“Anti-prostitution” texts invisibilize sex workers, “pro sex worker” texts invisibilize clients. Or so it seems to me.

(This post is intentionally free of moral judgements on sexual matters. Different discussion, different day. Also this post has a lot of “I think” and “I feel” because it is written into a personal blog. I know my feelings don’t matter in the issue. I still can write them in a little blog of my own).

I’ve recently been reading up on debates on prostitution/sex work. I tried to read a fair amount of reasoning on both sides. I do not have a fixed position of my own – don’t feel entitled to one as this is very much “not my war” as I have never ever used the services of a sex worker/prostitute (and don’t plan to). I have not even chatted to one at any length (I would want to do that – chat, I mean). My general individualist liberal leanings, and my general aversion to anything Janice Raymond says, tend to the sex worker side of the debate, but I see problems on it too; I’m trying to stay objective and get educated. And I feel that texts on both sides have large, well defined blind spots.

With “anti-prostitution” the blind spot is obvious – those sex workers who actually do choose the profession, and some of whom blog for the other side. They are generally dismissed as frauds, or else somehow blamed for legitimizing the slavery of others by advertising their own choice. This is discussed in loads of places already, but for me personally, it is the largest weakness of the anti-prostitution side. Dismissing a set of those disagreeing with you as frauds and liars is just not on. (I don’t do that about Communists!).

The blind spot on the “pro sex worker” side is far from that obvious. And no, it is not those enslaved, commonly described as “trafficked” (though it seems “enslaved” would be a better word, as some women are actually forced in their own countries, while some others do travel, but of their own free and informed choice – I guess the sides are avoiding it because for some people slavery is a turn on, rather improper in this case…) . Anyway, pro sex worker texts do cover those enslaved/trafficked/forced, generally stating that it will be easier for such people to get help if they are not seen as criminals or as abetting criminals.

The invisible group are, strangely enough, the clients. They are mentioned sometimes, but as a force of nature or something. Not as human beings making choices. At least in the texts I have read!

Consider this fine guide on how to be an ally to sex workers: http://web.archive.org/web/20131220013744/http://www.chezstella.org/docs/StellaInfoSheetAllies2013.pdf?PHPSESSID=0003e023984a5a4cba2b00ec80c48a4e . It mentions dating one, being a friend, a family member, and has ideas what a responsible person would do in such situations. Somehow it never mentions being in a “professional relationship”.

Perhaps the author thinks that an ally should never be a user? It would be quite a valid view, but that statement is not included either. Besides it would not fit the general “pro sex work” narrative. It says that the non-forced sex worker is in it either to survive economically or out of career interest. So following from their logic, a responsible client either helps the woman survive (like, not being scrimpy) or, for a career lady, is working with her to expand the horizons of both sides.

But this is just my speculation. They don’t seem to write about clients and FOR clients at all. The anti side does, here is a post from presumably Rachel Moran intended to explain to the “good punters” the gross abuse they are guilty of: http://theprostitutionexperience.com/?p=193

Yet what shall the pro side say in this regard? Ehere is the “how to be a good client to a sex worker” post? Even on the very basics – how to make sure someone is not forced – I did not notice anything. And if I ever wanted to become a client, that would be the first thing I would want to know. I mean, if I were to choose to pay for sex, I would accept being pleased because the person needs to pay her bills; but if there is a gun to her head, I’d much rather spend the time in the police station prodding them to action.

So prospective “sex worker allies”, for whom there is a wealth of very interesting blogs, and the actual clients seem to be two very different crowds. And, honestly, I feel uneasy about it. The sex work narrative starts to break down at the client point (in my own little personal view, of course).

In that narrative, sex workers are service providers. But consider other providers. In software developer and network admin communities one can learn a lot about how to be a good user, to ask the right questions etc. A patient can learn a lot from doctor communities. A passenger, from railway worker ones (including the fact that trying to ride outside trains hurts real people a lot).

Yet with sex workers, community and professional interaction seem to exist in different worlds – why is that? Or am I reading the wrong places?

P.S. Of course, no sex worker or pro sex worker blogger owes me or any other random reader anything. This post is about my personal reaction and my personal observations..

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10 thoughts on ““Anti-prostitution” texts invisibilize sex workers, “pro sex worker” texts invisibilize clients. Or so it seems to me.

  1. Idiots. same as the ban drugs idiots…that has worked so well too.

    The concept of ‘harm minimisation’ seems to escape so many people who stick to their absolutist ideologies.

    Prostituion exists, it has always existed and always will, despite endless attempts by many societies to ban it, some with draconian legal penalties.

    Therefore the only logical option is ‘harm minimisation’ so that the sex workers are protected from criminatlity, violence and exploitation.

  2. I’m not so sure. And I do start with the premise that sex work is work. I have very little time for class analysis.

    Anti activists claim prostitution is unique in the amount of occupational hazards. Actually, it is not so. There have been, and are, other professions with a great degree of threat to life and health.

    But there have also been bans and limitations on such professions. I don’t think one can order a hat made y the traditional manual process involving mercury, or a dangerous circus act without protective measures…

    So a case can be made for a prostitution ban purely on the grounds of occupational health and safety. This would, unlike stuff based on class theory, very much NOT extend to things like camgirling/camboying, erotic dancing, the traditional geisha performance, etc.

    I don’t see the issue as clear-cut either way. Sadly, in Russia, where I am originally from, I’m quite sure decrim or legalization would not work, but then the Swedish model there would not really work either – both would just increase corruption.

    As an aside, the link between “anti-prostitution” and “anti-trans” is an English-language thing only, “thanks” to a few high-profile activists like Janice Raymond. Sweden itself, the home of the “Swedish model”, is quite trans-friendly as far as I know. In the Russian Internet, too, majority feminist groups are anti-prostitution and pro-trans.

    • …and actually I’m quite pro-technology which points to hopeful ultimate solutions to several controversial ethical questions.

      Like abortion, where the conflict of natural rights of two human beings will, I hope, be resolved within my lifetime with an artificial womb.

      And prostitution, too – with the advancement of the sex bot. Sex workers could train these bots or possibly even control them in real time – with no threat to their body and a disconnect button, like your average camgirl. Moreover, a feminist lady friend pointed out when I told this to her that a bot-based sex service could overcome the issue of inherent sexism, creating good “male” models for het women, who are currently at a number of risks (including pregnancy) if they choose to hire a male sex worker. Remote-controlled bot system would also drastically expand the possibilities of long-distance relationships.

  3. Well they can try and all that will happen is:
    (a) The sex workers will be treated badly and picked on by the police, even in Sweden.
    (b) A sex worker will not be able to report being beaten up.
    (c) Corruption in the police will increase (even in Sweden).
    (d) Criminals will take over and run the sex work, money will cross hands to the police to look the other way.

    and so on.

    Easy to predict because that is what happpens in every place where it is illegal now, or in other places when it used to be illegal.
    No society has ever managed to eliminate sex work, ever. No matter how draconian they are.
    The only thing that works in terms of harm minimisation is for the workers to be legally protected with the ability to manage themselves.

    Jailing the client laws are nonsense. All that happens is lower class males (and in some countries coloured ones) get picked on by the police, wealthy and connected/powerful people will not be bothered one little bit.
    Plus and you can see this happening, police threatening a sex worker for sex or money, if they don’t comply they will harras their clients.
    Sooner or later a sex worker will be murdered by a client because they are scared that they will be found out, charged and ruined.

    Iain M Banks stuff again “in 20.000 years everything will be perfect”…..

  4. I’m basically not sure enough to take a position on this particular issue. And there’s also a reason for me to stay neutral.

    Here in Ireland, a sexual offences bill promulgating the Swedish model is in the works, and I have strong feelings about a different part of the same bill – criminalizing “sending over electronic communications” all “sexually explicit information”, with a very wide definition, to people under 17. It’s outrageous censorship that won’t do anything about ubiquitous mainstream porn anyway (and besides, sending that could fall under a different article of the bill anyway), but would hinder teens in exploration of alternative information on sexuality, including fantasy works that have no link to the sex industry, like fan fiction. I’m keeping neutral on the prostitution question so I can attack this part without someone claiming I’m really aiming at the prostitution part – and I really need to get to more than just the one TD (member of parliament) I got to so far.

    • Actually., having read carefully through all of them, I did not find the part that would interest me most if I were ever, for some reason, to become a client.

      Which is, how to see signs that a person is coerced, and how to act if seeing them.

  5. Regarding Rachel Moran:
    https://mymythbuster.wordpress.com/fanny-by-gaslight/

    Regarding clients:
    https://mymythbuster.wordpress.com/myth-women-are-forced-to-sell-sex-by-sex-buyers/

    But there is a short version I will put here:
    Clients are the crop sex workers harvest for a living.

    Here we are towards the end of 2016 looking at a version of “The Swedish Model” that aims to double the jail time for sex workers and bring it forward from 3rd to 1st offence https://mymythbuster.wordpress.com/the-covert-recriminalistation-of-irish-street-workers/

    It has been a very nasty game all along. With commercial interests that want to exploit sex workers dominating one side and morally bankrupt NGOs that want to exploit sex workers dominating the other.

    Little, if anything has ever been heard from the real sex workers at all. Otherwise you would be familiar with alien concepts like the total disconnect between a person’s enthusiasm for selling sex and their enthusiasm for continuing to be able to use that to meet their financial needs that totally negates the irrational basis of the Swedish Model (which aims to force sex workers into compliance with rescue programs by attacking their earning capacity, Ireland is just topping that up with the constant threat of prison because our “rescue” programs are run but even more obnoxious people than the Swedes)

    NOBODY deserves to be punished for disliking sex work by being stripped of their autonomy and earning capacity and fed to abusive abolitionist “rescue orgs” who have nothing of the slightest real use to offer (not least because they have never listened to real sex workers enough to have the first idea what they might need, preferring to reinvent them to agenda anyway.).

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