This is in response to this post.
Gentle reminder that providing sex workers with a safe legal space and all the appropriate protections to provide their services to their clients is all very well and good (and it is in terms of safety and respect) but it STILL encourages the idea that…catcalling, perving, touching up people you are not in a relationship with, talking dirty to someone who is not your other half, being made to feel like you’re the most important person in the world because you have a beautiful person sexually gratifying you, feeling like you have ownership of someone else’s body…are good and healthy and perfectly viable responses to other human beings, providing you’ve paid for the pleasure of doing so.
We should not be encouraging the idea that, even for a short space of paid-for time, someone else’s body is ours for the taking and diminishing.
We should not be encouraging the idea that, even for a short space of paid-for time, it is appropriate to cat call, jeer, perve, and generally dehumanise another human being. (the sex worker may not feel dehumanised by their work, but if I, as a service user, believe that it is ok and good to cat call, jeer and perve on someone else, then I am dehumanising them, even if they aren’t aware of this. And the more I do this, the more I will believe it is appropriate, and the more likely I am to dehumanise others, including non sex workers.)
We should not be encouraging the idea that, even for a short space of paid-for time, it is appropriate to act like the very worst aspects of all that feminism stands against.
It is all very well saying that it is a job, a service, just like being a counsellor, an actor, a waiter or so on. But it’s not. Because counsellors, actors, waiters… provide a service that promotes the general wellbeing and improvement of all society one way or another. (Waiting tables, although it is a physical service in exchange for payment, is not a profession that inherently teaches disrespect or diminishment of a human being down to a body/bodily experience. And while acting provides a mental experience, it is generally meant to be an experience that causes us to think and question the world and go back into the world as better people, more respectful of those around us as whole, integrated human beings.) Sex work does not promote the general well being of society. It teaches that it is ok to objectify people as long as you’ve paid for the privilege. It validates (acting on a(n often inappropriate)) desire for someone who is not actually available. It validates the concept of (often male) ownership of a(n often female) body. There is nothing feminist about that. There is nothing respectful about that.
And how long before the idea that it’s ok as long as you’ve paid becomes “it’s ok” full stop? Because we’re not talking about an enriching, positive service such as counselling here - a service which aids the service user to become more whole, more respectful of self and others… We’re talking about a service that teaches the service user that the human being providing the service is little more than a body to perform sexually gratifying acts for me. The changes made in me at this point are negative, not positive. Instead of learning that the world does not actually revolve around me, and how to healthily interact with the world, and how to healthily interact sexually with my partner, I learn that it’s right that those sexual/bodily acts should be done for me. That I should like those acts to be done for me. That I deserve those acts to be done for me. Actually, why should I pay for that? I deserve it, don’t I? So I catcall on the streets. And I leer when I’m in pubs. And I rant about “cockblockers” because I deserve that body over there. And so on. Not only do I dehumanise the sex worker during the paid performance, but I start to dehumanise the people I see on the club/street/work/home who in someway remind me of the sex worker.
The resentment and anger that sex workers experience from some clients is the basis for the violence and abuse that they frequently suffer - but it is also the basis for the violence and abuse that many many many non-sex worker women and men suffer too. Now, there are a minority of sex workers who genuinely go into the work freely because they want to, (and not because poverty pressurises them to do so - and if poverty is the cause of entering sex work, it is not a free choice) - and so they have made the choice to go into a profession that has a higher rate of violence and abuse towards them than others. They have freely made a choice to enter a profession with a higher danger rate - like fire-brigade operatives, for example. But all the people who experience abuse and violence that stems from this SAME resultant resentment and anger… they didn’t make that choice.
We didn’t make that choice.
And women and men the world over, who didn’t make that choice, are paying the price of sex work feeding the belief that some individuals have the right to experience sexual ownership of another person’s body.
Not to mention the huge, huge, HUGE numbers of women, men and children who do not have a choice about entering sex work, and still have to pay the price of that resentment and anger. They, just like sex workers who made the choice to become sex workers, suffer violence and abuse at the hands of the same people. But they didn’t choose that life. How is that fair, or right? How can anyone defend that?
Don’t get me wrong; I firmly believe that sex workers should be afforded all protection and should be treated with the same respect inherent to their human dignity as any human being should be treated. But do not try and tell me that sex work is a good thing for humanity. Because it does not encourage the service users to respect the inherent dignity of the sex workers, or of any other human beings. It encourages treating ALL human beings as objects to be used and discarded. And there is nothing good, or right, or dignified about that.