On “Sex Work” and the Proprostitution Lobby
July 11, 2012 4 Comments
“In the small but highly vocal proprostitution movement, some few women are treating their prostitution affirmatively, as “sex work,”, as experiences of unrepressed sex that they control. Theirs is not unlike some heterosexual women’s and lesbian’s defense of sadomasochism as an enactment of sexual desire for women; in the movement to promote pornography this group is led by F.A.C.T. and its views are promoted in works like Carol Vance’s. Many women actively promote pornographic sexuality as a chosen dimension of their lives while many other women actively claim and positively assert a “prostitution identity”. Are they dehumanized by these dissociations, or are they only claiming a self-chosen identity? If women actively choose pornographic, prostituted sex, can we consider that sex as harmless because it is chosen? These questions collapse the experience of harm into the act of consent, rendering invisible the harm of the prostitution exchange, dissociating it from the fullness of lived experience, and locating it only in human will. This is a variant of liberal ideology, which drives economic markets by elevating individual choice in order to maximize consumerism. In this way, the sex of prostitution is reduced from being a class condition of women to a personal choice of the individual. Under the decadence that elevates individual choice above the common good, chosen patriarchal violation serves capitalist market exchange.
A feminist analysis of sexual exploitation requires analyzing the class condition of women in relation to actual, lived experience. Developing a feminist human-rights perspective refocuses the question back to the act, to lived experience, to the conditions under which sex takes place, and asks whether or not that constitutes violation. In human rights, the determination of harm must rest on the act, the experience and its representations, not only individually but collectively in women’s class condition. If the act exploits, it is in itself destructive of human life, well-being, integrity, and dignity. That is violation. And when it is gendered, repeated over and over in and on woman after woman, that is oppression.”
-Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, page 69-70.