“showing special concern for children infantilizes them”

(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.
[bold mine]
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.”

About smash
Women's liberationist.

7 Responses to “showing special concern for children infantilizes them”

  1. DaveSquirrel says:

    Putting aside places like India and Thailand for a moment, and looking to ‘first world’ nations – the laws in most of these countries says children cannot ‘exercise agency’ in voting before 18, the laws say children cannot ‘exercise agency’ in driving before 16-18, and most countries have laws that say children cannot enter into legal contracts before 18. Yet, when it comes to ‘sex’ suddenly ‘exercising agency’ is Very Important (according to the ‘sex positive’ types). Most of these countries have the age of consent set at about 16 – thanks to feminist, (and legal age to get married without parental consent 16-18), and sometimes a sliding scale of statutory rape ages of the parties involved to stop the sexual exploitation of minors by adults. The law recognises that children are children, not miniature adults in so many areas – yet the ‘sex positives’ just ignore all this other stuff. How come they aren’t fighting to get 12yo’s the vote? Or to drive? Because they know that children are children, and do not have the knowledge or life experience to always make life decisions in their own best interests. Nor do ‘sex positives’ ever address how dangerous it for a 12yo or 14yo girl to get pregnant, the ‘sex positives’ regard these girls as disposable casualties in the scheme of sexual availability to (usually much older) males. That is the west.

    Poorer nations like India or Thailand also have the additional forces of sex tourism from the west. A lot of time this ‘sex tourism’ is precisely because of the larger availability of extremely young girls prostituted out by their families. This is paedophilia for sure. Paedophilia is much more prevalent that the general public would know, the theme is now quite obvious in a lot of mainstream porn, where they might toe the legal line of having a porn performer of age 18, but she looks many many years younger. This is catering to paedophilia. Even the youth obsession in mainstream media has its roots in paedophilia.

    India has an appalling track record for its regard to the status of females, including high infant mortality of girls, or skewed birth rates favouring males. That report of the young girl being prostituted out to pay for the house alterations and support and education of the four brothers was completely sick. This is just the extreme and obvious end of patriarchy of male favouritism, it still happens in the west, but not quite as pronounced.

    Anyway, the ‘sex positive’ types should pull their heads out of their own butts on this, and start addressing issues like the dangers of teenage pregnancies, or the disparity of legal ages for other things – but they won’t, because it is smoke and mirrors to promote this insidious ‘sex positivism’ – the bottom line is they are paedophilia apologists. They can shove ‘agency’ where the sun don’t shine.

  2. KatieS says:

    Great post and comment! This is an important issue, and I’m grateful to the blogosphere for educating women, including me, about them.

  3. Hecuba says:

    Women and girl children only have ‘agency and empowerment’ when they are doing/submitting to what men want and then hey presto we have ‘women’s and girls’ agency in abundance!’

    Concur with you Smash all feminists especially those pseudo/fun feminists should read The Industrial Vagina by Sheila Jeffreys but they won’t because they don’t want to read the truth concerning how men continue to sexually exploit women and girls.

    But I’m forgetting women and girls have agency when they enter the prostitution industry and the younger a girl is the more ‘agency she enacts!’

  4. fabflowers says:

    thanks again for another rational report on this sexualization of women and young girls. i can’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to think that children (and most women in porn) have any sexual agency to speak of. just ludicrous.

    thanks for sharing sheila’s book reference as well, will be looking for that one.

  5. Sabrina L. says:

    I know this is an ancient post…but…
    I clicked on this post from my blogger dashboard, which showed the first bit of the content, right before you mention prostitution. (“…and should be trusted on their own to decide whether they want to” and it stops)
    I was thinking about Shulamith Firestone, hard core radical feminist, who had some intriguing and yet kind of icky ideas about childhood sexuality. I was certainly surprised when her observation that children are oppressed in ways similar to women led to the conclusion that children should not have to be excluded from sex. With adults?
    I guess she envisions the other side of the end of patriarchy as being so radically different from the current woman hating society that the harms of pedophilia would be absent, perhaps because the harms are attributed to the artificial unjust power differential. Which is still hard to swallow for me.
    But, of course, this post wasn’t talking about that. It was talking about someone who believes that a child should not be denied the lovely experience of being sadistically screwed for the benefit of the highest bidder, the benefit of her family, and to the detriment of her very being, since we know that’s what this treatment does in this current society. Nice. Agency. Yay.

    • smash says:

      Hi Sabrina, thanks for your comment. It also sounds to me as if Firestone’s ideas are pretty icky and pedo-apologetic. Children do not have the capacity to consent and, as such, adults shouldn’t be having sex with them.

  6. sellmaeth says:

    What is wrong with infantilizing children? I mean, the word is derived from “infant”, which, for all I know, means “child”. And treating children like children is wrong … why?
    That is some really strange logic there. And that is just the title.

    (As for prostitution, I am convinced it damages everyone, but children moreso. Because children are more vulnerable than adults, that’s just a fact of life.)

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