“Sex work is a big ‘f**k you’ to the patriarchy. It gives a woman the right to choose her hours of work, her rate of pay and most importantly, gives her an agency which is essentially what patriarchy is against,” said Andy, known to her clients as a ‘Disco tits’, in a video recently released by Vice. Andy is a “feminist” sex worker.
Yes, you heard that right! A “feminist” sex worker. They exist. Trust me, they do! Though, a majority of feminists consider sex work to be “anti-feminist” and exclude sex workers from their idea of feminism, rather push them out, this fight over prostitution is an old news.
However, this anti−sex work feminism has come a long way from the 1980s school of thoughts. “Prostitution is paid rape,” claims Melissa Farley, who has been fighting against sex work since the 1990s and currently produces reports for anti-prostitution organizations such as Demand Abolition. While women like Farley intend to end the sexual “objectification” of women in red light districts, they have unintentionally pitted one class of women against another. They have mistaken the women who choose their occupation by calling them victims. Mind you, not all sex workers are victims of sex trafficking. A lot of them join the profession out of choice and not out of compulsion.
Many feminists strongly believe that sex work is degrading, and erode the attempts made to give women recognition in intellectual and professional spheres. As per these feminists, if your boobs pop out of your clothes or God forbids, if you work as a prostitute, consider yourself a slut who has zero self-respect.
However, this regressive idea of sex work which considers it degrading doesn’t go down well with me, because for all the cacophony created to give women choices and rights on their life, some “feminists” does not hesitate in proudly slut shaming the sex workers.
This version of feminism is little uncomfortable for me and I’ll explain you why. I live in a society where (I wish) I can go out on a Friday night, get hopelessly drunk and jump into bed with a Mr Random. But here’s the real deal: since I’m non compos mentis, forget all about having any form of protection (unless Mr Random is a pro and roams around the city with his pocket full of condoms). Also, any question of a sane consent too goes out of the window. As a society, we are okay-ish with it because everyone does it at the end of the day, isn’t it?
Now, if I go to a hotel, meet the same Mr Random at any time of the day and spend a couple of “protected” pleasurable hours and get paid for it, there’ll be horror-filled gasps everywhere and from a woman who seeks sexual pleasure for herself I’ll suddenly become a whore who sold her body for money!
But if you think logically, I’m much more safer in the latter case. I know Mr Random’s name, number, and I am in my right senses in a hotel surrounded by people. I’m totally aware of what I’m doing and have the complete freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But once money get involved, a mutually pleasurable experience gets stigmatised.
And this theory that sex work is harmful is a shame in itself. What’s more shameful is socially isolating and constantly questioning those who choose to sell sex. What’s even more shameful is pushing someone to keep their profession a secret and that, my dear involves a hell lot layers of deception! By ‘outing’ the sex workers against their will and making assumptions about them and their intellectual and political standards is another way of systematically victimising the sex workers. And isn’t this what the feminists fight against anyway?
It’s ironic how the feminists can conveniently push the sex workers out of their league because they express their sexuality in a way that doesn’t fit in the ‘acceptable’ version of sex. Their defense against patriarchy fails exactly where it’s needed it most. “Your body does not belong to the men!” say the feminists. The last time I checked, having sex is not gifting my body to a man and getting paid for it is just another way of using my OWN body to earn like everybody else does. What’s wrong with it, then?
Sex work, when it is out of will and consent, is anything but ‘anti-feminist’. Sex workers doesn’t go around raising a flag saying ‘use my body when and as you please because I really don’t want to be treated like a human being anyway’. It’s just another work, and irrespective of the circumstances under which a woman choose to enter the industry, she shouldn’t be striped of her dignity. Rather than being labelled as a victim, she should be made to feel empowered by her choice.
This opposition doesn’t liberate women. Rather, it takes way their voices and gives them an identity of “bodies”, which if I’m not wrong, is what feminists who oppose the profession are against. Also, fun fact: to instruct a women about what she can and cannot do with her body smells of utter misogyny. Feminism=misogyny, anyone?
As Andy says the profession of prostitution gives her agency, the right to choose her working hours and thus it’s an empowering profession should be seen a very valid point for feminists to reorient their anti-prostitution campaigns.
Yes, we must defend a woman’s right to say ‘no’, but where’s the harm in defending her right to say ‘yes’? You can be a feminist and enjoy male attention. You can be a feminist and shave your body hair. You can be a bra-burning feminist for all I care. But above all, you can be a feminist and be a prostitute as well!
And it’s high time that we as women stop setting a set of unrealistic ideologies under the pretext of feminism, and start accepting as well as empowering women from all walks of life. And most importantly, STOP judging other women for making their own choices!