How To Respect Sex Workers

Most women have strong feelings about the sex industry, be they for or against. (And many, of course, remain undecided.) When dealing with such an emotionally volatile topic, it’s easy to inadvertently silence or even insult sex workers themselves. (As a participant in sex worker activism for the past four years, I’ve seen that in action and on the page.) There’s a way to debate commercial sex while respecting the industry’s laborers. Here are some suggestions:

1) Don’t diminish or mock sex workers’ agency. When discussing a person coerced or forced into sex work, a sensitive recognition of the violation they’ve suffered is definitely in order. However, it’s important to let individuals themselves make this distinction, rather than automatically assigning them a label that indicates lack of agency. For instance, referring to all sex workers as “prostituted” or “used” can be violating in and of itself if the person identifies their work as a free choice.

Similarly, language implying that sex workers are defiled or disgusting will quickly alienate them—for instance, calling porn an “institution that systematically uses the bodies of subordinate groups as sheer sexual objects at best, and open toilets at worst,” as this Ms. blog comment does. Even abused workers don’t want the public analogizing them to waste receptacles.

There’s a way to recognize the indignities wrought upon another human being without furthering those indignities. For example, insisting that every paid act of sex is rape, regardless of how the person being paid labels it, implies that her failure to label it rape is a personal failure. No sex worker deserves to be demonized for asserting the nature of her own experiences.

2) Don’t assume your problems with the sex industry are the industry’s only problems. Some of the most time-honored criticisms of the sex industry—it solidifies patriarchy or commodifies female sexuality—are significant considerations. But they may not be top concerns among sex workers themselves, who are usually more interested in avoiding harassment or abuse at the hands of law enforcement, finding the safest possible workplace and earning a livelihood. As sex worker and artist Sadie Lune has said, “Stop punishing me just because you may not be able to imagine being me.”

3) Use language with care. Some escorts might refer to themselves as “whores” or call their friends “hookers,” but sex workers don’t trust someone outside the industry employs those words. “Sex worker” was conceived as a judgment-neutral term and is usually a safe bet if you’re unsure of what phrase would be most respectful. Some anti-industry pundits object to it on the grounds that it “legitimizes” prostitution, stripping or performing in porn. But it’s important not to use your complaints about the industry as personal attacks on everyone within it. The workers in question are “legitimate” human beings, and any framework that doesn’t recognize that needs reconfiguring.

4) Educate yourself. If you’re going to be vocal about a matter that affects countless people around the globe, inform yourself about it. Visit the websites and blogs of sex workers, activists and allies, not just here in the U.S. but abroad as well. (Sex-workers movements are active in India, Argentina, Taiwan and Sweden, to name only a few. Some resources are linked below.) Take into account the direct voices of sex workers and not just of theorists or politicians. If you see a statistic cited, check the source and examine the ways in which data was gathered. Be critical and compassionate in equal measures. Even if you take issue with the type of work they do, you’ll be sure not to trample on a sex worker’s dignity in the process.


How to Be an Ally to Sex Workers
Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
International Union of Sex Workers
Bound, Not Gagged

Photo from Flickr user art makes me smile under Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. No offense but this reads like Common Sense 101. Are we simply in need of content today? Also re-read the first sentence and tell me if it makes sense. Do "undecided" people have "strong feelings"? Does this blog have editors?

    • The thing is, even if this seems like Common Sense to you, many don't get it. Especially some feminists who claim to support sex workers and then call us "used toilets". It actually happens quite often.

      • For goodness sakes, no-one called prostituted womyn "used toilets"!

        • Not here, but I have heard that kind of language often enough. And I don't think that saying the only skills sex workers have is to be "objects for sexual enjoyment" is much more respectful, and that is something someone actually wrote here.

        • “Prostituted womyn”? I hope you’re being ironic, but i doubt it somehow. If you really think “prostituted womyn” is a valid description of women who just happen to choose an occupation that you have hangups about, then you really need to do some soul searching and work out why you’ve got a problem with it. The problem is yours, not theirs.

          For the record, i’m a man and i’ve never paid for sex, but i do respect women – which you seem not to.

    • Yes unfortunately this type of ‘101’ content is important to have out there. There are many folks who are clueless as to how to respect sex workers. Most clients couldn’t have written this blog, in my opinion, and most if not all of my clients are incredibly respectful people.

    • If only this seemed like common sense 101 to everyone. Read any blog post about a sex worker or model on a mainstream website without moderated comments and you will see the words whore, slut, pig, cum dumpster, parasite, NHI, diseased bitch….. and so on and so forth, over and over. In theory basic respect for other human beings is common sense, in practice it is not, and people need frequent reminders. Sad, but true.

      Reading can be hard for a lot of people. I believe the first sentence says MOST women have strong feelings for or against, AND many women remain undecided. To me this means the women who have strong opinions are in one group, and the undecided women are in another group. This means the lack of opinion of the undecided group is not a strong opinion. They are separate. Do you see how that works?

  2. Victoria Thomas says:

    This a very good article, well written, and balanced. Labeling sex workers is such a double bind for them whatever their motivation was for being involved with the sex industry. Since many sex workers have been traditionally women, alienating them from the womens movement by assuming they are victims is antithetical to what the movement stands for.

    • Janey Canuck says:

      Throughout this you call women who are sexually abused “sex workers” sending them a message that you don’t care, and they’d be wasting their time coming to you for help from what they know to be abuse. In my experience, what you want from them is tips on how to drive your man wild. Well here it comes: scream, bleed and rip a bit. He’ll love it, from my experience as a whore. Yes, I do have the right to use the word.

      • Why would calling a victim of sexual abuse a sex worker – or a worker of any kind – send a message of apathy? Perhaps if the person were against the right to unionize, OK, but otherwise?

        • Uh because you’re not calling it what it is?

          • The unionized sex workers of San Francisco’s Lusty Lady – owned by these self-same workers – would not consider me apathetic if I regarded them as workers.

            I’d love to see you tell them TO THEIR FACES that they are not real workers.

          • Sure sheldon, pay for my flight and accommodation and I will.

          • If you really believe in it, why not do it for free?

            And, the fact that you would ask for money from a pro-porn man certainly taints your anti-porn credentials. It seems that you’re beginning to embrace your inner Evelina. What took you so long?

          • Um hello, because not everyone can make hundreds of thousands off exploiting womyn like you do Sheldon. Also, not everyone lives in Amerika. And seeing as I'm at least a 24 hour flight away from L.A & Uni student all I have to say to you again, is pfft.

            If they really believe that what they're doing is so liberating and empowerfulising, why aren't they handing away their 'services' for free?

          • I make hundreds of thousands of dollars? Exploiting “womyn”? Really?? Wow, would just love to see your proof of that!

            If there’s a checking account in my name that I don’t know about, this could be good!

            As for your other question, that’s already been asked (and answered) of my side, by Aletha.

  3. I re-edited the first sentence, Alice–thanks for the suggestion, which I agree with! (Yes, this blog does have editors!) As for "are we simply in need of content today?"–yes, we're in need of content every day! Want to apply to be a Ms. Blogger? We're always on the lookout for smart feminists who can write and have interesting "takes." As for whether this post reads as Common Sense 101, I'd suggest that your statement indicates you've thought these issues through already–but some of our readers perhaps haven't. In which case, I think Monica's piece offers helpful suggestions and a point of view that we don't always have a chance to hear. — Michele Kort, co-editor of Ms. Blog

  4. Off the mark, MS. I think feminism needs to keep evaluating the institutions that dehumanize and trivialize women, our identities, and sexualities…not justify them, or pretend they're something they're not..

    • anastasiakeeley says:

      I agree with your assertion that "feminism needs to keep evaluating the institutions that dehumanize and trivialize women, our identities, and sexualities".

      However, I don't think it is really fair to suggest that Ms. doesn't do this. In fact, even a brief perusal of this blog would indicate just the opposite! I'm grateful to have a forum that has room for a variety of feminist voices.

      • janeyCanuck says:

        There is no "variety" of feminist voices. Feminism doesn't morph into whatever you want it to be. It's not "saveur du jour".

        "A variety of slavery voices"? Some for it, some not so. Does that sound about right to you? No? Then stop calling feminism anything that enters your head.

    • Is there something in this article about respect you’d like to specifically take issue with?

    • I think there's a big difference between evaluating/critiquing an institution/industry and tearing down the people who function within it, which is the point this post is trying to make. No matter what you think of the sex industry, it is possible to speak about and to the people affected by it in respectful ways that don't re-traumatize them.

      • Audacia, I don’t think the article is doing that. I think it’s a weak but twisted little attempt to deny the violence in prostitution by saying that acknowledging this violence hurts ‘sex workers.’

        As someone who was a call girl in New York for ten years, I find this denial quite appalling.

        I don’t think this kind of stuff should find a home on Ms. blogs.

        For example, the Monica Shores’ post links to the website for the International Union of Sex Workers. The president of the International Union of Sex Workers is a male pimp who owns one of the largest escort services in Manhattan. Why does Ms. allow this stuff?

        • Little Bird says:

          How is telling people not to call me names when discussing what I do denying the violence in prostitution? Debate all you want, but as soon as you call me a used toilet or tell me I’m not capable of making my own decisions, I know it’s not me you give a crap about, it’s your own self-serving agenda.

    • Being that most "Antis" assert that women who are in the sex industry are victims, what you're saying is that the language antis should use when discussing these women should be as insensitive as possible so as to add insult to injury. Is that correct?

      • The greatest injury to a woman enslaved is when you use language which invisibilizes the harm caused her, eumphemizing it. That's a very dishonest and well-known industry trick: call a harmful behaviour something else and poof, no more problems. Those who have no clue become one of the abusers by siding with the industry, telling her she's having a good time.

        Women who are prostituted are not working. They are being abused. This is the new slavery you are supporting, and you are being played in order to enable the ongoing harm to your sisters.

  5. The article "How To Respect Sex Workers" reminds me of a comment I wrote on November 2, 2009, at concerning the power and the misogyny of vernacular language.

    My comment stated:

    Smart Blonde, you are so correct in your thinking, but you failed to go to the vulgar extremes that are the most common derogation of women in our culture today: the word "sucks" (used commonly by both males and females) and the gesture of giving someone the finger.

    Anyone who attended parochial elementary school learned that "gosh darn it" meant "God damn it," and that other such shorthand was common in the vernacular. There was a push to know the true meanings hidden in street language, especially if those true meanings were in any way offensive to God. Of course, the teachers taught the students to not use such language.

    When my daughters came home in middle school using the word "sucks," I talked them out of using that word with a very plain description of what the word "sucks" was referring to, which is oral sex on a penis. Needless to say, my daughters were shocked and horrified, because the word had such common usage among their classmates in the public school setting.

    It shocks me that both men and women use the word "sucks" in such a derogatory fashion when oral sex is presumably a pleasurable experience for both the giver and the receiver, and can certainly be an honest expression of intimate love by the giver. Why sully such a beautiful thing? Yet our common vernacular language has done just that, and the derogation is either strongly against females or is strongly against gays.

    In the case of "the finger," I am just flabbergasted and dismayed. Anyone who has ever properly pleasured a woman or who has observed a woman pleasure herself knows exactly what "the finger" is referring to, and our culture has made that wonderful thing the ugliest, nastiest, and most profane universal gesture of hatred that there is. It is terribly, terribly sad, and it reveals just how deep-rooted and pervasive misogyny is in America today — so deep-rooted and so pervasive that even women themselves have unwittingly become misogynists against their very selves.

    The language — including gestures like "the finger" — is very powerful, both in decisive overt attack and in insidious evil undermining. If you do not control the language you use, the language will control you — sadly, too often to your own detriment.

    Profanity should be used sparingly like a weapon of last resort. Only then will it pack a punch that will be memorable in proving a point.

    I highly recommend three books:
    The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq
    By Helen Benedict, Copyright 2009

    This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor
    By Susan Wicklund, Copyright 2007

    Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student
    By Miriam Grossman (aka: Anonymous, M.D.), Copyright 2007

    If those three books together cannot raise someone's consciousness regarding misogyny in America, nothing will. The problem is much deeper than many (most) people acknowledge.

    Again, a very important part of my solution is this: http://supreme-court-gender-equality-pac.blogspot

    Steven A. Sylwester

  6. Thank you so much for this well-written perspective. You've articulated what I've seen and experienced as a woman who's worked in the sex industry and within the human rights framework as well. I'm tired of other women "advocating" on the behalf of women in the sex industry who only see victims and who have zero experience within it and yet who think they can speak for all women. I'm specifcally referring to the trafficking movement and rescue industry. Yes, there are people who have been victimized and trafficked, but there are also many who have not and it is import to separate one's own perpsective and judgments from the experiences of others. To not allow others a voice is disempowering and insulting.

  7. Some words from ex-prostitute Rebecca Mott, who knows of what she speaks, but is routinely torn down for speaking her truth by leftists and feminists who should know better: Do Not Call It Work

    "Today is International Worker’s Day, and it is a day that yet again I am stirred to state as clear as I can that prostitution is not work.

    It not just another dirty job, it is not labour that must be done by someone, it is not an exchange between two equal adults.

    It is none of them, it is a violation of human rights, it is often a form of slavery, it is the ultimate degradation of women and girls.

    Yes, I have written and said this for many years, yes, the voices of whores have said this for centuries – but the Left, much of feminism, those who claimed to care for human rights and the liberals make the choice to go deaf to our voices.

    Instead they build a myth around prostitution, and seek desperately for whores to fit into their world view. In this view, prostitution becomes chosen work, with some illegal stuff going on but the sex trade will control that.

    That is a deep and dangerous insult to the vast majority of prostituted women and girls, for it helps to the everyday violence that is their reality is invisible."

    • I suspect that one reason she is torn down is that she claims her truth is universal, that what she had done in the past should not be considered 'sex work' for anybody. It is one thing to say, "This doesn't apply to me", but she won't stop there.

      Another possible reason why she might be torn down is that she contradicts herself. She writes, "The sex trade is a terrible employer on every level." Why is she using the term 'employer'? Employers have, after all, employees, i.e. workers. Workers do…work!

      Sex workers have unionized in several places around the world – in San Francisco, Holland and most notably in Central Asia. Do "the Left, much of feminism, those who claimed to care for human rights and the liberals" deafen themselves to the voice of rmott62, or are they listening to those others as well?

      • Rebecca Mott picks her words very carefully. She has used ’employers’ for a reason – to highlight the fact that the ‘sex trade’ is abuse. ‘Employers’ is ironic, intended to point out the absurdity.

        ‘deafen themselves to the voice of rmott62’? Wow.

        People DON’T listen to people like Rebecca because she doesn’t tell them the lovely, heartwarming stories that they want to hear.

        • Ms. Mott did not use scarequotes around the word 'employer' – she was being serious.

          Whe you want people to listen to what survivors have to say, be careful what yoiu wish for. Some of us may pick up inconsistencies that contradict your political agenda.

      • Here’s an appropriate companion piece for Ms Shores’ article:

        • SheilaIsNotMySister says:

          So the upshot of your article is that sex workers oppress "survivors", especially radical feminists.

          Well, thanks for that clarification, Laurelin. So its really radical feminists who are the ultimate oppressed class, and as such, should be held to no standards at all as to how they treat other people.

      • She is answering those who call it work. For every woman who sees the sex trade as an empowering choice, there are thousands who were forced into it, whether by economics and abuse or being turned out as a girl or teen by predatory pimps, or their own mother on crack, or one who herself was born into a brothel. Your comment and others here pretend that the vast historical edifice of coercion does not exist. So i don’t think you are listening to the testimony of Rebecca and the others, like the Aboriginal Women’s movement in Vancouver, who are speaking out. Theirs are the voices who are being suppressed. The others are all over the alternative press.

        • The mainstream media does not suppress the voices of the coerced – those are the ones who are being promoted. It's t.he alternative press where you'll find the voices of organized sex workers.

          • Actually, most of the time in mainstream media, if you hear about prostituted womyn it's because they've been murdered. Or they've been nominated western-media sweetheart du jour.

    • I don't think anyone would try to silence her, especially not the feminist mainstream. It's sex workers themselves who have different experiences, who say "i'm very sorry to hear you had that terrible experience, but for me it is not that way." that is not the same as silencing, it's making one's one voice heard. Rebecca does not acknowlege that prostitution can be anything else than the horror that she experienced. I do not doubt that it was like that for her, not at all… but she shouldn't deny other experiences either. That would be a start to try to make it better, safer for everyone involved.

      • Sina, perhaps you ought to read more of that blog before you jump to conclusions about what she is saying or denying. This is from July 22, Break Down
        "I need to say some of the stuff that supporters of the sex trade feel they have the right to say or write to me. I usually delete or try to ignore that callous language , but it burns at my soul.

        I am continually told to kill myself, or that the fact I have not kill myself means that it was not as bad as I claim.

        I am often told I am lying about indoors prostitution – for there is no significant violence in indoors prostitution, that the women the are in that system are respected and empowered.

        If it is true that there was violence, I am told it was because it was several years ago, that it must be a very dodgy place/s I was in, that I must have encouraged/enjoy the violence and degradation, I should have reported it or walked out.

        Some women who owned brothels try to show how safe their place, if I had worked for them I would be fine and dandy."

        "Supporters of the sex trade, especially those who are embedded in the sex trade – want exited women who speak not just to shut, but to wipe us off this earth.

        Prostitutes are not meant to survive, and if they are lucky enough to exit, they are not meant to remember the reality of their hell.

        By not just exiting and somehow building another life, but also being brave and strong to speak out, those exited women can expose the sex trade right down to its roots.

        We are hated – we are told to kill ourselves, that our words will never heard for we are just mental, that all our knowledge of torture will never be believed.

        The sex trade hates us for being a traitor and being too stubborn to die."

        You do not think anyone would try to silence her? There are plenty of people trying to discredit and ridicule her, and some call themselves feminists.

        This is from a week earlier, You are Not Just an Individual
        "I wish to write this to the constant flow of women who go on and on about how happy they are doing prostitution, for I am so sick of your selfish attitude.

        Any woman or girl who is paid for sex, including myself, is part of a system designed on the destruction of the vast majority of its goods. That is to say the foundation of the sex trade is the rape, torture and mental destruction of an underclass named prostitute.

        The vast majority of the prostituted are women and girls.

        I would never deny that there women in the sex trade who have a good time – but they need see beyond their own experiences, and know they are giving permission for the sexual trade to continue violence and degradation as the norm."

        "For the women who continually say they have had no bad experiences with johns – well yippee for you, but that is not the norm in prostitution.

        Also, to survive prostitution is vital to lessen the violence and degradation in order to survive.

        When you are treated continually as an object to be masturbated into and used as a porn-toy, it completely normal to say it just fine and it your choice.

        It may be rape to others, others may see battering, others may named it as sexual torture – but it just your job, and you may say you enjoy it.

        I know I said often enough that it was just fun, that I begun to believe I enjoy the hell I was in.

        It was not until several years after exiting and completely leaving that life behind, I got PTSD and saw I had been tortured.

        I am told that I was just unlucky, got bad clients, worked in isolation, that if was so bad I should be dead.

        Well if I just unlucky, then so are the vast majority of prostituted women and girls in the world."

        Who is denying or refusing to acknowledge what here?

        • Who are the feminists who want her dead? Who are the feminists who want women like her wiped off the face of the earth? Does she name names? Does she have direct quotes from their e-mails, fore example?

          When Mott says of sex workers who are fine with their profession that she is "so sick of their selfish attitude", yup, that is exactly the sort of insulting language that Sina was talking about.

        • Ok, then she does have a good reason to shut down comments. Even though I can't really believe those who wrote those things to her seriously thought of themselves as feminists. But blaming Sex workers who advocate to work in a self-respecting way for the pain of others is plain b****, pardon the language. Who would ever get the idea to blame construction workers, housekeepers etc. for the slavery that occurs in their profession??It's just the whores who are responsible for other women, it's always been that way. whores make other women look bad, whores sully the "honor" of womanhood- and now it's the "happy whores" who are responsible for slavery.

          • Uh dude, slavery in construction workers? Housekeepers, yeah, that I can believe, but seriously. Wtf?

            Again, you're totally erasing the AGENCY of the JOHNS who CHOOSE to pay to ABUSE womyn.

          • Then I suggest you educate yourself about the work conditions of migrant construction workers in dubai.

    • Thanks for linking to Rebecca Mott's great article, Do Not Call It Work. It was the one bright light in this depressing discussion. Prostitution is the world's oldest oppression.

  8. This is an immensely irresponsible article, which falls straight into the hands of those who support the 'sex industry'.

    As Aletha has pointed out, the 'sex trade' is responsible for the mass rape and torture of women and girls worldwide. To make out that feminist protests against are to do with some misguided 'judgement' of those who are victims of it is unconscionable.

    All the links on the post are to pro-'sex work' organisations that *promote* this 'industry'. I suggest the author educate herself on these issues by looking at resources such as these:

    The vast majority of women and girls raped and destroyed by pimps and johns do not have the luxury of arguing about what label suits them best. Please think about what you are doing, and what you are supporting here. This is life and death, not academia.

    • I'd like to suggest that silencing women's voices who have experience in the sex industry is also responsible for "the mass rape and torture of women and girls worldwide" because if we do not allow those who know this life to voice their perspective then how can we create better policies, health promotion and outreach as well as viable options for alternative employment? Feminism alienates women when it doesn't show an interest in alternative voices and experiences…and I agree it IS life and death.

      • janeyCanuck says:

        "(…) create better policies, health promotion and outreach as well as viable options for alternative employment?"

        Was there some precedence for this "promotion and outreach" in slavery era America?

      • I agree with you. Allowing the voices of those who are directly effected to be heard is the most important part of feminist work.

        It’s vital, however, to make sure that the voices being heard are really representative and that we don’t mistake the words of a minority – a minority with better opportunities to speak out and be understood – as universal.

        That is not to say that it isn’t important to deal respectfully and fairly with those who choose to call what they do ‘sex work’. It is wrong to dismiss out of hand their right to self-identify. But it is also wrong to assume that they speak for the ‘industry’ as a whole. Sex workers must surely understand that this is a conversation which we all need to have?

        The webcam sex performer who takes umbrage at being called a victim for her choices has the right to have her complaint heard. And the right to build her own language and community. But along with that, she has the responsibility to consider the repercussions for those prostituted women who do not have her privilege.

        When promoting a new language to fight against her own oppression, every feminist has the responsibility to question whether that language will harm those facing greater or different oppressions. That’s fundamental stuff. If the term ‘sex work’ helps protect women, then it should be respected. If, however, the same language makes life more dangerous and more harmful for other women who do not have the same access to ways and means of promoting new terminology, then this conversation is not over and we’re not yet ready to roll out the new dictionaries.

  9. berryblade says:

    So, if a womon is being paid to fuck a man that she would not voluntarily fuck, for money, and calling that what is is (rape) is not okay? Pffft.

    "Off the mark, MS. I think feminism needs to keep evaluating the institutions that dehumanize and trivialize women, our identities, and sexualities…not justify them, or pretend they're something they're not.."

    Second this.

    • Julian Morrison says:

      It's not acceptable to take unto yourself what ought to be her choice, to say "rape" or not. Consent matters, coercion matters – who is well placed to weigh up what to call it? She is. You are not.

      • janeyCanuck says:

        "take unto yourself "


        Where in hell do you guys get your "how to talk like a woman" lessons? Is this from that chapter of the Bible that deals with Salome?

      • Consent is an invented word designed to keep men out of prison. It’s a crock of shit that’s used to distract from what’s actually a harmful activity for womyn.

        • If consent is an 'invented' (bogus) concept, then who decides what constitues harm?

          By the way, all words were invented, even 'feminism'.

        • Ah, so you're a rape apologist? ignoring consent and playing it down is usually their tactic.. who gets to decide what is good for ourselves, what we're allowed to do with our own bodies? the men? other women? YOU??

          • Golly, what a cheap shot. You know what berryblade meant, but you reverse her meaning, choosing to ignore and play down the implications and circumstances surrounding the "consent" of the vast majority of women in the sex trade. Is it possible to "consent" to be raped? You can deny it is rape all you want, but if the "sex" is really desired, why take money for it? Is unwanted sex not rape? Is it not possible for people to fool themselves about what is good for them, especially if the money is good? Why do you have a problem with feminists objecting to women being reduced to sex objects? How is that good for any woman, let alone women in general?

          • Do we really know what berryblade meant? Berryblade worded her thoughts about consent in such a way that makes Sina’s interpretation entirely plausible. And since it has been documented that anti-porn feminists such as Evelina Giobbe and Kyle Payne couldn’t care less about consent, hell, what’s one more?

            “…if the “sex” is really desired,why take money for it?” Y’know, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep and Al Pacino claim they just love to act, but perhaps this should be questioned since they insist on taking money for it, too! One can genuinely desire an activity and also want compensation for it because it is labor-intensive and people need to eat.

          • Consent is a can of worms, used by rapists to discredit their victims when it is his word against hers, as well as to whitewash the circumstances contaminating the “consent” of far too many women in the sex trade. You and I have argued about that previously. You want to believe consent is a simple matter of agreement. Why a woman would agree to allow herself to be reduced to a sex object is not something to be dismissed as irrelevant. Are you seriously arguing that most prostitutes genuinely desire their johns? Give me a break!

            I should thank the moderators for finally approving my comment quoting from two more entries from Rebecca Mott’s blog. It only took a week.

          • Informed consent does not equal "genuine desire". After all, a pregnant woman will give her informed consent to having an abortion without having some deep, genuine desire for one.

            When sex work is legal, or better still, decriminalized, informed consent is prevalent. That is why NOW supported decriminalization back in 1973, as do I and my fellow liberal feminists.

          • "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the members of the National Organization for Women (NOW), meeting in Convention in Boston, Mass., call upon the United States Senate to censure and expel David Vitter for conduct unbecoming a Senator, engaging the services of a prostitute and violation of the laws of the District of Columbia…"

            Funny, it does not sound like NOW thinks that law should be repealed. I think it is more likely NOW supported decriminalization because prostitutes should not be treated as criminals, regardless of whether their "consent" was informed, not informed, or nonexistent.

            When a prostitute gives "consent," does she really know what she is in for? I submit, usually she does not. She takes a chance, hoping the john will treat her with some degree of decency. This is not informed consent, and changing the law will not change that. A woman getting an abortion generally does know what is involved, though in rare cases there may be unexpected complications. Also, a woman getting an abortion generally feels she needs to terminate the pregnancy. Is such a feeling of need not genuine desire? I submit, it is genuine desire, amplified by a sense of urgency. Show me a woman who would get an abortion she did not want because she would be paid for it. The only reason I can imagine an adult woman would get an abortion she did not genuinely want is if someone else, such as the father, puts heavy pressure on her to terminate the pregnancy. It seems to me, most prostitutes suppress genuine revulsion and fear because they need the money. Again, this hardly qualifies as informed consent.

          • The NOW resolution called for Vitter's expulsion because he was caught violating the law, regardless of the law's wisdom. Not only does the resolution not address what should happen to prostitution per se, it unquestionably accepts and employs the term "sex worker" several times.

            The level of risk in prostitution is obviously linked to its legality – the less legal something is, the more likely a criminal element is involved, with all the attendant violence and mayhem. That includes abuse by the police, which is rarely mentioned by anti-sex work feminists.

            "Genuine desire amplified by a sense of urgency" is oxymoronic. Genuine desire is wanting to realize one of your life's ambitions, like, say, wanting to become an astronaut or a doctor or, yes, a sex worker, or a leader of some kind. Who desires to be rushed by urgency?

          • Sheldon, are you playing word games? NOW called for Vitter to be expelled for several reasons. It did not have to mention that he broke the law against prostitution. His hypocrisy was disgusting, but his attempt to cover up for his staffer who assaulted a woman with a knife was a worse offense, and reason enough for NOW to call for his expulsion. If NOW thought that law should be thrown out entirely, why would it be relevant? Perhaps because NOW, as I suggested above, is concerned about the fact that "female sex workers are routinely arrested in the District of Columbia for engaging in prostitution, while their clients are rarely so affected…"

            I think NOW was weighing in on what should happen to prostitution, to wit, prostitutes should not be arrested, or if they are, johns should be treated equally.

            If you were talking about drug prohibition, I would agree the level of risk is linked to legality, but in the case of prostitution, the link is debatable, not so obvious as you suggest. Boys will be boys, after all, regardless of the law. When a john abuses a prostitute, he is the criminal, and no external criminal "element" need encourage him. And did I not just mention prostitutes should not be treated as criminals? This is a rather common stance among radical feminists.

            The desire for an abortion is not about being rushed by urgency. Nobody desires to be in a situation where abortion is the best or only choice. Are you saying that a woman who wants to get out of a bad situation does not genuinely desire that? I think you are splitting hairs to save your stretched analogy. What about the desire for sex? It has nothing to do with realizing a life ambition, but are you saying that desire is not genuine, because its scope is not on that scale?

          • You're the one playing word games by reserving the phrase 'genuine desire' solely for activities that you are predisposed to approve of. You refuse to recognize that this concept also applies for activities you oppose, especially participation in the adult sex industry.

            "Boys will be boys, after all, regardless of the law." So what's the point of having laws, then, if it's hopeless? Not much gender essentialism there, eh?

            As a rule, johns abuse prostitutes because they feel the law allows them to get away with it. That perception will change when decriminalization occurs and then the police, institutionally, can be in a position to help, not hurt, sex workers.

            Your intention of bringing up the Vitter resolution was to insinuate that NOW was changing its mind on decriminalization, so I pointed out that that simply was not so.

          • "Genuine desire is wanting to realize one of your life's ambitions…"
            And you say I am restricting the concept? I am not saying no woman can genuinely desire to hurt herself, though I think the source of such a desire should not be off limits for analysis. I am saying the vast majority of prostitutes have no desire, genuine or otherwise, for their johns. They just want the money. Why is this distinction meaningless to you?

            Gender essentialism refers to making absolute statements about a gender. I made a general statement, not an absolute statement. As I have said ad nauseum, if I mean to say something about all men, I will use the word all.

            The law is notoriously ineffective in protecting women against abuse in relationships, and I see no reason to believe changing the legal status of prostitution will deter johns from abusing prostitutes. Perhaps a few would be deterred, but in general? People do not commit crimes because they think they can get away with it. They may be deterred from committing a crime if they do not think they can get away with it, but the reason for the crime is not the expectation of impunity, rather a desire for the perceived reward, in this case the enjoyment of abusing a woman. How effective is the law against rape? When it is a the word of a man against a woman, a woman has little chance of seeing justice, a prostitute even less so. It will take more than a change in the law to change that facet of this sexist culture.

            I brought up the Vitter resolution because I doubt your interpretation of why NOW supports decriminalization is the real reason. Feminists know the law against prostitution just adds insult to injury, especially since the law is generally enforced by prosecuting prostitutes, not johns. I doubt NOW opposes that law because it believes prostitution is not injurious to women; the law as it stands is unfair, misguided, focuses on the wrong party, and just makes matters worse.

          • I'm pretty sure Johns abuse the prostituted womyn because the feel like the womyn aren't fully human, they can do whatever they want because they're paying for it (and by extension, own another.)

            Pigs included.

          • This + 1

          • …continued…

            Getting an abortion is not "genuine desire", but making the best out of a bad situation, unless there are lots of girls who say they want to get abortions when they grow up. It's informed consent, not perfect consent.

            "It seems to me, most prostitutes suppress genuine revulsion and fear because they need the money. Again, this hardly qualifies as informed consent."
            Actually, it is informed consent. I've worked as a computer programmer for industries that I have despised but I could not be open about it in order to keep my job. My consent was certainly informed, But, like that of the prostitute, it's imperfect consent, fitted to our imperfect society.

          • The sex worker gives informed consent to have sex, in the forms that have been discussed before or implicitly by simply doing it. Everything that is not in the realm of that consent is rape.

            Do you think women who have an abortion enjoy the abortion itself? Or do they enjoy not having to deal with the baby, maybe because they have too little money?

          • Are you accusing me of something by comparing me to Payne?

          • I’m a rape survivor thank you very much. Read Aletha’s comment.

          • Ok. But defining consent more narrowly is something quite different than saying it's just something invented.

          • Wow gee thanks. As a rape survivor that makes me feel SO much better. All I'm saying is if men didn't feel entitled to 24/7 access to womyn's bodies the whole concept of "consent" wouldn't be needed, now would it?

          • Consent is not something that is restricted to the realm of sexuality, it is important in every aspect of life.

          • But we're not talking about every day life here, we are talking about the 'sex' industry

          • But you were saying that the verey concept of consent was invented to give men alibis for sexual abuse. Sina pointed out that the concept existed in non-sexual areas before it was applied to laws concerning rape.

    • I forget the darn court case..but there was a case of a man raping a woman and cutting off her arms saying she liked the torture…he would've gotten away with it had he not thrown money on her dying body…implying he was a john… they couldn't/wouldn't convict him of rape, but the only way they could convict him was because prostitution was illegal in that state.

  10. I just recently published an academic paper on sex work and could hardly be better pleased with this blog. One of the greatest realizations of my research was to not remove the agency of those involved in sex work, and I am glad this blog addresses that as well as the use of labels. My only complaint is referring to sex workers as strictly female, as males are just as involved, making this more than an issue of patriarchy versus feminism.

  11. "Similarly, language implying that sex workers are defiled or disgusting will quickly alienate them"

    Obviously pornographers and men using language that defiles and disgusts them hasn't alienated supposedly choiceful "sex workers" out of the industry. In fact, pornographers and men calling women defiling and disgusting names is a big part of what they pay for.

    The sexist men who interact with prostituted women daily are off less concern to Ms. Shores than her desire to deliberately twist feminist concerns about the way these men treat women into some nonsense "attack" on sex workers that never was.

    When "We treat this cumslurping cunt like a human toilet!" is common advertising parlance for the porn industry- and it is – wagging a finger at feminist women for reporting that men look at women in porn like human toilets is anti-feminist rape apologia.

    Ms. Shores, why don't you take your wagging finger over to the strip clubs and the porn producers and tell them to quit it with the defiling and disgusting language that makes sex workers feel less than human? You have anti-sex discrimination laws on your side should you choose to stop targeting feminists who don't abuse sex workers in favor of targeting men who do abuse them verbally and elsewise.

    • Monica Shores says:

      CalleCa, how am I "targeting" feminists and whose concerns am I twisting? As someone who knows, loves, and is proud to call many ex and current sex workers friends, I'm confused about who you think was wronged by this blog post. Given your first paragraph, it seems you're angry that I'm suggesting people not use ugly language when referring to sex workers. Is insulting sex workers somehow a necessity for abolitionists? Must they mimic the tactics of the people they oppose? If the answer is no, then there's no reason to take issue with that point.

      I specifically write that there is room for critique of the sex industry. I am only proposing that such critiques be undertaken with care for those who work in it. It baffles me this idea could incite such a response from you. If we as feminists can't manage to treat sex workers with respect, how can we demand that others do the same?

      • Well said!

      • What a wonderful reply. That feminists are allowed to insult sex workers because some profiteers of the sex industry do it, we won't be getting anywhere with equality.

      • Pointing out the ways in which men display their hatred of women is nothing like "mimicking tactics."

        When you started from the premise that feminists hate sex workers you twisted legitimate expressions of concern for how men get away with sexually abusing women into accusations of feminists abusing women.

        "you're angry that I'm suggesting people not use ugly language when referring to sex workers."

        No, the anger is over made-up accusations of abuse from feminists at the same time you refuse to target the male demand for the sex industry that actually does frequently abuse sex workers. Where are the sex worker rights campaigns aimed at teaching men how to not use dehumanizing language when producing or consuming sex industry products?

        Why don't you join with Gail Dines and other abolishionists when they criticize the men who put out those goddamn AWFUL, deeply misogynistic titles the porn industry puts out every week? Instead of working with them to rid the world of everything that starts "A Cumsucking Whore Named…" you chastise the feminists who are seeking to end sex worker violence at its source- the johns.

        I don't trust what you're seeking to accomplish when you accuse feminists of hating prostitutes while letting the real abusers of women get off, literally.

        • Monica Shores says:

          Where did I say that feminist hate sex workers? You’ve repeated this twice—maybe you can select the exact quote? I’m a feminist, and I don’t hate prostitutes, so that would be a confusing view for me to hold. What I’m seeking to accomplish is a respectful dialogue.

          • I'll answer your question with specific examples if you answer the two questions asked above. I asked first, so you answer first.

          • I suppose you don't have to answer any dialogue-enhancing questions if you can just take your anti-feminism straight to the liberal men at Alternet for validation. The men there sure gave this article a better reception than the women here did.

            MS Magazine has changed a lot from the magazine I used to love years ago. I never would have expected unsubstantiated accusations about how feminists disrespect prostituted women as much as pornographers and johns to be heralded under the MS brand.

        • "I don't trust what you're seeking to accomplish when you accuse feminists of hating prostitutes while letting the real abusers of women get off, literally."

          Exactly! When was the last time you heard of a feminist raping a prostituted womon, murdering a prostituted womon, torturing a prostituted womon, trafficking a prostituted womon… the list goes on. You know why? Because they don't. Pimps (men) and johns (ALSO MEN) do.

    • Damn beautiful.

    • "Obviously pornographers and men using language that defiles and disgusts them hasn't alienated supposedly choiceful "sex workers" out of the industry. In fact, pornographers and men calling women defiling and disgusting names is a big part of what they pay for."

      The offensive language in the advertising in question is directed at the characters in those porn videos, not the performers playing the role.

      Anti-porn crusaders of either gender regularly use defamatory language toward the performers, not the characters. That's the difference.

      • Because you know, a real human being wasn’t called those names just for the sake of so-called “fantasy”

        And uh, where have any anti-pornography feminists used defamatory language towards the performers, here, or uh, anywhere?

        • That’s right , I do know, because I worked in that business for 7 years and have maintained my contacts since then. There’s nothing so-called about the fantasy – that’s what the porn business is all about.

          MacKinnon called all feminists who disagreed with her “Uncle Toms” at the 1988 anti-porn conference at NYU, “The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism”, including feminist porn performers. Dworkin’s husband, John Stoltenbger, called Candida Royalle a pimp when he was interviewed by myself and noted Wiccan practitioner Margot Adler on WBAI radio in 1986.

          • You see, that's funny cos I always thought the definition of 'fantasy' was : imagination unrestricted by reality.

            And seeing as porn happens in reality, and not the imagination of the johns or pimps who produce and consume it, or to the prostituted womyn within it. Feminist porn is an oxymoron – how many meat-eating vegans are there, honestly? It's totally contradictory to the aims of the cause, I believe you (and many others) are confusing "liberalism" and "harm minimisation" with "feminism", because believe me, the three are totally different.

          • "And seeing as porn happens in reality…" Ah,but I DO NOT see that, certainly not in the vast numbers you and your side of the ledger claims.

            If porn happened in reality, for example, then every woman would be openly bisexual or lesbian.

          • What I meant was that porn happens on THIS PLANE OF EXISTENCE. It’s not existing solely inside someone’s head. Therefore, porn is happening in reality.

          • So, what is the point? The Hollywood fantasy movie "The Lord of the Rings" is part of THIS PLANE OF EXISTENCE (duh!), but the movie depicts events that do NOT happen on THIS PLANE OF EXISTENCE.

            Substitute virtually any porn movie for "Lord of the Rings" in the above sentence, and it's the same thing. One is non-sexual fantasy, the other is sexual fantasy.

            The porn fantasy is taken from someone's head and enacted on celluloid. Those are the only realities it inhabits.

          • Oh come on now, you're just being factitious. There is a big difference between a fantasy-fictional-narrative that presents itself (and acknowledges its fantasy element) and the fantasy-fictional-non-narrative that presents itself as non-fiction. Fantasy is a genre, or something that happens inside of someone's head. Porn is not either of those things.

            P.S Candida Royalle IS a pimp.

  12. Dear Emily

    Could you give us some examples of this "agency" enjoyed by sex workers?

    • berryblade says:

      I'd like to see them too.

      • Given this organisation is created by sex workers, for sex workers would that be acceptable to you?

        • Telling prostituted womyn to use lubricant and condoms makes about as much sense as telling someone who's trapped in a room with a pissed off bear to put some kevlar on.

          It's this harm minimisation bullshit that really gets to me – it's just a way of taking the onus of responsibility away from those who CREATE THE HARM (the pimps and the johns) and placing it back on to the womon.

          • Sex workers providing condoms to their customers is no different than waiters/waitresses providing napkins for restaurant customers.

            It’s a courtesy that’s part of what the customer pays for.

          • So human beings are a good to be consumed now?

          • Sex workers provide sex. Food workers provide food. Both provide accessories,

          • You will die if you do not eat. You will not die if you don't have sex.

          • That particular difference between food and sex is irrelevant to the analogy being made. We were talking about the burden of harm minimization being on the service provider, as if that were inherently unfair to sex workers. But, as I labored to point out, waiters and waitresses do the same thing by providing napkins, and no one complains about that.

          • So harm is acceptable in the first place?

            Please, I don't buy into that liberalist, harm-minimisation bullhockey. Waitresses and waiters do not have to deal with the contraction of STI's/HIV/AIDS/Unwanted pregnancy/uterine prolapse/obstetrics' fistulas/psycho-sexual-abuse, and the bevvy of other 'conditions' that prostituted womyn find themselves working under.

            And I'm saying this as someone who's worked in both hospitality and the 'sex' industry.

            Also, my analogy is not irrelevant. You will NOT die if you don't have sex but you WILL DIE if you do not eat food. Human anatomy/biology, I recommend you learn about it sometime.

  13. Following on from CalleCa's comment about the misdirection of your criticism in this piece, just as a direct example to illustrate her argument it is extremely odd that in the same article you link to which contains authorial language to which you object, there is also a quotation from a website that uses images of "sex workers" as the pornographic product it sells to consumers. This is how the website describes the "sex workers" whose images it is selling (warning racist-misogynist triggering language):

    "Ghetto Gaggers that accompanies pictures of “Vixen” covered in semen:
    Vixen is a sassy ghetto fabulous beyatch with more attitude than Harlem has crack. She needed a learnin’ by some white cocks …. Ghetto Gaggers, we destroy ghetto hoes …."

    The article is also illustrated with a porn video, "Nappy Headed Hos"

    Like CalleCa says, where is the criticism of the sex industry that routinely uses this extraordinarily degrading racist and sexist language about its workers? It isn't feminists talking about women in the prostitution industry like this, it's the employers and the customers. It is anti-porn anti prostitution feminists who are objecting to it.

    "We destroy ghetto hoes"

    Do you really have nothing to say about this?

    • Monica Shores says:

      I think I've just said it, in response to CalleCa: Feminism is in a sad place if it defends the way it uses language by saying those marketing pornography do the same. Clearly, unfortunately, some self-identified feminists do talk about sex workers "like that," as you can see if the comment referenced in the post. I'm disturbed that you and CalleCa seem to find this behavior worth defending, and call criticism of such language "misdirected." If it's wrong for pornographers to use, why is it right for feminists to use? Can we not expect more of fellow feminists?

      In this instance, I was writing about how to show sex workers respect while critiquing the sex industry. I didn't say "the sex industry should not be critiqued," although some seem to have read (or not read) the article as such. It was not within the purview of this specific blog post to reopen a debate about racism and pornography, and indeed that debate was still going on within the comments of Gail Dines's and Shira Tarrant's pieces. I think it speaks volumes that some commenters here chose to ignore the entire point of the post in favor of leveling personal attacks at me (that I only want sex tips from prostitutes, or don't care about sexism.) It's time to put down the weapons and stop treating everyone who advocates sex workers' rights as a sex industry apologist. On the contrary, the very act of acknowledging that sex workers need rights requires acknowledging there are serious problems with the current labor system. I happen to believe that addressing those problems successfully requires recognizes the humanity and basic dignity of sex workers themselves. I hope this, at least, is a point on which we can agree.

      • But that wasn't the defense, you're misrepresenting what I said and what CalleCa said and what Gail Dines said. Feminism doesn't use the language of misogyny and hatred against women. Feminists are not talking about women like this. That quotation from Gale Dines was describing how the sex industry treats some of the women in it. Would you deny that there are women being severely abused and degraded to make porn and that the pornographers do actually see these women as objects to be used and defiled?

        How is it that a whole article about "How to respect Sex Workers" contains zero commentary about the real hatred and degradation meted out on the women in the sex industry day in day out, and instead pretends that the disrespect is coming from feminists. It's a smokescreen and it's dishonest.

        • Monica Shores says:

          Sarah, the only complaint I can parse from what you've said is that you wanted me to write a piece I didn't write and didn't purport to write, something like, "the sex industry is evil and feminists are above reproach." There are plenty of feminists who exhibit disrespect towards sex workers, unwittingly or otherwise, and I can't tell if you've just never come across it or if you refuse to acknowledge it. But there are links within the article to make the point. (I originally wrote a piece with more examples of this unfortunate situation, and I'm hoping it will be up on the Ms. blog in the future.) No one has a monopoly on carelessness or prejudice. Your critique is the equivalent of saying that progressives shouldn't check each other's use of sensationalism because conservatives do it so much more often and with impunity.

          I don't agree with you that damage is done by advocating respectful exchanges, and I don't think there would be this swell of defensiveness unless some people reading the piece recognized they've not always been as thoughtful as they should have been. You seem unwilling to admit any value in reminding each other to be careful with our language and with our assumptions, so I don't think my responding to you is doing any good. If no feminist on earth has room for improvement, then this article is moot. It's not a manifesto on why the sex industry is infallible.

          And the quote is not from Gail Dines. The quote is from a comment in response to that piece.

          • That woman was not calling sex workers toilets. She was pointing out that men treat women in porn like toilets, men talk about women in porn as if they are toilets, men joke about women in porn as if they are toilets. It disturbs her that men treat women like human toilets.

            Even if she did say that, millions of men the world over will not be masturbating to a feminist blog comment tonight the way they will spew gallons of semen over pornography tonight.

        • Gringasalsera says:

          It looks like you,re trying to say she should have written a how to respect sex workers directed at men, specifically pimps and Johns, instead of to the the people who probably make up more of this blog’s readerships, feminists.

          • A Google search for Monica turns up a lot of pro-prostitution articles, a couple of blog posts about how feminists harm sex workers, and absolutely nothing about or directed at the male consumers who come into contact with and abuse sex workers every day.

            After four years as a leader in the so-called "sex worker rights activism" Monica should be able to point to a few campaigns directed at the abusers of women, the men who are the prostitution industry's consumers. That there has never been such a campaign for male consumer accountability reveals much about people who speciously defend prostitution as work.

      • I'm curious as to how the development of rights is to occur when we allow access to, and, human beings to be brought and sold?

    • Maybe you should read Ms.Shores reply to CalleCa's comment. There she explains it quite clearly.

  14. As a sex worker nothing pisses me off and alienates me more then some self identified feminist calling me names and belittling me for how i chose to make living and what i chose to do with my own body.

    You don't have to agree with my choice to be a sex worker but if you want me to listen to your argument, then maybe, just maybe you should try to speak to me like I'm an adult who is capable of making her own decisions not like big daddy who knows whats best for me. Whats next telling me to get in the kitchen and make you a turkey pot pie, then get on my knees and blow you? Cuz when you call me a used toilet, put me down and try to shame me for the choices i make you sound just like some stereotypical male notion of what women should be and do.

    Great Article Ms Shores, its about time someone from Ms took the time to address this issue.

    Jenny DeMilo

    • Sorry, where did anyone call YOU (specifically, or hell, any prostituted womon) a used toilet?

      • DownUnderAussie says:

        This is precisely the kind of thing I see all over the place coming from sex workers. The plan is to misrepresent your position and then scream at you and accuse you of things you plainly didn't do. If anything, sex workers need to focus on the ways MEN abuse them because THAT's the locus of the problem. As long as men demand women be bought as sex objects and women jump to fill that need then there will be no respect for women as a whole. And on top of that, sex workers will defend the men that abuse them and spit in the face of feminists simultaneously.

        We're getting in the way of the patriarchy doncha know! That's intolerable! *snicker*

        • Im not “mirepreseting” myself im speaking my truth.

          I don’t feel abused by “men” who chose to use my services because I’m not being abused. However i do feel belittled, put down, insulted, and disrespected by self identified feminists who tell me what i should do with my own body and try to turn me into a victim because it furthers their personal agendas and antiquated notions of what a women should be.

          Jenny DeMilo

      • The link to the “toilet” comment which was right here on the MsBlog was included in the article:


        • but was that comment directed at you, or any other prostituted womon specifically? No. It was a statement critising the over all institution of pornstitution and how it presents womyn as a group.

          • It was directed at sex workers. I am a sex worker. I find it really appalling anyone would defend calling women toilets, especially a supposed feminist. Keep defending that behavior though if it makes you happy. I'll defend respectful discourse.

          • Did it say "Sex workers are used toilets"? Or anything to that effect?


          • You called us objects. As if having sex makes us less human. You maybe think that you just point out what the customers think about us, but youŕe wrong. Most treat us like they would treat any other human being: With respect. You enforce the idea that we are objects by claiming we are "made objects".

          • Dude, wtf? Where did I or any other rad-fem call you an object. BE SPECIFIC NOW.

          • Well I'm glad your johns treated you with respect, but for myself and many others this is not the case. Because they think they are buying a product, not a person, and if they are aware they are buying a person, it's usually part of the thrill for them.

    • Exactly. Who objectifies who? Is it the men…or the feminists who think women in the sex industry are deluded if they don't "wake up" under the deluge cranky, if cerebral, insults? When personal agency isn't respected, it is essentially objectification–just under a different guise.

      • Could you please give me some examples of personal agency in whoring? Let me hear it. I never saw any, but maybe I didn't know what to look for. Let's have it.

        • All sex workers I know personnaly have chosen it free from any duress, they all had plenty of other options to earn money but prefered sex work (myself included). They have strict boundaries which they enact, they choose who to see and refuse anyone who doesn't show them respect. Another example would be Jenny Demilo who also commented here, and she also seems to have plenty of confidence in acting out what she wants. Or what do you define as agency?

  15. I have never seen a feminist call a prostituted person a “toilet.” This seems like a wedge to split women apart from each other.

  16. I'm really surprised it's so difficult for so many to understand how to and why to respect people, including sex workers, especially after having read an explanatory post about the very subject! Let's make it simple: Sex workers are people. As with any group of people, their experiences are myriad and varied. We must respect *all* of these experiences, the good, bad, ugly, and neutral. Moreover, we have to stop silencing sex workers. Who else knows better about their own experiences than the person who experienced them? That is, if you want to fix the problems with sex work you're gonna need sex workers' help. And if we're respecting individuals then we also need to use respectful language.

    This blog post is a perfect place to start respecting and listening to people with experience in sex work! Why don't we listen to those posting and respect their requests of how to be treated and talked to and about? Because there are ways to talk about and battle indignity and even crime without revictimizing victims and survivors!

  17. You know, I just re-read the stories of the women murdered in Vancouver, the prostituted sexually enslaved girls and women, at least one of whom is my kin. Their surviving families, mothers, sisters, children — not one said

    "We knew it was disgusting and unsafe what she was doing, but we were so proud of her, with all that agency."

    • I am so sorry for your loss. Survival sex is not a situation with a great deal of personal agency.

      • My kin thought it was going to be the way you’ve painted it. Do you think she was a drug addicted whore born? She was drawn into it, being pretty and thinking she was doing what white girls told her was fun. And it was so disgusting to be going down with men she would never chose to be with, but she found out fast she wasn’t the one making any choices. I know. You think all the white women and boys pretending to be women who are white will make choices about who they fuck, in Merritt hotels with jacuzzis. The day comes when you take drugs because you need it to fuck them. At first it’s cool. You’re in charge. And then you are going to do whoever, so you can get your hit. Then you “get hurt” when you don’t want to do someone, then you get with one STD or another, and you can’t work the Merriott anymore with your scars, and the desk clerks heard about your trip to the clinic after that john that tipped them, then you have to work without a condom, then you do anal, then it’s ATM. Are you still enjoying your personal agency?. Choice was when she started out, just for a couple times, and was paid real well. Wasn’t she pretty? Did they want her tawny skin? It doesn’t start out being survival sex. It doesn’t end when it’s not, because the men around you are not your friends, and they won’t let you out.

        I have never heard a whore use the term “personal agency” or “agency”.

  18. I think it's very important to remember while respecting a sex workers agency (many dancers, adult video, and escorts do chose their line of work freely and I dont believe those activities are intrinsically degrading to women (tho' many forms are) we should remember that sexual commerce is littered with the lives of those sold into slavery or coerced because they felt that they had no options. Roughly a third of "sex workers" are children and human slavery is the fastest growing black market activity on the planet second only to the drug trade (standing beside the arms trade in the past year). Know exactly who you think a sex worker is before you stand up for concept itself.

  19. This is a GREAT post. I am a sex worker advocate on youtube and I have done a video on this post. Great work!

  20. nuclearnight says:

    The term "prostituted person" or "prostituted women" is used by feminists who oppose sexual exploitation because apart from not wanting to give credence to the idea that selling sex for money is no different than any other form of labor exploitation it is the most humanizing way to speak of people, mainly women involved in the sex trades.

    A person is never just a job, they are always first and foremost a person.
    Discussions around prostitution and sexual politics often get hung up in the de-contextualized individual approach of looking at prostituted people as free agents within a market who are best served when they can have as much liberty to sell their wares, disregarding that it might not be the best thing for persons to be in that situation.

    Regardless there are politics behind these issues, its not as if most sex worker advocates do not have a very specific political agenda. Respect for these people should be something that is EARNED, specifically when they push a world view hostile to the goals of feminism.

  21. Brava!

  22. I have dear friends who have been sex workers, they are often the first to speak of the difficulties in this work. The language of empowerment and respect has been important to them. I find the dominant language of judgement in this comments section disappointing. If I was a sex worker in a bad situation I would not feel safe seeking support in a space like this, I would feel too judged at the outset.

    Why are workers rights important to sex workers? one simple reason is credit rating, you try being a human being without pay slips. Try getting any other job or renting a house without payslips, it makes a person more trapped. Another reason to support respect for sex workers is to reduce coercive sex work by giving people space to breathe and talk about their experiences.

    Treating people with respect does not mean that you are supportive of human trafficking or slavery or people having so few options sex is what they feel compelled to trade.

    • What about helping these womyn develop the skills needed to leave the industry that exploits them?

      • What about helping women develop the skills needed to leave the fast-food industry? Or any industry with mind-deadening, low-paying work?

        Why is the call to ‘develop skills’ only raised in the context of the sex industry?

        • Because the sex industry is the topic of this thread.

          • If I were Pollyanna, I would believe that. But, in the real world, there is no movement of feminists targeting other industries with the same passion – only the sex industry.

          • Also because in low paying food service jobs you are actually taught some skills – like customer service, food handling + preperation, cash handling, (usually) EFTPOS machines, taking orders, orrganisation etc etc.

            In prostitution you are taught to be an object for sexual enjoyment of your customers. You're taught to be a private journal for them to unleash their thoughts and act out their fantasies.

          • Another example of an extremely disrespectful comment to sex workers. Sure, simply having sex doesn’t take any skills, but managing your own website, marketing, screening customers, finding a balance between intimacy and professionality, budgeting….DOES take skills. Depending on which sector one works in, the list goes on even longer. Pro Dommes need an education that is similar to a medical if they want to do their job well. (part1)

          • Yes because so many prostituted womyn have access to all of these things.

          • On a global scale most people don't have access to those things, but I'm talking about the way sex workers conduct their business in industrial countries.

          • See I give a shit about womyn beyond my own national borders.

          • "See I give a shit about womyn beyond my own national borders."

            As do sex worker rights activists, which is why its a *global* movement:

          • hey it's the guy who likes to insult radical feminist. let's all take him REALLY seriously.

          • What makes you think I don't care for women behind my own national borders? You are deeply mistaken. My daytime job consits of social work with migrant women. Aalright they are migrants who are now inside my national borders, I guess that doesn't count…
            My point was that many sex workers live outside of the industrial countries, where very few women have access to those things so it's no wonder the sex workers don't have acess to it either. That does not mean it's somehow ok that they don't have it, but that there is much to do for women in those countries regardless of their occupation.

          • That does not mean it's somehow ok that they don't have it, but that there is much to do for women in those countries regardless of their occupation.

            Hey you get no argument from me here! 🙂

          • P.S Not all "sex workers" in industrial countries have access to these things either.

          • More of them will when their line of work is decriminalized.

          • But not if most of their money is not going to them (which is the case in a lot of prostitution)

          • But most of their money will go back to them if there is no pimp involved. Decriminalization means there no need for a pimp to get them out of jail.

          • What exactly is that's especially terrible in sex work about being someone who "thoughts are unleashed at"? That's like a psychiatrist. Imagine him/her, having to listen to clients who don't give a damn about how THEY feel themselves. In sex work, the interaction isn't so one-sided, at least most times. And fantasies..well, there are certain people we unleash them on, like actors. Yes I'm there for the sexual enjoyment of my customers, and a person who will listen to them ("someone they can unleash their thoughts on"- actually takes up most of my time, it's exhausting but also very rewarding) but that doesn't make me any more an object than the massage professional who is there for the sensual enjoyment. And that's not even a good comparison,since I hardly doubt the clients of the massage professional would start asking how they can please him/her, as opposed to many of my clients.(part 2)

          • "Yes I'm there for the sexual enjoyment of my customers"

            And you don't see this as problematic?

            "and a person who will listen to them ("someone they can unleash their thoughts on"- actually takes up most of my time, it's exhausting but also very rewarding) "

            Do they ever offer you an opportunity to unleash your thoughts on them?

            "but that doesn't make me any more an object than the massage professional who is there for the sensual enjoyment."

            I think you might be confusing "professional masseuses" with "erotic massages", and they are NOT the same thing.

          • No, I don't see this in itself as problematic. Yes, they do offer me plenty of opportunity to unleash my thoughts on them, but I prefer to keep some things to myself so my "unleashing" is more about wordly happenings and advice than my own deeply personal things. And anyway, why should they offer me opportunity to unleash my thoughts on them when it's me who is providing a service for them and them paying me? No i'm not confusing the two, I meant a masseuse without erotic touching, although I don't see why those two should be so deeply different. The body is a whole thing, "down there" is just as much a part of a person than the rest of the body. why should providing pleasant feelings to the rest of the body be somehow "more professional" than a holistic massage?

  23. I hate the term "sex worker." It's a euphemism that ignores the gender imbalance. How many men are doing sex work for female clients? Why don't women feel they have the right to sex on demand?

    Why is that?

    • Women should feel they have the right to 'sex on demand'. Society judges such women as 'whores', and those sentiments are deeply ingrained as part of the sexisat double standard of our puritanical patriarchy.

      • Sex isn't a right.

        • Really? Says who?

          My vision of equality is giving both gender the same rights. Yours appears to be taking away rights from both groups.

          • If there were a shortage of prostitutes, who would fulfill that "right" to sex on demand? Robots? Sex ought to be mutually desired. Do you think the outrage over that Afghan law requiring Shia women to provide sex for their husbands on a regular basis was unjustified? Many men believe marriage confers a right to sex on demand. That belief is why marital rape used to be legally considered an oxymoron. Men may not have a legal right to sex on demand, but for all intents and purposes, they have access to sex on demand. How does this benefit women?

          • "If there were " is good fodder for a science fiction thread.

            I understand Gayle's use of sex "on demand' to mean, as you said, having 'access to sex on demand', not a legal right per se. Obviously, women benefit when there is equal opportuinity for such access within the context of decriminalization and consent.

          • "Sex ought to be mutually desired."

            Thank you! And not only that, it isn't meant to be PIV-centric either. Which I assume is the kind of 'sex on demand' you are advocating for Sheldon?

            "Sex ought to be mutually desired."

            I would like to know also.

          • In decriminalized prostitution, sex is mutually desired. One party desires it for the money, the other for the physical sensations.

            And what do you mean by 'PIV-centric'?

          • Say what? A prostitute desires the money. She does not desire the john. There is no mutual desire for sex. If the woman were a sex educator, there would be mutual desire for sex. What the john wants, I would not even call sex.

            I do not agree women would benefit from equal opportunity to sex on demand. Some women would like that, but not as many women as men want sex just for its own sake. Do you think there would be a comparably booming business for men selling sex to women if only it were legal?

            PIV = penis in vagina, if you did not know, which I find hard to believe.

          • Exactly! Thank you Aletha, desiring money is not the same as desiring a human being.

          • POV = point-of-view. PIV could easily have been a typo.

            She desires to have sex with the john so that she will get paid. “Mutual desire” need not be grounded in personal affection.

            Whenever women are granted equal opportunity in fields of endeavor that had been exclusively a male domain, of course the numbers of women will start off smaller than men. But, given time, I remain optimistic that they will catch up, just like they already have in, say, the numbers of college graduates. Also, what holds women back is the puritanical double standard that derogates sexually adventurous women as ‘whores’ – as that standard fades, so will the discrepancy in participation.

          • No, she submits to the desires of the john because she needs the money. There is no desire for sex involved on her part, no mutuality, no symmetry. The high-end prostitute could be an exception; her johns may want some semblance of companionship for their money along with sex. A relatively wealthy man paying for a high-end prostitute knows that if he abuses her, he could be blacklisted or blackmailed. The average prostitute has no recourse whatsoever.

            Buying the services of a prostitute is being sexually adventurous? How do you figure that? Is there some kind of interesting challenge involved? That is one "opportunity" men can keep. I disagree that not having that "opportunity" is an example of women being held back. For most women, sex has meaning.

            Another curious turn of phrase is, "women are granted equal opportunity…" You make it sound as if men were being generous. Women have had to fight for that, every step of the way, to force men to recognize the rights of women to equal opportunity, and that fight is still going on.

          • Snap.

          • If I meant point of view, I would have written point of view. Or you know, used a grown up word like 'perspective', I haven't used the term 'point of view' since year eight English.

            Having sex with someone for money is not desiring them as a person. You're desiring the cash. Duh.

          • 1) Sex workers do not “submit” to the (usually sexual) desires of their customers, they agree to them. This usually means having sex with the customers, because of the financial inducement. That inducement establishes informed consent. Therefore, sex workers desire sex with their customers because of the money gained.

            Sexual desire need not be based on desiring the person. Lust or love is not a prerequisite.

            2) Advances in women’s rights, as well as rights for minorities, the LGBT community, working people are, yes “granted” via the legislature through acts of Congress. The fact that those acts are the result of the struggles of mass movements is another matter. It is not necessary to repeatedly explain world history in each and every post.

            3) When women engage in fields of endeavor previously off-limits to them, yes, they are being adventurous. As time goes on and it becomes routine, it will be less adventurous.

          • Does a prostitute agree to the desire of a john to abuse her, or does she submit, because she perceives she has no choice, since she has taken the money, which obligates her to satisfy him? Inducements can be fraudulent. Does a fraudulent inducement establish informed consent? A prostitute does not know what risks she is taking. Because she knows the territory, does that mean she has given informed consent to whatever the john wants to do to her? No doubt he thinks so. He does not care what she wants; he just bought himself a sex slave.

            This "desire" not based on desiring the person is not sexual desire. It is desire for money, pure and simple. Sex has nothing to do with that. The mechanical act superficially resembling sex is a means tolerated to that end. What distinction are you drawing between sexual desire and lust?

            "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." –Frederick Douglass

            Rights are not granted. They are recognized. If rights were granted, that would mean they did not exist before they were granted. They did exist, but were not recognized by the powers that be, so they could not be exercised. Saying rights are granted makes it sound as if that is done out of magnanimity or generosity, as opposed to power being forced to recognize what should have been all along.

            Buying a prostitute is not a "field of endeavor previously off-limits" to women. This is not a type of opportunity or "adventure" women crave, and that is not because of the double standard. As I said above, for most women, sex has meaning. Is this a bad thing, in your eyes?

    • For a very long time, grade school teachers and nurses have been overwhelmingly female. Do those who call them workers ignore the gender imbalance there?

  24. DownUnderAussie says:

    As a radical feminist whose been on the internet blogging and educating for some time, I have seen many sex workers who demand respect and yet will attack a former sex worker who is against the industry. Many times, sex worker advocates will swarm a particular blog, like Rebecca's, and try shaming those who don't agree with them into silence.

    There is even a poster here who calls those against the industry 'antis.' What is that supposed to mean? I use the term sex worker, yet this poster Divinity3372 sees fit to call feminists who don't like the industry 'antis'.

    Respect must go both ways. If sex workers want this respect they must also be willing to give it too. A basic perusal of blogs critical of the sex industry will quite clearly show the disrespectful attitude in which sex workers display on such sites.

    There's no good reason to call anyone an 'anti'. Likewise, there's no reason to call feminists who don't like the industry prudes or asexual. The misnomer 'sex positive' is used by many pro-industry people to shame feminists who have an opposing view of the industry. I hear all the time that we don't like sex, we hate men, we are out to censor people, and other derogatory language.

    The reason I think many feminists have taken issue with this article is because quite often it's the pro-industry women and men, such as Divinity3372, who need the lesson in how to communicate and not the other way around.

    • Agreed.

    • I don’t know if you have read Rebeccas blog, but she constantly insults sex workers who don’t agree with her, claiming we practically don’t exist. She has stated that she won’t publish comments from sex workers who don’t feel the same as she (not disrespectful comments, but simply ones that don’t agree). Is that not silencing? I’ve never seen a sex workers rights-blog that denies there are problems with the sex industry and that some people indeed are coerced. The ones I have read try to find a balance to represent all experiences and advocate for measures that make it better for all people involved. Have you for example read <a href="” target=”_blank”> there are many posts from women who are not happy in the sex industry, but fight for their rights.

      • DownUnderAussie says:

        I have read Rebecca’s blog. She doesn’t insult sex workers by talking about her experiences. How can you claim that Rebecca insults sex workers by saying people ‘practically’ don’t exist? To me that’s misrepresenting Rebecca. It’s her blog and from what I understand, she gets browbeaten/colonized by many sex workers to the point where she has to block them precisely because they do not respect her experiences.

        Here’s a thought: Feminists have always had to make their own spaces and make them safe. Why? Because we know, even as feminists, that 1) we need space free of the patriarchy and 2) patriarchy can come in the form of sex workers who simply cannot accept that a woman as strong as Rebecca writes about the not-so-happy aspects of the sex industry. (In my mind the sex industry IS part of patriarchy)

      • Also, the wordpress address for bound, not gagged is "deepthroated DOT wordpress DOT com"

        Do you think an organisationn that is appropriation of the name of the (possibly the most) film made of the perpetual rape and abuse of a womon is really going to want to help them?

        • Linda Lovelace changed her account of what happened several times befor her untimely death several years ago. She rejoined the sex industry in the early 2000s by appearing in a softcore lingerie layout in the hardcore porn magazine Leg Show.

          In the interview that accompanied the layout, she blasted Dworkin, MacKinnon and Gloria Steinem for exploiting her and not paying her money that they promised her. That puts into question a lot of what she had claimed in the past. What is clear is that her abusive husband beat her in order to force her to quit doing porn because he was jealous of her male co-stars.

          • Did it ever occur to you that maybe she, like many other rape survivors "changed her story" as a better alternative to having to deal with all the shit that people toss your way if you have the audacity to come out as a survivor?

          • Sure it has occurred to me. But she never denied she was raped, and that is not what was being questioned in my comments. What she changed was when and why, not who.

          • And PTSD + other mental illness that tend to occur with rape survivors never occurred to you either.

          • Im not buying it in Lovelace's case. There are lots of things that didn't add up in her original accounts of abuse. What she said emerged through Dworkin's and Steinem's filter, and Dworkin is already known to have participated in the coverup of the abuse committed by Evelina Giobbe.

            There was no pressure for her to mention money, let alone return to the very same sex industry that had allegedly abused her and participate in a layout in a hardcore porn magazine.

          • "There was no pressure for her to mention money, let alone return to the very same sex industry that had allegedly abused her and participate in a layout in a hardcore porn magazine."

            That's like saying OH WHY DOESN'T SHE JUST LEAVE HIM, in the case of abusive relationships. Because it's never that god-damned easy. That's why. Anyway, we'll never know, because she's dead, and death tends to be the ultimate silencing tool.

        • Bound not gagged is a community blog by sex workers, so it's hardly a organization. What rape survivors can hope for there is peer support without judgement and compassion. If you read through the comments from the post "when does sex work become rape" you'll find plenty of it.

    • These fights get started when followers of Andrea Dworkin deny that women who differ with them can be feminists. Only then do some of those women respond by calling them out as 'sex-negative'.

      Historically, the disrespect you decry started from your side.

      • Andrea who?

        I’m a native woman, and the sexual abuse industry I know I recognize in Rebecca’s blog: I know if from my own experience and from the experience of all the women around me. They did not chose to be there.

    • What is wrong about you being called one of the "antis"? If you oppose pornography, prostitution, the adult sex industry, you're certainly not FOR them. So, that leaves you in the position of being …against them. Hence, "anti".

  25. Having an ex who was a stripper I can say that some people, my ex included work in the sex industry because they like it. She has always danced like a stripper. Her sexual rush has always been being admired by men. She gets a kick out of their lust.
    There is an underlying negative judgment of the sex industry, even in the basic article, let alone in these comments. There is an assumption that it is the only option or something people are coerced into. My ex has a degree, a very good degree in fact. She chooses not to use it as she makes a lot more money as a stripper. There was a study done in the 90's that I listened to a radio synopsis of, and it found that a greater percentage of sex industry workers had degrees than of women in the wider community. In other words, the sex industry, at least in Australia, attracts clever women (as well as not so clever women of course). It is possible to earn quite a bit of money as a sex industry worker, and if you aren't burdened by the oppressive Judeo-Christian ethical structure you might not even find the work particularly distressing.
    I really think that people are passing judgment because it is not a choice they would make. I don't choose to order vanilla ice-cream but I'm not going to jump up and down and say that people who do are the root of all evil. Being quick to pass judgment belittles the jury, not the accused.

    • “my ex included work in the sex industry because they like it.”

      Women are sold as property because they like it. Women are beaten because they like it. Women are raped because they like it. Spot the bullshit connection here? I do!

      The fact that you’re a male and you’re posting here under your actual name is quite telling James.

      “There is an assumption that it is the only option or something people are coerced into. My ex has a degree, a very good degree in fact. She chooses not to use it as she makes a lot more money as a stripper.”

      So what does that say about the value of women in our society at large if she has a degree and yet still makes more money being temporarily purchased by men?

      “…the oppressive Judeo-Christian ethical structure you might not even find the work particularly distressing. ”

      Yes, it really is a religious ideology that burdens women into thinking getting brought and sold for money, getting raped for money and getting degraded for money soooo distressing. Not the actual acts themselves, of course!

      “I don’t choose to order vanilla ice-cream but I’m not going to jump up and down and say that people who do are the root of all evil.”

      So buying a woman is just like buying an ice cream?

      If it’s so great, how come you’re not putting your arse out there on the line?

    • nuclearnight says:

      Great, and now Ms. Magazine's website is being polluted by men who want to brag about how their ex girlfriend got off on being a stripper.

      No feminist said "sex workers are stupid", or that they should be judged or that they are the root of all evil for the work they do.

      No, we say men need to stop treating women like we are superficial objects, men need to stop sexually oppressing women and trying to take collective sexual ownership of our bodies.

  26. Well, as I stated I did a video on this blog post and it was not well received. I guess you can't please some people no matter how hard you try. Read about it in my latest blog post.

  27. "Her sexual rush has always been being admired by men. She gets a kick out of their lust."

    That doesn't come across as needy to anyone? I too get a rush out of men admiring me..but all their attention never filled me up…there was still a big gaping hole that I needed to fill constantly by seeking out more attention, I almost ruined my marriage by seeking out attention (no I'm not laying blame on anyone…it was MY problem, and mine alone) I just feel from my own experience that constantly seeking out approval is damaging and not solving the real problem I may have with myself, not that it's everyone's experience…I just want to draw attention to the idea that maybe seeking out attention from others is really a lack of self love.

  28. This article was profoundly disappointing. So much of the feminist movement has sold out to patriarchy.

  29. DownUnderAussie says:

    To Jenny DeMilo
    Two things. I actually said that sex workers tend to misrepresent feminists who critique the industry. Second, I saw the toilet remark and nobody called any sex worker a toilet. This is a precise example of taking a comment not made to any one person or persons and misrepresenting that it was actually said TO a sex worker when it clearly wasn't.

    • Precisely – no one called any sex worker a toilet. 'Toilet' refers t the characters portrayed by sex workers in the aforementioned porn videos, not to the sex workers/actresses themselves.

      • So i suppose you think those adult actress are not sex worker? You can try to circumvent the intent of the "toilet" comment but its pretty clear on its face what image and feeling the writer was trying to portray. Backpedal if you wish but you are defending someone calling women toilets. That's not the brand of feminism i was brought up on. But then again i think a woman should be able to do what she wishes with her own body, I'm funny like that.

        You need to think about what your saying and how it is perceived by readers of what you are saying.

        This article is about RESPECT what about respect is it specifially that you have an isue with.

        • Let's back up a bit – this is the sentence in question:

          'Toilet' refers t the characters portrayed by sex workers in the aforementioned porn videos, not to the sex workers/actresses themselves."

          See where I wrote "sex workers/actresses"/ The slash means they are interchangeable, so, of course, I think adult actresses (and actors) are sex workers.

          I was not defending or attacking someone calling women toilets – just pointing out that the text accompanying the video, probably written by the production staff affiliated with the company that released the video, was aimed at the video's characters, not at the actresses/sex workers portraying the characters. If you want to go after feminists who insult sex workers, by all means, but the 'toilet' example is not a good one to use. There are plenty of better, more clear-cut cases, and I invite you to poach on my Evelina Giobbe example (elsewhere in this thread).

  30. @berryblade: If you checked out my exchange with Aletha on Shira Tarrant's Gail Dines interview thread, I named Evelina Giobbe as a feminist who raped a ex-prostitute Kelly Holsopple. This was not known for many years due to a coverup. And then there was Kyle Payne, a male anti-porn feminst who was busted for photographing a naked woman while she was sleeping, and who has since been arrested for posession of kiddie porn.

    • Good for you.

    • One example of an anti-pornstitution activist raping a womon does not negate or dissolve the harm done by millions of men, to the millions of womyn in prostitution. Kyle Payne, from what I’ve heard, is an ass, and you get no argument from me that he should be locked up & never let out again.

      • The TWO examples I brought up refuted your statement that anti-porn feminists never do that sort of thing. Didn't you learn in school that you should never say never?

        The Catholic Church used the same sort of minimzing apologetics in dismissing the first reports of pedophile priests. The coverups were reminiscent of the one perpetrated by the Boad of WHISPER. According to Victoria Marinelli, she informed all of them and Andrea Dworkin of Giobbe's abusive behavior, including Giobbe''s pimping out of her own underage teenage foster daughter to conduct "research" on prostitution. Dworkin did nothing.

      • Kyle Payne may be a small example, but Evelina Giobbe cannot be ignored so easily. She was a major leader of the anti-prostitution movement, a founder of WHISPER, and, as it turned out, a sexual abuser of women who her poverty pimping gave her power over. What's particularly outrageous is that other activists like Donna M. Hughes and Melissa Farley (a poverty pimp if there ever was one) made an active effort to cover this up, and still routinely post her writings as a source of information on prostitution.

        As sexual abuse so often is, Giobbe's crimes were an abuse of power. And in this case, power conferred through radical feminist activism. If radical feminists really wanted to "get to the root" of sexual abuse, they would take on the problem of abusive power relationships, including in their own movement, not retreat into a retrograde Victorian strategy of making it about sex and lust.

  31. Hi all, thanks a lot for taking part in this discussion.

    We wanted to apologize for the sometimes slow moderation of your comments. We only have a few moderators—all of whom have full workloads aside from comment moderation—but we’re trying our best to keep up with all of you. Also, unfortunately sex-work related comments often get stuck in the spam filter. We’re checking spam for misplaced comments regularly, but that does slow things down. We appreciate your patience.

    Also, please remember that ad hominem attacks will not be approved. Commenters can help expedite the moderation process by adhering to to our commenting policy (found here-

    Thanks again for your participation and your patience.

    • Ad hominem attacks will not be approved, yet people were allowed to insinuate berryblade is a rape apologist, and all manner of aspersions were cast on the character of Gail Dines. Meanwhile you see fit to edit my last two comments to tone them down. Excuse me if I find this explanation unsatisfactory. I do not think those edits were warranted. This is your blog, so you can moderate it as you please, but I think you are interpreting ad hominem loosely and inconsistently.

  32. On the matter of 'never':

    "Exactly! When was the last time you heard of a feminist raping a prostituted womon, murdering a prostituted womon, torturing a prostituted womon, trafficking a prostituted womon… the list goes on. You know why? Because they don't. Pimps (men) and johns (ALSO MEN) do."

    "Because they don't" = "They never do" . Happy to refresh your memory.

    As far as the Giobbe and Payne matters go, Google "Victoria Marinelli". Let Google be your friend.

    • Funny how you see fit to translate a general statement into an absolute. Guys periodically show up on my blog to complain I am denouncing all men. I tell them, if I mean to say something about all men, I will use the word all. I suspect if berryblade meant to say never, she would have used that word. Sometimes exceptions to a general rule are so rare, they prove the rule. It is also highly dubious that either Ms. Giobbe or Mr. Payne deserve to call themselves feminists.

      • " I suspect if berryblade meant to say never, she would have used that word." You're entitled to your suspicions, as am I, which differ from yours.

        "It is also highly dubious that either Ms. Giobbe or Mr. Payne deserve to call themselves feminists."
        How wise we all are in hindsight!!

      • Exactly. Thanks Aletha.

  33. "it’s important to let individuals themselves make this distinction, rather than automatically assigning them a label that indicates lack of agency":

    The Swedish network PRIS, which organizes sex workers (although they don't use that term) says that many sex workers are victims of childhood abuse. Many researchers have found that a majority of sex workers have this kind of background. What kind of freedom is that?

    • Is there an English translation for the page on the other side of that link?

    • Many women are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Since sex work is a predominantly-female field, it stands to reason many sex workers have this is their background. As do hairdressers, teachers, maids, waitresses, etc. ANY female-dominated type of work will have a lot of abuse victims. It proves nothing except that childhood sexual abuse is a huge problem for all women.

      Need I point out that the vast majority of sexually-abused women do NOT become sex workers. They just simply don't get attention for their past when they're involved in a mainstream job.

  34. I have collaborated on a project with sex workers in Ethiopia for a few years now, and even with the absence of the sex workers' rights movement that are creating paradigm shifts in other countries, I find that sex workers themselves define their experiences on a whole specrtum from 'this is not work, it is just something I do to feed my children' to one of empowering agency and even glamourous opportunities. I did like the article and I agree with the editor that it's beyond common-sense. There seems to be a lot of soapboxing in the comments though, I would urge us all to move beyond rhetoric and listening to our own voices to listening to the voices of the (mostly) women we are talking on behalf of. And no, Berryblade and Leah, my sex work worker colleagues would often not call what they do rape. They would call it rape when it is.

  35. Anti-Ms. Supporter says:

    I strongly dislike Ms. Magazine but I stumbled across this while on the $pread website and as someone involved in the sex work industry, I found it very important and well-written. My only issue is that it seems to imply that only women are involved in the industry and only women have feelings about the industry. To be inclusive to people of all gender identities gender-neutral terms ought to be used.

  36. This article does bring about some interesting points about sexual harassment in the work place. But come on! This is the same type of thing with race. People have to stop making up rules like this.

    I mean, females just want to be treated fairly right? Well, I don't believe that is fair. Women have always been treated lesser than men over the centuries. Men have always found themselves to be superior to women.

    It is for this reason such articles are written, in order to show people that not everyone is created the same.

  37. I'm amazed. Agog. Relieved. Elated! FINALLY a voice associated with MS. is calling for RESPECT for sex workers! And with much consideration and intelligent thinking behind it! Thank you Monica Shores! And thank you Ms. for finally showing BALANCE and REASON with regard to this critical women's issue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    At last, some progress is apparent with our peers in women's rights.

  38. A thump on the Head to Ms. Magazine!!

    You indicate a concern for 'not silencing' the sex-worker….yet you seek to silence the critiques OF the sex industry.
    1. Prostituion IS legal rape and I will not candy coat my opinions for the sake of others.
    2. The term sex worker Is sexist- it reduces women to commodities.
    3. Pornography DOES exploit and degrade women.

    I apologize (not really) if the above FACTS alienate any sex workers.
    4. Sex workers, by and large, are working AGAINST advances that feminist seek.

    • “The term sex worker Is sexist- it reduces women to commodities.”

      How so, if there are also MALE sex workers? Since when is the term ‘sex worker’ inherently about women?

      “Sex workers, by and large, are working AGAINST advances that feminist seek.”

      What sex worker groups work against the ERA? A woman’s right to choose abortion? Marriage equality? Economic equality? Full integraion in the armed services?

      As for your other points, asked and answered earlier in the comments section.

    • Margaret, sex work is not ‘legal rape’. That’s a ludicrous assertion. (I could point out that sex work is not even legal, in most jurisdictions!) Sex work per se is no more rape than any other type of sex – think for instance of sex within marriage, which also commonly includes an element of exchange (financial security, emotional support etc). Yup, sex of all sorts (like any human interaction) can have an element of exchange to it, in a more or less overt fashion. That doesn’t make it rape. And yes, sometimes there are compelling economic reasons that encourage women to work in the sex industry. But tell you what, I wouldn’t work at my office job either if I didn’t have compelling economic reasons for doing so.

      Thanks to Amanda for her very sensible comments about sexual abuse, and the likelihood that any female-dominated profession is going to include a number of people who have been abused.

    • Just as animal rights activists can ge against animals being exploited and abused for entertainment, the women’s movement can be against females being exploited (pornography/strip clubs/prostitution/etc.). Very bizarre that Ms Magazine would oppose domestic violence whether the female victim be rich or poor, yet “sex work” is a matter of class distinction. Women in North America are supposedly choosing this freely, whereas women from poor countries are being exploited. Pamela Anderson is choosing all this abuse as did Anna Nichole Smith and Margaux Hemingway (the latter two committed suicide and said they were sexually abused as children), but isn’t it terrible that women in Russia are being trafficked? There is another issue as well – prostitution existed in Communist countries and this definitely implies that it’s not totally economic.

  39. Blown away reading the comments on this very good blog post. Maybe some of you who wish to comment so cavalierly and blanket-ly on how abusive you think the sex industry is might actually want to re-read the post and think about what it’s saying??

  40. I’m a sex worker. Needless to say, A large number of comments on this blog made me feel extremely uncomfortable and honestly, angry. A few among them:

    “I apologize (not really) if the above FACTS alienate any sex workers. – Sex workers, by and large, are working AGAINST advances that feminist seek.” – Margaret.

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but isn’t feminism ALL ABOUT allowing a marginalized group of people [Women] to represent themselves, describe themselves, and to STOP LETTING a dominant group shape the way society at-large understands, thinks about, and conceptualizes “Women”?

    (Or maybe you’ve never read ‘a Room of One’s Own,’ ‘The Other Sex,’ etc. etc. etc. …)

    Well – the ability to shape one’s own identity and language, rhetoric and speech around that identity is EXACTLY what you’re denying FOR INDIVIDUALS IN THE SEX TRADE with comments like this.

    YOU – SOMEONE who is not a prostitute, sex worker, or individual with ANY EXPERIENCE IN THE SEX TRADE – are insisting that YOU know more about prostitution, the sex trade, pornography than SOMEONE WHO HAS ACTUALLY BEEN in that industry.

    You don’t want to hear what people who actually have experience in the sex trade have to say. You DEMAND that you and other radical feminists create the discourse around the sex trade.

    And you ADMIT to not caring whether or not female sex workers agree with ‘advances feminists seek to make’ because — well — you, SOMEONE WHO HAS NO DIRECT KNOWLEDGE OF THE SEX TRADE — ultimately know best.

    This is not feminism. This is a dominant group refusing subjective autonomy for a marginalized group.

  41. Such a heated debate – do sex workers deserve respect? Absolutely. It’s called supply and demand. Whether she’s a stripper or a prostitute, she works just like anyone who clocks in to a job they hate everyday for 8-10 hours a day. Men pay for sexual attention: dances, sex, conversation…the question should be if we respect men who do this. In order to gain respect for these women, they need to gain respect for themselves. Not to necessarily step away from their job if it’s what they want to do, but to actually establish their control over the situation. Manage themselves, not pimps. Establish more unions, stand up and be counted. The goal is to take the power away from the men who pay to play, the men who own these dilapidated clubs, the men who pimp out young girls, the men who secretly participate in this industry, yet publicly denounce it. Prostitution should be legalized so that it can be regulated and women are safe. I personally don’t find anything wrong with two adults who agree to an exchange. It’s between them and if each walks away satisfied, why would any third parties have anything to say about it? The problem is that these women are treated like trash and society allows it because we consider them ‘less than human.’ Women give sex with strangers away everyday…what makes them so self-righteous?

  42. 1) Respect every human person in conversation but don’t be afraid to critique their argument on the basis that their argument deserves respect just because they do. Be especially rambunctious about the use and misuse of the word “agency” to mask the fact that ‘sex workers’ want things for themselves but not necessarily for those prostituted women who are more vulnerable, less able to speak for themselves, and far less able to exercise agency than they are. Watch out for the way the word is used as a weapon without appropriate ammunition.
    2) Don’t assume the problems that “sex workers” and their advocates say they have with the sex trade industry are the only problems that any women in the trade have with it – in other words, don’t assume that “sex workers” and their advocates know everything just because they know something or that they can or do speak for all women in the trade. Of course this is all quite apart from the fact that if you haven’t talked to “sex workers” and prostituted women, read what they write and done a lot of work beyond that, you will be unable to understand the grounds of women’s experience or of the debate itself. Don’t be afraid to think big and don’t swallow the lie that the “experiences” of one group of women cannot be determinative of social policy or stand for the experiences of another group of women. In other words, it cannot be only select groups of “sex workers” who determine social policy with respect to prostitution and it should not be.
    3) “Sex workers” is a term devised by groups of women who advocate for the complete decriminalisation of prostitution – including pimps and johns. Yes, it is designed to be “neutral”. Prostitution does not have a neutral effect on women. I will not use the term “sex worker”. I use the term prostituted women. “Sex workers” deserve my respect but they are not the boss of my feminist analysis.
    4) Yes. Educate yourselves. Ms has provided you with a list of links belonging to “sex workers” and their advocates. There are also links to blogs belonging to those who advocate for prostituted women and to exited prostituted women. If anyone wants me to list those blogs I will. But it’s necessary also to think about all the issues involved in the prostitution of women and yes, sometimes we do have to step outside of the experiences of prostituted and exited prostituted women to make policy and advocacy decisions. This is nothing new and it’s only a rather authoritarian feminism that would suggest that we must not only listen to and consider the experiences of women who are in some ways not like us, but must also let them decide what is best for us, for our communities and for women in general.
    5) Don’t be surprised when you are not treated with respect by “sex workers” and their advocates. Be prepared to be told you are not a feminist, that you don’t care about women, that you’re arrogant, that you’re a Victorian prude, that you’re not “sex positive” and that you want to see prostituted women raped and brutally murdered (yes, a “sex worker” advocate said this to me). Be prepared to have your bona fides challenged at every step of the way. Be prepared to be insulted, harassed and mistreated and most especially, be prepared to be told that you are enabling the ongoing institution of patriarchy. In other words, be prepared to have the same techniques of silencing used upon you that “sex workers” insist are used upon them.
    6) Don’t give up.

  43. tonysam says:

    I despise the term “sex worker” because that implies that prostitution is a occupation like any other instead of the HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION that it is.

    Let’s cut this garbage out of trying to whitewash what prostitution really IS.

    • The very fact of being a sex worker (prostitute/stripper/exotic dancer/porn performer) is itself sexual abuse. A prostitute doesn’t have to be punched in the face to be abused – the fact that she is prostituted is itself the abuse. Just as animals often give the impression that they enjoy being pimped out and abused for entertainment (Camels in parades / Elephants in circuses / Bulls and horses in rodeos), women can give the impression that they willingly participate in their own abuse. The women’s movement opposes all domestic violence whether the female victim is rich or poor – yet, we make class distinctions with “sex workers.” I don’t see any difference between prostitution in the so-called “third world” or high-class escort/prostitutes in North America, nor do I see any difference between Pamela Anderson/Madonna/Miley Cyrus and poverty-stricken women who are exploited. It’s just a class difference. Everyone cried when Dorothy Stratten was murdered, but the suicides of Anna Nicole Smith and Margaux Hemingway were ignored because they supposedly choose to be exploited. Both Smith and Hemingway said they were sexually abused as children and they were further sexually abused in pornography and sexist advertisements.

  44. I find it interesting to see that the people who criticize women using prostitute for work, are women themselves.

    I went to a brothel (very strict laws on brothels where I live) and slept with one of the five girls that were available (one of the laws is that you can only have 5 workers on site at any time). For my session, I just shared a good talk with her (didn’t have a gf) – I didn’t want sex (and mind you, there are a few people like this). I won’t tell you a lot of the stuff we talked about so she wont be identifiable, but she was a very hard worker (and others are too who work in the sex-work industry). When I talked to her, I realised that she works just as hard (and probably even harder) than other people. I asked about some of her clients, and she tells me there are all different sorts – but ultimately she can refuse to do things and even reject people if she wants to. My opinion would be that the majority of people there would not be there to mistreat the women, but a little shy and insecure like i previously was.

    It all boils down to the class system. Consider cleaners as well for example – it is what people do for a living too, yet people don’t respect the position too much. People need to stop judging others for the job they do (not just the sex-workers, every single job) and just like others for who they are.

  45. What class system? Prostitution and sexual exploition existed in the former socialist/communist countries, yet these countries had a much smaller class system than exists in North America. Yes, there was less crime because crime is often economically motivated; but prostitution existed. There was almost as much prostitution in East Germany as West Germany – yet women in East Germany had economic security. It is also worth pointing out that many male prostitutes are white – suggesting that prostitution is not an economic choice. I would say it is because the person was sexually abused as a child/teenager/young adult, and I would say the same thing about women exploited in pornography. Besides, what difference does it make why the person “chooses” the so-called wonderful “sex trade”? Do the reasons really matter? What matters is building a society where men stop abusing women. Being a prostitution or porn performer is in iteself sex abuse. I don’t support the sexual exploitation of women any more than I support the exploitation of animals.

  46. 1) Let’s at least use the word “women” instead of “girls” FFS!!!

    2) Obviously, any actual girls (under 18) who are involved with sex work are being abused and exploited.

    3) It seems everyone personalizes this issue, and rightly so. Because it hits all of us in different ways.

    4) On an energetic/vibrational level, sex work is very low, especially when it’s coerced or forced (obviously) or when it dwells in darkness.

    5) Sex work is elevated to legitimacy when it involves actual professionalism, such as for sex surrogates, sex therapists, etc.

    6) Perhaps it could be more respected if it were decriminalized/legalized but more importantly if it were treated more seriously.

    7) The perverse circus that is today’s patriarchal/misogynistic world of porn/stripshows/webacamming/prostitution kicks itself in the teeth. How can you tell me to respect your profession with a straight face when that face is covered in “male dominance”?

    8) There is a fantasy that exists for many of being with an actual prostitute. And then there is the fantasy of doing whatever one desires with a prostitute playing a role. It’s acting.

    9) Except it’s also cheating, when it involves married and partnered persons (except in cases of open marriages or permission). This is one of the major reasons prostitutes deservedly lose respect. Especially if children are involved.

    10) Being intimate with strangers when there is zero attraction (b/c it’s just for money) goes against biology. We are attracted to people for a reason – in order to have kids. Sure, a lot of sex is for pleasure/fun, but at the core, its main goal is survival of our species. Messing with it is abhorrent to us, on a genetic level.

    Sort of like eating is crucial for survival, but many of us eat too much or fetishize food.

    11) And while one might label those who find prostitution unethical or immoral as “prudes”, the truth is that there are rules, laws, regulations, and unspoken social parameters that exist to keep society functioning effectively.

    12) Prostitution opens up a huge can of worms: an imbalance of power (ergo this argument *ahem* discussion about feminism), dominance, misogyny, patriarchy, exploitation, abuse, pain, humiliation, unwanted pregnancy, STDs, risk of harm or death, jealousy, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, mutilation, plastic surgery, faking/lying, obsession, cheating, degradation, perversion, ego stroking, catering to insecurities, religion/spirituality, rape and rape culture, objectification, sexualization, infantilism, deviance (as it bleeds into pedophilia, bestiality, edge play (choking, snuff, etc.), and on and on.

  47. Thanks for sharing this wonderful knowledge! Finally somebody recognizes the stigmas around sexwork. These sex workers deserve respect like any other human being. It’s a job like any other job. It’s sad that in 2018 we still see sexworkers as a special group of society. Mostly this comes from the fact that some governments act like prostitution doesn’t exist. It’s finally time for a social debat.

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