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  • Writer's pictureVigilance

The Logical Feminist has a lot of Thoughts on Sex Work/Prostitution:

During a webinar on sexual violence,

I was told by a pro-prositution academic that I’m against prostitution because I don’t like it personally—implying that I am a judgemental prude and don’t like what she defined as ‘freely’ chosen sexual autonomy. And, yes, she was right. I don’t like prostitution. I don’t like the selling of people’s bodies for sexual use (predominantly underprivileged cis and trans women, girls, young feminized gay men and, especially in the so-called third world[1] sex tourist destinations of Thailand, Cambodia and Latin America, to name a few,[2] young women, girls and boys). This has nothing at all to do with some reductionist accusation of a personal aversion, the opposite: my dislike and fierce desire to abolish the sex industry at large has everything to with a society of systemic violence and how condoning and even celebrating the use of a marginalized person’s body by a person of privilege (it should go without saying that the extreme majority of sex buyers are men[3]) feeds into a predatory system of exploitation and violence in general, which is what Western culture (white-supremacist patriarchal neoliberalism aka global capitalism and individualism on steroids) is made of.

As I wrote in my book Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor, “[a]bolitionists of the sex trade who defy this culturally implicit rule [of using the term sex worker] and choose to use the term ‘prostituted person’ have been reduced to and demonized as “prudes and pearl-clutchers.”[4] In truth, we are feminists who take an expansive perspective that includes all forms of violence and power abuse; we are feminists who equate so-called sex work as culturally accepted sexual assault,”[5] or, in prostitution survivor Trisha Bapti’s words: “pay-as-you-go-rape.”[6] During the webinar that day, after the prostitution topic—that was brought up by yours truly—had shifted to a discussion on toxic masculinity (and, yes, that being a bad thing), I immediately commented: if there were no toxic masculinity, there would be no work for the sex workers. The academic scowled in my direction. She had no response.

Before I am accused of abandoning vulnerable people (who I’ve heard are also empowered by their sexual autonomy)

who have to have their bodies sold in order to, among all of the other things, pay their rent, let me be very clear that I am not talking about abandoning some of the most vulnerable people in Western culture (and those who claim they like being prostituted and have freely chosen this occupation most often while they are in it)[7]. Again. The opposite. The whole idea and accusation when a sex trade abolitionist like myself is SWERFED (a SWERF being a Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist) is truly bizzare to me. It is completely illogical where the accusation of ‘exclusionary’ comes from when the sex trade abolotionist mission is to include those who are excluded from having basic human rights, dignity and respect. As I write in Victim, Sex Industry[8] “abolitionists advocate for the Nordic Model, where sex buyers are criminalized, and prostituted people are protected and offered education, counselling, and support while transitioning to safer, more respectful lives and alternative ways of making a living.”

The loudest pro-sex work voices are prostituted people (most often in the so-called first world)

who claim to have freely chosen prostitution. As Annie Sprinkle, who entered the sex trade out of “curiosity,” states in her sensationalist “Forty Reasons why Whores are my Heroes”: along with wearing exciting clothes and other candy-coated statements of idyllic whoredom “[w]hores have careers based on giving pleasure”[9]—implying that prostitution is some sort of public service (she said that once as well but I currently can’t find the source). Indeed, I whole-heartedly agree with Sprinkle that prostituted people are heroic and I absolutely agree with sex worker’s advocates that prostitution is ‘work.’ In fact, it may be the most difficult work in the world. Even though I understand and respect the good intentions of Sex Worker’s Rights Advocates to proclaim that sex work is work like all others in order to keep vulnerable people safe, I highly disagree that sex work is ‘work’ like all others. What other kind of job is there a safety handbook advising workers to “take a course in hostage negotiating skills, advises that one plans an escape route before any job, recommends parting the pubic hair of a client and looking for crabs, and counsels members to not wear chains or other jewelry they could be strangled with?”[10] In what kind of job, as prostitution survivor Rachel Moran describes, are you comforted by having planned an escape route before starting your shift?[11]

Yes, it is imperative for our culture to prioritize the safety of some of the most marginalized people,

but condoning being prostituted as just another job in the office (or even, as in Sprinkle’s case, an exoticized profession to be aspired to), in the end, from a big picture logical feminism perspective, serves to maintain a toxic culture based in power abuse, exploitation and violence. The sex industry normalizes exploitation and, as prostitution survivor Rachel Moran calls it: depravity.[12] Yes, I don’t like depravity. Politically correct pro-prostitution academic: you’re right.

But how should I know?

What right do I have to say anything, have an opinion at all because I have never been a prostituted person? The closest I have ever come to the sex industry in terms of being paid for sex-related work was a stint waitressing at a strip club and an attempt to be an on-line stripper, both instances because I was broke and unable to find another job—coerced consent on a much smaller, albeit comparative, scale. You can read about what I refer to as these triumphant failures in Victim. However, even though I have never been a prostituted person, I have been a sexually assaulted and abducted person and it turns out that I did the exact same thing that the majority of prostituted people report to have done for self-preservation: I disassociated. Raped women and prostituted women have this survival strategy in common.

In her forty-five years plus researching the trauma inherent to violence against women in prostitution, Melissa Farley reports how “women say they can’t prostitute unless they dissociate.” She defines this phenomenon: “[d]issociation is a mental tuning-out to avoid unbearable and inescapable stress. … A dissociative response mitigates the john’s cruelty by splitting the experience off from the rest of the self.”[13] Rachel Moran, and the majority of the prostituted women she worked with, did the same things. Moran confides how, “[o]ne of the ways I protected myself in prostitution was to divide myself, to literally split myself into two characters; the authentic me, and the imaginary version.”(143-144). When I was abducted for almost 24 hours by a serial rapist (who just so happened to frequent Nevada brothels when his luck temporarily dried up abducting women), I did the exact same thing.

I learned about dissociation while I was writing my book Victim

and I realized that “even though I have only ever been a rape victim and never a victim of prostitution, I knew I did this. I didn’t have a term for it, but I know that I had to separate myself from my body while being sexually assaulted to, paradoxically, keep it together. I remember the first time I did it. It was probably during the fourth or fifth rape. I remember thinking: I have to get away from this. I can’t really be here. I know this is going to go on for a while. I have to figure out a way to protect myself. If I can’t literally escape yet, I have to escape somehow. Part of me, the most precious part of me, must not be here.”[14]

Lucky me. I was a prostitute for less than 24 hours.

That’s because I wasn’t a literal prostitute. I was abducted. I was sexually assaulted countless times. But I got away from the serial rapist/john and this blessedly short stint of being brutalized and mentally tuning-out to avoid unbearable and inescapable stress. But, even though I have never had a literal (non)choice but to consent to my body being sold for the sexual use by men in order to (most often) barely survive,[15] after having been raped many times in one day and one night, I do know something about, in Rachel Moran’s words, “how hollow a woman feels after she has been used sexually by 10 different men.”[16] Besides having this in common, prostitution survivor, Rachel Moran, and multiple sexual assault survivor, Karen Moe, in the end, have another thing in common: a lived knowledge that “[e]quating selling bodies for sex as a job like any other, despite good intentions, condones violence and exploitation as an acceptable part of society”[17] and, therefore, “is hugely damaging to women, both within and without the industry.”[18] The logical conclusion: the sex industry is hugely damaging to everything.

Do you think this is logical? If not, please share your logic in the comments section below. There is no possibility of creating a world without violence without dialogue. Thank you for reading!

A big shout out to Last Girl First: Prostitution at the Intersection of Sex, Race & Class-Based Oppressions published by CAP International. Buy it! Amazing and important and oh-so-current! I didn’t literally quote from this amazing book in this post because I lost the book on an airplane with all of my notes and have to read it again! So, soon, very soon. This will not be the only post on this topic, of that there is no doubt!

For more about pretty much everything I’ve written here, check out Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor, in particular pages 115-126, the section that is called: “I’m Not Cool.”

[1] Instead of the designations of ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds (with first alluding to #1 and, therefore better than and the #3 just needs to ‘develop’), I prefer exploiting and exploited.

[2] During my Trauma & Triumph Tour for the publication of my book Victim: A feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor (2022), I learned that sex tourism literally exists in the privileged (and presumed pristine) country of Canada. The so-called Third World exists in the First, especially in relation to indigenous, colonized, communities. I’ll tell you about this in another post.

[3] First World women go to such locales as the Dominican Republic and Jamaica with the intentions of having sex with young, exoticized, locals; however, the percentage is very small in comparison to the millions of men who travel abroad for sex with young women and any abuse involved— like between the women (or girls) and the men— is non-existent. The title of Tanika Gupta’s 2006 play ‘Sugar Mummies’ is telling in that the women have taken on the behaviour of ‘sugar daddies,’ not rapists; nevertheless, using one’s economic privilege to access another human’s body upholds a culture of domination and violence that is inherent to masculine supremacy.

Julie Bindel points out in her 2013 article, the women who travel south “are looking for attention and excitement but end up, often without realising it, being one half of a prostitution deal.” Of course, as with the male sex tourist trade, poverty is the key component due to the economic disparity between the First and Third Worlds and the young men would most likely not have sex with the middle-aged women from the north if they did not have, and give them, money. The trend of women buying sex in tourist destinations like Jamaica can also be connected to female ‘raunch culture’ where fun feminists of the US, Canada and Northern Europe are all about sexual prowess and have, out of proclamations of sexual liberation, adapted patriarchal behavior. See Julie Bindel: gender

[4] Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor: 119. In her rigorously researched book, The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth, Juliel Bindel points out how “acceptance of the sex trade has entered the mainstream” (xxx) and that “myths about the sex trade include saying that prostitution is necessary, inevitable and harmless… [are] propagated by the ‘sex workers’ rights’ movement, [and] are based in misguided neoliberalism and fallacious mythology.” (xxxii). And wait: before you jump on the SWERF and TERF Julie Bindel band-wagon, I highly recommend you read the book. It’s always good to have information before harsh judgements are cast and not leap willy-nilly into what is currently the mainstream of demonization.

[5] Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor (118-119)

[6] Quoted in Rachel Moran Paid For: My Journey through Prostitution. New York: Norton, 2015: 113.

[7] See Rachel Moran on how she, too, proclaimed that she was content working as a prostitute in order to “protect herself from the truth … [and] protect her dignity.”(131). She continues to explain from her lived experience (and this has been related by many other prostitution survivors) that claiming, most often, while in the sex industry that it was a ‘free’ choice—without any aspect of coercion for economic, gender, race, sexual abuse, drug addiction related reasons—is “the prostitute’s defence mechanisms of defiance and denial combined, … attempts at preserving a wholesome sense of self and struggling to stay psychologically healthy in the most thwarting and hostile circumstances”(131).

[8] And it is an industry. As Lydia Cacho comments in her book, Slavery Inc: The Untold Story of the International Sex Trafficking, “the sex trade is the most profitable in the world, even more so than the arms and drug trades.”(4)

[10] Victim (120-121) sourced from The Australian Scarlet Alliance Handbook quoted in Victor Malarek The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy It: 209, 210. Malarek also reports how “[t]here is no other occupation—other than war—in which so many women are routinely beaten, raped, maimed and killed each and every year.”(228)

[11] Prostitution survivor Rachel Moran confirms this claim when she describes an aspect of the mentality of the prostitute as being “comforted to have an escape route should things go wrong, which suggests, of course, that you always anticipate that they may.” Moran: 66.

[12] Moran: 73.

[13] Melissa Farley Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. Prostitution Research & Education, 2007: 35; 4.

[14] Victim: 254.

[15] Besides Lydia Cacho’s report on what the majority of prostituted people in the world experience (and many others), see this article by D.A. Clarke “Resisting the Sexual New World Order” in Rebecca Whisnant and Christine Stark, eds. Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography. Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex, 2010: 156. Another useful resource on the reality of prostitution for the majority is Kat Banyard’s Pimp State: Sex, Money and the Future of Equality. London: Faber & Faber, 2016.

[16] Moran: 52.

[17] Victim: 119.

[18] Moran: 73.

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May 19, 2023

Thank you SO much for your brilliant comment and for sharing your personal experience! I'm sorry I didn't see it until now. I've been busy with my tour in Mexico for my book, Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor (and helping my aged mother). You'll probably like my most recent Logical Feminist publication on the amazing book put out by CAP International called "Last Girl First." Here's the link. Would you mind if I maybe quoted some of what you wrote in the future? Especially your Key Legislations? With big time gratitude, The Logical Feminist.


Apr 10, 2023

I'm a white male. I've never considered accessing a prostitute. I watched my father physically abuse my mother, and us children, and set out on a feminist-informed life.

When I was broke and young, I thought through the possibility of being a prostitute. I went down to Denman and Davie in Vancouver one night and watched the trade. I got the mental image of a fat American tourist pulling down his pants in a back alley for me to suck his wrinkly old cock, and I decided to continue being a starving artist, and a self employed wood carver and furniture maker.

I feel lucky I had that choice.

There weren't any women driving around in cars looking for young…

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