Thursday, March 13, 2008

But everybody's job exploits them in some way!

To argue that capitalist exploitation is inevitable and that it wouldn't be much worse to exploit a sex worker than to exploit a cashier is to miss the point. This is not a pro-sex work argument. It's an anti-capitalist argument. To say that other people also have problems at work does not eliminate the fact that sex workers have problems at work. It just points out that sex workers aren't the only people in need of help. And for the record, I totally agree with that assessment. We all need to re-examine our notions of what work is.

That said, sex work is uniquely exploitative. Cashiers are mostly exploited via verbal bullying, longer work hours with less flexibility, and less pay. Sex workers exploited by market forces would face all of these things as well as the likelihood of repeated violent rape and torture. Do I care less about cashiers than sex workers? No. But I care more about eliminating rape and torture than I care about eliminating verbal abuse.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What if sex work were somehow redesigned to exclude the most exploitative jobs in the industry?

I don't think that these jobs can be somehow excised from the sex industry as a whole. They are in fact an integral part of the sex industry which must exist as the bargain lower-end piece of any industry in a capitalist society.

What I mean by this is that every object we buy, from plumbing equipment to tube tops, has an expensive, "nicer" version that people tend to prefer and pay more money for, as well as a cheaper one. This is just how consumption goes. The problem is that if you turn people, like sex workers, into consumable objects, you are necessarily going to have the cheaper, less desired, minority, no-protection-required, "ugly" version for the cheapskate hobbyist as well as the supermodel regularly-tested escort who services CEOs and politicians.

If union-busting and ineffective unions exist in other industries, they would exist in the sex industry too. If human rights violations can still take place in the treatment of legal unionized factory workers, they would still take place in the treatment of sex workers. This is not an acceptable risk for either factory workers or sex workers.

If you can pay someone who looks just like a celebrity two thousand dollars for a night in a fancy hotel which includes a nice dinner and a bubble bath, you will necessarily also be able to pay someone else twenty dollars for unprotected anal sex, punch them in the face, and run away before they realize you only gave them fifteen.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Even Conservatives Keep Using Sex Workers. Doesn't This Prove Eradication Impossible?

Surely, I can't be arguing that anti-sex, misogynist conservative Americans are really alright with sex work? Well, frankly yes. In fact, I believe that the majority of anti-sex misogynist men in that culture have visited a sex worker at some point, but that's sheer speculation.

Conservative America, for religious reasons, out of a sexist distaste for women who don't go find themselves a husband to tell them what to do and stay completely faithful to him for the next few decades, and because of a general fear of unsanctioned sex which stems from religion, are certainly adamantly against sex work, or so it seems at first.

However, conservative America, with its more blatant and intense variety of misogyny, tendency to trap people in marriages into which they would never have entered had they been allowed to have sex any other way, and high rate of closeted homosexuality is in fact the perfect breeding ground for sex work. (Note that I am not saying marriage woes are justification for paying sex workers, just that they make the behavior more likely.) Sex work is needed here in order to keep a dysfunctional society functioning, in order to keep people from feeling the need to come out of the closet, leave their wives with the full realization that abstinence education had caused them to marry the wrong person at the wrong time, and so on.

Why would a society which needs some women to be sex workers constantly harp on them with violent, religiously-tinged invective? I imagine it's because conservatives see in the existence of sex workers proof that their societal model doesn't actually work (they're probably right here) and need somebody to blame. Women are an easy scapegoat. After all, conservatives already don't like us.

I am not a conservative, as I have stated. I do not believe in suppressing sex along with sex work or with teaching women that they have no power outside of their use to men and then forbidding them to use that power. I have an actual and intellectually honest interest in getting rid of sex work because I have an actual interest in creating a society which does not rely on its existence. This is very different and should not be mistaken for somehow echoing the conservative anti-sex work attitudes.

An anti-sex work approach which is not religious or conservative in nature and does not attempt to punish sex workers for the decisions that were made for them has almost never been tried on a large scale simply because it's never been all that popular. To try and connect my idea of a sex-work free society to that of conservatives or to insist that their failure to bring about this societal change is my failure as well is nothing short of willful equivocation in an attempt to discredit me by association.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why do you keep referring to sex work as accepted when many forms of it aren't even legal?

Diehard social conservatives oppose sex work and usually sex workers. In fact, diehard social conservatives are very nearly the only people who systematically oppose sex work, as well as being the only ones who ever get any sort of meaningful forum in which to publically air their views. I do believe that diehard social conservatives are scary people who are opposed to sex workers as human beings in addition to being anti-sex work.

The problems with arguing that the hatred the extreme right has for sex workers constitutes a general persecution within our society are:

1. They aren't very sincere about it. The practice of arch-conservative social views usually amounts, for those who have observed these people in their natural habitat, to the saying of one thing in public and at church while a completely conflicting lifestyle is practiced in one's private life, Monday through Saturday. Most of my clients tended towards the social conservative. Social conservative men are just about famous for secretly frequenting prostitutes for sex acts which liberals would actually consider extreme.

The reasons for this are clear in the myriad other practices of social conservatives, from anti-choice activism to insistence that two women can't love each other to the belief that men who are effeminate deserve to be beaten horrifically. Social conservatives are taught to hate women from the day of their birth, regardless of gender.

Again, the vast majority of johns, custys, obsessive porn-watchers, and clients are openly abusive woman-haters in addition to being social conservatives. There are very few conclusions one could draw except that woman-hating actually makes one incredibly compatible with sex work. Social conservatism actually makes one very compatible with sex work, no matter what ideologies you pay lip service to in church.

I don't believe for a second that the majority of extreme right men actually want sex work to stop. I think the majority of them see or have seen sex workers on a regular basis.

2. Diehard social conservatives are a vocal minority in most countries in the world, pretty much in all countries well off enough that sex work is ever discussed as a "choice" rather than the result of kidnapping and slavery. They are in fact a very small minority. Even in America, a well-off, resource-rich, highly-educated superpower with an inexplicable leaning toward fundamentalism, arch-conservatives are not as common as those who believe that any sex act not involving them personally and not meeting their very narrow definition of rape is none of their business. There are many more people who believe that sex work is okay than there are that believe it is not.

3. Diehard social conservatives are not actually all that powerful. While anti-sex work rhetoric, anti-gay rhetoric and anti-abortion rhetoric works its way into the mainstream discourse, this is usually just a way for fiscal conservative politicians with social libertarian views to whip people into a frenzy of distraction from the actual issues. In America, sex work has been lumped in with sex in general as a wedge issue that causes poor people to vote against their own interests and for a war that kills the poor.

This does not necessarily mean that the powerful politicians claiming to be against sex work actually are. In fact, they probably use sex workers.

The best arguments against using sex workers involve empathy for those lower in social status (women) and those lower on the socioeconomic ladder than oneself. This is simply not common among elites. One does not become powerful in our world by actually caring for the downtrodden. Elites use sex workers at an alarming rate. Elites are usually either as hypocritical as the conservatives they represent, deploring sex work while secretly taking advantage of and protecting it, or in many cases, openly advocating for it.

Elites support sex work, or we wouldn't have superexpensive escort agencies catering to them. Those in power include Larry Flynt. To claim that those in power are rabidly anti-sex work and trying hard to repeal sex work worldwide is delusional and shallow. At worst, they are trying to make life harder for the sex workers they love to hate while limiting access to sex workers by disadvantaged men.

In short, sex work is opposed by a small minority, most of whom don't seem to actually mean it. Those in power actively support sex work and patronize the sex industry, prefering to abuse sex workers rather than actually limit sex work in any meaningful way.

In this environment, sex workers are in danger. But to claim that sex work itself is in danger is just stupid. Sex work itself is flourishing and constantly gaining in acceptance.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What sort of pressure causes different people to become sex workers?

The vast majority of people worldwide who become sex workers do so out of imposed necessity. While for a significant fraction, estimated by even pro-sex work advocates to compose about a quarter of sex workers worldwide this takes the form of sexual slavery and kidnapping, many sex workers experience a less violent indoctrination via monetary necessity.

I am not referring to the kind of monetary necessity that involves some vague fear of eventually not having a nice condo or a car, but the kind that comes from not knowing where your next meal is coming from in a country where most of the population is just as desperate as you and can't really offer you much help. These fears are exacerbated in cultures where women are denied access to jobs or to the education that they would need in order to qualify for a job. They simply have no hope of ever finding a way in which to earn enough money to live on through any other means.

There was recently a piece done by a mainstream news outlet on the "choice" of Iraqi women to go into prostitution. My guess is that most of the women who are prostituted in Iraq do not ever have the illusion of "choice" and would admit in a second that they do not enjoy their jobs at all. In fact, some of these women do admit just that on camera.

The notion of referring to what they do as "choice" is insulting. I do not know any pro-sex work women who actually are lobbying for the "right" of desperately poor mothers in horribly exploited countries to take a job that makes them want to kill themselves. I have on occasion encountered someone who felt the need to tell me that "nobody can make anybody do anything" and implied that these women did, in the end, have the option of suicide.

The people who have said this to me were almost all men and all white Americans. Which is good for them, I guess, since they'll never have to back up their ludicrous assertions by offing themselves, no matter how much I wish someone would present them with the opportunity.

There are a huge number of women, especially in the USA, who prostitute themselves for drugs. And yes, being addicted to drugs is bad and is often an indicator of poor decision-making abilities. However, addiction is a powerful force that renders a person unable to make any decision in almost all circumstances except to do whatever they think they need to do to get more drugs. If someone who is addicted turns to sex work or chooses to stay in it, they most certainly are not making a free choice.

I tend to think of sex work as a symptom of addiction, not something that can exist separately in the same individual. If someone is an addict and a sex worker, they cannot claim that they have made a free choice of sex work which had nothing to do with a desperation for money. The addicts who do not degrade themselves sexually for money seem to me to be the ones who have other ways of making money and are usually not by any means different in either character or addiction from the ones who do.

Now we're moving more into what is thought of as a "grey area." This grey area for prostitutes is a little higher in the good old U S of A than in most other countries, since most of us have our needs provided for so exceedingly well in comparison to your average Thai thirteen-year-old. However, I think it's important to emphasize that studies done by anti-sexual slavery advocates indicate that women worldwide who go into prostitution do so with the belief that it was something they "chose" are the vast minority.

Out of the sex workers who claim that they decided upon their current vocation because it's something they enjoy or at least view as a "regular job", between 65% and 90% have been sexually abused as children.

While our national average for incest and childhood sexual abuse survival is high, more than half is much higher and the elevated level of sexual abuse histories among sex workers needs to be examined. To me the answer seems obvious: a high number of sex workers became sex workers due to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which cause them to act out sexually, to be "promiscuous."

I really hate the word promiscuity. It's all pretty damn relative, and I fail to see why somebody else should be allowed to tell me I'm having too much sex anyway. That said, survivors of childhood sexual abuse often end up having not just a lot of sex, but a lot of sex that they aren't really even enjoying. It helps to define promiscuous behavior not as "having too much sex," but as "compulsively seeking out sexual encounters which are not actually fulfilling" in order to avoid the implied value judgement usually found in the word.

The idea is that having a lot of sex when you want to and it doesn't interfere with your life is fine, and having a lot of sex when you don't particularly even care about sex is bad specifically because it has negative emotional effects and is a sign of unhealthy compulsive behaviors.

There are a few ways of explaining why someone who was abused as a child might be engaging in more sex and with different people than they actually desire. For many survivors, there's sort of a disconnect between the act of sex with someone and positive feelings or desire centered around that person. Having sex extremely often without any emotions or attraction isn't at all disturbing in this context.

In fact, this "numb" sex can actually serve some emotional purpose for the survivor, who may be re-enacting their past abuse in a situation which gives them the illusion of control, or might be using the situation in order to make themselves feel "powerful" since they are indifferent (almost immune) to the effects of an act that has a profound effect on most people. It's also possible that somebody who was raised in an abusive situation only ever got affection from immediate family members as part of sex and therefore believes subconsciously that their sexual availability is a direct measure of others' capacity to love them, or that someone whose family members had sex with them learned early and well the lesson that sex was all they were good for.

All of these reasons are strong contributing factors to the decision that many survivors make to go into sex work, and they are all bad reasons based on unhealthy modes of sexual expression which retraumatize a survivor while preventing her from beginning to recognize the signs of and heal from her abuse.

The inescapable abject poverty experienced by working poor, working class minorities in our country is also a huge motivator for many women who go into prostitution. These women are on average far less likely to go into stripping at the safest and highest profit clubs or to work for the safest and highest quality agencies for the reason that most of them are not as sought after by clients who don't perceive them as "classy," and that many of them are not white enough to appeal to the tastes of the often racist hobbyist base.

However, these women exist and are doing sex work against their express wishes and usually in direct opposition to the moral code by which they would prefer to be living their life. They experience sex work as the degrading and terrible experience it is, and they have little interest in rationalizing it otherwise. They comprise the majority of sex workers in our country.

The number of women remaining to be classified is so small as to be negligible in the grand scheme of things, but these girls are vocal in their defense of a system that really ought to be torn down, a defense they somehow frame as brave opposition to oppressive and powerful anti-sex work forces. Also, many of them constantly try to refute my assertion that the majority of people who claim to have chosen sex work were abused at some point by pointing out that they personally weren't. (Because these women, despite being a fraction of a percent of sex workers worldwide, seem to be operating off the assumption that their experience is universal.)

Why do I think that a woman who says she has never been abused in her life (I'm not sure I believe all of them), an educated, upper-class woman with access to better job opportunities and no addictions, would go into sex work?

All of these things are easier to understand if you recognize that our culture is actually extremely supportive of and conducive to the decision to go into sex work. Pornstars get book deals and fame which actually extends into their retired lives and non sex-work ventures. Prostitutes are the object of mystical worship, assumed to be successful in prostitution not because demand is high and they are superficially beautiful but because they somehow embody an ideal of sexual perfection and acquiescence. The mythical good girl working her way through college at a strip club is justification for suggesting that the girl you know do the same. The rapist (literally, it's been reported on many times and proven in court) behind Girls Gone Wild suggests that women find it empowering to be part of his videos.

Somehow, having control of your body and sexuality is supposed to mean having control of how you sell it to others. Perks like having more money, more control, and shorter or more flexible hours are taken to be the upside of a profession with no downside and when people discuss these perks, they don't discuss the degradation which renders a shorter work week completely irrelevant, the fact that other jobs can make you a lot of money in a little time without requiring that you become a consumable experience, how to get these other jobs, or even the glaringly obvious fact that all people in all professions should have access to financial stability and bearable work situations.

A quick search on Google proves that it is much easier to find women making the ridiculous assertion that allowing strangers who don't like women access to your female body somehow empowers it than it is to find someone pointing out the no-brainer which is that sex work is humiliating to people with healthy boundaries. In this environment, it can be said that women particularly but people in general are actually being encouraged to enter into sex work and don't feel safe voicing dissatisfaction with it, especially if they are in well-paid, high-end sex work. They don't see their experiences as legitimate because they are constantly hearing about and supposedly being shown evidence as to how enjoyable it is to be a sex worker.

There are a growing number of communities that in striving to be sex worker supportive are actually adamantly pro-sex work. It's hard for most Americans, who are part of much more socially conservative communities, to fathom the truth of this, but where do you think things like the Sex Worker's Art Show came from? Spread magazine? It's absolutely true when I say that there exists a movement which is not only against violence on prostituted women (which I support) but which tries to normalize and frame as a positive decision work which is not normal, positive, or a decision.

This movement has made a lot of headway in a lot of subcultures, particularly among people who wish to distinguish themselves from the morally repugnant politically conservative set who loudly disdain sex work and sex workers from somewhere in the middle of our country. Sex work and its acceptance is seen as a rebellion for some people against the stifling reactionary sexually prude culture that prevailed in the towns where they were raised before moving to a metropolitan coastal city. To be against sex work is to be with Jerry Falwell.

Certainly, within all the "alternative" communities I have seen and been part of which described themselves as sex-worker supportive, it was considered extremely rude for me as a sex-worker to voice dissatisfaction with sex work. I was breaking an ideological boundary and committing a grave faux pas when I tried to talk about it. I was under the distinct impression that my friends would think less of me, possibly even stop speaking to me, if I said what I knew was true about what I was doing with my body.

Those from these circles that I am still in touch with tend to confirm my suspicions by being irrationally upset by my assertion that I don't think sex work is good for you, regardless of whether the issue affects them personally. It's not because they are sex workers, are close friends with any sex workers at the moment, or ever see sex workers. They have, in general, far less genuine interest in societal concepts of sex work than I do. The problem is that by breaking with their conventional wisdom, I have said something which is just not said and done something which is just not done.

Even our mainstream patriarchal culture, the one of middle American teenagers who have never seen what I would call an "alternative subculture," demands that the targets of men's affections present as willing sex objects at all times. In a country where WalMart attempts to sell panties to preadolescents which reads "Who Needs Credit Cards?" it can hardly be said that we are not encouraging sex work and prostitution imparticular. Sure, we also talk a lot of trash about "sluts," "hookers," and "whores," but our media also spends most of its time subtly guiding women toward sex work with a multitude of cues and societal conditioning which teach them that they are nothing more than objects for men to possess. I'd say that the former is not enough to counteract the latter, especially since it disparages sex workers as individuals rather than sex work as a valid career path.

College is seen as the road to success in our country, an education the opener of doors. Whether or not this is actually true (and judging by the number of college grads I know who work behind cash registers it is not) it bears mentioning that our society creates intense pressure to spend tens of thousands of dollars on school whether you have it or not. College is an all-consuming goal. It's supposed to be the most important thing twenty-somethings have going on in their lives. It is one of the last viable options for transcending class for those who were born working-poor, and to hold out the idea of college to someone who could not usually afford it, someone raised with material deprivation, as some sort of promise that they could spend the next four years doing this one thing and then be guaranteed to never go hungry for the rest of their lives- well, that's the worst kind of coercive. It's a seductive lie. It's blackmail. It's anything but conducive to free choice.

I've had young people, only slightly younger than myself, speak to me as if convinced that they need to go to college or they will literally die homeless and soon. Nobody should be surprised that some of these young people would go to lengths as great as doing sex work, despite sex work's being against their moral and religious beliefs, in order to accomplish the goal which is a college education, something they perceive to be the only ticket to a better life.

Indeed, the irrational desire to earn vast sums of money beyond what one could ever spend or beyond what one needs to be comfortable, no matter how repulsive the actual job, can be seen in many Americans and in many other people worldwide. This isn't just greed. Sex workers aren't just "greedy," though I've heard them accused of greed often enough. Sex workers, like all other people, are vulnerable to indoctrination. Our capitalist system has, in this case, done the brain-washing from a very young age.

Finally, almost all sex workers, like almost all other people, are taught from a very young age to worship the almighty dollar. Almost all sex workers who were raised in poverty, like almost all poor people, have been taught from a very young age that market structures are fair and just and that the better goal than tearing down an oppressive system is to work your way to the top of it, to become as rich as the people who drive through your neighborhood with the doors locked. What better way for our world's elite to indoctrinate those they oppress?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How are feminist attitudes and anti-sex work attitudes actually intertwined?

Oh my.

See, most self-identified feminists are against what is often referred to as "rape culture," which is to say the culture in which women are constantly being threatened with rape and normal sexual relations are warped so that men seeking women to rape is considered a norm. Rape culture is a culture in which men are encouraged to take sex from their partners regardless of consent and women are encouraged to be passive sex objects for these men. Women are valued for nothing beyond their ability to be suitable fucktoys for the guys in charge.

In a rape culture, if a woman should try to establish value on her own time by being her own human, say by going outside dressed however she wants by herself after dark and walking to a seedy bar where she plans to drink alone, she is threatened and "kept in line" with the threat of rape. In a rape culture, a man is treated as if he always has the right to sex whenever and however he wants it, with the implication being that if someone doesn't offer him what he wants right now he will just take it.

Sex work is an intrinsic part of this system. It is the device by which men are told that in fact, they do always have a right to sex and should never have to go without. It is the palliative that men are offered in the hopes that their big bad virile selves don't go rape us defenseless girls. Men are offered this palliative because it is unthinkable that they actually be taught not to be sadistic and woman-hating in the expression of their sexuality.

Not only does sex work support the "satisfy us or we will violate you" aspect of patriarchal rape culture, it confirms the world view of the men who believe that this is the right way to live. Women are objects which you can buy the same way you buy tupperware. Women are fucktoys- you can even tell them so and they will agree (because you paid them too). Women always want it (because you pay them to pretend they do). It's impossible to rape something that is less than fully human and that always wants to have sex with you anyways. This is what men are paying to be told when they see an escort, stripper, or any other woman who sells them the illusion of sex.

They are paying to pretend that a woman cannot say no. And they are still imagining that no woman can refuse them when they get into their cars and track down some coeds to oggle. They are paying women to confirm and conform to patriarchy and rape culture. The elimination of the sex industry would eliminate one of the ways in which rape culture perpetuates itself. The elimination of the sex industry would and should be a feminist-approved route to a world where women are treated as more than merchandise and men understand that it is not the rest of the world's problem if they can't find anybody to engage in consensual sex with them.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Why do you hate men? Are you a man-hating dyke?

The fact that so many of the non-radical men with whom I have anti-prostitution arguments end up saying something to this effect is very telling. First off, I need to be called names and insulted if I dare to contradict their right to pussy. Second, I obviously don't understand the way the world actually works because I am deranged with hate for men, rendering my opinion moot because I'm not in my right mind. Third, it's hinted that I am only able to say the things I say because I am a big hairy dyke and who just couldn't possibly understand heterosexual people, rendering my opinion moot because I actually have no knowledge of interactions between the sexes.

In the face of this sort of irrational hatred, any assertions or demonstrations of the fact that I don't hate men and do like to have sex with some of them go unheeded. The point, after all, is to malign me, not to prove me wrong since that is impossible for the guys who are asking me these ridiculous questions.