I've written before about my ambivalence on the prostitution/sex work issue that divides so many otherwise allied feminists. On the one hand, I believe it is definitely possible to own your sexuality and be the one to use it, control it, sell it, whatever you want. On the other hand, oftentimes the women who "choose" to go down that path are young, poor, and come from a background of abuse.

As you can see, I am still not much closer to reaching a conclusion on this issue, but I was interested in reading this new edition of On the Issues which is all about feminists and prostitution. I haven't gotten a chance to read all of the pieces yet, but I'll go ahead and share some interesting points I've seen so far.

In one piece, "Of Victims And Vixens--The Feminist Clash Over Prostitution" (figured that was a good place to start), she sums up the different perspectives, and makes two points I found interesting: 1) Even Spitzer's call-girl who was from a "high-end" escort service, "turned out to have been a broke, homeless, drug-using, abused teen just a few years before." 2) One of the biggest problems is not the prostitution itself, but the fact that men get off (no pun intended), while the women are criminalized.

Another piece is actually from the "Cafe" section of the site, "Safeguarding the Rights of Prostituted Women: On the Frontlines of a Global Grassroots Movement." This piece takes a clearer stance on being from the abolitionist side, but provides a lot of great international resources. The thing I liked about this one is that she clarified that even so-called abolitionists want to decriminalize the women in prostitution, a point that I don't often hear.

Now, the rest of the articles seem to be not so much on the positive side of the sex work debate, though I have to admit that I mostly just skimmed. But I really liked that both of the pieces I read tried to drive home the fact that just because they don't agree on every part of this issue, doesn't mean they can't come together on the parts they do agree on -- particularly the decriminalization of prostitutes themselves. I thought this was an important point to make because it's easy to get caught up in the divide. Nothing can get done if all people see is the division (sound familiar? a little reminiscent of the other divides in feminism?).

The moral of the story in round 2 here is more than "can't we all just get along?" But, really, can't we unite for this goal so we can accomplish something we both think is top priority?

I'm not naive enough to think that we can close the divide, but can we at least make a little footbridge connecting the two? When the common goals are accomplished, folks can go back to their sides and fight the next battle.
What are your thoughts??

2 comments:

At Fri Sep 05, 02:35:00 PM pizzadiavola said...

I'm involved with a group that's pushing for decriminalization, so that's the angle I'm coming from, FYI.

On the other hand, oftentimes the women who "choose" to go down that path are young, poor, and come from a background of abuse.

Right. I think that while some people enjoy sex work and some people choose it voluntarily and within the context of having other options, some sex workers come from backgrounds where it's their only option, and that's not a meaningful choice. The solution is not to abolish prostitution, however, but to provide support services and build an environment so that the people who don't want to go into sex work have the option of not doing so. That means supporting transition programs as well as the usual work of supporting education, health care, a living wage, rehab programs, etc. - all the usual liberal positions. ;)

Decriminalization is on the ballot in my city and a lot of the opposition arguments focus on how sex workers are frequently victims of violence, trafficking, and abuse. They're correct, but the problem there is that keeping prostitution criminalized doesn't actually help those people, it just makes them illegal. The middle ground that you speak of ought to be decriminalization, because it stops penalizing the people who didn't have options other than sex work. Criminalization just further punishes those individuals by making it impossible for them to report assault, rape, theft, etc. because they'll be prosecuted for being prostitutes.

 
At Fri Sep 05, 11:11:00 PM frau sally benz said...

provide support services and build an environment so that the people who don't want to go into sex work have the option of not doing so

I definitely wish I heard of more programs that worked this way. The more I read about it and talk to people on both sides of the issue, the more I conclude that the place to start is by making sure that prostitutes are not the criminals here.

 

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