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.