Cult of Gracie

Valiant Gnostic Of Sexuality

Dear Gloria Steinem, What About Handjobs & Sword Swallowers?

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gloria steinemI deeply respect Gloria Steinem. But I am terribly disappointed by remarks she’s made regarding sex work during her recent tour of India.

This publicity tour promotes her latest book, The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader: As if Women Matter, which is said to contain a new essay by Steinem on sex trafficking. I’ve been wanting to read this new article, entitled The Third Way — An End of Trafficking and Prostitution: A Beginning of Mutual Sexuality, but apparently this book is currently only available in India. However, thanks to the wave of publicity Steinem is receiving for this tour, we can gain some insight into just what might be contained in that latest essay.

Those of us hoping for a more evolved way of thinking regarding the world’s oldest profession will join me in disappointment and dismay upon hearing / reading of this report which was published in many places:

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem today described prostitution as “commercial rape” and said it was wrong to term prostitutes as sex workers.

“Prostitution involves body invasion and so it is not like any other work. So how can you call it sex work? Prostitution is the only word you should use,” Steinem told reporters here. It is the circumstances and exploitation which force a woman to take up prostitution, and hence it should be decriminalised. The traffickers instead should be punished. “It is the equivalent of commercial rape and so instead of the prostitutes, the traffickers should be punished and the customers should be educated,” the feminist activist-author said while pointing out that in Sweden and France it has worked.

“When a girl is put into prostitution at the age of 12 or 14, does she have a choice after all” she said while remarking that prostitution was not a profession but oppression.

Never mind that many would vehemently disagree with how well the Nordic model has “worked”, let’s look at Steinem’s fundamental flaws in terms of language and definitions.

“Prostitution involves body invasion and so it is not like any other work.” By this definition, a sword swallower or food taster could be defined as a “prostitute” because that work involves an invasion of the human body; but phone sex operators and many BDSM dungeon workers would not.

There are other odd hairs to split in trying to apply Steinem’s definition of sex work prostitution. For example, are male escorts who penetrate their clients ~ but who are not penetrated themselves ~ free of either label? For that matter, what of a female escort paid to peg a client? What about handjobs, Gloria?

Ms. Steinem, are you sure you aren’t one of those feminists who is confused about the commodification and/or industrialization of sex, as if sex is somehow different than most other things? The commodification and/or industrialization of sex is not “commercial rape.” We already have names for “commercial rape”; they are “rape” and “human trafficking”.

Sex work is not the same as trafficking. Clearly the ages of the girls and boys Steinem lists are not able to consent. Not to sex work, not to many other things. Children and others who do not consent to sex work are not to be included in under the sex work umbrella ~ and they should not be called prostitutes either. These persons should be called slaves.

Yes, there are “circumstances and exploitation” which force women into this type of work ~ as well as force women into all sort of work and situations, hence the need for feminism itself. But when you only make this argument, you are forgetting about the feminist fight for autonomy; a fight which includes the right for women (and men) to make the choice to become sex workers.

Like adults who opt to enter any profession, those who decide to enter sex work know their strengths, their talents, what they like to do, and, factoring in the money they can earn, simply opt for a career in sex work. For some, it is a short-lived occupation; much like professional athletes. For others, being a sex worker is just one of many jobs they have in a lifetime. Others make it a lifetime career. However long we are in it, what we all want is for this work to be as safe as possible. But attitudes and bad definitions like yours get in the way of that.

Author: Gracie

Gracie Passette is a sex worker, though no longer working directly with clients in the flesh; she now uses media to work with the issues of sexuality. Along with founding Sex Kitten, she runs Cult Of Gracie, curates sexuality, and is The Marketing Whore.

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