Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not For Sale.

For some goddamn reason (well, probably "hey, I can write a grouchy blog post about this!"), I picked up Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant's Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography from the library. I kinda knew what I was going to think just from the title, because "resisting" is a weird and weaselly word for it. "Opposing" makes sense, "resisting" makes it sound like they're valiantly fighting a powerful compulsion to run out and start selling $20 blowjobs on Pac Highway.

Personally, I think legalization is the only way prostitution can be made safe. Prostitution isn't inherently dangerous because it's sexual; it's dangerous because it's marginal. Predators don't attack people in sex shops or strip bars or or swingers' clubs, they don't go where sex is, they go where women with no legal protection or organizational safety measures are. Likewise human trafficking gravitates to prostitution because it's outside the law anyway; they don't smuggle people in to work at Safeway, because that's a legitimate, regulated business.

(Also, streetwalking isn't all of prostitution, and a high- or middle-class escort with high fees and client screening is in a very different business and far less prone to abuse.)

I also think pornography shouldn't be lumped in with prostitution. Porn stars aren't fucking random strangers. Sometimes it's not strangers at all--some porn stars perform with their real-life partners, for chrissakes, adding a camera to what you do anyway hardly seems problematic--and when they are strangers, they still come with a guarantee they're not going to be diseased or abusive.

Finally, I think a lot of objections to prostitution are really objections to capitalism. I've never sold my ass, but I sell my body five days a week--I do physical things I don't enjoy and say things I don't mean because I need the money to live. I risk violent assault and exposure to diseases at my job. I have to touch and be nice to strangers off the street with no right to refuse unpleasant ones. The vast majority of the money I take in is kept by my employer.

But l I provide a socially valuable and economically productive service, and I'm in the same boat with most anybody with a job. (How I differ from hookers, other than the obvious: I have the ability to call the cops, to file an L&I claim, and to sue my employer. And because my employer knows this they provide safety systems. Legalization would save lives, people.) Doing un-fun things to meet survival needs is a condition of life outside the Garden of Eden, and I'm not convinced that selling sex is a uniquely horrible way of doing that.

In short, a vagina job is really just a job, but "resisting" it makes it unnecessarily sketchy and dangerous. That's my overall view, snarky commentary on ridiculous quotes from the book are coming in the next post.


  1. It's very true, in fact I don't quite understand the idea of feminists opposing prostitution. The idea to the right of your body seems very much feminist to me. Of course there is the issue of safety, which would of course, similarly to drugs, be likely better addressed by making it legal, rather than exposing it to already existent criminal energy. On top of that, as the great Penn Jillette pointed out on youtube (probably of course not a new idea), sex seems to be one of the very few things you can't sell, but give away for free, which is slightly mind boggling to me.

  2. Bardock42 - I think the objection is that sex without a truly free choice is rape, and adding money (which someone may need to survive) to the deal makes the choice unfree. Which to me only proves that no one should be forced into prostitution. And hell, no one should be forced into sewing sneakers or serving drinks either. Doesn't mean that we should abolish the shoe industry and only wear homemade, freely gifted shoes.

  3. But by that they actually put oppressive legislation on mainly women. As you said human trafficking, and forced prostitution should and are illegal, but I don't see what is achieved by forbidding to do something on their own free will for money, that they can do for free.

  4. And by that definition (paying someone to do something is compulsion) my job is slavery, though not rape.

  5. DG - The problem is, there are people who would answer your objection with a smug little "Exactly." Where these people think food and clothing come from, I never know.

  6. "I once heard Annie Sprinkle say that until prostitution is legalized, no woman will be free. This struck me as true at the time, but it took a long time for me to tease out the implications. One of them is that as long as there are women who are outside the protection of the social contract, all women are threatened with reassignment to that category."

    -- Teresa Nielsen Hayden (I have this quote handy because I stashed it in my blog a few years ago and know what keyword I put on it, heh)

  7. I can't remember who said it, but it was something along the lines of " Prostitution is a combination of sex and free enterprise. Which of those are you opposed to."

  8. Williamthe CoronerMay 17, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    Interestingly, some folks are opposed to capitalism and some folks are opposed to sex. I've heard the arguement that selling yourself, rather than your product is an inherent evil. By that logic, though, what makes acting legit and prostitution wrong.

    I agree, people who are marginalized have fewer protections and are at risk. Be they young, old, illegals, etc.

    This is right up there with "why can't I sell a kidney". Everyone benefits but the person giving up the organ.

  9. "Everyone benefits but the person giving up the organ."

    Most people don't give up organs for nothin', unless they are dead.

  10. Porn and prostitution. Not for sale could mean that a woman's sexual experience is most satisfied when there is love and respect in a sacred relationship. I don't see how someone can justify what is going on. Ass to mouth porn? Double penetration? I would rather change the society which forces young women to scramble for money. If capitalism allows this to arise, then, hell yeah, I'm questioning capitalism, it's not right. And capitalism/communism aren't different, they are both forms of industrial civilization that devalue human beings. Both consume distant families of life with slight concern for the well being of humans who live there. This apathy, starting with the bankers, of course invades our own society. I'd rather fight the money system then buy and abuse women. It's the toughest challenge we all face.

  11. Sometimes I agree with you so much that it's scary.