One Gyrl’s Take on the Stop Porn Culture Conference

When I think of the international Stop Porn Culture (SPC) conference I attended in Boston last June, the first image that comes to mind is of a giant plastic foot with a slot in it for men to ejaculate into (Dr. Gail Dines discussed this during her presentation). The first phrase that comes to mind is humantoiletbowls dot com, the domain name of a mainstream porn site. And the first sound that comes to mind is that of a young boy gasping for breath as he is suffocated and raped by a trusted adult man addicted to pornography.

If what you’ve just read disturbs you, it should distress you even further to know that children are consuming porn at a younger age than ever before. Indeed, according to one of SPC’s presenters, the fourth most common word searched for by children is “sex,” (and what do you think shows up after such a search?); the fifth is “porn”. Where do you think your children are getting their sex-education, parents? Not from the “abstinence only” school curricula, that’s for sure.

Pornography is increasingly impacting our emotional health as well. Dear Abby had a sixteen-year-old girl write to her about porn addiction! Porn addicts have even been known to sing songs to their porn collections and stay home from vacation to masturbate to images. While we all were aware of the financial collapse, how many of us knew that men working at the Securities and Exchange Commission were jerking off to Internet porn, some as much as eight hours a day? And porn has increasingly come to (negatively) impact intimate relationships; some dub it the new “other woman.”

But, as is obvious to every woman alive, not everyone sees our porn-saturated society as a problem. As one of the founding members of Stop Porn Culture, Dr. Gail Dines, pointed out at the first SPC conference, while porn has become increasingly harsh, a feminist challenge to the porn industry has gone underground. Thus, SPC was founded in the hopes of bringing a radical feminist analysis of pornography back to the forefront of the feminist agenda. In order to combat porn, Dr. Dines suggests raising pornography consumption as a public health issue, much as was done with smoking. While this idea may be the most pragmatic way to challenge the industry, I’m saddened the exploitation of women required to make pornography does not in itself cause outrage. Perhaps male violence could be incorporated into a “public health” approach, but how likely this would be in a male-dominated society, I do not know. Yet, just the act of lessening porn production and consumption would have the effect of decreasing some violence against women, clearly a feminist goal.

Somewhat similarly, the topic of porn and capitalism came up among conference attendees. Several of the conference-goers I talked to seemed to believe if capitalism is dismantled, violent porn would cease to exist. I found this a rather odd assumption, since male supremacy is clearly present in non-capitalist societies. What reason is there to believe the images created by this imaginary society would be kinder and gentler to women? None, as far as I can tell.

These thoughts were echoed by the speakers on the panel regarding legal approaches to challenging the pornography industry. The first scholar, a woman from Durham University, stated that any new laws confronting pornography should be based on a feminist analysis of the industry as opposed to a moral one. The following presenter, Diane Rosenfeld, reminded us that the feminist community has a limited amount of monetary and time resources; we have to decide what the best use of these resources is: legal, education, etc. Rosenfeld also gave us a fairly recent example, the case of Abu Ghraib, where pictures were used to indict individuals for actions. But, when it comes to women, torture is a means to male sexual pleasure.

So, what did I take away from this feminist anti-pornography conference—in addition to overwhelming anger, that is? One of the main messages I got was that there are women fighting back; despite what the pornographers say, women will not be cowered into silence. Even if half the male population gets off to our pain, we will not go down without a fight. We will not give in to your phallic-like missiles, knives, and guns because we have justice on our side.

65 Responses to “One Gyrl’s Take on the Stop Porn Culture Conference”

  1. Aletha says:

    Needless to say, there is a lot going on in the world at the moment which has been preoccupying me, but a couple of things jump out at me.

    One of the recurrent themes is whether the harms associated with sex work are inherent and intrinsic, or imposed by structural factors which are therefore amenable to change.

    I do not think this is a matter of either-or. The harms are both intrinsic and exacerbated by structural factors, such as the law. The law could be changed, but that would not eliminate the harms, though it might put a dent in them. The results of the changed law in New Zealand are hotly debated, as I am sure you know.

    As for whether many prostitutes cannot imagine doing something else, you left out my qualification, realistically. I qualified my statement for a reason. I was not implying prostitutes are deficient in imagination.

    I think you may exaggerate your ability to win the trust of prostitutes. Those who agree with you would be more inclined to trust you. Those who do not, probably would not give you the time of day. Very few of their voices are heard, and those who venture to speak out about the hell they have been through are roundly ridiculed by those asking people to believe the harms of prostitution are primarily, or exclusively, due to the law. You may not participate in this ridicule, but I imagine those who ridiculed me on the Ms. blog do.

  2. Aletha says:

    Perhaps it is just me, but I also have to object to this concept of selling sex as a service, which you say is how prostitutes prefer to term their way of surviving. Perhaps that is a more bearable description than selling the body, but this concept derives from the traditional role of women, to serve men, and specifically sexually. This was her role, part of her duty to the man who provided for her and the children, to service his needs and whims. Her pleasure had nothing to do with it.

    Feminists have a different idea about sex, that it is mutually desired and pleasurable. Money cannot create this reciprocity. A prostitute agrees to be the fantasy companion for a price. If the man is nice about it, it might not matter so much that sex is still sunk in meaningless commercialism, women competing to be bought for a short while. The traditional roles did not require the man to provide pleasure; that was the job of the woman, to service her husband. He had no responsibility to care if she enjoyed sex as much as he did. That responsibility was the idea of feminists. The *sex-positives* like to say, their opponents idealize sex, do not recognize sex comes in many varieties. Granted, but I maintain, sex not mutually desired is one criterion for rape. Needing money cannot create desire for sex with a stranger. Money cannot create relationships; there has to be some substance or it is all meaningless fantasy at best. You say this fantasy is harmless. I think probably for men it is, but not for women. This concept of the service of sex rankles, whether within traditional relationships or prostitution. It is the principle of the thing.

  3. Aletha

    While I can understand that you are likely to disagree with me about the nature of harm involved in sexual transaction, I am going to contend that you are assuming the intrinsic harms. There is no reason other than ideological as to why such exchanges between consenting adults should be harmful. Perhaps we need a more thorough debate on this, and the natur eof harm. If people are abused, as in other walks of life, we cannot assume it was because of selling sex. You also refer to law, but I am stating that the violence of stigmatisation is one of the worst harms.

    You say that the situation in New Zealand is hotly debated. That’s a point of view. Taken literally it is true – the opponents of the law were unswayed by its passage and continue to attack it relentlessly. That is not so much a matter of the credibility of the evidence as deeply felt beliefs. The evidence in terms of evaluation and what I saw with my own eyes and ears is that things are much better, but not surprisingly stigma has not diminished – that could take a generation, and those who continue to denounce it add to the stigma and prejudice. (Gillian Abel, Lisa Fitzgerald, Catherine Healy, Aline Taylor: Taking the crime out of sex work
    New Zealand sex workers’ fight for decriminalisation. Policy Press 2010)

    I think sex workers’ consider life’s alternatives in much the same way as you or I. Even those trapped in chaotic lives of drug use and homelessness do so, although clearly their opportunities for improvement are narrow, but not impossible, if we place the means within their reach.

    I know a large number of current and former sex workers. Some have been through hell and others have not. They all have their opinions on it. I agree that for many one of the commonest complaints is their apparent invisibility and inability to have their voices heard. But I think it is conjecture that there is somehow a large silent majority. The people we deal with in outreach are those with the worst experiences, but they are not notably different in their views. Certainly there are those who have moved on and complain bitterly about their experiences, and likely those who don’t complain but feel similarly. As before I agree with you that to riducule them is totally unjustified. However that does not affect the generality that it is not so much a matter of intrinsic harm, but conditions which we can do something about.

  4. Aletha

    I am not sure why you say “surviving”, unless you mean we all work to survive not being independently wealthy.

    While people talk about “selling bodies” as a construct, that simply does not fit the facts. Sex Workers compare themselves to other personal service workers. Obviously I agree with you about traditional views of patriarchal hegemony. However I hope you do not mean to imply women never derived any pleasure.

    You are generalising when you say “feminists”. I would disagree that this is a view fundamental to feminism. Interestingly most sex workers I know self-identify as feminists. (For a study of sex workers, desire and pleasure, see Anna Kontula: The sex worker and her pleasure. Current Sociology 2008).

    It sounds as if you and I use the term rape very differently. My concern is that by extending its meaning we diminish the extent of the wrong. I think also you may be projecting your feelings on to the situation. People have very different views on these matters, and I am sure that to many women the concept is unthinkable. Yet is is equally clear that there are also many who feel quite differently, and we need to respect those differences.

  5. Aletha says:

    There is no reason other than ideological as to why such exchanges between consenting adults should be harmful.

    Oh, really. Next are you going to tell me there is no intrinsic harm to women in being treated as sex objects? I am assuming these harms? You have to downplay the entire context of the history of male domination over women to conclude that. Not to mention, I would dispute what you mean by “consenting.” I went into that matter in some depth on the Ms. blog. Consent in the context of severely limited opportunities is severely compromised, intrinsically. In many cases the extent of that compromise makes consent meaningless.

    Evidence is interpreted by the eye of the beholder. Certainly you are aware of the problems of assuming evidence can be interpreted without bias. Others have looked at the same evidence as you and come to vastly different conclusions. This is not just a matter of belief. People will perceive what is in accordance with their beliefs, true, but there is also the matter of in what terms a situation is perceived to be better. Does denouncing the objectification of women contribute to prejudice? It depends on where the denouncer is coming from.

    Prostitutes with the worst experiences are not “notably different in their views?” That statement makes me incredulous. How would you know those with the worst experiences are availing themselves of outreach? You assume too much. I think that statement is a matter of conjecture.

    Calling selling sex a service is not a matter of fact, but of definition. So is selling the body. My point was, in traditional relationships, the pleasure of the woman in the sex act is totally besides the point. I contend the same is true of prostitution, and pornography. Identifying as a feminist means almost nothing these days. Even Sarah Palin sometimes claims that mantle. In some ways she is feminist, in others not. Even Larry Flynt has said only radical feminists have a problem with him. Obviously I am using my own definition of feminist. I view reclaiming language as an important part of a feminist revolution. When Larry Flynt can claim most feminists have no issue with him, the word needs reclaiming. Not that I would dispute that most prostitutes are feminist; if their experiences did not make them understand feminism, I do not know what would. However, those who glory in getting paid for being a sex object, as if that is so empowering and feminist, I would have to question what feminism means to them.

    Are you saying sex not mutually desired is not necessarily rape? Why not? The Republicans recently had to backtrack on their attempt to redefine rape for the purpose of determining whether federal funds could be used to terminate a resulting pregnancy. They wanted to change the law so that a pregnancy resulting from forcible rape would still be exempted from the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, but not a rape not involving force. How are you concluding I am extending the meaning of rape?

  6. “Next are you going to tell me there is no intrinsic harm to women in being treated as sex objects?”
    No I am not, and you know I am not. The situations are distinguishable. I said that two people exchanging something is not inherently wrong or harmful. Obviously the context of exchange can be one in which harm occurs, just as anything can be abused. Swindling someone is clearly wrong, but it does not make the exchange itself wrong, merely the terms and motivations.

    I would dispute your contention that consent is “meaningless”. All decisions occur within the context of constraint because it is rare that we are all equal in all ways. That does not change our inherent moral agency – the ability to make choices. It is our ability to always make the choices we would like that is constrained – our autonomy. Feminists refer to relational autonomy, meaning that all choices are made in relation to power structures, but they are still choices. Consent is always consent, it cannot be meaningless by definition. If you are forced to do something, that is not consent. To dismiss consent is to reduce the other to a subhuman condition devoid of agency or voice. That is very dangerous and depersonalising.

    “Evidence is interpreted by the eye of the beholder.”
    No it is not. There are various ways of assessing evidence, including its weight and validity, science is one example, law is another. “you are aware of the problems of assuming evidence can be interpreted without bias.” Absolutely, all evidence is biased by definition. It is our responsibility to assess the extent and direction of bias and to interpret evidence accordingly. “Others have looked at the same evidence as you and come to vastly different conclusions.” Obviously, or we would not be having this discussion. As you know there are strong voices that have conceptualised sexual exchange as wrong, as a form of violence, as degrading, and as a blow to gender equality. But on the other hand there is a huge body of thinking which finds no basis for this, including virtually everyone in academia. One is a belief based on social construction, the other is empirical knowledge. That makes it hard to have a dialogue. There is no empirical data to support the former point of view.
    Who would not denounce the objectification of women – or any other group?

    What I said was “The people we deal with in outreach are those with the worst experiences, but they are not notably different in their views.” These are people who have experienced attempted murder, rape, physical assault, imprisonment, homelessness, prejudice, poverty, and having their children taken into care. Why do you assume that somehow there is a worse off group? We are the only people offering some care and support. Is it not possible that it is you that is making assumptions? Where is your evidence that somehow we are missing a large and significant group? We ask them to find others in need of help.

    I do agree with you about the problems of self-identified feminists, which covers an enormous range of ideas and philosophies. Which is why we frequently say “feminisms”. To that I would add “radical”, other than where one refers to people who self-identify with that label. And yes I agree with you regarding reclamation, it is something I feel strongly about.

    “Glory” is probably not a word I would have used, but then who glories about being paid for working at McDonalds? Similarly I would contest “getting paid for being a sex object”. I don’t anyone like that.

    “Are you saying sex not mutually desired is not necessarily rape?”
    I am actually, but at the same time question the meaning of both “mutual desire” and “rape”. The latter might seem strange but there has been a recent trend to call many things rape, which seems to trivialise the act itself. If two people engage in a sexual encounter because they are acting in a film – is that lacking mutual desire? Surely people can negotiate their own terms without us telling them what is good for them? We have come a long way from recognising that sex need not necessarily be procreational but may be recreational. But are we still depicting sex as “good’ and “bad”, just as people did when the former meant “within the bonds of marriage”?

    You ask me “How are you concluding I am extending the meaning of rape?” I was referring to your statement “Granted, but I maintain, sex not mutually desired is one criterion for rape.” To me anyway that seemed to extend the definition beyond that of forced penetration. But I may have misinterpreted you.?

    Once again Aletha, thanks for your patience and persistence in this important dialogue.

  7. Aletha says:

    You insist on dismissing distinctions between prostitution and other forms of exchanges. This is why I wondered whether you were going to tell me there is no intrinsic harm in women being treated as sex objects. There are other ways women are treated as sex objects, all of them harmful to women. Are you saying prostitutes are not treated as sex objects? How so? Note, I am not speaking of how they view themselves. That is a separate issue.

    “All decisions occur within the context of constraint because it is rare that we are all equal in all ways.” Rare and all do not mix. Are there exceptions or not? I contend there are, and not only that, those exceptions ought to be the rule, not the exceptions. This is not the society we live in, but that does not make it right to downplay the compromises contaminating consent as if they do not matter, just because someone thinks such compromises are unavoidable. They are not. Those compromises are all created by the culture. Are you saying consent is never so heavily compromised as to be effectively meaningless? Does a child who does not want to go to school, but feels there is no choice, consent or not? What about a worker in a sweatshop, to which Noam Chomsky compared women in pornography? Decisions are sometimes relatively free, sometimes a matter of necessity or feeling one has to make the best of a bad situation. I contend far too many prostitutes find themselves in the latter situation. They decide to allow themselves to be used, because they perceive this is necessary for them to survive. I call that meaningless consent. It is not “forced,” per se, but it is too heavily compromised to be meaningful.

    It is your assumption I am “dismissing” consent. I am elucidating why I find the concept problematic. Many choices in this culture are the result of deception. The person making the choice is usually unaware of that; this is why I make such a big deal of the concept of fully informed consent, which I find wholly incompatible with prostitution, and pornography.

    I am not convinced by your concept of the objective interpretation of evidence. This blog is full of my commentary on the corruption of science. Are you not aware that scientists routinely claim there is no evidence that anyone has died from the use of nuclear power? That there is no evidence connecting a mercury compound used as a preservative in vaccines with neurological disorders, such as autism? That there is no evidence that genetically modified crops are any different from non-engineered crops? Examples of the selective use and interpretation of evidence are rife in science, and do not get me started on the law. Lawyers spin evidence as a matter of course. There are objective facts, but those applying to human behavior are few and far between. You concede all evidence is biased, yet you deny it is interpreted by the eye of the beholder? All perceptions are interpreted by the eye of the beholder. What did you think I meant by that?

    Consent is also too heavily compromised to be meaningful when a woman allows a man to have sex with her because he is persistent, and she fears what might happen if she persists in rejecting his advances, or she just gets tired of the battle. This is rape, but not necessarily forcible penetration. The man will claim the woman consented. Juries often refuse to convict a rapist on the grounds a woman should have known better than to have a drink with a man, or accompany him to his abode. More examples of meaningless consent; the consent is deemed implied by her behavior, which she should have known would be taken as provocative. Consent is a huge can of worms men have used very effectively against women in cases of acquaintance and date rape.

    It could be said that a slave consented to work for the owner. That the slave had no choice in the matter did not matter to the owner; the apologists for slavery contended that was natural and best for the slaves. The slave did have a “choice,” however impractical; the slave could try to run away, or commit suicide, or simply refuse to work and accept the punishment.

    “As you know there are strong voices that have conceptualised sexual exchange as wrong, as a form of violence, as degrading, and as a blow to gender equality.” What are you calling sexual exchange? Some extremist lesbians view all heterosexual sex in that way. I object to you conflating selling sex with sexual encounters engaged in out of mutual desire. These extremists see the distinction I would draw as a distinction without a difference. I got the impression from some of the comments on the Ms. blog by prostitutes that they also see the distinction as meaningless. They may allow men to use them, but at least they are getting paid for it! As I stated above, in traditional relationships the distinction did not mean much, because the pleasure and desires of the woman in such relationships is totally besides the point. In some cultures it is still legal for a man to purchase a bride. Are you saying it is a matter of empirical knowledge that prostitution and pornography are not degrading to women? No, it is a matter of definition, a definition I reject utterly. Is someone like Gail Dines virtually alone in academia? I doubt it. For one, Noam Chomsky would reject that definition.

    “We are the only people offering some care and support.” I call BS on that. How arrogant. Perhaps you do not view people trying to help prostitutes get out as caring or supportive? You recall the rosy picture of prostitution painted on the Ms. blog? Are you saying these horribly abused women are not notably different in their views? I find that really difficult to believe. Perhaps you mean the prostitutes who painted that rosy picture on the Ms. blog are as unusual as Rebecca Mott. I think they are far more unusual. Were they not glorying in their perceived empowerment? What word would you use? Perhaps I do not understand what you mean by “notably.”

    “Similarly I would contest “getting paid for being a sex object”. I don’t anyone like that.” I think you left out a word (know?), but would you care to elaborate? What do you think prostitutes are getting paid for?

    “If two people engage in a sexual encounter because they are acting in a film – is that lacking mutual desire?” It depends. You may not have read the entries about pornography on the Ms. blog. I attempted to draw a distinction between erotica and pornography. I even quoted Gloria Steinem from her first book making such a distinction (see my first comment on this entry), only to be ridiculed for it, on a blog created by an organization she co-founded. If there is mutual desire, I would call such a film erotica. Yes there are plenty of people who still depict sex as good or bad, but I am drawing a distinction between exploitation and mutuality, and I contend mutuality cannot be purchased. Do you believe women are always aware when they are being degraded? Hardly. If that were the case, whole industries would go out of business in a heartbeat. Should I not criticize breast implants? High heels? Toxic cosmetics? Women purchase all these of their own free will, though I question whether their consent is fully informed.

    You did not misinterpret that I do not restrict rape to forced penetration. I hotly object to your characterization that not restricting rape to that trivializes rape. Perhaps you and I use the word force differently. Are you referring to physical force exclusively? When a woman agrees to sex because she feels threatened or pressured in any way, physically or otherwise, that is rape, in my eyes, and so is when a woman “agrees” to sex because she is too drunk to realize what is happening to her. Obviously there are degrees of brutality in cases of rape, like any form of abuse, but they all have something in common, the lack of mutual desire. No doubt you are aware that many men think rape requires active resistance by the woman, and if she does not physically resist, there is no force involved, hence it is not rape. Many rape victims are too terrified to resist. These men seem to think if the woman does not try to fight, she must be enjoying herself. I am not saying you are in that camp, but to say only forced penetration is rape is a slippery slope, and that such men would agree with that definition, though they may not interpret force in the same way you do. Perhaps you ought to define “forced penetration.”

  8. Aletha says:

    A couple more things I did not comment on because I did not want to speculate about what you might have meant:

    Who would not denounce the objectification of women – or any other group?

    Is this a trick question? There are a great many men who have no problem with the objectification of women, some secretly, others who maintain this is the natural order of things. How about johns, for instance?

    I do not consider radical a label. Some people strive to go to the root of matters. In that sense, I am a radical feminist. When the word is used as a label, it all too often is misused as an attack on extremists. For example, feminists and Democrats often rail against “radical” Republicans who are anything but radical; it would be far more accurate to describe them as extremists, reactionaries, or both.

  9. Aletha says:

    I think Professor Goodyear has given up on this discussion. He may not have anticipated that I would have so little regard for conventional wisdom. Rebecca Mott has written a new piece that debunks many of the myths surrounding prostitution.

    It is nice to gloss over the violence inside the sex trade, but it not realistic and is very insulting to the millions of women and girls enduring that hell, and the lucky ones who have exited and are living with extreme trauma from that violence.

    They are the vast majority, they are the goods that the sex trade will know it has an endless supply of – so the sex trade will torture, will rape on industrial scale, will pick on all vulnerable women and girls, will focus on the poor, will focus on racist stereotyping, will get girls who have already been abused, will throw away most of its goods if she is too old or protest too much – that is the environment for most women an girls inside the sex trade.

    The violence is so normalised that most women and girls inside the sex trade cannot name as rape, cannot know it is structured mental and physical torture. It is so regular that no pain is felt, for to survive the prostituted woman or girl has cut away her body from her mind.

    So,when you say there is little violence – that is because you choose to see the surface, the whore who smiles, the porn actress who clearly loves being fucked – you don’t look into her eyes, you don’t see her deadness. You choose not to view her as human as you are.

    To look only for the happy hooker or rich porn star is a deep betrayal to most women and girls inside or exited from the sex trade. It is self-delusional, and is it you wanting the sex trade just to about happy sex that you like, or may think would be adventurous. It is nothing to do with reality that sex is nothing to do with what goes on inside the sex trade.

    Most prostitutes of any man-made label are not having sex, it is exploitation and violence.

    Whether there is rape, torture or threats or not, the prostitute is always viewed as goods to be exchanged. She is not viewed as a full human, just a porn-toy. In that environment, the prostitute learn to smile and to please the punter – it keeps her relatively safe, never fully safe for always the punter can choose to beat her up or sexually torture her at any time.

    Inside most porn, the consumers demand the contented porn star – no matter there is agony, no matter it could be classed as torture, no matters the risks of disease and mental damage – he wants her to look happy.

    The myth of the “caring” punter – don’t make me laugh.

    Punters will buy whatever fits their porn-fuelled heads. They don’t care if she is under-aged, full of needles marks, just been beaten up, cannot speak the language of the country she is in, if he is part of a line of many men fucking her, if it appears she is locked in – god, why would they care, many punters love the power of forcing a whore back into dirt.

    It is a myth that punters report dodgy going-ons unless they have been caught out. Heck, they are the market for under-aged and trafficked women, why would they report that.

    These punters are not the bad apples, they are the major profit for the sex trade.

    I could explode with rage and grief each time I have to hear that prostitution will be ok if it placed indoors.

    How many times must it be stated there is nothing safe about indoors prostitution – not when men who choose to buy and consume prostitution always have the choice whether to use violence or not.

    The bottom line is never where the prostitute is – it is whether or not she is sold as an object to be treated as trash or not, it is whether the punter’s fantasy is to fuck her close to death or not. That can be in any place – on the street, in a posh hotel, inside a car, in a brothel, brought from the net, in a flat and endless other locations.

    The prostitute has no rights that allow her safety, just the hope that the individual punter will not be too violent.

    In that environment, all outward signs of safety – alarms, bodyguards, bad punters lists etc – are completely pointless. For if she is marketed as fuck-goods, anything goes behind closed doors.

    These so-called safety precautions are just for show, it not about stopping the hate and violence.

    But the good professor believes the problem is the law? Wishful thinking, I say. The law is part of the problem, but the bigger picture is the institution of prostitution, which will not cease to be oppressive and abusive if made legal.

  10. Aletha says:

    France is now considering the Swedish approach to prostitution! The French social affairs minister says, “There is no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution.” This story is from the Guardian

    France may make it illegal to pay for sex
    France is to consider making it illegal to pay for sex, in a rethink of prostitution laws.

    A cross-party commission of French MPs have recommended criminalising all clients of sex workers, meaning anyone who buys sex from any kind of prostitute would face prison and a fine.

    If a law is introduced, France would join only a handful of European countries where clients of sex workers face prison. In 1999 Sweden became the first, followed by Norway and Iceland.

    The Socialist Danielle Bousquet and Guy Geoffroy of Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP said clients must understand that any visit to a prostitute encouraged slavery and trafficking – which 80% of the estimated 20,000 sex-workers in France were victims of.

    Roselyne Bachelot, the social affairs minister, favours criminalising clients. She told the commission inquiry: “There is no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution. The sale of sexual acts means women’s bodies are made available for men, independently of the wishes of those women.”

    Proposals for a law could be drawn up this month but it would not be debated in parliament before 2012.

    In France prostitution is not illegal, but activities around it are. Brothels, once the subject of artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, were outlawed in 1946. Pimping is illegal, as is paying for sex from a minor. In 2003 a controversial law against soliciting was introduced by Sarkozy, then interior minister, making it illegal to stand in a public place known for prostitution dressed in revealing clothes. Sex-workers’ groups in France have long campaigned for legal status and rights.

    I would dispute that encouraging slavery and trafficking is the problem with prostitution. I see the larger issue as the lack of free fully informed consent. I stand by my position that when a woman wants sex, she does not want money for it. Genuine desire is not something that can be bought. That a woman may think this is a reasonable way to make a living does not mean she desires to have sex with a john; she is merely willing to accommodate the john because the money may seem worth it. People will do all kinds of things to survive when they feel they have to, or to make the best of a bad situation. This does not mean they desire to do these things. Desire and necessity are rarely commingled. When people are too hungry to be picky, they will eat just about anything, regardless of how unappetizing it may be. Very few prostitutes can afford to be as picky as they would like to be when choosing a sex partner. It is a rare prostitute who has the luxury to choose only those clients she finds particularly appealing. It is the general rule that her wishes and desires are completely besides the point; she must allow johns to indulge their fantasies so she can survive. She may or may not be in a position to get a john bounced if she feels she is in danger, but this is a matter of self-preservation, not her wishes or desires.

  11. Aletha says:

    The current Spring 2011 issue of Ms. Magazine has a cover story and an ad relevant to this entry. The cover story is Rape is Rape, which takes apart this notion that rape is only rape if it meets the FBI Uniform Crime Report definition from 1929,

    The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.

    Pressure shamed Republicans from dropping language in the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that “defined real rape exclusively as forcible rape.” However, the FBI UCR definition still limits reporting of rape at the federal level, which has a chilling effect on the willingness of rape victims to report the crime, and feeds into the notion that rape victims who are not bruised and bleeding must have asked for it.

    The advertisement is at the end of the magazine, one of three ads under the heading WOMEN UNDER ATTACK: Porn, Plastic, and the Right, for the Gail Dines book Pornland. Robin Morgan, Ms. Global Editor, is quoted:

    Dines brilliantly exposes porn’s economics, pervasiveness, and impact with scholarship as impeccable as her tone is reasonable. This book will change your life. Ignore it at your peril.

    I wonder if Ms. Morgan is aware of how that book, and Gail Dines personally, were trashed on the Ms. blog.

  12. Aletha says:

    Rebecca Mott has written a piece called Manipulation, where she describes the state of denial that allowed her to survive her torment.

    No wonder that women that in the middle of girlfriend experience and or escorting must believe they are empowered, that it must be safer than other forms of prostitution – and that in many ways it is not prostitution.

    To see it as prostitution, is to see your own terror, to know that punters have pre-planned to hurt you bad, to understand that there is always some manager/businessman/pimp profiteering from your hell.

    That is too much for most prostituted women to bear – of course they make themselves dead to their own reality, of course they will speak of it as empowering and their free choice, of course they must believe without any real evidence that they are manipulating the men.

    Ms. Mott knows all too well of what she speaks. She lived it. People trying to make the best of a bad situation can convince themselves of just about anything to get through the hell. In this culture where women are trained that our lot is to subordinate ourselves for male pleasure, it is not that hard for some women to convince themselves they enjoy being abused, or at least that it is not that bad, or that the john really does care. Sex is not a commodity; it cannot be bought or sold, because sex is an expression of mutual desire. Anything less is abuse, regardless of how much a woman may be paid for it.

  13. Aletha says:

    Rebecca Mott took on the lies of “sex-positive” feminism.

    Wow, that sounds like feminism to me – allowing millions of prostituted women and girls to be destroyed, in order that you can fulfilled selfish sexual needs.

    This type of feminism make the choice to buy the sex trade lie – that being inside the sex trade is just work, oh it may nasty and dangerous work, but heck it must be better than being a cleaner or working with fast food.

    You will say we are not talking sex slaves, but adult women who freely consent.

    Well I have never meet or heard of that unicorn outside of Hollywood or in Happy Hooker “memoirs”.

    I know and think is very normal that women inside the sex trade will be out-spoken at saying it is empowering and they may say it is liberating. That is not the language of freedom, it is the language of survival and determination to block out all the violence and degradation that is their norm.

    It is a massive lie that the violence only happens when the sex trade is forced underground.

    The sex trade is never truly underground, it always available or any man with money, especially if it becomes his habit.

    The violence is always the norm of most aspects of the sex trade – the whole purpose of the sex trade is to tell men who make the choice to consume it, that it ok to make women into dirt, it is ok to have and do any violent sexual porn-fuelled fantasy on the living bodies of the prostituted class.

    That is what the prostituted class was invented for – to be a dustbin for male hatred and disdain or women.

    A classic lie that sex-positive feminists buy very quickly is that being inside porn and prostitution must be liberating and empowering for women – for it is framed as having body autonomy.

    That is not the universe for the vast majority of women and girls inside porn and prostitution – who are told, have no access to full consent, are pressured, are forced and are threatened to do whatever sex act the punter or that makes the most profit.

    To have body autonomy would be a dream and a luxury for most women and girls inside the sex trade – for the vast vast majority it is an impossible dream that is smashed every day.

    This is very long – so I will stop now.

    But to be a feminist – you must rise up women and girls that are the most oppressed. The prostituted class live in conditions of slavery, are continually tortured, know murder is their norm and are some the poorest women in the world.

    Yet the Professor Goodyears of the world will insist in most cases “the prostitute calls the shots,” that there is nothing degrading about prostitution except when ideology makes it degrading, that it is the law that makes prostitution dangerous, that he does not know anyone who is getting paid for being a sex object. It may seem hard to believe an expert so heavily involved in outreach for prostitutes can be so blind to reality, but he is comfortable with his interpretation of the “empirical evidence,” and he thinks I am the one who is distorting the reality of prostitution.

  14. Aletha says:

    Tuning across the radio dial last Friday, I heard John Phillips solicit calls from prostitutes, saying he works in talk radio, and what prostitutes do is no more degrading that what he does. So easy for him to say. He prides himself on being outrageous, but that was asinine. An ex-prostitute did call in. Phillips had a bunch of questions for her. She did not sugarcoat her experiences. She said she had been raped and beaten, it was very dangerous work, she could never know what the man might do to her, and the men did not respect the prostitutes.

    Raquel Welch, voted #2 on Men’s Health’s Hottest 100 Women of All Time list, sounded off on pornography at the end of an interview posted on their site last Thursday.

    Raquel Welch: I think we’ve gotten to the point in our culture where we’re all sex addicts, literally. We have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in, regardless of where it is that you deposit your love interest.

    MH: Okay, admittedly that doesn’t make sex sound very appealing at all.

    Raquel Welch: It’s just dehumanizing. And I have to honestly say, I think this era of porn is at least partially responsible for it. Where is the anticipation and the personalization? It’s all pre-fab now. You have these images coming at you unannounced and unsolicited. It just gets to be so plastic and phony to me. Maybe men respond to that. But is it really better than an experience with a real life girl that he cares about? It’s an exploitation of the poor male’s libidos. Poor babies, they can’t control themselves.

    MH: I cannot dispute any of what you’re saying.

    Raquel Welch: I just imagine them sitting in front of their computers, completely annihilated. They haven’t done anything, they don’t have a job, they barely have ambition anymore. And it makes for laziness and a not very good sex partner. Do they know how to negotiate something that isn’t pre-fab and injected directly into their brain?

    MH: You make some good points, but it could also be argued that railing against kids today and their sexual obsessiveness could come across as a little over-the-hill cranky and prudish.

    Raquel Welch: I know it does, and I’m fine with that. I don’t care if I’m becoming one of those old fogies who says, “Back in my day we didn’t have to hear about sex all the time.” Can you imagine? My fantasies were all made up on my own. They’re ruining us with all the explanations and the graphicness. Nobody remembers what it’s like to be left to form your own ideas about what’s erotic and sexual. We’re not allowed any individuality. I thought that was the fun of the whole thing. It’s my fantasy. I didn’t pick it off the Internet somewhere. It’s my fantasy.

    Some of the commenters called her hypocritical. They missed her point. She also had some choice words about the directors of her movies, who not surprisingly exploited her as a sex object and were not interested in hearing any of her suggestions.

    MH: As far as he was concerned, you were just a set piece?

    Raquel Welch: Yes, exactly. I mean, he wasn’t unkind as a director. But when I wanted to possibly find ways to enhance my character, to make her more vulnerable or have some kind of backstory, he was not interested. That was the hardest part, to realize that I was really an object. Not just to Don (Chaffey), but to the film industry in general. I was a completely non-verbal object that wasn’t allowed to talk more than necessary. And that isn’t exactly my personality, as you can now hear.

    What was that Professor Goodyear said, he did not know anyone who is getting paid for being a sex object? What planet does he live on?

  15. Aletha says:

    Meghan Murphy has a new entry on Feminist Current, There is no feminist war on sex workers, attempting to set the record straight about allegations “that feminists are the real enemy of sex workers.”

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