Comments like,”Blowjobs are called blowjobs because they are work but eating out is a privilege” make me want to agree because many men do not know how to please women sexually. But on the other hand, we have normalized the idea of sex as work – for women, that is. It becomes a chore, only slightly different from the Christian idea of “wifely duties.” And in prostitution it is an obligation. There is no consideration for women’s pleasure and once again women are financially dependent on men albeit outside of marriage and one man. The difference here is that married women are considered respectable and they have some privilege over prostituted women; for example, if they refuse their husbands (that is, if they are not raped by them) they will simply go to a prostituted woman instead because they cannot say no. But any woman having sex outside of marriage was considered a “whore”* and this gendered slur persists as a vestige from Puritan times.
A socialist feminist I know who was also a sex worker, pointed out that the capitalist work contract means that the employer owns the employees. The imposition of drug testing and other practices (like searching for employees on the internet) are part of this, nevermind that whether or not an employee is using drugs in their free time is not any employer’s business. When women began to enter the work force, it was expected that they were to provide sex, which is why sexual harassment laws were created in the first place. In spite of this and the “prostitution is capitalism” argument, I still maintain that prostitution is unique in that sex and sexual harassment are always expected as part of the job and things like STDs and PTSD are “work hazards.” In the prostitution contract, a man pays in return for sex. This means that a prostituted woman cannot refuse after he has paid. Furthermore, she is expected to act according to whatever pornographic fantasy he has, so she must also be a mind-reader. Looking at the-invisible-men on tumblr, it is clear that those who don’t fulfill that fantasy will get negative reviews which will bring down their business.
Francois Tremblay wrote about how there are three types of force or power over others: condign (grooming, conditioning, blackmailing, threats), compensatory (financial, goods, etc.) and coercive (use of physical force). All three of these are present in prostitution, so the idea that prostituted women can freely “choose” in spite of these forces is nonsensical. In Thoughts on The Sexual Contract, I wrote that in prostitution slavery is present whether or not slavery is defined as being treated as a thing or involuntariness. Hence the line between prostitution and sex trafficking is a blurred one, if it exists at all. The “consent” touted by libfems is only that which is absent of coercive force (some of the time, anyway), while condign and compensatory force are present. Therefore, it cannot be fully informed or free consent.
What is prostitution’s connection to capitalism? Well, the state has no ethical right to regulate our bodies. In legalized prostitution, the state gets around this with the loophole being that “sex is work,” because if the state can regulate work (and hence bodies) and “sex is work” then they can also regulate what prostituted women do sexually like imposing STD tests (this nor background checks are done to johns, btw, although a number of them are convicted felons with records of assault, sexual and otherwise). Since the best interests of capitalism is profit-mongering, legalized prostitution will put profits and johns (“clients”) over women’s health and safety; even some exited women and current sex workers admit that brothels are backed by organized crime. This means johns will pay higher prices for unprotected sex, will be refunded money if they complain, cannot be prosecuted as rapists, etc. Not that they care wherever prostituted is illegal – they buy their way out and prostituted women are the ones who face jail time and a lifetime record as a convicted felon. Their insistence on anonymity helps them and hurts prostituted women.
In the service industry, bosses and customers have a great deal of power over their employees. Customers can harass employees, stalk them, and get them in trouble or even fired. If an employee dares to fight back, or refuses to do anything the boss wants them to, they risk losing their job. We are dependent on the approval of bosses and customers; I know this because I worked in retail for many years, and no matter how intelligent or nice or a hard worker you are, it is always seen as a lowly position in the social food chain and the only recourse is to either climb up the ladder or get into another industry. Taken to the sex industry, customers become johns and bosses become pimps and pornographers. I cannot imagine having to have sex with a man that would normally be harassing a woman in any other service industry. Sure, there are the “nice” ones, the benevolent rapists. But if a worker changes her mind or he tries to take the condom off or surprise her with a sex act she didn’t agree to? She wouldn’t get paid. She’d be in deep shit and get negative reviews, bringing her business down. Perhaps the safest is webcamming, and that’s if people who know her don’t see her; however, keep in mind that with porn there is a permanent record. It never goes away, and women don’t have legal rights over the material, except in certain cases of revenge porn.
Then there are the emotional implications of sex. For anyone with a modicum of empathy, sex goes to one’s self-esteem and affects them emotionally. This is especially true for women, but whether it’s due to nature or nurture is beside the point. The prevailing belief is that men are the ones who want sex or they want it more than women. Women’s pleasure and desire don’t matter, as evidenced by the fact that men think PIV sex is the only “real” form of sex, yet many women do not orgasm from PIV alone. Many current and ex sex-workers admit that they are being paid to have bad sex, as men are notoriously terrible at it. Most sex workers don’t enjoy sex with strange men especially since they have to do it, like a chore; they certainly wouldn’t have sex with them for free. Women would otherwise call this “rape” or at the very least one of those grey areas of sex on the “rape” end of the spectrum, even worse than the “marital duties” a wife is supposed to provide (and which she can also be raped for; that is, if she refuses to “lie back and think of England” and stare at the paint on the walls). However, I am aware that many rape and abuse victims don’t process their trauma until months after the fact and may go on believing they weren’t really raped in order to (per Gail Dines) not feel the incredible powerlessness of victimization. And while still in the sex industry this is a survival tactic, the emotional numbing (sometimes supplemented with drugs or alcohol) to get through the pain.
But regardless of whether women consider this merely “bad sex” or rape, rape, sexual harassment, assault, and emotional abuse are always hazards, which are not justified with the john’s excuses: his wife won’t give him sex or she acts bored, fakes orgasms etc. since he is simply paying another woman to “provide” sex (the motherly implications of unconditional acceptance here are obvious) in a mechanical way, and fake an orgasm. As for the excuse “relationships are like prostitution anyway because they cost money,” I’m inclined to think these men are in denial of how relationships work because they can’t simply be reduced to transactional models of sex. Even in platonic friendships, people go out and socialize. Socializing costs money. And if a man is going to a prostituted woman, he’s spending a lot of money; regularly, much more than in a relationship. Johns aren’t lonely men, either. Over half of them are married, so it’s safe to say that at least some of the rest have girlfriends. They just want multiple women as sexual partners to use and abuse, and even if they were “lonely” men, that doesn’t excuse them from being antisocial in their desire for sexual partners. They know women in the sex industry get raped, and they support it anyway. So I think for men this is also about the “taboo” of rape which is normalized in a patriarchy; not the sex act itself, since it is women who face stigmatization both for having sex outside of marriage and being promiscuous. Johns are not the victims here.
I do not believe the johns “just want sex” as they say, either. For one thing, we know that most of them watch porn, and porn is hate speech and sexualized violence against women. I also cannot trust their judgment, much less feel sorry for them in using underaged and trafficked females. They are opportunists even if they are not pedophiles; that is, if they have the chance to rape an underaged female (overseas for example) in anonymity, they will do it, and the most common they ask in brothels is,”Who’s your youngest?” Then there’s the assumption that all women in the sex industry are straight, coincident with the belief that they “love their jobs,” even though there are straight-for-pay workers (just one example of the issue of compulsory heterosexuality as explained by Adrienne Rich). The taboo here is violating boundaries or limits that other women would be able to have and enforce to some degree (at least more than one in the sex industry whom they are privileged over) They enjoy being able to find a woman who will not/cannot refuse them. Another issue is that if it really were “just sex,” then they’d seek out a woman who wanted “just sex,” but that’s simply not true; all women in the sex industry can agree that they are doing it for the money, regardless of any other reasons they may have. Johns are seeking prostituted women specifically to stroke their self-absorbed egos as well as their dicks; if it were really “just a service,” they’d be okay with anyone (including other men) and having the inability to choose, but we know that they choose women and have racial/ethnic fetishes. Such discrimination is not allowed in other service industries; johns are trying to have it both ways, by arguing for privacy and anonymity in sex and treating sex as a public service.
A few defining characteristics of sociopaths are: A lack of empathy, being charming and manipulative, using people as a means to an end, not caring about the law or ethics, and seeking a “willing” victim. A narcissist too is abusive, but the reasons they act are different; they do so in order to prop up their vanity and to get admiration, and I think they know they are doing wrong but refuse to acknowledge the fact. Both are abusive, and it could be said that American culture is conducive to sociopaths as well as narcissists. [Note: Some people use “psychopath” and “socipath” interchangeably, while others state that one is more violent and reckless, while the other uses other people to do violence by-proxy, such as politicans.]
The penis is a weapon of domination and war (rape) – as constantly referred to in “making someone your bitch” “fucking her like a bitch” ** or in male rape,”treating him like a woman,” and this is why some feminists say PIV is rape, and/or prostitution is rape, because in our increasingly pornified world it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate rape and sex. That being said, I don’t believe that johns “love” women, especially the prostituted, just because they are fucking (and raping) them. By the same logic, conservative men “love” women because they marry and have babies with them (note, it is forced impregnation anyway whether the woman wants it or not). So too did slave masters “love” their slaves because they raped and had children with their slaves (whether or not some slaves could be said to have “wanted” to remain slaves and the female slaves be mistresses is beside the point). Now we have established the fact that it is not necessary to desire and value someone as a person in order to fuck or rape them, because the very sex or rape act itself is an act meant to further degrade them, and dehumanize them by reinforcing their position on the hierarchy. By objectifying other people deemed subhuman or inferior, women and minorities are ascribed a role, which is to be servile to male masters. In such a system rape becomes an inevitability; however, I think oppression should never be inherent to the experiences of one’s class.
So we have an argument which is false – that men need prostituted women so they will sublimate their violence and won’t rape other women (they’ll just rape the prostituted ones instead) – and an argument which is closer to the truth, which is: prostitution, and transactional sex in general, prevent women from rebelling against the patriarchy (a similar argument has been made against kink as well), notwithstanding the happy hookers who say that prostitution is somehow rebellious and is either real misandry or works against misandry. Women who speak this truth and stand against it are blasphemous to this social order, this sick status quo.
“[W]omen are only things to be found desirable by men, they can only be the thing to be desired/not desired, [but] not ever the one to do the choosing?”— Megan Anne Foxier
“Under a political system in which this male demand is understood as simply ordinary sex drive, or sexual initiation, the whole idea of women being able to express ‘sexual agency’, an idea central to the pro sex work position, becomes problematic. They may only express ‘agency’ through answering the demand and allowing access; no other possibility is open.”— The Industrial Vagina, pg. 27, Sheila Jeffreys
And whether prostituted women are treated like toilets, status symbols, sexual punching bags, or tourist attractions, it makes little difference. Johns make it clear they “need” sex with women so they can “relieve” themselves, bond with other males as “players,” and form an opinion about an entire country based on sex with the “exotic” women there whom they allude to riding like horses. Underlying this is the belief that women exist to be fucked and used by men, or else they’re less-than and not “real” women, or at least not honorary men complete with male-centric values. But also, women are colonized along with the earth – human exceptionalism here is really “male exceptionalism” – which is why men refer to their cars and ships as “she.” Any man who doesn’t use a woman in such a way is a loser, in their eyes, because their sense of masculinity is bound up with using women. If there aren’t prostituted women around to give men what they want, they’ll just start raping “respectable” women instead (this has actually been used as an argument by advocates of prostitution legalization). Johns constitute the same market demand for sex trafficking victims, because when there aren’t enough “willing” native citizens, immigrants and the underaged get trafficked in. This tells me that they don’t care if they are using trafficked women or not, because they belief one way or another a female body must be provided for them. In johns’ eyes, women who disagree with the sex industry are “ugly and jealous” while prostituted women are “confident, beautiful, free and powerful” (and apparently,”non-lesbo”).
However, this distinction is a false one. Many abolitionists happen to be ex sex-workers, or even current sex workers, yet they still get ignored, even though most current and ex sex-workers agree on decriminalization over legalization (which amounts to physical and sexual regulation over women). And the fact remains that any woman can be prostituted, it’s just that the industry is inextricably tied up with capitalism and the beauty myth so she will be on a “whorearchy” of value, also dependent on her position as a high-class escort or a street worker. This is part of why the women don’t actually have power, because real power doesn’t go away when you turn 40. In fact, women everywhere are pressured for sex by entitled men who think women are all whores anyway, so transactional sex is still an issue outside of the sex industry.
So I would ask: What do prostituted women gain freedom from as opposed to non-prostituted women, especially since the belief in the “manipulated man” is a myth***? Are sex working women somehow powerful in the ‘ability’ to give men boners? Men get boners all the time, and regardless of whether the women are sex workers. Are sex workers powerful by ‘provoking’ men to catcalling? Because if so, catcalling is not a compliment, and there is no lack of sexual harassment for women. Last but not least: Are they powerful because men solicit them for sex? Even non-sex working women, and children, get solicited for sex (and again, this is sexual harassment).
Also, I think misogyny makes men hideously ugly, whether they are conventionally attractive or not. Don’t tell me having sex with – especially being forced to have sex with – misogynists doesn’t chip away at a woman’s self-esteem, that the degradation and trauma doesn’t give her PTSD. Wilhelm Reich in his book The Function of the Orgasm explains that such men are sexually impotent; Audre Lorde in Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic As Power distinguishes pornography from eroticism in that it is sensation divorced from feeling, and that in it women lack a sense of satisfaction and of Self.
“The desire that a man sexually repressed feels for a strong woman is not the product of eros, but the expression of thanatos [death]. The man subjected under the tyranny of religious morality wants the possession of a free woman, not to free himself, but to put her in a cage with him. Male fantasies, suffocated by the authority of sin, focus on the powerful female sexuality not to seek communion. but to express violence and control in a practical and symbolic meaning….”
— Vanessa Rivera on Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality
By the way, PTSD is another issue – because only combat veterans who’ve experienced “real violence” or “real trauma” can be said to have it, and are taken seriously, they get priority for treatment. Fuck that noise.
If sex is work, then there is no such thing as rape****. Sex as work, as service, means that rape becomes “theft of goods or services, or engaging in sex without payment. And if the john has paid and the sex worker refuses, then he feels it’s okay to rape her, and enforce his end of the contract. How does this liberal view relate to the conservative one? Connect the dots: liberal men are still conditioned with the virgin-whore dichotomy which comes from the purity myth. The purity myth has phrases like,”Taking her virginity.” By objectifying sex and reducing women to sexual vessels, rape is no longer a violation of dignity and even consent from someone, but the taking of something which the owner was foolish enough to either not protect sufficiently or to transfer ownership of to someone else. Combine this with the victim-blaming of “prostituted women choose to be in the sex industry!” and we have another parallel, or another vestige from Abrahamic conditioning: shame and guilt. But instead of johns seeing this as the shame and guilt that victims of rape have, they turn it into the fear or shame of having sex. With this view, not only are sex industry abolitionists seen as “sex-deprived prudes” and “frigid bitches,” but johns are an oppressed male minority for being made to feel bad about asking for sex from their wives/girlfriends (think it may be because they’re unappealing scum or ask for things they’d never want for themselves, like anal sex?) or for wanting prostituted women! It’s just our Christian culture that makes prostitution seem bad because it hates sex! Cry me a river, assholes.
Sex should not be work because it is unethical for women to have to acquiesce and engage in sex with men in order to survive – in essence, to bargain for their lives – or to avoid facing a worse consequence, with men being able to get away with doing whatever they want. If women are full human beings then they also have the right to dignity and full physical and sexual autonomy, coinciding with the right to health and safety, and harm prevention over harm reduction. If on the other hand, the state enforces prostitution, then it also enforces male supremacy as the default human beings with full personhood, with the status of the father-husband replaced by the state as the prime patriarch and enforcer of male rule (men being the “sons”). Making women dependent on men financially is not conducive to the experiences that women want to have, and if men really cared about women’s desire and pleasure there’d be no demand for prostituted women.
* I really hate calling prostitution “sex work” but I will consider to use the terms “prostitution” and the “sex industry” (sometimes even “pornstitution”) elsewhere; however, the implication that the women are not actually doing labor is as demeaning as saying slaves did not do real labor or saying that prostituted women as just lazy and greedy gold-diggers which is what johns think of them – and in fact, all women – anyway.
** The attention needs to be focused on the men who are seen as studs, players, and so on for having sex, while women are demonized as deviant. They demonstrate all by themselves that their dicks can “taint” women so much, so why not?
*** The belief that women sexually manipulate men stems from the “evil temptress” virgin-whore dichotomy of the Abrahamic religions (it also blames rape victims for their “choice”), but even secular men aren’t immune to it.
**** There is no such thing as suing for having been knowingly given an STD, either – for non-prostituted women, it is considered a felony; at the very least a form of assault, depending on state law. And johns pay higher prices for unprotected PIV, oral and anal sex which is offered in brothels, escort services (as “the porn star experience”), and especially in street prostitution. Kissing is part of what is known as “the girlfriend experience.” http://yoursocialconstructsareshowing.tumblr.com/post/91543621852/1nd2rd3st-pardonmewhileipanic-sebabug#tumblr_notes