On Tera Myers and the Anti-Porn Folk

// 12 March 2011

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This is a guest blog post by Jennifer Krase, who you can find on twitter at @krasejc.

I always read questions like Charlie Glickman’s ‘Where are the anti-porn folks?’ as ‘Where are the feminists?’. Rather than a call to arms, it’s a calling-out of the hypocrisy of being anti-porn and seeking to end the sex industry, while being totally absent from the defence of women who have voluntarily left the industry when they later face repercussions. Women’s sexual history is not allowed, in Society, to be their professional history. Women are apparently expected (regardless of circumstance or personal ambition) to forever set up camp on a bourgeois moral high ground which is utterly disconnected from the price tags attached to pursuing dreams, goals, financial independence, or sustenance, shelter or income.

I hail from a generation that takes for granted its ability to access all kinds of porn online, for free; that grew up thinking Playboy was first and foremost a girls’ clothing brand; that enjoys an individual sense of equality among peers despite the jaw-dropping numbers I quote regularly at workshops and presentations. I welcome some of these changes. The slow but what feels to me sure change in thinking around sexual practices (kink especially), and the growing acceptance and normalisation of some LGBT identities for another tell me the world, and therefore the fight, has changed.

Still, there seems to be no room for acknowledging the role of anti-porn campaigning in the continued social punishment of women in and around the sex industry. No room for sex workers and pornographers in our efforts to rehabilitate feminism. No room for defending women who eventually buy into our definition of liberation – a life free from the sex industry – only to find themselves turfed out from work as well as feminism’s protective umbrella, once again alongside the teeming masses of other people Society and anti-porn have deemed unfit for service.

So still, in 2011, when the debate for how to ‘deal with’ prostitution and the ‘sex industry’ has supposedly become so nuanced that we now have two possible ‘models’ to choose from: “Nordic” and “New Zealand” (regardless, of course, of what sex workers have to say about what affects them); and we can agree that lads’ mags should be on the top shelf, behind a placard because of their pornographic content (but not because of their violent misogynist recommendations to cut women’s faces up, which is a mere afterthought to the oppression women face whilst standing about in their knickers). In 2011, when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day as if anyone has any idea it’s a political day of resistance and action instead of a thank you note to women, and on the very same day a black trans woman in an Arkansas town named after a KKK leader is misgendered by the media and police who are publicising and investigating her brutal murder. Still we’re led, by some, to emphasise the fundamental culpability of the sex industry rather than patriarchy, misogyny, transphobia, whorephobia, white privilege, racism, or any oppression we know full well women face every day worldwide.

So we hear yet another report on “the plight of the ruined woman” in the recent reporting on Tera Myers, a high school science teacher lately of St. Louis, Missouri, who has resigned. This is the second teaching job she’s been forced to leave – and I do think there are social and professional forces at work here – because of her past in adult film. She characterises her own porn experiences as the biggest mistake and worst choice she ever made. But nowhere in any media report does anyone propose an alternative, that perhaps the worst choice a person could make is to murder sex workers, or perhaps to suggest that a solution to jealousy is to slash the face of your ex-girlfriend, or that to cut women out of further education by simultaneously chipping away at support for every possible co morbidity of being a woman – poverty, disability, rurality, parenthood – is an immoral decision taken by a government of privileged liars. No. Instead, according to at least one person interviewed, we should generously allow the Tera Myerses of the world to continue teaching (and presumably live in society near children and pets) if and only if they disavow their terrible choices and hasten to chasten us about the negative influence of pornography in their lives, how porn derailed them and ruined them and they were only redeemed by a post-military education, finding God, and changing their name.

Never mind that the negative influences in Tera Myers’ life were poverty, homelessness, and possibly untreated bipolar disorder. Never mind that this is a woman who had to change her name in order to restart her career. Worry not that the school that fired her in 2006 was worried about the distraction she might cause in the classroom. By all accounts she was a popular and dedicated teacher of science, a post schools struggle to fill effectively, not to mention with women teachers. No, what she should do is apologise for having been poor, in need, ill, and a mother. Now I’m left wondering if Charlie Glickman’s question will go unanswered. Where are the anti-porn campaigners on defending women who buy into their definition of liberation and get screwed? Too busy delivering conferences against porn at Wheelock College and debating Cambridge University students on the merits of anti-pornography work?

Comments From You

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 12 March 2011 at 10:16 pm

Great article. This stood out for me:

‘Still, there seems to be no room for acknowledging the role of anti-porn campaigning in the continued social punishment of women in and around the sex industry.’

I wonder if anyome who does campaign against porn and ‘objectification’ will say anything here in response?

Because I don’t think feminism should punish women. The fact parts of it do is one reason I no longer identify as such.

Saranga // Posted 12 March 2011 at 10:45 pm

Jennifer, I think this is one of the best posts I’ve read in weeks, anywhere. I salute you.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 12 March 2011 at 11:12 pm

@ QRG: I’m hoping that lots of people who campaign against both of those things will comment here. I hope we (feminists) can all agree that it’s terrible and something very much in the domain of ‘what feminists should be addressing in our movement(s)’ that women who buy into ‘life after the sex industry’ as an empowered and liberated life, or women who leave for any reason whatsoever, or women who want to leave but feel the very real fear they’ll be forever stigmatised in seeking ‘legitimate’ work, are set up to fail by a confluence of social denigration of people in the sex industry and anti-pornography sentiment and campaigning from many bits of the political compass, including some feminists.

That feminism is a social justice movement is something I firmly believe- but I think it would be irresponsible to believe that uncritically!

@saranga wow, thank you

Sue Henderson // Posted 13 March 2011 at 12:26 am

I’m very puzzled as to why feminists are being blamed for the problems of exited prostitutes. It’s not feminists who blame prostituted women for their situation or who would ever hound them afterwards for what happened to them.

It’s surely the patriarchal society and the victim blaming culture we occupy which make it so tough on all women, but especially those who end up in the so called ‘sex industries’.

I’m a member of Object as well as other groups fighting pornography and prostitution and I can honestly say that I’ve never met with anyone or heard from anyone within those groups or in a feminist environment who felt anything other than empathy for prostituted women and a strong desire to help as best we can. I personally know two women who were prostituted (one who did pornography as well) and I have the greatest respect for them both, it would never occur to me – or most feminists – to be otherwise.

True feminists don’t blame women for the situations our misogynistic world puts them in so I have no idea where either Philippa Willitts or any of the posters on this thread got that idea from.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 13 March 2011 at 12:31 am

Hi Sue,

The post was under my account, but is actually a guest blog post from Jennifer.

Having read her post, I think it could be really useful if the many different sides of the ‘porn’ debate can look at what they can do, maybe together maybe separately, but what can we all, whatever our views of porn and prostitution are, do to help exited women.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 13 March 2011 at 1:45 am

“…we now have two possible ‘models’ to choose from: “Nordic” and “New Zealand” (regardless, of course, of what sex workers have to say about what affects them)”

As I understand it from their website, the New Zealand sex workers’ union was actively involved in consultations for the development of the legislation in New Zealand, and although they didn’t get everything they wanted, consider it to have been a big step forward. So it seems odd to describe it as “regardless of what sex workers have to say about what affects them”.

MariaS // Posted 13 March 2011 at 8:42 am

So, the message I am to take away from this post is to pay no heed to anti-porn activists and researchers, and to not criticise the sex industry, because there are more important feminist priorities than that?

Which anti-porn activists’ public statements should we be monitoring? Just Gail Dines, or is there a more comprehensive list somewhere?

“there seems to be no room for acknowledging the role of anti-porn campaigning in the continued social punishment of women in and around the sex industry”

How does feminist anti-porn campaigning result in the social punishment of women who are or have been in the sex industry? This reminds me of the Feministing piece that claimed similar. Seems to me that the social punishment that Tera Myers has experienced is the result of social conceptions of sex as dirty, and so anyone associated with it outside of normative heterosexual relationships and marriage is contaminated. Also to patriarchal narratives of the virgin/whore dichotomy, the “fallen” woman.

How exactly should feminist anti-objectification campaigns get enough influence over AOL News reporting and the opinions of people in a suburb of St Louis, Missouri? Do you really honestly think that people who campaign against lads mags were not also outraged and protesting about Danny Dyer’s “advice”? Is it not also possible that the fact that the people producing Zoo magazine are in the business of presenting women as objects of sexual consumption might be part of the reason why no one apparently noticed or cared about the horrific content of the Danny Dyer column before publication? To see nothing wrong or perhaps take it as a joke to advise a man to punish a woman who’d rejected him?

If you read Charlie Glickman’s post as a call out to feminists, why not write a feminist piece about the experiences of women leaving the sex industry and unpacking the attitudes that are driving Tera Myers out of her job for the second time? Instead of using the story of Tera Myers as a weird “gotcha” against feminist anti-porn activism, and to essentially repeat Glickman’s article?

The sex industry IS an institution of patriarchy, misogyny, transphobia, whorephobia, white privilege, and racism. There are radical and progressive people in the sex industry, aiming to make more egalitarian, non-oppressive alternatives, but mainstream porn is driven by an enormous demand from straight men to be sexually excited by misogynous treatment of women. It’s in mainstream porn aimed at men that the women are characterised as “nasty” and “dirty”, after all, and where sex is presented as something to be inflicted on women. In Gail Dines’ talk that I’ve seen online about how acts and language of humiliation, hurt and abuse are common in the bestselling mainstream porn that her study sampled, not marginal to it. Is it not a huge problem, and a huge expression of misogyny, that there is a demand for seeing women treated badly? Why is it wrong to call that out?

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 8:58 am

so Sue why doesnt OBJECT publicise this case and others like it? To actively support women who exit the sex industry and then get discriminated against for having been in it in the first place? This news came to me not from OBJECT or feminists but from a sex educator.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 9:07 am

Phillipa we could stop calling them ‘exited women’ for a start i think it is objectifying. They are women who leave the sex industry of their own accord on the whole, they are not passive and are not ‘exited’ by others.

Also we could maybe consider supporting women who actually work in the sex industry by not lobbying for laws to criminalise/restrict their work.

This ‘coming together’ is not going to be very likely is it?

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 9:55 am

Hi Sue,

As you can see from my post, I’m not blaming feminists. Or anti-porn campaigners. I’m responding in the first instance to a post elsewhere (which is linked to, which also does not blame ‘feminists’). Later, I clearly blame the many oppressions women face- and I am glad that you agree with me.

However, I think it is noteworthy that big name activists, organisations, and campaigners in anti-porn work do not make it a point to speak up when actual women are victimised because of their status as ‘former’ whether they used to be sex workers, in adult films, or were in any other way linked to the sex industry.

The media coverage is consistently disturbing. So why aren’t there large-scale campaigns to show solidarity and support of women like Tera after they lose out in mainstream job markets? Surely anti-porn campaigners, as people who arguably contribute to the stigma around pornography and those who make it, have a stake in differentiating themselves from people who simply hate women and have puritannical views on women and sex, thereby protecting the women themselves?

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 10:05 am

@snowdropexplodes Yes, there was actual honest consultation in New Zealand… which is what gave us the ‘model’ to choose from in comparison to the 1999 law in Sweden.

What about other countries that have passed laws after 2000? The UK? US States? Norway? Do you believe there was adequate consultation there, or that sex workers were listened to then?

Personally, I do not not believe that in criminalising or further criminalising sex workers anywhere (not, you will note, pornographers, whose work remains legal) we have demonstrated that we listen to them.

The laws in Sweden were passed, and have continued to be upheld, and the results have been mixed and inconclusive when put in their best light. This is all over the objections of organised sex workers in Sweden.

Belle de Jour // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:24 am

Hi Sue,

“I’ve never met with anyone or heard from anyone within those groups or in a feminist environment who felt anything other than empathy for prostituted women and a strong desire to help as best we can.”

Gosh, I would debate that pretty firmly. As an ex-sex worker I’ve yet to receive any empathy or support from feminists, be that because of safety problems caused by malicious people, or for pointing out on a feminist blog that support for women implicitly includes support for current and ex sex workers. As a result I have decided to stop describing myself as a feminist (which in no way implies that I have stopped caring about the equality of women in society, rather that I feel the label is most often applied to a movement that does not speak for me at all.)

While feminism per se is not necessarily the cause of problems like the one Tera Myers is facing, it has also not necessarily been the solution. I see a lot of talk within feminist discussion spaces about how to get people out of sex work, and not a lot about what happens afterwards. And what happens after is so important – I for one will always be grateful for the sane and measured response of my (all women) colleagues in Bristol, who affirmed that my past has nothing to do with my current work. I am also keenly aware that for most people who come out of the sex industry, such a sane response can never be taken for granted.

Again, this is not to lay that difficulty at the door of feminism – but more and more sex workers are coming around to the thought that feminism has little to offer them, apart from judgment. There is certainly a feeling that everyone – feminists included – label you a sex worker first and a woman second, if at all. The question then becomes whether the mainstream of feminism is happy to lose the largely female, largely feminism-aware population of sex workers, on a matter that increasingly looks like the rejection of people whose choices you do not agree with.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:42 am

-Please point to me the section of this piece where I have said not to criticize the sex industry. I can’t find it. What I can find is an indictment of high profile anti-porn campaigners and a sense of frustration that those campaigners don’t see cases like this as part of their crusade. I have inferred this from the fact that I have not once seen or heard a peep from any of them – posts on organizational websites are all about the organization, or feminist events and activities… if there’s a multitude of examples I’m missing and there’s actually a secret campaign to stop the marginalization of women who used to work in the sex industry please point it out to be and I will happily swallow my tongue.

-I haven’t called for monitoring anyone’s responses. I think this is something of a red herring as I don’t think anyone anywhere has a complete list of all the people on Earth who campaign against pornography. Do you? Would you like to supply it? Because I’ll start emailing. What I’ve done here is called for public responses- I’m aware there is a comments section and I’d like to hope there will be a lot of ‘actually, I’m an anti-porn campaigner, and I object to the treatment of Tera Myers’ type comments because really, that’s the question I’m asking. It needs to be spelled out each and everytime a woman is publicly shamed over her past in the sex industry, by feminists of every stripe, in every country, in every language. Because that’s sexual shame, and when it’s directed at women it feeds, as we hopefully all acknowledge, the wider problem of misogyny.

And perhaps this could be interpreted, by someone who was feeling creative, as a call to actual action- for example writing letters to media who are misogynist in their coverage, writing to the school in support of Tera Myers, writing on our blogs and adding cases like this into anti-porn campaigning so the women who are actually involved in e.g. porn are taken care of and it’s explicit that their wellbeing now and in future is at the fore of anti-porn campaigning. Since that’s supposedly what campaigning against ‘sexual exploitation’ is supposed to be about. How is firing or letting go teachers who used to be ‘sexually exploited’ (as I’m sure Object would argue) NOT a continuation of that exploitation?

-Feminist anti-porn campaigning alienates women who work in the sex industry. Period. I’m not speaking as someone who has worked in the sex industry, but I am repeating what I have read, heard, been told. The language used ‘prostituted women’ and ‘exited women’ just in this post is victimizing and takes away the agency and autonomy of women who work in the sex industry. I think it’s hugely important to critique the sex industry- please tell me you think it’s possible to do that an simultaneously criticize openly and vocally the way people who leave it are marginalized? Because that’s probably at least as important as conducting Feminist Fridays in supermarkets, if we’re going to talk about where our priorities are as feminists in organizing campaigns.

By remaining silent and continuing to fight only one end of the problem feminist anti-porn campaigners commit, in my opinion, a hypocritical act of oppression of women. But maybe I’m wrong and people do speak up outside the comfort of their living rooms against the slut shaming that’s happened in the media coverage of Tera Myers. If so, I want to know. I’d love to be wrong.

-So the main reason feminist anti-porn objectification campaigns say and do nothing is they don’t have the influence. Okay. I guess that means they should find a new way to campaign! And I guess we should just chuck international solidarity right out the window because there’s no point in British feminists taking action over something happening in St. Louis (and I can guarantee you St. Louis and the US isn’t the only place it’s happened).

-In answer to your comment on Zoo- I know for a fact people were outraged over what he said. That kind of crap gets published in those magazines all the time, but I think it’s ridiculous that overtly violent and misogynist rhetoric isn’t the main focus of campaigning against lads’ mags. I agree with some of the main critiques of mainstream pornography but I remain skeptical that this is our biggest obstacle to liberation, especially when women being actively cut out of work and education either because they’re ‘tainted’ from a past in sex work or because once again women are the among the last priorities of government.

-I think this suggestion is pretty insulting, to be honest. I’m a feminist. This post came up in my Twitter feed. I wanted to make a point- feminists do care. And anti-porn feminists care. However, I also think that anti-porn campaigns leave a lot to be desired in their operational methods, in their approach to porn and the sex industry, and in their treatment of women who object to their campaigning- who are often in the sex industry themselves, yet it seems alright to ignore them and dismiss their objections as trying to ‘glamourise’ the industry.

I don’t think this is a weird ‘gotcha’ at all- I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask why the loudest voices on why porn is bad for women are absent from protesting the treatment of a woman who has been treated badly because of her involvement in porn. This goes back again to how anti-porn campaigning can contribute to social punishment- porn is bad for women, it damages and hurts them, and with anti-porn campaigning (especially in the US where attitudes to sex and sexual education generally run along the lines of ‘debauched, God, something about being dirty, and promise rings’) it doesn’t exactly undermine the idea that ‘porn hurts women=women in porn are ruined women’. We need to be undermining that idea. And one way to do that is to be saying, when someone gets fired for having been in porn, or leaves a job because they fear a repeat of backlash for having been in porn, ‘well, actually, the reason this woman is leaving isn’t porn, it’s bigotry and misogyny, and by the way the way you people are reporting on this as if she snuck up behind you and clobbered you with a VHS tape of her experiences is disgusting.’

-And now I’ll ask- why is wrong to ask anti-porn crusaders to get on board with explicitly calling out the misogyny and whorephobia women face after they leave the sex industry?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:48 am

Yet again another attempt to derail the issue of how and why prostitution and its brother the sex industry must never be challenged by anti-porn feminists because we supposedly blame women for entering these industries.

We must never focus on the real issues which is male demand and male pseudo sex right to women and girls 24/7. Gail Dines is doing excellent work holding male pornographers and their female apologists accountable for normalising and promoting male sexual violence against women as ‘female empowerment.’

I’ve yet to meet any radical feminist who opposes the porn and prostitution industries by blaming the women victimised by these misogynistic male created industries. However I’ve met innumerable fake feminists who believe we must never ever hold prostitutors and pornographers accountable for their profiting off victimising women.

Yet another article which refuses to address the real issue which is why male violence against women is endemic and is euphemised under the claim ‘prostitution is just sex work – never systemic male sexual violence against women.’

Focus on the male perpetrators and their apologists rather than attempting to derail the issue by once again claiming anti-porn radical feminists are ‘prudes and moralists!’ The porn industry has consistently promoted these lies and these show no sign of abating. We do not need pseudo feminists doing the work of pornographers, Johns and pimps.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 12:02 pm

There is another way of looking at this of course. Are Charlie Glickman and his ilk going to stop using porn, when they know the massive social stigma it still places on women who have appeared in it, whilst porn users and makers, the ones who actually deserve the stigma, get away virtually scott free? I’m sure a male teacher who was found to be using porn for example wouldn’t have lost his job. It’s the women they use who bear the stigma. So Charlie and his ilk use their porn at the expense of the women in it *and they don’t care*. You’re pointing the finger in the wrong direction Jennifer.

I’m also always suspicious of people who start volunteering other activists for work. If Charlie Glickman wants Tera Myers helped then why doesn’t he step up to the plate himself? Is anything stopping him, or would he rather see women (given that most anti-porn campaigners are women) do all the work? Similarly what are you doing to help her Jennifer? If you see an issue that you think needs addressing you should address it. That’s how activism happens, not ordering other people over to do the work for you.

This article just seems like an ill-thought through pop at anti-porn feminists. For example, what does the *rehabilitation* of feminism mean? Where do you get the idea that feminism needs rehabilitating? That’s a very anti-feminist idea.

Your complaint that anti-porn campaigners were debating at Cambridge is also nonsensical. So were pro-porn campaigners. Why aren’t you complaining about them debating instead of being off helping Tera Myers, or do you expect the anti-porn campaigners to do the work, whilst the pro-porn campaigners keep the floor?

You claim that anti-porn campaigners don’t help women who have come out of porn. That is incorrect however. Shelley Lubben who was at the debate at Cambridge, speaking the reality of the horror of being used in porn, does exactly that. Her Pink Cross Foundation, supports people who have been in porn, to heal and to find new lives for themselves. Lives which don’t involve appearing on film for men to masturbate over. Are you doing anything like that Jennifer? Is Charlie? How about Anna Span who was on the pro-porn side of the Cambridge debate?

Until you can demonstrate what you’re doing for women who have escaped porn, all the criticisms in this piece should have been directed at the pro-pornography, pro-sex industry side.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 12:06 pm

@Jennifer Drew:

1. Where did I say we shouldn’t challenge the sex industry? Did I even imply it? Hm..

2. Au Contraire Mon Ami- we ALWAYS focus on those things. We almost NEVER focus on what happens to women after they leave.

3. I haven’t either, but I also haven’t met that many radical feminists who are willing to have their actions critiqued. I don’t think I’ve ever met a fake feminist (well.. Sarah Palin claimed to be a feminist… but I’ve never met her myself), and I’ve certainly never met a feminist who doesn’t question the sex industry at all. That must have been a unique experience.

4. No, this article doesn’t refuse to address the real issue- you’ll note that I state in more than one place that misogyny and whorephobia are at the root of this case. Since misogyny is a result of patriarchy (I would argue kyriarchy..)- ooh look, a fake feminist who can use the p word correctly- then where, exactly, am I refusing to acknowledge the ‘real issue’? Is the lack of consistency from anti-porn campaigners not a real issue? Please, enlighten me. Nowhere have I said my own view on pornography- because ultimately, NO ONE’S views on pornography matter in this, up to the point where one’s views on pornography turn into an obsession with the thing and not with the wellbeing of women who choose to stop making it! Everyone should be condemning the treatment of Tera Myers by both schools (one which fired her, one which didn’t fight to keep her or defend her), by the media, and by a society that allowed a homeless, single mother of two with bipolar disorder only ONE amenable option for income of which she is now ashamed and is being punished.

Get me?

polly // Posted 13 March 2011 at 12:53 pm

I am a bit puzzled by this, are you saying that anti porn campaigners ran the schools this woman was dismissed from or that they campaigned to get her dismissed?

It appears she wasn’t even dismissed. The story you have linked to says she resigned when her past was discovered by a student. So what are anti porn campaigners meant to do about that exactly? Beg her not to resign?

I’m really not sure what your argument is. What you are saying is akin to saying that someone who advocates drug legalisation then has a moral responsibility to defend anyone who resigns as a teacher because they were found out to have been a drug user in the past. It just doesn’t follow.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 1:01 pm

Oh lookie, Charlie Glickman has a vested interest, he’s not just a porn user, he sells it too – selling women pays his wages:

http://www.charlieglickman.com/about-me/

“In 1996, I joined the staff at Good Vibrations as a Sex Educator-Sales Associate in the Berkeley store.”

Good Vibrations sells porn like this:

“An Open Invitation: A Real Swinger’s Party in San Francisco

Young Harlots: Dirty Secrets

Dangerous Curves

This Isn’t Twilight XXX Parody

Evil Anal 6”

If you’re selling products that call women harlots (and the Young Harlots video has a picture of a very young-looking woman a schoolgirl’s uniform showing her white underwear to the camera – nice) you can hardly start complaining about misogynistic stigmatising of women in the rest of society, when your very own job is contributing to that woman-hating stigma.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 13 March 2011 at 1:04 pm

@ Jennifer Drew

“I’ve yet to meet any radical feminist who opposes the porn and prostitution industries by blaming the women victimised by these misogynistic male created industries.”

Then why is it that it seems like any time a porn performer or ex-performer speaks up to say anything that doesn’t match exactly the rhetoric of the anti-porn feminists (e.g. “I liked it” or “I don’t feel harmed by my experiences in the industry”), that she is immediately shouted down, labelled a slut and worse, and ridiculed as “stupid” or “deluded” and told to “examine”? I’ve seen this happen to a few women now and frankly, it doesn’t fit neatly with the whole “helping women” thing.

@ delphyne

“the ones who actually deserve the stigma”

Why should there be “stigma” at all? Allowing the concept of stigma to exist in relation to sexuality (even just in relation to sexual media) seems counter-productive.

“So Charlie and his ilk use their porn at the expense of the women in it *and they don’t care*.”

That’s an extremely big reach, frankly. Pro-porn activists are among the most vocal in calling for good, ethical, safe working practices in porn and other areas of the sex industry, and in calling for good, effective, sustainable exit routes for those who wish to leave the industry.

“If you see an issue that you think needs addressing you should address it. That’s how activism happens, not ordering other people over to do the work for you.”

A lot of people are active over these issues (for instance, I correspond as a campaigner with my MP over sex workers’ rights issues, and there’s no way you’d know anything about that unless I choose to blog about it), but this one post here is asking, “Why aren’t those people, whose rhetoric suggests they ought to be all over this, doing anything?” Or are you saying that actually, anti-porn feminists DON’T think this is an issue that needs addressing, and therefore no one should expect them to say anything?

“Until you can demonstrate what you’re doing for women who have escaped porn, all the criticisms in this piece should have been directed at the pro-pornography, pro-sex industry side.”

Just because the anti-porn side tends to ignore the activism on these issues by the pro-porn side, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And what about the women who don’t want or need to “escape” from porn?

amber // Posted 13 March 2011 at 1:08 pm

@ Belle de Jour – exactly what support is needed? I only know of one organisation in Leicester providing support, are there any national organisations whose work can be publicised?

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 2:10 pm

Feminists don’t judge women in prostitution and the sex industry. Feminists’ judgement is reserved for pimps, punters and consumers who exploit those women.

I do judge men like Charlie Glickman who want a constant supply of women to sell and to masturbate to. I think its terrible that society supports the choices of men like him.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 2:12 pm

BTW I will not be responding to anything from Snowdrop Explodes. It’s shocking that the F-word publishes the posts of a man who has published his fantasies of raping and murdering a woman.

It’s like the NAACP allowing a known member of the KKK to comment on their policies and views.

Jess // Posted 13 March 2011 at 2:26 pm

Great post, Jennifer Krase.

I think what you are addressing is at root lesbian feminisms own unresolved issues around sexual purity. I say this as a woman who came ‘out’ after a ten year marriage and was told unequivocally that I was a whore.

So when I read this:

“Seems to me that the social punishment that Tera Myers has experienced is the result of social conceptions of sex as dirty, and so anyone associated with it outside of normative heterosexual relationships and marriage is contaminated. Also to patriarchal narratives of the virgin/whore dichotomy, the “fallen” woman.”

I have to laugh – in my experience lesbian (most probably with idelologically rooted in lesbian feminist) ‘issues’ around sexual purity exactly mirror patriarchal narratives of the virgin/whore dichotomy etc.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 3:20 pm

@delphyne wrote:

Feminists don’t judge women in prostitution and the sex industry. Feminists’ judgement is reserved for pimps, punters and consumers who exploit those women.

This is such a lie. The judgement of feminists of women in the sex industry stretches to lobbying for laws to criminalise and restrict those women. It also means feminists ignore issues such as this of a woman leaving the sex industry being discriminated against, being highlighted here.

Feminists such as Sheila Jeffries and Gail Dines and those who run OBJECT are at the forefront of this demonising of women sex industry workers. Either as feminists you should distance yourselves from their views and speak up in support of sex workers, or you are part of the problem.

polly // Posted 13 March 2011 at 3:22 pm

I’m even more puzzled at Jess’s comment. So lesbians are to blame now because they’re all prudes?

Was the school Ms Myers worked at run by lesbians?

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 3:42 pm

“This is such a lie. The judgement of feminists of women in the sex industry stretches to lobbying for laws to criminalise and restrict those women. ”

Oh no, yours is the *lie* QRG.

Anti-sex industry campaigners are campaigning for women in prostitution to be *decriminalised* and for activities pimps and punters to be criminalised. Those laws would protect and destigmatise women in the sex industry because they would finally place the responsibility where it belongs – with the men who do those things.

If people want to know why women in the sex industry are stigmatised by society at large, they only need to look at the treatment of any other victim of male sexual abuse and attacks, who also have to bear the sexual stigma of men’s crimes against them. That’s because we live in a fucked up patriarchal world where men’s sexual crimes against women and children are seen as normal behaviour, whilst victims are made to suffer for what was done to them.

I’ve just offered you an example of porn sexually stigmatising women – calling them harlots, QRG. Why don’t you have anything to say about that?

Katharine // Posted 13 March 2011 at 3:47 pm

As a point of clarification, the debate at Cambridge University was not between anti-porn activists and students, as the post implies. It was between pro-porn speakers, including a porn director, and anti-porn speakers. I was there; and whilst the adversarial setting wasn’t really conducive to genuine debate, I believe it was valuable. Gail Dines, in particular, gave an excellent argument putting forward a point of view that many people in the audience would not have encountered before. Dines also gave a lecture earlier that day, to a large audience, which I thought was an excellent way of encouraging people to think critically about porn.

From the context in which she refers to the debate, Jennifer Krase clearly thinks such activities are not the best use of anti-porn activist’s time. As I’ve said, I disagree. But I’d also like to point out that many anti-porn activists, such as Dines, also have full-time jobs as academics. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that they try and use events like lectures, debates, and conferences to spread their message, since these things fit well with the demands of their jobs and use resources they are likely to have to hand. Those who thing these activities are a poor use of time should engage in their own activism if it is really important to them.

Krase writes: “there seems to be no room for acknowledging the role of anti-porn campaigning in the continued social punishment of women in and around the sex industry.”

It is unclear from the article, however, exactly what that role is meant to be. If the claim is just that anti-porn activists should pay more attention to unfair treatment of people who work in, or used to work in, porn, then this could be said in a less condemnatory way. On the other hand, the claim might be that anti-porn activists exacerbate prejudice and discrimination against people who work(ed) in porn. If so, then more evidence needs to be supplied by Krase. Just pointing to the is activism, on the one hand, and to the discrimination, on the other, does not establish a link between them. Furthermore, even if there were such a link, this would be an argument for anti-porn activists to think more carefully about their methods, or for new groups to be set up to focus specifically on this issue. It would not undermine the work that anti-porn activists actually do, or imply that we ought to be less vocal in condemning the porn industry.

I think Krase’s ideas about anti-porn feminists come to the surface when she writes that “we’re led, by some, to emphasise the fundamental culpability of the sex industry rather than patriarchy, misogyny, transphobia, whorephobia, white privilege, racism, or any oppression we know full well women face every day worldwide.”

Now, perhaps I haven’t encountered the ‘some’ that she has in mind here, but I can’t think of any anti-porn feminists that I’ve come across who don’t see the sex industry precisely as a vehicle for the ideology of those prejudices and hierarchies identified by Krase (patriarchy, misogyny, etc). In making such critical statements so vaguely and broadly, Krase gives the impression that her condemnation applies to anti-porn activism in general. If that is indeed her point, it needs a lot more substantiation than she gives here.

polly // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:00 pm

Since the F word’s commenting policy says you won’t publish homophobic comments, I would appreciate an explanation as to why Jess’s comment – which seems pretty homophobic to me – was published.

Jess // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:01 pm

Prudes? If, to mis-quote the riot girl – the anti-sex work lobby’s silence around issues such as a woman leaving the sex industry being discriminated against – particularly since I would imagine it was poverty that got Tera (and others) into sex work in the first place – is prudishness, then yes. Although, I think prudishness is perhaps an understatement.

I am positing the view from my own lived experience that of lesbian feminism ideological position around hetero-sex reveals it’s own deep-rooted issues around sexual purity and perhaps therefore the silence around employment/social discrimination against women who have sex worked at worst punitively expresses a wish not to become contaminated by too close an association with women who have sex worked or perhaps they are all so rich and clueless they do not have the vaguest idea what poverty is, what it means or what it does.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:04 pm

Polly,

Each of these comments requires a judgement call. I read Jess’s comment to be critical of some women who subscribe to the specific ideology of ‘lesbian feminism’ rather than of lesbians ourselves.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:18 pm

Because delphyne the word ‘harlot’ used in pornography is ok by me.

The word harlot is also used by sex workers rights’ organisations eg Harlot’s Parlour.

As for feminists caring about sex workers due to their commitment to the ‘Nordic’ model of sex work I don’t agree.

Many sex workers have said the criminalisation of their clients puts them in danger and makes their work more insecure and difficult.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:27 pm

Any of the anti-anti porn people here going to address the fact that Mr Glickman’s livelihood depends in part on the porn industry, so it’s in his interests to attack those who might interfere with that livelihood?

That’s why this complaint about ant-porn people is so tenuous. It’s wrong that this teacher has had to resign from her job, but to try and scrabble an argument together that this incident proves that anti-porn campaigners are somehow hypocritical is ridiculous.

People who make their money out of promoting or working in this industry have an agenda, and it isn’t a pro woman/pro prostituted woman one.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:43 pm

It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with the Nordic model, QRG. That’s beside the point. The fact is that it was a lie when you said that anti sex industry feminists were fighting to criminalise prostituted women.

That’s interesting that you think it’s fine for women to be called harlots in porn. Seems like you’re the one defending misogyny, not anti-porn feminists. Harlot is a hateful word, designed by men to degrade women who have sex.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 4:55 pm

The Nordic model still criminalises sex work just via the clients, and it endangers women sex workers.

I stand by my statement.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 5:07 pm

You stand by your statement that isn’t true QRG?

You said this:

“The judgement of feminists of women in the sex industry stretches to lobbying for laws to criminalise and restrict those women”

That is a lie. Criminalisation means to make an activity a crime and to arrest and prosecute the person who is undertaking that activity. The only people who would be arrested and prosecuted under the Nordic model are pimps and punters. Prostituted people and their activities would be *decriminalised*. The opposite of what you are claiming.

I don’t understand why you would say things that aren’t true, and when they are shown to be incorrect, stand by them. Who does that help?

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 5:13 pm

I believe the nordic model criminalises the sex workers through the criminalisation of their clients. Their work becomes within the realms of ‘criminal activity’.

I campaign to decriminalise sex work altogether the whole transaction. You can’t have an activity be deemed completely non-criminal if one of the parties risks prosecution for taking part in it.

This is my view.

Let’s move on the discussion needn’t be stalled by us arguing.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 5:22 pm

“I believe the nordic model criminalises the sex workers through the criminalisation of their clients. Their work becomes within the realms of ‘criminal activity’.”

You can believe it, but it doesn’t make it true. Criminalisation has a specific meaning – the Nordic model *decriminalises* prostituted people. To claim that criminalising pimps and punters somehow magically extends that criminality to prostituted people is just tendentious nonsense and you should stop saying it.

But you’re right, let’s move on. Let’s talk about Charlie Glickman and the salary he earns at Good Vibrations that comes in part from the sale of porn, and why we might think he’d have a vested interest in attack anti-porn campaigners.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 13 March 2011 at 6:26 pm

Good Vibrations is a sex toy company that includes sex education in its work from what I can see.

It doesn’t make porn but it does sell porn films via its website.

Charlie is the sex educator there who trains staff and does outreach workshops.

He probably is interested in supporting women who work in/have worked in the sex industry because it is an industry he knows something about, works in himself, and understands via his training as a sex educator.

I would not say he has a ‘vested interest’ in porn per se, as he could work as a sex educator in a range of contexts.

If you want to hassle Charlie you can contact him via his blog. I can’t speak for him.

sianushka // Posted 13 March 2011 at 7:44 pm

Argh! just deleted my comment!

Starting again…

So, it seems to me that it isn’t feminists who stigmatise women who are in the sex industry, so much as the makers and many of the consumers of porn, and the men who pay for sex. From porn that refers to the women in it as nothing but dirty, to the commenters on punternet who refer to women with sickening levels of contempt. It isn’t feminists writing those comments. It’s the men who pay for sex. One study conducted by The Safer Middlesbrough Partnership found that 2/3 of men surveyed who had been arrested for kerb crawling described women in the sex industry as ‘dirty and inferior’. They’re not feminists. They’re the men for whom, according to the TV ad for ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’ a woman’s body is ‘a big deal’.

Seriously, if you want to see true women hating go on that punternet website. See how much the men who pay for sex respect women. If you find that kind of language in feminist conversations about the sex industry, i’ll eat my proverbial hat.

Whether the pro sex industry lobby like it or not, and whether they want to admit or not, rape, violence and murder run through the sex industry like a nightmare. There was one case in Bristol where i live where a woman who worked as a prostitute was gang raped and thrown out of a 3-storey window, left to die. According to the British Nursing Journal, an average of 6 women who work as prostitutes are murdered each year. Survey after study expose the levels of PTSD, violence, rape and abuse that women in the sex industry are exposed to. Even “pro” sex industry writers like Miss S write about violence and coercion that brings a lump to your throat. Now, i believe that there are some women in the industry who are happy and enjoy it and make a good living. Who never feel the threat of violence. But there are many who don’t. And we should listen to the latter group, just as we should listen to the former group.

I don’t understand why the post says that feminists don’t care about the language in porn. I care! I care that all over the internet, all over lad’s mags, women are referred to with vile contempt. I care that language in porn glamourises incest, or makes out that all women want it really. And i am not the only one.

I wish we had the answers, i know i don’t. But many of the feminists i talk to believe in rights for women in the sex industry. Why wouldn’t we? The right to be safe from violence, the right to not be pushed underground. But I also think we need to tackle demand, because as far as i can tell, no-one ever died by not paying for sex, but a lot of women have died for selling it. I support the Nordic model that criminalises the johns rather than the women who sell sex. However, i agree that the debate shouldnt be NZL vs Nordic, and we need to find the way that protects and supports the women in the industry the most, rather than putting the rights of pimps and punters first.

I hate the way debates around the sex industry become us vs them. That if you are ‘against’ the sex industry then you are against the women who work in it, it’s bullshit frankly. We have to stand together against the capitalist, patriarchal structures that allow women to be raped for profit. (i know that men work/are trafficked in the sex industry too and i don’t want to diminish their experience by not talking about them, but as the OP was concerned with women i have kept that in mind).

A final word on porn. I think we have to have a grown up, no mud-slinging conversation about porn. But i see study after convincing study that link the proliferation of imagery/language that degrades women with a greater tolerance of sexist attitudes. The APA has done much research in this area. And it isn’t surprising really, when acts such as ATM, which aren’t about women’s pleasure and doesn’t enhance men’s pleasure are so common. the whole point of ATM is to degrade the woman. There’s nothing wrong with images of sex or expressions of sexuality and i really support Nina Power’s theories on this, but there is something wrong with not knowing when you download porn whether it is consensual or note.

Finally, as far as i can tell, it wasn’t feminists telling Tera Myers to resign. It was the people with attitudes that despise women’s sexuality, and think that women who have a past in the sex industry are ‘dirty’. People precisely like those who consume the sex industry, as shown on punternet, as shown in the study i quoted, as shown in the language of lad’s mags.

You’re not finding that language on the Object website, are you?

sianushka // Posted 13 March 2011 at 7:48 pm

Also, lets not forget the racism and homophobia that populates so much of porn.

And the sex industry itself for that matter, such as the boom in mail order brides.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 13 March 2011 at 8:12 pm

Okay. No more focussing the arguments against individual people. The involvement of individual anti-porn feminists, pro-porn feminists, and everyone in between is not what the discussion needs to be about.

I’ll keep publishing all comments relevant to the issues, and which don’t break the comment guidelines. But no more individual attacks.

polly // Posted 13 March 2011 at 8:15 pm

Well I’m a lesbian and I’d call myself a feminist.

Last time I checked I wasn’t responsible for Teresa Myers losing her job though. And I very much doubt any lesbian feminists put pressure on her to resign.

Maybe Jess could cite a SPECIFIC lesbian feminist she is referring to, what that person’s views are and explain why she then assumes that all lesbians who are also feminists hold the same views and why the fact that they are lesbians is connected with them holding those views? Instead of talking in generalisations with no back up?

Otherwise I’ll assume she’s just being lesbophobic. I really don’t see how you can make a sweeping negative generalisation about lesbians without being lesbophobic.

From my own lived experience (if that is to be the gold standard of all social commentary) lesbians are frequently assumed to be women who just need a good fuck/can’t get a man – and I’ve had plenty of homophobic abuse shouted at me in that vein.

It is therefore pretty discombobulating to come onto a feminist blog and see the exact same views being expressed.

Katharine // Posted 13 March 2011 at 8:35 pm

A whole-hearted “second!” to all that sianushka says.

To add to her point about language: almost all oppressed groups are referred to with special derogatory language by their oppressors. Dehumanizing a group is a pre-requisite of abusing them, in many cases. The verbal abuse of women in porn is no different from other dehumanizing words in other contexts of oppression. Think of how often women in porn are referred to by terms that reduce them to a single body part, compare them to animals, or refer to their functions as receptacles for male bodily fluids. These are all ways to dehumanize someone. And that is without even considering words that refer to promiscuous women, words which are sometimes ‘reclaimed’ and the derogatory function of which is therefore more debatable.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 10:24 pm

I think a lot of ground has been covered since this morning, so I’m going to respond to a few things at a time here.. I apologise from being absent for part of the day, but I’m moving house unexpectedly.

On lesbian feminism and what I’m taking to be either biphobia or slut shaming of straight women, or of women who have had sex with men… the entire founding concept of political lesbianism, as advocated by Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel among others is that heterosexual or bisexual women are sleeping with the enemy. While I can understand the choice to engage in political lesbianism, what I think Jess is getting at is an attitude- whether it originates from lesbian feminism solely or not (I don’t believe it does)- of there being something wrong with women who either aren’t ‘real’ lesbians OR who aren’t ‘really’ committed to the feminist cause because they aren’t lesbians, or aren’t lesbians ‘by choice’. Maybe I’ve misread her comment. But I agree with her. And I’m a gay woman.

I don’t know where the idea has come from that the school Tera (not Teresa, as someone said) Myers worked at was run by anti-porn campaigners, or lesbians, or feminists, or some combination of the three- and yes, she did resign. It’s clear that she resigned because of a fear of backlash… from an anti-porn school system, like the one she was fired from in 2006. Of course maybe I’m putting words and thoughts in her mouth and she just resigned because she decided teaching simply wasn’t her calling. Schools- and mums, and dads, and plenty of community leader types- are traditionally pretty anti-porn. They’re also traditionally pretty hypocritical on women versus men’s abuses of power (which being in porn 15 years ago isn’t) as well as their sexual histories. Surprise surprise, this tends to work against the women more than the men. But schools are generally anti-porn, just not because they’re feminist. Anti-porn feminists, on the other hand, are informed by more (I would hope) than a Victorian sense of THE CHILDREN. So when a woman is punished by the education system, or by the media, for her past in porn, I think it is reasonable for me (or anyone else who cares about sex activism and gender activism and sexism and the treatment of people in the sex industry) to expect anti-porn feminists ESPECIALLY to be there.

I haven’t said that Gail Dines shouldn’t lecture or host conferences. Rather I suggest, accurately I think, that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to add protesting the maltreatment by mainstream non-activists of women who have left the sex industry to your busy rota of being in the ivory tower and lending your name to organisations which are antithetical to encouraging the participation of the women who are supposed to be saved by your activism. Why is this such a controversial statement? It’s not even a criticism of anti-porn views, or of anti-porn activism as such. It’s a question: why has there been no comment? There was similarly no comment on Melissa Petro last September or on Sarah Green, as far as I can find, in 2008. I don’t think that it’s an entirely unreasonable point to raise.

As to the person who commented this morning about volunteering other activists for work- am I really, though? This is supposed to be part and parcel of anti-porn work, or so I thought. I was surprised when I searched after reading Charlie Glickman’s post that he seemed to be right. Since anti-porn feminists aren’t likely to read his blog, and since I’m a feminist who definitely gives a shit about the issue, I thought I would write a blog post.

As for your accusation that I’m not involved in activism that supports women who leave sex work… well, I don’t work for Pink Cross or Eaves or Genesis Leeds, and I haven’t started my own organisation, that’s true. But I joined and got heavily involved with the NUS Women’s Campaign last year on the basis of my beliefs about improving society and laws and policies for women in the sex industry, and about yes, rehabilitating feminism- which for the record largely continues to exclude women of colour, trans women, immigrant women, and yes, women in the sex industry. It’s not anti-feminist to say the movement needs to change. I’m a feminist. I work hard. I work to fight rape and victim blaming- I organised the first Reclaim the Night march in my city and have started a women’s network. I don’t want to over claim credit for things I’ve only had a small part in moving forward. I’ve participated in Feminist Fridays- not necessarily because I wholeheartedly support them or Object personally, but because I wanted to know what it was like and to understand them. But anyway- the NUS Women’s Campaign has been very successful in generating data on violence against women- a project started before I joined up- and as a result of cuts and information is looking to do research into students in shadow economies. That includes sex work. So while I haven’t driven all of this, I’d like to think my contributions have played a role (and will continue to do so) in some of it. And for the further record- blogging, and writing, IS activism. You can dismount now, I think. That horse seems tired to me.

To the commenters saying this post ‘should’ have been about pro-porn and pro-sex work and porn consumption… why? There are a million posts like that out there. And some of you have tried mightily hard to bring those same arguments here, but I’m not making a pro-porn or pro-sex work or pro-industry or pro-consumption point. I’m a feminist, calling on other feminists. I’m not defending porn consumption and I’m not defending demand by straight men for demeaning women or for demeaning images of women. I’m also not exonerating porn consumers from their responsibility to consume with awareness or ethically- and I do believe porn can be ethical- or from their responsibility to fight misogyny whether it’s internalised or something they see.

To Polly- I agree that there is a lot of lesbian-phobia in mainstream culture, however there is a particular polemic of radical lesbian feminism to which I (like Philippa) believe Jess was referring.

To the comments that generally deny the alienating nature of feminism towards women in the sex industry… well, I’m not in the sex industry, but I think that groups like the English Collective of Prostitutes, which somehow manages to both recognise the less than ideal circumstances of exploitative culture and misogyny that lead some women to sex work and still calls for full decriminalisation of both workers and clients, probably know better than Demand Change! what they are talking about. There is a need to recognise that not all migrant women are trafficked and that not all prostitutes or women elsewhere in sex work are entirely passive, or feel entirely damaged, by their experience. I think it’s possible for me to be a feminist and recognise that rights for sex workers are important and that assistance should be on their terms, not feminism’s terms. The goals of feminism aren’t always the goals of people who work in areas that feminism seeks to involve itself in- and in those cases I believe, as a feminist, that the autonomy of those women must come first. And I can say all this and still support efforts against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Magic. That, however, is not the stance of Object or Demand Change or CAT or most other feminist anti-trafficking organisations. So… I think my point stands.

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 10:25 pm

Neither of the posts I made criticising men were personal attacks Philippa, they were feminist commentary.

We have men in our midst men with some very misogynistic interests attacking anti-porn feminists. Their agendas need to be examined.

Also if you aren’t interested in personal criticism of people on this thread, then you need to remove the original blog post because according to Jennifer on her Twitter account, she’s using this post to have a go at Gail Dines:

“@earwicga well, i refer specifically to gail dines at the end of the post; but she’s an easy target on either side of the pond”

Nice to see a feminist calling another feminist an “easy target”. What exactly is going on here?

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:18 pm

@delphyne yes. because what i meant by that was ‘let’s all bash gail dines’ and not ‘she’s an extremely prominent and virulently anti-porn feminist who is an example of what i am talking about and the most obvious choice to refer to’ when you’ll note i have done the latter, and not the former. and i haven’t said anything about personal comments on this blog, have i? or made any. i also think she IS an easy target- and i’m looking to challenge more than big name feminists who probably don’t even read the f word.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:25 pm

@delphyne i reread your comment and i’m boggled, actually- in what way does that tweet remotely support your argument that i’m ‘using this post to have a go at gail dines’? surely i would email gail dines herself if i wanted to have a go at her over anything. my tweet means, and implies, and was intended to imply, the exact opposite- that WHILE gail dines is in my phrasing ‘an easy target’, she’s not necessarily who i’m speaking to or about, even though i reference her- mainly because she is a touchstone point of reference when talking about anti-porn campaigning.

would you care to clarify?

delphyne // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:36 pm

I’d say this post was pretty much all about bashing anti-porn feminists, actually Jennifer – whether you referred to Dines as a target on your Twitter account or not.

If you want to support Tera Myers, which I agree is a good idea, then why don’t you just do it? Which is what my question about your activism was, not about what you were doing generally, but what you were doing for Tera. Why did you have to make the focus of this post unfair and incorrect criticism of anti-porn feminists? It detracts from the important message that women should not be stigmatised because of their participation in porn or the rest of the sex industry. I also don’t know any anti-porn feminists who who would agree they should be regardless of your (incorrect) claims otherwise.

P.S. English Collective of Prostitutes aren’t actually prostituted women, all their spokespeople are marxist activists as far as I know. Doesn’t stop them representing themselves as prostituted women to the media though.

Katharine // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:46 pm

To Jennifer Krase: I’m sure that you are indeed able to ‘be a feminist and recognise that rights for sex workers are important and that assistance should be on their terms, not feminism’s terms.’ I hope I’m able to do so too. But the problem is that it’s very hard to say what terms those are. The voices of pro-prostitution organizations might represent some women who work as prostitutes, but I believe that there are many more prostituted women who are trafficked, coerced, and enslaved, who don’t have the ability or resources to speak out in that kind of way. Their ‘terms’ might be different, and they might have different ideas about what rights they need. This doesn’t mean we ought not to listen to organizations that speak for some prostitute women, but I think it does mean that feminists calling for an end to the sex industry as a whole are not necessarily ignoring the importance of securing rights for prostitutes and the prostituted.

I think – I hope – that everyone wants the same thing, to end the abuse and torture of all women, whether they work as prostitutes or not. And yes, I do believe that some women who are not trafficked or directly forced by other individuals to work as prostitutes do endure treatment amounts to abuse and torture. The problem is that no-one knows how to bring that about. (I include women who perform/are forced to perform in pornography within this analysis).

This is where I think that your call for anti-porn activists to do more to help women who have exited pornography is misplaced. Not because they shouldn’t be doing that, or because it’s unreasonable to ask them to do that. It’s great that you’re pointing this out. But your call for action is intertwined with negative claims about anti-porn feminism – eg, you condemn activists for supporting ‘organisations which are antithetical to encouraging the participation of the women who are supposed to be saved by their] activism.’ What I’m trying to argue is that the organizations you seem to have in mind (OBJECT etc) are not necessarily problematic in the way you suggest them to be. By all means, ask the question, but if you’re going to accompany it with criticisms of anti-porn activism as contrary to the autonomy of women who work, or are forced to work, in pornography or as prostitutes then I think this requires more substantiation.

Katharine // Posted 13 March 2011 at 11:52 pm

Also, Jennifer: I guess another way of saying what I’m trying to say is this: you might be able to say everything you say and still support efforts against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. (And I’m sure that you do). But the question is whether efforts against human trafficking and exploitation are most effectively furthered by the stance you take, or by the stance you criticize. That question seems to me to be the real point, and I don’t think what you say addresses it. Hope that makes sense.

figleaf // Posted 14 March 2011 at 12:37 am

While I was a little bewildered by the initial tone the question itself seems straightforward enough: given that for sex workers to successfully exit sex work it is necessary that they not be stigmatized after they do so, what can be done to protect them, defend them, and proactively alter the environment such that they aren’t left with this hanging over them?

It’s not a trivial question. Nor is it creditable to dodge the question, as Polly did, when the former sex worker chooses to resign instead of face the dirt-digging and reputation-dragging hostility of a termination hearing. Because gee, don’t you think if she’d had a little support from a few prominent anti-porn activists (feminist or traditional/conservative) it might have given her the courage to fight? I mean, if we’re not willing to fight for her it makes it a heck of a lot harder for her to fight for herself.

I’d add that even if Charlie Glickman was the pimp, pornographer, trafficker, and al Qaeda operative folks are accusing him of being that actually makes it look worse not better that he’s the one leading opposition to her wrongful persecution instead of more prominent, influential, and (presumably) more “respectable” anti-porn activists?

I’d add that it’s not like this is an isolated incident, right? Just a few weeks ago the same thing happened to another teacher, Melissa Petro, that time in New York. (And for the record she too resigned rather than get dragged through an elaborate firing process.) And given that there are on the orders of millions of other exited sex workers there’s exactly zero chance that the situation won’t rise again.

Now of course the conservative and neoconservative anti-porn position is that each time a woman (for some reason those guys think it’s always and only women) gets slut-shamed for having been a sex worker (even an involuntary one) it serves as a warning to any other dirty sluts who might consider either voluntarily or involuntarily following suit. That’s fine for them because they actually *want* it both ways.

And it’s… not great but not surprising when the dupes, useful idiots, and fellow travelers of conservative anti-porn types fail to respond. Gail Dines and, say, Donna Hughes are too tightly allied with patriarchal anti-porn to feel comfortable rocking the boat on Myers’s or Petro’s behalf.

But there are obviously many, many other feminists who oppose porn without compromising their principles who could get out in front on this.

Since there’s already quite enough shame being spread around I’d like to rephrase Glickman and Jennifer’s question from an accusation to an invitation: I would like to invite our friends in the anti-porn movement to actively support sex workers when they are outed and shamed. Ideally all sex workers but if that’s too much to ask then at least those who have moved on to other things.

It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the *strategic* thing: pimps, for instance, are *notorious* for using the “nobody else will have you now” approach to keep their subjects in sex work. Consequently standing strongly and saying “oh yes they will” will make a big difference. Standing up and excoriating the school boards and shock-radio jocks who reinforce the pimps’ message would make an even bigger difference.

figleaf

MariaS // Posted 14 March 2011 at 12:56 am

Jennifer K – a late reply to your reply to me. Yes, your post came across as focused on discrediting anti-porn activism, and yes, as a bit of a “gotcha” at it. Great if that wasn’t your intent, but I was responding to what you wrote.

“No room for defending women who eventually buy into our definition of liberation – a life free from the sex industry – only to find themselves turfed out from work as well as feminism’s protective umbrella, once again alongside the teeming masses of other people Society and anti-porn have deemed unfit for service.”

This for example is an incredibly sweeping and a very loaded thing to say. It’s a vast leap to say that because after 4 days since the story broke some individuals and groups that you think ought to make public comment on it haven’t (and might never), for what might be any number of reasons, then this shows that all anti-porn activists see “teeming masses” of people as “unfit for service”. And that “anti-porn” is the same as “Society”.

(It also implies that women who leave the sex industry do so because they’ve been persuaded to do so by feminist arguments. I’d think it way more probable that women who leave the sex industry do so because that’s what they’ve decided is the best thing for them at that time, or because other opportunities have become available, or other life circumstances. From the news reports about Tera Myers, it sounds as if her experience of being in porn was not part of a good time in her life. She didn’t seek to be under a feminist “umbrella” but was trying to get through and out of several different problems in her life. As far as I can see, it’s she herself who gives her story as having changed her life for the better by going into the army, going to university and having embraced religion. Maybe she is just going along, for the sake of what little less hassle it might save her, with the pressure to present it as something in her past she now dutifully regrets – but on the face of it it may be that that is really how she sees it.)

Alienating women in the sex industry from feminism is those women disagreeing with feminist arguments and activism, but isn’t the same as causing harm to women in the sex industry.

No, I don’t have a list of high profile anti-porn activists, that was my point, it’s all a bit mythical. You talk as if there is a powerful and influential feminist anti-porn lobby that actually has significant clout, but only refer to one academic and campaign group in the US, and to one UK campaign group. If there were a raft of high profile activists, you’d know about them, by them being high profile. Even those you refer to aren’t well known outside of feminism. Feminist voices in all areas are incredibly marginalised – within the sex industry and within mainstream media alike. Getting even general anti-sexism or anti-objectification arguments to be taken seriously is an uphill struggle. The bulk of feminist anti-sex-industry opinion is individual women speaking critically about the sex industry and about related stuff like sexual objectification. (Myself, I just read and think a lot about the issues and arguments, in books and online, and occasionally comment on a blog or discuss it in real life).

Why do you say Gail Dines is “virulently anti-porn”? You seemed to say in reply to me that you didn’t disagree that there were big problems with mainstream porn’s depiction of women. Gail Dines’ work articulates those problems. However, to describe her opinions as “virulent” sounds really dismissive.

“It needs to be spelled out each and everytime a woman is publicly shamed over her past in the sex industry, by feminists of every stripe, in every country, in every language. Because that’s sexual shame, and when it’s directed at women it feeds, as we hopefully all acknowledge, the wider problem of misogyny.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this.

So, who do we protest to? Who needs to be called out? The school? not without knowing more certainly if Myers was pressured to resign, and also not without knowing whether Myers wants to return there. The media – definitely, there’s a lot of reporting fail, in the several news media articles I’ve read on this. Maybe we need a list of ways not to write about people who used to be in the sex industry that can be easily linked to or put into letters of complaint – off the top of my head, from the articles i read, don’t publish photos of the person, don’t detail the name they used in the sex industry so that material they were in can be easily sought out, don’t publish stills of the video they were in, don’t imply that there was something criminal in what they did when there wasn’t, don’t give credence to ill-thought-out opinions that their history makes them unfit for whatever role that they were successfully fulfilling before their history was disclosed. What about a letter and asking people and organisations to support by co-signing? What about a petition? To particular news organisations? Or a general statement in support of Tera Myers? Petitions seem to work well when used to call out media. Online petitions such as at change.org enable people to quickly and simply put their voice behind a statement or complaint. Change.org has lots of advice too.

(I don’t have time to write or organise any of this. I’m just throwing ideas out there from five minutes rushed thinking.)

Kit // Posted 14 March 2011 at 7:06 am

@Jennifer Krase – I like this comment :) It’s disappointing and bizarre that you’re having to defend yourself and the article here due to tactics usually used to silence feminists and derail feminist discussion o_O

polly // Posted 14 March 2011 at 8:28 am

Jennifer – I’m a lesbian who also happens to be a feminist. As it happens, I couldn’t disagree more with Julie Bindel and Sheila Jeffreys on the subject of political lesbianism, to suggest that women who identify themselves as heterosexual/bisexual should force themselves to be lesbians is not only utterly irrational and not going to work, but I respect my non lesbian friends enough to assume that they can make up their minds for themselves who they want to have sex with.

However I never met ONE real life lesbian who holds this view. Not one. Ever.

Some of my friends would describe themselves as feminists, some wouldn’t. However all are lesbians SOLELY because they are sexually attracted to women.

I actually think that ‘political lesbianism’ (as opposed to separatism which is a valid choice for any woman, whatever their sexual orientation) is a lesbophobic concept – it denies that women are sexually attracted to women, and represents being a lesbian as simply a woman who refuses men – which chimes in, somewhat ironically with mainstream society’s views of lesbians as asexual women who hate/fear men and neatly erases lesbian sexuality.

So to claim that lesbians as a group (not Julie Bindel or Sheila Jeffreys specifically) hold these views is lesbophobic. Because they are two people and not representative of most lesbians in any way, shape or form.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 14 March 2011 at 8:40 am

And yet again, Delphyne, I’d encourage you to read my post before replying, not not read someone else’s post before you reply to mine! I haven’t said that anti-porn feminists or anti-porn campaigners that women should be stigmatised because of their participation in porn or the sex industry. I’ve questioned why, when a media case about a women who experiences who occurs, the anti-porn lobby aren’t among the FIRST to respond. Instead they seem to be among the LAST. And I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that simply continuing on a head-down keep-working track is good enough. If anti-porn campaigners really believe that they’re in the right then where are they when actual human people are being victimised long after they’ve ended their involvement with the sex industry? Why don’t they look at their campaigns and look at the media coverage and the lack of understanding shown by the general public- the indiscriminately porn consuming, non-feminist, not-in-the-sex-industry, largely-apolitical public- of women and to women in the sex industry and STEP UP THEIR CAMPAIGNS to undermine whorephobia?

But that would mean questioning some of the undoubtedly whorephobic attitudes that seem to appear in the anti-porn lobby… which are, yes, unfeminist, because generally speaking all of that is directed at women.

Guess what, Delphyne, criticising the lack of action in one part of my movement when I have seen post after comment from those evil pro-porn people both online and in person? That’s not bashing. I’m sorry you feel bashed. That’s not my intent, but I understand feeling attacked. It sucks that your feelings are the collateral damage of being asked to think more critically about your own beliefs. I sympathise. But I’m not ‘bashing’. I’m not feminist bashing, I’m not anti-porn bashing, and I’m not woman-bashing. I’m media-bashing. I’m society-bashing. I’m patriarchy bashing. And I’ve given the people I’m challenging- anti-porn folk- more than ample room to respond here. I haven’t risen to personal comments except to answer questions.

And a note on the ECP: once again I’m glad to see that you can just dismiss a group which not only advocates for but also spends a lot of time working directly with sex workers in a support capacity. Now that you can dismiss them as both ‘not prostituted women’ (a convenient departure from your previous apparent definition that all women working as prostitutes are ‘prostituted’, note the passive implications there that have mysteriously opened up to more than one kind of woman working in sex work), as well as MARXIST, because god forbid we have any socialists working for women, I suppose that means that your organisations of choice are right because they’re… what, non-Marxist and don’t contain any prostitutes? Great, that’s encouraging.

I find it interesting that it somehow matters that their spokespeople are Marxist activists, as if socialist feminists haven’t played a sort of key role in… oh I don’t know, feminism? Suffrage for one?

Jennifer Krase // Posted 14 March 2011 at 8:53 am

On the subject of supporting Tera Myers: since people seem to agree that it’s a good idea, I’d like to know what people think is the best way to show that support.

One idea I had and started tweeting about when I first read about her resignation/the media circus around it (which is admittedly local, though the Internet has boosted the signal considerably) was to write to her via the school principal. Seeing as she hasn’t been fired, I was going to write a letter that was very simple and which opposed the way the media had covered it and the notion that she should have to resign. But I don’t know if that would be nice to receive, or patronising, given that she’s resigned, on paper at least, to respect her family’s privacy. Presumably what happened in 2006 did some lasting damage seeing as she changed her name.

Then I thought about a letter writing campaign to media outlets. Obviously one letter from one angry feminist in Wales isn’t going to cut it. Which is why I am taking action on my own, but I wonder… what do people in the comments think is the right course of action to take? Not necessarily out of these two, because they might be terribly unoriginal and ineffective suggestions.

Thoughts- from anyone commenting- are obviously welcome.

Jess // Posted 14 March 2011 at 9:14 am

“On lesbian feminism and what I’m taking to be either biphobia or slut shaming of straight women, or of women who have had sex with men… the entire founding concept of political lesbianism, as advocated by Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel among others is that heterosexual or bisexual women are sleeping with the enemy. While I can understand the choice to engage in political lesbianism, what I think Jess is getting at is an attitude- whether it originates from lesbian feminism solely or not (I don’t believe it does)- of there being something wrong with women who either aren’t ‘real’ lesbians OR who aren’t ‘really’ committed to the feminist cause because they aren’t lesbians, or aren’t lesbians ‘by choice’. Maybe I’ve misread her comment. But I agree with her. And I’m a gay woman”

So … if we start from the quote from JK and then broaden it. I was agreeing with JK’s basic premise that the anti-porn movement (largely made up of lesbian feminists?) seems to have done little to mitigate the social punishment (economic exclusion) of women who have left sex industry. I posited the view that this is peculiar given that it is probably poverty that get women into sex work in the first place. I then suggested that lesbian feminisms ‘issues’ (detailed above by JK) around sexual purity (ie ‘sleeping with the enemy) exactly mirror patriarchal narratives of the virgin/whore dichotomy. And a first experience of this attitude is part of my lived experience as when I came out, after a ten year marriage to a man, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was a whore. Therefore I suggested that perhaps the anti-sex work lobby’s silence around issues such as a woman leaving the sex industry being discriminated against economically and socially punatively expresses a wish not to support women whose choice they do not ‘approve’ of – and more crudely not wanting to be contaminated by the sexually impure by too close an association.

Having said, perhaps the real reason the anti-sex work lobby has been silent around issues such as a woman leaving the sex industry being discriminated against economically is as much about social class as it is about issues around sexual purity. Women may well be a political class but that political class is stratified along economic lines. And what I do know is that liberal middle class women will protect their own and their daughters economic/class priviledge whatever else they may believe. Therefore perhaps the issue of anti-porn lobby’s silence around the exclusion from legitimated paid work of (poor/working class) women who have sex worked just boils down to class politics.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 14 March 2011 at 10:54 am

This is ridiculous. I’d like to hear from some other people apart from delphyne about how being ‘anti-porn’ or ‘anti-sex industry’ feminists actually serves to support women who work in the sex industry at some point in their lives.

HarpyMarx // Posted 14 March 2011 at 12:19 pm

I think this is a useful and interesting piece from Jennifer as debate is vital for this specific discussion. Personally, I take an anti-censorship stance on porn and support decriminalisation and unionisation of sex workers.

That said I think it is important to have an open and honest debate on this without one side being held up as the better one to take while, for example, anti-censorship stance on porn has been side-lined. And that’s not debate.

And as we see from the number of comments, this is (and has been) still a contentious issue along with sex work.

On the issue of Tera Myers, I agree with Jennifer, where are the anti-porn activists defending Tera. I remember the 1980s and the anti-porn campaigns and MacKinnon/Dworkin which led to many anti-porn campaigners making unpleasant alliances with the right-wing moralistic Republicans. It disturbed me at the time and still does.

As a Socialist feminist shouldn’t it be about making alliances and uniting with sex workers and women in the porn industry on their terms? Shouldn’t it be about open discussion on the role of porn and commodification in a patriarchal capitalist society? Around objectification and the use of porn, fantasises and the complexities of sex. Is porn the theory and rape the practice? Hasn’t violence against women existed well before pornography?

And so on…sorry if I have gone a bit off topic.

Random Observer // Posted 14 March 2011 at 5:51 pm

There have been a number of comments here to the effect that anti-sex industry feminists do not condemn the women in the sex industry. This certainly does not jibe with what I’ve seen.

I offer the following from a thread following a recent Laurie Penny column at New Statesmen:

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/03/women-sheen-press-sex-drug#reader-comments

“gerry

13 March 2011 at 18:09

Good points about Sheen, Laurie – he is a disgusting self-hating woman-hating lowlife, just like Jack Nicholson and Mel Gibson and OJ Simpson and Mike Tyson and Roman Polanksi and so many more “artists” and “sportsmen” seem to be..

But please dont glamorise female prostitution by calling them “sex workers”!

In a civilised society, a woman who chooses to go into prostitution (NOT those women who have been trafficked or forced into it)is a disgrace and a traitor to her sex…all she does is to reinforce some men’s views of themselves as superior, by proving that they can buy a real woman’s body for sex.

Prostitution – and pornography- totally degrades women, and laws against them should be enforced.

Those who use prostitutes, too, as in sweden , should also feel the full force of the law, named and shamed and convicted!

But any woman who goes with Sheen, or Gibson,or Nicholson, or Gascoigne…is a very sick and masochistic woman!”

The above is simply a more-explicitly stated version of much of the rhetoric I’ve seen out of the anti-porn/anti-prostitution camp for decades. Either identify as a victim and tow the radical feminist party line, or you’re a traitor to your sex. So, yes, anti-prostitution feminists support former sex workers like Rebecca Mott. But they’re quite hostile to anybody who doesn’t take that line, which the majority of vocal and activists sex worker don’t.

Other examples would include radfem blogger Laurelin in the Rain who openly pits “survivors” against “sex workers”, and treats the latter as the enemy. Also worth a mention is a particular radical feminist clique on YouTube that has taken up this line and had used this as an excuse to bully several sex worker activists for months on end.

So clearly a lot of anti-sex industry feminists see sex workers as either victims or outright enemies, and not much in between.

Laurelin // Posted 14 March 2011 at 7:30 pm

As Random Observer’s mischaracterisation of my blog is a personal attack, I’m not sure why the F Word saw fit to publish it. Also, Rebecca Mott is an exited prostituted woman; she argues against the term ‘sex worker’ and certainly does not use it to describe herself!

But everyone should feel free to come to my blog and judge for yourselves. I am curious to see what you’ll make of it; I trust with will not make you blue.

delphyne // Posted 14 March 2011 at 8:01 pm

I love socialists. I am one. I think Marx was bang on the money.

I’m just not keen on a bunch of Marxist entryists using feminism to promote their socialist revolution on the backs of extremely vulnerable women, Jennifer. Just because they haven’t been able to organise other industries properly doens’t mean that they get to try and legitimise the sex industry, so they can do what? Negotiate with pimps as employers? It’s ridiculous and it’s anti-woman. Prostitution is abuse in the majority of cases, not work.

As for the rest. Yes you are anti-porn feminist bashing. I don’t know why you would claim otherwise. We can all read your original post and the responses youve made here.

I’m just sick that the F-word gave you a platform. Way to go F-word encouraging attacks on other feminists.

polly // Posted 14 March 2011 at 8:30 pm

Does it occur to any of those talking about ‘supporting’ Tera Myers that maybe she resigned because she didn’t want herself and her family to be subject to even more publicity and discussion?

My point about those who ran the school she worked at not being anti porn activists, is that anti porn activists are not responsible for her resigning – not that I ACTUALLY thought they ran the school she worked at.

But – leaving aside the fact that anti porn activists have personal lives and jobs and don’t have unlimited hours in the day any more than any of the rest of us, has it ever entered anyone’s head to wonder whether maybe, just maybe, they though it wasn’t their place in any way to interfere with Tera Myer’s decisions about her own life?

I find it surprising that a group of women who talk about women’s choice to be a sex worker not being respected, then think we should ignore her OWN decision to leave a job, and try to second guess it.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 14 March 2011 at 9:00 pm

The disingenuity of some of these responses is flooring me.

And also it is a defensive reaction on the part of people who actually don’t think about sex workers as people very often at all. when they are forced to it shows they don’t really know what to say.

I am interested to hear how some of these feminists square their lobbying work with OBJECT, Eaves, Fawcett, Demand Change and supporting those sex workers who DO NOT wish to leave their jobs. Or who wish to choose when to do so of their own accord.

polly // Posted 14 March 2011 at 9:21 pm

Jess – many women who oppose porn are heterosexual. Catherine Mackinnon for instance.

I have no idea what Gail Dines’ sexual orientation is, I can’t find that information anywhere.

I also have no idea who ‘told you in no uncertain terms’ that you were a “whore”, or in what circumstances, but that still doesn’t mean that person (whoever they were) is representative of lesbian feminists.

I can appreciate it has made an impact on you, but you seem to be leaping from one incident to making generalisations about a whole group of people.

I don’t think Julie Bindel or Sheila Jeffreys call women who sleep with men ‘whores’ either, they advocate that it is harmful to women – a position I don’t agree with for the reasons I’ve already set out. But if you can find an instance of either of them (or any other lesbian feminist) doing that I’m willing to stand corrected.

It’s very true that there are class issues in feminism – but again I don’t see this as being an issue for lesbians in particular, because lesbians come from all social classes.

But the main point is – lesbian feminists don’t run the world in any case. The only lesbian feminist in the organisation I work for in any position of real power is the inevitable equal opportunities officer. The rest of the senior posts are very much filled by the usual white men in suits.

And it is THESE people who exclude exited sex workers from other types of employment. Not feminists of any stripe by and large.

So why exactly is everyone so keen to blame lesbians? Unlike heterosexual (or even bisexual) women, lesbians don’t have the force of mainstream culture behind them. Lesbians are largely not running the world, they not in charge of the economic system and they are not responsible for Tera Myers feeling under pressure to resign from her job.

Unless you’re just lesbophobic? That is the only reason I can think of for everyone having such a downer on ‘lesbian feminists’.

Women who refuse sex with men (for whatever reason) are culturally disapproved of. I’ve never heard of a woman having ‘straight’ shouted at her in the street as a term of abuse, but I’ve had ‘lesbian’ yelled at me as abuse on a fairly frequent basis.

Lesbians DO NOT have power over heterosexual women. So even if they do disapprove of women having sex with men, they still don’t have the cultural power to control heterosexual women’s (culturally endorsed) behaviour.

Women are hardly likely to not have sex with men because Julie Bindel and Sheila Jeffreys might get upset, let’s face it.

aimee // Posted 14 March 2011 at 9:37 pm

@Polly – I’m confused too. I don’t really understand this article at all… Why are anti-porn protesters being blamed for one woman’s experience? Why is there an anti porn/pro porn divide at all? All this nonsense about ‘fake feminists’..? All feminists surely want the best for women…? that means both protection from exploitation and free choice…? I don’t get all the venom.

And I definitely don’t get the bit about the lesbiens.

Random Observer // Posted 14 March 2011 at 9:44 pm

Actually, Polly, people like Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel have quite a bit of political influence, to the point where their perspective on certain issues, notably prostitution policy, is the dominant one in New Labour. One would have to have completely ignored the political career of, for example, Jacqui Smith to have missed this. Its no coincidence that the Labour Party had Catherine Itzin head its commission to draft its draconian anti “extreme porn” laws. The influence of this kind of “state feminism” is far more dominant even still in countries like Sweden.

Anybody who’s been involved in sex worker rights activism is pretty clear this faction of feminism has disproportionate power, and often uses that power abusively. That many self-described feminists who are not on the receiving end of that abuse of power can casually claim that they have no such influence is simply a rank example of the kind of blindness privilege brings.

Rose // Posted 14 March 2011 at 10:57 pm

Pretty sure I’ve heard people from OBJECT speak about rehabilitation programs for women coming out of the ‘sex industry’ before.

As a pro-sex, anti-porn, feminist liberal, I whole heartedly think that there should be such support in place, and more help with childcare, money advice, adult education, safe houses, rape crisis centres, and legal support against discrimination. In fact, I think there should be alot.

But I don’t have the money for it, and I think that some bankers are holding the country to ranson….. wonder where they’re spending the spare cash…..?

figleaf // Posted 15 March 2011 at 12:02 am

@aimee: “I don’t really understand this article at all… Why are anti-porn protesters being blamed for one woman’s experience?”

No, no, no, no, no! The alternative to “not supporting” is not “being to blame.” No one can credibly claim that anti-porn feminists are to blame for Tera Myers experience. Or Melissa Petro’s. Or just this morning, Anna North’s.

I know, that’s three women’s experience in roughly a month, not one, but your point still stands. The odds that anti-porn feminists had anything to do with it is very, very low. Not least because anti-porn feminists are a very, very small fraction of the anti-porn movement: their pro-patriarchy, anti-feminist allies take care of that all on their own.

So again, no, no, no, no, anti-porn feminists aren’t to blame.

The question is whether anti-porn feminists are willing or (considering the prejudices of their allies and, often, their funding sources) able to generate statements of principle, recommendations of policy, or expressions of condemnation to counter this tendency towards retroactive punishment?

One doesn’t necessarily expect rank-and-file anti-porn feminists to go out of their way to make personal statements of support for each former sex worker (i.e. porn star, prostitute, stripper, burlesque hobbyist, phone-sex operator, Hooters waitress, or amateur model or artist/photographer) who’s outed and then persecuted for events in their past. (For one thing it appears there would be time for little else!)

But this is where professional and academic activists *could* make a difference. Gail Dines (since that’s who everyone’s mentioning here) is often called by the press for statements. She sits on boards and committees. She travels and speaks. She certainly is consulted by policy makers. I think what Jennifer was saying (certainly what *I’m* saying) is that since it really wouldn’t take that much time for her to make a policy statement. If she was so inclined, anyway. And if Dines was too busy there are certainly others of equal prominence and position who could easily get the word out. Donna M. Hughes, for instance, has been regularly given a voice at The National Review and it’s companion blog The Corner. A five minute post from her would directly reach hundreds of thousands, and (especially since The National Review is a… vividly… conservative, patriarchal outlet) such a post would certainly be echoed, circulated, discussed, reposted and retweeted to millions more. Again, if she was so inclined… or permitted… do do so.

This really isn’t about “gotchas.” It’s about doing the right thing not only from a policy perspective, or a strategic perspective, but from a moral one as well: if, as most anti-porn activists argue, women in the panoply of jobs collectively referred to as sex work are always and exclusively coerced, then it just stands to reason that their privacy and safety should be defended, and their stigmatization decried, after they find their way out of it.

I’d add that such policies and positions shouldn’t be articulated because people who aren’t anti-sex-work activists are raising the issue. The merits and benefits of such policies and positions are self-evident!

figleaf

Jennifer Krase // Posted 15 March 2011 at 12:19 am

@polly “But I don’t know if that would be nice to receive, or patronising, given that she’s resigned, on paper at least, to respect her family’s privacy.” But no, it hadn’t occurred to me to respect her wishes. It does occur to me though, that for you and delphyne it’s a nice excuse to refuse to discuss the absence of anti-porn campaigners in the defence of women *like* Tera and specifically Tera- until I brought up the subject. Stop changing the subject, please. Tera Myers is but one example in what is probably a sea of undertold or unheard stories of women being stigmatised for their sexual histories or their work history in the sex industry. We should be talking about the circumstances… which all of us are doing, in between discussing how or if we should ‘support’ people.

@laurelin… what was exactly a personal attack about Random engaging in criticism of your work? surely a feminist critique IS a feminist critique whatever it is directed at.

@delphyne, i would like to see you back up what you say with some kind of information; i’ve given examples when asked. please demonstrate for me what on earth a ‘markist entryist into feminism’ is and why you think it’s appropriate to make personal attacks about the motivations or morals of the ECP and its members and spokespeople?

i note you have not answered my confusion or query regarding your subjective use of an undefined term, prostituted women… so prostitutes are only -ed when it suits your argument, i take it?

not a single one of the anti-porn commenters have responded to random commenter’s very relevant examples. is this because they didn’t read the comment, because they don’t care, or because they don’t have a response to differentiate their views from the more virulent ones?

and i believe the word virulent is appropriate.

http://providencedailydose.com/2009/06/25/uri-womens-studies-professor-horrified-by-tattooed-women/

http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/the-slut-shaming-kind-of-feminist/

http://www.projo.com/opinion/letters/content/LT_andeRDY_06-25-09_4LERHBG_v15.1050f87.html

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2010/07/21/anti-porn-scholar-watching-porn-get-women-raped/

Each contains an example of the virulence- the bitter hostility- of at least one leading anti-porn campaigner and of their disregard for women who don’t look, act, believe, or work like they do.

I do think there is an element of class politics, as Jess notes, but I’d be pretty loathe to generalise since I know anti-porn feminists of all backgrounds and political persuasions. however, feminism does carry a bit of baggage, as i’ve already said (and i note that my anti-porn commenters haven’t picked up on my justification of this, either, opting instead for changing the subject) from its history of excluding large swathes of women.

btw, when i said ‘teeming masses’ and ‘unfit for service’ i wasn’t talking about the labour market- i was talking about the apparent feelings of some anti-porn feminists and of state feminism about women associated with the sex industry.

polly // Posted 15 March 2011 at 7:20 am

Catherine Itzin – from Wikipedia…

(I’d never heard of her).

“was an Honorary Research Fellow in the Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations Research Unit, Department of Applied Social Studies at the University of Bradford. She was for a time a member of the Executive Committee of the British Liberty pressure group.

The editor of Pornography: Women, Violence and Civil Liberties, a collection of essays published by Oxford University Press which explores the impact pornography has on the perception and treatment of women.

Itzin died in 2010, aged 65, from duodenal cancer. She was survived by her HUSBAND, Wojciech Itzin-Borowy”

Emphasis added. So not a lesbian then!

But an academic specialising in the field which is probably why she was drafted in to help with legislation. As with all legislation however, it would have been open to consultation with a number of parties, I can’t be bothered to google it right now, but feel free to disprove me.

The idea that all powerful cabals of lesbian separatists are running the world and preventing women being heterosexual is one that belongs in the fantasies of Pat Robertson and other MRAs.

Julie Bindel also – like it or not – used to work in the field of academic research on women’s rights at leeds and metroplitan universities before becoming a freelance journalist, so that is one reason would be why she is a consultee on policy.

Bindel ALSO founded Justice for Women, and campaigned on behalf of Emma Humphries, a sex worker who was the subject of abuse by her partner, who she was then jailed for killing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/jul/23/women.law

A bit of cursory research wouldn’t come amiss sometimes, I found those links just now using google.

polly // Posted 15 March 2011 at 7:39 am

QRG – IF a person takes the position that sex work is, or can be, harmful to those who participate in it then it is rational to campaign for sex work to be regulated.

Note the IF please, I’m not interested in arguing whether it is or not, we’d be here all year.

ALL paid work in this country is regulated. There is a minimum wage. There is a health and safety executive which specifies conditions in the workplace. There are laws about the minimum age at which you can do paid work, and how much paid work children can do and to protect their education whilst they are doing it.

There are plenty of things you are already prevented from doing at work by the law. At work I couldn’t just climb a step ladder and change a flickering light bulb that is annoying me (despite the fact that I am perfectly capable of doing it and could do it at home). I have to wait for someone else to do it.

The factories acts (google them) in the 19th century regulated the work of child workers. It may be that they didn’t want to leave their jobs either. It’s a fair assumption that their families, who were extremely poor were dependent on their wages.

They were still introduced. Are you going to argue they shouldn’t have been, and we should have kept child labour?

The point about sex work is that those who participate in it are a mixed bunch of people with mixed motives. IF however you believe (as these activists do) that a significant number of those involved in sex work are harmed by it, then it makes sense to campaign against it. The fact that some aren’t and want to continue may be true, but are those people’s interests to override the interests of those who are harmed by it?

Legislation and regulation can’t cater for the circumstances of every single individual. Hard cases make bad law.

sianushka // Posted 15 March 2011 at 9:21 am

Jess – what evidence have you at all for your claim that most anti-porn feminists are lesbian feminists? That’s a ridiculous statement!

Random Observer – i was sickened by the comment on the NS by ‘gerry’. I don’t believe that person is a feminist. Condemning and insulting women who work in the sex industry is offensive, whatever your political stance on the sex industry. The comment was pretty hateful in its use of language.

And just because JP and SJ have a media platform doesn’t mean they have political power. if they did, we’d probably have a lot more money for DV shelters, seeing as JB has been very active in the end vawg movement. This idea that lesbian feminists run the show is just silly!

If anti-porn feminists are so powerful, if we’ve got all this influence, then how come women are still being trafficked into the sex industry? how come Scotland have just run a report about their failure to combat trafficking? how come women working in the sex industry are still being abused? how come we have millions and millions of online videos of women being abused? Glamourising vawg? Glamourising incest? Using racist, misogynistic, violent and homophobic language? Why are women in the sex industry being raped? And murdered? Surely, if we were in charge, this wouldn’t be happening! But we’re not are we, and we are still certainly living in a patriarchal, capitalist society.

It’s not good enough to pit pro sex industry and anti sex industry feminists against each other. Whilst we have our online arguments, women are in trouble.

As i said before, i am sure some women don’t want to leave the sex industry, but there are women who do and i don’t see the pro porn feminists running charities like one25 who actually get off their asses and do something to help women. This idea that anti-porn feminists stigmatise and shut out women in the sex industry is such a sweeping, rude and unfair generalisation. The media are quite happy to report the voices of women who have left the industry and claim they loved it, the number of book deals and magazine articles featuring these women is testament to that. And it is not for us to deny those accounts or ignore those voices. We have to listen and respect the voices of all women and listen to and seek to understand their experiences. But orgs like Object et al, they give a voice to the women who don’t get book deals, who don’t get glossy magazine articles about them. And as far as i can tell, it is pro-porn, pro-sex industry feminists who are sticking their fingers in their ears and not wanting to listen to the stories that don’t support the narrative they want to listen to.

sianushka // Posted 15 March 2011 at 10:55 am

Polly:

‘IF however you believe (as these activists do) that a significant number of those involved in sex work are harmed by it, then it makes sense to campaign against it. The fact that some aren’t and want to continue may be true, but are those people’s interests to override the interests of those who are harmed by it?’

exactly. EXACTLY! Just because some women aren’t harmed in the sex industry, does that mean we should ignore the women who are? Should we just give up trying to help women who might need or want help, because some women don’t have the same needs or wants? It’s like saying if one person is happy in a job that exploits its workers by not paying holiday/sick leave/minimum wage/union rights, then all the equal working rights campaigners should leave well alone. It doesn’t make sense. We know that women who want to get out of the sex industry are often vulnerable – either with addictions or PTSD etc, and need support. Should we not support them because someone else is fine?

And seconds to what you said about how lesbian feminists aren’t running the world. One would have hoped, having witnessed homophobia in many of its horrible forms, that it was pretty self evident.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 15 March 2011 at 11:11 am

Sianushka said:

‘i don’t see the pro porn feminists running charities like one25 who actually get off their asses and do something to help women’

That is so ridiculous.

What about Red Umbrella Diaries, Laura Augustin, Audacia Ray, International Union of Sex Workers, The Third Wave, Melissa Gira Grant, Anna Span, Harlot’s Parlour, to name just the first few individuals/organisations that came to me.

The people who support the idea that women and men should be able to work in the sex industry and should have decent working conditions are the ones working to support those people, whether they are in sex work or leaving it to find other avenues.

Jess // Posted 15 March 2011 at 11:53 am

… the point, it seems many commentators are unwilling to address (and would rather expend their energy arguing pro or anti-porn), is that anti-porn feminists have seemingly remained silent on the stigma and exclusion from legitimate paid work that women in the sex industry face and why that might be. (leaving aside – for the moment, the issue of anti-porn feminists adding to the stigma and economic exclusion)

If some of the anti-porn voices were willing to address that point rather than shutting down or willfully going off track it would certainly be refreshing.

Laurelin // Posted 15 March 2011 at 12:17 pm

Jennifer K-

RO brought up my work and my name in a thread that has nothing to do with me and in which I had not participated. He did not ‘critique’ my work, he made a crude and unsusbtantiated comment about it- and there was nothing ‘feminist’ about his comments. He has been very aggressive towards me and other feminists in the past, and there was no reason for him to bring me into this thread.

Far worse than that, he brought in a survivor of prostiitution who equally had *nothing* to do with this thread and called her by a label he knows damn well she finds offensive, repulsive, triggering and dismissive of her experience. This thread is incredibly hostile to survivors of porn and prostitution because of the F Word’s tolerance of individuals like RO and Snowdrop.

But then, what would else could be the point of a thread with the phrase ‘anti-porn folk’ in it other than to stir up hatred and undermine feminist protest against pornography? If i were to ask questions about the vested interests of the male commentators of this thread, I would be modded out at once. However, they are quite welcome to drag feminists like me and Rebecca through the mud.

Shame on the F Word.

sianushka // Posted 15 March 2011 at 2:22 pm

It’s no more ridiculous than the assertions that anti porn feminists are somehow in control, and ignore the needs and voices of women in the sex industry.

And so long as Douglas Fox, pimps and punters are ‘looked after’ by the IUSW then we have a long long way to go.

delphyne // Posted 15 March 2011 at 2:36 pm

IUSW – very few members actually prostituted if any. Invited a pimp (Dougie Fox) to write policy. Campaigning to memorialise a graveyard full of the bones of prostituted women – nothing creepy about that.

Red Umbrella Diaries – media project for prostituted people, people to tell stories about what it’s like to work in the sex industry

Laura Augustin – academic (oh no she attends conferences! or is it only bad when anti-porn people do that?). Calls women who have been sex-trafficked “migrants”.

The Third Wave – can’t find anything on an organisation called the Third Wave that helps exited prostituted women like One25 do.

Melissa Gira Grant – media feminist, Sex Industry activist. Senior Communications Officer at the Third Wave Foundation (are they the ones who are supposed to be helping exited women? – there’s nothing on their website about it)

Anna Span – Makes porn. Keeps women in the industry, not out of it.

Harlot’s Parlour – website of some women currently in the sex industry, run by Dougie Fox (pimp) plus Catherine Stephens. Snowdrop Explodes also writes there. See above about him.

What is it you think any of these people are doing except acting as mouthpieces promoting the sex industry QRG?

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 15 March 2011 at 3:00 pm

well done delphyne you know how to use google too. I was going to post some proper information up here about those organisations but this debate is getting very combative there is no attempt at understanding on either side. I will never be able to respect anti-sex industry feminism.

so I am going to leave it there.

Thanks Jenny for a very interesting post.

Random Observer // Posted 15 March 2011 at 4:17 pm

Polly –

I never said Catherine Itzin was a lesbian, now did I? I’m talking about a particular branch of the feminist movement that includes some heterosexual women, some lesbians, and a few self-proclaimed separatists. It is a movement with very real political power, and that power does not automatically disappear just because its members are women and many are lesbians. That may not jibe with your simplistic and reductionist view of power relationships, but that doesn’t make the power of this group any less real.

There is extensive literature, including scholarly articles, on “state feminism”, and it has been something that has has been roundly criticized, including by anti-authoritarian feminists. There’s also extensive literature on political success of the prostitution ‘abolitionist’ movement (that happens to include many radical feminists in its leadership), and the marginalization of sex worker rights activists by ‘abolitionists’, including cases of outright blacklisting.

That you didn’t find any of this from a few minutes of googling is really not my problem.

Under patriarchy, there has long been a place for some women to gain power as moral guardians of the community. Radical feminist sexual moralists are simply a modern and secularized version of that, and that they play this role in contemporary social democratic governments is a matter of record.

The oft-repeated claim that radical feminists are a purely marginalized group without political power, and therefore without any responsibility not to abuse that power is either gross ignorance or a straight-up lie on the part of those who repeat it.

JenniferRuth // Posted 15 March 2011 at 4:19 pm

I really hate seeing this become a black and white issue of who is right and who is wrong. This comment thread is depressing.

There are both pro- and anti-porn organisations that work to help women who are in or who have exited the sex industry. Either side of this debate, feminists care about women.

It seems like who is right and who is wrong about porn and the sex industry is way more important than the women involved, sometimes. Both sides are guilty of that. If you stick to a one-sided stance then there will always be women who you are not supporting, who you are letting down and who you are hurting because not every woman can fit into the neat political boxes we create.

I’m a radical (not a lesbian though since some people in this comment thread seem to need that clarifying for them) feminist leaning towards an anti-porn stance and I have friends who work/have worked in porn. How does that work? Because the world is complicated and I don’t hate women or their choices. I hate misogyny.

The political debate is important to have but I feel the common ground of wanting to help women is bigger than political difference. Otherwise it’s just about who has the most correct opinion.

Random Observer // Posted 15 March 2011 at 4:54 pm

Sian –

You can go on about things like “Cathouse” and “Secret Diary of a Callgirl” until the cows come home, but if you think that this somehow demonstrates that pro-sex worker perspectives are ascendant, you are probably watching too much TV, not to mention have little understanding of what sex worker rights politics actually are. The fact is, on the level of those who have the influence to shape actual law – the MPs, the NGOs, the legal and sociological scholars, this is disproportionately cornered by “abolitionists” and others who are largely influenced the perspective of anti-porn/anti-prostitution feminism. Just because they have not manage to foist 100% of their agenda at the level of law does not mean they are not highly influential. If the anti-prostitution feminist position is so marginalized and so outside of political power, how does one even begin to explain the political career of Jacqui Smith or Gunilla Eckberg?

Also, your characterization of the sex worker movement as a few happy women who’s views have nothing to do with the majority of sex workers is simply wrong. The sex workers rights movement is international, includes more than a few groups of very poor people in the developing world, and certainly does not paint a picture of sex work as all fun and empowerment. That anti-prostitution feminists continue to straw-whore it this way has little relation to its actual character.

What they do say is that there is that sex work and sex workers are a very diverse group with a very diverse set of experiences ranging from positive to very negative. And that there must be an evidence-based policy that combats forced prostitution, gives people who choose to remain in sex work the right to work, with full labor rights (and busting their customers does not jibe with a right to work), and offers exit strategies for those who want to leave without discrimination in later work (hence, the original point of this post). Accompanied by an awareness of global poverty and a need to fight the economic injustices and lack of alternatives that drive many (though by no means all) into sex work. It is perhaps too nuanced a position for those who can’t wrap their head around anything other than “it degrades all women, ban it!”, but there it is.

Random Observer // Posted 15 March 2011 at 5:32 pm

Oh, and on the claim that sex worker rights activists don’t actually help women “on the ground”, um, La Strada International, anyone? Not a sex worker rights group per se, but an anti-trafficking group that is sympathetic to the sex worker rights position and actually works with them. They also do a lot of key anti-trafficking work in “source” countries. Not that expect this to even be on the radar of the prostitution ‘abolitionists’.

maggie // Posted 15 March 2011 at 7:48 pm

Okay let’s get porn legalised, legitimised and damn well anything else mised as well.

So when a woman, a woman mind, is on JSA they too will be given the ‘choice’ of going into sex work or loose thier benefits. No quibbles eh?

Satisfied? You want that for your daughters?

figleaf // Posted 15 March 2011 at 8:29 pm

“…given that she’s resigned, on paper at least, to respect her family’s privacy.”

If that’s the excuse then how about a word of support for Sheila Addison? She’s written guest posts about her course “Size Acceptance in a Systems Framework” at Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose, on male privilege in the face of previously unanswered cases of TSA groping for the California National Organization for Women chapter’s blog, and elsewhere.

She was fired from her university in California for performing in a burlesque troupe.

It’s ok to stand up for Addison because unlike Myers or Melissa Petro she’s taken her employers to court. If you want to. Although you might not if you think burlesque counts as porn/stripping/prostitution/etc.

It’s completely obvious why mainstream anti-porn conservatives wouldn’t stand up for her (she’s a woman, a feminist, and a “fat” activist, and her troupe references stereotypes about gender, orientation, and body image.) It’s not so clear that non-conservatives would want to remain silent about her treatement.

Oh, and extra credit? In her filing document she points out that a male colleague at the same university was allowed to keep his job despite on-stage performances that involved undressing and partial nudity.

The point, again, isn’t to shame *anybody* into doing anything. But it does demonstrate that the Myers case isn’t isolated, nor does it indicate that the best practice in all cases is to universally “respect the privacy” of those who are singled out, outed, and then fired.

figleaf

Rebecca Mott // Posted 15 March 2011 at 10:30 pm

I am amazed to have myself drag into this rather pointless “dixcussion”, for I tend to not get involved with such pro-sex trade propaganda.

But I am deeply angered to be labelled as a victim sex worker, for all those three words have nothing to do with who I am.

It is calculated patronising way to dismiss that my public work is political – I am very proud to be an abolitionist.

My focus is that the vast majority of prostituted women and girls are in conditions where there human rights are stolen.

I refuse to name it as sex work – for to compare the buying and selling of a cunt, of a mouth, of hands, and of an anus can never be equated to say selling burgers or being a cleaner.

To say it just sex work – is totally dismissive of the regular violence that the vast majority of the prostituted have to endure.

Instead, it is praised that prostituted women and girls are fine, because they so good at disassociating their mind from their body. That is terrible thing – and it is praised so the sex trade can continue as normal.

I believe in being there for all the prostituted – not the divide and rule of the pro-sex trade lobby.

The prostituted are in danger of male violence whether they are trafficked or not – and internal trafficking must be included. Women in prostitution can and usually are in danger of violence, whether they can from a good or an abusive background. Many prostitutes choose to there, and still suffer from severe violence.

But we must see as bigger than the individual prostitute – we must see the sex trade feeds on poverty, on racist stereotypes, on man-made and natural disasters, on teenagers who gone off the rails usually because of abuse.

The common target of the sex trade is a poor, abused, black, teenage girl. That is the building brick of the sex trade.

If women have the privilege to choose prostitution, and have the privilege to not to endure violence as their norm.

Then they are often privileged enough not to have the need to be a prostitute.

DO they really care about the rights of the majority of the prostituted who being made sub-human – or just that some men have a living porn-toy.

Laura // Posted 15 March 2011 at 11:14 pm

Exactly. I too worked as a prostitute at uni in my first year (I’m now in third year) and found it terrifying. I cried with the first guy who ‘punted’ me. It’s not ever an activity that should be considered legalised. I refuse to believe pro sex work campaigners actually care about women when they dismiss all this violence against them in what is obviously an insincere attempt to shut feminists up. I refuse to believe any man actually cares.. he’s thinking about one thing. Disgusting that men think they can present arguments FOR sex work, using the word ‘women’s rights’. Yuck.

I fail to see how decriminilasing sex workers but not punters = badness. But you just want sex work legalised in a zany idea of a free country where teenaged girls are forced to do prostitution at the job centre, and punters enjoy all the freedom of the world to be licenced rapists for pay.

Why don’t you LISTEN to the people who’ve done the job! Those who left and are no longer thinking about the money they’ll lose if they speak of the horrors and nightmares the job actually entails.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 16 March 2011 at 12:14 am

Bother. I see my phone ate my previous comment. I believe a lot of the discussion has become derailed- by both sides but especially by an apparent competition to demonstrate which side is more anti woman! Neither side is anti woman but there is a clear feeling of being deprioritised and marginalised that’s been expressed by some sex workers here. That’s important. Don’t ignore it. 

Where we all come together here- which thankfully proves what I suspected despite the depth of feeling expressed about other points in my article around anti-porn feminists- is in our agreement that women who have left deserve the same respect and rights at work as women who were never in sex work. And in our agreement that feminists regardless of their approach to combating oppression have a duty to those women to defend them publicly. This defence does not imply cooperation with the sex industry. To not defend results in my opinion in culpability for allowing whorephobia to slide on by unchallenged. 

There are obviously multiple perspectives within and outwith BOTH sides. Figleaf has captured the flag I think- I am not blaming anti porn feminists for te situation of Tera Myers. That would be ridiculous and unfair. I have consistently asked about absence and not blamed anti porn activists here and have tried to bring the conversation back to that point. Calling someone to account for something they profess and keep missing a key point of isn’t bashing or blaming.  

…There is important work done by “pro” activists (whether they are ACTUALLY pro is questionable as many are also critical of the sex industry which some here need to recognise.) Examples have been given. 

Exit strategies and groups who focus on them are important. No one has denied this- in fact most have agreed. It’s the totality of the generalisations made about an inherent abusiveness of sex work that I object to. 

Keeping in mind of course that while industry is (like any male dominated capitalist economy) exploitive by nature that doesn’t mean the issue is as simple that we can all dismiss women from within who advocate for an end to a stigma they feel they face from one incarnation in particular of feminism, because when the industry is smeared it’s them and not feminist activists who get the splatter. 

That some feminists choose to elevate those marginalised voices and work in a way that respects the wishes of those women doesnt deserve the kind of statements that have been made here about the supposed anti feminism of “pro” activists. 

The two most recent comments raise another side of marginalization that cant be ignored and we have to be wary of perpetuating- we have to base our fights on the experiences of women after all. When women say their places of work operate in oppressive ways and they face abuse of course working against that should be prioritised. Again… No one has said it shouldn’t. 

We can prioritise fighting abuse and abusive systems alongside fighting stigma and backlash also generated by those same systems. Surely those two fights go hand in hand. Without the latter the former runs the risk of being a feedback loop of whorephobia and misogyny directed at women who’ve left sex work (in the specific context of anti porn feminism in the wider context of a politically disengaged patriarchal society). 

Katharine // Posted 16 March 2011 at 12:28 am

The combative, aggressive, un-constructive tone of many comments on this thread really saddens me.

If we think that the debate about prostitution and pornography suffers from problems like people being disrespectful of others, or being disingenuous, or intolerant – then surely the thing to do is have a debate ourselves that *doesn’t* display those qualities? Rather than replicate them in an increasingly vicious, and, as Rebecca Mott rightly says, pointless discussion.

Surely everyone, whatever their position, agrees that some individuals working in, or forced to work in, prostitution or pornography experience a level of suffering most of us cannot imagine. I think out of respect for this simple fact we ought to be very conscious of how we conduct ourselves when we discuss this issue.

I’m really interested in this issue, but I don’t feel like this will be a helpful forum to discuss it on. This is a shame, because it seemed like it could have been.

Iamcuriousblue // Posted 16 March 2011 at 7:35 am

Well, it didn’t take long to be berated with the usual myths and strawmanning, like the nonsense that once prostitution is treated as legitimate labour, poor women at jobcenters will be forced into it. This apparently based on one incident in Germany a few years ago, which was immediately reversed when the woman in question complained about the suggestion that she seek brothel employment. It is against existing policy to ask jobseekers to seek sex work even in countries where it is legal. And it is an utter strawman that anybody (other than outright criminals) wants anybody to be physically or economically coerced into sex work, but that certainly doesn’t stop the ‘abolitionists’ from letting rip with that canard.

And the complaint that decriminalization supporters don’t “listen to the people who have done the job”. Which is a funny accusation to throw at sex worker rights supporters, who are, after all, part of a movement largely led by people “doing the job”. Its just that those of us on the “pro” side happen to listen to the range of experiences, good and bad. Oh, but anybody who has anything positive to say about their experiences in sex work is just a brainwashed shill for the all-powerful global sex industry cabal, right? Or a victim of “false consciousness”.

And as for much of the rest of the rhetoric going around here, hey, who am I to stand in the way of a good Two-Minute Hate?

Goldstein! Goldstein!

Jennifer Krase // Posted 16 March 2011 at 7:54 am

I would like to make a point. Politicians get on board with the anti-porn and anti-sex work lobby more than many other feminist causes because it gives them something to make a clamor about and be ‘tough’ on much like they can be ‘tough’ on crime which often goes on to hurt minority groups who are overrepresented in prison for non violent offences. The state does very little to actually support the exit strategy side of anti-sex industry feminism and actually by enshrining anti- attitudes into law and the public discourse I think politicians actually contribute a lot to the harm caused to women who later want to enter other less controversial and non-sex related work.

I think this is an example of how anti-porn feminists- the anti-porn folk who profess to care *about the women* rather than about the consumers- need to pay a little more attention to where and how their message is getting absorbed and transmitted. Because their silence – on blogs, in the press- around boosting the signal and campaigning or verbalising support of campaigning- looks like uncaring or worse complicity.

sianushka // Posted 16 March 2011 at 9:16 am

RO – I’m sorry but i don’t know what Cathouse is. And whatever you think of Jacqui Smith, i don’t think she became home secretary because of her stance on the sex industry!

FWIW I really agree with what Jennifer Ruth says. This isn’t a competition to see who is more ‘pro woman’. This is about making sure that women live free from violence and misogyny. We can all stand together on that, surely. Instead of fighting and point-scoring, lets find common ground to fight the oppression of and violence against women.

Surely the most important thing we can do is listen to women, and try to understand and always validate and respect their experiences. Not use women to make political points or put words in other women’s mouths to prove a point, but actually listen to what women have to say about their experience of the sex industry, and listen to what women want. It isn’t enough to only listen to half the story.

I agree with Jennifer that politicians often use the sex industry as something to be ‘tough on’ or as something to combat because it is ‘morally bad’. This is not a helpful stance as it doesn’t tackle the issues around violence and misogyny and lack of rights, it ignores the women in favour of making a point. For example, they take a ‘won’t somebody think of the children’ stance if a brothel opens up in a residential area, rather than thinking about what it means for the women working there.

As Laura says, lets listen to women, rather than trying to talk for them.

Rebecca Mott // Posted 16 March 2011 at 10:13 am

I think it important to take on board that I and many exited prostituted women do not want or use the term sex work to frame who we are.

It not about making an oppressive workplace more liveable – it is about attacking the causes of that oppression, that is that some men think they are entitled to buy and sell other human beings just for objects to fuck-goods.

In that environment, all the prostituted have no control on whether the profiteers and punters treat them with great violence or with so-called respect. It is always the choice of the profiteers and punters whether the prostitute is raped on regular basis, whether the prostitute is mentally and or physicially tortured.

Tidy up the workplace, will stop the main profit of prostitution being made by making the prostituted sub-human. The sex trade makes it main profit by allowing punters to do whatever porn fantasy they have on a living body – mostly that will sadistic and or mentally abusive.

That is not work – it is oppression that’s all.

sarah // Posted 16 March 2011 at 10:52 am

I don’t see how this could have been a helpful place to discuss this issue Katharine.

The original article was an attack on anti-porn feminists, and Jennifer continues the attacks throughout her posts, despite claiming that’s not what she’s doing.

Also, issues of “tone” are probably secondary in discussions of male harm to women. This isn’t about the people here and how they are treated, with the exception of Laura and Rebecca who have direct experience of what support for the sex industry means and who I see are being ignored by Jennifer except to have their experiences reduced to mere “marginalization” as if that is the problem with rape and abuse.

This is about huge amounts of harm being done towards women and girls, by men through the sex industry, and about some people using feminism to support that harm, as well as attacking other feminists who actually work against it.

sarah // Posted 16 March 2011 at 11:02 am

If we’re listening to women who have been in the industry and who know what they are talking about directly, not in the abstract, Rebecca has said that this thread is pro-sex trade propaganda and that the term “sex work” should not be used about prostitution, and Laura has said that prostitution should not be legalised and said that this thread is an insincere attempt to shut feminists up.

That seems quite clear to me.

Or does “listening to women” just mean patting them on the head for their comments and ignoring the actual content, whilst we concern ourselves with others’ “tone”?

Fionne // Posted 16 March 2011 at 12:33 pm

Sianushka, well said. Making sure women can live free from violence and misogyny is the answer to this and everything. That is the goal, surely.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 16 March 2011 at 8:02 pm

And they’re not the only voices of prostitutes in this discussion. I’ve commended exit strategies. If you prefer to ignore that, you are free to do so.

Quiet Riot Girl // Posted 16 March 2011 at 8:20 pm

That’s two women Sarah. Many many more sex workers do want their work to be legalised and do identify as sex workers. That is why this subject is complex. But those women are unlikely to come to a place like this to discuss their p.o.v. as it is so hostile to them.

Laurelin // Posted 16 March 2011 at 8:31 pm

‘they’? Jennifer? You could always try talking *to* Rebecca and Laura. Your attitude towards them is very dismissive.

Katharine // Posted 17 March 2011 at 12:16 am

You’re probably right, sarah. I guess it was overly optimistic to think that the discussion could have been productive.

I think the reason I thought it might be is that one interesting question that came out of the original article, for me, was whether anti-porn feminists (of which I count myself as one) can get better at linking up opposition to the sex trade with the de-stigmatization of people who previously worked in it or were forced to work in it. I don’t think the two projects are in tension, not at all, but it would be interesting to consider the relationship a bit more in the context of cases of the kind the article focuses on.

The reason I chose to comment on ‘tone’ is *not* because I think it is even remotely important in the way that violence against women is important. I do hope that was not the impression. I commented on tone because many of the comments here are criticisms of how others conduct themselves in the debate, especially criticisms of the way anti-porn feminists put their arguments. I wanted to say that anyone pointing out these problems should think about how the way they do so often replicates the same problems, instead of combating them. That’s all.

I also agree that there is a lot of marginalizing and attack going on, even though it is not acknowledged as such. I think that this is what I was getting at in trying to point out how disingenuous it is to criticize anti-sex-industry feminists for being aggressive and ignoring people’s experiences, whilst… doing exactly that oneself! Sorry my original comments were unclear.

You say “Or does “listening to women” just mean patting them on the head for their comments and ignoring the actual content, whilst we concern ourselves with others’ “tone”?”

I’m not sure where you get this from. I said that I didn’t want to comment on the topic because I don’t think this is a helpful context to discuss it in. This is not the same as ‘patting women on the head for their comments while ignoring the content’. I didn’t comment on the content of anyone’s remarks, so you could hardly mean that I ignore the experience of women who have experienced prostitution specifically. And I clearly gave my reasons for not commenting on the content. The comment on tone was a way of explaining why I think that this is an unhelpful forum for discussion (and hence don’t feel able to get into proper discussion). I hope this is clearer now, though I have to say I don’t see why you interpreted what I said in this way in the first place.

For the record, I am entirely in support of what Rebecca Mott and Laura have said, and am completely against the sex industry in all forms because I don’t think it can ever be made non-abusive.

polly // Posted 17 March 2011 at 8:36 am

“There is extensive literature, including scholarly articles, on “state feminism”,

So would you care to cite some of this literature then?

polly // Posted 17 March 2011 at 9:22 am

I’m late for work, but I forgot to add this:

If you claim to be in supported women who are exited sex workers (apologies to anyone who is offended by that term), your credibility falls to zero, when you then allow this thread to be used to ATTACK a woman who wasn’t participating in the thread, has written extensively of the trauma that her past experiences have caused her, and then feels she has to come on to the thread to defend herself.

It is clear that your ‘concern’ is completely fake and merely being used as an opportunity to bash anti porn activists. You don’t give a flying f*** for women who are still experiencing trauma as a result of their past. They’re just handy tools to you, not people.

Shame on you.

Vicky // Posted 17 March 2011 at 11:28 am

“If women have the privilege to choose prostitution, and have the privilege to not to endure violence as their norm.

Then they are often privileged enough not to have the need to be a prostitute.”

Thank you for this, Rebecca. You’ve clarified and distilled my own thoughts on this issue for me.

The sex industry is fundamentally oppressive. That’s not to say that there aren’t individuals in it who are not oppressed – but this is because they are atypical and have privileges that the others do not have. They could leave if they chose. I say this as the close personal friend of a woman who works quite happily as a sex worker (her identification) of her own free choice…and as the friend of another woman who says that she has chosen it, but is on drugs and in an abusive relationship and can’t see any way out. I can’t help thinking that the first friend’s enthusiastic embracing of the profession makes it harder for people like the second friend to get out of it.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 17 March 2011 at 9:09 pm

im not saying that they dont usually have MORE privilege than other sex workers who are oppressed, but i dont think this is always the case. they could be lucky that they chose an area that wasnt so oppressive, which isnt the same thing. the fact that a lot of sex workers feel attacked for their choices may not necessarily make them oppressed, but many would argue that it does. im anti-porn but im against censorship and much more interested in doing what makes life safer for women, so for me its mostly about working on those in demand, more feminist mens groups, or at least ones that discuss violence

against women, stages with a varied set of views explaining the problems, not necessarily in a debate. and saying what i want to see for sale in my local store, and occasionally on the high street. of course the sad thing is that this means i feel more comfortable seeing a unionised brothel around (to save curb crawling etc) than a lap dance bar, because i would worry that if there is a demand for womens bodies enough to warrant a brothel that there would be sex workers one way or another to meet that demand. more feminist mens groups, or at least ones that discuss violence against women, stages with a varied set of views explaining the problems, not necessarily in a debate. i did used to think that legalising prostitution and illegalising the johns and pimps was a good idea, but on those occasions where women are forced or coerced into work, if there is still demand from johns, then the pimps would find another more risky way of doing it to save their own asses, just as if the whole thing was illegal, which means that yes, if caught women wont go to prison and may even be ‘saved’ with enough services in place, but id rather she did not have to endure whatever they put her through, when getting rid of the evidence could involve death, or being locked away, and they are more likely to use drugs to keep women coming back and not turning them in. obviously i do not think this should ever be an advertised job, having an anti-porn stance, in job centres and whatever, and i would like schools to be educated about the sex industry (and you can bare in mind my bias) but it should come from a mixed range of voices of sex workers, and encourage debate, discouraging shaming, or if the women in question doesnt want it sympathy/pity. just my thoughts, but i dont see them as valuable as those who have been in that position – standard.

delphyne // Posted 17 March 2011 at 10:00 pm

Being the sex worker who chooses her work (and apparently has other choices she could make as well) is not an equivalent position to women and girls in prostitution who have been raped, abused and exploited by the men who have bought and sold them.

The pro-sex industry side would like to claim that these two positions are equivalent, so they can demand a “diversity” of views on the sex industry, as if someone who hasn’t been harmed should be able to claim the same moral position and right to be heard as the woman or girl who has been raped, raped and then raped again in an industry that our society creates and enables. Rape and not having been raped are apparently on a level.

Demanding a “diversity” of voices is how Jennifer can dismiss Laura and Rebecca’s unspeakable experiences with a flick of a “I’ve commended exit strategies” whilst refusing to engage with a solitary substantial point they’ve made. The rapes, the abuse and the trauma can be skated over on the way to hear the women who prostitution didn’t harm. Denial about sexual abuse and sexual trauma exists in prostitution discussions too it seems.

The thing is, if those women who prostitution didn’t hurt really did have choices, then *they* can make another one, find another job, instead of demanding that their set of choices is enabled on the backs of women who have none, and who are done serious harm by men enacting their rights to buy and sell women.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 17 March 2011 at 10:03 pm

Delphyne, just a short note to say I tried to email you about a couple of comments, but the emails bounced back. Not sure if there’s a problem with your email address? Wanted to let you know anyway.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 17 March 2011 at 10:14 pm

How exactly are we defining ‘choice’ here?

How exactly are we separating women who have some level of ‘choice’ from women who have been raped or sexually or physically assaulted?

How exactly are we defining ‘hurt’? And how people should and do deal with that? Do we not think that sex workers’ rights groups (who incidentally deal with the whole range of women, unlike many of the anti- feminist aid groups) have come about as a result of women in the industry being hurt or at risk of being hurt?

I’d also like to know, Delphyne, why you still have not engaged with my comments beyond stating repeatedly that I am pro-sex industry and that I have ignored Rebecca and Laura. I have not. I do not think it’s anything other than a statement of fact to say that 1. they ARE two voices and 2. they are two voices ON A FEMINIST BLOG. Why have you, Delphyne, ignored the voices of other women here who have stated their experiences in the industry have been very different to Rebecca and Lauras? This cuts both ways.

To both Rebecca (and Laura if you were upset over the same thing), I am extremely sorry that my use of the term sex worker has made you feel, if I understand you correctly, ignored. I didn’t mean it as an attack on you; there are a multitude of words women who have been in the industry have argued eloquently for and against and I will try to find a better term. I have refused to use the term exited- and prostituted- because many people have explained to me and in writing how offensive that is to them and how they aren’t comfortable with feminists using them… so that’s why I don’t. Please accept my apology. I especially apologise if, as some other commenters claimed on your behalf, my use of the term was triggering. I’ll try to find another term to use that doesn’t offend either of us.

To most of the rest of the commenters in this thread: stop ignoring the multitude of voices that are present in the wider world and absent from this particular debate. You’re being hypocrites.

maggie // Posted 17 March 2011 at 10:50 pm

Jennifer

How exactly are we defining choice?

Why don’t you define it.

How exactly are we defining hurt?

Why don’t you define it.

I refuse to put choice and hurt into quotes.

delphyne // Posted 17 March 2011 at 11:30 pm

“Why have you, Delphyne, ignored the voices of other women here who have stated their experiences in the industry have been very different to Rebecca and Lauras? This cuts both ways.”

No. It doesn’t cut both ways. I already said the women who have a choice have a choice, and they have zero right to make it on the backs of the vast majority in the sex industry who are being hideously exploited and experiencing daily rape in the business. You can claim they are the same forever, but it won’t make it true, it won’t make it a moral position, and it *certainly* won’t make it a feminist position, if feminism is to mean anything other than supporting men in their right to buy and sell women.

“You’re being hypocrites.”

Hey I’ve got a few things I’d like to say about what you’re being Jennifer, but the F-word doesn’t publish comments like that.

OK when you’re do it though, huh?

Jennifer Krase // Posted 17 March 2011 at 11:43 pm

@ maggie those were not ironic or sarcastic quotes, so… good for you, i guess? i was trying to make it clear what i was talking about, since choice itself doesn’t have a concrete and inflexible definition and you seem to believe it does. i think that for a lot of women you seem to be placing in the ‘choice’ group maybe it was a case of the kinds of false choices about what work to go into that are presented to women all the time, depending on many things including circumstance, money, location, overall environment, responsibilities to others…. i’m not being precious about the subject of defining the words we’re using, and which you’re ascribing to people who haven’t spoken here willy nilly as if you know more about themselves and their lives than they do. i don’t know of many people who have chosen to enter the sex industry as a completely 100% “free” choice (if any choice anyone makes can be considered totally free in a patriarchal racist homophobic transphobic classist ableist society.

@ delphyne um… that’s a pretty simplified and inaccurate version of what i have said. there is a range of experience between what you seem to believe are two axes, where one is ‘forced trafficked raped abused’ and the other is ‘happy and free nice hotel pretty woman-esque’ when in fact even the latter, if using the actual film example of this stereotype, demonstrates that this polarised version of the ‘kinds’ of current or former prostitutes there are is totally false.

delphyne // Posted 17 March 2011 at 11:50 pm

hurt:

– entering the sex trade when you are 14 because your boyfriend/pimp sold you to his friends and then their friends

– going into prostitution because you were sexually abused as a girl and you’ve never learnt that your body could be anything else but an item for men to use

– being out on the streets of Ipswich to fund your heroin habit knowing there is a murderedr on the loose but having to feed your addiction anyway and then having Stephen Wright (a regular john) pick you up

– being regularly raped and beaten by your customers, either on the street or indoors

– being trafficked from your village in Moldova when your’e 15 and having to service 10-20 men every day

– leaving prostitution but never being able to leave the PTSD or the horrifying memories behind. Having male hatred of you tortured into your body.

– being made into living porn

– being paid to take two penises into your rectum on film, even though you said you didn’t want to but the director and your agent/pimp insisted and getting AIDS at eighteen for your troubles

– suffering from vaginal and anal prolapse because that’s the viewers of the pornography you appear in want to see your anus and vagina destroyed by penises

– being choked on a penis in film and having your head flushed down the toilet by Max Hardcore who gets you to sign a “consent” form on film (she “chose” it)

– being put out on the street by your pimp to make money so Hugh Grant can buy you to suck his penis

– being trapped with Charlie Sheen on his way down to hell because he needs two porn performers to accompany him on the journey

– having to service any man’s penis who comes along because you have to pay your mortgage, feed your kids, pay your debts, whether you would ever want to have sex with him or not

– having to cut yourself off from your body, to endure prostitution sex

– having to inject your vagina with local anaesthetic to numb it in order to accommodate more penises

– being sold like an object in a window in Amsterdam whilst the tourists gawp at you

– being a Thai girl sold by her poor family to the brothels of Bangkok to make money from the white male sex tourists who come over to your country for a bit of sexual imperialism

– being unable to be a “diverse voice” on this thread at the f-word representing women in prostitution, because you’re *dead*, killed by either a pimp or a customer – http://estelaville.wordpress.com/ http://www.vanishedvoices.com/Missingwomen.html

Hope that helps Jennifer

Rebecca Mott // Posted 18 March 2011 at 1:13 am

I think it important to put on the record that the use of the term sex worker is more than just hurtful and highly triggering – it is a term that the profiteers of the sex trade have infiltrated into the Left and feminism to erase the violence that is embedded in every aspect of the sex trade.

I use the terms prostituted woman for it named what is happening to the vast majority of women and girls in the sex trade. It defines that prostituted are stripped of rights to safety – that is controlled by the profiteers and punters. The prostituted are made into sub-human goods for men to use, severely abused and throw away.

Call it sex work – and the wastage of prostituted women and girls is made invisible – and what the sex trade wants, can be made out to be a minor problem.

I use the term exited women – or most women that leave the sex trade either do because they know it will kill them or with the help of determined others. It very hard to leave the sex trade with ease, for there is so much brainwashing that the outside world will hate you – that is a lie to keep prostituted women from having hope or communicating with the world outside of the sex trade. For a great majority of prostituted women, leaving is impossible for the managers/pimps will use extreme violence to keep their goods – this includes extreme sexual torture, moving her in other aspects of the sex trade to disorient her, and the ultimate the threat of or actual murder.

As for not understanding what hurt is. Well hurt feelings from a few anti-porn feminists saying critical words – is not the same as the actual hurt of say most prostituted women.

A few hurts I had to endured.

Being gang-raped on a regular basis.

Being orally raped until I lost consciousness.

Anally raped so badly I had a small heart attack.

Being locked in a flat and treated as porn-goods.

Being filmed for porn as I was sadistically raped.

That a tiny part of what I had to endured. But for most women and girls in long-term prostitution, that amount of violence and hate is their norm.

That is how I would define hurt.

polly // Posted 18 March 2011 at 7:10 am

“Do we not think that sex workers’ rights groups (who incidentally deal with the whole range of women, unlike many of the anti- feminist aid groups) have come about as a result of women in the industry being hurt or at risk of being hurt?”

Well one of the main groups – the IUSW allows anyone to join, and that includes clients and people who profit from other’s sex work.

Since the people who most frequently harm sex workers are their clients it seems an odd strategy if their aim is harm reduction.

So no I don’t think that really, it seems more of an exercise in protecting vested interests in profit.

As for the ECP – interesting title. Can anyone tell me if the ECP actually advocate COLLECTIVE working – ie where workers control the means of production? (in the case of sex work of course, this would mean getting rid of the club owners and escort agency owners and all those others who profit from others sex work).

Anyway more on the IUSW here.

http://toomuchtosayformyself.com/2009/01/09/the-great-iusw-con/

polly // Posted 18 March 2011 at 7:13 am

Jennifer:

“How exactly are we defining ‘choice’ here”

Well you use the word several times in the main piece without definining it. I agree by the way that it’s a word – like all words – whose meaning can vary, but if in any doubt – why didn’t you define it first?

polly // Posted 18 March 2011 at 7:51 am

Katherine:

“I’d also like to know, Delphyne, why you still have not engaged with my comments beyond stating repeatedly that I am pro-sex industry and that I have ignored Rebecca and Laura. I have not. I do not think it’s anything other than a statement of fact to say that 1. they ARE two voices and 2. they are two voices ON A FEMINIST BLOG.”

Well firstly I don’t see why it’s at all relevant that this is a ‘feminist’ blog, that doesn’t mean it’s incapable of oppressing women.

Secondly the only voice of an exited sex worker above I can see is that of Belle du Jour. (apologies in advance if I have missed any others) I think it’s fair to say that her experiences are perhaps not typical of exited sex workers in that very few of them get a best selling book and TV adaptation of that book out of the experience. Plus a lot don’t have the ‘high end’ well paid experience she had. Certainly the sex workers I see around my city don’t.

Either way she is ONE voice on a feminist blog. With atypical experiences.

So why is Delphyne or anyone else meant to place more value on her words than those of Rebecca and Laura?

Your argument Jennifer – as Delphyne has already pointed out, but it bears repeating, seems to be that we should ignore the harm done to women like Rebecca and Laura, because Belle du Jour did very nicely thank you out of being a sex worker.

It’s a bit like saying that some people don’t get lung cancer when they smoke, so the government should give up putting health warnings on packets of cigarettes. Forget those who are likely to be harmed because -hey – it doesn’t happen to everyone!

Either way – you are claiming that you are concerned about exited sex workers, but then seem to think we should be concerned more about those exited sex workers who have not been harmed, than those who have.

It’s an odd position.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 18 March 2011 at 9:32 am

@polly To state that my argument is to ignore the harm done to women by the sex industry is patently ridiculous and I find it incredibly offensive.

What, in all that has been written here, has you so convinced? That is absolutely not my argument. Just because the harm done to women while they’re in the sex industry is not the SOLE FOCUS of the argument doesn’t mean I’m arguing no harm is done, and it doesn’t mean I’m arguing we should ignore that.

So do you think Tera Myers is an example of the unharmed or harmed variety of person? Since you’re so qualified to judge, and since as an anti-porn feminist the only suggestions we should be following on how to address that harm are yours since YOU have the TRUE interests of women at heart, I’d like to know?

Do you not think it is possible, which also bears repeating, that a woman who has “done nicely” out of sex work by which I assume you mean made some money out of it, may have also had some categorically awful experiences while working?

Not to mention I’d like to think how you’re somehow a better person to talk about this than Belle de Jour, whatever either of your opinions on how to legally address the sex industry are, because SHE TALKS ABOUT OPPRESSION, TOO.

http://weareequals.org/blog/guest-blogger-belle-de-jour/

And what about those evil evil evil nasty misogynist sex educators who dare to address porn in a realistic and nuanced way? Are they also our targets here? Or just, as delphyne seems to think, props for the porn lobby?

http://bishuk.com/

Jennifer Krase // Posted 18 March 2011 at 9:39 am

And just to be clear, since this is apparently a difficult concept to grasp when you’re busy posturing and trying to discredit feminists who disagree with you- calling them fake feminists and questioning their commitment to women’s rights- when groups and individuals talk about the rights of women in the sex industry, the fact that you think this means their right to be treated like shit is disgusting and shows just how far the anti- believers will go to discredit and drag through the mud feminists who have decided to approach the issue differently.

What I want- and I speak only for myself here- is a defence of women’s rights at work. A full defence. If that means defence from police abuse, if that means an increase in rape and sexual assault services tailored for women in the sex industry, if that means specialist prosecutors, if that means a cultural shift from talking about ‘prostitutes’ first and ‘women’ second, then that’s what it means.

If that means allowing women to work where they feel safe, whether that’s a long term solution for them or a step in the road to exiting the industry, then that’s what it means. If that means better services for needle exchange or addiction treatment that ensure the clients get what they need, then that’s what is needed!

And if that means feminists marching in the streets against rape and sexual assault and abuse until we get what we want from government and from society, then that’s what it means- but surely that must include the women in the sex industry marching alongside.

Jess // Posted 18 March 2011 at 10:36 am

@JK. I appreciated your original point re: anti-porn feminisms silence around the economic exclusion of women who have sex worked. I agree that because a woman chooses sex work in the absence of any other viable choice that the circumstances that got her into sex work and stop her from exiting it need to be addressed. However, I do question the premise that an increase in rape and sexual assault services tailored for women in the sex industry properly addresses the issue of harm and indeed seems to miss the point.

Jennifer Krase // Posted 18 March 2011 at 11:00 am

Those are examples. Suggestions. I can’t imagine that better reporting pathways- also known as better services- would be a bad thing. I don’t have a comprehensive strategy that works, and so far neither does anyone else… my comment wasn’t a full proposal for the solution, but a quick summation of some of my beliefs.

I don’t think it adequately addresses the issue of harm- to address harm we have to continue addressing the wider culture of porn consumption and creation which at the minute is dominated by straight white cis male profiteers. HOWEVER, that is a long slog. Better services are a beneficial stop gap in the mean time and until we have them- and the other things I threw out there- surely we can’t claim those things don’t help.

Laurelin // Posted 18 March 2011 at 4:38 pm

And once again, the discussion of the damage done to women like Rebecca and Laura is ignored, their descriptions of extreme violence looked over, by those desperate to bolster a system which thrives on the rape and torture of women.

And once again, those responsible for violence against prostituted women- johns – are ignored in favour of blasting those few feminists brave enough to criticise.

paul kelly // Posted 18 March 2011 at 5:44 pm

Rebecca Mott said:

I think it important to put on the record that the use of the term sex worker is more than just hurtful and highly triggering – it is a term that the profiteers of the sex trade have infiltrated into the Left and feminism to erase the violence that is embedded in every aspect of the sex trade.

I use the terms prostituted woman for it named what is happening to the vast majority of women and girls in the sex trade. It defines that prostituted are stripped of rights to safety – that is controlled by the profiteers and punters. The prostituted are made into sub-human goods for men to use, severely abused and throw away.

Call it sex work – and the wastage of prostituted women and girls is made invisible – and what the sex trade wants, can be made out to be a minor problem.

I use the term exited women – or most women that leave the sex trade either do because they know it will kill them or with the help of determined others. It very hard to leave the sex trade with ease, for there is so much brainwashing that the outside world will hate you – that is a lie to keep prostituted women from having hope or communicating with the world outside of the sex trade. For a great majority of prostituted women, leaving is impossible for the managers/pimps will use extreme violence to keep their goods – this includes extreme sexual torture, moving her in other aspects of the sex trade to disorient her, and the ultimate the threat of or actual murder.

As for not understanding what hurt is. Well hurt feelings from a few anti-porn feminists saying critical words – is not the same as the actual hurt of say most prostituted women.

A few hurts I had to endured.

Being gang-raped on a regular basis.

Being orally raped until I lost consciousness.

Anally raped so badly I had a small heart attack.

Being locked in a flat and treated as porn-goods.

Being filmed for porn as I was sadistically raped.

That a tiny part of what I had to endured. But for most women and girls in long-term prostitution, that amount of violence and hate is their norm.

That is how I would define hurt.

Oh my god. That made me feel sick. Im sorry for what youve had to endure, thats awful, truly shocking like a 3rd world country :-(

paul

Laurelin // Posted 18 March 2011 at 8:04 pm

paul – it happens everyday in all countries, unfortunately.

maggie // Posted 19 March 2011 at 7:19 pm

Paul: Why would you equate it with a third world country? This so called westernised civilisation – i.e. let’s take the brand ‘prostitute’ and resell it as ‘sex worker’, is just about to hit the third world. The prostitutes there too can join in the ‘fun’.

I never have and never would condem or judge a prostitute. Unlike the punters who use them.

polly // Posted 22 March 2011 at 8:24 am

“And if that means feminists marching in the streets against rape and sexual assault and abuse until we get what we want from government and from society, then that’s what it means- but surely that must include the women in the sex industry marching alongside.”

Can you please give me an example of when women in the sex industry (as opposed to those who PROFIT from women in the sex industry) have been purposefully excluded?

Jennifer – I said Belle du Jour’s experiences were hardly typical as she has written a best selling book which has also been adapted on TV. She is also a woman who is considerably privileged in that she is highly educated and able to access alternative “legitimate” employment when she decided to give up sex work.

She is not in the same position as other women in sex work, whether you are prepared to admit it or not. That isn’t the same as saying she has never had bad experiences, I’m sure she has.

She is however privileged, and chose sex work, which I presume, given her book, TV series etc she has done well out of financially. Your position is that you prefer her words to those of women who are not so privileged.

Which I repeat is a VERY odd position.

And I never said I was an anti porn feminist actually. I’m just saying you’re a hypocrite.

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