Certainly not all feminists embrace sex work, but the issue is very much one of feminism. Recently, I found this conversation at Tumblr which illustrates a classic feminist conversation about sex work. Because posts often go missing at Tumblr, I’m posting the entire thing (with links) for proper context.
i don´t agree with you when you put that porn and prostitution are women problem. nowadays, it is. but if we lived in a equal world (i believe someday we will) it would be a men/women problem. it´s, really, an ethical problem. we should make sex a commoditty? i don´t think so, but i think it´s better to sell your body than robbing. it´s a social problem too. but i think we shouldn´t involve religion our ideology in the discussion, but regulate. forbiding is not the right way. education is import
And Gynocraticgrrl replied:
I think what you’re making of the sex industry debate is you’re assessing feminism and ethics as mutually exclusive, as if feminist theory can in no way incorporate moral philosophy or ethical considerations, which is false. It can and some feminists have. For example, the issue of the commodification of sex is a feminist one, as is the industrialization of sex, i.e.: the porn industry. It’s also a male and female issue which is still a feminist issue because feminism analyzes male/female power-dynamics and how male dominance manifests itself throughout the different spheres of a social structure or within a system. Including a standpoint in activism that includes ethics is important because as with all movements, the ideology is riddled with ideals of right and wrong, such as the promotion of equality, equity and fairness as being right. Feminism is a movement embedded with ethics, one that advocates for the liberation of females from male dominance because the domination of women under men is deemed by feminism as wrong, and this trend continues throughout the sex industry.
I do agree that regulation and education are the most efficient options and tools sex work abolitionists and sex critical feminists have and should use.
Since you both agree that education is important, let me help educate you.
First of all, I find the hair-splitting between porn and prostitution more than annoying. Both are parts of sex work ~ even if many in the adult industry do not want it labeled as such (because that would make their acting equal to prostitution and therefore illegal). I find making class distinctions between the various forms of sex work an unnecessary evil. The only distinction that needs to be made is that of consent; i.e. real sex work vs. slavery. (And even when it comes to the latter, I don’t know why sex slavery is worse than any other kind of slavery; all slavery is horrific and Bad with a capital B.) This leads me to my second point.
When you point out that feminism and ethics are not mutually exclusive, you miss the fact that sex work and ethics are not mutually exclusive either. There are ethics involved in sex work ~ and I mean that in a positive way. Look at discussions of sex work and sex workers and you’ll see people fighting for the rights of sex workers, primarily in the areas of simple basic equality under the law (discrimination which puts sex workers at risk), and also battling against trafficking and slavery of any sort. Yes, sex work is ethical. Where you, and many others, seem to become confused or outraged by the of sex work as unethical is your own misunderstanding and, truthfully, of your own doing .
You complain about the commodification and/or industrialization of sex, as if sex is somehow different than most other things. Sex is a natural and basic human need., sure; but lots of natural and basic human needs are commodified. Food is commodified and industrialized; as is shelter or housing. But in treating sex as somehow “above” these other basic human needs and rights, you’re operating out of romantic notions.
These romantic notions are largely unnatural and culturally imposed. And, yes, you can read that to mean “part of the patriarchy”. The ideas of romantic love as institutionalized in our culture (and others) completely commodifies sex, love, and intimacy (along with housing, labor, property and other things). In marriage, we commodify relationships with promises, negotiated or standard, of sexual commitment, exclusivity, proximity and the like primarily for the production of children and the organized inheritance of property. We make legal agreements, sanction by the government (so long as they are heterosexual, at this time), which allow individuals to trade or barter the stability of sex for familial stability and property ownership under the guise of romantic love. These romantic and legal notions of marriage, sex, and relationships are far more riddled with gender-crippling inequality than sex work is. Marriages based on romantic love are not-so-different than arranged marriages. The only difference is that in romantic-love-based marriages, so-called autonomous marriages, the individuals find and select their own mates.
If you can accept the notion of autonomous marriages, the rights of legal adults to enjoy sex with or without marriage, and the fact that food and shelter are commodities, then why do you struggle so with the notion that these adults have the autonomous right to buy and sell sex?