(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..