odd, being empowering for some few). Presumably we can all agree that what we want to achieve is a better life for people who are sex workers. So far as I can see, criminalising their activities makes things very much worse and makes it very much harder to escape the industry as so many other options will be closed off by a conviction for prostitution.

As to the “lap dancer in The Equality Illusion”, no one wants her silenced but if she is unhappy doing her job then as with anyone else in that position she can leave it and find something else. We don’t know all the circumstances but it appears that she is a dancer, not prostitute with a string of convictions for soliciting, a free agent not a sex slave. Unlike a prostitute she would find it relevantly easy to take up another line of work partly because her current job is perfectly legal.

The obvious but unanswered policy question is what specifically to do about the sex industry if it is often coercive, and generally demeaning, and threatening to women.

As best I can tell from occasional news reports, various prostitute collectives in Britain oppose legislation banning prostitution or making it illegal to pay for sex. If anything, there is pressure to relax laws banning brothels so making it easier to accommodate working professionals in more secure environments.

Again, I believe we should draw on recent experience in other countries – Germany has legalised prostitution and brothels, which facilitates regulation and taxation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Germany

I suspect that the market is highly differentiated so that the experiences of Belle de Jour are not unique or even especially unusual – try: Confessions of a Working Girl (Penguin 2007) by Miss S, who reportedly worked her way through college at the massage parlour just down the road from her student digs. Whatever else, it reduced for her the student loan needed to finance her studies. We could see a great deal more of that if the cap on student top-up fees is lifted.

Judging by this, the top end of the market is highly lucrative: Hollywood madam charged celebrities £30,000 for girls
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5629459/Hollywood-madam-charged-celebrities-30000-for-girls.html

@redpesto (15)

I know you aren’t advancing that argument, just stating it, but I’ll point out the problem with it anyway. As I see it, keeping the client side criminalised (okay, it’s most likely to be predominantly male client, female sex worker, but I don’t have the figures to back that up) will keep the trade underground as the clients will be looking for protection themselves – from legal ramifications, privacy from friends / family, blackmail and so forth. So you end up with an imbalance, and only those services which can ‘keep things quiet’ will prosper. It is difficult to legislate away while still affording as much protection to all involved as possible, assuming one wishes to legislate it away. The morality of attempting to legislate it away is questionable in my opinion, but that is another discussion for another time or another place!

For an alternative perspective, try this interview (with sub titles) of Catherine Millet, who can be truthfully described as an enthusiatic amateur practitioner of the erotic arts:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TicidqAe18Q

Her interview in The Guardian in 2002 is here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/may/19/biography.features

“She is the editor of Art Press, a high-minded arts magazine with a circulation of 30,000 that she launched 30 years ago. She looks like what she is – an intelligent art critic – though she does not have that stern intolerance that sometimes arrives in a mature female intellectual. . . Her book, The Sexual Life of Catherine Millet, published in France last year, has sold 400,000 copies and is still inciting worldwide debate. ‘This has been one of the happiest times of my life,’ she says. ‘Not just because the book is a success, but because a lot of people understand it.'”

So far most commenters are in agreement that prohibition and criminalisation are not going to be a solution to the exploitation and violence faced by sex workers (some of whom, by the way are men).

But mainstream feminist organisations have successfully lobbied for laws further restricting the sex industry (e.g. re Lapdancing clubs licenses) and criminalising sex work (re the recent law criminalising clients of ‘coerced’ sex workers).

For feminist groups to then come out and say they are in the minority and their views are not being heard I think is disingenuous. They are influential and have the ear of Government law makers and policy makers. They also have articles representing their views published frequently, e.g. in The Guardian.

If we want to achieve a regulated, safer, less exploitative environment for sex workers, we have to be prepared to challenge the dominance of mainstream feminism in this debate. I am glad that ethnographer who works/has worked as a lapdancer had her work featured on Radio Four. But I would suggest her perspective is in the minority in the media, not that of Ms Norris.

For an academic study of how the prostitution market in America functions, try this:

“Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the bestselling Freakonomics, return with a new book of offbeat explanations of how society works. Here they look at prostitution and reveal just how a call girl can earn far more by actually working far less”
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_extracts/article6879237.ece

This is a brilliant piece by Remittance Girl @remittancegirl on twitter, written in response to discussions arising from the piece on sex work I posted here a while ago. Again she takes a global perspective of this global industry.

http://remittancegirl.com/discussions/feminism-sex-work-and-the-big-wide-world/

Thanks for those links Bob. They look fascinating. I find it heartening that having the debate about the sex industry on LibCon has led me to some very interesting sources of information, and people, who are not puritanical prohibitionists but who want to understand how the sex industry works with a view to best supporting those who work in it.

“The accusation that feminists deny women who work in prostitution a voice is an accusation that is borne out of ignorance and an unwillingness to engage in the evidence.”

As far as I can tell, that accusation usually comes from women who work in prostitution and whose personal experience is that feminist anti-prostitution campaigners misrepresent their life-stories, choices and personal autonomy. There are victims of prostitution, and it is right to campaign on their behalf. But all prostitutes are not victims, and it helps no-one to pretend otherwise (even if you do have dodgy statistics to back up your case).

“We know that 1.2 million people are trafficked as sex slaves and that 500,000 – 600,000 people every year are trafficked into the sex industry over national borders (International Organisation of Migration).”

As Falco says, that’s a mish mash of numbers there. There are three different concepts:

1) Moving from one area to another in order to work selling sex.

2) Moving across a border illegally in order to sell sex.

3) Be taken across a border and forced to sell sex.

It’s 3) which most of us would categorise as “trafficking”. The kidnapping and repeated rape of someone.

1) Has always happened and always will. If you’re to call this trafficking then so is girls moving from the poor north of Thailand, voluntarily, to work in Bangkok or Pattaya. So also would the Welsh birds going up to Swindon to work (the last train back from Swindon to S Wales would be packed with girls who had been working the streets a couple of decades back).

2) Is what Julie Bindel was measuring with her infamous Big Brothel nonsense. She was assuming that the presence of foreign women willing to sell sex was evidence of 3) when in fact it’s just 1) again with a better transport system.

3) Is vile, should be stamped out and we’ve got great laws to do just that. But claiming that the total of 1), 2) and 3) is in fact the extent of 3) is simply nonsense.

“There are victims of prostitution, and it is right to campaign on their behalf. But all prostitutes are not victims, and it helps no-one to pretend otherwise (even if you do have dodgy statistics to back up your case).”

Friends who are retired now but who were professionally qualified social workers tell me that by far the most frequent cases of prostitution in their experience were young women who resorted to low-level, low-price prostitution to finance an addiction to hard drugs.

Addiction was the motivation and the alternatives to prostitution are usually regarded as more serious crimes – such as picking pockets or handbags, fraud or shoplifting. In these cases, it’s necessary to deal with the addiction problem to take away the motive for prostitution.

27. Chris Baldwin

“We live in a society that has very successfully sold the sex industry to us as an empowering ‘lifestyle’ choice where women exploit men’s ‘need’ for sex in order to extract money from them.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t recognise this picture. Most people clearly do not see the sex industry as an “empowering lifestyle choice”.

@ Bob B

I’m sure you are right.

All I have to ask is, what sort of cases of prostitution would you expect social workers to come into contact with, if not “young women who resorted to low-level, low-price prostitution to finance an addiction to hard drugs”?

That the majority of prostitutes who come into contact with social workers are in this category proves nothing about the majority of prostitutes in toto, unless it is also demonstrated that the vast majority of prostitutes come into contact with prostitutes. Is this the case?

To be fair, the majority of less-exploited escorts, who are funding their way through college or paying for their children’s school fees (a surprisingly common story, by the way), don’t come into contact with streetwalkers. I think a lot of the trouble comes through the pretence that these different types of sex-work are, in essence, the same thing.

I meant “come into contact with social workers”, of course. Oh for an edit button.

@28: ” I think a lot of the trouble comes through the pretence that these different types of sex-work are, in essence, the same thing.”

Absolutely. Young women who finance their respective ways through post-graduate and undergraduate degree courses either by acting as paid escorts (call-girls) or by serving in a local massage parlour or brothel plainly are being empowered by opportunities to work in the hugely varied sex industry.

We would do as well to remember that nowadays more young women are reading for undergraduate degrees than young men:

“The proportion of [undergraduate] places awarded to women grew from 53.8% to 54.1%, continuing the long-term trend of more women going to university than men. The year-on-year growth in the number of women accepted on courses rose by 6.4% and men by 5.1%.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7194396.stm

Btw, here is a quite surreal interaction between me and a feminist blogger/comedian about the sex industry, which was sparked by her refusal to publish my comments on the issue on her blog:

http://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/cruella-and-me/

Feminism at its finest!

@30

Absolutely. Young women who finance their respective ways through post-graduate and undergraduate degree courses either by acting as paid escorts (call-girls) or by serving in a local massage parlour or brothel plainly are being empowered by opportunities to work in the hugely varied sex industry.

If you google the word porn – you’ll quickly come across seemingly endless numbers of young women who might regard doing some porn movies in the same way.
I just wonder what they’re thinking and if they care that everyone they ever knew might see them. I’m sure many must bitterly regret it later. Much of it looks exploitative.
And I say that because of the images that are put online.

@ Bob B

Who said anything about “empowerment”?

“A leading expert on prostitution has insisted that Britain would have fewer murders if the sex industry was decriminalised.

His comments come after Prime Minister David Cameron said it may be time to “look again” at the UK’s sex laws, in the wake of three killings in Bradford.

Professor Basil Donovan, the head of the Sexual Health Department at the University of New South Wales, has seen the effect of legalising sex work – the Australian state decriminalised prostitution 15 years ago.

New South Wales has around 300 council approved brothels, 200 of them in Sydney. He said making the industry legal, makes it safer for all those involved.

“Decriminalisation results in a healthier sex industry, which means that if your son or your husband sneaks off to the brothel at night, he’s far more likely to come home healthy.”

The cases of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV have fallen, with prostitutes able to get condoms for free through government agencies.

Professor Donovan told Sky News sex workers are more likely to cooperate with police investigations, if they are not threatened with prosecution.

“You couldn’t get a Steve Wright situation in New South Wales,” he said.

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Australia-New-South-Wales-Explains-Why-Legalising-Prostitution-Works-Ian-Woods-Reports/Article/201007415669830?f=rss

35. George W. Potter

“We know that 1.2 million people are trafficked as sex slaves and that 500,000 – 600,000 people every year are trafficked into the sex industry over national borders”

The problem here is that you’re assuming that all those who are “trafficked” are being done so as sex slaves where this is not actually the case. I don’t have the statistics to hand but the majority of those trafficked within Europe are doing so for what is in effect the same reason as builders come from Eastern Europe to Western Europe – the pay they get over here is better so they move over here in order to make more money. That is not to overlook the very real problem of women (and men) being sold into sexual slavery but it is disingenuous in the extreme to claim that everyone who is trafficked is a sex slave.

As an aside, a lot of the risks to prostitutes which you mention could very easily be overcome by legalisation and proper regulation as it is in New Zealand. The simple fact is that we are never going to stamp out prostitution (or pornography or drugs for that matter) and so we are far better off legalising and regulating to minimise the risks rather than fighting a battle which simply cannot be won.

What counts as “exploitative porn” partly depends on the eye of the beholder.

For an educational experience, try googling on: “Japan porn TV” – without the quote marks – to see a modest selection of what can be found on TV channels in Japan. One leading item shows a large auditorium crowded with young teen girls watching and cheering on live sex shows with many performers. The audience certainly doesn’t look expolited to me but if anything remotely like that happened in Britain on public TV channels there would be a massive outcry.

Compare this rendering from French TV of Edith Piaf’s Milord by Jenifer Bartoli and Marion Cotillard:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDx1jla8kkE

The audience almost entirely comprises young women who appear enchanted by the song. Try this English version of the lyrics – the narrative is about a prostitute and an English aristocrat:
http://www.lyricsmania.com/milord_english_lyrics_edith_piaf.html

This song: Je t’aime . . Moi Non Plus, by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, was banned by the BBC in the 1960s so I made a special effort at the time to find and buy the record:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHiMDB19Dyc

Fifty years ago, in Britain, with a Conservative government in place, Penguin Books was famously prosecuted and acquitted for publishing DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). Among the many highlights of that trial:

” . . at one point prosecution counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones shocked the jury by asking: ‘Is it a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?'”

Some of us who can recall the occasion still laugh about that question. . .

“Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (popularly known as Fanny Hill) is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England in 1748. Written while the author was in debtor’s prison in London. it is considered ‘the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel.’ One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history, it has become a synonym for obscenity.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Hill

The text is available on the internet. It is an excellent sample of popular English literature from the mid 18th century.

@Bob B

I think it was Gloria Steinem who pointed out the difference between erotica and pornography can be derived from the two words’ etymology – “porno-graphy” literally means a depiction of sexual slavery, “erotica” is a depiction of sexual love (eros). And just to add to your list, even Song of Songs in the Bible has some quite rude bits that made me giggle as a youngster.

The rhetoric of free choice is also a chimera that hides how, in a world with decreased social mobility, where the pay gap still stands, and where women’s worth is still too often calculated on their physical appearance, women’s choices can become very limited.

Logically, if you restrict prostitution, do you not reduce some womens choices still further? At the margin there must be some women who lose the choice to continue in their current job.

The word pornography, is derived from the late Greek porni (“prostitute”) and graphein (“to write”), was originally defined as any work of art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes.

The distinction between pornography (illicit and condemned material) and erotica (which is broadly tolerated) is largely subjective and reflects changing social standards.

Usually it is defined as: *I* like erotica, *you* like pornography

And men prefer images, whereas women prefer writing.

Mr S. Pill: “porno-graphy” literally means a depiction of sexual slavery, “erotica” is a depiction of sexual love (eros).

(Gets dictionary. Looks up word.)

porne – prostitute; grapho – write: in other words the writing of (or by) prostitutes.

Now this might simply reflect an attitude to sexually explicit literature (giving it a ‘nasty’ name) rather than the idea that only ‘prostitutes’ would write such stuff. Bear in mind, however, that the term, though derived from the Greek, only emerged in the 18th century. As for distinguishing it from ‘erotica’, that’s usually a matter of money, class and taste, dressed up as aesthetics, rather than a question of etymology.

…while we’re wandering off-topic:

The distinction between pornography (illicit and condemned material) and erotica (which is broadly tolerated) is largely subjective and reflects changing social standards.

Case in point: Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus – originally written as porn for a dollar a page; published by Star in the 1980s; now published by Penguin as a ‘Twentieth Century Classic’.

@40

I refer you to the marvellous online etymology dictionary:

“description of prostitutes,” from Fr. pornographie, from Gk. pornographos “(one) writing of prostitutes,” from porne “prostitute,” originally “bought, purchased” (with an original notion, probably of “female slave sold for prostitution;” related to pernanai “to sell,” from PIE root per- “to traffic in, to sell,” cf. L. pretium “price”) + graphein “to write”.

[Emphasis added]

I don’t really wanna drag this debate into the rights and wrongs of porn because it’s not what the OP is about (prostitution/lap-dancing/etc are v different to the multimillion $$$ porn industry) but for what it’s worth I see the difference as thus: porn involves power whether that be of a man over a woman or vice versa. In that sense it either reflects or reinforces the current flow of society (if you want to use the word ‘patriarchy’ here feel free 😉 ); whereas (again in my opinion) erotica is more about mutual admiration and desire.

But of course this debate has been going on since time immemorial and I doubt it will be resolved on a comments thread on LibCon!

Oh and that’s a very good point about Anais Nin.

@Mr S Pill – no, I don’t particularly want to get into an etymological flame war either, but etymology doesn’t reflect the commonly understood use or meaning of a term (consider how ‘gay’ has changed meaning, regardless of etymology). Using a term relating to the lowest form of prostitute can be said to be a way of saying how offensive or undesirable such literature ‘is’, rather than it being ‘about’ such women or about the nature of the relations in such literature, not least because SM literature can be about mutual agreement to ‘exchange’ power (but that would take us even further off-topic…). Interestingly, Andrea Dworkin tries a similar line of argument to yours in her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women, only she doesn’t bother distinguishing it from ‘erotica’.

Dear me. The poor put upon anti-sex-work feminist, once again reiterating the same tired old “pity the abused hookers” canards. And who’s talking about empowerment? I mean, I googled “empowerment” on saafe.info and it didn’t exactly inundate me with responses. A couple of the workers used it, but in one case it was talking about a client’s sense of entitlement, and in other cases it was “reporters” wanting to do a happy hooking doc.

Seems to me that you’re so caught up in the mythos that academia and a splashy media is creating around the issue that you completely forgot to ask the hookers.

You’re right, some aspects of the sex industry are dangerous and bad for you. Makes you think, though, doesn’t it, if we assume that women aren’t just passive victims, if it’s that bad, how much worse must not being a hooker be? And then, you have to think, man, you know what would be even worse? If I was doing a job I didn’t like, and someone beat me up, but then I couldn’t go to the police about the man who beat me up because my job is illegal and the police would arrest me! Oh and also the guy who beat me up was a police officer who knew he could get away with it! You think that would be particularly “empowering”?

Fact is that if you bothered to spend any time with any actual sex workers, you’d find a view that was pretty balanced between “this job is great” and “ugh, this job sucks”. You know, just like you pretty much would in any other career. Sure, you get shit on sometimes in the sex industry, and sometimes you don’t get paid extra for that. But you get shit on every other motherhubbarding industry in this system too, unless you’re the big swinging dick signing the paychecks. Fact is that anything is “empowering” (god, how I hate that meaningless little buzzword) if it gets you to a better situation than the one you were in. No, it doesn’t turn you into a superwoman who’s totally set up to take out the patriarchy with a mighty blow. But then, neither does scrubbing shit out of a primary school toilet at 6am, and hooking pays better.

Face it, the bleating about how many anecdotes you can find about disadvantaged and abused women in the sex industry glosses over one single fact: using legislation to criminalise the sex industry does not do One Single Thing that makes the lives of any of these women even remotely better, and in most cases the problems that do exist are there because of the criminal status and the social stigma. They’re not vulnerable because they’re selling sex: they’re vulnerable because people think selling sex means those women deserve to get hit. That’s the difference we need to make. Not magically making bad things not happen to women by passing laws that have, historically, never, ever, ever achieved that.

And before you accuse me of “promoting” the sex industry, I don’t have any skin in this game. I’m not a hooker, I’ve never used a hooker, I don’t make money out of other people hooking. I do, however, know several ladies who promote their particular side alleys of the sex industry on their own time, and they do not need your particular brand of “help” throwing grit in the axles of their lives, telling them they’re victims and generally getting it wrong.

Why not quit the buzzwords, and if you want to be a feminist, stop agitating for stuff that makes women – real women, not theoretical women – less safe. I don’t care if hooking is “empowering” or not. I care about women who do sex work being safe. I care about them being treated as active human beings with all this fancy “agency” and shit that we hear so much about. And the way I see it, you ain’t particularly helpful in that regard. If the women on the street are in need, then help them, don’t exploit their voices to spread your own pernicious and moralising agenda.

Blimey Bob B @36 – I loked up ”Japan porn TV”.
Clive James never showed anything like that on his TV programme.

If porn is taking this off topic, then fair enough – but the words ”sex industry” were used in the OP, and you can hardly get a bigger part of the sex industry than porn.

I don’t really see a huge distinction though, when you get the bottom end of the vice trade when women are victims of pimps and drugs, and have women who work in lap dancing clubs in the same category – but not porn.

I would imagine that women working in Peter Stringfellow’s club in the West End have it pretty good if they can earn big money, and the same goes for any of the high end lap dancing places I would imagine. I’ve never been in one because I don’t like the look of the bouncers at the door, and it seems like they’re operations to detach punters from their money as quickly as possible.

Coming down market to less flashy places, if a woman could come away at the end of the night with a hundred pounds and hadn’t had to have sex with anyone, or if she had then had made even more – then it still looks like not a bad proposition compared to working at Sainsbury’s.

That’s a long way from walking the streets of Bradford or Ipswich for small amounts of money because you need to buy drugs.

That’s why I thought porn should have been included. Those are real people, and unlike the table dancer who takes her money and goes home to anonymity, someone who has appeared in porno for money has their image out on the internet for the whole world to see for years.

47. Shatterface

Busy today so not much time to comment but Quiet Riot Girl has it about right.

Can we have another full article by her *soon*?

Hi Shatterface

I will get my people onto it just as soon as I have saved the sex industry and its workers from the iron grip of those pesky feminists…

@44

Heh, never actually read any Dworkin – perhaps unfairly, I’ve always seen her as that little bit too extreme… I highly commend Gloria Steinem’s take on it all* though, it’s lost a lot of context as it was written in the 1970s but still has some interesting points to make.
On Anais Nin – I wouldn’t class it as porn or erotica myself, same way I think about The Sexual Life of Catherine M, it’s quite clinical and if anything undereroticised in its expicitness. But again, that’s another debate to be had 🙂

*been trying to find a link to the essay I mean but can’t find it, it’s called something like “Erotica vs Pornography” and is in a collection of her writings called “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions”.

Steinem:

‘Pornography is about dominance and often pain. Erotica is about mutuality and always pleasure’…

Hmm. I think she’s talking bollocks myself. I see no distinction between pornography and erotica, but then I choose not to recognise a moral or aesthetic distinction between a lot of pornography and a lot of ‘art’ . But I would be interested to read the book.

@46: “That’s a long way from walking the streets of Bradford or Ipswich for small amounts of money because you need to buy drugs.”

Absolutely. The prostitution market is hugely differentiated – to apply economists’ jargon – with many non-competing sectors and jobs so it can lead to highly misleading conclusions if it is all lumped together.

@45: “using legislation to criminalise the sex industry does not do One Single Thing that makes the lives of any of these women even remotely better”

That’s true and crucial. Criminalisation pushes the industry underground and thereby makes it much more difficult to regulate, to detect coercion and to suppress trafficking because sex workers make greater, persistent efforts to cover-up and resist disclosure.

Pornography is a vast industry in its own right, separate from prostitution , although many may work in both. Btw the pornography industry in Japan is vast, one of the largest in the world, and it has a long history so frequent manifestations on TV channels nowadays aren’t surprising to anyone familiar with Japan.

@39: “And men prefer images, whereas women prefer writing.”

It’s a demonstrable mistake to see porn solely in terms of the objectification and victimisation of women by men IMO.

L’histoire d’O – or The Story of O – is pornography (justly IMO) celebrated for its literary elegance where the author was a French female literary critic:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Desclos

This piece in The Guardian is more illuminating:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/jul/25/fiction.features3

Mr S. Pill @ 39 & 42:

You know, you’re committing a very basic etymological fallacy by arguing that the classical Greek root of the words for pornography establishes that currently pornography is the representation of female sexual slavery. Words are defined by current usage, not by etymological origin.

More here: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/etymolog.html

@52

Oh, I daresay you’re quite correct. I find the roots of words interesting on their own terms though, whether or not they mean exactly the same nowadays… which maybe should nullify my point, but I stand – rather shakily now, I’ll admit – by my thinking that power is what defines porn.

Just to drag this back on topic, what would the OP (or anyone, for that matter) say about burlesque dancers? I ask because one of my friends recently decided to follow it as a career path and seems quite ’empowered’ (to use that vague word) by it all…

Is this economic analysis of the prostitution market in America correct?

“Edlund and Korn were merely building an admittedly grossly simplified model of human behavior in an attempt to answer a nagging question: Why do hookers make so much money? Prostitution is, seemingly, a low-skill but high-pay profession with few upfront costs, micro-miniskirts and stiletto heels aside.

“Yet according to data assembled from a wide variety of times and places, ranging from mid-15th-century France to Malaysia of the late 1990s, prostitutes make more money–in some cases, a lot more money–than do working girls who, well, work for a living. This held true even for places where prostitution is legal and relatively safe. In short, streetwalkers aren’t necessarily being paid more for their increased risk of going to jail or the hospital.”
http://www.forbes.com/2006/02/11/economics-prostitution-marriage_cx_mn_money06_0214prostitution.html

No, they are often wrong. Some/many prostitutes make very little money:

“Prostitutes in [London] are selling full sex for as little as £15, new research showed today.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sex-industry-in-every-corner-of-london-918453.html

But some make a great deal from turning tricks. For economists that is a puzzle because it’s relatively low skilled work and endless competition should bring prices down. How then do some prostitutes manage to attract much higher earnings than could be earned by regular work?

“by my thinking that power is what defines porn.”

No, don’t think so. Gonads is what defines porn.

Clear images or descriptions of what gonad does unto gonad is porn. Images or descriptions of what might lead to gonad doing to gonad is erotica.

I’m sure that could do with copy editing but the basic idea I’d stand by.

57. Shatterface

The distinction between ‘erotica’ and ‘pornography’ is a class-based fiction created by snobs who need to maintain a sense of superiority even while wacking themselves off.

@56

Ha! Touché.

@57

But there is a difference between this and this, no?

59. Charlieman

There is something called the car industry. The car industry covers the companies that design new cars, make new cars, sell new cars, fix news cars, sell parts for new cars, and the same for old cars. There are other companies that provide other car services.

There is also something called the sex industry. Take your porn pick: milf, bondage, whatever. Street hooker (overt or hotel lounge hook up), massage parlour/sauna, call girl/boy or model catalogue (the footballer’s preference) — men and women have a choice. Titilation joints too.

The difference between the two (car and sex industries) is that all participants in the former have a lot of choice. If you assemble cars on a production line, you can get another job selling coffee in a shop if you prefer. That job may not be available to a former sex worker.

60. Shatterface

‘That job may not be available to a former sex worker.’

Especially if she has a criminal conviction.

Lesson: don’t criminalise the sex trade.

Charliemann- but then again it might? and if you lived in Coventry in the 1970s I dont think if you were working class you’d have much choice but to work at the local car factory, for example. All our choices are limited to a degree.

62. Margin4eror

I won’t post a link as I fear some people may be offended by what they find on the site, or by the nature of the club. But it may be worth noting that there is real life evidence that the worst aspects of the sex industry can be overcome.

Lust Lady in San Francisco was just another seedy strip/peepshow club once upon a time. This led girls into dangerous situations, particularly as the use of one way windows was common, which meant girls couldn’t see their viewer or whether they had camera equipment with them. (such evidence could be used against them for blackmail and further exploitation)

The girls of this particular club took action to change it. And they succeeded. It is now run as a co-operative owned by the girls themselves.

That doesn’t make it all OK. It doesn’t mean there isn’t something dark at the heart of that sort of work. But it does make it safe and clean and thus a lot better than elsewhere.

All of which suggests that maybe a legal alternative to what we have in the UK at present is possible.

@58

Damn. If there’s one thing that gets my goat more than people self-righteously damaging people’s lives in pursuit of their moral agenda, it’s people mixing up “affect” and “effect”. But if there’s *another* thing, it’s confusion of nouns and adjectives.

Vincent van Gogh and Thomas Kinkaid are both painters. “Oh no, but how will we ever form a value judgement about which one is better?” Easy. One’s a good painter, one’s a bad painter. It is *that* simple.

Some porn is good. Some porn is bad. This is not, actually, a monumental advance in pro-sex feminist theory. This is just using all the tools in your primary school grammar toolbox. Goddamn eight year olds can do that, man.

If someone has had a wank to it, it’s porn. And, frankly, there are far worse things you can do with your life than helping people jack or jill off. We’d probably be much better off as a culture if we accepted that making people horny could be as valid an artistic statement as making people happy or sad or angry or thoughtful or frightened.

Not — NOT, people, NOT — necessarily so. But, hells, people, 90% of everything is trash. 90% of porn is badly produced, exploitative shit. But did you all see Transformers motherfucking 2? Jesus Christ, millions got poured into that bollocks and millions went to see it, and it had less artistic integrity than your average gonzo POV flick. At least if you download that kind of cheap ass nonsense you know you’re going to watch a douchebag director jizz all over the screen. You think just because it had CGI robots being racist in it Michael Bay wasn’t doing exactly the same thing? Please. That whole film would have been *better* if it had been Bay jacking off to a crumpled photo of Megan Fox. Or, at least, more accurate.

Promote good porn. Criticise bad porn. Fix labour laws so even bad porn doesn’t damage the people who work in it. Hell, if you do that, you might also fix it so that bad chilli or bad sportswear doesn’t damage all the underpaid folks involved in its production too. And, while we’re at it, given the ethical standards and general calibre of our male politicians over the years, can anyone give me a reason why if a woman had sex on camera that she shouldn’t be Prime Minister? Like, a real one? If not, the problem ain’t with the trade, y’all, it’s with the stigma. Stop stigmatizing sex workers and, whoosh, the problem magically disappears all on its own.

This shit ain’t *hard*.

A short video documentary on Belle de Jour illuminates the different ends of the prostitution market:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXPheAqyjg8

Why the enduring appeal of Luis Buñuel’s 1967 movie with Catherine Deneuve: Belle de Jour?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRpy5DrbIsMA

@62

Lusty Lady in San Francisco was just another seedy strip/peepshow club once upon a time.

It still is – or was anyway the last time I was there.
I heard of it by it’s reputation for being a co-operative or something so I went for a look.
It’s democratic in that it lets just about any old bum walk in off the street. The thing that attracts most it seems are the booths that are around the dancing area, which for only 25 cents, the screen on the window goes up for a time and you get to see the women inside.
They get up close and personal at windows where coins are being put in to keep the screen up.
It might be a co-operative, but the floors still have to be cleaned at regular intivals.
You really do see Skid Row kind of people in there who probably just change up a few dollars into quaters.

If you were a dancer in there and thought you were providing a service to the needy, then you might find what you did empowering or uplifting.

I remember one striking ”suicide girl” with tatoos and the Betty Page hair style.
Kind of like this
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8f/SuicideGirls_book_cover.jpg

Now I only went in there for research purposes, but I wonder how this ties in with the OP.

There’s a place by a similar name in Seattle, and it even has a fancy coffee table book about it in local bookstores. This one:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lusty-Lady-Photographs-Erika-Langley/dp/3931141594

66. Margin4eror

Damon

Don’t get me wrong – All such places are pretty seedy and more so in SF than almost anywhere. But from what I’ve read about the place (Havn’t been – pleased to say) the women who took over the firm and made it a co-op did so with a view to keeping it from being a place of abuse.

Given that this is possible, and can seemingly still do business alongside places that are more conventionally run, suggests it might be worth driving a legal sex industry in that direction rather than opposing it outright.

I should point out – illegality doesn’t seem to work too well.

Re: Lusty Lady

Wikipedia is your friend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lusty_Lady

The two were once under the same ownership, but that changed when the San Francisco one was bought out by its workers. The Seattle location just closed, with not a small amount of fanfare. I’ve been to both, having lived in both towns, and was always partial to the Seattle one, though I think the activism of the San Francisco Lusties is pretty admirable.

Damon, you might find LL “skid row”, but I suppose that’s a matter of perspective. I think it gets a good mix of customers from across the board in terms of social class, and it has about as self-aware and, dare I say, empowered of sex workers as you’ll find anywhere.

There is a lot to be said for the peep show format, in that it actually allows for a greater degree of intimacy between customer and performer, or at least the illusion of such. Strip clubs are all about policing some very strict boundaries to keep customers from being too grabby. In peep shows, there’s a physical barrier and the booths are private, allowing the dancers to be far more forward with a customer than they would be in a regular strip club. Peep shows are dying out in favor of webcams now, but I think they retain a unique live niche somewhere between webcam and strip club and hope they don’t die out.

Recent thread contributions relating to Seattle and SF seem to resonate with the notion that “men prefer images, whereas women prefer writing” but I wondered how far the Lusty Lady phenomenon is specific to the US scene. Personally, I prefer the literary stuff – the nuances and the colours are better.

Don’t get me wrong please, I like seedy. The Tenderloin was my favourite neighbourhood and I knew the Pioneer Square area of Seattle pretty good too once.
It’s a pity when all the seedyness gets shaken out of a neighbourhood.
What I should have said about the LL was that it didn’t seem to driscriminate about who it let in, and you would see poor looking Mexican guys in there as well as more middle class people.
But back to the OP and this kind of work not empowering women. If it was the only thing you did all day every day then that would be unpleasant indeed. But someone might like to do a couple of shifts a week at a place like that, not just for the money to supplament another real job perhaps, it can also give ‘membership’ to a street culture that exsists on the margins, and perhaps a sense of belonging. You get to know people you wouldn’t otherwise, and (perhaps) get some street cred.

If you think the street cannot have a certain appeal and glamour, just think of Lou Reed’s ”Walk on the Wild Side” or ”The Killing of Georgie” by Rod Stewart.
People flock from all over the USA to live such lifestyles on the coasts – probably having hoped for better when they left home.

No difference between porn and erotica?

Try Juliette Greco: Déshabillez-Moi
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyqIs8xPCd0

Bob B @ 64 & 70:

Actually, the kind of distinctions you’re making only speak to erotica simply speak to “erotica” as a kind of cultural snobbery. I prefer a good Viv Thomas or Abby Winters video myself, and I suppose you think that makes me the lowest kind of cultural philistine. Fine. Just don’t enshrine your choices in law or morality.

Bob B @70

What in the name of Satan’s dark and spiky codpiece are you chatting now?

If you’ve ever jerked off to Deshabillez moi then it’s porn. Personally, I think calling a song about sex either porn or erotica might be stretching it a bit, since pretty much most of the content of the charts is directly or indirectly about fucking, and if we were to start down that road we’d pretty soon end up with one of those expansive categories which includes everything in the known universe.

I’m pretty sure what you’re demonstrating here is some kind of fauxbrow sensibility about sex, designed specially to let people know you’re not like the rest of those philistinic horndogs who just like some fucking on tape. We’ll see how that plays; personally I reckon you like fucking just the same as the rest of us apes.

I’m not really interested in the line between erotica and pornography, but this seems altogether too broad:

“If someone has had a wank to it, it’s porn.”

Notice that this, taken together with rule 34, imply that everything is porn.

A post aiming to convince us all of the evils of the sex industry that leads to sharing links to Suicide Girls, Deshabillez-moi, Catherine Millet and Lusty Lady is full of win! Thanks Sian! 🙂

hi there

apologies for my delay in replying to comments on this site. ive just moved house and my ISP assured me our internet connection would be up and running on thursday but yet to see it happen, so will reply, briefly, now.

Firstly – some people have questioned my use of statistics, or said ‘huf, M Farley, what do you expect’. I find with statistics, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. if you don’t cite sources, people go ‘where is the proof!’ and when you do cite sources, people go ‘how do we know these stats aren’t false!’
Basically, i have done my best to cite sources from a range of places, including government reports, ethnographic studies, anecdotal stories, and psychological reports from here and the USA. If you have evidence to suggest ALL of these sources are dodgy, then please post the evidence, otherwise i will doubt your assessment. i am certainly confident that the evidence stands up more than say, biological deterministic reports!

Secondly, i do not think that *my* voice is repressed however i do believe that the women and men who are damaged by the sex industry do not get the same voice in the media as the men and women who fit the opposing narrative. where’s the drama show about a woman who is struggling to exit the sex industry? where are the pink and swirly lettered publishing industry smashes about the women who are paying for their drug addiction via prostitution? where’s the glossy mag stories about this women? i have given specific examples of this absence. clearly if my voice was oppressed i wouldn’t have been able to write this article! so it’s a bit silly to say that and misrepresents my point.

I am quite shocked that on a left leaning website commenters are defending the idea that entering the sex industry is a good way to pay university fees! surely, it seems to me, that the fact that education is now so expensive that women and men are entering the sex industry to pay their fees would be a rallying call to say enough is enough on the high and exclusive cost of education. not a way to justify the ‘inevitability’ of the sex industry.

It won’t come as a surprise to you that personally i support the nordic model. i am yet to convinced by the evidence that suggests legalisation works, not least because there is compelling evidence to suggest it encourages trafficking and also, perhaps most importantly, says ‘it is actually ok for you to buy another human being to wank into.’ However, we do need to ensure better protection for women and men who work as prostitutes that the current criminalisation of selling sex doesn’t permit. by legalising selling sex and criminalising buying sex puts the onus on the purchaser not to commit a crime and ensures that women and men in the industry do not face the prospect of a criminal conviction if they report any violence done to them. the nordic model has also shown you can tackle and reduce demand, rather than accept it as an inevitability.

finally, some commenters have accused me of not talking directly to sex workers. please, i urge you, go on the object website and read the testimonies of the women – the links are in the OP. go and volunteer with One25 or any of the other charities across the country who work with women in the sex industry. go and do it. I would also heartily recommend reading Living Dolls, Female Chauvinist Pigs, The Equality Illusion and ABC – a short story by Michele Roberts for a, much more, detailed look and analysis of the problems within the sex industry, and the way the normalisation of the sex industry has an effect on the men and women outside of it.

Sian Norris

Sian says legalisation of prostitution suggests ‘it is actually ok for you to buy another human being to wank into.’

I think it is ok to ‘buy’ another human being to wank into.

(rent for the hour/night maybe, I don’t think sex workers are ‘bought’ or ‘sold’ unless, as you say trafficking is involved)

This is where the anti-sex work argument stands or falls. Either we think prostitution is morally wrong or we don’t. I do not think it is morally wrong.

@73: “If someone has had a wank to it, it’s porn.”
Recent contributions here serve to confirm impressions about the stark differences between American and European values and cultures.

The distinction is transparent between the writings of, say, Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, who were lovers btw. Americans are fixated with the mechanics and Europeans with nuances and sentiments. It’s why there is a great heritage of European literature and why so little enduring American literature.

It’s why people still read and discuss John Cleland: Fanny Hill (1748), Leopold von Sacher-Masoch: Venus in Furs (1870), James Joyce: Ulysses (1922), DH Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), Pauline Réage: L’Histoir d’O (1954) or why the works of the Marquis de Sade are still regarded as part of France’s literary canon.

No one this side of sanity proposes to legislate to define good literature – time decides that. A more productive enterprise is to seek out the lasting contributions to erotica from other world cultures, such as the Kama Sutra or Chin P’ing Mei: The Plum in the Golden Vase. The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, with its narrative of courtly intrigues and couplings, was published in the early 11th century.

@75: “I am quite shocked that on a left leaning website commenters are defending the idea that entering the sex industry is a good way to pay university fees!”

I just knew we’d be back to paying down the budget deficit.

The facts are that academics are poorly paid and there are many other pressures on the public finances besides higher education. Britain is fortunate in having a disproportionate share of highly ranked universities in world league tables. The problem is how to keep it that way in times when we are slipping down the league table for skills.

Diagnosis precedes prescription. We need to fathom why and how some young women have engaged in the sex industry to finance their higher education when women already comprise the majority of undergraduate students.

I’ve a nagging feeling that decriminalising prostitution – as Germany and New Zealand have – would tend to flatten the evident earnings differentials in prostitution. This could be a reason why some resist it.

#75

I could be convinced either way; I favour decriminalisation because intuitively it seems more likely that at least some sex workers can self-organise & support each other if neither they nor their clients are decriminalised. I also don’t want to sit in moral judgement of sex workers, and feel criminalisation inevitably leads to the othering of all sex workers as either disgusting harlots or victims in need of our charity. At the same time sex work seems like a different kind of exploitation to normal capitalistic exploitation & intuitively I feel all sex work contains violence. I’m also a born-again Christian so my own prejudice is that sex should respect our own bodies & other people’s, that that’s only possible in a long-term, intimate relationship and certainly precludes the idea that sex can be bought and sold. I say that so you can see where I’m coming from; I certainly don’t think that my own moral prejudices should be instituted into law!

The reason I’m not quite convinced either way is because this debate is usually simplified and hyperbolised.

On trafficking, could you tell me how you differentiate between people who are brought into the country against their will and forced into sex work, people who pay others to bring them into the country and have their trust abused by them, people who pay others to bring them into the country and end up sex workers through lack of options in an oppressive immigration system that denies them subsistence or the right to work, and people who make their own way into the country and end up as sex workers through lack of options in that same immigration system?

I know questioning statistics is a standard way of casting scorn on feminist articles & happens a lot more in comments threads on feminist articles than with other articles; certainly consciously that isn’t my intention. But it seems to me that trafficking is more a result of the problems with immigration controls than it is a phenomenon in itself, and one of your strongest claims in favour of the Nordic model is that legalisation causes increased trafficking.

Thanks!

Bob B @77

Snobbery *and* nationalist essentialism in one pop? Good job! Shame the argument is, as we say in Europe, bollocks. Never heard of Razzle?

i am yet to convinced by the evidence that suggests legalisation works… perhaps most importantly, says ‘it is actually ok for you to buy another human being to wank into.’

See, this is where I think the whole debate is terribly badly framed. We should pass legislation which we have good reason to think will achieve the goals we’re aiming for. We should not pass legislation to send moral messages to the populace about what is or is not ‘ok’.

Is X morally good or bad? Should X be illegal? These ar to my mind two totally different questions, and my inclination is to resist any politics which conflates them.

For example, I think hiring prostitutes is a morally bad thing to do. I also think that taking heroin is a damn bad idea. But in both cases, my instinct is that criminalising the activity makes all the accompanying problems far worse. I’m open to being persuaded otherwise, but one suggestion I am not open to is that legislating morality is ever a good idea.

Will anyone object to an overview response? I’m doing it anyway 🙂

Firstly, it is important to get as much information as possible from those who are in the position of supplying it – an obvious fact. Hookers, lap dancers, social workers, customers of prostitutes, etc, blah blah blah, all need to be sources of info in order to really identify all the niches of what is going on. This is hardly a revelation. Then, we can form laws to help and control the negative aspects of this … uh, ‘industry’.

This is my take on the situation, and my apologies to anyone who gets offended here. Prostitution to me, theoretically, is the basest form of human objectification and strips a person of their humanity, and just because a prostitute enjoys their ‘profession’, or feels empowered by it, does not change that it is what it is. And some may argue that charging so much exploits he/she who is paying, but I think monetary exploitation is conceptually different to physical and sexual exploitation. I mean, I think losing a tenner on a lapdance is far less serious than getting degraded and viewed as an object, but hey, that’s just me. That’s just my perception on that particular subject.

As to the more practical side of things – controlling the nasty stuff that goes on, as in, people being raped, beaten, taken advantage of etc. We need very severe penalties for pimps, strict anti pimping laws, and little to no legal ramification for prostitutes reporting sexual and physical assault. We have a law against many negative aspects of prostitution – human trafficking, that’s KIDNAPPING. Beating your prostitute, that’s PHYSICAL ASSAULT. Forcing someone to have sex with you is RAPE. All of these things are already illegal. The real solution is to ensure pimps are off the street, that prostitutes report every single illegal action that occurs in their chosen or not so chosen ‘industry’. These people are human, whilst their ‘profession’ is not. Legalising prostitution is not the answer; look at the situation in Sweden, they have completely decriminalised being a prostitute, however have completely criminalised going to/profiting from prostitution. Atta boy! From my understanding, this has worked very well. Making it legal in order to regulate it, is not an effective strategy. There will always be unregulated sects of prostitution, there will be pimps unwilling to let go, there will be illegal child prostitution. To regulate the assault that goes on, the Swedish style law seems the most effective. To regulate STDs and HIV… OMG, are you telling me you need to legalise prostitution so that prostitutes can get free condoms?!?! Are you effing kidding me? Are you telling me it needs to be legal so they can practise safe sex?!!! Tackling the solution from the supply end of this issue, rather than the demand end, is going to be ineffective and fruitless. Besides, a law that decriminalises prostitution? What percentage of the population is on board that? No offence, but I don’t really respect a legal system that condones the objectification and sexual exploitation of human beings. So what, I steal a video game and I go to jail, but selling my body and having someone degrade me is totally acceptable? WTF?

At the end of the day, you can’t condone or advocate something that you are not okay with your own people taking part of; to those who have gone to prostitutes or advocates its legalisation; would you be okay with your daughter, your son, your mother, father, sister etc being prostitutes/going to prostitutes? If that’s fine with you, cool, at least you aren’t a hypocrite – we disagree on some pretty serious issues, but at least you aren’t hypocritical. However, if you’ve ever paid for sex, but would be vehemently against your daughter becoming a prostitute, well sorry son, if it’s good enough for you and a stranger, it’s good enough for your loved one. In that case, either change your ethical system and support prostitution, change your behaviour, or STFU.

I’d love to see the day when further criminalising and demonising of a trade that (like it or not) is in demand leads to *less* exploitation, more safety for those ultimately forced or unable to escape that trade, and less illegal trafficking.

Until that day I’ll be backing the views of Quiet Riot Girl wholeheartedly.

Sian @75

I’m not going to go through every statistic, because in many cases it’s inconsequential. I will give you a couple of links to how ideological bias has affected evidence gathering surrounding, say, “trafficking” statistics and the evaluation of the Swedish model. You say that with statistics you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but in general this is because a lot of anti-sex worker activists tend to use the statistics gathered with bias inherent in the methodologies.

Secondly, get the hell over the “Belle du Jour” television show. It’s just as annoying to real sex workers as it seems to be to you. If you think that such things are the whole sum and total of the “pro prostitution” side of the argument then you really do need to get out more. The fact is that the media doesn’t deny your side of the story at all. If there’s an article about hooking in the mainstream press it’s either going to be “lookit me, I slept with a banker for ten grand a night, here’s the edited glamorous version of my story” (and, quite frankly, Dr Magnanti comes under a lot of stick for her work, but she was a damn sight better at writing well while still playing the game that the editors wanted to read than the various photocopies that have followed) or “harrowing tales of trafficking and rape and woe woe woe!” In other words, what’s reported on is either the sliver that you say is the real thing or the sliver that you set up as a direct opposite. The vast middle ground full of women who say “it’s alright, it’s not bad, it can be a bit shit but it beats the crap out of working in McDonalds” simply aren’t interesting enough to get reported on, and they don’t want to be rescued from anything so you won’t come in contact with them.

It’s why this argument is So. Damned. Annoying. All these people having debates over sex worker’s heads, using quotes from them to slap their political opponents rather than, say, finding out what they want and helping them. And damn, but if there’s one side that denies women exist it sure as potatoes ain’t the pro-sex worker side. You want to “send a message” because you don’t think it’s OK to buy a woman to wank into? What about a man? What if both sides consent? I’m off for drinks this afternoon with a woman who works in three different parlours. If I told her she had to give up her job, which she likes (and you can believe me or otherwise but, y’know, whatever), because we had to send a message that buying sex was wrong, she’d not only laugh at me she’d think I was a chronic asshole. And, frankly, she’d be right.

You say you don’t think there’s evidence that legalisation “works”. Good for you. You know what we have evidence doesn’t work? The way we’ve been doing it. Making prostitution illegal, stigmatising it, driving it into the shadows, all this is bound to reduce violence towards women, right? Oh look not so much! Turns out that there’s more violence against women, that we know of, in states where repression of the sex industry is strongest, not least because most of it’s state mandated. We have tried that. It doesn’t work. There might be evidence that legalisation “increases trafficking,” but since trafficking statistics count any woman who has crossed the border for the purposes of sex work as being “trafficked” even if she’s done so consensually and of her own volition then, y’know, duh. Of course people are going to go where the work is easier, where there’s less chance of getting raped by a policeman, where you can operate without fear of arrest. If you consider that “trafficking” then it comes down to the same old question: do you actually want to help women, or do you want to stop prostitution no matter how many women you fuck over?

There’s also the other big fat question that you’re studiously avoiding. Suppose your dreams come true and we eradicate prostitution. What alternatives are you offering? What’s your response to this former sex worker? If it’s so bad, why are so many women still choosing it, and what’s left for them if they don’t even have that choice? Life is shit all over, and if all you’re doing is taking away an option, even if it’s one that seems really bad to you, without considering that the alternatives might, in fact, be even worse, then you are not helping.

To the extent that you are helping women who find themselves trapped in bad situations to get out of them, fair play and I wish you every luck. To the extent that you are using their voices to campaign to make the lives of other women more difficult, please, I urge you, stop not helping. It’s really annoying!

ariana @82

You’re right, it is just you. And since your opinion of sex work as being the most horrible and degrading thing EVAR!!!11 is a) sort of insular and middle class (worse than being tortured in Abu Ghraib? Worse than searching for your food in other people’s trash? Come on, really?) and b) not shared by, for example, the International Union of Sex Workers or the women who post at SAAFE then I hope you’ll not mind if I take the word of actual hookers over what their life is like, rather than your imagination running wild.

Also, who are you talking to? Nobody’s saying prostitution should be legal “so they can use condoms”. They use condoms anyway, they’re not idiots. We’re saying sex work is work and prostitutes are people and that saying stuff like “These people are human, whilst their ‘profession’ is not” is not only horrendously confused but also slightly vile.

You know what the solution to you thinking sex work is so terribly awfully bad is? Don’t be a fucking sex worker. Just don’t make anyone else’s life harder because you wouldn’t want to be them. Lots of sex workers probably wouldn’t want to be you, either, but they’re not campaigning to make posting overexcitable and poorly researched comments on the internet illegal, are they?

IMO we should request position statements from our resident feminists here on the subject of: Polyandry, the practice for a woman to take on several husbands for long – or short – periods of time.

We have often heard much about how the practice of polygamy, endemic in some countries, demeans the status of women but seldom on feminist sentiments towards polyandry, which has deep historic social roots in some ethnic communities:

Functions and Limitations of Alaskan Eskimo Wife Trading
http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic23-1-24.pdf

“It is the harvesting season and Kundol Lama and her family are pulling up radishes in their small field above a river gorge in remote north-western Nepal. This is rigorous work, but Kundol has a little extra manpower at her disposal. She has two husbands, Tsering Yeshi and Pema Tsering, who are brothers.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4461196.stm

The current internet meme is to avoid the term polyandry – perhaps to mininise confusion – and instead to refer to the practices of hotwifing or cuckolding, which seem to have an increasingly popular following beyond what is regarded as the natural domain of the functioning commercial sex industry.

One recent attempt – apparently by a woman author – couched in terms of a highly fashionable academic theory of human behaviour framed in evolutionary terms to explain is this:
http://www.hotwifeblog.com/index.php?s=science+of+cuckoldry

Bob B

As a feminist I think any discussion of polyandry in a thread about sex work would be totally irrelevant and distracting. I’m not a resident, though, so I don’t know whether that’s what you wanted.

@87: “As a feminist I think any discussion of polyandry in a thread about sex work would be totally irrelevant and distracting.”

I’m bound to disagree. Polyandry, cuckolding and hotwifing are (mostly) within the voluntary sector whereas developments in the sex industry are motivated by commercial market forces.

As best I can tell, the notion of the Big Society is all about the voluntary sector taking over services that were previously provided by salaried employees. The potential impact of polyandry and the other voluntary sector work on the commerical sex industry is therefore both relevant and very topical.

Hi McDuff

I think we are talking at cross purposes. I don’t think criminalising selling sex is the right solution. precisely because it forces violence underground. I agree that the system we have now is failing. that’s why i suggest the Nordic model, which criminalises buying sex, could be a solution to decreasing demand.

it’s great that your friend loves her work. good for her. but a lot of men and women who work in the sex industry don’t, and they deserve to be heard too.

the belle du jour example is just an easy one to pick because it’s the most mainstream one. and it is an important example as it is something that has entered our cultural lexicon.

i can’t say i really understand why you put “trafficking” in inverted commas. TBH with you, i believe that even if only 1 woman and 1 man was trafficked into the sex industry, that would be 2 too many and would demand that we did something to prevent it.

you ask me where would men and women who work in the sex industry go if it all magically disappeared. this is part of my point in the OP – it is deeply troubling that we live in a society where social mobility is low, unemployment and debt is rife and that entering the sex industry becomes an ‘only option’ solution to women and men struggling to pay the bills. the sex industry feeds off rampant capitalism, the cameron tome of ‘those who do the right thing’ and a messed up system where women are hurt by the pay gap and women’s bodies are seen as a signifier of their worth.

plus, just as you find my ‘belle du jour’ comment boring, i am sick of people saying ‘it’s better than working at mcdonalds’. because, for a start, women who work in mcdonalds aren’t 60-100 times more likely to be murdered than women who don’t work in mcdonalds. etc etc.

i am completly aware thank you that men work in the sex industry. that’s why i say ‘men and women who work in the sex industry’ where appropriate.

finally, so long as douglas fox is running the IUSW i am totally ok with not listening to his harping on about the rights and wrongs of feminists and the sex industry.

they’re not campaigning to make posting overexcitable and poorly researched comments on the internet illegal

Now that’s something I’m sure we can all agree to oppose.

Sian- On the likelihood of sex workers getting murdered: It is not because they are sex workers. They get murdered because

a) sex workers are treated as not as valuable human beings as other human beings

b) as most sex workers work illegally and surreptitiously there is less chance their attackers will be brought to justice

c)many sex workers work on streets that are not well-lit, well-frequented or policed

d) street sex workers rely on getting into cars with strangers for their work.

I believe all these issues would be tackled by a legalised, regulated and socially non-stigmatised sex work industry. Your sensationalist discourse about how morally wrong sex work is, adds to the problems and dangers faced by sex workers. It does not support their cause.

Bob B: “The potential impact of polyandry and the other voluntary sector work on the commerical sex industry is therefore both relevant and very topical.”

Just keep it on topic, you’re deliberately trying to muddy the waters for non-conducive means here. Ridiculously so.

On topic, has anyone done a study as to the relative safety of sex workers that operate out of an established premises compared to street workers? I imagine such a study could only have taken place in the US or New Zealand and feel relevant to our situation. I just can’t help but feel, as Quiet Riot Girl gets to to in her points, that men are much less likely to abuse (or murder) if they’ve got to hand over some ID and have their face recorded by a CCTV system than if they are just rocking up in their own car and going wherever they have decided.

@89:

Hi Sian

Making paying for sex illegal is a silly idea for lots of very practical reasons:

– only the naive get caught offering cash payments for sex and the police are forced to engage in entrapment work which fosters corruption

– professional escorts and mistresses escape because settlement terms are negotiated at separate times or through separate channels and the payoff could be by gifts – diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

“The English Collective of Prostitutes attacked Ms Harman’s support for the Swedish system and urged her to look at New Zealand’s system of legalising brothels instead.

“Spokeswoman Cari Mitchell said the Swedish system of criminalising men who buy sex had forced prostitution further underground and ‘made women more vulnerable to violence’.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7153358.stm

The Belle de Jour example is NOT the only relevant example by any means of young women financing their higher education by working in the sex industry. Try this:

Confessions of a Working Girl, by Miss S (Penguin Books, 2006)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Confessions-Working-Girl-Miss-S/dp/0141032340

I note that resident feminists here have avoided commenting on polyandry, hotwifing and cuckolding – which very likely relate to the prevailing low earnings at one end of the sex industry market:

“Prostitutes in [London] are selling full sex for as little as £15, new research showed today.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sex-industry-in-every-corner-of-london-918453.html

Relatively high unemployment rates in the national economy are likely to be with us for years so there will be continuing market pressures to engage in the ses industry.

@92: “Just keep it on topic, you’re deliberately trying to muddy the waters for non-conducive means here. Ridiculously so.”

Rubbish. I’m taking an economist’s perspective and looking at factors affecting market demand and prices. Besides, the voluntary sector has become highly topical with the Big Society concept. However, I do understand why some find the notions of polyandry and the rest difficult to cope with as these don’t fit their preconceived fix on the sex market.

This is an article by sex workers about sex workers’ safety after the Bradford murders.

http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2010/05/28/bradford-murders-when-will-sex-workers-safety-stop-being-put-risk

I read the initial blog and my reaction was “oh dear” then I read the comments and was cheered up that so many others spotted the flaws that lay within it.

Let me deal with the first misconception that seems to be cropping up here – prostitution is not illegal. Keeping a brothel is illegal, soliciting is illegal, kerb crawling is illegal, but not the act of sex for money itself.

Flaws in the figures have already been pointed out, however let me add this ‘It is right that certain drugs remain illegal as demonstrated by the numbers that are smuggled’ or perhaps ‘It is right that certain drugs remain illegal due to the number of deaths they cause’. One illegal act is equated with another, and events are caused by the fact it is illegal.

Bring a women who wants to do so illegally into the country because said country has imposed harsh immigration rules, then tell her she needs to pay you back. Force her to have sex and then tell her there’s nothing she can do because a) she’s there illegally and b) she’d also be arrested as a prostitute and she’s stuck. Add in laws that mean someone unknowingly takes advantage of her is liable to punishment and her condition is less likely to be reported. Said women then becomes a commodity to be traded across borders.

The fact that we repress the sex industry, that we chose not to engage with it, just lets some get away with whatever they like. It’s not something that’s going to go away so better to embrace it, regulate it and monitor it.

So by all means rail against the rubbish that the sex industry is empowering women, but please don’t try to back up your claims with yet more rubbish.

@sian:

Secondly, i do not think that *my* voice is repressed however i do believe that the women and men who are damaged by the sex industry do not get the same voice in the media as the men and women who fit the opposing narrative. where’s the drama show about a woman who is struggling to exit the sex industry?

Well, either you can research and write it yourself (it sounds like a perfectly good idea for a drama), or you can track down a DVD of, say, Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold or Abi Morgan’s Sex Traffic or the recent BBC drama on the Ipswich murders (if it’s available), none of which see sex work as glamorous or ’empowering’. (Incidentally, since you’re offering reading lists, I would suggest other examples such as Sex Work edited by Delacoste and Alexander, Whores and Other Feminists edited by Jill Nagle, Live Sex Acts by Wendy Chapkis, Strip City by Lily Burana and anything by Susie Bright or Carol Queen.) Moreover, the Guardian has on balance probably run more articles reflecting your position than that of those who disagree with you. As for your advocacy of the ‘Nordic’ model, it still doesn’t make sense that a sex worker would be free to earn a living, but prevented from doing so because the people who pay their wages would be breaking the law – how are they going to earn enough to pay the bills?

@ sian (at #75):

i am yet to convinced by the evidence that suggests legalisation works, not least because there is compelling evidence to suggest it encourages trafficking and also, perhaps most importantly, says ‘it is actually ok for you to buy another human being to wank into.’ [emphasis added]

It’s precisely the deliberate use of language such as ‘it is actually ok for you to buy another human being to wank into’ that makes me wonder exactly what is being objected to regarding the commercial sex industry. It confuses (deliberately, I suspect) paying for an act or service with the idea of paying for a possession, along with appealing to a reader’s sense of sexual disgust to gain support – so it’s unclear whether the issue is the money, the sex, the fact that it’s a man paying a woman (note that it’s ‘wank into’) or the fact that they aren’t married/in a LTR/in love/making babies. It’s much easier to invite everyone to go ‘Ewww!‘ instead. Unfortunately, ‘Ewww!‘ isn’t the best basis for legislation.

I agree with Red Pesto. The feminists who object to sex work say they do not do so on moralising or puritanical grounds. But their discourse is full of puritanical moralising!

Also it seems they don’t on the whole feel the need to have the argument, directly with those who disagree with them. At least Sian has bothered to have the discussion. I don’t see many of her sisters joining the fray, here or anywhere else I try to talk about the sex industry. Object have been known to refuse to attend events where they have been invited to have the debate with feminists who support sex workers.

As best I can make out, the accumulating evidence favours some sort of move towards the legalisation of brothels to improve the security of working girls and to facilitate better regulation. But I’ve no illusions that will prove an easy course since NIMBY considerations are likely to take precedence and block many licensing applications. We need to learn from the experience gained in Germany and New Zealand. That said, I’ve no clear ideas of what to do about street soliciting by either party, clubs and lap-dancing or the adverts in phone booths. Hard, practical thinking will prove more useful IMO than moralising or trying to suppress the sex industry.

I’m genuinely surprised to find (here and elsewhere) that feminists criticising the sex industry are so consistently mis-characterised as prudish and sex-negative. It’s a simplistically transparent way to avoid engaging with their arguments that comes across really strangely when you consider that Sian really couldn’t have expressed herself any more clearly in the original post:

“when feminists campaign against the sex industry it is because they want to end the very real and horrific dangers that these women and men face every day – violence, coercion, rape, trauma. It has nothing to do with nimby-ism or distaste. It has everything to do with ending the idea that it is ok to put someone’s safety, and mental and physical health at risk so that someone can pay to masturbate in or over her/him.”

When Sian says that prostitution is one person buying “another human being to wank into” she isn’t expressing disgust, she is being blunt and practical, giving an unvarnished description of what prostitution physically consists of – shorn of any fantasy that it is anything like people in a truly freely-chosen encounter, acting on mutual desire and attraction. And if prostitution is just a job then why shy away from the reality of what the work consists of: an unequal exchange, a subordination of one person’s body and sexuality to another’s sense of entitlement and expectations of compliance and convenience.

‘The feminists who object to sex work say they do not do so on moralising or puritanical grounds. But their discourse is full of puritanical moralising! ‘

Ha de ha ha! That’s almost as stupid as saying somebody who deliberately misinterprets others words, tries to debunk concepts they don’t understand and says they support trans people while being transphobic and not having the slightest idea about the language trans people use about transgender, is a pathetic attention seeking whore 🙂

“When Sian says that prostitution is one person buying “another human being to wank into” she isn’t expressing disgust, she is being blunt and practical, giving an unvarnished description of what prostitution physically consists of”

OK, fair enough. Prostituion , or the hiring of a prostitute (of any sex or gender) is the hiring of someone to wank into.

Now, here’s the big question.

Should it be legal, allowable, possible, if someone wishes to hire themselves out to be that receptacle that will be masturbated into…..and do note, wish to….we are not talking, in this thought experiment about those forced to….for either them to hire themselves out so or for people to hire those willingliy offering themselves for hire?

No, really, that is the question. Should it be legal to do this with your own body? Hire it out to be masturbated against/in?

Almost all of the rest about prostitution flows from your answer to this question.

If no, well, that’s one side. If yes, but….and the buts are very large, there could be/will be those forced and so on. But the real question is as I’ve said.

Is it allowable to chose to become a paid cumbucket? Everything depends upon the answer to that question.

Luckily earwicga I do not find the term ‘whore’ offensive coming from you as an insult to me. I would rather be a whore than a feminist that doesn’t support whores.

Also moderators:

I’ve only ever seen earwicga engage in debates in which I am involved in on here, in a form which I find is personal and brings in information relating to me and my views from previous discussions we have had elsewhere. I don’t find it very good etiquette for a political discussion thread. This isn’t a call for comments to be removed, but an observation.

@85

‘The cases of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV have fallen, with prostitutes able to get condoms for free through government agencies’

That’s what I was referring to re the condom comment. Just trying to clear that up. And there’s no need to be soooo rude and attack someone personally. Viewing a particular profession negatively because of a belief that it dehumanises people has no bearing on the respect you have for those caught up in it. It is unfair of you to try and shut someone out of this discussion with your hostility.

To clarify when I say contemporary mainstream feminism is ‘puritanical’ I do not mean it is anti-sex. I mean it promotes a view that sex is appropriate in some contexts, performed by some people, and not in others, by others. It is a moral policing of our sexuality. See also: Foucault History of Sexuality Vol 4

Saying sex work is ‘not ok’ is part of this puritanism whereby sex is only ok when the feminists say it is. Is it ok to have sex with a guy I have just met, who buys me dinner and wine, knowing full well he bought me those things with the hope I would have sex with him? Is it ok for a man who is a bit hard up to spend time with a well off woman who buys him presents, who he has sex with even if he doesn’t fancy her? Is it ok to get married to a rich man because he is rich? Because feminism seems to think it has the right to tell us when it is ok to have our bodies ‘bought’ and when it is not.

@104, I wouldn’t worry about it Quiet Riot Girl, she has a reputation for poor behavior.

MariaS @104, the thing about Sian’s OP that may have brought about some opositition to it, was I think, it’s generalisation about ”the sex industry”. To include women selling sex on the street and in brothels were they were exploited because the dire circumstances they were in, along with women who might dance on stage (for money) at a huge biker rally in the US.
http://www.google.co.uk/images?um=1&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-gb:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7GZAZ_en&tbs=isch:1&aq=f&aqi=g1&oq=&gs_rfai=&q=sturgis%20rally

What you say MariaS, might be right in most cases, but you seem to suggest that they’re can’t be any other way things can be.

I wasn’t around to know London’s Soho in the 50’s and 60’s – but it sounds like it was an interesting place.

@19 WHAT does Catherine M, an independent, well paid art historian who took part in consensual orgies have to do with women who are exploited for money? Or are women who have a lot of sex, whether because they want to or because they are forced to, all the same?

Jennifer this post suggests feminists do and should oppose the ‘sex industry’ in general. Catherine M writes pornography. That is part of the sex industry. I think it was relevant. In any industry some people are more exploited than others. Campaigning against exploitation and violence against workers is very important, and very different from advocating abolishing ‘the sex industry’.

@108: “@19 WHAT does Catherine M, an independent, well paid art historian who took part in consensual orgies have to do with women who are exploited for money?”

There are likely many women, and others, who are exploited in various ways, among them women who work at the lowly paid end of the sex industry. What I was trying to convey is that:

– lots of sex, often with verging on strangers, is not necessarily uncongenial for all women, however surprising this may seem, hence my later references to polyandry, hotwifing and cukolding @86

– there can be issues of who exactly is exploiting whom: try reading up about Heidi Fleiss
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Fleiss

or this recent case: “The most expensive call girls in the world: Hollywood madam admits supplying £30k-a-night prostitutes to celebrities”
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1195255/Hollywood-madam-Michelle-Braun-admits-supplying-30k-night-prostitutes-celebrities.html#ixzz0usVFtTsT

It’s an interesting puzzle about how some women – like Belle de Jour or Miss S – make it to good earnings at the upper end of the sex industry market while many don’t.

@109: “Catherine M writes pornography”

Judging by links to interviews with Catherine Millet in the media @19 – and there are many more – she regards her book as autobiographical. It’s certainly in keeping with a long tradition by which French women intellectuals write or speak openly about their sex lives. But I would agree that: L’Histoire d’O (1954), by Anne Desclos, is pornographic as well as being very elegantly written. Doubtless she – and Catherine Millet – made much money from book sales and film rights, in the case of L’Histoire d’O, so I need a lot of convincing that either was being exploited.

Try this interview of Juliette Greco: “Sartre asked Miles [Davis] why we weren’t married. He said he loved me too much to make me unhappy”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2006/may/25/jazz

Bob B Id say some of the best pornography is autobiographical!

Many of the objections to sex work from the hard line feminists on this thead relate to the fact that it treats women as an object of men’s sexual desires.

Unfortunatey they are railling against a basic human trait.

I love my dog, but I don’t wish to have sexual relations with it. I don’t love Pamela Anderson, but, given the opportunity, I would like to have sex with her (as would Borat).

So unless the feminists are proposing to somehow reprogramme the sexual drive of every heterosexual male on the planet, women will continue to be seen as sexual objects no matter how much men are upbraided for their shallowness.

So, you can close lapdancing clubs and stop men seeing lapdancers, but you cannot prevent them getting an erection when they do so.

Sorry about that.

QRG – read the comment again as it didn’t label you as a whore. The term ‘whore’ is meaningless.

I don’t want to re-read that comment I didnt like it the first time round. But thanks for the suggestion.

115. redpesto

MariaS@100:

When Sian says that prostitution is one person buying “another human being to wank into” she isn’t expressing disgust, she is being blunt and practical, giving an unvarnished description of what prostitution physically consists of –

I thought sex work usually consisted of having sex in some form or another, just like other people do all the time. Perhaps Sian’s reference to ‘wanking into’ was describing a particular sexual preference on behalf of a client (which would have to be mutually agreed regardless), but I doubt it. If the physical acts are the same (e.g. penis-in-vagina intercourse) the only difference must be the money which somehow miraculously transforms consensual sexual intercourse into a man ‘wanking into’ a woman (this might be a bit more difficult regarding other parts of the sex industry). This, of course, is a much more repellent image to use than simply saying ‘have sex’ (why else is ‘wanker’ a term of abuse?), even if it doesn’t actually explain anything beyond the attitude of the person using it to both the man and the woman they imagine engaged in some form of (mutually agreed, consensual) sexual experience in exchange for money.

IMO the hardline feminist contributors here are still avoiding the challenging issues.

– It’s an interesting puzzle about how some women – like Belle de Jour or Miss S – make it to good earnings at the upper end of the sex industry market while many don’t.

My guess is that policing the upper ends of sex industry markets – where earnings can be very high – is difficult and costly. Clamping down on the lower ends of these disparate and differentiated markets – such as by making it illegal to pay for sex and actively seeking out brothels and clubs and prosecuting those who run them – simply removes working opportunities for young women who may have few other skills to offer, as well as reducing structures which can provide some security for working girls. In other words, the net effect is likely to increase exploitation, not diminish it.

Note that feminists tend to stay very quiet about polyandry, hotwifing and cuckolding while dismissing Catherine Millet as a mere writer of porn. I wonder why? Marx wrote: The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways – the point however is to change it. [Theses on Feuerbach]

We can now better appreciate what that outlook led to. Personally, I think the world is complex and difficult to interpret and that we really ought to understand rather more about how it works before we start to inflict pain on others, even with the very best of intentions. I suspect part of the trouble is that Christian ethic: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

As George Bernard Shaw remarked: Don’t do unto others as you would have others do unto you – their tastes may not be the same.

Bob B – I hope you aren’t referring to me as ‘the feminists’ who said Catherine M was ‘a mere writer of porn’. I don’t want to be associated with most of the feminists on this thread. But also I think pornography has the potential to be very radical. I am a writer of pornography myself and I believe what I do is a political act in many ways. I do not get paid for my work so I am not part of the ‘sex industry’ but I am happy if anyone wants to wank into anything or anyone (with their consent) as a result of reading my work!

I agree with redpesto again, the language being used on this thread by the critics of the sex industry is loaded. (Loaded-get it?) But they know that as well and use dramatic language deliberately.

sian @89

i can’t say i really understand why you put “trafficking” in inverted commas. TBH with you, i believe that even if only 1 woman and 1 man was trafficked into the sex industry, that would be 2 too many and would demand that we did something to prevent it.

Fair enough. But if it were only 1 woman and 1 man, and you launched a major police operation to catch the bad guys who were trafficking the half-mil plus a year, and altered legislation based on a perception that the crime was running rampant and out of control, what do you think would happen? Would we catch the people who were trafficking that one poor couple? Or would we be far more likely to land us a big fishing net full of false positives and disadvantaged immigrants who now find themselves, once again, on the wrong side of overenthusiastic authoritarianism?

The difference between whether or not you think sex work is a valid way of making a living isn’t just a rhetorical thing about whether one is puritanical or not. Assumptions affect policy, and policy affects real people. The assumptions that are made about trafficking overblow the “sex” aspect, which is then run with in the media (yeah, that same media that’s so in favour of sex work, who’d have thought?) because it sells, which then gets transferred up to the government departments in charge of these things, who then pass restrictive laws and send the police on bad hunts for PR purposes. You work off bad information, you get bad results, which in this case includes not only the false positives of men and women who aren’t trafficked having their livelihoods taken away and being deported back to a country they may have spent thousands trying to escape, but also missing those people who have actually been trafficked. All because of bad assumptions and bad data.

“Something must be done, this is something, let’s do this” is not a very good strategy. You say you want to do something to prevent it. Good beans, Sian. But you’ve got to have boatloads more there than “something”. “Something” got us the waste of money that was Operation Pentameter, this big fat PR vehicle that was designed to show us that the mechanism of the state could stomp on trafficking, but that didn’t return shit. Something’s wrong in the working assumptions.

People who think prostitution is violence are the last people I’d pick to deal with the problem of human trafficking. Their biases make them get things wrong. Who needs that?

i am sick of people saying ‘it’s better than working at mcdonalds’. because, for a start, women who work in mcdonalds aren’t 60-100 times more likely to be murdered than women who don’t work in mcdonalds. etc etc.

Hoo boy, where to start with this one.

Women who work in McDonalds have things which protect them from the abusive members of their clientele enshrined in law. Depending on where you are, sex workers either have their entire livelihoods criminalised or the structures that they can put in place to protect themselves criminalised. If people had to sell burgers under cover of darkness, working alone because two people means someone’s being “controlled for gain”, I reckon that vast disparity might not be quite so vast, don’t you?

That’s why the Swedish model is so mind-numbing, because not only are people not even *interested* in producing evidence that it works, so wedded are they to the ideology that it must, they don’t even listen to Swedish sex workers saying “making our clients criminals pushes us underground just as much as making us criminals” does. Which is one of those “well, duh!” bits of reasoning that somehow never makes it up the brainstems of the well meaning earnest types. Yeah after an assault a whore can go to the police – if she’s survived. But she can’t work a well lit building, take copies of his ID and file them, get him to book on credit card or any of that. Not only is the client base now reduced to those who don’t mind breaking the law – think on that for a second and evaluate all the things that causes to go wrong – it’s still hidden away. Harm prevention gets harder again. Tell me, if you want to prevent harm, why make harm prevention difficult?

Next, you still need to address the real issue of why if “being a sex worker” is not preferable to “working a minimum wage service industry job,” why is it chosen by women at all? Are they all victimised and coerced into it? Are they all woefully misinformed? To what extent would you believe it’s possible that getting a great many women “out of the sex industry” is going to make their lives worse? To what extent are you willing to believe someone who understands the risks and problems and still tells you that they have chosen that path of their own volition?

And, and also, being a “sex worker” does not make you 60-100 times more likely to get murdered. Being a poor desperate streetwalker in a particularly bad part of the world may increase the risk that much, but the evidence? As far as I can tell, the study you’re citing with those numbers is Prostitute Homicides by Salfati, James and Ferguson. Nothing else from a google scholar search matches what you’ve said. I can’t get to the main article to check but the abstract begins “It has been estimated that women involved in street prostitution are 60 to 100 times more likely to be murdered than are nonprostitute females.” Now, colour me perhaps a little picky about that kind of thing, but if you’re going to cite numbers that high, I’d recommend something a little bit more concrete than that.

(a little reverse engineering maths shows up the flaws in pulling the highest number out of a study you can find via google, by the way. Overall UK homicide rate is appx 1.5/100,000. 60-100 times that is 150-90/100,000, which is around equivalent to the murder rate among young black males in Washington DC – already we’re in “what, really yo?” territory. Total homicides in the UK were 648 in 2008/9. Let’s use Jacqui Smith’s numbers and say 80,000 prostitutes are working in the UK. That would give us a total number of murdered prostitutes in the UK last year of between 72 and 120, or between 10-20% of the total of all homicides, or between 40-60% of all female homicides. Frankly, not only is that pretty implausible, it’s not backed up by the rest of the statistics – last year’s BCS says that female homicides by non-partner or other family perps only accounted for 33% of the total. We’d need more than 100% for you to be right, and for there to be no deaths from mugging (for example) at all. Your numbers are out.)

Is prostitution a high-risk profession? Yes it is, and no sensible hooker would deny it. But, as with the trafficking figures, the devil’s in the detail. Working alone and outside increases the risk of assault, setting up in a parlour or a brothel, or even a flat shared with a couple of other girls, vastly decreases that risk. Pre-vetting clients reduces that risk. Accepting credit card payments reduces that risk. Luckily for people who want to assault prostitutes, it’s that kind of harm reduction strategy that the Police and Crime Bill made even more difficult last year, against the advice of prostitutes and with the support of anti sex worker feminist organisations.

Conflating numbers from street walkers in Harlem and lapdancers in Chiswick, finding the highest numbers you can and applying them across the board in order to inflate your case whether they’re relevant or not, doesn’t just mean you come across as puritanical and with an axe to grind. It also changes what you perceive the problems as, whether you even know what the real problems are in the first place, and as a result changes your approaches. Over-emphasising certain aspects at the detriment of others may well be good politics for an agenda, but it undermines you when you say you’re in it to help people. Getting something off by an order of magnitude or two has real policy implications. If there are 40,000 women trafficked into the UK this requires a very different policy response than if there are 4,000 or 400. If prostitutes are 60-100 times more likely to be murdered this requires a different policy response than if they are 3-6 times more likely. (Not least because, given the disparities between levels of sex work, your numbers would actually place the mortality rate for streetwalkers alone somewhere in the cohort that includes Haitian gang members and angry young males in Baghdad – suggesting a concerted and organised effort to specifically target them that goes above and beyond the normal rates of opportunistic violent assault, and that would require a completely different police strategy).

And dealing with these things require you to look at more of the surrounding factors than the sex. After all, if you’re off by that amount, you start looking at figures that suggest a middle-range (the £80-200/hr kind of range) prostitute working in a reputable parlour or on an incall basis with a group of other women has an increased risk of violence more along the lines of being a bus driver or a 24 hour convenience store checkout worker. It’s not something that should be ignored or glossed over, by any stretch, but it also doesn’t call for a fit of the conniptions and a blanket assertion that any financial transaction involving the buying or selling of sexual services is inherently supporting a culture of violent exploitation of women that needs to be eradicated. Or, at least, no more so than countless other aspects of our society that have nothing whatsoever to do with sex.

Which means that when you take quotes from mistreated women at the bottom end of the scale and use it to push an agenda which requires extrapolating their experiences upwards and ignoring the experiences of working escorts, you’re abusing their trust. That, frankly, is not cool at all.

Finally, IUSW, le sigh. clickety for context. Can you find me someone who isn’t an abolitionist who gives a shit that Douglas Fox owns an agency and that this therefore somehow makes him “a pimp”? (I mean, for fuck’s sake, you can only conflate that shit if you’re toiling all day in the ignorance mines.) As it is, the hookers I knew who went down to London to try to futilely put their side across in the hearings on the Police and Crime Bill went on the IUSW side. The people who claim that the IUSW doesn’t represent real sex workers have, in my experience, been 100% abolitionist. I’m happy to update my conclusions if you can bring me new evidence, but “I am abolitionist and I don’t believe the IUSW represents sex workers” is nothing new, original, or generally based in much of anything.

Sex workers aren’t idiot victims. Stop not helping.

Hi there

I want to answer a few points.

first up, my use of the term ‘wank into’ or ‘masturbate into’. this was a term i borrowed from a woman who has exited prostitution, and it is to express the fact that if someone is buying someone to have sex with, then that can be seen as buying someone to use for their own sexual pleasure, rather than engaging in sex for mutual pleasure. this is not me moralising or showing a distaste of sex or whatever but voicing an unpleasant truth.

people have criticised my use of statistics. i personally do not believe my stats are dodgy. but even if only 1 person was harmed by the sex industry, that is 1 too many and would demand we do something about it.

if objecting to treating women as an object makes me a hard line feminist then i am proud to be called a hard line feminist.

this debate has raised a lot of interesting questions about legalisation vs the Nordic model – questions i think need to be asked. however, i still stand by the reports that have shown how in countries where prostitution has been legalised, trafficking has increased. i don’t have the sources on me im afraid.

the sex industry feeds off capitalism and patriarchy. the questions that surround it will not be resolved over night or on this forum. but as i said in the OP – the most important thing is to give the men and women who work in, or have exited the sex industry a voice, and, as i said in the OP, whatever that voice is saying. and if the voice says prostitution is the act of being bought to be wanked into, that voice is as valid as the commenter earlier who’s friend loves her work in the parlours.

the Miss S book is an interesting example. that book seems to me to chronicle the terrifying steak of violence that runs through the sex industry, including her visit to hospital after a client left her so torn, she was so swollen the nurse couldn’t even stitch her up when she arrived. as well as various other violent incidents that she portrays as just part of the job.

on twitter, QRG said to me that rape is more common in the home than any where else. I am completely and utterly aware of that, as i am aware that domestic violence causes more injury and death than cancer and road traffic accidents in women 16-45. but no other job has rape and violence as an occupational hazard. many of you have suggested legalisation is the answer, because then the victim could report rape and violence to the police.

surely the answer is to prevent rape and violence in the first place. surely the answer is to not put women and men in job situations where they are at risk of rape and violence. where they are at risk of being exploited by pimps. to me, legalisation so victims can report rape and violence is saying its ok to commit those crimes in the first place, so long as they can be reported afterwards.

i believe by decreasing demand, the nordic model can help achieve this.

thank you for engaging in the piece. i know many of you don’t agree with me, and i know many people who haven’t commented do agree with me. but that’s why open debate is a good thing.

sian @119

this was a term i borrowed from a woman who has exited prostitution, and it is to express the fact that if someone is buying someone to have sex with, then that can be seen as buying someone to use for their own sexual pleasure, rather than engaging in sex for mutual pleasure.

However, such sexual encounters are neither the totality of a sex worker’s experiences, nor, I’d suggest, are they exclusive to sex in which the remuneration is financial.

however, i still stand by the reports that have shown how in countries where prostitution has been legalised, trafficking has increased. i don’t have the sources on me im afraid.

And, as I’ve said, you need to check the methodologies and definitions of “trafficking,” because if it includes women who travelled voluntarily and without consent then the statistics are worthless, since they will roll in all those who improved their lives by travelling from somewhere they were criminals to somewhere they were not.

and if the voice says prostitution is the act of being bought to be wanked into, that voice is as valid as the commenter earlier who’s friend loves her work in the parlours.

So why must we draw the conclusion that the sex industry must be abolished, hm, if both voices are equally valid? I’m not trying to silence anyone, especially not the sex workers who have been victims of violence, or those who don’t like the work for whatever reason. I am saying that abolitionists aren’t helping either one of those voices.

but no other job has rape and violence as an occupational hazard.

Except for possibly “housewife”. Or “soldier”.

surely the answer is to prevent rape and violence in the first place. surely the answer is to not put women and men in job situations where they are at risk of rape and violence. where they are at risk of being exploited by pimps

Yeah, and good work on the abolitionist feminists who passed laws making safeguards harder to enact.

Perhaps one day someone will wave a magic wand and your perfect world will be created, vanishing prostitution like mist in the sun. Until then, abolitionist acts which deny prostitutes the capacity to work together and continue to stigmatise sex workers actively harm real women who really exist.

Stop. Not. Helping.

Surely the issue is whether we want to live in a society where women selling their bodies is seen as a viable option?

I think Sian that quoting one woman who is no longer a prostitute (who has been ‘exited’ whatever that means. did someone else remove her from her work?) is not really providing a sense of the varieties of work situations for different sex workers. I know sex workers who do actually get some ‘mutual pleasure’ in their work. Not all the time, and maybe not even most of the time. But they are able to enjoy the sex they do for money. I don’t think this makes the job a brilliant option for women but it is not the totally objectified, ‘wank into’ situation you describe.

123. redpesto

sian: i believe by decreasing demand, the nordic model can help achieve this.

It doesn’t so much ‘decrease demand’ as make it illegal, while continuing to allow sex workers to earn a living – though it’s unclear how the sex worker gets to pay the bills under those circumstances.

PS: re. the matter of ‘pimps’ – perhaps all-female collectively-run brothels might address this matter, but that does depend on whether the ‘pimp’ is another attempt to invoke hostility to any debate about decriminalising sex work (why ‘pimp’ and not ‘madam’?), or whether we are talking about the ‘agent’ who handles the ‘admin’.

‘but no other job has rape and violence as an occupational hazard’.

Except for possibly “housewife”. Or “soldier”.

Those are very good examples, McDuff. Let’s abolish marriage. Oh please, let’s. And war. That would be worth campaigning on.

If prostitution at the lower end of the market is driven by personal needs to finance drug addiction, perhaps we should consider this assessment of a policy in Switzerland to make heroin availabe on prescription to hardcore dependents:
http://www.popcenter.org/library/crimeprevention/volume_11/04-Killias.pdf

IMO there’s much to be said on behalf of evidence-based policy in contrast to the other kind.

Tim Worstall: “No, really, that is the question. Should it be legal to do this with your own body? Hire it out to be masturbated against/in?

Almost all of the rest about prostitution flows from your answer to this question.”

Would you hire out your body for men to use to get themselves off Tim Worstall?

How on earth does “almost all of the rest about prostitution” flow from any answer to that extremely narrow question? No it does not. There is a much wider context to this issue than punters having the security and comfort of being able to rely on the letter of a law as an ethical by-pass. (And it’s very convenient to keep the discussion focussed on the choices of people in prostitution, rather than the choices of the people who the sex industry caters to.)

Clearly, the ideal that we would all agree on is sexual freedom and personal autonomy for everyone, and yes people can do what they choose to with their own bodies. (Freedom to subordinate one’s sexual autonomy to the use & convenience of another person? Odd.) But saying it’s all about individual free choice masks the systems of oppression that we all live within, and the way the choices on offer are constrained.

If we lived in an egalitarian world free of gender and other social hierarchies and poverty, then yes, all this would be about individuals making wonderfully free choices. But we don’t live in that world, we live in a world where women for centuries have been subordinated to men, and the norm is that in multiple ways women are still expected to be at men’s disposal.

There’s a whole series of posts at the Autonomous Radical Feminists blog that do a great job of laying out the wider context and problematising this individual free choice argument and questioning the “inevitability” of prostitution.

Psst . . they have a cunning new plan in Scotland:

“New plans to criminalise prostitution in Scotland will be launched in the autumn”
http://www.christian.org.uk/news/msp-launches-new-plan-to-outlaw-prostitution/

QuietRiotGirl: “Saying sex work is ‘not ok’ is part of this puritanism whereby sex is only ok when the feminists say it is. Is it ok to have sex with a guy I have just met, who buys me dinner and wine, knowing full well he bought me those things with the hope I would have sex with him? Is it ok for a man who is a bit hard up to spend time with a well off woman who buys him presents, who he has sex with even if he doesn’t fancy her? Is it ok to get married to a rich man because he is rich? Because feminism seems to think it has the right to tell us when it is ok to have our bodies ‘bought’ and when it is not.”

Well, yes, as a feminist I think a lot about the ethics of sex and relationships and about the social system of gender inequality within which we all live, and I think that these scenarios are not ok, if the person would not have otherwise genuinely wanted to have sex with the other person. My opinions about the ok-ness or nor of these things however are not about approving or disapproving of your individual choices or opinions.

To characterise this as “policing” others’ choices, or telling other people what to do, is to falsely attribute a great deal of power to other women’s words. If you disagree with feminist criticism of something then you don’t have to let it affect your own personal choices one jot. That’s entirely your business.

What bothers me and what feminism exists to challenge, among other things, is the widespread, long-standing, powerful cultural pressures on women to feel that they are under an obligation to have sex with some other person – whether because that person has paid them to do so, has bought them dinner, given them gifts, is their partner or husband. Asserting that women’s bodies and women’s sexualities belong to no one but themselves is rather fundamental to the politics of women’s liberation. (And where I write women, I also mean all people, but I write women because it is predominantly women as a class who have historically been denied this.)

If some women freely choose to engage in sex on a purely transactional basis sometimes, then that doesn’t undermine feminists’ arguments but is kind of peripheral to them. The idea that women can sell themselves and be bought is an old and horribly well-entrenched one – it doesn’t really need all that energy that you are putting into defending it.

@MariaS – the problem with arguing that ‘choices on offer are constrained’ while clearly indicating that one favoured choice is to disapprove of and campaign against sex work is that it merely sets up an argument that claims it’s a free choice when it’s nothing to do with the sex industry (unless it’s to campaign against it) but a ‘constrained’ or un-free one when it involves working in the sex industry, even though both choices take place in the same society and context. Perhaps the ‘constrained’ choice is the idea that some sexual activities and behaviours are deemed ‘feminist’ and others are not, though it’s never clear which, why or who sent the memo.

@MariaS:

Asserting that women’s bodies and women’s sexualities belong to no one but themselves is rather fundamental to the politics of women’s liberation.

…except, it seems, when it comes to the sex industry. The part I’ve quoted must also mean women (as well as men) have to have the freedom to say ‘Yes’ as well as ‘No’ for themselves to the sexual activities they wish to engage in – which may (or may not) include being paid for them – without other people second-guessing them, ruling certain choices off-limits or restricting their ability to choose for themselves. (ORG can speak for herself, but maybe the ‘energy’ you ascribe to her is an equal and opposite reaction to the energy put in by those who disagree with her, especially when the energy of the latter is devoted to changing the law.)

Would you hire out your body for men to use to get themselves off Tim Worstall?

Jesus God, can people grow up? You goddamn children. Who gives a shit whether you personally would sleep with someone or not, or what your motivations are?

At least 90% of the issues here would solve themselves if we weren’t such immature assholes at talking about sex.

Oh, and for the record, “I wouldn’t do this therefore you can’t want to” is Grad A, intellectually bereft, authoritarian bullshit. Nice, coming from someone linking over to “anarchist” critiques of sex work, but there you are.

(Freedom to subordinate one’s sexual autonomy to the use & convenience of another person? Odd.)

Get over yourself. People “subvert their personal autonomy” to people every day in all manner of contexts, often with far broader implications to actual freedom than that of your average working hooker. I’d personally far rather “subvert my personal autonomy” as a freelance hooker able to make reasonable sums of money for two days work with a series of clients who I could choose never to see again if I wanted to, than have to destroy my very soul kissing a long series of grey-suited arseholes because if I didn’t then they wouldn’t put me up for a promotion into a job I still wouldn’t like, and keep doing that every day until I was finally old enough to accept my inevitable mortality.

As Pat McCurdy says, everyone’s a whore. So some people’s whoring involves, like, actual sex. Get over it. Sometimes fucking isn’t a tool of the repressive patriarchy designed to stifle all womankind. Sometimes it’s just two people doing what’s genetically mandated. But with, y’know, extra handcuffs.

If you’ve got some fine and fancy work you want to do that makes life free and breezy and equitable for everyone then I’ll wish you a fair following wind in all your endeavours, right up until the moment you start saying “for the benefit of all womankind, we need to make this particular subset of women’s lives more difficult. Y’know, to send a message.” Hells NO to that little jaunt, you hear what I’m saying? Back in your theory box.

And on your links: you know you’re in for a hell of a ride when the first paragraph is setting up the world’s most immaculate straw man. Jesus Christ, who the mithering fuck are these people who supposedly claim there are no problems with sex work as currently constituted? Point them my way, I’ll introduce them to some non-imaginary whores who’ll slap them silly. For free, even. In the meantime, has it ever crossed any of y’all’s abolitionist minds to not start off your screeds with the same bleeding foolishness about imaginary people who are trying to tell people it’s all roses and puppydogs?

But what else do you expect from an “anarchist” website? Cohesive thought? An acceptance that the world doesn’t necessarily work according to the theoretical fancy dancing of a bunch of middle class babies? The people on the factory floor know the unions are corrupt, but they also know that deconstructing the rights of workers to organise is not a goddamn solution. The imaginary phoenix of equality does not rise from the sainted ashes that will be left whenever you beard-stroking shower of philosophy undergraduates finally get round to “smashing the system” or whatever it is you’ve been aiming at without any luck for the last century. You’re not providing solutions here, y’all, you’re just standing on the sidelines yelling at the players they should just ignore the laws of physics and start playing Magical Unicorn Rules.

You haven’t got to like it. You haven’t got to want to do it. All you have to do is Stop Not Helping.

“But saying it’s all about individual free choice masks the systems of oppression that we all live within, and the way the choices on offer are constrained.”

Forgive me, but the argument that because choices are not totally free therefore free choice does not exist has never been all that convincing to me. Always seems to mask the real, underlying, point being made, which is that as choices are indeed constrained then you’d better be constrained to do what I tell you you may.

@121 Matari – “Surely the issue is whether we want to live in a society where women selling their bodies is seen as a viable option?”

Firstly I note the discussion has revolved around women in the sex industry and how feminists view this. Now while I agree that women most likely make up the majority isn’t that a little sexist?

Secondly – why not? In a sense don’t the majority of the population of the world ‘sell’ their bodies or more precisely their labour. What’s the difference between a person selling their body for sex and a person selling their body for a medical experiment, or selling their body to serve fast-food?

Maria S said:
If some women freely choose to engage in sex on a purely transactional basis sometimes, then that doesn’t undermine feminists’ arguments but is kind of peripheral to them. The idea that women can sell themselves and be bought is an old and horribly well-entrenched one – it doesn’t really need all that energy that you are putting into defending it.

Thanks for telling me what needs my energy and what doesn’t Maria! I think I will make my own choices cheers.

I do have to defend sex workers as the feminists such as object and End Demand are achieving changes in the law which I think threaten sex workers rights and safety. I also think feminist discourse on sexual violence against sex workers and other women is detrimental to our aims of reducing that violence.I don’t think feminists ‘lie’ outright but they have established in their minds a version of ‘power’ in our society that I think is completely wrong. And they base all their campaigns on the misconception that ‘Patriarchy’ is ‘men’s’ dominance, secured through violence including rape, against ‘women’.

“Surely the issue is whether we want to live in a society where women selling their bodies is seen as a viable option?”

No, this is very much not the issue, because it presupposes that we have the power to determine what people, in all sorts of circumstances, will and will not see as viable options.

See, I do not believe that any possible change in the law can have any prospect of ending the demand for prostitution. The oldest profession, and all that. There will always be a demand, and hence there will always be some people who see supplying that demand as an option for making some money. If you try to make it a non-option, you will a) certainly fail and b) end up making life much worse for those people who nevertheless do opt to do it.

Always seems to mask the real, underlying, point being made, which is that as choices are indeed constrained then you’d better be constrained to do what I tell you you may.

Good point Tim. I think you just summed up feminism there! I sometimes feel feminists use the sex industry to impose broader moral judgements on women (and men’s) sexuality.

@136: “The oldest profession, and all that. There will always be a demand, and hence there will always be some people who see supplying that demand as an option for making some money.”

Exactly. Feminists keep dodging the awkward question about how some women – like Belle de Jour and Miss S – manage to make it to the upper end of the sex-for-sale market and enjoy high earnings as a result while others don’t.

As for antiquity, it seems there were many lupanar in Pompeii when the city was destroyed in 79CE:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupanar_(Pompeii)

Btw can anyone help to explain the enduring appeal of Luis Buñuel’s 1967 movie Belle de Jour, with Catherine Deneuve ? :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRpy5DrbIsMA

If some women freely choose to engage in sex on a purely transactional basis sometimes, then that doesn’t undermine feminists’ arguments but is kind of peripheral to them

With all due respect, my ass it doesn’t undermine them!

Is it just me, or did you pretty much just out and admit here that the physical realities of the people whose lives you’re talking about don’t matter, because the nice simplistic theoretical model you’ve come up with can’t comprehend or explain them?

If there are women whose experiences are “peripheral” to your feminist theories, it takes someone with a lot of stones to discard the women rather than the theories and still think she’s a feminist.

The idea that women can sell themselves and be bought is an old and horribly well-entrenched one – it doesn’t really need all that energy that you are putting into defending it.

Forgive me for pointing it out, but the idea that women were full human beings able to buy and sell property of any kind isn’t exactly what I’d call historically “entrenched”. And this is before we get into the notions of purity and virtue which have historically been used to dictate women’s value as the rightful property of the men in their lives.

If you think that a woman choosing of her own volition to offer sexual services as a valid, unjudged career choice is old hat, you’re pretty deluded, really.

Where I live, whore isn’t an insult. You might want to ponder on what radical transformative theories of gender have to be put into play to make that happen in the rest of the world.

MacDuff: Where I live, whore isn’t an insult. You might want to ponder on what radical transformative theories of gender have to be put into play to make that happen in the rest of the world.

It is not an insult where I live either. And while ‘whore’ is an insult in the rest of the world, (e,g, as used by feminists on this thread to put down other women), I will keep campaigning for sex workers’ rights, and for the rights of everyone to make choices about what they do with their bodies, without being treated as second-class citizens.

I asked Tim Worstall whether he would sell himself sexually because in discussions about the sex industry a lot of the contributions by male-identified commenters indicate heteronormative gendered presumptions about the roles within it: consciously or unconsciously, they present providing sex as something done by women, and buying sex as something done by men, and so part and parcel of the gender-unequal social status quo. So I asked this question, of Tim because his was the comment I read most recently where a man is arguing for a woman’s right to sexually service men, to highlight these common presumptions (and the kind of “vested interest” that represents), and also because I’m interested in whether he and other heterosexual male commenters in discussions about the sex industry have thought about this hypothetical question and if not, why not. Tim said “Should it be legal to do this with your own body?”, and I wanted to know whether he meant his own body too. (He actually hasn’t answered it yet).

This is not to pick on Tim’s comment particularly, but I don’t have time to reply to all the comments that I would really like to. For instance, Bob B’s astounding assertion that non-monogamous women represent some kind of voluntary-sector-equivalent to the sex industry (rather than, y’know, women exercising their free choice of sexual partners). I really wish I had time to spare to unpack that one.

I do have more say in response to other people’s replies to my comments too and further on the issues overall, but I don’t have time to write more right now and will come back later.

“Tim said “Should it be legal to do this with your own body?”, and I wanted to know whether he meant his own body too. (He actually hasn’t answered it yet).”

To answer the question directly then. Yes, of course it should be legal for me to do so.

Just as it should be legal for any other consenting adult to do so in whatever gonad combinations they might wish to do so.

I wouldn’t, even if it were legal, myself, and not just because I wouldn’t actually attract any customers. Simply because “renting out my body to be masturbated with” (to adapt a phrase above) isn’t part of what I’m willing to do in this life.

However, I know very well that there are both men and women out there who are willing to do so and I really don’t see why the law should be written to reflect my particular views on matters between consenting adults.

I’m not into buggery either but I don’t insist that the law forbid what some others seem to enjoy.

@141 Maria S

Much as I hesitate to add my tuppence worth to the debate (particularly one containing the delicious phrase “contributions by male-identified commenters indicate heteronormative gendered presumptions about the roles within it..”), I actually find myself agreeing with Tim @142. (Trust me, it’s not often that THAT happens either!).

As a representative of my “people” the answer to your question “Should it be legal to do this with your body?” has to be yes doesn’t it?

To insist otherwise opens us up to a whole raft of problems. I accept that the gender un-equal status quo, and societal attitudes to both sex workers and the industry itself, cannot be seperated from the question… exploitation, violence and intimidation obviously exist. The issue then is whether such manifest “evils” are sufficient reason to make one answer your question “No”, or whether it is better to tackle such evils in other ways.

It seems to me (and I suspect many others, whether we are “heterosexual male commenters” or not) that Tim’s point that the law ought not to be concerned with what 2 consenting adults do in private has an overarching significance here. Otherwise we end up with courts prosecuting “consenting” adults who were involved in sado-masochism, or in earlier times those who were homosexual.

MariaS @141

Does the fact that my y-chromosomal answer is yes to not just a hypothetical “would” but a historical “have” change anything about your opinion as to whether I’m qualified or allowed to comment on such matters? Or am I merely discarded from the dataset as “peripheral” now?

McDuff I don’t know how Maria S would answer, but you don’t seem to fit the profile of an ideal ‘victim’ of the sex industry from a feminist point of view. So your perspective will probably be overlooked and ignored. Sorry to disappoint…

Well I eagerly await her answer and hope she proves you wrong.

All this is very interesting, but as a volunteer for a project that offers a drop in service for sex workers, the women I see are very definitely NOT enjoying what they are doing. Instead they are typically drug addicted, homeless, often rife with sexually transmitted diseases, have lost their children into care and usually have a pimp outside waiting for them. So forget the Belle De Jour myth – in my neck of the woods, working class sex workers are NOT having a good time and do not enjoy their work and all this intellectual stuff about a woman’s right to sell her body if she so wishes is so much bullshit down here in the real world, where women take their lives in their hands every time they service a punter – evidenced by the murders of the women in Ipswich, and more recently Bradford (where one woman was killed by a crossbow to the head). This is the real world of prostitution, not some imaginary universe where sex workers are making intellectual choices and get pleasure from allowing men to use them for sex.

“This is the real world of prostitution, not some imaginary universe where sex workers are making intellectual choices and get pleasure from allowing men to use them for sex.”

You have made a strong case for legalising brothels, to provide working girls with better security, and for applying the policy in Switzerland of making powerful addictive drugs, like heroin, available on prescription for hardcore dependents.

Criminalising prostitution – or making it illegal to pay for sex – isn’t going to abolish drug addiction. It will just make it more challenging for some women to earn any income from the few skills they have. Exploitation will increase, not diminish but don’t take my word for it:

“The English Collective of Prostitutes attacked Ms Harman’s support for the Swedish system and urged her to look at New Zealand’s system of legalising brothels instead.

“Spokeswoman Cari Mitchell said the Swedish system of criminalising men who buy sex had forced prostitution further underground and ‘made women more vulnerable to violence’.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7153358.stm

The case of Belle de Jour financing her postgraduate education was too well documented to be a myth. A more fruitful line is to consider documented cases about how she and others, like Miss S, can make good earnings through prostitution while most don’t.

Matari @147

Nobody I know in the business denies that streetwalkers and abused women exist in the insustry. But, by the way, Dr Magnanti isn’t a myth – she’s a real person with real experiences. Also, the various escorts who exist in the strata between the women you work with and the high class escorts that TV producers love are real women too. They’re all real people, none of them mythical.

My question is simple. I assume you don’t want to be running a drop in centre for hookers. I assume you want them to not be there in the first place, to not be exploited. How does the abolitionist movement help them achieve that?

Try this interview with Dr Brooke Magnanti in the Sunday Times:
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6917495.ece

“A former prostitute whose memoirs were turned into the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper, has revealed her true identity. Dr Brooke Magnanti wrote under the pen name Belle de Jour to describe the encounters she had as a high-class call girl while earning money for her PhD.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8361557.stm

“Dr Brooke Magnanti says she enjoyed her life as Belle de Jour”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/17/belle-de-jour-tanya-gold

Belle de jour gets wheeled out by anti-prostitution campaigners much more than those who support sex workers rights. Matari works with women who I believe are being further harmed by the feminist abolitionist/criminalisation campaigns.

It’s wise, as a first stop, to listen to what the Collective of Prostitutes says about proposals to “reform” the laws on prostitution and to recall that adage of Roman law from ancient times: Hard cases make bad law.

Changes in the law could have very different effects on the different ends of the market and I expect it would be very difficult to police the high end of the call-girl trade so the high earning women will continue relatively secure in their trade.

From 1975 until 2000, the movie of The Story of O was banned by the British Board of Film Censors: L’histoire d’O – going to Roissy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEjftdvY0OM&feature=related

Try: “I wrote the story of O” in The Observer, July 2004:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/jul/25/fiction.features3

I think that both Anne Desclos (Dominique Aury or Pauline Réage) and Catherine Millet made a great deal of money from their respective publishing ventures.

In one of her many interviews, Anne Desclos was asked if L’historire d’O was autobiographical. She said she couldn’t have stood all the whipping.

Who’s silencing who?

How many voices, exactly, are “peripheral” to this debate?

And when are the abolitionists going to answer the question as to how they plan on abolishing sex work without destructive policies that harm women?

If feminists are desperately looking around for a cause to campaign about, this in the news is a far more worthy one IMO:

British girls undergo horror of genital mutilation despite tough laws
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/25/female-circumcision-children-british-law

Of course, feminists will run the risk of being dubbed Islamophobic.

Bob B

As much as I appreciate the fact that you’re on “our” side in this issue, I’m not a big fan of the “don’t talk about this issue, this is so much more important!” rhetorical strategy. If the abolitionists are right or wrong on this issue I’d rather have the arguments on the merits, rather than telling the silly feminists not to bother themselves with such unimportant matters, you know?

Also, feminists who oppose FGM worried about appearing Islamophobic? In this country? What is with that? When would that happen? Have you been smoking *actual* crack?

As mentioned, I prefer to listen to what the Collective of Prostitutes wants to say about reforming the laws on prostitution and brothel keeping – at least we know they are speaking from business experience.

For my preferences and interests, feminists are too given to moralising and telling others what they must and mustn’t do. Surely, there must be a feminists’ sex manual so everyone knows just how to do it the correct way.

I don’t smoke period. As for drugs, I’m on lots of prescription medication.

That is cool, Bob, but make the case on the merits. It doesn’t help anybody to go ragging on about how “feminists” are a monolithic bloc any more than when abolitionists do it about sex workers or trafficked women.

But feminists tend to present themselves as a unified bloc or movement, whether that is justified or not. It would be laughable if men attempted to do that.

Btw for the record, I’ve no personal experience of the prostitution market – the prospect turns me off for much the sort of reasons that feminists here parade. However, that doesn’t lead me to want to criminalise prostitutes and prostitution.

I note that no one addresses how it is that some in the prostitution market – like Belle de Jour – can make high earnings while many don’t.

Bob

Because it isn’t an interesting or revealing question and I’d, frankly, question your assumptions. Supply and demand, that’s all. Magnanti worked at the top end in a market where people were able to drop several Ks a night if they so chose. At that end it’s more of an involved and trade than just picking up some of anyone; overheads are more, but return is high too.

But as people have been pointing out there is a big fat middle swathe of working ladies out there who don’t make courtesan money but who likewise make a steady living. Parlours will set you back around £40-50 for a half hour round here, with the girls taking half. That ain’t mercedes money, but depending on how many days a week you do it’s £3-600 take home a week, easy. Freelancers will go out for a bit more and make £100-250 an hour depending on what they’re doing and how long they’re doing it for, overnights running anywhere from £600 to £1000 at the mid to high mid end. That range is full of acceptable living wages where prostitutes can rent or buy a place and pay all their bills on time while working three days a week. That ain’t £30 cocktails at Grouchos territory, maybe, but likewise it ain’t *poor*.

And that’s not to mention that hooking isn’t necessarily a full time gig for everyone. There’s plenty of women out there who supplement with a little bit of something here and there. I knew one girl who did nothing except look after one old guy a couple of nights a month when he was in town, maybe did a little pole dancing when she felt like it, got a decent wage out of it and spent the rest of her time drinking vodkas out at bars all night. That kind of sugar daddy set up is old as the hills and if you change some of the details just a little bit you can say it ain’t even hooking, like she was his “mistress” or some shit. I ain’t saying that represents the high life – girl was a borderline alcoholic who was lucky she landed a deal that sweet, and when the gravy train ended she had to sort her shit out – but she also wasn’t the kind who has social workers picking up the pieces because she’s sucking cock to score heroin. There is a lot of that stuff around, and you’re never going to nail down exactly how much or who or where, but you just know, if you happen to be around those circles, that it’s there. People making a steady middle class wage or supplementing a regular income for holiday money. Not fancy enough to attract the TV show producers, not poor enough to attract the bleeding hearts and the social workers.

So, really, what is your question? Is it any more complicated than “why are some people the CEOs of major corporations while other people are sat in call centres?”

“Because it isn’t an interesting or revealing question and I’d, frankly, question your assumptions. Supply and demand, that’s all. Magnanti worked at the top end in a market where people were able to drop several Ks a night if they so chose. At that end it’s more of an involved and trade than just picking up some of anyone; overheads are more, but return is high too.”

But it is an interesting question – if only for economists – for reasons you go on to elaborate.

The obvious issues are about why clients don’t trade down to get lower prices and about why the girls don’t move on up to better paying market segments.

Believe me, there huge academic research into, say, car price differentials and structural changes in the automotive industry compared with few examples for prostitution.

As mentioned, I suspect reforms to decriminalise prostitution, such as legalising brothels, would tend to flatten price differentials in the prostitution market and I think that prospect rather worries some.

Bob B

I really don’t think it would. In fact, I think you’re rather peculiarly off base when you ask why punters and prostitutes “don’t trade down/up.” Because they, um, do. With the exception of the street end of the market, whose problems are pretty much down to the drugs rather than the hooking, movement between levels is pretty much down to how much work you’re prepared to do and how much bullshit you’re prepared to deal with from rich clients than is is to do with anything else, and that can vary day by day. You need to put a lot of work into being a Belle du Jour, wheras to be a parlour girl you need to basically show up with some fancy underwear and a decent book for the quiet times. Prostitutes can and do operate at multiple levels.

Your suspicions are, I think, based on a misunderstanding of the industry.

With the complete absence of personal experience of the business, I may well misunderstand the prostitution market. But from an economist’s perspective, the persistence of huge price differentials between “£15 for full sex” at the lower end of the market and hundreds or more at the upper end, this market is highly imperfect, probably as the result of entry barriers into the upper market segments and the incidence of transactions costs at the lower end.

In several respects this must be surprising with the greater facility and lower cost of communications as we should expect better information flows to have eroded price differences. An unknown factor is the extent to which competition from enthusiastic amateurs affects price differentials.

I’d be interested to know whether, in fact, the legalisation in recent years of brothels in Germany and New Zealand has flattened price differentials. I assume that the Collective of Prostitutes mainly represents the interests of the middle towards the lower end of the market rather than the top, call-girl end so I’m specially impressed with their support for the legalisation of brothels.

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Bob

http://harlotsparlour.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/sex-workers-named-and-shamed-on-met-police-website/

It’d be really interesting to hear the abolitionist take on this. It’s a shame we probably never will.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women http://bit.ly/c1rbog

  2. rebecca nolan

    RT @libcon: Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women http://bit.ly/c1rbog

  3. Elly

    More feminist debate on the sex industry via @Libcon http://bit.ly/c1rbog < if you have a view do consider contributing to the discussion

  4. 6xxxvideos

    http://goo.gl/xdaJ Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women …: Behind the façade lies the k… http://bit.ly/dbS5yV

  5. Sadie Smith

    Selling your body for money is not empowering, says Sian Norris: http://bit.ly/9rKrW2. Quite right.

  6. Sensual Seductions

    Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women … http://bit.ly/deQMax

  7. Damir Tankovic

    Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women … http://bit.ly/bgQ1X8

  8. lyric spencer

    Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women …: Behind the façade lies the knowledge that women… http://bit.ly/dbS5yV

  9. Sean Ruston

    RT @libcon: Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women http://bit.ly/c1rbog

  10. Renée Doiron

    A look at why prostitution is not empowering to women: http://tinyurl.com/2e3veg2

  11. Elly

    If the feminist battle over sex work had just been settled on @Libcon I would claim victory for our side! http://bit.ly/c1rbog #feminism

  12. Morgane Richardson

    RT @quietriot_girl: If the feminist battle over sex work had just been settled on @Libcon I would claim victory for our side! http://bit.ly/c1rbog #feminism

  13. Hannah M

    RT @libcon Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women http://bit.ly/9CV26D

  14. Dave Warnock

    RT @boudledidge: RT @libcon Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women http://bit.ly/9CV26D

  15. Bob C.

    Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn't empower women …: Behind the façade lies the knowledge that women… http://bit.ly/a7FRAW

  16. Rebecca Jade

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

  17. Hannah M

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

  18. Bristol Feminist

    comment piece on sex industry http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/07/25/contrary-to-the-media-the-sex-industry-doesnt-empower-women/

  19. sianushka

    @frances_sybilla – here you go! http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/07/25/contrary-to-the-media-the-sex-industry-doesnt-empower-women/

  20. UK Feminista

    from @libcon : Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women : http://is.gd/dLINK

  21. cyberpixie

    RT @UK_Feminista: from @libcon : Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women : http://is.gd/dLINK

  22. Coventry Rape Crisis

    RT @UK_Feminista: from @libcon : Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women : http://is.gd/dLINK

  23. Coventry Rape Crisis

    Who is exploiting who in the sex industry? A few home truths. http://fb.me/yNCKsRfI

  24. Alison Campbell

    RT @UK_Feminista: from @libcon : Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women : http://is.gd/dLINK

  25. Siobhan McAlister

    RT @UK_Feminista: from @libcon : Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women : http://is.gd/dLINK

  26. Teresa Cairns

    RT @UK_Feminista: from @libcon : Contrary to the media, the sex industry doesn’t empower women : http://is.gd/dLINK

  27. Elly

    http://bit.ly/c1rbog Discussion on @sianushka 's @libcon post on the sex industry was interesting. Some vintage erotica mentioned too.

  28. Elly

    @Delilah_mj on sex industry: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/07/25/contrary-to-the-media-the-sex-industry-doesnt-empower-women/#comments





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