HOW CAN SEX WORK BE FEMINIST?

A NEW WAVE OF REVOLUTIONARY FEMINISM

Groups of “feminists” are demonstrating in the U.K. for shutting strip clubs down; laws in the U.S. have become stricter to fight against prostitution; social media are closing down the accounts of girls who show their bodies or use hashtags related to sex. Women’s bodies are not objects, women’s bodies are not at the service of men’s pleasure, they yell. Sex work is objectification, it is anti-feminist. At least this is what some people think… usually people who have never spoken to a sex worker in their whole life.

Let’s clarify this term, objectification, a much abused term in our vocabulary. Sex workers are accused of using their bodies as objects… We have to be honest: aren’t we all doing that? Is it possible to avoid using one’s body as an object for producing money in the capitalist societies we live in? A clerk dedicates their fingers, back, eyes for an office job, forcing their body to sit in front of a computer for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week; a waiter uses their body for running back and forth in the middle of tables of demanding, rude customers, even on Christmas Eve. We are all part of an exploitative system.

But it seems to be ok for some people to dedicate their bodies to work and to make money, whereas for sex workers it’s not. Society imposes very strict rules on sexuality and punishes with shame those who decide to transgress its dogma. And the dogma is: sex is something sacred, romantic, therefore it cannot be monetized, nor shared with too many people. If you attach strong values to sex and romanticize it, involving money in it becomes filthy. This dogma is valid for some categories of people more than for others. Surprise surprise, moral rules apply to women more than to men. Society makes us believe that this romanticized values must be valid for everybody, and doesn’t take into account that not everybody’s attitude towards sex conforms the norm. For some people sex can be something else. For some people sex is just sex, for some others experimentation, for some others a job. As long as it doesn’t harm anybody, everybody has their right to experience their sexuality in the way it suits them best and being against sex work means being against people who are trying to experience alternative views on sex. Our bodies, our choice.

For female sex workers this can be revolutionary. Women are constantly harassed, when they walk in the street, when they are dancing in a club with their friends, when they take the public transport. Men whistle at them, as if they were dogs, showing no respect, and make dirty comments about their look, loud, because they think they have the right to do it. Women do not ask for these attentions. Female sex workers have found their way to survive to this sexist, patriarchalist, capitalist jungle and flipped the situation to use it to their advantage. Because in sex work the rules are inverted. In everyday life men get what they want without even having to ask for it; on the contrary, sex work is build on consent: not only men have to ask, but they also have to pay for it. Sex work becomes an act s of subversion.

This can be empowering, not only because it makes you take control and agency over your body, but also because it can contribute to build a positive body image. Not all sex workers conform the ideals of perfection that our society imposes. Sex workers are very diverse, they have flaws, they are humans. You don’t need to look like a Barbie to be a sex worker, nor to conform to any idea of perfection. Unfortunately body shaming is very common in our society, so it would be naïve to state that there is no body shaming in our industry. But it can make you learn that being sexy is an attitude and it helps many women to feel hot and comfortable in their naked bodies.

And let’s be more precise. Sex workers are not just mere bodies. What they sell is a service. Working with human beings means understanding what customers want. Do they want connection? Do they want affection? Do they want a fantasy? Do they want to be listened, loved? Or do they just want sex? This is the service sex workers provide: understanding and entertainment. Sex work combines sexuality, money and love and, if done in the right way, it can be an enriching exchange for both parties.

Finally, applying allegedly feminist arguments against sex work doesn’t make any sense if you keep in mind that sex workers are not only women. How can you apply such discourse to male sex workers, or queer, or non-binary? Of course, this world does presents some problematics and we don’t want to pretend that everything is perfect. But It is time to open everybody’s mind to a new wave of revolutionary feminism.

* This article refers to voluntary sex work. We do not support any kind of practice that involves forcing people into sex work. Human trafficking is one of the grimmest crimes and we condemn those who make it possible, both human traffickers and also customers who decide to pay for it and create a demand for the market.

By Edie

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