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:

    The Ms. Magazine blog has posted two parts of an ongoing interview of Gail Dines by Shira Tarrant, who declares herself emphatically not anti-porn. It may appear Ms. is giving free rein to both sides of the argument, but the moderators have seen fit to censor at least two of my comments, so far. The first was the product of extreme exasperation, so I thought perhaps that decision could be justified, but at this point, I think they are trying to drive me away.

    This was the first comment, which would have followed this one:

    Aletha says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 6, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Hey, Random Observer and maymay, it is never wise to underestimate an opponent. You can obfuscate and ignore all you want, calling it a matter of disagreement, gray areas, morality, right and wrong, to each his own, whatever. I have heard it all before. I made the mistake of overestimating your ability to comprehend what women have been saying about your precious pornography. Gloria Steinem wrote that book almost three decades ago. I did not make these ideas up, and neither did she. Those who pretend the controversy is all about gray areas or individual preferences ignore the context, the experience of women suffering so men can gratify their egos, the fact that manufactured confusion has given cover to grotesque forms of abuse of women, whatever men could dream up that other men might enjoy vicariously, calling it consensual because the women got paid. You just do not get the first thing about this issue. I have to conclude that is not due to being ignorant or dense, so it must be some kind of willful blindness. My issues with pornography are not matters of logic, law, morality, or censorship. I understand your position more than you think. I wrote an essay for my blog over three years ago (The Trouble with Pornography at http://freesoil.org/wordpress/?p=24 ). What the defenders of pornography wish to ignore and obfuscate is basically, women are getting hurt so men can get off on it. I strongly suggest you stop trying to make your contempt for women who oppose porn about me, or your theories about my use of language. This idea I am like a religious fanatic is so tiresome, off base, and off point, why bother to futilely attempt to clue in the clueless? Perhaps you could explain how it is you think pornography has some redeeming value. What is the logic behind vicarious enjoyment of degrading women? Does that enjoyment trump the associated suffering of women?

    I might have more to say later, but right now I feel like I would be wasting my time. This discussion could too easily turn into a train wreck. I can tell I am being baited.

    I had quoted a passage from Gloria Steinem, from the beginning of the chapter Erotica vs. Pornography in her book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, since my attempt to draw a distinction between erotica and pornography was met with derision and insinuations the distinction I drew was capricious and inaccurate. This was what I quoted from Ms. Steinem:

    Look at or imagine images of people making love; really making love. Those images may be very diverse, but there is likely to be a mutual pleasure and touch and warmth, an empathy for each other’s bodies and nerve endings, a shared sensuality and a spontaneous sense of two people who are there because they want to be.

    Now look at or imagine images of sex in which there is force, violence, or symbols of unequal power…. But blatant or subtle, there is no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating another.

    These two sorts of images are as different as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain. Yet they are confused and lumped together as ‘pornography’ or ‘obscenity,’ ‘erotica’ or ‘explicit sex,’ because sex and violence are so dangerously intertwined and confused. After all, it takes violence or the threat of it to maintain the dominance of any group of human beings over another.

    The second censored comment, on Part 2, would have followed this one:

    Aletha says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 12, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Random Observer, is that your argument, or are you simply attempting to bait me again? I have no reason to believe the women to whom I referred want their names to be bandied about by men who believe they are making up their experiences. They are not proud of that “work;” in fact, it pains them so deeply to remember it, most prefer to bury it and try to move on. The woman who wrote for Rain and Thunder, whose name I think I remember, but am not 100% sure, wrote about it despite the hell it put her through to pull up those memories because she felt she had to get it out in the open for her to move on. I have no right to name anyone who is ashamed of her past. Why, so people can ridicule her, debate her veracity and motives? Do you really think Gail Dines is making up gory stories to justify her work, or sell her book? How about the women who “worked” for Max Hardcore? What they went through was at least comparable to what Jersey Jaxin describes. Was that all made up or wildly exaggerated as well?

  2. Aletha Says:

    The Ms. blog entries about the Gail Dines interview are fairly quiet today, only one new comment. Since it has been over 24 hours since my last attempt, back on Part 1 in response to notorious pornography industry flack Sheldon accusing Gail Dines of taking money from “a fundamentalist Christian outfit that wants abortion outlawed,” I presume I have been censored again.

    My third censored comment would have followed this one:

    Aletha says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm
    Ah, some of the usual suspects have finally arrived! At the risk of being censored yet again, I ask you, Sheldon, for some evidence for your charge about the ownership and registration of the Stop Porn Culture website. It happens to be registered to Lierre Keith, according to whois.com. The connection you allege is certainly news to me. I will know soon enough if there is any truth to it.

    I found out where Sheldon probably got his information. Good old Violet Blue. She posted on her blog a screen shot of the whois listing for the Stop Porn Culture website.
    .
    At the time she wrote that, unless she photoshopped the listing, Skyward-bound Productions was the registrant and administrator, though that says nothing about the owner or financier, and in her blog post she does not say who owned the site, referring to the webmaster. Sheldon quoted her linked San Francisco Chronicle column, where she says, “Stop Porn Culture is registered and owned by Skyward-bound Productions.” However, she does not mention abortion at all in either piece, so it is not clear how Sheldon arrived at the conclusion that rather small web design company owned and financed Stop Porn Culture, and he does not explain his reasoning. I imagine it is supposed to be self-evident, but especially since the listing is obsolete, I think he and Violet Blue merely jumped to self-serving conclusions. The current registrant is Lierre Keith, who has been made aware of this. I also requested information from Skyward-bound Productions about any connection with Stop Porn Culture, but I have not yet received a response. The proprietor is Christian, but after reading some of his forum I got no impression he is a rabid fundamentalist who wants to outlaw abortion. He ran for local office in his town. One would think if abortion was such a big issue for him, that would figure prominently in his postings on his forum, but I could not find any mention of it.

    Another bizarre reversal on the Ms. blog was posted by “sex worker” Jill Brenneman, who took a man to task for objecting to the term sex-positive, suggesting the more accurate term would be pro-porn. She says,

    There is no “pro porn” steve. There is a sex worker rights movement and sex worker rights activism that happens to get mislabeled by you and many others under a title chosen by feminists opposed to the sex worker rights movement. A title called “pro porn”.

    Mislabeled, huh. Like my distinction between erotica and pornography was dismissed as a misuse of language. I think that title fits just fine, perhaps not so much to women who prefer to think of themselves as sex workers, but certainly to defenders of the industry such as Sheldon. Also, I know of no feminist who opposes the rights of women in the pornography industry. Some feminists, including myself, think such women have a right to a way out.

    Perhaps what really annoyed Ms. Brenneman was the quote Mr. Silver posted from a talk delivered by Rebecca Whisnant at the conference “Pornography and Pop Culture: Re-framing Theory, Re-thinking Activism” (Boston MA, March 24, 2007)

    Now think about it: in this cultural and political context, a feminism that acquiesces to certain key male entitlements, while simultaneously presenting itself as bold and liberated and rebellious, is likely to be appealing to many women. A version of feminism that supports girls’ and women’s desired self-conception as independent and powerful, while actually requiring very little of them as far as confronting real male power, will similarly have wide appeal. It is my contention (now jumping ahead by a decade or so) that the versions of feminism currently most popular in the academy and in U.S. popular culture more broadly are of exactly this kind—and that the backlash dynamics I just described are on especially clear display with respect to the politics of pornography. After all, in one important sense, what happened in the eighties was good news: back then, the feminist critique of pornography had enough cultural, political, and intellectual momentum that an orchestrated campaign was required to defeat it. For at least the past decade, however, despite the best efforts of many of us in this room, that critique has largely dropped off the radar screen, replaced in some quarters by a depoliticized faux-feminism that caters to rather than challenging the porn culture.

    I would not have thought Ms. Magazine would fall into that trap, but in light of what is going on, perhaps I was naive about that.

    Another ironic twist is what happened the last time I thought the Ms. blog was censoring me, on the entry Meet the New Kid on the Block: Male Studies. I received this on May 7 in response to my query ten days earlier:

    Hi Aletha,

    Jessica here, Ms. Blog editor; Noelle passed me your email. So sorry about that; we did NOT intend to reject your comment; it got caught in our spam filter. I’ve restored it. To the contrary, I appreciate your calling out Dave as a troll; we considered rebuking him but thought you and David Dismore were doing a fantastic job of rebutting him, so we decided to let it be.

    Jessica

    I had to guess at the punctuation, since some of those I surmise were semicolons got garbled in the transmission. Now it appears the moderators wish to chase me away. Is this what mainstream feminism has come to? They allowed plenty of comments in defense of Gail Dines, but mine are apparently too sharp, pointed, angry, exasperated, sarcastic? What? If Lierre Keith or Gail Dines gives me definitive information that shows this allegation by Sheldon is full of crap, I will attempt to post that, and if that is censored, I will raise hell.

  3. Aletha Says:

    Gail Dines posted her opening speech at the conference on her blog

  4. Aletha Says:

    Sheldon Ranz is in his full glory today, accusing Gail Dines of being a closet prude, repeating his borderline slanderous, obsolete at best, claim about who maintains and finances the Stop Porn Culture website on Part 2, and stating that Jersey Jaxin had a falling out with Shelley Lubben, so her profile was taken down. Funny, the link I posted still works. I wonder if Sheldon has been made aware that the Ms. moderators have censored more than one of my comments.

  5. Aletha Says:

    My censored comments are no longer censored. I do not know what happened or why, but it appears several more comments from previous days have also suddenly appeared. Perhaps the moderators were trying to prevent the discussions from turning into train wrecks, then decided censoring comments was not helping matters.

    Sheldon has not responded to my request for evidence. It is possible he has not noticed it, since Part 1 has had no comments since Tuesday.

  6. Aletha Says:

    Sheldon did respond at 6:43 PM, but at the time of my previous comment, his comment had not been approved. He cited another site organized by Violet Blue, http://ourpornourselves.org, which has a page devoted to Stop Porn Culture. Curiously, it seems a bit more objective than the pieces I linked above, even stating

    Stop Porn Culture does not appear to have affiliation with the religious motivations of their internet business associates.

    Neither is there any mention on that page of Stop Porn Culture taking money from its website hosts or designers, nor of abortion.

    Sheldon Ranz and Violet Blue take exception to the current web host, bluehost.com, allegedly owned by homophobic Mormons, which happens to be the second outfit on a list of web hosting companies recommended by WordPress. I suppose by that logic, I should boycott WordPress.

  7. Aletha Says:

    Sheldon ramped up his mudslinging in response to me pressing him.

    Sheldon says:
    July 17, 2010 at 10:00 am

    The conclusions I drew from Violet Blue’s data were my own. They are the standard conclusions one draws if the subject were, say, abortion or the ERA.

    Since Skyward-bound rants about Jesus, what do you really expect their position on abortion to be?

    The point is, is that Skyward and now this Mormon outfit is a internet business associate of Gail Dine’s group. The particular way in which the cash flows between them is not as important as the fact that it is flowing between them at all. Gee, I wonder if there are any neo-Nazi website design groups out there who could lend Stop Porn Culture a hand when SPC plans its next website upgrade?

    Why should this be a shock and a surprise? Dworkin and MacKinnon worked together with folks from StopERA like Beulah Coughenor (sp?) to introduce their Model Anti-Porn laws back in the 1980s. The more things change..

    I attempted to respond, but surprise, surprise! My comment is still in moderation.

    Aletha says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 19, 2010 at 7:05 am

    I will explain what I do not understand. I do not get why on a feminist blog the issues of women getting injured, humiliated, one, both or more, so men can get off cannot be discussed without men persistently intruding their theories of how all forms of “sex” are equivalent free expression as long as there is consent all around. In a certain very popular genre of pornography women are tortured, one form or another. This is one big issue Gail Dines and allies have tried to raise, while irate men and their allies dodge in all their clever ways. Sex can be different for women, when the partner cooperates, and something more that is hard to describe. One might call it love or passion, but what I mean is something more. Something like imaginative, creative, attuned, empathetic, above all unscripted, wild, out of control yet centered in the fire of life? What? I am no poet. To express this in images is in the realm of erotic art, what is possible for humans, but many have no idea it is within their reach, because the man is ignorant, unimaginative, uncaring, unattuned, who knows, I could call it indifferent. I have experience of a lifetime with a bunch of men all over the spectrum, from the mystical to perhaps the worst form of betrayal. The common vulgar expression is the man is good in bed, but of course it is more than that. I am sorry that many if most women suffer from men who are not great lovers, for whatever reason. Some guys need no assistance from external props to be wild in love. May their tribe increase.

    Guilt by association is an ancient diversionary tactic. I am a journalist, even before representing the Free Soil Party. As a journalist I respect another according to the quality of their journalism, and all other issues are secondary. Gail Dines has had unfortunate associates. Whether that was out of ignorance, or she did not care, is impossible for me to know, but I have reason to doubt it was deliberate. To cast doubt on another journalist because of their associations is a slippery slope and a trick to divert the issues raised. I might as well renounce all information provided by any source associated with bluehost, or a pornographer. Gee, the second host recommended on a list from no less than WordPress (see http://wordpress.org/hosting/ ) is bluehost! Should we all boycott WordPress? My blog, this blog, Violet Blue? What about blogrolls? On the roster here is Alas, sold to the very business a few years back. Should I boycott this blog on principle because of that? Those who cast aspersions on Gail Dines for unfortunate associations might find a more relevant angle. That has been done by some of her critics here, when they disputed an aspect of her ideas directly. Distortions and stretched analogies are not helpful; hot air just wastes the time of everyone concerned. For another example of that slippery slope, about thirty years ago a man Sheldon might know from WBAI, Pacifica fund raising star and independent journalist Gary Null originally got his expose of the Politics of Cancer published by none other than Bob Guccione over the irate objections of the entire Penthouse board, after Null could find no other publication who would touch it. Guccione printed free copies of those articles on request, which cost a pretty penny. Gary Null has other associations and ideas I dislike, but I judge his journalism as that regardless of any of those side issues, matters of opinion or personality clash. That is required by my idea of professionalism. Null raises important issues about the way things go down in this world. Gail Dines raises other important issues. On a feminist blog I think those could be the focus of this discussion, regardless of all these diversions, like her associations.

    By the way, I read a bunch of the small forum that evil website designer calling his outfit Skyward-bound put up about the time he ran for local election. I could not find any mention of abortion. Such a big issue for him, I guess he thought it was so obvious he did not need to mention it? I do not put any faith in standard conclusions, as a rule. Perhaps Violet Blue is a bit more careful a journalist than Sheldon Ranz. Look at what gets said about Sarah Palin by feminists about her views on birth control and sex education. The standard conclusions are wrong, as usual; Sarah Palin is on record defending teaching about birth control in sex education. Good journalism uncovers such inconvenient truths. Women getting roughed up or otherwise reduced to sex objects is an important political issue for me. One woman had the courage to post here about what it cost her personally. Can that be discussed here, or is her story to be dismissed as a fluke? I think she speaks for the majority, but the numbers do not matter, not really. What matters to me in the context of this plague of men battering, raping, murdering women is that popular pornography feeds the flame of the madness that lets men get off on these fantasies or the reality of hurting and humiliating women. That money is greasing this part of The War Against Women just adds insult to injury.

    I sympathize with the moderators. Trying to moderate this kind of discussion can be a bear, and I imagine I have contributed to the difficulties, but I had reasons to say everything I said, and I imagine the same is true of everyone who has contributed, even if they had to eat their words. On my blog I only censor irrelevant nonsense. One could ascertain that from the battle over my story on Rapelay, when a commenter insisted on defending that video game as harmless fantasy. Nonsense, but relevant.

    I do have some sympathy for the moderators, but how they can think it is appropriate to allow Sheldon to sling his mud while censoring me really makes me wonder whose side they are on. Can it be Ms. Magazine thinks Sheldon Ranz is an unbiased expert on the pornography industry? Or is it just my comments are too heated or inflammatory, so unlikely to lead to any kind of resolution of the “sex wars?” Sheldon calls himself a “liberal feminist.” I think he is a liberal, fine, but I want nothing to do with his brand of feminism.

    There have been only three approved comments since Friday, one being what I quoted above from Sheldon. Perhaps there have been more comments held up in moderation, or perhaps people are waiting for Part 3.

  8. Aletha Says:

    Found via a Facebook friend, Quotes from Jenna Jameson in her book How to make love like a porn star, a cautionary tale. It is not a pretty picture.

  9. Aletha Says:

    My long comment is still in moderation, but the link to that YouTube video above was approved at the Ms. blog. There was a trackback to Part 2 from last week I had not noticed, from none other than Violet Blue, who highly recommended that “refreshingly balanced article.” So I had to try to comment about that.

    Aletha says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    There is no “pro porn”, Jill Brenneman? That must be news to Violet Blue. Did you see the latest trackback on Part 2? Ms. Blue highly recommended Part 2 in her blog entry Food for Thought: Latest Pro-Porn News and Information on her Our Porn, Ourselves blog, http://ourpornourselves.org/food-for-thought-latest-pro-porn-news-and-information/ . Or is she reclaiming the term, heaven forbid?

    Another thing I find ironic about all this, aside from the fits I must be giving the moderators, is what I observed on my blog about a peculiar misrepresentation of anti-pornography feminists, “I know of no feminist who opposes the rights of women in the pornography industry. Some feminists, including myself, think such women have a right to a way out.” Does that make me a utopian dreamer?

    Who knows if that will pass the standards of the moderators. I see one comment posted after mine has already been approved, so I am betting mine will not be. Who knows. The comment that was approved was by one of the Ms. bloggers on her own entry, so of course that would go through right away.

    Another ironic twist is that while I was roundly ridiculed for protesting pornography on one of the disappeared incarnations of the Randi Rhodes forum, I was never censored or even warned by the moderators there.

  10. Aletha Says:

    The previous comments got approved today. The entries are eerily quiet otherwise. Part 3 will presumably be out shortly.

  11. HarryD Says:

    This article is more than a bit unfair and even more unbalanced. Porn is no more addicting than any other subject that someone can derive pleasure from, be it drugs, alcohol, etc. It has already been proven that abstinence only curricula doesn’t work, and that all it does is keep the information from teenagers who are going to have sex. Abstinence only is the equivalent of not potty training a child and then expecting him to not use the bathroom. Sex and the desire for sex is a biological function, a response to the body entering the age where, when our species was young, reproduction was the most feasible.

    I completely agree with Abby’s take that pornography gives a distorted view about what sex is about, because it does. I also agree that pornography is mainly consumed by men, but definitely not entirely. Pornography is just as demeaning to men, especially minority males, as it is to females. As a man I am also offended by your assertion that men always enjoy sex, all the time. Many male pornographic actors end up taking erectile dysfunction medication in order to perform in scenes, and female actors are, on a whole, paid significantly more in the porn industry.

    And that is what it is, an industry, a job, a job that requires being comfortable with certain things but a job none the less. Does everyone enjoy their job, no, does that make it exploitation, no. You act as if every porn actress wasn’t a porn actress they would be an astrophysicist or a doctor, while in truth most would be a waitress or something like that. I would wager any amount of money that if you asked them would they prefer to be a porn actress or work at McDonald’s they would say Porn, because most jobs are just as demeaning but pay less.

  12. Aletha Says:

    Who said “men always enjoy sex, all the time?” You jump to a lot of conclusions, Harry. Pornography may be demeaning to men, but the point of pornography is that women are sex objects for male pleasure. There is no equivalency. Most jobs may be demeaning in one sense or another, but the point of most jobs is something other than to reduce women to sex objects so men can get off on it. Again, there is no equivalency. Your argument is straight out of what some call postmodern hell.

    All people have skills and talents. Not everyone gets a chance to develop them. If women in the “industry” were offered that chance, I have strong reasons to believe most would jump at it. The point is, the devaluation of women in this culture creates the context in which it seems becoming a prostitute or pornography “actress” is the best some women can aspire to. These are not jobs; they are traps.

  13. Aletha Says:

    Gail Dines has a brief article on CounterPunch published yesterday, complete with a link to Amazon to buy her book Pornland, The Stepford Sluts.

    The entries on the Ms. blog have been quiet for several days, after I responded to Sheldon affirming that I am “sex-negative” by saying I could ask for a definition, but since there could be no possible common ground on the meaning of that insult, why bother? Another entry was posted critical of Hugh Hefner, but curiously, nobody ventured to defend him.

  14. Aletha Says:

    One critical issue to prostitution and pornography that gets swirled into maximum confusion is the meaning of consent. Nobody will defend selling a woman as a sex slave, unless she has a say in it. Suddenly that makes it just another choice, to those who think some women sell themselves as sex slaves of their own free will. Leaving aside the blatant contradiction inherent in that concept, if one is concerned with more than technical legal issues, I think a feminist approach demands an examination of why a woman would make such a choice. Is it really a free fully informed unpressured choice between reasonable alternatives?

    In rare cases, that may happen, but I contend the vast majority of women who choose sex slavery as a career do not see a reasonable alternative, so the choice is constrained, uninformed, and made under pressure. This is consent? Consent contaminated to such an extent is meaningless, yet this is supposed to be a fact of life, that men are entitled to buy sex or watch images of sex slavery.

    It is argued, this is comparable to wage slavery, and it is true enough that many jobs are a meaningless grind, endured for the paycheck. This is a failure built into the economic model. If it were otherwise, if the economic system enabled everyone to thrive by developing their best talents and skills, no woman would have to face the desperation of seeing no reasonable alternatives. This may seem hopelessly impractical, but what does the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness really mean when so many people can aspire to no more than being cogs in the corporate machinery?

    Since the economic model is what it is, the question is raised, why blame the victims? Why are prostitutes criminals, while those who buy them are just bad boys being boys? The reverse has been tried, with promising results. One may think I am suggesting buyers or makers of pornography should be criminals, since the consent of the women is questionable. To deal with the symptoms of prevalent economic and value systems while leaving them intact is bandaging the problems at best. I think it makes more sense to treat pornography as an extremely costly luxury than as a law enforcement nightmare, unless the women are getting physically injured or underage. I draw that line because that is where informed consent is impossible. Perhaps if the buyers of pornography had to pay enough tax so the cost was comparable to a work of erotic art, they might consider buying art instead. This is far from an ideal solution, but if the economic and value system are taken for reality, I think it is better than treating pornography and prostitution as normal facts of life. Ultimately I insist the solution is to provide women better alternatives, but that would require profound revisioning of prevalent theories of value. My first blog entry was devoted to that subject.

    One section of the much older Free Soil Party Bill of Missing Rights says,

    The right to sufficient basic and vocational education to qualify for a job reasonably consistent with the talents, abilities, and potential of a person. Those people demonstrating unusual creative abilities would be allowed three years of self directed apprenticeship to develop independence. While attaining sufficient skills for survival, no person should be held liable to pay for survival.

    What is the point of education, if not to provide an opportunity for fulfilling and meaningful employment? But of course, the powers that be do not see it that way.

  15. Aletha Says:

    This was my latest response to Sheldon, who reacted to my thoughts about logic by saying my theory of knowledge sounded like nihilism.

    It is hard for me to justify arguing with those who insist on distorting or disbelieving virtually everything I say. This is one way you win arguments, Sheldon; you wear down your opposition until they conclude there is no point in going around and around in circles.

    Logic is just a tool. It can be used for any purpose imaginable, and is often employed to justify the status quo. It has been used to good purposes, but it has also been used to justify the worst abuses of power and knowledge imaginable. Sexism, racism, war, you name the form of oppression, there has always been some line of argument its defenders considered perfectly logical bolstering it. The defenders of slavery thought the idea that slavery was the proper role for black people was perfectly logical. The opponents of suffrage for women thought that idea was illogical and portended the ruin of civilization. Look at the capstones of high technology, nuclear energy and genetic engineering. They are disasters, but in the minds of most scientists and politicians, logic tells them these marvels of technology represent the pinnacle of scientific achievement. Sexist social scientists, like Larry Summers and Steven Pinker, still think sexism is logical. The science of public relations is the cold calculating logic of how to manipulate people. The point is, logic has its limits. It works very well to deal with machines. People, not so much. People are creative feeling beings. Logic and machines are neither. If people were more sensible and less attached to hierarchical models, logic might help discover ways out of the mess people have made of this world, instead of helping to perpetuate and exacerbate the mess. As things stand, it will take tools without the limitations and historical baggage of logic to bring about any substantial change.

    My theory of knowledge sounds like nihilism to you? Do you have any idea what you are talking about? This, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, sounds like nihilism to me:

    Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.

    It is hard to imagine a philosophy more opposed to my own than nihilism. I am pointing out that men in general put way more faith in logic than it deserves, especially since logic in and of itself offers no challenge to the status quo, is all too easily used to bolster abuses of power, and the quick profit motive has corrupted science to such an extent, the ability of this planet to sustain life is being destroyed in the name of science and logic.

  16. Aletha Says:

    Jennifer Drew posted to the Global Sisterhood Network today an illuminating article from The Irish Times on increasing violence experienced by prostitutes.

    A prostitute’s life: ‘Whether it hurts the woman or not, the men don’t care’

    KATHY SHERIDAN

    Punched in the face, kicked down stairs, bitten, starved and beaten – women involved in prostitution in Ireland are increasingly at risk of violence. Does this rise in sexual aggression identify a link between degradation of women and the universal availability of hard pornography?

    THE NEWS that demand for prostitute services has been unaffected by the recession was hardly surprising. But like many conscience-free corporations, that hasn’t stopped the industry demanding more productivity from its workers, so the fact that women in prostitution are being forced to take bigger risks is hardly surprising either.

    The release last week of the annual report from Ruhama, the charity for women affected by prostitution, triggered a mild flurry of curiosity about the lives of one of the most contentious groups in society.

    Last year, these women “reported horrific levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse”, said the charity’s chief executive, Sarah Benson. They were punched in the face, in the stomach, were kicked down stairs, beaten for refusing to have sex with men, were locked in, were refused food, were burned and bitten.

    “Women were told by buyers that they were ‘ugly’, ‘not very good’, that they ‘should at least try to look like you’re enjoying it’ while their bodies were used in whatever way the buyer wished,” said Benson. Which means “turning yourself into a public toilet”, in the words of one former prostitute this week.

    The notion of a mutually pleasurable, damage-free transaction – as promoted by the industry and supporters of legalisation – sits wildly at odds with the reality of these engagements. Were it not for the wreckage they leave behind, the self-delusion of the average sex buyer would be laughable.

    On an unfiltered “escorts” website, where Irish males using hard-man pseudonyms such as “Mountdick” and “BigLad” post “reviews” of the human merchandise, the inherent contradictions are mind-boggling. “She’s putty in my hands”, exults “Scankman”.

    At one level, these men – some of whom pay for sex up to 10 times a month, according to their own posts – must delude themselves that the women find them irresistible. At another, they must also believe that the same women are sub-human: “Met this thing a number of months ago. She went by a different name then . . . She hates her clients, hates the job, hates the world. Stay well away from it.”

    Another reviewer, whose human receptacle failed to perform as programmed, writes: “The window did not open, and the room was very warm, and Amanda got an attitude about how much I was sweating. I wanted to drive my c*** down her throat until she gagged on it, but she insisted on doing it her way . . . Certainly not the experience I had been anticipating, as I have met with some very charming and accommodating Czech and Slovakian ladies who have gagged and slurped on my c*** . . . To be 100% honest, and fair to other punters, they list a few things on their profile that they don’t actually do (he lists them diligently) like in the porno movies.”

    Describing her life in “indoor” prostitution, “Marie”, a Ruhama client, outlines the mobile nature of the business now.

    “The pimps move the women down the country for anything from a week to two weeks; the only human communication you have is with clients. You’re sitting in the apartment for anything from 6 to 13 days, alone, and you must be available for 12- to 16-hour days, in an apartment with the curtains always closed, never seeing natural light.”

    The men are getting younger, she says, and more physically aggressive. “They come in groups of twos and threes and will egg each other on for more aggressive and violent acts.”

    The stories about lonely men just wanting to chat, are a myth in her experience. All men show a violent disposition once they’re with a prostitute, she says: “Whether calling her ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, pinning her down or aggressive penetration . . . He just wants to ejaculate and whether it hurts the woman’s body or not, he doesn’t care.”

    The use of prostitutes in Ireland is now so normalised, Marie says, “that men will sit and talk openly about some of the stuff they’ve done. It’s an accepted thing now for men to assume they will get oral without a condom, and some women are afraid to refuse in case they will lose the client and the money for the pimp.”

    And the pimp, of course, is greatly feared.

    Marie agrees that there are women who freely choose prostitution for the money. The problem for those women, she says, is that they discover only in later years how degraded and broken they have become because of their choice: “These women are not happy with what they are doing but happy with the money they get.”

    The reality, though, is that while a woman in prostitution is reckoned to be worth over €100,000 a year, the vast bulk of it goes to her controllers and the website operators.

    The link between increased aggression and more degrading demands from younger men with the universal availability of hard pornography is impossible to ignore.

    “It’s the desensitisation that goes on,” says Ellen O’Malley Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

    In July, the helpline at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre alone heard from 62 first-time callers in relation to recent rapes, three reporting marital rapes, four relating to “drug” rape and 11 recent sexual assaults.

    Clearly, the wide availability of sex for sale throughout rural Ireland – increasingly in counties such as Longford, Roscommon, Monaghan and Wexford – has not reduced sexual crime in the wider population.

    Ten years ago, the Swedish government cut through the niceties about “harm reduction” for women working in prostitution and the distinction between voluntary and non-voluntary prostitution. Working on the premise that prostitution entails serious harm to both individuals and society, and that without demand, there would be no prostitution, it became the first country in the world to introduce legislation criminalising the purchase, but not the sale, of sexual services.

    Since then, street prostitution has been halved, according to a Swedish Ministry of Justice report in July, while in neighbouring Norway and Denmark it increased dramatically.

    While internet prostitution has increased in all three countries, there is nothing to indicate that Sweden’s problem is any greater than the others. In other words, the ban did not result in a wholesale shift from street prostitution to the internet. And prostitution has not been driven underground, as was feared.

    “People working in the field do not consider that there has been an increase in prostitution since the ban was introduced,” says the ministry. “According to the National Criminal Police, it is clear that the ban . . . acts as a barrier to human traffickers and procurers considering establishing themselves in Sweden.”

    The most dramatic result, perhaps, is the marked shift of attitude that has come over the Swedish population in 10 years. More than 70 per cent now take a positive view of the ban, in sharp contrast with Norway and Denmark. As for the women who work in prostitution, the pattern tells its own story. “It is clear, and it seems logical,” says the report, “that those who have extricated themselves from prostitution take a positive view of criminalisation, while those who are still exploited in prostitution are critical of the ban.”

    I quoted that sentence about the link between increased aggression and more degrading demands from younger men with the universal availability of hard pornography on the third segment of the Ms. blog interview of Gail Dines, asking Sheldon if he cared to comment. Certainly he and other pornography apologists find the link possible to ignore; I predict he will claim the link is unproven, or that the increased violence experienced by prostitutes is unproven. Sheldon is very big on proving things, as a major fan of Mr. Spock, the supremely logical science officer in the original Star Trek series. Apparently his confusion of my philosophy with nihilism arose from his conflation of knowing things and proving them.

    Last Friday Gail Dines posted a direct response to Shira Tarrant, to defend her assertion that pornography is racist. The fireworks show no sign of abating, as the whitewashers of the pornography industry attempt to defend it by saying not all pornography is sexist or racist. Why is that relevant, and why is it these apologists refuse to recognize that what they call non-sexist, non-racist pornography, if it indeed qualifies as such, should be called something else, such as erotica? Why would they not wish to disassociate depictions of “shared sensuality,” as Gloria Steinem put it, from clearly sexist and/or racist depictions of the sexual abuse of women? These apologists shy from making such a distinction because they prefer to claim the opponents of pornography are sex-negative prudes who think any depiction of sexuality should be banned! Some people do believe that, but they are generally religious fanatics, not feminists.

  17. Aletha Says:

    The Ms. blog moderators are at it again. This time they censored me for quoting excerpts from two blog entries by ex-prostitute Rebecca Mott, which I thought answered a commenter responding to my first quote from her blog by opining nobody would try to silence Ms. Mott and that she denied the different experiences of other prostitutes.

    I quoted an excerpt from Break Down posted July 22 and another from a week earlier, You are Not Just an Individual.

    I cannot recall exactly my comments I interspersed with these excerpts, but I suspect it was these bitter fiery words from Ms. Mott that were too much for the moderators, not my brief pointed remarks explaining why I had quoted these excerpts.

    Break Down
    I need to say some of the stuff that supporters of the sex trade feel they have the right to say or write to me. I usually delete or try to ignore that callous language , but it burns at my soul.

    I am continually told to kill myself, or that the fact I have not kill myself means that it was not as bad as I claim.

    I am often told I am lying about indoors prostitution – for there is no significant violence in indoors prostitution, that the women the are in that system are respected and empowered.

    If it is true that there was violence, I am told it was because it was several years ago, that it must be a very dodgy place/s I was in, that I must have encouraged/enjoy the violence and degradation, I should have reported it or walked out.

    Some women who owned brothels try to show how safe their place, if I had worked for them I would be fine and dandy.

    Supporters of the sex trade, especially those who are embedded in the sex trade – want exited women who speak not just to shut, but to wipe us off this earth.

    Prostitutes are not meant to survive, and if they are lucky enough to exit, they are not meant to remember the reality of their hell.

    By not just exiting and somehow building another life, but also being brave and strong to speak out, those exited women can expose the sex trade right down to its roots.

    We are hated – we are told to kill ourselves, that our words will never heard for we are just mental, that all our knowledge of torture will never be believed.

    The sex trade hates us for being a traitor and being too stubborn to die.

    From the earlier entry:

    You are Not Just an Individual
    I wish to write this to the constant flow of women who go on and on about how happy they are doing prostitution, for I am so sick of your selfish attitude.

    Any woman or girl who is paid for sex, including myself, is part of a system designed on the destruction of the vast majority of its goods. That is to say the foundation of the sex trade is the rape, torture and mental destruction of an underclass named prostitute.

    The vast majority of the prostituted are women and girls.

    I would never deny that there women in the sex trade who have a good time – but they need see beyond their own experiences, and know they are giving permission for the sexual trade to continue violence and degradation as the norm.

    For the women who continually say they have had no bad experiences with johns – well yippee for you, but that is not the norm in prostitution.

    Also, to survive prostitution is vital to lessen the violence and degradation in order to survive.

    When you are treated continually as an object to be masturbated into and used as a porn-toy, it completely normal to say it just fine and it your choice.

    It may be rape to others, others may see battering, others may named it as sexual torture – but it just your job, and you may say you enjoy it.

    I know I said often enough that it was just fun, that I begun to believe I enjoy the hell I was in.

    It was not until several years after exiting and completely leaving that life behind, I got PTSD and saw I had been tortured.

    I am told that I was just unlucky, got bad clients, worked in isolation, that if was so bad I should be dead.

    Well if I just unlucky, then so are the vast majority of prostituted women and girls in the world.

    There is much noise on that blog entry about hearing the voices of women in the sex industry. Apparently the voice of Rebecca Mott is too divisive for the moderators. The first entry I quoted was from May 1, Do Not Call It Work. I posted that because Monica Shores, the author of the blog entry How To Respect Sex Workers stated

    “Sex worker” was conceived as a judgment-neutral term and is usually a safe bet if you’re unsure of what phrase would be most respectful.

    No, sex worker was conceived as a means of whitewashing the sex trade. My patience with the Ms. blog moderators is about to end. They allowed me to rip apart the credibility of Mr. Sheldon Ranz, but they have put me on notice that I must not go too far. I have been naive about what liberal feminism represents. It appears to me that they wish to represent a branch of feminism that wants reform, but nothing too radical that might rock the boat or seriously threaten the powers that be. In other words, they see problems with society, but still think it is possible for feminists to accomplish meaningful reform by working within the system. I think the system is rotten to the core, and the sex trade provides a crystal clear reflection of that rot.

  18. Aletha Says:

    Surprise, surprise. The Ms. blog moderators approved that comment today, after over a week. They also approved a few old comments by Sheldon, and apparently, if my recall is accurate, a few others that had been held up. I had asked Sheldon on Part 3 if he was proud to call Larry Flynt an ally. I thought he had not bothered to respond, but two of his comments suddenly appeared today, from at least two weeks ago. He said he thought the statement I quoted from Flynt trashing Gloria Steinem was inappropriate, but did not disavow Flynt. After his attempt to trash Gail Dines because Stop Porn Culture originally picked a web designer which he called “a fundamentalist Christian outfit that wants abortion outlawed,” I think his attempt to dodge my question is a clear example of a double standard.

  19. Aletha Says:

    Since the Ms. blog moderators saw fit to edit my last two comments, I will post them in full here. This was what I attempted to post on How to Respect Sex Workers, with the deleted text in italics:

    Entirely plausible that berryblade is a rape apologist? Do you even care how entirely implausible you are, Sheldon? You know what she was talking about as well as Sina did. Consent is a can of worms, used by rapists to discredit their victims when it is his word against hers, as well as to whitewash the circumstances contaminating the “consent” of far too many women in the sex trade. You and I have argued about that previously. You want to believe consent is a simple matter of agreement. Why a woman would agree to allow herself to be reduced to a sex object is not something to be dismissed as irrelevant. Are you seriously arguing that most prostitutes genuinely desire their johns? Give me a break!

    I should thank the moderators for finally approving my comment quoting from two more entries from Rebecca Mott’s blog. It only took a week.

    This was from Part 3 of the Gail Dines interview:

    I see I am not the only one whose comments get held up in moderation. I suspected as much, but I was not sure if my memory was playing tricks on me.

    It is hard to decipher exactly what in the sex trade you consider toxic, Sheldon. Are you saying you are not in favor of ‘body – punishing gonzo’, that this genre is of relatively poor quality? If so, I suppose I should be grateful for small favors. Or are you simply saying the stigmatization of pornography is what creates the toxicity? Pornography is so entrenched in mainstream culture these days, I wonder what stigmatization you are talking about.

    If current regulations are sufficient, why would a trade union be necessary? Are you conceding these regulations are poorly enforced? What is preventing the formation of such unions, anyway?

    For someone who attempted to hang Gail Dines for her lack of due diligence in choosing a web designer, as if she were an ally of antifeminist agendas, I think you ought to answer my question about whether you are proud to call Larry Flynt an ally directly. That you disagree with that particular remark is no answer. By the way, that remark was by no means a fluke. Have you heard about the fracas involving Flynt, Not in Our Name, and Aura Bogado? His henchman Bruce David seems quite fond of that infamous term popularized by Rush Limbaugh, feminazi.

    Today the moderators posted an apology for the delays in moderation, and reminded the readers that ad hominem attacks will not be approved. I am supposed to believe the parts of my comments that were edited out are ad hominem attacks? I was objecting to what I perceived as unfair attacks that were approved, but it appears my remarks were too pointed or sarcastic for the moderators. I made my skepticism known, at least to the moderators. I do not know what to expect from them. I could take a hint and disappear; I did refrain from commenting for a week because I was so disgruntled over the delay in approving my quotes from Rebecca Mott.

  20. Aletha Says:

    I made three comments yesterday that are currently held up in moderation, all part of my continuing battle with Sheldon Ranz. It is becoming difficult for me to comprehend why the Ms. moderators do not simply ban me. The first two were on How To Respect Sex Workers, and the third was on Part 3 of the Gail Dines interview.
    This one was a response to this comment by Sheldon:

    “Genuine desire is wanting to realize one of your life’s ambitions…”
    And you say I am restricting the concept? I am not saying no woman can genuinely desire to hurt herself, though I think the source of such a desire should not be off limits for analysis. I am saying the vast majority of prostitutes have no desire, genuine or otherwise, for their johns. They just want the money. Why is this distinction meaningless to you?

    Gender essentialism refers to making absolute statements about a gender. I made a general statement, not an absolute statement. As I have said ad nauseum, if I mean to say something about all men, I will use the word all.

    The law is notoriously ineffective in protecting women against abuse in relationships, and I see no reason to believe changing the legal status of prostitution will deter johns from abusing prostitutes. Perhaps a few would be deterred, but in general? People do not commit crimes because they think they can get away with it. They may be deterred from committing a crime if they do not think they can get away with it, but the reason for the crime is not the expectation of impunity, rather a desire for the perceived reward, in this case the enjoyment of abusing a woman. How effective is the law against rape? When it is a the word of a man against a woman, a woman has little chance of seeing justice, a prostitute even less so. It will take more than a change in the law to change that facet of this sexist culture.

    I brought up the Vitter resolution because I doubt your interpretation of why NOW supports decriminalization is the real reason. Feminists know the law against prostitution just adds insult to injury, especially since the law is generally enforced by prosecuting prostitutes, not johns. I doubt NOW opposes that law because it believes prostitution is not injurious to women; the law as it stands is unfair, misguided, focuses on the wrong party, and just makes matters worse.

    My second presumably censored comment was in response to this comment:, where Sheldon reiterates his stance that “sex workers desire sex with their customers because of the money gained.”

    Does a prostitute agree to the desire of a john to abuse her, or does she submit, because she perceives she has no choice, since she has taken the money, which obligates her to satisfy him? Inducements can be fraudulent. Does a fraudulent inducement establish informed consent? A prostitute does not know what risks she is taking. Because she knows the territory, does that mean she has given informed consent to whatever the john wants to do to her? No doubt he thinks so. He does not care what she wants; he just bought himself a sex slave.

    This “desire” not based on desiring the person is not sexual desire. It is desire for money, pure and simple. Sex has nothing to do with that. The mechanical act superficially resembling sex is a means tolerated to that end. What distinction are you drawing between sexual desire and lust?

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” –Frederick Douglass

    Rights are not granted. They are recognized. If rights were granted, that would mean they did not exist before they were granted. They did exist, but were not recognized by the powers that be, so they could not be exercised. Saying rights are granted makes it sound as if that is done out of magnanimity or generosity, as opposed to power being forced to recognize what should have been all along.

    Buying a prostitute is not a “field of endeavor previously off-limits” to women. This is not a type of opportunity or “adventure” women crave, and that is not because of the double standard. As I said above, for most women, sex has meaning. Is this a bad thing, in your eyes?

    My last censored comment from yesterday was in response to this comment, where Sheldon accuses me of “endorsing” the concept of female masochism, and again dodges my attempts to corner him about whether he considers Larry Flynt an ally.

    Female masochism is the internalization by women of cultural contempt for women. That is no myth. Books have been written on the subject, by feminists. The idea that women are inherently or naturally masochistic is a sexist myth. Is the concept that women are culturally trained to put ourselves last, to sacrifice our desires and interests for our men and families, a sexist myth in your eyes?

    You do not know what my conclusion about links between violent imagery and violence is based upon. You are again confusing proving something with knowing it. Links between aspects of human behavior are notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to prove. There have been many cases of men steeling their resolve to commit some act of violence by viewing violent pornography. Did that cause them to commit the act? No, but it may well have helped them quell their better judgment. Images have influence. If they had no influence, the advertising industry would be wasting its efforts.

    Are you saying you have not sufficiently vetted Larry Flynt? I think you are well aware his words have already bitten you in the ass, so you attempt to hedge your bets. You are certainly more closely associated with Flynt than Gail Dines was with the Stop Porn Culture web designer you claimed was funding her.

    Are the Ms. blog moderators attempting to get rid of me? If not, they certainly could have fooled me. I am sick of arguing with one hand tied behind my back, wondering what the moderators will allow me to say. I will reserve judgment for a few days. It is possible the moderators will reconsider, as they did before for all but one of my comments, which was not one of my best anyway. In the meantime, I jumped into another entry about Bristol Palin, this one actually somewhat sympathetic to her in light of sexist trash being hurled her way. Many commenters attempted to make that all about hypocrisy and abstinence-only sex education, so I mentioned that Sarah Palin is a proponent of teaching children about contraception, and today I wondered why it had not been mentioned that the health insurance reform bill restored funding for abstinence-only sex education.

  21. Aletha Says:

    Since Sheldon Ranz repeatedly cites NOW as a bastion of liberal feminists who share his views on pornography and prostitution, I did some research to see if I could find anything to back that up. It appears the usual suspects, such as COYOTE and ifeminist icon Wendy McElroy, think NOW has favored decriminalization of prostitution since 1973. Yet NOW memorialized Andrea Dworkin without a hint of the rancor Sheldon likes to imply has always existed between her and liberal feminists.

    In Memoriam: Andrea Dworkin

    April 13, 2005

    Andrea Dworkin, internationally renowned radical feminist activist and author who helped break the silence around violence against women, died in her home on April 9 at the age of fifty-eight, after an illness. She was a longtime member of NOW.

    Dworkin was one of feminism’s most rigorous minds and fiercest crusaders. In her determination to articulate the experiences of poor, lower-class, marginal, and prostituted women, Dworkin deepened public awareness of rape, battery, pornography, and prostitution. Called “the eloquent feminist” by syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, Dworkin’s impassioned words always informed, provoked and inspired.

    Visit the Stop Family Violence web site to learn more about Dworkin’s life, read her inspiring remarks spoken just one week ago, and to leave your words of tribute or expressions of condolence. Stop Family Violence will forward your comments to her husband, John Stoltenberg.

    That same year, a resolution was proposed to reaffirm the 1984 NOW resolution against pornography. Note, the above link is to an organization that on its welcome page says,

    Everything that we do is guided by principles that protect the rights of people who engage in commercial sex in all its forms.

    Text of the NOW Resolution Proposed July 2005
    PORNOGRAPHY OUTREACH AND AWARENESS

    WHEREAS, pornography has been found to be a clear demand factor for prostitution and sex trafficking; that women in sex trafficking and prostitution are often used for pornography and vise versa; and WHEREAS, with the advent of the Internet and digital technology the volume of pornography has exploded exponentially; and

    WHEREAS, pornography has become increasingly misogynistic, cruel, and violent; and

    WHEREAS, pornographers have become increasingly aggressive in marketing pornography and in making their material accessible to children and adolescents; and

    WHEREAS, pornography has become increasingly mainstreamed in the United States, resulting in a growing desensitization of viewers and the increasing normalization and public acceptance of pornography in our culture, including youth and pop cultures;

    WHEREAS, pornography has become increasingly mainstreamed in the united states, resulting in the growing desensitization of viewers, and the increasing normalization and public acceptance of pornography in our culture, including in youth and pop cultures; and

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NOW reaffirm the following antipornography resolution that was endorsed by the NOW conference of 1984:

    RESOLVED that NOW finds that pornography is a factor in creating and maintaining sex as a basis for discrimination. Pornography, as distinct from erotica, is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex, which differently harms women and children. This harm includes dehumanization, sexual exploitation, forced sex, forced prostitution, physical injury, and social and sexual terrorism and inferiority presented as entertainment and that pornography violates the civil rights of women; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW supports education and action by the chapters on this issue; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW will make clear its public stand against pornography on its website, and in all other public media; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW carry out all previous actions it has recommended against pornography, including education, legal remedies, and actions against corporations; and

    BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the National NOW Action Center create a concept paper on pornography to be made public on the NOW website and shared with all NOW chapters and members, advising them to include anti-pornography actions in the feminist work they do.

    This document was authored by Stacey Cleveland and proposed as a resolution for consideration at the July 1-3 National Organization for Women Conference in Nashville, TN.

    I cannot find what happened to this resolution, except that it was supposed to come up for a vote in September 2005, but was tabled until December after Sex Worker’s Outreach Project and others launched a campaign to stop the resolution. Heart posted an announcement about this campaign, which I also found posted here.

    Contrary to the claims of Sheldon Ranz, it appears NOW has for a long time taken a dim view of both pornography (as distinct from erotica, a distinction Sheldon thinks only confuses the issues) and prostitution. NOW may consider arresting prostitutes a wrongheaded, unfair, and counterproductive approach, as do most feminists I know, but this hardly implies that NOW has no problem with “sex work,” as Sheldon likes to think.

    The comments I posted here yesterday are still in moderation, though my comment on the Bristol Palin thread was approved. At this point I am inclined to boycott the Ms. blog. If my comments are approved, I will bring these quotes from NOW herstory into the discussion.

  22. Aletha Says:

    My comments, along with a host of others, some from Sheldon and a bunch from berryblade, suddenly appeared today. I do not know what to think of this. Perhaps Ms., if they are serious about hosting a controversial blog, ought to hire a moderator or two, at least part-time. Currently this is being done by volunteers in their spare time.

  23. Aletha Says:

    Sheldon applauded the decision by the Ontario court that struck down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws. Others are not so pleased. This story is from CTV News

    Federal government to appeal prostitution ruling
    CTV.ca News Staff

    Date: Wed. Sep. 29 2010 7:59 PM ET

    The federal government will appeal an Ontario court ruling that struck down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws.

    Justice Minister Rob Nicholson made the announcement today in the House of Commons.

    Tuesday’s decision struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code surrounding prostitution — communicating for the purposes of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house, and living on the avails of the trade – saying they are a danger to sex workers.

    The act of prostitution is not illegal in Canada, but virtually everything surrounding it is.

    Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court wrote in her 131-page decision that the laws, “individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

    Former prostitute against ruling

    A former sex-trade worker who now helps prostitutes trying to leave the trade, says the court’s decision to strike down Canada’s laws surrounding prostitution was a terrible move.

    Natasha Falle, who runs StreetLight, a non-profit organization that provides support services for sex workers, and works with the Toronto Police’s Sex Crimes Unit, says she was “shocked” by Tuesday’s court decision.

    “It was very disappointing for me that a judge would determine that this is the best solution for protecting people in the sex trade industry,” Falle told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday morning.

    Those who wanted the laws to be quashed say they forced hookers to work the streets, instead of in the safety of their homes. But Falle says decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution is not the solution.

    “I don’t think Canadians understand what this means. This means, if this decision is to carry through… your next door neighbours can run a brothel right beside you. Your children could be exposed to condoms left on their driveway, johns propositioning them,” she said.

    Falle also worries that by normalizing prostitution, it gives children the idea that prostitution is a good and acceptable way to make a living.

    “Thirteen to 16 years old is the average age that someone enters prostitution. So when do we start referring to them as sex workers?” she said.

    The laws that were struck down Tuesday do not apply to child sex workers, only to those over 18.

    Ron Marzel, one of the lawyers for the women who challenged the laws, says he was “thrilled” with Tuesday’s decision which he says will protect sex workers, who should have the right to practise their profession safely.

    “Certainly, we need social programs to make sure that children in the profession; however, the reality is there are consenting adults who want to go into this profession,” he said on Canada AM.

    Falle grew incensed at this, insisting that 97 per cent of prostitutes aren’t in the sex trade by choice. She says the voices of the overwhelming majority of women who want to get out of prostitution are being drowned out by a vocal few.

    “The voices we are hearing right now are the minority voices and they are only strong because of circumstances in Ontario. All the other provinces are not on board with this.”

    If that 97% figure sounds high, an article from the Deadline Press & Picture Agency of Scotland says 90% of prostitutes in Scotland want out.

    Prostitution is not a choice: nine out of 10 women want out
    By Christine Lavelle

    DAMNING new evidence was unveiled yesterday showing that not enough effort is being put into helping women escaped Scotland’s sex trade.

    Fears have also been raised about the affect prostitution, sex theme bars and magazines are having on the nation’s children.

    A new project launched yesterday which aims to highlight the problems and unite impact groups to do something about it revealed that:

    * Nine out of 10 women involved in prostitution in Scotland want to get out of it and never made the voluntary choice to enter the industry
    * 90 per cent of children aged between eight & 16 have viewed online pornography
    * A quarter of teenage girls think being a lap dancer would be a good profession
    * 63% of teenage girls said they would like to be a glamour model

    These figures come from an online survey of almost 1,000 young people in the UK aged between eight and 19, undertaken by the Lab TV website.

    A summit chaired by members of the Women’s Support Project and Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust in Edinburgh today was aimed at those working in local authorities and health boards, to expose the reality of prostitution and pornography– an industry worth £1 billion a year UK wide.

    Normalisation

    Linda Thompson, from the Women’s Support Project, said this is having a powerful negative impact on young people, as recent studies show that 90 per cent of kids aged between eight and 16 have viewed pornography online.

    And, another shocking figure that Ms Thompson pointed out is that in the same survey 63 per cent of teenage girls said they would like to be a glamour model – while only four per cent answered “teacher”.

    She said: “These results show the normalisation that is taking place in this country – sexual exploitation is just widely accepted, and it should not be.

    “We have invited people here today who are on the front line of tackling the sexual exploitation of women – we have GP’s and addiction councillors who are working to get to the root of the problem and challenging the traditional taboos.

    “One of the main things we are trying to challenge here is the common perception that women have a choice to go into these industries – it is just not true.

    “We chose Edinburgh as our base, as we recently found out that the city is the UK’s sex industry capital.”

    A short film has been produced for the first time, featuring the voices of two women who have been working as prostitutes in Scotland – ‘Katy’ and ‘Stephanie’ – who explain what it can be like working on the streets.

    Stephanie talks about having been attacked four times and raped twice, but that she still believes she is one of the lucky ones.

    She said: “A lot of people think it’s easy money but it definitely isn’t because there’s a lot of psychological problems, a lot of violence.”

    Alastair Robertson, training co-ordinator for Forth Valley Violence Against Women partnerships, who also features in the seven-minute film, said men have to take more responsibility for their actions.

    He said: “Men are the ones with the choice here – they choose to view porn on the internet, or buy a prostitute, and even lads’ magazines are so widely available now that even young people are getting their hands on the content and the conditioning that this is normal begins.

    “It is an industry made by men, for men – they are the only ones who profit – and it is not a choice on the women’s part, they just need the money and in turn they are being exploited.

    Mr. Robertson is onto something. I have made the point over and over on the Ms. blog that prostitution is not a free informed choice, that the vast majority of prostitutes only put up with that life because they need the money and see no good alternative.

    As of now, Sheldon has not answered any of my newly approved comments. I am not eager to test what the moderators will do if I attempt to post another comment, but I imagine I will find out soon enough.

  24. Aletha Says:

    This is from an editorial in the Globe and Mail by a Canadian male law professor in response to the court ruling. Jennifer Drew posted it, along with her commentary, on the Global Sisterhood Network yesterday.

    Sweden’s fix: Jail the johns
    Benjamin Perrin
    From Friday’s Globe and Mail
    Thursday, Sep. 30, 2010 09:55PM EDT

    The controversial decision of Madam Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court to gut federal prostitution laws with the stroke of a pen this week is a striking example of judicial activism run amok. While the ruling will undoubtedly be appealed, it has ignited a national debate on how our laws should deal with prostitution.

    The greatest flaw in Judge Himel’s reasoning is that she places the blame for the risks involved in prostitution on criminal offences against solicitation, bawdy houses and living off the avails of prostitution, rather than on the violent johns and traffickers who are the real cause of physical violence, rape and murder in Canada’s sex trade.

    Countries that have legalized prostitution have not succeeded in using elaborate regulations to address these problems. In the Netherlands, officials shut down vast sections of Amsterdam’s red-light district due to infiltration by organized crime. A 2005 report commissioned by the European Parliament found that legalized prostitution generally results in higher levels of violence against prostituted women. In New Zealand, regulation of the sex trade has not improved conditions in brothels with a history of problems, and exploitative contracts continue to be used. But the status quo in Canada that criminalizes those being sold for sex is equally unpalatable to many.

    In 1999, Sweden took a pioneering approach: Rather than punish those who are sold for sex, the country holds the purchasers of sex acts liable. Without demand, there would be no sex trafficking and prostitution. The government also implemented a $32-million national action plan that helps those who are being sold for sex to obtain assistance to exit their exploitation.

    The Swedish model recognizes that there is an undeniable link between human trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution. Politicians declared it was impossible to have true equality in a society that condoned the sexual commodification of economically and racially marginalized women and children.

    The evidence is that the Swedish model is working. Between 1999 and 2003, the number of women being sold for sex in the country dropped by 40 per cent. Last July, an independent inquiry by an eminent judge resoundingly endorsed the Swedish model based on its 10-year track record, finding that it had disrupted organized crime, deterred sex-act purchasers, changed public attitudes and cut street-level prostitution in half.

    And the inquiry found no evidence that the problem simply moved indoors, as some skeptics had speculated. It also found nothing to suggest that Sweden’s abolitionist model had negatively affected those being sold. Sweden’s approach is growing in popularity and has recently spread to Norway and Iceland.

    Research shows that abuse, poverty, substance abuse, homelessness and violence are major factors in someone’s ending up in prostitution. One study found that 85 per cent to 95 per cent of prostituted women want out but see no options to leave. Sweden’s approach is designed to help them.

    If there’s any positive side effect of the Ontario court’s decision, it might prompt Parliament to consider adopting the Swedish model, as the standing committee on the status of women recommended in 2007. Canada should commit to the abolition of sexual exploitation.

    Benjamin Perrin is a law professor at the University of British Columbia and author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking.

    That the laws cause the risks to prostitutes is the primary argument made by advocates of decriminalization. If only it were legal, prostitutes could expect their rights to be respected? As if the law reliably protects women in any situation from abusive men. Under the Swedish model, since the police are mandated to arrest johns, an abused prostitute is more likely to feel the police will do something about it than if the law treats the matter as just part of a legal business transaction, or as if she should know what to expect. When a prostitute cannot go to the police without risking arrest, she effectively has no recourse no matter what the john does to her.

  25. Aletha Says:

    There is an interesting take on the pornography business posted today at the business site Minyanville

    Think Porn Is a Legitimate Business? Think Again
    By Susannah Breslin Oct 18, 2010 2:20 pm

    True or false?

    * The porn business generates some $10 billion to $14 billion a year in annual sales and is a “bigger business than professional football, basketball, and baseball put together.”

    * The porn business is a business like any other.

    * That a series of adult movie production companies in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley recently halted production after an unnamed adult performer tested positive for HIV is evidence that the industry is more responsible and ethical than mainstream businesses.

    If you answered “true” to any of the above, you’d be dead wrong. In fact, the business of making porn is a business like no other, and if there’s anything the adult movie industry has excelled at in recent years — while its profits have plummeted — it’s convincing the public that it’s a legitimate business. In reality, it’s anything but.

    For starters, Forbes debunked the widely disseminated myth of the porn business raking in as much as $14 billion a year in sales back in 2001. That unsourced number was pulled from a 1998 Forrester Research study on online adult content and was mentioned in passing. So how much money do Americans spend buying and renting adult movies? The answer: Nobody knows. The mega-billion-dollar numbers you see repeated in the mainstream media come from Adult Video News, the porn industry’s trade magazine, well-known for its propensity to exaggerate pretty much everything having to do with porn.

    When it comes to the oftentimes messy business of making hardcore movies — where body fluids are exchanged like workplace emails — anything goes, and ethical business practices get lost in the chase for the almighty, increasingly elusive porn dollar.

    Anything goes, indeed. How exactly are women empowered by pornography? Answer, the point of pornography has never been to empower women, rather to be a part of the arsenal male-dominated cultures employ to keep women down.

  26. Aletha Says:

    I really should give up on the Ms. blog. This was my latest censored comment, in response to Sheldon citing the “standard dictionary definition” of pornography:

    Yeah, Sheldon, thanks for reminding us that the dictionary represents common interpretations of words, as opposed to feminist interpretations. You may not recognize that anti-pornography feminists have a right to define what it is we oppose, but that is your problem. Since you refuse to recognize what we mean by terms, it is no wonder you in effect continually put words in our mouths. There is a reason some feminists define pornography in such a way as to make egalitarian pornography a contradiction in terms. You, like John Ashcroft, do not wish to recognize this reason, though no doubt your rationale differs from his. As Gloria Steinem explained it so long ago, depictions of egalitarian sexuality and typical pornography are at least as different as night and day, and if anything, this is becoming more pronounced with the passage of time, as pornography has become more and more mainstreamed.

    Speaking of Andrea Dworkin, your alleged friends at NOW put this tribute on their site

    (I included the tribute in full, without comment, which is also above in my comment from Sept. 24.)

    I suppose I should have known the moderators would have a problem with that, but I am beyond caring. They can stuff it. Sheldon is no feminist, and I see no reason a genuinely feminist blog should allow his “liberal feminist” (read pro-pornography, pro-prostitution to the point of averring the double standard prevents women from enjoying a similar “right” to “sex” on demand) opinions to go unrefuted. Berryblade and Laurelin were also edited and/or censored by the moderators. Who knows who else has been stifled so Ms. can maintain its big tent it calls feminism. I do know that some comments from Sheldon also took awhile to appear, but I do not know if any of his were permanently blocked or edited. He appears undaunted, in any event.

  27. Aletha Says:

    Sheldon has gone off the deep end, in his response to me correcting him once again about his insinuations about the hosting and design of the Stop Porn Culture website. For some reason, his comment I could only find in the RSS feed of the Ms. blog.

    Ah, Sheldon. I was wondering when you would show up. Once again you draw fallacious analogies. A business associate is not necessarily an ally, and especially not a web hosting company. Should I be responsible for checking out every web site hosted by my ISP? The new web designer was not bluehost, and I doubt there was any contact between Lierre Keith and bluehost, which was paid to host the site, not to establish it or set it up. Stop Porn Culture was one of probably millions of web sites hosted by bluehost. Not only that, the website is no longer hosted by bluehost, possibly because I informed them you were making a stink about it! I was informed the new host is Pair Networks, and the current website was designed by radical environmental activist Aric McBay. At the time I do not think Pair Networks had Stop Porn Culture on their own server, but they do now. If Stop Porn Culture was so bent on being allied with these people, why did they bother to make these changes?

    Sheldon responds:

    Comment on Why Decriminalizing Sex Work is Good for All Women by Sheldon
    Monday, November 22, 2010 2:49 PM
    “Should I be responsible for checking out every web site hosted by my ISP?”

    You better, if you claim to be such a high-falutin’ “revolutionary feminist political philosopher” whose website features the presidential candidate of the Free Soil ticket! You put yourself on such a high pedestal, there are standards that have to be met.

    “If Stop Porn Culture was so bent on being allied with these people, why did they bother to make these changes?”

    Because they got CAUGHT!!

    SPC was equally bent on doing so surreptitiously, so their followers would not be aware. But Violet Blue and I made sure to shine a flashlight on those dealings (thank you, Ms. Blogs!), so what choice did they have but to clean up that mess, lest their membership rolls hemorrhage?

    Uh huh. How would I go about checking out every web site hosted by my ISP? The list of clients of any ISP happens to be private information, which I would have no way to obtain. Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff (aka Heart), who ran for President in 2008, has her own blog and web site, though I have quoted her here several times. I put myself on a pedestal? Where did that come from? Traditionally men have put women on a pedestal as a form of flattery, which really was designed to keep women confined to the domestic sphere. Since I am not so confined, and have the nerve to challenge every aspect of this culture, that must mean I put myself on a pedestal?

    Sheldon mistakes getting caught with making a mistake. If those mistakes say anything about Stop Porn Culture, correcting those mistakes should say more, as a deliberate act of disassociation, as opposed to an inadvertent act of association. Sheldon wants people to believe this alleged alliance was surreptitious, meant to fly under the radar. The alliance never existed except in the imagination of people such as him and Violet Blue, but they never bother to let facts get in the way of trying to assassinate the character of their opponents. Sheldon considers himself a feminist, whereas those he calls sex-negative hypocrites he thinks must be feminists in name only. Sheldon needs to look in the mirror.

  28. Aletha Says:

    Another of my comments appears to have been censored. If it does not appear soon, I will post it here. I was explaining why the claim, “there is no evidence” raises red flags for me, since Mr. Michael Goodyear, of the Center for Sex Work Research and Policy, asserts there is no evidence most prostitutes are miserable.

  29. Aletha Says:

    The Ms. blog has a limit on the length of comments, so I had to break this one into two parts. The first was approved, but the second (which starts with Continued) I think will not be.

    A few things jump out at me. “My point was that by continuing to describe heterosexual relationships including sex work in terms of active males imposing themselves on vulnerable females, one merely, even if unintentionally, re-inscribes patriarchy by emphasising this particular masculine gaze, rather than emphasising the positive aspects of female sexuality.” How can you call “sex work” a relationship? They are not comparable, though some men may flatter themselves to think they are in a relationship with a prostitute. Feminists describe heterosexual relationships in this way to protest traditional values, not to reinscribe them. This is not an unintentional oversight, it is a deliberate protest. If women had equal power in relationships and society, there would be no need to object to men imposing their will on women.

    I do not interpret high-end prostitution as indoor prostitution. As I observed above, Rebecca Mott was an indoor prostitute. I use the term to refer to high-class high-priced prostitutes, such as the escort service patronized by Eliot Spitzer. They make lots of money and have lots of leisure time, and are somewhat protected by the fact their relatively wealthy clients are not anonymous and have something to lose if blackmailed. These clients often do want companionship as well as sex. None of this applies to the average prostitute, indoors or not.

    You are evading my issue with the favor Ms. Agustin did for lo tekk. This is not a matter of her sharing an opinion with antifeminists. She went out of her way to leave a friendly comment on his blog, as if he were a valued ally. Perhaps she did not bother to check out his blog, but since there were only seven comments on that post, why not? I have commented on hostile blogs, but I did that to confront people. I also allow hostile comments on my blog, but I confront them. I do not believe in guilt by association, and in fact took someone you may know, Sheldon Ranz, to task for attempting to discredit Gail Dines on the grounds the ex-web designer for Stop Porn Culture turned out to be a religious fundamentalist. A web designer is a business associate, not an ally, but they got a new web designer after reading an article by Violet Blue gloating about uncovering yet another connection between anti-pornography feminists and anti-pornography fundamentalists. Sheldon claimed the web designer was funding Stop Porn Culture, but he had no evidence for that. The new web designer chose an objectionable web host, so Sheldon was arguing this was evidence that Gail Dines is in league with antifeminists. Guilt by association is a slippery slope. Perhaps Stop Porn Culture is guilty of lack of due diligence, but how much research into the associations of a web designer is one expected to do?

    I also took issue with the substance of that article I cited on the Laura Agustin blog, which was written by a guest author, libertarian activist Louise Persson. One statement I found particularly telling was to belittle the anecdote of an unhappy prostitute in the study of the Swedish law Ms. Persson was critiquing. “”But this strategy won’t hold up, because Swedes know that all sex workers are not miserable.” I wondered on this blog, Is that the point? Do Swedes “know” that most prostitutes are not miserable? If not, is the experience of a few contented prostitutes to outweigh the misery of most?

    You contend it is the other way around, that most prostitutes are relatively content? I wonder if unhappy prostitutes would be talking to the researchers you find credible.

    “I don’t think that sex work specifically objectifies women – that is already engrained in social attitudes and pervades advertising and the way women are portrayed.” It has been argued here that decriminalizing prostitution would specifically counter the objectification of women. I see no evidence for that. If the conception of woman as sex object was foreign to human consciousness, could prostitution exist? I think not.

    “Objectification is not linked to violence which is more related to power inequality.” Does objectification not go hand in hand with power inequality? What is the purpose of objectification, if not to maintain power inequality? Do you believe male sexual aggression has become less of a problem, and that the mainstreaming of pornography deserves credit for that? I do not understand how Naomi Wolf could make that argument, which is a staple of men’s rights propaganda, as if pornography provides an outlet for men who otherwise would be harassing and raping women, but I would like to see how you would defend it. The risk of violence is a matter of degree. I never expected what happened to me. I thought it could not happen to me. I was naive. The reason prostitutes are at greater risk is that they have to deal with so many men they cannot trust, and the risks multiply. The law may not help matters, but it is not the cause of male violence against women in general, or prostitutes in particular.

    (Continued)
    There are many ways to conduct a study to bolster preconceived conclusions. A study of an illegal activity will have great difficulty obtaining a sample of a representative population. I suppose you know the saying, figures never lie, but liars always figure. Those who believe men are battered as frequently as battered women claim to have solid studies on their side. Studies can be flawed by poor design or overlooking contrary evidence. Medicine and science are littered with examples. Scientists like to claim, for instance, that there is no evidence that nuclear power has killed anyone, or that genetically modified food crops are different from conventional crops, except for possessing the desired engineered traits. Now the Transportation Security Administration is saying there is no evidence those full body scanners are dangerous. When people say there is no evidence, red flags go up for me. What they mean is that there is no evidence they find credible.

    You believe men in general respect women in general, and that this is reflected in the experiences of prostitutes? How could sexism remain prevalent in a culture where men generally respect women? I am curious, have you read anything from Rebecca Mott’s blog? I quoted her extensively in my comments on How To Respect Sex Workers.

    “…there is evidence that amongst the young more men than women are selling sexual services.” I find that about as credible as the claim men are battered as often as women. I think promiscuity is a red herring. I take issue with male promiscuity, and I do not think promiscuity is something women should emulate, or that it has anything to do with the reasons women go into prostitution. That is a patronizing argument based on traditional values, not radical feminism.

    I could say more, but I am falling asleep, so I will have to leave it at that.

  30. Aletha Says:

    I posted another two part comment Wednesday evening. This time the first part, the longer of the two, is missing. I am getting tempted to copy the entire thread, or at least my comments and those to which I responded. I am wary of doing that because there could be legal issues, if Ms. decides to make trouble for me. I am not looking for that kind of trouble, and I doubt Ms. is either, but given the way they are handling my comments, I have no idea where I stand. Unfortunately, if I only post my own comments, they are out of context. This was the full comment; the part starting with (Continued) was approved today.

    I would appreciate it if you would send me at editor@freesoil.org a link to wherever you found someone claiming to know who I am. As far as I know, there is only one person in the blogosphere who knows my identity, and I did not mention the site of this person. I would assume that identification is incorrect, and that any attempt to out me would be done out of hostility.

    The Ms. comment policy is at http://msmagazine.com/blog/contact-us/#comment. I am not going to speculate about why my comments (and those of some friends) have been held up, blocked, and edited. I have already protested that, and see no point in belaboring the point, but since it has happened on this entry, I thought I had better mention that. I imagine most people commenting here do not feel they cannot speak freely. I posted my missing comment on my blog, as a comment to the top entry, the writeup by a friend of the recent Stop Porn Culture conference. By the way, I did not think anyone would think my blog is hard to find. Click on my name.

    There is a difference between misquoting and misinterpreting. I do not mind being paraphrased if my intent is understood. As to whether this is going anywhere, I was referring to our dialogue specifically, but also the entire thread and my presence on this blog in general. I have political differences with FMF that make me think my days on this blog are numbered, regardless of whether I would like to continue to participate. I am used to seeing the opinions of radical feminists misunderstood and twisted like pretzels, but it is still tiresome. Many radical feminists would not recognize me as one of their own, one reason I prefer to call myself a feminist revolutionary.

    “No, I am not saying transactional sex is ‘ordinary commerce’, it is quite unique but it represents work in the lives of the people who sell. I don’t wish to downplay power differentials, but I think you are seeing all transactional sex in terms of that power differential, which is incorrect. Do you see all heterosexual interactions as characteised by power differentials? To put it very plainly, when a person possesses something another person desires, they hold power over that person, who has to sacrifice something to achieve the realisation of that desire.”

    I think this is the crux of our disagreement. For one thing, I just made a big point of saying I never generalize about all men, or all relationships. I disagree with every sentence in that paragraph. One of the posts I quoted from Rebecca Mott was entitled, Do Not Call It Work. I totally disagree that having something someone else desires gives me power over that person, or that sacrifice is required for the realization of that desire. Would you call love a sacrifice? But then, I disown the entire concept of power over, which in my eyes is more about abuse than real power. If this makes no sense to you, perhaps you ought to read the new book by Gloria Feldt, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.

    “You cannot assume something exists because you believe it to be true. The picture you portray is not what sex workers tell us. Are they truthful? That has also been discussed at length. I believe they are because they are consistent, and the evidence triangulates. If the experiences you suggest were universal, most people would leave.”

    What do I assume to exist because I believe it to be true? I keep my assumptions and beliefs to a minimum. I am skeptical of nearly everything commonly believed. Which prostitutes are talking to you? I do not doubt they are being truthful, but I do have reason to doubt they are representative of any large group of prostitutes. Obviously the experiences of prostitutes vary widely, even for any one person. Is it not possible many prostitutes convince themselves the abuse they experience is not that bad in order to keep their sanity? Rebecca Mott did. Is she an outlier? Do you think most unhappy prostitutes feel free to leave? Many battered women do not feel free to leave their abusers. By your logic, it would seem they must not be unhappy enough to leave.

    (Continued)
    “I could equally argue that the sex worker objectifies men.” Yes, and you could also argue the power differential between men and women is a double-edged sword. Perhaps in a way it is, but this does not mean there is symmetry or equity between men in general, and women in general.

    “Perhaps you can elaborate on objectification as a form of violence. Do you apply that to advertising, and media, and stereotypes in literature, film and television?” Yes. Objectification is othering, deriving from the not quite yet obsolete conception of women as less than human. This does violence to women by inducing self-contempt, and all sorts of behaviors women have learned to think we must act out to attract men. It is psychological warfare. The battle of the sexes is not a meaningless metaphor, or without harmful consequences.

    I think there is very little that is inherent in human behavior. Inherency is properly the province of instincts, and people have the capacity to override their instincts. Even the hunger and survival instincts can be overridden, at least temporarily. I would not call any aspect of human behavior inherent unless it is completely and absolutely inescapable. What qualifies? Consciousness is inescapable, except through death, though some would argue not even death is an escape.

  31. Michael Goodyear Says:

    Aletha

    Thank you for your clarifications and explanations. I left a note at Ms. as to why I was not responding to you there. If we take up this this thread where you address my comments it might be helpful.

    You copy one of my paragraphs and state: “I disagree with every sentence in that paragraph.” Since we come to this topic from very different backgrounds we may have to agree to disagree. Let us at least agree about the dangers of generalisation.

    Specifically you challenge the concept of “work”. I am referring to work, from a sociological perspective as an activity which an individual performs for compensation, that is their livelihood. Sex workers are virtually unanimous in placing the need to make a living as their highest priority. Therefore in their lives it represents “work”, whether we like the activity or not. There are other occupations which some people disapprove of.

    Next you disagree with me about the nature of purchase. I am making a simple statement about economics and markets, people make exchanges because they need or want something, and are prepared to give up something in exchange. I don’t think that position is assailable. I think it is the word “power” you object to. Power lies in the hands of both actors, although clearly one may be much more powerful than the other overall (such as someone seeking a loan from a bank). But it is power if it makes the other person act in a certain way at the will of the other. I was interested that you reply using the concept of love. Are you implying that love is a commodity? Some writers such as Zelizer, in The Purchase of Intimacy, imply all relationships are about exchanges, that is the nature of social cohesion as opposed to us all living as hermits.

    As I understand Gloria Feldt, she is asserting that power is not about barriers but about will, and that maybe women have internalised values that exclude them from sharing power. I am not sure what connection you are making with the power of purchase, or how you are bringing in abuse to the transactional state.

    You ask why I state “You cannot assume something exists because you believe it to be true.” I was responding to your statement “I think you are also downplaying the experiences of exited prostitutes who have documented their horror stories. We will have to agree to disagree on how representative they are. ”

    I am glad you avoid making assumptions. In answer to your question about who is talking to me, it is women and men from all walks of life. That’s my job. None is representative of the whole, but each is representative of their own niche. But even being ‘representative’ fails to take into account the experiences of those with particular experiences. I believe I conveyed to you that unfortunately I was familiar with abuse, violence rape and murder amongst the people I know, but it is not everyone’s experience, although it seems to be getting worse.

    What you may not appreciate is that for those most vulnerable to physical violence, they do not rate it highly in their general assesment of the risks and benefits of their lifestyle. Like the rest of us, they assess risks and make decisions, not necessarily ones that you and I would make. They would rather the risks were lower, and as a group work towards making it so.

    No, I have not found sanity to be much of an issue, one makes adjustments. Exiting is not commonly expressed, although on the other hand many transition in and out regularly, exit and return, or just do it on a part time basis, or when necessity dictates. I understand your battered wife example, but have not found any similarity in practice. You say “they must not be unhappy enough to leave”. That is correct. Not even prison convinces most to leave.

    However we also have to realise how we as a society trap women and men in sex work, via stigma, criminal records and inability to find work with similar or better conditions. We need to work on that.

    I think we agree that objectification is ingrained in our culture, and is not desirable, and exists on both sides of the gender fence. I certainly have no quarrel with your conclusions, otherwise why would we strive to make the world a better place. So we do have quite a bit of common ground.

    michael

  32. Aletha Says:

    Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial for the New York Times about his encounter with a trafficking victim.

    A Woman. A Prostitute. A Slave.
    By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
    Published: November 27, 2010

    Americans tend to associate “modern slavery” with illiterate girls in India or Cambodia. Yet there I was the other day, interviewing a college graduate who says she spent three years terrorized by pimps in a brothel in Midtown Manhattan.

    Those who think that commercial sex in this country is invariably voluntary — and especially men who pay for sex — should listen to her story. The men buying her services all mistakenly assumed that she was working of her own volition, she says.

    Yumi set off for America with a fake South Korean passport. On arrival in New York, however, Yumi was ordered to work in a brothel.

    “When they first mentioned prostitution, I thought I would go crazy,” Yumi told me. “I was thinking, ‘how can this happen to someone like me who is college-educated?’ ” Her voice trailed off, and she added: “I wanted to die.”

    She says that the four men who ran the smuggling operation — all Chinese or South Koreans — took her into their office on 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They beat her with their fists (but did not hit her in the face, for that might damage her commercial value), gang-raped her and videotaped her naked in humiliating poses. For extra intimidation, they held a gun to her head.

    If she continued to resist working as a prostitute, she says they told her, the video would be sent to her relatives and acquaintances back home. Relatives would be told that Yumi was a prostitute, and several of them would lose their homes as well.

    Yumi caved. For the next three years, she says, she was one of about 20 Asian prostitutes working out of the office on 36th Street. Some of them worked voluntarily, she says, but others were forced and received no share in the money.

    Yumi played her role robotically. On one occasion, Yumi was arrested for prostitution, and she says the police asked her if she had been trafficked.

    “I said no,” she recalled. “I was really afraid that if I hinted that I was a victim, the gang would send the video to my family.”

    Then one day Yumi’s closest friend in the brothel was handcuffed by a customer, abused and strangled almost to death. Yumi rescued her and took her to the hospital. She said that in her rage, she then confronted the pimps and threatened to go public.

    At that point, the gang hurriedly moved offices and changed phone numbers. The pimps never mailed the video or claimed the homes in China; those may have been bluffs all along. As for Yumi and her friend, they found help with Restore NYC, a nonprofit that helps human trafficking victims in the city.

    There are no silver bullets, but the critical step is for the police and prosecutors to focus more on customers (to reduce demand) and, above all, on pimps. Prostitutes tend to be arrested because they are easy to catch, while pimping is a far harder crime to prosecute. That’s one reason thugs become pimps: It’s hugely profitable and carries less risk than selling drugs or stealing cars. But that can change as state and federal authorities target traffickers rather than their victims.

    Nearly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, it’s time to wipe out the remnants of slavery in this country.

    Yes, the men buying her services all mistakenly assumed that she was working of her own volition. Why would they assume otherwise? It seems natural for men to assume prostitutes choose that life for the money. Perhaps some do, since they see no good alternative. The point is, there is no way for a john to know the true motivations of a prostitute, or what is happening to her behind the scenes. Why should he care, anyway, as long as he gets what he wants? What kind of society is this where a woman would see prostitution as her best or only way to survive, or where a woman can be tricked into sex slavery and see no way to get out?

  33. Aletha Says:

    Dr. Goodyear, you insist on comparing relationships to transactions. That might make sense for a traditional relationship, but a feminist relationship is not comparable to any kind of business transaction.

    To put it very plainly, when a person possesses something another person desires, they hold power over that person, who has to sacrifice something to achieve the realisation of that desire.”

    I am saying this does not apply to an egalitarian relationship. I desire my lover, and he desires me. It is mutual. Neither of us has “power over” the other. We are vulnerable to each other. It is not the same, not even close. When there is conflict, some sacrifice may be necessary, but how did you conclude I was implying love is a commodity? That is the opposite of what I was saying.

    I also reject the notion a prostitute has any power over a john. He is free to choose another prostitute if one attempts to assert any kind of power over him. He may sacrifice money, time, energy, or his self-esteem (unlikely, that last), but she has no power over him.

    My point in comparing prostitutes to battered women is that all too often, neither feels free to leave. People often point the finger at a battered woman, asking why did she not just leave the abusive man? It is not that simple. She may want to, fervently, but she feels trapped, and going to the police will not protect her from him. Prostitutes make adjustments? People can adjust to just about any kind of hell, but that is one hell of a euphemism.

  34. Aletha Says:

    It was Sheldon who thought to identify my real name, but he had only managed to mix me up with Heart. I tried to post a comment to clear up the confusion, but surprise, surprise, Laura Agustin is holding the following in moderation!

    Ms. Agustin, I could possibly understand why you would not find your visit to the blog of lo tekk memorable enough to remember him, but if you go back there and read some of his posts about feminism, you might understand why I was taken aback that you would give him the time of day. He linked to the entry “Behind the happy face of the Swedish anti-prostitution law,” which shows up as a pingback. In return for that favor, I suppose, you left a comment on his entry. You see, I did not do this linking Sheldon finds absurd, you did.

    I do not know what problem Sheldon is having with his memory. Can it be he does not remember Heart, a major nemesis of his from the long defunct Ms. Magazine bulletin board? Her real name is Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff. My real name will hopefully never be known. If she has disavowed radical feminism, that is news to me. I have not disavowed it either, though some who call themselves radical feminists make me feel I should not share that description with them. I have similar feelings about some who call themselves feminists, but I am not about to claim I am not a feminist, or a radical. It simply seems more precise and less subject to confusion for me to call myself a feminist revolutionary political philosopher. I will inform Heart of this mistaken identification by Sheldon. She will be amused by his error, no doubt.

    You and Sheldon should presumably be amused by the actions of the Ms. blog moderators. They seem intent on eviscerating my arguments so that I will see no point in continuing to comment there.

  35. Aletha Says:

    What you may not appreciate is that for those most vulnerable to physical violence, they do not rate it highly in their general assesment of the risks and benefits of their lifestyle.

    I suspect that may be because incidents of actual physical violence, especially severe violence, are relatively infrequent, as opposed to incidents of psychological abuse. There may also be an element of feeling severe acts of violence cannot happen to them, and that their ability to deal with the abuse and minor acts of violence shows how tough they are. Prostitutes are tough, no doubt, and may be able to dismiss psychological abuse and minor skirmishes as annoyances, but in what kind of culture do women see tolerating this kind of abuse as the best alternative available to them?

  36. Aletha Says:

    The note Dr. Goodyear left at the Ms. blog was approved, but now it is gone! He informed me via email that he had attempted to correct it. Perhaps he embarrassed them by drawing attention to the fact my comments were blocked. I really wonder what kind of game they think they are playing.

  37. Aletha Says:

    Michael Goodyear has given me permission to copy the discussion between himself and me, so in the interest of providing the context for some of the comments I posted above, I include that history here. I jumped into the discussion after it had been going for a couple of pages. Dr. Goodyear was in it from the beginning, replying to the first comment and many others before I decided to raise some questions. These are all from the entry Why Decriminalizing Sex Work is Good for All Women.

    Aletha · 4 weeks ago
    I have some questions about this theory of how to empower prostitutes. How is it sex can be sold as a service? Who does that benefit?

    Why would police working with women to arrest and prosecute abusive johns be dependent on law recognizing prostitution as a legitimate business transaction? Police will not help prostitutes because prostitutes are regarded as criminals, not because prostitution is not recognized as a legitimate business transaction.

    Jennifer Reed said, “The embodiment of an active female sexuality that acknowledges her sexual knowledge, values her performance, and places it under her control is necessary for the subversion of male dominance. THAT is feminism.” I would tend to agree with that in general terms, but what does that have to do with prostitution, in which female sexuality is reduced to a commodity, a service for men in which the sexual knowledge, autonomy, and performance of the woman is wholly irrelevant?

    The authors state, “the places and ways in which prostitution can be practiced can lower the risk of violence…” No doubt, but how much can that risk realistically be lowered, given the nature of this activity, and what level of risk is acceptable?

    The authors also state, “Whore stigma is one clue that anti-prostitution ideology is about more than just violence against women—it’s specifically about femininity. In this sense, arguments against transactional sex are a defense of both the gender binary and of heterosexuality.” This may be true of religiously based anti-prostitution ideology, but there is a feminist argument against prostitution to which none of that applies. This kind of generalization brings to my mind Democrats thinking they only have to pay attention to Republican arguments, as though criticism from independents, feminists, or leftists has no importance. There are more than two sides to this argument.

    Rico said, “your policy of criminalizing clients whlie decriminalizing sex workers is naively contradictory.” In what sense? If this is so, why is it Sweden, supposedly one of the most feminist of nations, has not repealed its law?

    I then responded to Jennifer Reed claiming that “Very often there is an emotional component, companionship aspect, etc to the transaction.”

    Aletha · 3 weeks ago
    Very often? I doubt it. If you were referring to clients such as Eliot Spitzer patronizing high-end prostitutes, I would not dispute your contention. For the average prostitute, I think it is far more likely the john just wants access to a sex object, and his hand is not so easy to construe as a sex object.

    For this, it was insinuated I had no knowledge about average prostitutes.

    Aletha · 3 weeks ago
    I do not know what I expected, but I have to say, these responses did not answer my questions. It appears we truly live in different worlds. I find it highly dubious for a “professional companion” to claim to speak for the majority of prostitutes. It is also dubious for Laura Agustin, whom I exposed in a different thread as being friendly with a men’s rights activist blogger, to claim to provide an evidence-based point of view on the Swedish law.

    Jennifer Reed says, “I find the argument interesting that somehow accepting money for sex REDUCES one to a commodity. I think it may be an improvement over getting nothing in return. Are we not all resources to each other in different ways? What makes it more okay to have sex for pleasure (or any other reason) besides cash in exchange?”

    In other words, sex in the context of a relationship has no value or meaning. This may be true in many, if not most, heterosexual relationships, but not a feminist one. I happen to think deep, genuine sexual intimacy is priceless, one of many things I value more than money.

    This argument that the Swedish law is contradictory depends on the assumption of symmetry in power relations between men and women, as if prostitutes exploit johns in a comparable way to johns exploiting prostitutes. No such symmetry exists. For one thing, a prostitute, unless she is well skilled in self-defense, is at the mercy of a john. She can lay down all the rules she wants, but she has to trust him to abide by their agreement. This is why I say her sexual autonomy goes out the window. She sells it under certain conditions, but if the john has his own ideas, he will ignore those conditions.

    I thought it was obvious I was drawing a distinction between decriminalizing prostitution and not treating prostitutes as criminals. From my information, the vast majority of prostitutes would jump at a way out. That is in stark contrast to the rosy picture being presented here. Those who do want out need various forms of assistance, and arresting them is the last thing they need. A john, unless he is shelling out big bucks for a high-end prostitute, has no idea how a woman became a prostitute or whether she is happy with her circumstances, and he has no reason to care. Until such time as every prostitute who wants to get out is provided every form of assistance she may require for that purpose, the argument that buying a prostitute is a victimless crime, or a legitimate business transaction, overlooks serious issues, at least from a feminist perspective.

    By the way, Rebecca Mott was an indoor prostitute. Her experiences do not sound anything like the picture being painted here.

    Dr. Goodyear responds.

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 2 weeks ago
    Aletha

    you are certainly right about the perception of different planets in discussions about sex work amongst feminists. It is a deeply divisive issue, and arguments tend to be very polarised. However if we can be objective we can find common ground such as concern for the welfare of women in sex work.

    You are also correct that nobody can speak for all sex workers, since the experience is highly diverse. On the other hand I challenge your marginalising Laura Agustin, who is generaly accepted in academic circles as an expert on migration and sex work. Whether your statement about being friendly with someone is correct or not, it hardly constitutes a rationale for setting aside their conclusions. Agustin’s critique of the Swedish system is aligned with many academic investigations of Swedish claims. The evidence simply is not there, and vastly out of proportion to the claims.

    I think you and Jennifer are not that far apart. She does not argue that physical intimacy within a loving relationship has no value, only that we do not place a formal economic value on it. Yet all relationships involve an element of exchange. The viewpoint of those who contrast marriage and sex work (which goes back as far as Mary Wollstonecraft at least) is that there is a feeling that males claim entitlement to sex from a woman, and that sex workers are at least placing a value on what is expected for free. See for instance the work of Viviana Zelizer. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8023.html

    I disagree with your statements about symmetry – but again it depends on the context. Ethnographic work suggests that many sex workers are very much in control and that clients may feel exploited because they are prepared to pay a high price for what the worker is offering, a vendor’s market. Again th evidence from sociological research does not support the image of a sex worker at the mercy of a client, however oppressive laws considerably erode her ability to negotiate working conditions which should concern all of us.

    Again, it is incorrect to state that “the vast majority of prostitutes would jump at a way out”. – despite the claims that are made to this end. Many find it considerably preferrable to working for a minimum wage in a service industry. I think it is just as misleading to paint a rosy picture as a horrific one. What is most impressive is the sex worker’s resilience and resisatance to the situation imposed on her by the State and social stigma.

    The reality is that feminisms is a diverse credo, and many feminists see the issues quite differently from you. To go further they would see laws like those in Sweden as merely reinscribing patriarchal views of sexuality as being composed of uncontrollable male lust and helpless female acquiescence. I see this as a major barrier to achieving equality. For one Swedish feminist perspective see this essay by Camilla Lindberg and Marianne Berg.: http://www.expressen.se/debatt/1.2071323/debatt-skrota-sexkopslagen-for-kvinnornas-skull

    Aletha · 2 weeks ago
    Mr. Goodyear,

    I suppose I should respond to your comment, though I must bear in mind that the moderators have already censored, toned down, or held in moderation for several days several of my comments on related topics. Are you saying feminists should give the benefit of the doubt to a professed expert on prostitution who is friendly with at least one blatant men’s rights activist? Laura Agustin left the following comment this July on the blog of a certain piece of work lo tekk, after approving a pingback from him on her post Behind the happy face of the Swedish anti-prostitution law.

    “laura agustin says:
    July 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

    hello, after publishing an editorial at svenska dagbladet on the problems of the swedish government’s evaluation of its sex-buying law, the editor of the local (an english-writing swedish media site) invited me to expand a little. that article is here, hope you enjoy it: Big claims, little evidence: Sweden’s law against buying sex
    http://www.thelocal.se/27962/20100723/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=171%22

    She did not have to approve his pingback, let alone leave a friendly comment on the blog of such a man, who has no use for feminism, and believes such tripe as women batter men as often as men batter women. This by itself is not sufficient grounds to invalidate her argument, since she may not have bothered to check out his blog, but I have other reasons to question her analysis, and I have to wonder about her choice of allies. There is no doubt that many who see no problem with prostitution besides the laws against it have very low regard for feminism in general.

    Prostitution is for me much more than an academic issue. It is a political issue. Treating prostitutes as criminals is one political issue. Whitewashing prostitution is another. Two sides of the same coin?

    Jennifer Reed stated, “I think it may be an improvement over getting nothing in return.” Perhaps you have a different interpretation of nothing? I know all about the male sense of entitlement to sex, one reason I drew that distinction between feminist and traditional relationships.

    Of course you disagree with my statements about symmetry. You have a conflict of interest, being a man who doubts the reality of the horrors of the daily lives of many, if not most, prostitutes. If you wonder where I got that impression, it was not from television or sensational stories, unless one wants to dismiss the work of exited prostitutes, such as Rebecca Mott, as mere sensationalism.

    You have your opinions on how the majority of prostitutes feel. You like to throw around words like incorrect, evidence, reality. When speaking of something as diverse as the various forms of prostitution, those words necessarily reflect only part of the picture. My issue is with those who focus on the high end and characterize that as representative of the majority. Probably many prostitutes do see their only alternative as a mindless low wage job. This is a reflection of the lack of opportunities for women, not the inevitable reality. Everyone ought to have an opportunity to a job that employs their best skills and talents. You cannot tell me prostitution is such a job.

    Those who distort the Swedish law as “merely reinscribing patriarchal views of sexuality as being composed of uncontrollable male lust and helpless female acquiescence” have an agenda. That is not what that law is about, and I think everyone knows it. I could say the existence of prostitution, and pornography, is a major barrier to achieving equality. I say that because I see reinforcing the concept of woman as sex object as anathema to equality. The Swedish law makes paying a woman to be a sex object a crime. The US law generally makes the prostitute the criminal, the fallen woman, as opposed to the virtuous woman, perpetuating the ancient Madonna/Whore dichotomy.

    When a john has his mind set on what he wants from a prostitute regardless of what conditions she sets, she is at his mercy. Regardless of how common that may be, it happens. It happened to Renegade Evolution. It happened to Jill Brenneman. Violence happens in relationships as well. It even happened to me. In any given sexual encounter between a man and a woman, her risk of being abused, beaten, or raped may be relatively small, but given the nature of prostitution, those risks are bigger to begin with, and they multiply.

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 2 weeks ago
    Aletha

    well that’s a complex and thoughtful reply and I do resprct your opinions even though I disagree with them.

    I think we can agree then that Laura’s views should not be set aside on the basis of association, but examined on their merits. Laura’s opinion is similar to those of liberal Swedish feminists, as you must be aware since you provide a number of links.

    A lot of radical feminist theory is based on the entitlement axiom – and by challenging its symmetry I refer to the need to recognise female sexuality as not merely a passive entity, and that such theories are not beneficial to women as a whole.

    Being male does not constitute a conflict of interest. I don’t question the violent realities of the lives of some – I am just pointing out that they are not representative. Strictly speaking nothing in this area is representative, but should be set in context. I also challenge the essentialism of your comments about violence – it is the stigma and criminalisation that shape the environment in which sex workers operate and endangers them. These are not my opinions as you state but those of a feminist researcher and based on close contact with women and men in sex work. The empirical evidence is far from the mythology that is put about. That does not negate the realities of the lived lives of those who have experienced violence, but equally nor does claims that violence (you say “most”) is inherent reflect the daily lives of most women in sex work.

    I was not sure what you mean by ‘high end’ given the huge range of activities and contexts in which transactional sex occurs. The majority – about 20% but increasing – of sex work occurs indoors which is much safer and many of those have never experienced violence.

    I believe we agree on the need to improve opportunities, but on the other hand many sex workers do see their work as skilful.

    Now why do you say ‘distort’ the Swedish laws? We know what the Swedish laws say, we disagree ontheir effect and the rationality of their promotion. The laws are mainly symbolic as even the most ardent supporters claim, but the symbolism appears to be lost and as a number of Swedish writers have pointed out may contain very harmful messages.

    We agree on the need for a continuing struggle for equality but not on the barriers. I don’t see how sex work in any way objectifies women any more than hairdressing or other personal service professions. That’s a conceptual belief – but where is the evidence? We both reject the Madonna/Whore dichotomy imposed on women, but I see the continuing stigmatisation of the sex worker as entrenching that harm. Actually US law equally criminalises provider and purchaser – the enforcement may be a little different though, which is another issue. However we also know enforcement in Sweden is equally problematically gendered.

    Now since I know both Jill and Renegade, I can’t see how they could possibly agree with you. Sex workers are not at the mercy of their clients but we do know that in countries that have removed criminal sanctions sex workers are able to control clients much more easily. I would broaden your statement to ‘any encounter’ not just sexual, and not necessarily between men and women. Its about power. I am truly sorry to hear of your experience.

    Sex work is risky – riskier for some than others, but not for the majority. Nor is it the nature of sex work. Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law – but it does not happen.

    thanks again for sharing your thoughts
    michael

    Aletha · 2 weeks ago
    I suppose it is my turn to be puzzled by some of your references. I am well aware that the opinions of Ms. Agustin on the Swedish experiment are widely shared, and not just in Sweden. Some of the bloggers and moderators here also appear to share her opinions, at least to some extent. My point was that her opinions are also shared by a large number of liberal antifeminists, which does not seem to trouble her at all. Why would that be?

    Are you saying radical feminists view female sexuality as “a passive entity?” The whole point of the entitlement “axiom” as it pertains to sex (there are other aspects) is that men have traditionally viewed sex as a prerogative their lovers are obligated to provide, as opposed to a privilege to be earned, not that there is anything inherently passive about female sexuality. That many women have internalized this concept of female sexual duty speaks to the insidious power of cultural conditioning, not the nature of sexuality. The sexual revolution made a dent in traditional notions of sexuality in Western nations, but by no means are those extinct.

    I do not think the Swedish authorities characterized prostitution as a form of violence against women meaning the violence is exclusively physical. Even in rape the violence is not exclusively physical. Johns have many ways of abusing prostitutes, only some of which entail actual physical violence. I did not speak of the “violence” in the daily lives of most prostitutes. I used the word horrors, which would include any form of abuse. You seem to be implying the majority of johns treat prostitutes with respect. Since I think it is highly dubious that the majority of men regard women with genuine respect, to draw that conclusion about johns seems to me to give far too much credence to what men say, as opposed to how they really feel.

    What do you mean by “the essentialism of your comments about violence?” Do you agree with lo tekk that women batter men as often as men batter women? Do you really think the law and stigma against prostitution have so much influence over male behavior that they create the atmosphere in which johns abuse prostitutes? What then creates the atmosphere in which men harass, batter, and rape women? Do you deny these phenomena are linked? At least you did not deny that prostitution objectifies women, and I would agree that the culture is responsible for that objectification, not prostitution or pornography specifically, though I assert both heavily reinforce the concept of women as sex objects, and in no way weaken that concept.

    I think the prostitutes who commented here to snicker I have no idea what I am talking about know exactly what I meant by high end. They represent that, not the majority of prostitutes whose lives are nothing like what has been described here. Was that 20% a typo? Since when is 20% a majority of anything? You say indoor work is far safer. It may be safer, depending on the attitudes of whoever is running the establishment and its clientele, but still is very far from safe. Of course Renegade Evolution and Jill Brenneman would not agree with my standpoint, but would they deny that when their clients breached the boundaries, they were at the mercy of those men? I doubt it. You ignored the context of my statement. In general, a prostitute has to trust a man to abide by the conditions she sets. If he does not, she is at his mercy, regardless of the law.

    I called the interpretation you cited of the effect of the Swedish law and its intent a distortion because that is not what it says or intends. Laws often have unintended consequences, but I think the laws that treat prostitutes as criminals are the ones that reinforce traditional views of sexuality. There is nothing traditional about the Swedish law. The enforcement of laws against prostitution in other nations is more than a little unbalanced; the emphasis has always been on punishing the prostitute. Yet you see the enforcement of the Swedish law as “equally problematically gendered?” Why, because the shoe is on the other foot for once?

    You say sex work is risky, but not for the majority? Why then concede that it is risky, if that is the exception rather than the rule?

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 2 weeks ago
    Aletha

    Part II!

    I think being at someone’s mercy is definitely a statement that needs to be placed in context. Any of us alone with another person is at risk, and we place a lot of emphasis on trust and intuition. Sex workers use a high degree of risk minimisation procedures, but the laws and policing erode those making them more vulnerable.

    I think we may be confusing the letter of laws and their stated intent with consequences. My reading of numerous reports and research on the law, as well as talking to people involved is that it has done nothing to protect women or reduce male violence, quite the opposite. Similar conclusions were reached in Norway. You are quite correct about laws in general. Intuitively the Swedish law is appealing to feminists, in fact Swedish feminists started talking about it in the 1880s. It is certainly gendered, obviously by its very wording. However I was referring to what happens in practice. For instance men who sell sex to women, or to men or any other combination are ignored. Men generally get off, and women are still punished. Two recent examples are a female police cadet who was dismissed for selling sex while a judge merely quietly paid a fine.

    Risk is very subjective, for instance that 2004 paper I discussed above. Sex work is risky, but so are a lot of other things. (Sanders T. Sex Work: A risky business 2005) Risk is also manageable. What we need to do is find ways of minimising those risks if we care about the lives of sex workers, which I believe you do.

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 1 week ago
    Dear Aletha,

    I will try and respond to your comments a second time, since my original response does not appear, or only the last three paragraphs. If you prefer to continue this “offline” my email is:
    mgoodyear@dal.ca

    You ask why someone should not be troubled by finding that their views are shared by people whom one would not normally associate. I don’t beleive that that is an argument that has any cogency. It is rare to find someone whose views would coincide with one’s own on all matters. There is a wide range of views on many matters, particularly the more controversial, such as war, abortion or sex work. There are undoubtedly people who are supportive of sex work but aginst abortion and vice versa. I am sure there are many people who might share my views on sex work, but we would disagree on every other matter. I therefore find no validity in the argument that a viewpoint is weakened by the nature of others who might share it.

    I think we agree on more things than we disagree on. I completely accept your depiction of patriarchy, entitlement, gaze and in aparticular internalisation. My point was that by continuing to describe heterosexual relationships including sex work in terms of active males imposing themselves on vulnerable females, one merely, even if unintentionally, re-inscribes patriarchy by emphasising this particular masculine gaze, rather than emphasising the positive aspects of female sexuality.

    Let me cite you part of the Lindberg-Berg editorial in case you don’t read Swedish:

    “Patriarchal ideas about promiscuous women still dominate Swedish lawmakers.
    Expressen July 21 2010

    The basis for [the law] is the patriarchal discourse, in which sex is depicted as either “evil” or “good”. … In the patriarchy female ‘promiscuity’ is depicted as shameful. Even today, men are far freer than women to pursue sex without feeling ashamed or belittled by others. Women must be clean and spotless. Even rape victims feel ashamed and blame themselves. Many never reveal this because of what they have experienced. The problem is the stigma of illicit penetration.

    “Would you want your daughter to sell sex?” is the commonest question asked by proponents of the law, but the question itself helps to strengthen the female whore stigma. Their son’s possible adultery does not seem to worry them as much, and this despite the fact that there is evidence that amongst the young more men than women are selling sexual services.

    The day that we can tolerate and respect the “whore” we will have come a long way. When we respect the woman, her body and her right to her body, we are freed from the culture of honor that stamps female “promiscuity” as something negative.

    The buying-sex Act states that “in an equal society it is undignified and unacceptable for men to acquire casual sexual relations with women for remuneration”. This is equated with male violence against women, and now it is proposed to provide for up to one year in prison. This disqualifies women’s subjective experiences. It infantilizes them and deprives them of their responsibility for their actions and decisions. Is this a step towards gender equality? Or is it in fact merely a facet of the traditional patriarchal view of women?

    CAMILLA LINDBERG, Member of Parliament (Liberal) and member of the Culture Committee.
    MARIANNE BERG, Member of Parliament (Left) and member of the Constitutional Committee.”

    Best wishes,

    michael
    [To be continued]

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 1 week ago
    Aletha

    You are correct that violence takes many forms other than merely physical. Furthermore we know that women sex workers prioritise emotional violence over the physical (Sanders T. A continuum of risk? The management of health, physical and emotional risks by female sex workers. Sociology of Health and Illness 26(5) 557, 2004).

    Whatever we may think about how much respect men show women, research on sex workers’ clients suggests they show no difference in this respect to the rest of the population, and this is confirmed by the women. (Sanders T. Paying for pleasure: Men who buy sex. Willan 2008). However as with all sex work research one must exercise caution regarding the context in which the research was done. So yes I do believe that clients in general respect the workers.

    My comments on essentialism refer to certain radical literature that defines sex work as violence. That is an essentialist statement rather than empiricism or rationalism. I would not want in any way to belittle violence against women (or anyone) but we live in a society where at least some people seem to find this acceptable. There is no evidence to suggest that such attitudes have anything to do with the existence or prevalence or legal status of sex work. Women in sex work are liable to become victims of male violence like other women. What is different is the way we have constructed them as disposable and the realities of a justice system in which the probability (like rape) of being apprehended and convicted is very low. My views come from studies of the records of men who asault sex workers and who justify their actions in terms of social cleansing. Hillary Kinnell’s research shows that violence against sex workers is correlated with media publicity or comments from authorities that are prejudicial to the workers and are interpreted as ‘permission’ to abuse them.

    I don’t think that sex work specifically objectifies women – that is already engrained in social attitudes and pervades advertising and the way women are portrayed. What is related though is the continuing perpetration of the whore/madonna dichotomy which further reinforces the whore stigma, and hence ‘justifies’ violence. Interestingly Andrea Dworkin taught that pornography would lead to rampant male sexual agresion, whereas as Naomi Wolff points out, the opposite appears to be true. (Naomi Wolff. The Porn Myth. NY Magazine Oct 20 2003). Objectification is not linked to violence which is more related to power inequality.

    Am I correct that you interpret “high end” as indoor workers? I for one would never say that you don’t know what you are talking about. Well then, what does “represent..the majority of prostitutes”? If you say the people you are thinking of are “nothing like what has been described here”, then who do you mean – street workers, or survival sex workers? Thank you for picking up on that inadvertent error. Aproximately 80% of sex work occurs indoors and 20% outside, but the latter seems to be declining.

    Many indoor workers have never experienced violence, but nowhere is completely safe for any of us. (Tamara O’Doherty: Off-street commercial sex: an exploratory study. MA Thesis Dept Criminology, Simon Fraser University 2007). I didn’t ignore your context, (or anything else) but I may not have placed sufficient emphasis on it.

    Aletha · 1 week ago
    A few things jump out at me. “My point was that by continuing to describe heterosexual relationships including sex work in terms of active males imposing themselves on vulnerable females, one merely, even if unintentionally, re-inscribes patriarchy by emphasising this particular masculine gaze, rather than emphasising the positive aspects of female sexuality.” How can you call “sex work” a relationship? They are not comparable, though some men may flatter themselves to think they are in a relationship with a prostitute. Feminists describe heterosexual relationships in this way to protest traditional values, not to reinscribe them. This is not an unintentional oversight, it is a deliberate protest. If women had equal power in relationships and society, there would be no need to object to men imposing their will on women.

    I do not interpret high-end prostitution as indoor prostitution. As I observed above, Rebecca Mott was an indoor prostitute. I use the term to refer to high-class high-priced prostitutes, such as the escort service patronized by Eliot Spitzer. They make lots of money and have lots of leisure time, and are somewhat protected by the fact their relatively wealthy clients are not anonymous and have something to lose if blackmailed. These clients often do want companionship as well as sex. None of this applies to the average prostitute, indoors or not.

    You are evading my issue with the favor Ms. Agustin did for lo tekk. This is not a matter of her sharing an opinion with antifeminists. She went out of her way to leave a friendly comment on his blog, as if he were a valued ally. Perhaps she did not bother to check out his blog, but since there were only seven comments on that post, why not? I have commented on hostile blogs, but I did that to confront people. I also allow hostile comments on my blog, but I confront them. I do not believe in guilt by association, and in fact took someone you may know, Sheldon Ranz, to task for attempting to discredit Gail Dines on the grounds the ex-web designer for Stop Porn Culture turned out to be a religious fundamentalist. A web designer is a business associate, not an ally, but they got a new web designer after reading an article by Violet Blue gloating about uncovering yet another connection between anti-pornography feminists and anti-pornography fundamentalists. Sheldon claimed the web designer was funding Stop Porn Culture, but he had no evidence for that. The new web designer chose an objectionable web host, so Sheldon was arguing this was evidence that Gail Dines is in league with antifeminists. Guilt by association is a slippery slope. Perhaps Stop Porn Culture is guilty of lack of due diligence, but how much research into the associations of a web designer is one expected to do?

    I also took issue with the substance of that article I cited on the Laura Agustin blog, which was written by a guest author, libertarian activist Louise Persson. One statement I found particularly telling was to belittle the anecdote of an unhappy prostitute in the study of the Swedish law Ms. Persson was critiquing. “”But this strategy won’t hold up, because Swedes know that all sex workers are not miserable.” I wondered on this blog, Is that the point? Do Swedes “know” that most prostitutes are not miserable? If not, is the experience of a few contented prostitutes to outweigh the misery of most?

    You contend it is the other way around, that most prostitutes are relatively content? I wonder if unhappy prostitutes would be talking to the researchers you find credible.

    “I don’t think that sex work specifically objectifies women – that is already engrained in social attitudes and pervades advertising and the way women are portrayed.” It has been argued here that decriminalizing prostitution would specifically counter the objectification of women. I see no evidence for that. If the conception of woman as sex object was foreign to human consciousness, could prostitution exist? I think not.

    “Objectification is not linked to violence which is more related to power inequality.” Does objectification not go hand in hand with power inequality? What is the purpose of objectification, if not to maintain power inequality? Do you believe male sexual aggression has become less of a problem, and that the mainstreaming of pornography deserves credit for that? I do not understand how Naomi Wolf could make that argument, which is a staple of men’s rights propaganda, as if pornography provides an outlet for men who otherwise would be harassing and raping women, but I would like to see how you would defend it. The risk of violence is a matter of degree. I never expected what happened to me. I thought it could not happen to me. I was naive. The reason prostitutes are at greater risk is that they have to deal with so many men they cannot trust, and the risks multiply. The law may not help matters, but it is not the cause of male violence against women in general, or prostitutes in particular.

    The continuation of that comment was never approved:

    (Continued)
    There are many ways to conduct a study to bolster preconceived conclusions. A study of an illegal activity will have great difficulty obtaining a sample of a representative population. I suppose you know the saying, figures never lie, but liars always figure. Those who believe men are battered as frequently as battered women claim to have solid studies on their side. Studies can be flawed by poor design or overlooking contrary evidence. Medicine and science are littered with examples. Scientists like to claim, for instance, that there is no evidence that nuclear power has killed anyone, or that genetically modified food crops are different from conventional crops, except for possessing the desired engineered traits. Now the Transportation Security Administration is saying there is no evidence those full body scanners are dangerous. When people say there is no evidence, red flags go up for me. What they mean is that there is no evidence they find credible.

    You believe men in general respect women in general, and that this is reflected in the experiences of prostitutes? How could sexism remain prevalent in a culture where men generally respect women? I am curious, have you read anything from Rebecca Mott’s blog? I quoted her extensively in my comments on How To Respect Sex Workers.

    “…there is evidence that amongst the young more men than women are selling sexual services.” I find that about as credible as the claim men are battered as often as women. I think promiscuity is a red herring. I take issue with male promiscuity, and I do not think promiscuity is something women should emulate, or that it has anything to do with the reasons women go into prostitution. That is a patronizing argument based on traditional values, not radical feminism.

    I could say more, but I am falling asleep, so I will have to leave it at that.

    Here Sheldon jumped in to defend his character assassination of Gail Dines. I responded,

    Aletha · 1 week ago
    Ah, Sheldon. I was wondering when you would show up. Once again you draw fallacious analogies. A business associate is not necessarily an ally, and especially not a web hosting company. Should I be responsible for checking out every web site hosted by my ISP? The new web designer was not bluehost, and I doubt there was any contact between Lierre Keith and bluehost, which was paid to host the site, not to establish it or set it up. Stop Porn Culture was one of probably millions of web sites hosted by bluehost. Not only that, the website is no longer hosted by bluehost, possibly because I informed them you were making a stink about it! I was informed the new host is Pair Networks, and the current website was designed by radical environmental activist Aric McBay. At the time I do not think Pair Networks had Stop Porn Culture on their own server, but they do now. If Stop Porn Culture was so bent on being allied with these people, why did they bother to make these changes?

    Sorry for the off-topic diversion. I had a second part to my response, part of which dealt with the issue of promiscuity, but surprise surprise, that comment is not here. Many women engage in casual sex, but it would be a rare woman who has as anywhere near as many encounters as a prostitute, and besides, that is done for fun, not money or necessity. The atmosphere is not comparable, and neither is the risk.

    My primary point is that many, if not most, prostitutes feel compelled to engage in prostitution, not because they like it, but because they see no better alternative. That is tantamount to being trapped. That, and the abuse that happens to prostitutes from johns and law enforcement, is primarily what concerns me.

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 1 week ago
    Aletha

    you raise many issues covering a wide range. It is not a matter of flattering themselves. Sex workers and clients do form genuine relationships, known as regulars. However since actors are involved in illusion, there is an element of both self and other-deception. However whether temporary or extended, provider and purchaser are still in a relationship, though perhaps not strictly in the sense you are using the word. I was using it much more broadly.

    I think we need to unpack theoretical constructs like patriarchy from real world relationships. Patriarchy is a useful construct to describe how societal attitudes and expectations shaped the world women found themselves in, and the opportunities they had. However it would be wrong to generalise from that and apply it to all relationships that exist in the real world. Inequalities, large inequalities, persist in terms of wealth, power and opportunity, and protest is justified. However this does not necessarily dictate the nature of all heterosexual relationships, in which there is room for negotiation and opting out, and resource to external sources of power. However I believe your central argument was the application of patriarchy to understanding relationships between providers and purchasers of sexual services.

    I was a little bit confused by your conclusion about not protesting the imposition of will. Were you stating that in a situation of true equality, there would be no imposition and hence no reason to protest? I think there might still be cultural attitudes to protest independently of power.

    Thank you for clarifying your use of “high-end”. Then we are dealing with a small minority at one end of a spectrum, and certinly not ‘average’. You are correct that companionship is frequently a component – sometimes the only component of the exchange, however you are incotrrect to imply that that is the exclusive domain of “high-end”. Sex workers at all levels of income report companionship as a need they service.

    I assure you I am not trying to evade any of your arguments. Personally I suspect you are reading far too much into that exchange. However Laura will need to respond to that. People leave comments on websites for all sorts of reasons including traffic, and promotion of their viewpoint and publications. I don’t think we have any direct evidence that invalidates her views or statements. She is a sociologist that has been involved in research into sex work over a lifetime. In the meantime she has stated that she did not know lo tekk .

    Now I also happen to know Louise Persson, a Swedish feminist and author of “Classical Feminism”. Frankly I have no idea what Swedes think about in relation to how many sex workers are miserable. One would need to do a formal survey. However you seem convinced the majority are miserable, which I cannot accept – the evidence simply does not support this. Undoubtedly there are miserable sex workers and miserable winkle pickers. I think you are building arguments on unjustied assumptions.

    Which having said, you are correct that we have to interpret research in terms of who talked to who, where and how. But so far nobody has uncovered these large numbers of unhappy sex workers. There are a few well known examples, usually those who have exited or been the victims of violent crimes. I think most researchers I know, know most of the sex workers in their area, and their findings are quite consistent.

    (to be continued)

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 1 week ago
    (continued)

    Maybe I missed something, but I don’t recall the authors or myself claiming that decriminalisation would counter objectification. If in the long run it reduces stigma, then it will go some way to help, but I would not make any more sweeping statement than that. You are entitled to think that in the absence of objectification there would be no sex work, but I don’t see any evidence to support that. It has also been argued that in the absence of inequality it would not exist. To believe that misses what sex work is about. I think there would be less, given that economic inequality is a major driver, and that feminisation of poverty is a major concern. However sex work is far more complex than that, it has to do with resistance to capitalist structures and the fact that people have needs and others have resources that meet those needs, which is the glue that ties us together as a society. Commerce is not necessarily about inequality at all. Both purchasers and providers possess power and agree to exchange them for mutual benefit.

    You raise some interesting perspectives on power, inequality and objectification, but I think that is a simplistic model. Power inequality facilitates violence. Objectification is inherent in inequality. But that does not mean that objectification in itself causes violence, without many other factors, which I have outlined earlier. It is not my purpose to defend Naomi Wolff, I merely pointed to at least one feminist writer who does not think that relaxing state controls over sexuality inevitably leads to violence against women. We can both share outrage against violence. I agree with you about risk – but risk can be managed and many sex workers do that extraordinarily well in a way that other women could learn from. Again let me say how sorry I am to hear that you have been a victim of violence.

    I have to disagree with you about the effects of law and violence with respect to sex workers, the evidence is very clear on that. (Shannon K. Prevalence and structural correlates of gender based violence among a prospective cohort of female sex workers. British Medical Jounal August 22 2009).

    Aletha · 1 week ago
    I am sorry, Mr. Goodyear. I thought this might actually be going somewhere, but I think I was hoping against hope. I am tired of having to say, that is not what I said. This happens all too often in this kind of argument. I do not know if the misunderstandings are unintentional or willful. I do not know why comments I consider pertinent are held up in moderation. The moderators consider them too divisive, I suppose. This last one also dealt with selective use of evidence. I feel like I am arguing with one hand tied behind my back. I saw a response from Sheldon in the RSS feed which is not here. That is not the first time that has happened with one of his comments. Not to worry, Sheldon, I will post your overwrought insults on my blog so I can say what I really feel about them. I do not feel at liberty to say what I really feel here, for many reasons. I do not wish to continue this discussion in private, but perhaps it would make more sense to continue it on my blog, where I, and anyone else who wishes to contribute something meaningful, can speak freely.

    I will say, once again, if I mean to say all, I will use the word all. I never generalize about all relationships or all men. I know how diverse both are.

    “I was a little bit confused by your conclusion about not protesting the imposition of will. Were you stating that in a situation of true equality, there would be no imposition and hence no reason to protest? I think there might still be cultural attitudes to protest independently of power. ”

    This is an example of you implying I said something I did not say. What I said was quite specific. I did not imply equality is utopia. What I did mean to say is that if there were no power differential between men and women, men could not impose their will on women, therefore there would be no need to object to that imposition. I think your portrayal of the sex trade as ordinary commerce downplays the consequences of that power differential, which is not quite as stark as historically, but still very much in play. I think you are also downplaying the experiences of exited prostitutes who have documented their horror stories. We will have to agree to disagree on how representative they are. Do you think it should be easy to uncover large numbers of unhappy prostitutes, if they did in fact exist? Why would they take the risk of talking to anyone about their lives?

    I did not bring up my experience of violence for sympathy, only to point out that male violence against women is all too common, and it is a mistake for any woman to think it cannot happen to her, regardless of how careful she is. What do you mean, risk can be managed? It can be lessened, certainly, but to what extent? I had good solid reasons to believe that man would never do anything like what he did to me. Those reasons all went out the window, just like that. I will never know what stopped him from finishing me off.

    I see prostitution as a prime example of the objectification of women. I see the objectification of women as a form of violence. It does not have to extend to, or directly cause, physical forms of assault. You called my comments essentialist. I still do not understand what you meant by that. Essentialism is a charge often leveled at radical feminists in response to criticism of men. Some do believe men are inherently oppressive, but I think all that is learned behavior, and can be unlearned. In other words, it is a choice for a man to be sexist or not.

    I never said Ms. Agustin knew lo tekk personally. If one follows my link, one can find his pingback in the comments. Perhaps she had no reason to remember him, or to check out his blog, but she did approve the pingback and leave that comment on his blog. If she has any concern about his antifeminist beliefs, she could make that known.

    Sex work “has to do with resistance to capitalist structures?” In what way? Are you referring to marriage, perhaps?

    The title of this entry is, Why Decriminalizing Sex Work is Good for All Women. You said in your first comment on this entry, “I am glad you can see the potential of empowerment through decriminalisation.” Are you implying empowerment does not necessarily counter objectification? If so, what do you mean by empowerment?

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 1 week ago
    Aletha

    I thought this was going somewhere too, now I am not so sure. But as a clarification are you talking about our dialogue or the whole comment section on this article? Was your comment about being misquoted directed at me, or others? I am not trying to misquote you but I am asking questions so that we can both better understand this subject, even though we come from different perspectives. However, if you say not all of your responses are posted, that would be a bit confusing, because we can’t have a conversation if we only hear half the words.

    However although you address this post to me initially you address others like Sheldon within it – so you can see why I am unclear just who all your remarks are directed to. If you want to continue this on your blog, that’s fine but you will need to tell me and others where it is.

    Perhaps the moderators can address the issue here of why people can’t speak freely, so we can all be quite clear about the rules. I did have one of mine edited too – which said that everyone here knows who I am – someone on one of the websites you refer to used a real name with reference to you, and I am assuming for now that that is who you are.

    I think we can agree about the need for caution in generalisations – and I believe I have stressed that.

    I didn’t imply you said anything – I merely asked you a question. Perhaps from now on I should use quotes, to ensure there is no misunderstanding. You said “This is not an unintentional oversight, it is a deliberate protest. If women had equal power in relationships and society, there would be no need to object to men imposing their will on women. ” And I replied “I was a little bit confused by your conclusion about not protesting the imposition of will.” I can’t see how that can be construed as me implying you said something you didn’t – I was merely seeking clarification, which you provided.

    No, I am not saying transactional sex is ‘ordinary commerce’, it is quite unique but it represents work in the lives of the people who sell. I don’t wish to downplay power differentials, but I think you are seeing all transactional sex in terms of that power differential, which is incorrect. Do you see all heterosexual interactions as characteised by power differentials? To put it very plainly, when a person possesses something another person desires, they hold power over that person, who has to sacrifice something to achieve the realisation of that desire. Historically women have used their intelligence and skills to diminish those differentials by making men exchange something else if they want something.

    I am not downplaying the lived lives of anyone. If someone has an experience to relate that is real to them. What I was contesting was any suggesting that this characterises the nature of exchange. We have had many murders and life-threatening assaults here, and this is very real. The issue of representativeness has been much discussed. Everyone acknowledges the abuse of sex workers – you and I differ as to its cause, and to its extent. We both wish to see it diminished. You cannot assume something exists because you believe it to be true. The picture you portray is not what sex workers tell us. Are they truthful? That has also been discussed at length. I believe they are because they are consistent, and the evidence triangulates. If the experiences you suggest were universal, most people would leave. In our lives we assess risks, and gains and make judgements as to their relativity.
    (Continued below)

    Michael Goodyear 25p · 1 week ago
    (continued)
    I didn’t mean to imply you were looking for sympathy, but it does not stop me as a human being feeling the pain of others when they they relate their narratives. That is empathy not sympathy. We agree violence against women is too common – one case is one too many. I mean that sex workers, like other people faced with the possibility of violence such as bouncers, have developed elaborate ways of secreening and diminishing the risks in their lives till they become acceptable to them in relation to the benefits. However none of us can eliminate all risks from our lives, and violence in the workplace occurs in many settings. We can help them diminish this risk further.

    We obviously see the issue of objectification quite differently which suggests we might be using the word differently. I could equally argue that the sex worker objectifies men. Perhaps you can elaborate on objectification as a form of violence. Do you apply that to advertising, and media, and stereotypes in literature, film and television? That is a cultural issue that needs addressing.
    You object to my use of essentialism – I said “I also challenge the essentialism of your comments about violence “. That is not a charge, it is a philosophical description which I compared to other philosophical forms of thought such as empiricism, like John Locke or Karl Popper. If you believe that something is inherent in an activity, that is essentialism, as opposed to trying to determine its nature through proof, which is essentialism. That does not mean that all essentialism should be rejected. Are you characterising yourself as a radical feminist? I hope you are right about unlearning behaviour, or even better preventing the learning of unproductive attitudes and traits. That is a redemptory trajectory. (Iglesias, E. Rape, race and representation: The power of discourse and the reconstruction of heterosexuality. (1996) Vand Law Rev 49(4) 869-992)

    I don’t think I said you said Agustin knew this person personally. Interesting that you bring up marriage, another institution some believe was designed entirely to supply male needs. No, actually I was referring to their role in relation to menial minimal paid jobs, and being wage slaves.

    By empowerment in this context, I mean respecting someone’s legitimate choices, not treating them as either criminals or victims, and ensuruing they have access to all the resources and protections afforded to citizens.
    michael

    This is where the longer of my split comments was censored:

    I would appreciate it if you would send me at editor@freesoil.org a link to wherever you found someone claiming to know who I am. As far as I know, there is only one person in the blogosphere who knows my identity, and I did not mention the site of this person. I would assume that identification is incorrect, and that any attempt to out me would be done out of hostility.

    The Ms. comment policy is at http://msmagazine.com/blog/contact-us/#comment. I am not going to speculate about why my comments (and those of some friends) have been held up, blocked, and edited. I have already protested that, and see no point in belaboring the point, but since it has happened on this entry, I thought I had better mention that. I imagine most people commenting here do not feel they cannot speak freely. I posted my missing comment on my blog, as a comment to the top entry, the writeup by a friend of the recent Stop Porn Culture conference. By the way, I did not think anyone would think my blog is hard to find. Click on my name.

    There is a difference between misquoting and misinterpreting. I do not mind being paraphrased if my intent is understood. As to whether this is going anywhere, I was referring to our dialogue specifically, but also the entire thread and my presence on this blog in general. I have political differences with FMF that make me think my days on this blog are numbered, regardless of whether I would like to continue to participate. I am used to seeing the opinions of radical feminists misunderstood and twisted like pretzels, but it is still tiresome. Many radical feminists would not recognize me as one of their own, one reason I prefer to call myself a feminist revolutionary.

    “No, I am not saying transactional sex is ‘ordinary commerce’, it is quite unique but it represents work in the lives of the people who sell. I don’t wish to downplay power differentials, but I think you are seeing all transactional sex in terms of that power differential, which is incorrect. Do you see all heterosexual interactions as characteised by power differentials? To put it very plainly, when a person possesses something another person desires, they hold power over that person, who has to sacrifice something to achieve the realisation of that desire.”

    I think this is the crux of our disagreement. For one thing, I just made a big point of saying I never generalize about all men, or all relationships. I disagree with every sentence in that paragraph. One of the posts I quoted from Rebecca Mott was entitled, Do Not Call It Work. I totally disagree that having something someone else desires gives me power over that person, or that sacrifice is required for the realization of that desire. Would you call love a sacrifice? But then, I disown the entire concept of power over, which in my eyes is more about abuse than real power. If this makes no sense to you, perhaps you ought to read the new book by Gloria Feldt, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.

    “You cannot assume something exists because you believe it to be true. The picture you portray is not what sex workers tell us. Are they truthful? That has also been discussed at length. I believe they are because they are consistent, and the evidence triangulates. If the experiences you suggest were universal, most people would leave.”

    What do I assume to exist because I believe it to be true? I keep my assumptions and beliefs to a minimum. I am skeptical of nearly everything commonly believed. Which prostitutes are talking to you? I do not doubt they are being truthful, but I do have reason to doubt they are representative of any large group of prostitutes. Obviously the experiences of prostitutes vary widely, even for any one person. Is it not possible many prostitutes convince themselves the abuse they experience is not that bad in order to keep their sanity? Rebecca Mott did. Is she an outlier? Do you think most unhappy prostitutes feel free to leave? Many battered women do not feel free to leave their abusers. By your logic, it would seem they must not be unhappy enough to leave.

    This was approved:

    Aletha · 1 week ago
    (Continued)
    “I could equally argue that the sex worker objectifies men.” Yes, and you could also argue the power differential between men and women is a double-edged sword. Perhaps in a way it is, but this does not mean there is symmetry or equity between men in general, and women in general.

    “Perhaps you can elaborate on objectification as a form of violence. Do you apply that to advertising, and media, and stereotypes in literature, film and television?” Yes. Objectification is othering, deriving from the not quite yet obsolete conception of women as less than human. This does violence to women by inducing self-contempt, and all sorts of behaviors women have learned to think we must act out to attract men. It is psychological warfare. The battle of the sexes is not a meaningless metaphor, or without harmful consequences.

    I think there is very little that is inherent in human behavior. Inherency is properly the province of instincts, and people have the capacity to override their instincts. Even the hunger and survival instincts can be overridden, at least temporarily. I would not call any aspect of human behavior inherent unless it is completely and absolutely inescapable. What qualifies? Consciousness is inescapable, except through death, though some would argue not even death is an escape.

    That is the extent of the discussion between Dr. Goodyear and myself from the Ms. blog, with my missing comments added in. Dr. Goodyear posted a reply there, explaining that he did not see the point in responding there because it was obvious part of my comment was missing. That reply, and a further clarification he posted the next day, are also missing. His response to this last comment is above.

  38. Aletha Says:

    Professor Goodyear and I have been carrying on an email exchange. He attempted to explain to me the use of the term “sex-negative.” He seems to think this is an example of the “pitfalls of assumptions,” and of how “some extremists on both sides can tar the image of many more reasoned people.” This is my response:

    It is a favorite tactic of those who claim the term sex-positive to lump all their opponents in with religious fundamentalists, as if feminists who oppose them have anything in common with religious wackos, of whom many do see sexuality as something dirty and shameful, besides opposition to prostitution and pornography. This tactic has served to keep the “sex wars” going, since this pigeonholing is deeply offensive and I think meant to be such. I do not think Sheldon, for example, is an extremist. I think he is more typical than you may want to believe. Until recently, during all the discussions about pornography and prostitution on the Ms. blog, Sheldon was very active and leveled all manner of nonsensical accusations, yet there was only one person on the “sex-positive” side who contradicted him at all. She basically accused him of being a double agent, since it seemed to her that his carelessness was a deliberate attempt to discredit their side. He managed to persuade her otherwise. Lately it seems the moderators have had enough of Sheldon. Today I saw two more of his comments in the RSS feed, this time about Julian Assange, that were nowhere to be found.

  39. Michael Goodyear Says:

    Thanks Aletha,

    I should state that I don’t like this whole labelling exercise people engage in – it is an act of intellectual laziness, seeing the world as a series of monolithic structures that do not require detailed examination for their strengths and weaknesses.

    I think ‘lumping’ is a favourite tactic of many people who engage in pure rhetoric. For some though, it is clearly intentional, conflation ‘tars with the same brush’. This is akin to calling anyone who disagrees with you a fascist or communist.

    We need to be on our guard against such rhetorical tactics, and expose them.
    michael

  40. Aletha Says:

    It is hard for me to understand how Ms. Agustin picks which comments to block. On her entry about Julian Assange and the prevalence of rape in Sweden, some rabid men’s rights activist and self-proclaimed antifeminist commented about his theory of why “rape in Sweden is a worldwide joke….” This was too much even for Sheldon, who pointed out that this man actually advocates rape on his own blog, but he had to get in a dig about “sex-negative feminists” and how both they and “women-negative anti-feminists … channel their bitter personal experiences into their sexual politics.” These comments Ms. Agustin apparently thinks contributed something valuable to the discussion, but mine did not qualify. Go figure.

  41. Aletha Says:

    The rape advocate made some more asinine comments, but Laura Agustin deleted them. How they got onto her blog is a mystery, since she does moderate her comments, but she says she was away and returned to find a commenter had turned her blog into a nasty place.

    She has posted a long article about the history of attempts to help prostitutes, Helping Women Who Sell Sex: The Construction of Benevolent Identities. In her conclusion, she states

    All research shows that the people constructed as ‘prostitutes’ were nothing more than poorer women taking up the one employment opportunity that offered independence and better money than could be found anywhere else, often as a part-time or stop-gap measure.

    Yes, indeed. And what kind of culture is this in which many poor women find themselves in that predicament? I made the point over and over on the Ms. blog that most prostitutes, for all intents and purposes, feel trapped, because they see no better alternative. I was ridiculed for this, as if I denied these women had any agency. How meaningful is agency for a woman who sees no better alternative? Ms. Agustin seems to be arguing that prostitutes do not need or desire any help. It depends on what form that help takes, and the motivations behind it. Certainly prostitutes do not benefit from being treated as criminals, “fallen women” in need of punishment and/or cure for their alleged sinful promiscuity. That is how prostitutes are treated, still, in most cultures, but that is far removed from what feminists have in mind when decrying the abuse of prostitutes, or attempting to help them get out. The cult of domesticity that motivated non-feminist attempts to help prostitutes reclaim their “virtue” has been based on traditional values, not feminist values. Certainly prostitution has provided an alternative to “domestic bliss,” but except in strictly financial terms, it is hardly a productive, meaningful, or rewarding use of the talents and skills of a woman.

    I will cite again a section of the Free Soil Party Bill of Missing Rights, which states

    The right to sufficient basic and vocational education to qualify for a job reasonably consistent with the talents, abilities, and potential of a person. Those people demonstrating unusual creative abilities would be allowed three years of self directed apprenticeship to develop independence. While attaining sufficient skills for survival, no person should be held liable to pay for survival.

    If everyone had this right, would poor women find themselves in the predicament of having to take up “the one employment opportunity that offered independence and better money than could be found anywhere else?” I think not. People may say that right is utopian, but I see it as an eminently practical solution to poverty and its associated ills.

  42. Michael Goodyear Says:

    Aletha

    your question “And what kind of culture is this in which many poor women find themselves in that predicament?” is a very valid one that I have made many times – addressing social issues with the blunt instrument of the criminal law is doomed to failure. However I would be wary about extrapolating that to “most prostitutes, for all intents and purposes, feel trapped, because they see no better alternative”, particularly given the cultural and historical contexts of Agustin’s comments.

    This last statement is not in keeping with empirical research, which does not mean that there are not women in such predicaments. However many other factors contribute to entrapment including the law itself, and stigma. I just think we need to be very careful about what we mean when we say “most”.

    I hope that helps
    michael

  43. Aletha Says:

    Are you splitting hairs? Perhaps many prostitutes do not “feel” trapped, but if an impoverished woman finds herself with only that one employment opportunity, all other alternatives seemingly worse or nonexistent, is this not being trapped, even if she convinces herself she likes it? People can adapt to just about any kind of hell. How conducive to her peace of mind is it for her to feel the full weight of that hell? If she numbs herself so she can tolerate it, is this, again, not being trapped?

    Perhaps you cannot accept what I mean by trapped. In my eyes, even being viewed as a sex object is a trap. Traps for women are ubiquitous in this male-dominated culture. Prostitution is just one especially glaring example, symbolizing how women are devalued. There are other kinds of traps ensnaring men. This culture does not exist to empower anyone except a tiny elite who wield power and influence far out of proportion to their numbers, or any sensible metric. It is not quite as hopeless as one dollar, one vote, but the US political system is closer to that than to a democratic republic. In most other parliamentary democracies, I think the problem of money corrupting politics is less stark, but still a problem.

  44. Michael Goodyear Says:

    Aletha I am not splitting hairs. The difference is that you are concentrating on the meanings of entrapment. I am questioning whether you can really say ‘most’ (which in itself can mean different things to different people). People can feel trapped in many jobs. I am also pointing out that for those who do feel trapped, that is they face major hurdles to changing jobs, a large part of the reason is cultural. This is partly the inequalities you refer to in terms of power, opportunities and wealth, and the devaluing of women’s work. But it is also the structural factors imposed by law and social stigma.

    In plain words it is very difficult for a woman who has worked in the sex trade to work anywhere else. The skills don’t translate well, and her past history particularly if she has been in trouble with the law is a major barrier to any other sort of employment.

    I think many people, particularly women, who have less opportunities, feel trapped in employment where they are wage slaves. As usual I think we agree on more than we disagree.

  45. Aletha Says:

    Yes, I agree the obstacles a prostitute faces in getting out are substantial, and should not be laid at her feet. This reminds me of how battered women are blamed for not leaving. What puzzles me is how you can contend most prostitutes are not trapped. Or are you saying, most do not “feel” trapped? I think too often prostitution is cast as either one of the two extremes, the high-end escort service where the women make lots of money and may actually enjoy their encounters, as opposed to the pimped street prostitute who has to turn most of the money over to the pimp and numb herself to be able to tolerate her miserable existence. Most prostitutes are somewhere in between. Their experiences with johns vary between appreciative guys on one extreme and guys who want to act out cruel fantasies they found in pornography on the other extreme. It is difficult to generalize about such a wide variety of experiences, but the principle of buying a woman for sex is deeply rooted in oppressive traditions, which used to regard women as the legal property of their husbands. In this culture, that notion is supposed to be obsolete, but many men in Western cultures still view their wives or “girlfriends” as their property, and in other cultures, the notion never became obsolete. As long as a john thinks his money gives him a right to fulfill whatever fantasy strikes his fancy, prostitution will be prone to abuse. If it were understood the prostitute would be calling the shots, it might be a different story. I alluded on the Ms. blog to the concept of a sex educator. I think many men could benefit from some education about sex, and I do not mean what they learn in school. They could learn plenty from listening to their lovers, but too often, the fragile male ego gets in the way.

  46. Michael Goodyear Says:

    Thanks Aletha

    Let me elaborate on some of those points. What I say is based mainly on empirical research and grounded in the lived realities of the people I encounter on a daily basis. I think we are using words like ‘trapped’ differently. As with other jobs many people move on when conditions change or other opportunities present themselves, but as we have outlined above that can encounter substantial obstacles. There are a number of schemes that offer re-training, although some suffer from being judgemental. However what is interesting is the number who return to sex work after exiting. Probably one of the best studies is Sanders, T.L.M. (2007) Becoming an Ex-Sex Worker: Making Transitions out of a Deviant Career. Feminist Criminology, 2(1). This study found criminalisation the largest obstacle to changing careers. Many work part time or only seasonally. However I have not found many that either feel trapped or particularly want to do something else.

    Rather than the polarisation model you cite or three compartmental model you suggest, I think the reality is a continuum, which makes it very difficult to generalise. I would contest the concept of ‘buying women for sex’, and so would most sex workers. They are emphatic they sell a personal service not themselves, a major distinction. Much attention has been paid to the level of control of the parties in a sexual transaction. Whatever customers might think, sex workers are on the whole pretty clear as to what the rules are and lay them out. Any deviance from those on the part of the customer constitutes a breach of contract and they are asked to leave, without entitlement to a refund. (In New Zealand that is legislated). So the right to fulfill fantasies is not what happens. or if you like – the prostitute calls the shots. We need to do everything we can to enable them to successfully negotiate their work conditions.

    I am in complete agreement about educating men – mothers could be a start. Sex workers do see education as one of their roles, and again I am going to cite Teela Sanders: (2006) Female Sex Workers as Health Educators with Men who Buy Sex: Utilising Narratives of Rationalisation Social Science and Medicine 62,10, 2434-2444.

    Best of the season to you and yours,
    michael

  47. Aletha Says:

    Sigh. I think we are going around in circles. I thought I was describing a continuum, not a “three compartmental model.” Or does “somewhere in between” represent a distinct well-defined compartment to you?

    I think it is time to pin you down on how you draw your conclusions about the operation of the sex trade. Would you consider Rebecca Mott unusual? You are aware that her description of her life flatly contradicts what you are saying about how prostitution operates? Is she lying, exaggerating, delusional, or an outlier? She has been accused of all of that, but I think her life is representative of far more prostitutes than you seem willing to believe. I cannot prove this, but I have no reason to believe your portrayal of prostitution is more accurate or representative than hers.

    Prostitutes may want to believe they are selling a service, but I doubt many johns see it that way. The distinction is important, but probably lost on the john. I think johns buy prostitutes to act out their fantasies despite whatever the prostitute has in mind. She may not want to play along, but one thing the sex trade does have in common with conventional businesses is that refusing to make the customer happy is bad for business. Unless she is working for herself, with nobody else to answer to, an unhappy customer can make trouble for her. Pimps and madams want to make money. This makes them more interested in making the john happy than what that means for the prostitute. I imagine the rules you cite are meant to protect the prostitute from outright physical violence, and sexually transmitted diseases, perhaps? What exactly do you mean when you say the prostitute calls the shots? I suspect it is not what I meant when I used the phrase. You say, “We need to do everything we can to enable them to successfully negotiate their work conditions.” Does this not imply prostitutes are currently having trouble negotiating their work conditions? That sounds to me as if they are not calling the shots. You can blame that on the law, but I think the laws are just making a bad situation worse. I brought up the concept of a sex educator as a contrast to prostitution. Some johns may be looking to get an education from prostitutes, but I would expect that to be rare, considerably more so than men who think they are getting an education from pornography.

    Is it not true that many prostitutes cannot realistically imagine doing something else? Would it make sense for them to desire something they cannot see happening? Such desires are not exactly conducive to mental health. Neither is feeling trapped. A prostitute making the best of a bad situation is unlikely to waste her time thinking about what else she would rather do, nor to wallow in feeling trapped. This does not mean there is nothing she would rather do, if the opportunity presented itself, but since the opportunity will not present itself, why would she torture herself wishing for something that will not happen?

    I still have to wonder why you would expect prostitutes who do not fit into your model of a legitimate, relatively non-exploitive business would make any effort to disabuse you of that picture. Why would they expect you to be sympathetic, even if you are? You must realize how difficult it is for prostitutes who hate their lives to talk about it to anyone, let alone someone they would expect to think they are exaggerating.

  48. Aletha Says:

    Professor Goodyear may have had enough of this discussion. He could argue that he has already answered those questions. That I find his answers problematic is not really his problem. I neglected to check for new comments for three days. Since this blog has not been a hotbed of activity of late, I have been remiss in checking for comments over weekends. WordPress is supposed to notify me via email whenever the blog gets a comment, unless it gets intercepted as spam by Akismet, but for whatever reason, I got no such notifications for any of his comments.

    The Ms. blog has put up a couple of puff pieces celebrating the wonderful record of ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is on the cover of the current issue. It is difficult for me to comprehend how feminists can celebrate the accomplishments of the Democratic Party, as if that party really has the best interests of women at heart. Spare me the revisionist history lesson, which leaves out everything that party has done to show its true colors. The reforms Ms. touts were so full of loopholes, they might as well be called corporate bailouts. The health insurance reform came at the cost of Obama enshrining the Hyde Amendment, virtually guaranteeing insurance coverage for abortion will be a thing of the past, which will hit poorer women especially hard. Even NOW denounced the health insurance reform bill. But the Feminist Majority Foundation is loyal to the Democratic Party to a fault, supporting the war on Afghanistan as well as being willing to overlook every slap in the face the party has delivered to women.

    This verbal slip on a renewal notice is rather amusing, considering. This is one of the bullet points of “what Ms. can uniquely bring you:”

    Content and design that will not be uncompromised by the demands of advertising.

    I am certain that double negative was unintentional, but it appears to me the content put out by the Feminist Majority Foundation is heavily compromised by its attachment to mainstream politics.

  49. Aletha Says:

    Naomi Wolf has caused consternation among feminists on more than one occasion. One might wonder whose side she is on when she jumps to conclusions such as this dismissal of the accusers of Julian Assange

    Of course, as a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That’s what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!

    Ms. Wolf also thinks the shielding of the identities of raped women is a relic of the Victorian past that protects rapists! Really! Ah, well, considering what I have been through over at the Ms. blog, another feminist selling out the cause should not surprise me.

    I support whistleblowers, as a rule, especially when they expose war crimes, but Mr. Assange does have a serious attitude problem about feminism. Lucinda Marshall posted this revealing quote from The Australian on her blog Feminist Peace Network, illustrating how he views his current predicament:

    “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism,” he said. “I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.”

    I had wondered if it is was possible that US pressure was behind the charges against him, given the ardent desire of the US government to put him out of business, but after that wisecrack, I have little reason to doubt the accusations against him are true. He claims to be baffled by the charges. Perhaps so. Men often do not realize how their actions offend women. Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, and all the other leftists who have jumped to the conclusion that Assange was wrongly accused should be ashamed of themselves. There are no heroes in this world. However much I may appreciate what Mr. Assange has done with Wikileaks, that does not make him a hero who can do no wrong. He may not be a rapist, technically speaking, but he did something to those women more serious than making them jealous of each other, or refusing to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

  50. Michael Goodyear Says:

    Hi Aletha, sorry, been away most of last month. Thanks for these thoughts. Well I don’t know about circles but it would be surprising if there was convergence and congruence given starting points in an issue that is one of the most divisive in feminisms, often bitterly so. OK, so let’s agree on a continuum.
    I think we need to respect everyone’s lived lives. Thus Rebecca speaks for herself and her experiences. As I have indicated so difficult is it to characterise the sale of sex that saying what is ‘usual’ or ‘unusual’ needs to be approached very cautiously. Nobody is denying abuse, though they may differ on the extent, the whys and the particulars. What we do know is that there are a body of former workers who relate tales of abuse, presumably the reason why they are former workers. These people’s lives have been seized on by activists and paraded as the ‘truth’. However we also have many former and current workers giving very different stories. So clearly there is a diversity of experience. Women abused in traditional marriages (possibly equally problematic) would provide similar perspectives on the state of marriage and masculinities. Thus I would never accuse her of any of the things that you suggest. Life is a prism. The question I think you are asking is what is the experience of the vast majority – of all types. All I can do is point to empirical research, and while nobody claims thee people they worked with are ‘typical’, when you add it all up there are general themes. These imply a stratification from survival workers, drug using workers, street based workers, indoor workers, escorts through to independents. I have reasonable confidence that Ms Mott’s experiences cannot be generalised to all sex workers, but undoubtedly represent a group of workers. When researchers go to certain locales to derive their samples, such as shelters, detoxification centres and prisons, they find a very different picture from those who work through organisations of or for sex workers. It is a matter of selection.
    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.
    You say you doubt that clients see things the way workers do. While research on clients is admittedly limited compared to that on workers, both the indirect work on sex workers’ accounts of their clients, and the direct work with clients suggest that they do both see things similarly. Again – that’s in general, there are often exceptions. From a criminological perspective one of the difficulties has been to determine whether men who abuse sex workers are genuinely clients or are simply predators who seek out sex workers as vulnerable people who they can harm. Work with these men, including court transcripts suggest the latter and that they get their ideas from the media, police, governments and all those who preach hate against sex workers. That again suggests something that we can address.
    I agree with you about fantasy, that is also in common with service industries, which we refer to as emotional labour. Sex workers sell fantasy and illusion and customers buy it. At heart both believe it is not true, but go along with it. As you say – it is business. However all business has standards and many sex workers have very strict standards, and what are unwritten codes of conduct. Customers who do not abide by the rules will be refused. Furthermore their particulars are then circulated and in some areas the police share that information. Where sex workers find themselves as employees or more usually independent contractors, the issues you highlight become problematic, whereby abuse may be more from employers. However it is a market and workers will go to work for more reasonable employers – and word travels fast.
    You are correct that negotiating working conditions is made difficult by the criminal law and stigma. Evidence around this formed the core of the recent constitutional challenge in Ontario, leading the judge to void the sections of the law that she felt directly reduced sex workers ability to control their working environment. I think maybe you are imposing a dichotomy on ‘calling the shots’ whereas the situation is one in which workers try very hard under the circumstances to negotiate. Without being able to use traditional business law and occupational health and safety standards, they are left more vulnerable than they should be compared to the rest of the work force. Therefore the situation in New Zealand where the laws were changed in 2003 is of interest and we have seen a considerable improvement in sex workers’ conditions there since.
    Again – the sex worker as educator is difficult to quantitate, but it is real enough for many governments to fund sex workers as sex educators, and in some countries they have been credited for controlling the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.
    No, I don’t think it is true that they can’t imagine anything else, any more than you and I. Many have worked in other fields, or are part time. To give you an example – two colleagues came out to me recently as former sex workers. However if you have a criminal record from working in sex work, you are effectively trapped in it. That is why New Zealand destroyed their criminal records. I think the scenario you paint is one that has been raised many times, but does not match what workers tell us. However the point is that we should maximise choices for all workers, and making it easier for people who wish to leave to do so should be part of any public strategy.
    Contrary to what you say, we find that once you earn people’s trust (and that is not easy) people are very keen to find ways that their voices can be heard, hence the move to organise and unionise.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. Michael Goodyear Says:

    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.

  54. Michael Goodyear Says:

    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.

  55. 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?

  56. Michael Goodyear Says:

    “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.

  57. 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.”

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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?

  65. 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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