I’ve been writing about beautiful boys, and linden trees, and women who live inside green, grassy hills. Fairy tales, in short. However, the spectacle of what passes for radical feminism these days continues to distract me from my work.
“Avert thine eyes, Natalia.”
Therefore, I have to ask: Why Mary, why? Why do you say the following about women in the sex-trade?:
I’m gonna say it once again. I don’t care if one, two, a thousand or ALL women in the sex and porn industries are “happy” to do their “freely chosen” job. Because what these women do AFFECTS MEN’S ATTITUDES TOWARDS ALL WOMEN. That’s ALL OF US. That includes ME. Get it? It affects ME. Personally.
This is HALF of the argument against the sex and porn industries. The other half tells us that they are damaging to the women who work in them. But even if THE WOMEN THEMSELVES weren’t damaged, WE, that’s the rest of us real women on this planet, ARE. [emphasis mine]
Now, the “real women” thing is probably just poor word choice, right? I mean, I want to think that Mary isn’t actually implying that women who enter the sex-trade by choice are not real women.
However, there is this classic argument here about how sex-workers who claim to be doing their jobs out of personal choice “make the rest of us look bad,” or “affect us all,” or something. It’s a slippery slope, because once we start down that merry path, we quickly discover that pretty much any woman can “make the rest of us look bad.” Egregious offenses can include anything from wearing make-up to, oh, I don’t know, asking some man for a light in a way that could be interpreted as flirtatious coping to a patriarch (if you think I am joking right now, consider the fact that I once had someone bring this very scenario into a conversation… A self-identified feminist told me, “I saw this woman ask a man for a light in the street, and her movements were very sexual. It just made me gag.”).
I know I come back to the same damn comparison every time I write one of these posts, but here it is again… This is Taliban-style thinking. Ever see the film “Osama”? One of the most poignant scenes is when a man gets berated for giving a fully-veiled woman a ride on his bike. The dialogue goes something like this,
“Why do you bring your wife out in public? MEN MIGHT GET AROUSED.”
Oh no, really? They might? Holy crap.
My feminism is about both genders, men and women, being adults. This means, no one is responsible for another person’s issues, and no one projects their crap onto unwilling victims. As it stands, sex-work today is a far cry from that ideal. However, it is also true that most of the people who offer real answers (as opposed to self-righteous hand-wringing and/or a Final Solution to male neonates) to the problems of trafficking, rape, abuse, and so on, support a practical and nuanced approach.
These issues aside, I’d like to ask Mary why she doesn’t “care” about the possibility of some women being happy with such a profession. Her argument essentially boils down to, “I’ll only listen to sex-workers who’ll say stuff that I want to hear.”
The experiences of women are as varied and diverse as women themselves. When I go around recording terrible stories of prostituted women, I don’t get up in their face and ask them questions such as like, “you DO know that there are some women out there who both choose this and profess to enjoy it, right? What do you think about that? Huh? Huh?”
So why should the opposite conversation inevitably have to take place? And why do we continuously allow the sick bastards to set the standard wherein these discussions are concerned? Why do we lower the bar?
Finally, why should sex-workers be held responsible for sexism? Seems to me, we already have a rich history of making them responsible for, well, everything. In almost every society, they are among the most marginalized individuals. If they try to take a bit of control or assert their agency, we slam them for colluding. If they are simply beaten down and abused, we engage in useless mental-masturbation, shedding crocodile tears, and getting off on their plight.
A friend of my cousin’s was raised by her grandparents. Her mother, who was just a teenager when she had her, had been swallowed up in an abyss of drug-use and prostitution. Abandoned by everyone, the mother eventually got clean with the help of a fellow prostitute who spotted her bruised-up and passed-out in a club and brought her home. Of course, by that time, the mother had AIDS. But the daughter got to spend the last few months with her mother, and her mother was not high. They talked.
This “fellow prostitute” character (I don’t know her name), lives a few blocks away from the young girl’s apartment. Although this goes against her grandparents’ wishes and must be done in secret, the young girl visits her. This woman took her mother in, helped her in the best way that she could. They have some connection now.
Is there a moral to this? Not really. Just a story my cousin reminded me of when I was on the phone with her recently. Nothing out of the ordinary for a poor country, or even a rich country, when you think about it.
But I thought about this story when I was reading Mary’s post.
In closing, speaking about being “damaged” by an industry you’ve never participated in is a long-shot. Obviously, the suffering of people in the sex-industry reverberates throughout our societies. But don’t co-opt it. Please? It’s like saying, “I am raped by your sexist language!” I mean, yes, sexist language is a terrible phenomenon, but it does not constitute an act of rape, and saying something like that only trivializes the actual violence.
And now I’m back to cloaks of elvenkind, as the song goes.