Gloria Steinem defines prostitution thus:
The truth seems to be that the invasion of the human body by another person – whether empowered by money or violence or authority — is de-humanising in itself. Yes, there are many other jobs in which people are exploited, but prostitution is the only one that by definition crosses boundary of our skin and invades our most central sense of self.
Later she speaks of prostitution as “body invasion.” This is true of rape, rape is a body invasion, it’s profoundly violating. Not all sex work is rape. I know people get caught up in the notion of privileged white escorts in the states and “not all sex workers are like that” and like duh. I absolutely agree.
However, when you have WOC in other countries also saying the same thing, women who’ve created unions to advocate for themselves—and for victims of trafficking because they know the difference between sex work and trafficking and they are against trafficking—to spread health information and safety tips, and when western feminists ignore them and paint them as pimps and traffickers themselves, there’s something wrong. It becomes hard to avoid the conclusion that white western feminists are more focused on saving the poor woc from themselves—whether they want to be saved or not! whether this saving is actually saving or just removing harm reduction skills and access to health care and basic things like condoms—than on actually listening to what they say they need and helping them.
I find this language of all prostitution-as-violation to be disingenuous and deliberately unhelpful. By defining all prostitution as rape they erase actual victims of rape as well as victims of trafficking.
I hate how the conversation has been hijacked by the trafficking framework, as if the sex industry has become the only place where men rape, abuse, and exploit women and children. As if all those things will stop once sex work has been made illegal.
As if they couldn’t be just as well (or better!) addressed by a concerted effort to make rape and assault illegal so that when these things happened anywhere, including within the sex industry, there would be legal protections for victims, and repercussions and punishment for the abusers. Like why is that so unrealistic? So a woman could be like “This john raped me/my boyfriend is abusive and is basically a pimp and he takes my money” or “I was raped on set” because the problem, RIGHT? is rape and assault? The two go hand in hand, like if as much energy was poured into ending rape culture as into ending trafficking, which after all isn’t it just an extension of rape culture? Women could seek redress for sexual exploitation without being criminalized for their work.
how do people expect to help sex workers if they won’t acknowledge that the problems in the sex industry didn’t begin with it, aren’t confined within its borders, and would continue if it was gone.
men rape, abuse, and murder women who aren’t sex workers. family members rape and abuse other family members.
in the feminist framework seems like the very fact of sex/sexualized services for money is the real assault. Trying to get politicians and legislators to focus on taking rape and sexual abuse seriously isn’t a realistic goal! A better goal is just making sex work illegal. And that suits politicians just fine, it leaves the actual issue of rape culture untouched.
I don’t understand how focusing on sex work as labour—how seeing that there is actually a difference between sex work (which is labour and sex workers deserve workers rights and human rights) and rape and exploitation. A woman who is being raped is being raped. That’s not sex work. Sex workers don’t want to protect people who are profiting off rape. Like am I saying it clear enough? You don’t need to criminalize sex work to punish people who rape women and or profit from the rape of women/children.
If sex work was treated as work we could focus on the people exploiting us and stop it. If rape were taken seriously anyone who was assaulted could seek redress, whether they were a sex worker or a teenager running away from home. Those two goals aren’t incompatible and they seem a hell of a lot more reasonable and functional to me than banning sex work and punishing anyone who comes near the industry.