On “Sex Work” and the Proprostitution Lobby

“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.

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4 Responses to On “Sex Work” and the Proprostitution Lobby

  1. tiamathydra says:

    If men would ”choose” to get paid for being hurt by other men for whatever, religious purposes of a cult for example, society as a whole would strongly react against those practices, defending en masse that there’s got to be something coercive in the circumstances of their ”consent” or ”choice”, that they must have suffered some kind of trauma from past abuse or that they must be in serious poverty conditions.

    If it’s women in prostitution, then of course it’s their choice, no matter what is done to them (and one only has to visit some internet porn to realize what happens to these women, and by extension, it potentially happens to the non-prostituted as well) and whoever dares to even question the circumstances of it is accused of terrorism and fascism. It’s so old and it’s always the same, we are not human beings.

    We shouldn’t waste time discussing pornstitution with the pro-pornstitution lobby, they have all the corporate media and all the power in their hands to make us appear like crazy berserk dictators and they will. I think it’s blatantly obvious that pornstitution is slavery, therefore whoever doesn’t admit it it’s because it’s not in their interests to validate that reality, not because they not know what prostitution is. So it’s a waste of time and a form of mental torture to dialogue with these people, we should simply do our own thing and stop interacting with them.

    Of course we should have a voice to make sure we are there for the women and girls who want to turn to feminism, but I think we should do it through the internet or any form of free media, not by asking the corporate media (which favors the pro-porn lobby) permission in order to speak and then see what we have said reversed and manipulated into something else. They play dirty all the time and they have all the power, so it’s no use playing their game, I think we better focus on all women who may need our movement and not on these tools of the patriarchy.

  2. rootedinbeing says:


    Activism is not about giving up, it is about fighting in the face of insurmountable odds, and.. sometimes… winning… We’ll never get anywhere if we just give up. Sex trafficking is gaining more and more attention by the day, in fact there was just an excellent 1 hour “Taboo” show on National Geographic about prostitution/sex trafficking and they did a great job. This is a victory for those of us concerned about the issue! They even showed a pro “sex work” advocate talking about legalization, and an excellent rebuttal by an abolishonist perspective that showed just how harmful legalization would be. Amidst all the bad, there is good – and we have to see that if we want to remain in this fight.

  3. tiamathydra says:

    I didn’t mean that we should give up, I think working against pornstitution is fundamental for our liberation but activism should be done without falling in the trappings of the corporate pro-porn lobby. Endlessly trying to convince *them* that pornstitution is harmful is useless because they already know it. I think it’s easy to spot when someone truly is uninformed about the harms of pornstitution and it’s worth dialoguing with them and when someone is simply trying to justify it all the time and villify us in the media, and when that happens it means someone is being purposefuly sponsored as a tool of the patriarchy to do their job and is getting rewards from it, therefore it’s no use investing any time interacting with them. Of course I support anti-pornstitution activism and I think it’s totally necessary, but many of the handmaidens both female and male are totally unworthy of reasoning with them because they just want the rewards that come with being patriarchal agents so we should invest our time in trying to stop what they do and neutralizing their message, not in trying to make any deal with them because they have all the power in their hands to turn it against us and they’ve been playing that game basically since the 2nd wave.

  4. Jennie says:

    The patriarchy is fully invested in actively trying to ruin the women’s movement. They’ll do anything to accomplish this-there’s no shame in their game. So-naming prostitution “sex work” makes it sound more acceptable then what it really is-(getting to the core of it) it is sucking filthy cocks/spreading your legs for ANY guy that possesses the amount of cash that they seek/being degraded (having sex for money in my opinion is paid RAPE!) and is quite degrading in itself/opening yourself up to several types of diseases and more…us feminists know this. Men want to keep THEIR fantasy alive and falesly “empower” the prostitutes by calling it “sex work.” It’s also really paid slavery where the prostitute is drained emotionally/spiritually and mentally. Now who could put a fair price on that?! Fuck the patriarchy!

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