I believe the sex industry perpetuates violence against women and children: from prostitution to lap dancing to gonzo porn: it is an industry built on the abuse of the bodies of women and children. There are a small number of women working within the sex industry who do so by choice, however limited those choses are within a capitalist-patriarchy where the majority of labour of women remains unpaid despite the entire economy requiring wifework and childcare to function. This group of women aren’t representative of the lives of the vast majority of women and children within the sex industry. As long as we live within a capitalist-patriarchy, I support the Nordic model of decriminalising those who sell sex (usually women and children) and criminalises the purchasing of sex (pretty much always men). The model requires proper implementation with support for housing, education, healthcare and childcare (among a multitude of other supports) but I do not believe that legalising sex work will help liberate women, as a class, from male violence and rape culture.
That said, I’m incredibly fucked off by Women’s Hours dismissive treatment of the sex workers interviewed . When a woman tells you they’ve experienced sexual harassment whilst working as a waitress, the proper response is not to state it’s less problematic than sex work. Sexual harassment on the job, any job, is a crime and we need to treat it as such. Women working as waitresses should not expect to be “chatted” or “felt up” by customers as a matter of course. It is precisely this kind of arrogance which perpetuates rape culture and puts women, within the service industry, at risk. Yes, the potential for violence is higher for women within the sex industry, but this does not mean that the women working within it deserves to experience violence.
Sex workers are living in the patriarchy, just like every other woman on the planet which the workers interviewed made very clear. And, we need to deal with this. The capitalist-patriarchy is only beneficial for a limited number of women. Most of us are living the best we can within the limited options we have. Women in all forms of employment deal with sexual harassment, abuse and shit. The capitalist-patriarchy is harmful to women in all industries and pretending this isn’t true harms women.
This said, I really, really object to Jane Garvey saying this to a group of sex workers: “couldn’t be doing anything that perpetuates the patriarchy more than sex work.” It is so lacking in feminist analysis that I don’t know where to start. I am so fucking angry by this statement. People who are perpetuating the patriarchy are Terry Richardson: world-famous fashion photographer and sexual predator. The people hiring Richardson are perpetuating the patriarchy. Women trying to pay their bills are women trying to pay their bills. Suggesting that they are somehow upholding the patriarchy all by themselves is disgraceful.
Not to mention the fact that it’s fucking Women’s Hour saying it: a program which supports the Patriarchy on a daily basis by dismissing women’s concerns and inviting men to speak on behalf of women. the hypocrisy is astounding.