Dear Feminist Bloggers of the Radical Persuasion: What Choices *Are* Neutral?

I recently saw the eternal argument of “willing s*e*x-workers are hurting people with their choices” crop up at Witchy Woo’s in response to the possibility of Renegade Evolution (a s*e*x-worker, if you haven’t been paying attention lately) being disinvited to speak at a forum at William & Mary (the situation has since been resolved, but another speaker dropped out in response to Ren being invited).

I don’t really wish to respond to the overall substance of Witchy Woo’s post; it’s acrimonious, and I’m moving this week for the 4th time in 9 months, and I just can’t deal with acrimony without feeling as though my head will explode. This particular argument did stick out at me, however:

Liars. [Willing s*e*x-workers] lie. They negate the lives of those suffering for the choices they make…

OK. I can respond to this one without gnashing my teeth and/or sobbing from sheer exhaustion.

Here’s my question: what sort of choices don’t have the potential to cause suffering? Do you ride the bus to work? Congratulations, you’re helping screw-up the environment. Enjoy an occasional cup of coffee? Egads, what about the farmers? Even those fair-trade beans aren’t always healthy for their economic status in the long run. Take a nice vacation to a resort town? Tourism has its dark underbelly too.

Now, I don’t wish to imply that our response to the idea of harm should begin and end with defeatism and/or nihilism. I’m not asking anyone to go, “hokay, humans are screwed,” and shrug, and turn up the TV, and turn away.

What I am asking is for a little bit of context. And humility. And basic respect.

Human beings are like flies trapped in an endless web, and any individual twitch has the potential to send reverberations far and wide. What do we do with that? We focus on basic harm reduction. On defining personal autonomy and responsibility.

In this specific instance – Talking about how it’s just those selfish, willing s*e*x-workers are hurting others simply by virtue of said willingness strikes me as disingenuous. Here, the action of selling one’s body is essentially being defined by whether or not it is performed out of choice. If you’re unwilling, you’re a “good” kind of s*e*x-worker. This smacks of the fetishization of victimhood, personally, not to mention this whole Biblical idea of the repentant Jezebel which, while it can be compelling, doesn’t really reflect daily reality for most people, methinks. Oddly enough, patriarchy does the same thing with rape: there are “good” victims and “bad” victims.

Honestly, why not listen to all s*e*x-workers, especially since the ones who are in the trade by choice can be the first line of defense against the enslavement of others. A s*e*x-worker who just wants to be able to do her job does not stand to profit from keeping those who are forced into this business locked up in cages. On the contrary.

And anyway, there’s nothing radical for blaming s*e*x-work for the world’s ills. Patriarchally inclined individuals have been doing this for millennia.

My left @ss-cheek is more radical than that.

But hey, guys. Hey. As Ren would say, What’s the Plan?

For more, ah, strongly-worded responses, see here and here.

8 thoughts on “Dear Feminist Bloggers of the Radical Persuasion: What Choices *Are* Neutral?

  1. Here’s my question: what sort of choices don’t have the potential to cause suffering? Do you ride the bus to work? Congratulations, you’re helping screw-up the environment. Enjoy an occasional cup of coffee? Egads, what about the farmers? Even those fair-trade beans aren’t always healthy for their economic status in the long run. Take a nice vacation to a resort town? Tourism has its dark underbelly too.

    Great point, Natalia. My supervisor doesn’t use aluminum foil and rails against it… (if she only knew that I sometimes do…ooooh!) She’s a environmental purist. Witchy is another kind of purist.

    There are are purists everywhere, but they certainly don’t recognize the purism of others!

  2. I’m somewhere in between you guys. I dislike sex work philosophically and despise the sex industry as a whole on a practical basis. I wouldn’t want my daughter working in it, so I’m hard pressed to find a reason to say that other peoples’ daughters working in it is awesome. That being said, treating sex workers badly is reprehensible, and trying to bar them, or just about anyone really, from constructive dialog is troubling to me. My negative views on the industry don’t come from any ingrained prejudice, they come more from knowing so many sex workers over time. I was actually pro-sex work when I was about twenty and even urged a female friend who was thinking about becoming a dominatrix to do so and another one to work at a local gentleman’s club. I wouldn’t do that now, especially since in the latter case I hold myself partially responsible for the coke habit she later developed. Insofar as someone like Ren is working for freedom and safety of women, I have no beef with that, but I really hope that doesn’t mean that I have to say that I think sex-work is a good thing, because I’m pretty sure I never will.

  3. Like Parallel, I most definitely do not like the sex industry. However, the issue at stake is something else entirely.

    Radical feminists are treating other women like children, just like sexist men out there. The irony is thick.

    Good job, Nat, as always.

    And now I go back to lurking…

  4. Yeah, what Lal said about radical feminists treating other women like children.

    I notice a very strong current of:

    * Never ever ever question another radical feminist’s choices and prejudices. Everything they do must be right, except

    * radical feminists who question radical feminism or radical feminists must be repudiated. See the recent transphobia in radical feminism dustup

    * radical feminists are allowed to question every other woman’s choices without limit or restraint, refer to those women with dehumanizing, bigoted, misogynist terms, and then clutch their pearls and faint when called on said hypocrisy.

    Talking to them is exhausting.

  5. >>However, the issue at stake is something else entirely.

    Radical feminists are treating other women like children, just like sexist men out there. The irony is thick. >>

    Yup. Worse, they–at least this lot that’s calling themselves radical feminists–are acting like fundamentalists. Well, I guess the infantilization and power moves are part of it, as is the banging-head-against-a-brick-wall phenomenon.

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