August 26, 2011 6 Comments
(photo from here)
What follows is a large quote from Shelia Jeffrey’s book _The Industrial Vagina_ (p 145—146) that is well worth reading.
I am truly surprised that “feminist” theorists are claiming that children should be considered to have full sexual agency, and should be trusted on their own to decide whether they want to become prostitutes. The blindness of these cultural relativist philosophers is staggering!
Sheila Jeffreys is awesome. If you haven’t read this book, I suggest you get it, and pass it out to your friends.
As No Anodyne says, this truly is a feminism designed by men.
“Some feminist commentators have questioned the distinction between child and adult prostitution. I have argued, for instance, that the harms identified as arising from the prostitution of children replicate quite precisely the harms that have been identified in adult prostituted women (Jeffreys, 200a). Julie O’Connell Davidson also argues against the usefulness of the distinction (O’Connell Davidson, 2005). She points out that teenage girls are fully integrated into systems of prostitution in many parts of the world. She explains that though there is a demand from men specifically interested in prostituting young children, a.k.a. paedophiles, this is a small and specialist market. The majority of prostitution abusers are indigenous men and both they and prostitution tourists use teenagers in prostitution as a routine part of their prostitution abuse, neither seeking children nor, in many cases, recognizing or remarking the extreme youth of those they abuse. Though O’Connell Davidson and I both criticize the distinction, it is with different intent. While I argue that NGOs and feminist theorists should be aiming to end the prostitution of all women and girls if they are serious about ending child sexual exploitation, because child prostitution cannot effectively be separated out, O’Connell Davidson takes a different path. She says she is ‘uncomfortable with what I view as a more general impulse to separate children out as a special case’ and with what she calls ‘[t]his process of ranking’ which evinces ‘outrage at child prostitution’ (O’Connell Davidson, 2005, p. 1). But she criticizes what she calls ‘anti-prostitution feminists’ who, she says, ignore the ‘diverse and complex realities’ of those who are prostituted and deny their ‘autonomy and agency’ (ibid., p. 3). Through stressing that children can have ‘agency’, she joins a growing stream of feminist researchers who are arguing that both children and adult women express agency and choice in prostitution, and that showing special concern for children infantilizes them.
Since such a large proportion of those being used by the global sex industry are young teenage girls, the normalization of their participation is necessary if the global sex industry is to be legitimated and continue its growth unhindered. Some writers, even in feminist anthologies, are prepared to support this normalization. Thus Heather Montgomery, for instance, writing about prostituted children in a tourist resort in Thailand, says that children’s ‘agency’ needs to be acknowledged (H. Montgomery, 1998). She says that arguments that prostitution damages children are ethnocentric.[bold mine] Treena Rae Orchard argues that girls in devadasi prostitution in India, who are given to priests to be brought up as prostitutes in an act which historically was supposed to show religious devotion but is now engaged in by families so that they can live on their daughter’s income, should not be understood as ‘victimized’ (Orchard 2007). The practice, she says, has positive aspects. The girls gain in status because they are important economically in their families and surrounded by networks of friends, despite the fact that they do not want to be prostituted and their virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder at 14 or younger.[bold mine]
The argument that child prostitution in situations where it is practiced by whole tribes, such as the ‘untouchables’, or among the people who practice devadasi prostitution, gives girls status is not borne out by other accounts. A report in the Guardian on child prostitution among dalit or untouchable tribes in Madhy Pradesh explains that girls are put into prostitution from 10—14 years old by the Baccharas and the Bedia (Prasad, 2007). Girls are hawked to buyers along the highways, with violence against the girls from clients and families being common. An example is given of a girl who was delivered to a food shack by run her uncle on a highway at 12. All the money that she earned was taken by her family and used to build a new house with a room for each of four sons and to pay for the sons’ marriages. Her low status as a girl was not, in this case, alleviated by the fact that she provided most of the family income. Indeed the status of women is not necessarily high in other situations where they supply income to pimps/partners in western prostitution.”