September 28, 2018
This post is based on some notes I contributed to a social media discussion about whether class is relevant to a feminist analysis of the sex trade. Someone suggested I make them more widely available, so I’m posting them here. They are a bit rough – but hopefully they might be of some interest.
Traditionally women’s class was determined by her father’s class, unless she was married and then it was determined by her husband’s. Of course it has changed somewhat now but not entirely. There are still those household surveys that more or less assume that if there’s a man in the household, his position determines the entire household’s economic and social class. This has been institutionalised by Universal Credit, which is paid to the highest wage earner – almost always the man in a straight household with children. This represents a profound defeat for women.
Another thing that is often overlooked is the enormous, huge, mountainous, decades-long workstream performed by the vast majority of women that is unrecognised and unpaid: bearing and raising kids. …
The Feministahood : Feminist musings of Anna Djinn, @annadjinn
March 14, 2018
Not even that hot night when I was 19 and slept with the door to my stuffy windowless room open to catch the breeze caused the blinkers to fall from my eyes. The blinkers that blamed my recklessness in leaving the door open and not the man who walked by and saw my smooth body lying there in all its youthful sweetness. He knew he was the only one in the building still awake and so there was a high chance he could get away with it. As indeed he did.
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The Feministahood : Feminist musings of Anna Djinn, @annadjinn
February 2, 2018
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 11.01.18
“The whole strategy is based on a patriarchal, sexist, racist ideology of women which defines women basically as housewives and sex objects.”
Maria Mies: Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale Women in the International Division of Labour
I have written previously about Maria Mies’ thesis on how the success of the accumulation of capitalism has been dependent on patriarchy and the oppression and exploitation of women.
In Chapter 3 (‘Colonization and Housewifization’) she outlined how wealth and growth in Western countries was based on exploitation of the colonies, where countries, dominated by colonial powers became the producers of consumer goods for rich countries. Rather than meeting their own needs, production in developing countries was promoted to meet the demands of markets in developed countries.
“Production and consumption are now divided by the world market to an unprecedented degree”. (p.114)
Read more ‘Housewifization International: Women and the New International Division of Labour’ Maria Mies
December 6, 2017
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 11.10.17
When The Handmaid’s Tale first became available on SBS On Demand, I binged-watched it. I am now watching it on live TV, an episode a week and taking notes with the idea of writing a series of blogs, identifying the underlying themes that occur throughout the series.
I have recently seen Episode 8, “The Jezebels” and it is about a brothel.
This is no dystopian scene. This happens here and now, in every part of the globe, where women’s bodies are bought and sold – for men’s use and abuse – through pornography and prostitution. I felt compelled to write about this episode in particular because it is so relevant and current –it is what is happening in our world, today.
Read more “Jezebels” The Handmaid’s Tale, at Mairi Voice
August 18, 2017
Feminist debates on violence against women have often become polarized by conflicting ideas about women’s agency. But in her research on street harassment, Fiona Vera-Gray found that Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of ‘situation’ offered a way to move our thinking forward.
There is a growing need to revisit our conceptual frameworks for understanding men’s violence against women and girls. Recent high-profile cases have raised public awareness of the extent of sexual violence; by using digital media, feminist activists have highlighted the everyday nature of men’s intrusive behaviour. The diverse voices that give feminism as a political movement its complexity and reflexivity have undoubtedly been amplified. But the internet has also changed the way we create, take in and distribute information; often we end up speaking over rather than to one another.
Read more Situating agency, by Dr Fiona Vera-Gray for @strifejournal
December 6, 2016
Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified – and hidden in plain sight.
… Responses to men’s violence against women which focus almost exclusively on ‘healthy relationships’, supporting victim-survivors and reforming the criminal justice system simply do not go far enough. Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men. The objectification of women, the sex trade, socially constructed gender, unequal pay, unequal distribution of caring responsibility are all simultaneously symptomatic of structural inequality whilst maintaining a conducive context for men’s violence against women. Feminists know this and have been telling us for decades.
One of feminism’s important achievements is getting men’s violence against women into the mainstream and onto policy agendas. One of the threats to these achievements is that those with power take the concepts, and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them. State initiatives which are not nested within policies on equality between women and men will fail to reduce men’s violence against women. Failing to even name the agent – men’s use of violence – is failure at the first hurdle. …
Read more When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith
November 23, 2016
Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 01.09.15
Andrea Dworkin was, and remains, a Feminist legend. It is too bad that what most people know about her is nothing more than anti-feminist myth.
I first met Andrea in Brighton in 1996, at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship. I was then lucky enough to meet her on two other occasions, including several conversations that I will treasure. I will never forget listening to her keynote speech in that hall in Brighton, amongst rows and rows of over one thousand women, all mesmerised by the honesty and strength of Andrea’s testimony. I will never forget the passion with which she spoke and the clear, steely determination behind her low, slow, measured and husky tones. She did not mince those words; a lot of her speeches are visceral, they reference the physical suffering of abused women and children, they reference the legacy that scars the bodies of those in prostitution and pornography.
Read more Andrea Dworkin – Behind the Myth by @Finn_Mackay
November 11, 2016
Justin Trudeau is a feminist. We all know this since he says it every single time he’s interviewed. The media is obsessed with this narrative and Trudeau is regularly accused of ‘trolling the internet’ for posting pictures which revel in hyper-masculinity.
Much of Trudeau’s appeal is that he is a conventionally attractive white male who does yoga, charity boxing and loves kids. Almost as much as Barack Obama does. This is not ‘trolling the internet’. It is part of a deliberate campaign of image management – just like every other politician on the planet. David Cameron taking up yoga would not make him a better prime minister – nothing can compensate for the destructive and deeply misogynistic and racist policies that the Tory party has developed. Likewise, an attractive prime minister who enjoys a photo opportunities with babies – of the human and panda varieties – does not automatically guarantee good policies or even a commitment to feminism.
Read more Justin Trudeau is not a feminist superhero by @LK_Pennington
November 3, 2016
I’m beginning to think that men shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion on the sex trade, let alone be in charge of deciding the legislation around it. In the last few weeks we have found out that Keith Vaz is a punter, that the Lib Dems are happy with the idea of prostitution being on the careers curriculum at school, and that Jeremy Corbyn just doesn’t care that much:
Read more An Argument for Excluding Men from the Prostitution Debate, by @helensaxby11
June 21, 2016
Lately I am really coming to terms with the fact that patriarchy is a gaslighting culture, and for the most part, messages do not need to be true in order to be consistently believed by a large number of people, or to be actively disseminated by the media. In fact, I’d go far enough to say that truth is often considered irrelevant in the media. I used to get angry when these messages veered so far off course from the truth, but I’m starting to see that as a feature and not a bug. That is, they never were meant to convey truths or reality- they were meant as wide spread propaganda.
For example, neo-liberal culture frames personal individual negative impacts in terms of “choice” and “consent” rather than systems of power that constrain groups of people, even though choice has very little to do with whether, say, impoverished inner city kids succeed in school. The same is true with the hidden-in-plain-sight fact about the toxic nature of masculinity and male pattern violence. The fear of taking sides or being too radical by *naming the problem* shapes the thinking patterns of almost the entire world.
Read more Gaslighting Culture by @smashesthep
May 13, 2016
Debbie Cameron takes a critical look at the linguistic framing of current debates on prostitution.
Let’s start with a question. Are you pro-sex or anti-sex?
Maybe you’re thinking: ‘of course I’m not anti-sex, who the hell would be against sex?’
Or maybe you’re thinking: ‘Hang on a minute, aren’t those terms a bit loaded?’
And of course, they are. But that comes with the territory. It’s in the nature of political arguments to be conducted in loaded language. The proverbial ‘battle for hearts and minds’ is always, among other things, a war of words.
‘Pro-sex’ (or ‘sex positive’) and ‘anti-sex’ are shorthand labels for political positions on a set of issues (including pornography and prostitution) which have divided feminists since the 19th century. ‘Anti-sex’ is what the ‘pro-sex’ camp call the people on the other side of the argument: it’s not what the other side call themselves. (Because who the hell would be against sex?)
But the competing terms in a political argument aren’t always straightforward opposites like ‘pro-/anti-sex’. In debates on abortion, the opposing camps are most commonly labelled ‘pro-choice’ (supporting women’s right to choose whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy) and ‘pro-life’ (defending the sanctity of human life and the rights of unborn children). Each side has chosen a label that suits its own argument, and both have been relatively successful in getting others, including the media, to respect their terminological preferences.
Read more In the Frame – a critical look at the linguistic framing of current debates on prostitution
April 13, 2016
Cross-posted from: Slutocracy
Originally published: 07.02.16
Sex work law in the UK is complicated. Though it’s not fully criminalised as in most of the US, it is illegal for sex workers to share accommodation (“brothel-keeping”) even though this would improve sex workers’ safety. Soliciting and kerb-crawling are also illegal. One of the prostitution laws is that while the age of consent is 16 across the UK’s four nations, it is illegal for someone under 18 to do sex work.
Now, this used to fairly simple because all it meant was that escort agencies wouldn’t hire 16 and 17 year olds. Any teen who wanted to do sex work could do so on their own terms, and although there was always the risk that they could be deemed as “outwith parental control” if it was discovered by social services, on the whole there wasn’t a lot anyone could do about it. (I’m not saying that some young people’s lives weren’t turned upside down, or that they or their clients weren’t charged with soliciting, procuring or other offences- just that compared to the present day there was much less of a legal framework for detecting and interfering with young sex workers or prosecuting their clients).
Read more Underage Sex Workers- victims of trafficking or child protection policy? by @slutocrat
February 17, 2016
CN: some of the articles this piece links to contain extremely offensive ideas about sex workers.
I have been asked a number of times how my work around ‘lad culture’ and sexual violence in higher education corresponds to my support of sex industry decriminalisation. The implication, which elicits arguments commonly made by abolitionist feminists, is often that the two are contradictory, that in supporting workers in the sex industry I am tacitly condoning the objectification of womenand male sexual entitlement which feeds misogyny and violence. This may sound like good feminist common sense. However, I see it as a facile interpretation of both the causes of violence against women and what it means to support sex workers’ labour rights. This is problematic on a number of levels, not least because it betrays an exclusion from feminist anti-violence campaigning of some of the most vulnerable women in our society, whose primary demand is to be able to work in safety.
Read more Why sex workers should be part of sexual violence campaigns by @alisonphipps
December 20, 2015
Cross-posted from: Sian Fergs
Originally published: 24.10.15
Originally published as part of a university assignment.
With the price of tertiary education in South Africa being notoriously high, more and more Rhodes University students are turning to the sex industry in order to survive financially.
Like many other students at Rhodes University, Angela* and Lindi*need to work part-time in order to support themselves financially. But while most of their peers work in local restaurants or shops, Angela and Lindi are sex workers who provide services to Grahamstown’s elite businessmen.
They began doing sex work together in their first year at Rhodes University. “We advertised ourselves as escorts online. It started as a joke, but when we got offers, we thought it could be something worth trying,” Angela says.
From there on, they found sex work to be relatively lucrative and easy work. “We give sex away for free anyway. What’s the harm in being paid?” Lindi reasons. Both of them are currently doing Honours courses. “Our families are not rich and we would struggle to pay for our studies otherwise,” she says.
Read more Selling Sex at Rhodes University by @sianfergs
December 17, 2015
Cross-posted from: Ruth Jacobs
Originally published: 19.11.14
A rainy night in Belfast. Cold and wet with a wind whipping round the corners of the barren streets where women used to stand. How things have changed. A decade ago, even on such a horrible early winter’s night, there would have been activity, but the law changed and drove the women away. Many moved inside, others stood in darker corners by derelict houses or under battered trees in city parks, waiting for the cars.
Now, the law’s about to change again. Protesting that they don’t want to criminalise the women – just the men who seek out the women – the gentle Sinn Fein folk demanded that the old rule against loitering for the purposes of prostitution be struck down.
We talked about this, a few of us, at the quaintly but tautologically-named Commercial Sex-workers’ Clinic recently. The wonderful woman and man who run the service rolled their eyes. They didn’t want Clause 6 of Morrow’s Bill and they certainly didn’t think this ‘concession’ was going to fool anyone.
Read more Enforcing Northern Ireland’s New Swedish-Style Sex Purchase Law – A Sex Worker’s Story
December 13, 2015
The Nordic Model Information Network is a global alliance of researchers with deep and systematic expertise in researching the dynamics of prostitution and the sex industry, trafficking and violence against women. We write in response to the consultation on the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill, and we argue for the adoption of the Nordic Model. We do this in accord with the 2014 Resolution 1983 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe”, and the (Honeyball) Resolution of the European Parliament, “Sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact of gender equality”, both of which recommended by overwhelming majorities the approach of addressing demand as best legislative practice throughout the European Union.
Our research is grounded in contemporary evidence including, importantly, the testimony of survivors of the prostitution system, as well as drawing on historical and philosophical inquiry. Many of us have worked directly with prostituted women. We have individual and collective links with a wide variety of organisations working for the abolition of prostitution as an institution of gender inequality and exploitation. We believe it is important to signal very clearly that our position on prostitution is not grounded in a moralistic approach, or in any kind of hostility to women in the prostitution system. Nor is our position linked to considerations about maintaining ‘public order’. Our concern is centrally with the human rights of women in protecting the dignity of all women equally, and with an end to all forms of the subordination and degradation of women.
We unequivocally support the removal of criminal sanctions for women who solicit sex and the strengthening of laws against coercion in the sex industry. On this basis we are in support of law reform that decriminalises solicitation and that focuses on women’s safety. We do not, however, support the general aim of the Bill to reform the law on prostitution in Scotland along the New Zealand model. We set out our reasons for this below. We think it is important from the outset to clarify and correct some of the misinformation, in particular about the Nordic Model, noted in the Consultation Paper.
Read more Submission to the consultation on the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill from the Nordic Model Information Network
November 16, 2015
Amnesty’s draft proposal to decriminalise all aspects of the sex trade is being debated this week and there have been numerous articles, blogs, research reports, comments and tweets about it all over the media. There is an enormous amount of research and counter-research which seems to prove one thing and then proves another, depending on whose interpretation you read, and which side you’re on. Funnily enough, despite the strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between us, we do actually agree on the main premise, which is that the (mainly) women who provide sexual services to (mainly) men should be decriminalised. You wouldn’t know that from the decrim lobby, but it’s true! Feminists opposing the Amnesty International proposal are doing so, not because we want the women in prostitution to be punished in any way, but because we want the men who exploit the women to be held accountable. Full decriminalisation, however, would mean that all ‘sex-workers’ would be free to work legally with no restraints, and that includes pimps, brothel owners, strip club managers and other people who make money out of women’s sexual services. It’s that aspect which causes the conflict.
Read more Is Amnesty Throwing us all Under the Bus? by Not the news in brief
September 12, 2015
Christine Stark has been a role model of mine since 2004. That was the year she co-edited Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography, which immediately soared up my book chart and remains a Berg top five today.
Not For Sale contains my favorite essay on prostitution, but Stark’s direct confrontation with so-called ‘sex radicals’ in the essay “Girls to Boyz: Sex radical women promoting prostitution and pornography” has the most forthright chutzpah of the collection. My admiration for her anti-pornstitution work led me to take special note of her various creative works released through radical feminist and artistic media.
Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation is Stark’s debut novel and it’s a doozy. The freestyle narrative announces itself on the first page through two fairy tales as understood by a small child. Stark plays with linguistic forms to translate the thoughts in a child’s mind, and it’s a testament to her skill that the unconventional style comes off much more genuine than parlor tricky. The punctuation and odd sentence breaks lend a breathless air and the cadence is tricky to catch at first, but much like watching a Scottish film, the initial confusion of familiar words in an unfamiliar dialect soon resolves and you’re hooked into the storyteller’s groove.
Read more Christine Stark’s ‘Nickels’ – a tale of association
August 3, 2015
In recent weeks several public conversations and debates have taken place on subjects that primarily affect women and girls: objectification, body-shaming, the sex trade…the usual suspects. A new way of minimising the harm of these practices for women seems to have emerged, in the form of claiming they are all gender-neutral, or at least ignoring the aspect of gender, and therefore erasing the equality issue. It’s been done before of course, notably in regard to domestic violence (brilliantly dismissed as an argument by Karen Ingala Smith here), but as a way of silencing feminist debate it seems to be growing in popularity: #NotallMen is being joined by #Don’tForgetTheMen! Men who want us to recognise that they are not *all* bad also want us to believe that they share *equally* in the oppression.
First there was the Student Sex Work Project by Swansea University. This study, based on a self-selecting online questionnaire, found that there was parity between male and female students doing ‘sex work’ and that this should have implications for the services provided to offer support to these students. There was a lot wrong with this survey, primarily to do with the methods used and the stated aims – unsurprisingly it concluded that ‘stigma’ was one of the most significant downsides of the work (as opposed to, say, threat of violence), and, more surprisingly, that ‘sexual enjoyment’ was one of the motivations to go into the trade. This is much less surprising when you note that significantly more male than female students had responded to the survey with a positive response to the question of whether or not they were involved in ‘sex work’ and that the definition of ‘sex work’ included porn acting. A lack of scepticism over this blatantly unrealistic result further discredited the project findings and, bar a couple of newspaper reports, it sank without trace.
Read more Poldark, Prostitution and Protein World
July 6, 2015
Women’s participation in drug trafficking has recently made the headlines thanks to Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo, 2011) a Mexican film about a beauty pageant wannabe who is kidnapped and forced to become a drug runner for a gang of traffickers in Tijuana, received critical acclaim at Cannes last year. The screen play is loosely based on a real life incident in 2008 in which beauty queen Laura Zuñiga was arrested aboard a lorry full of explosives along with drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Similarly, La Reina del Sur(The Queen of the South), was one of this year’s most popular soap operas produced by television network Telemundo (USA) in conjunction with the Antena 3 network (Spain) and RTI Producciones (Colombia). The script was based on a novel by Spanish author Arturo Pérez Reverte and depicts the rise of Teresa Mendoza, a young woman from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain. It seems likely that Mendoza is based on the example of Sandra Ávila Beltrón, alias the Queen of the Pacific, ex member of the Sinaloa cartel, who is currently in a Mexican prison waiting extradition to the US.
While undoubtedly showing how some women have become involved in drug gangs, neither screenplay could be said to accurately portray the complex realities of women’s experience in drug trafficking. Unsurprisingly, women’s participation in trafficking imitates their roles in other, more licit activities and clearly reflects Mexico’s dominant cultural attitudes towards them.
Read more Women and the Drug Traffickers by @andrews_Cath