There’s an interesting discussion about sex work at Cato Unbound: A Journal Of Debate. What makes it so special is that it is at Cato Unbound ~ because they know what a good debate is:
Each month, Cato Unbound will present an essay on a big-picture topic by an important thinker. The ideas in that essay will then be tested by the comments and criticism of equally eminent thinkers, each of whom will respond to the month’s lead essay and then to one another. The idea is to create a hub for wide-ranging, open-ended conversation, where ideas will be advanced, challenged, and refined in public view.
The sex work discussion is Cato‘s December Issue, Perverse Incentives: Sex Work & The Law. The issue began with a piece by former sex worker, Maggie McNeill: Treating Sex Work as Work. McNeill’s opening essay was followed by (at present) three response essays: Prostitution as a Legal Institution, by Ronald Weitzer; Prostitution Cannot Be Squared with Human Rights or the Equality of Women, by Dianne Post; and Prostitution is Exploitation by Steven Wagner.
No, you probably won’t like or agree with all the essays; but that’s rather the point in a good debate or discussion. A healthy discussion covers as many sides of the issue as possible. And a healthy debate, while opinionated, is rooted in respect. Since these traits are exhibited in Cato‘s coverage of sex work, all the essays are worthy of a read. A full read. No matter what side of the issue you are on. In fact, the stronger your stance, the more you should inform yourself on the subject. This is not only true of this subject either.
I know many of you who read here are, or have been, sex workers. Myself included, of course. We consider ourselves to be sex positive feminists who want sex work to be recognized and respected as work. Most of us believe it should be decriminalized, if not completely legal, even if we often disagree about how best to achieve those things. But often in our conversions on the subject of (and issues surrounding) sex work, it is clear that many hold onto their own experiences at the expense of seeing the larger picture. Just like those who were harmed come out swinging “against” sex work, we let our feelings color and even cloud our willingness to hear from others.
Our personal experiences sure do matter; I’d never say the don’t. But obviously my experiences as a well-educated, middle class, white woman who made the choice to become a pricey escort are vastly different from many other sex workers. And as tempting as it is to raise my voice loud and clear to drown-out tired stereotypes and out-and-out lies alike, I may be as guilty of silencing others as the anti-sex-work-attackers. Most importantly, if I am too busy talking to listen, I will miss hearing and learning from the experiences of others. That’s not right.
People are at their most attractive when there’s a symmetry; that should apply to knowledge as well.
Along with reading the coverage at Cato, there are several good books on the subject of sex work ~ including books by one of the essayists at Cato, Ronald Weitzer. Along with Katherine Frank, Weitzer edited Sex For Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry ~ which is now available for rental on your Kindle. Weitzer followed-up that seminal work with Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business. Also, due out in January, is Melinda Chateauvert‘s Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk. (Chateauvert also serves on the board of the Leather Archives and Museum and will be a speaker at the 2014 Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.)
Keep up with the news about sex work and information for sex workers that I curate here.