Who are you calling a ho?

May 8, 2009 § 5 Comments

So, I am a second-term high school senior. These are words that should be music to my ears, but I have actually been extremely stressed out with endless amounts of work. I am, however, having a great time working on a research paper about sex workers in Pakistan. The paper is still in its early stages right now (I will post it when it’s finished) but there is a really interesting issue I wanted to discuss here with all of the fabulous members of the women’s glib community.

The topic of sex work has raised many questions and debates both amongst feminists and in society in general. One major question that I am addressing in my paper is about how we, both as feminists and as members of the global community, should approach sex work. Within feminist approaches to sex work, there are two major view points that I’ve encountered. On the one hand, there are those who argue that sex work is an inherently abusive system that is based on manipulating women, especially poor women, and should be abolished. Then, there are the people who argue that sex workers should be viewed as just that–workers. They argue that the abusive and manipulating aspects of sex work would be more easy to address and diminish if the focus was on protecting the rights of sex workers through legislation and unionization. Personally, I would fall in the second camp because I think that if we treat sex workers as workers as opposed to bad people, their voices will be heard much more and the stigma that we associate with sex work would be less powerful.

I’m really interested in finding out more about what feminists, particularly young feminists, have to say about sex work. If anyone has any insight or opinions on sex work, both in the U.S. and internationally, please share them!

§ 5 Responses to Who are you calling a ho?

  • S. says:

    I mostly agree. Women should certainly be able to choose their career paths, and be treated with dignity and respect for it, whatever it may be. Sex workers are women who provide a service that many people want, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    But before our culture can treat sex workers with the respect they deserve and give them rights, it needs to sort out how it views sex and how it views women. If a woman chooses to sell her body and get paid for sex, she is objectifying herself to some level. But it is up to the customer, the country, and our society to separate the woman from what she does. She is not just sex and she does not deserve to be treated like a second class human being.

    Our culture has this idea that you are either a sweet little innocent saint or a syphilitic crazy whore. Prostitutes who CHOOSE their profession are perceived as the latter and so many think it is okay to deny them worker’s rights. Before sex workers are granted the rights they deserve, we need to spend a whole lot of time clearing up the issues we have around sex.

    Hope that was vaguely coherent.

    Love your blog, keep on keeping on.

  • Goodfriend says:

    I remember when i was in South East Asia last summer i would talk to a lot of travelers who had been to Bangkok (where im spending 10 days this summer!) and they said that many of the women participating in the “sex trade” there actually regard their work as strictly business…..in, out, their done. However, if they grew up in a society where they felt like there were other options for making a living that didn’t involve the dangers as well as the “specialness” that can come with sex, they probably wouldn’t choose to be in that line of work.

    Also, if you’d like to learn about the “sex trade” in NYC, there’s a FABULOUS documentary called “Very Young Girls” that I saw that directly applies to your subject. Very powerful!
    Also, in conjunction with that, there’s an organization called GEMS that “empowers young women, ages 12-21, who have experienced sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential.”
    http://www.gems-girls.org

    Good Luck on your paper!!
    Sasha G

  • EG says:

    renegadeevolution.blogspot.com is a great blog regarding women involved in erotic industries.

    Also, some of the commentary surrounding Marilyn Chambers’ death unfortunately fell in the “look-how-being-in-porn-ruined-this-woman” category, which I found sickening.

    Although there are certainly some women who are sex workers against their will, there are women who deeply enjoy working in the sex industry, and they should not be demeaned or shamed because of that.

  • Silvia says:

    Thank you all for your insight. S. brought up a great point about how much the way our society views sex impacts the way we view sex workers. It’s a point I am emphasizing in my paper. These comments are all really helpful. Thank you!

  • I’m also inclined to think that removing the stigma from sex work and giving voice to the women (and men!) involved is the right way for us to move. You should definitely check out Alexa Albert’s book Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women”> for an inside look at life for legalized prostitutes and an examination of the pros and cons.

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