No woman is ever to blame for rape. That includes sex workers.

// 7 February 2008

One thing that I would have thought all feminists can agree on is that women are never to blame for being raped. Never. And whatever our position on sex work and porn, whether or not we think these things are linked to or often amount to violence against women, I strongly believe that the women involved in these industries, whether voluntarily or not, are never to blame for the behaviour of men towards them. Never.

However, a recent comment on a thread at US blog Pandagon has unearthed some ugly attitudes towards sex workers. Renegade Evolution (blog contains some sexually explicit images), a stripper and porn actress, posted a while back about a nasty experience she had during a private show when she was forced to leave after the men who hired her turned abusive. This experience did not put her off her line of work, which for the most part she says she enjoys. This makes some women very angry, and for one woman in particular, leads her to blame Renegade Evolution for encouraging rape:

I would have felt oppressed by nearly being raped on the job. I would have felt VERY oppressed. And angry. And traumatized. And the fact still remains that it’s easier to rape you if you’ve already appealed to a guy’s libido and you have fewer clothes between you and him. Above and beyond the oppression inherent in participating in an industry that says to men, Here I am all wrapped up for you as a commodity because YOU ARE ENTITLED TO IT. And I don’t care what she feels.

This kind of attitude is absolutely unacceptable. It is hypocrisy of the deepest kind to be politically against the sex industry because of the harms you believe it does to women and yet blame the women who work within it when they are threatened. It makes no sense to recognise that the sex industry is patriarchal, that it is based on values and power relations developed over thousands of years of male dominance, and yet not see that because of these values – specifically, the value placed on women as sexual stimulation for men – women can make money within that industry and may well choose to do so. And some, like Renegade Evolution, do genuinely enjoy their work. While many women in the sex industry are not there out of choice, some of them are and, while some of us may not support or like these women’s choices, it does not mean we can go around disregarding their feelings, attacking their right to a voice and accusing them of encouraging rape.

They are women too.

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