Men say, “women’s bodies are commodities.” “Sex workers” say, “my body is a commodity.”.

April 20, 2013 at 12:53 PM (Uncategorized) (, , )

When I was about twenty years old, I was waiting at a bus stop on a main road in my hometown one day on my way to college. Suddenly, a car that was literally full of men (somewhere between 5 and 7 of them) drove up to the curb and offered me a ride. I was extremely confused, then I was scared. I mumbled no thanks and the guy who had spoken to me told the driver to drive off.

This has been a very creepy and disturbing memory to me. After it was over, I assumed that I had survived an attempted kidnapping, but over the years, I hadn’t been able to reconcile certain facts of the situation. I assumed that they thought they could simply talk me into the car because I looked younger than I was. I assumed that they hadn’t bothered to jump out of the car and try to grab me because the street was rather busy, and they knew that they would surely have been identified if not stopped. But they hadn’t seemed aggressive at all, and they made barely any attempt to talk me into anything. Then, a couple of days ago, I was looking at the run-down houses on this same street and thinking that it’s an awful place to live, especially with the prostitution that goes on a couple blocks up, and it occured to me that those men assumed that I was a prostitute because I was standing not far from where prostituted women usually are. This explains why they were so casual about inviting me into their car. On that day, I was also wearing a femininity costume, one of my few “successful” ones, one for which I’d received compliments.

It was about noon; I was eating a snack, wearing a backpack, and standing next to a clearly marked bus stop. Not the typical setting of prostitution. But I was standing in prostitution alley, and that was enough for them to assume that I was sexually available to them. Not to imply that even that much is necessary for men to assume that random women are sexually available to them.

The point is that the existence of individual instances of prostitution, all types of prostitution, whether it be tele-prostitution/e-prostitution (aka porn) or escort services, do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in, and contribute towards, the context of patriarchy, specifically, men’s attitudes towards and expectations of the sexual availability of women. And there is absolutely no reason to assume that they would exist without men’s ever-present expectation and demand of the sexual availability of women. And this is the thing that women who claim to “choose” to be “sex workers” need to understand: You can claim to choose to sell your body all you want, but you can’t choose the context that has created the demand. You can’t control it, and you don’t control it. You can claim that it is a respectable profession, but you can’t really control whether or not your “customers” actually respect you. The evidence that men’s consumption of any sort of prostitution inspires ZERO respect for the prostituted is OVERWHELMING. The physical danger involved in prostitution wouldn’t exist if prostitutes were respected. Men who respect women don’t put them at risk for STDs, vaginal tearing, anal prolapse. They don’t whip them or ask them to act out violent fantasies under ANY circumstances.

I once watched a documentary about the effects of e-prostitution, in which a guy took a camera and asked men what they had “learned” from porn. One man said he learned that women will “do anything.” Men have already formed, have had formed for centuries, their own enduring narratives about women and prostitution. The tiny portion of women who “choose” (aren’t sexual slaves or economically forced into) prostitution are not putting a dent in that. There is no evidence whatsoever that men will interpret this “choice” in a way that is favorable to women in general, nor to the “sex worker” in particular, no matter how badly you want them to. Rest assured, men will find a way to interpret it in a way that confirms the lies they tell themselves about women, along with having their entitlement to access to women’s bodies re-enforced. So it is literally impossible to believe that “sex work” is in any way positive or neutral and still be in touch with reality. Either one goes into “sex work” knowing this and not caring, or one goes into it blindly.

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