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Archive for March, 2008

I’m so so so fucking angry!

An atrocious gang-rape occurred in Brisbane (Australia) and many porn apologists, in the comment thread of this excellent and compelling article (that Caroline Norma wrote), are still out there in force defending this misogynistic propaganda that is called pornography over the life of a young woman that has been wrecked by not only what must have been an extremely distressing, humiliating and painful night but also the pictures that were taken of the assault.

This young rape victim had pornography made of her.

There is no doubt that rapes and gang-rapes are occurring all around the world, especially where people are living in pornified cultures.

In her article, Norma wrote about a popular pornographic genre called “bukake” and saw this gang-rape as a possible imitation of it.

Here is the article:

ABC news radio reported on the morning of International Women’s Day that a 17-year-old girl had been raped in Brisbane. The newsdesk copywriter must have had a strong coffee that morning because she decided to include the bold description that “ten men stood over the girl masturbating while each of them raped her in turn”.

This snippet of information, plus the inevitable news that the men took photos of the girl while they abused her, provides the clues women need to understand why this rape occurred, and what it means for our lives in Australian society.

Pornography users will immediately recognise the brand of rape the men used against the girl. There is a genre of pornography called “bukake” in which men stand around a single woman masturbating and ejaculating while they wait their turn to orally penetrate her. The anti-pornography documentary Pornography: the musical features footage of bukake scenes being produced, as well as a heart wrenching interview with a woman immediately after being filmed in bukake pornography. Readers can also consult the Internet, of course – it is teeming with bukake pornography sites.

As revolting as we might think it sounds, it’s important to keep in mind that men are watching and masturbating to bukake pornography in the name of pleasure and fun. The pornography industry makes more money than the mainstream entertainment industry, so we can assume it’s not a few men that are enjoying themselves with pictures of men spraying their ejaculate all over naked women.

Consuming pornography is no longer the pastime of a few men on the margins, nor is it an activity that is marginal to the lives of men. Catharine Lumby’s recent study reports that only 7 per cent of surveyed users could imagine their pornography use to be harmful in any way.

It’s hard to believe the ten men would have perpetrated the pack rape on the spur of the moment. The girl was picked up and taken back to an inner city apartment after meeting a man in a nightclub. The man then called the nine other men to come over. It was reported in The Courier-Mail (March 7) that this inner city apartment “had been rented for the night by the group of men”. Presumably they all knew each other – they were all between the ages of 18 and 22. And they must have known each other well enough to trust that no one would feel a sudden pang of conscience and upset the highly organised operation.

How has a rape club managed to flourish in the tropical surroundings of sunny Brisbane? What is leading men to come up with the idea that getting together with a bunch of friends to rape a woman might be a fun way to spend a Saturday night?

Boys from the Melbourne suburb of Werribee hit upon the idea last year, and now, it seems, in Brisbane. Could this be a new trend? Maybe Lumby and her friends could chart the rise of rape clubs in Australian society and even predict new developments in this exciting Australian subculture. They need only look to pornography to find out what these innovations will be.

The 17-year-old girl who had bukake pornography made out of her probably struggles to exist these days. She would have been frightened out of her mind on the night the men pack raped her, and the death threats they subsequently made against her couldn’t have helped her sense of personal security.

She probably worries about her pictures appearing on the Internet, and perhaps even dares to think about the men who will have a good time looking at her abuse. This probably leaves her wondering how she’s going to get through the rest of her life. Her rape club assailants, who were apparently smiling in court during their bail hearing, now face the prospect of jail, but not the prospect of a lifetime of mental anguish.

The girl might take some comfort in the fact that Australian society lurched to offer some response to the crime. The Queensland police worked on the case for six months, and the Crime and Misconduct Commission played a part in bringing the men before court.

On the Monday morning after news of the rape was broadcast on Saturday March 8, graffiti appeared on the wall of a sex shop in Brisbane’s inner city suburb of Highgate Hill reading: “10 man rape: porn imitation?” Feminists have already planned a rally outside the court where the men will appear on April 21.

But none of this will change the conditions that foster rape clubs. Pornography has made it very sexy to hurt and humiliate women. To date there have been few acts of resistance to the sex industry. This has to change.

There is a large amount of evidence of the link between pornography and rape as you can read on my website and from books containing important research and testimonies that show the undeniable link between pornography and violence against women and girls. And while the porn industry is becoming more mainstream, the images it produces are increasingly more degrading and sadistic.

Rapes are becoming more violent. Empathy toward women is decreasing day after day. Many men and boys (who use pornography) may be having many nights like these “just between friends” around the globe: “rape club” nights that destroy many women’s lives forever — not only this poor young Australian woman, she’s certainly not the only one it’s happened to. Rape and gang-rape are far away from being rare!

But prepare to be thoroughly pissed off, rad fems, because, as usual (such as in the comment thread to this article), pro-porners jump in and keep defending their misogynistic crap over women’s lives with such an outrageous fervor.

The pornographic videos and pictures are more important than the lives of women and girls who have been coerced into sex, raped or even gang-raped by some pornography users. These pornographic images are seen as a lot more essential to life than women’s safety to pro-porners. And porn is valued over female lives in the eyes of porn apologists. The “free speech” of the woman-hating propaganda material that is called pornography matters much more than the speech of the women and girls who have been, are, and will be raped and silenced. This is so sickening I want to scream in rage!

And I do not believe in any bullshit “biological” explanation such as “if those guys did this, that just means they are ‘naturally bad’ people”. The men and boys who do rape have been socially conditioned and influenced by patriarchal pornified culture to behave that way. I’m not saying that every single porn user becomes a rapist; I’m only saying that there is damn well a strong link between pornography and rape and there’s thorough research that has been made to prove that. Rapists are not born; they are made, into a culture that implicitly condones rape in the first place.

From childhood on, many men are socialized and trained to a masculinity which encourages them to suppress their emotional reactions and feelings (“be a man” so the saying goes); then they often learn sex from pornography which reinforces a masculinity based on conquest and control. As professor Chyng Sun says: “Pornography encourages people to disregard others’ pain for one’s own pleasure.”

When will society ever notice the undeniable connection between pornography and rape? Why do some people have to be so cruel to believe that women and girls’ lives and safety matter less than this woman-hatred propaganda material (porn) that is used by (primarily) males when they want a selfish orgasm? An orgasm at the expense of millions and millions of female human beings who are raped?

An Australian piece of news described that “ten men stood over the girl masturbating while each of them raped her in turn”. A graffiti put on the wall of a porn shop in Brisbane read: “10 man rape: porn imitation?”

Caroline Norma, with a keen sense of suspicion, asked: “What is leading men to come up with the idea that getting together with a bunch of friends to rape a woman might be a fun way to spend a Saturday night?” The connection to these gang rapes, the way they are perpetrated, the pattern clearly show the link between pornography and sexual violence against women. When are people out there going to wake up and see, eventually notice this incontestable link?

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The Swedish law that prosecutes johns and pimps (while decriminalizing prostituting women) has been such a great success that a city council in another country, Scotland, sees this law as a fair way of fighting the atrocious sexual slavery that is called prostitution. Some excerpts from the Scottish Daily Record:

GROUNDBREAKING laws that have almost wiped out prostitution in Sweden could be introduced in Scotland.

The Swedes stopped punishing the prostitutes – and instead criminalised the men who buy sex. […]

[Glasgow City Council deputy leader] Coleman said: “There’s no doubt it has worked in Sweden and there’s no reason why it can’t work here too.

“There can be no question that prostitution is exploitative and abusive of the women involved.

“Name one other situation where we would put up with endemic violence, abuse, disease, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, fear and trauma as a way to earn cash?

“The only logical way we can stop the damage suffered by this group of vulnerable women is to cut off the demand for buying sex.” […]

In Sweden, 1650 men have been convicted for buying sex. They faced up to six months in jail but all were fined Stockholm Detective Inspector Jonas Trolle, who is part of the delegation, says indoor prostitution is every bit as harmful to the women.

He said: “You need at least five customers a day for it to be profitable.

“One case I was involved in, the woman took 17 customers one evening and she was not able to walk from the flat afterwards. Is this a question of free will, when you can’t even walk?” […]

In 2006, researchers found Swedish men were least likely of about 30 nationalities to use prostitutes as they considered it unacceptable.

Another phenomenon has been a dramatic fall in sex trafficking. It has fallen to just 200 women, while neighbouring Finland sees 15,000 a year brought across its borders. […]

Now former prostitutes are treated as victims and helped to find a way out of the trade through retraining and counselling….

Also, it is wonderful to see a radical feminist (like Melissa Farley) being published in the NY Times. It is so so so rare when a radical feminist gets to be published in a major newspaper nowadays. From Melissa Farley and Victor Malarek’s excellent op-ed article The Myth of the Victimless Crime:

[…] Whose theory is it that prostitution is victimless? It’s the men who buy prostitutes who spew the myths that women choose prostitution, that they get rich, that it’s glamorous and that it turns women on.

But most women in prostitution, including those working for escort services, have been sexually abused as children, studies show. Incest sets young women up for prostitution — by letting them know what they’re worth and what’s expected of them. Other forces that channel women into escort prostitution are economic hardship and racism. […]

Whether the woman is in a hotel room or on a side street in someone’s car, whether she’s trafficked from New York to Washington or from Mexico to Florida or from the city to the suburbs, the experience of being prostituted causes her immense psychological and physical harm. And it all starts with the buyer.

Pro-radical feminist man Richard Leader, of Adonis Mirror, has recently written a compelling piece, She will not be Forgotten, on Ruth Christenson, a woman to whom the sexism of pornography has shattered her life:

[…] Perhaps Ruth Christenson is still remembered in quiet vigils in Minneapolis. I hope so. She sure as hell isn’t remembered anywhere else.

Perhaps that’s for the best. If Ruth Christenson were remembered today, she’d be remembered not as a hero — or even as a martyr — but as a crazy woman. A tragic figure, no doubt, but the tragedy would be considered hers to bear alone.

Even people calling themselves feminists, no shortage of men in that number these days, would believe Christenson did what she did out of selfish, personal desperation: an inability to cope with private horrors that have little to do with what the “common woman” experiences. Hormones and brain chemistry. To them, that can be the only reason why she took such a terrible and final action.

Not because sexism shatters women’s lives. […]

Who would be willing to remember the bravery of Ruth Christenson in a world where even anti-pornography activists are ready to shed the word “feminist” from their organizations in exchange for better funding? […]

If female bravery of that kind could be celebrated, it would mean that women suffer under patriarchy in the here and now, even surrounded by good men….

And Debs, at The Burning Times, posted an article about a porn report that shows that men still represent the majority of pornography consumers:

“Of the pornography consumers interviewed for The Porn Report, 17 per cent were women and 82 per cent were male…”

Debs also wrote:

All porn is violence against women. The existence of any type of porn is a symptom of a world in which women are seen as commodities, and where violence against women is at epidemic proportions. […]

For the man, porn is just a normal part of his everyday life, and the women he encounters in his everyday life could easily appear in the porn he watches. It is easier for him that way; he does not have to do any work. The ‘normal’ women in his porn are the checkout operator and the traffic warden he sees when out and about – the women in his porn are every-woman. Women make a separation for the sake of their own sanity – there are real women, and there are the women in porn. Men make no such distinction – the women in porn are all women everywhere. […]

I think a far more likely reason for women’s [slightly] increased use of porn is a sort of “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude. Women have resigned themselves to the fact that porn is increasingly prevalent in society; it’s impossible to escape, so they just play along, because to do otherwise (ie, fight it) is to be seen as ‘anti-sex’, a prude, frigid, or any number of other meaningless insults. […]

Studies like this, as I’m sure they don’t intend to, do not progress the fight against porn, nor set it back. They just observe….

Finally, I’d like to link to the Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution’s Homepage. There has already been three editions of that Carnival that have been posted so far and some of my writings have been selected a few times for it. The older editions are linked on the top of the sidebar (on the right) of that Carnival blog.

I would like to let my readers know (as you’ve probably noticed) that I blog intermittently. It is because I need to have enough time to write articles. I’m often busy with work and studies. However, I’m planning on writing more. Don’t worry, I ain’t going away. There is no way anyone could silence me. I will not be silenced. So please stay tuned and check on my place now and again.

In Sisterhood,

M.H.

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Before I knew there was such a thing as radical feminism, I remember I wasn’t very interested in politics. No politics out there really appealed to me. They seemed all boring and unprogressive. No politics seemed to make any sense or to support any genuine change.

I was younger and more interested in listening to music, watching movies, having fun with friends, going out dancing, trying to “find the right man” for me, etc. I was a rather “everyday girl” (if I can call it that way ’cause I cannot figure any other way of how to call it). There was an incredible pain, an incredible boredom, an incredible suffering that I was feeling in me. However, I didn’t know what it was. Having been raised in a Catholic family, I had been taught to believe in “god”. But “god” was of no help in all those painful years.

Then, one day, I found out about a little faction of the world’s politics, a small group of (usually) women kept away from mainstream politics. They had their own politics. It was called radical feminism.

I learned from radical feminism that pornography and prostitution were inherently harmful to women and children. And I also noticed that this radical feminist claim wasn’t based on mere guesses, but a great amount of thorough research, public testimonies, etc. Their anti-porn movement had also grown out of 70’s grassroots anti-violence groups.

I had spent a great part of my life living with abusive boyfriends who consumed porn. One of them especially, the first one, had been coercing me into sex and repeatedly tried to have me imitate the scenes that were in the pornography he was using.

He was also highly interested in the degradation of women who were in prostitution and in pornography. Most of my life, I had somehow known that there was a sort of unequal power relationship between the prostituted or pornographized women and the johns. But I had no word to talk about it.

As for other men I’d known in my life (before my current partner), I could observe these cruel, uncaring, and rough behaviors in them, along with the fact that I could often see the lack of empathy in their eyes. I could feel the callousness of most men but had no words to express my feelings about it. I often had asked myself “why?”, “Why most men are the way they are?”, “Why do they have to hurt that much?”.

When I started reading radical feminist literature and being interested in radical feminism, I concluded that I had finally found a politics that spoke to me. I had found, for the first time, a politics that genuinely wanted complete revolution and social change. As I read the painful stories of so many women and girls that were written in radical feminist books, I felt pained but I also felt heard, echoed. It was reassuring: I was not the only one these things were happening to.

I learned from radical feminism that I was living in patriarchy, that is to say a society largely controlled by men. I learned that most men were not the way they are by nature, not only as a result of being born male but as a result of being men having been socialized to benefit from patriarchy and male privilege, having been socialized to repress their empathy and get off on the suffering of the other half of the world’s population — women. I thought (and I still think) there is a hope if men are not born that way, but made to be that way.

I also learned from radical feminism that religions such as Christianity were male-supremacist and I then renounced Catholicism. I renounced Christianity and I don’t care if my Catholic parents don’t like this fact! Radical feminism taught me that patriarchal religions were brainwashing and woman-hating. I learned about the misogyny of the Bible and I couldn’t care less about the patriarchal “god” that doesn’t exist. I had never been a committed religious person anyway. So being an atheist now feels better for me.

I also learned that there were many other patriarchal instrument of brainwashing, including pornography (as I mentioned above). As I said before: the patriarchal Church once used to dominate the society and control women’s lives, rights and sexuality — and still dominates and controls many women’s lives, rights and sexuality nowadays. But now pornography primarily dominates the society and controls women’s social and private lives and their sexuality.

At the same time I learned terribly bad news: radical feminists are largely censored and slandered by mainstream media; and all the people who have fallen for what the media says to them about rad fems, believe that radical feminists are evil man-haters. Such a lie!

Plus whenever academic pro-porners criticize radical feminists, they cannot even quote one part of their works properly: they (1) quote parts of rad fem books or articles that have been put in a certain context (in the original source), either that or they (2) falsely quote things that rad fems have never said nor will ever say. I cannot even believe how shocking this is when radical feminists are accused of the misogyny they are pointing out. They are merely describing the misogyny that is happening right now within this pornographic world.

Before I chose to become a radical feminist, of course I knew that radical feminism was hated. It didn’t stop me from choosing radical feminism though for I perfectly knew through reading radical feminist books that these women were not like the mainstream media and pornified culture portrayed them.

And also because never in my life had I seen such a progressive politics, a politics that wanted genuine social change, a politics that wanted the end of all forms of oppression, a politics that was speaking to me, that had been speaking to me all along as a woman suffering in this patriarchal world, a politics that was now giving me words to really be able to express my feelings. And I’ve also met quite a few radical feminists who are themselves survivors of prostitution and that also confirmed to me that there was nothing glamorous about the ‘sex’ industry.

I expected to be hated in becoming a radical feminist and speaking out against pornography and prostitution which harm so many women and girls (and porn also harmed me), which is partly the reason why, since I created this blog, I’ve hidden backlinks. I wouldn’t be interested in checking out whoever links to my blog because I know that, although well-meaning rad fem friends might do it sometimes they tell me when they do so, and I have no interest in knowing whichever pro-porn site or blog will be linking to me (if it hasn’t already happened).

I know that because rad fems tell the truth about patriarchy, rad fems are hated. And I know that pro-porners have an agenda which is completely an antithesis of our agenda. And they are very manipulative in the way they promote their own agenda.

I know from Laurelin’s recent Observation at her blog that we, rad fems, are referred to as “fascists” and “wingnuts” by pro-porners. These are the comments I’ve made on Laurelin’s blog:

“. . . those who call us “fascists” or “feminazis” do so as an attempt to shut us up. They’re obviously annoyed that we criticize their porn and their so-called “rights” to use prostituted women. The idea of women being objects for their use matters to them more than the fact that women are human beings who suffer. They just don’t understand oppression under patriarchy!”

“. . . Truthfully, that’s the politics of pro-porners which are right-wing and reactionary: They are cruel, anti-humanity, anti-empathy because they don’t care about the facts that women and children are harmed in porn/prostitution and by pornography; they don’t give a fuck who gets hurt so long as they have their jerk-off material! Atrocious!”

Obviously, being a rad fem living in a patriarchal pornified culture, I am totally aware that whenever a woman speaks out against pornography and prostitution, she is hated, she is rejected, she is called a “shrew”, a “bitch”, etc.

It is also noteworthy not to forget that the patriarchists, the guardians of the status quo, the pro-porners know that if they were all males defending their pornstitution, they wouldn’t be credible. People would more quickly notice the woman-hatred inherent in pornography and prostitution if there were only men defending these sexual exploitation businesses.

Therefore, this is why porn users/johns/pimps have to magnify the few women who are willing to defend misogynistic industries and then use these women as proxies to attack radical feminists. These pro-pornstitution women also help them conceal their misogyny and excuse their so-called “rights” to use women and girls as sex objects in pornography and prostitution.

Undeniably, porn users/johns also need “happy hookers” to elevate and to help them viciously attack rad fems. Typically, these men only want to hear the glamorized malestream corporate media stories of “women who say they love being in prostitution and pornography” while refusing to hear the stories of women who say they have been harmed in porn/prostitution and by porn. If presented with the real life stories of these women, they’ll pretend to care about abusive pornstitution stories for a minute or so and then dismiss these common stories as “rare” (or “lying”) and go back to “happy hooker” stories they love so much.

In truth, these few “happy hookers” (whether what they say is the result of dissociation or not) are more listened to by men than us rad fems because men only listen to women who accept their position as “sex objects”. And when women “celebrate” themselves as sexual objects, porncrazy men champion that because “happy hookers” validate men’s pornographic fantasies and make them feel good about their porn use. Porncrazy men hate whoever opposes the idea of women as objects! They hate whoever supports women as human beings!

This is what happens in the world of patriarchal logic: women-as-objects are elevated, championed and magnified by porncrazy men while women-not-as-objects are hated, rejected, dismissed or ridiculed, or even sometimes raped and beaten. Of course, in the end, both women-as-objects and women-not-as-objects will be viewed in the same way by porncrazy men: as women, as inferior to men. Nevertheless, most men need women-as-objects in their maintenance of the male-supremacist status quo. This is such a cruel and unfair world and this is what patriarchy is about= making sure the status quo is being maintained.

There is something terribly wrong about being lied about and thrashed. Which is why I hid backlinks, I am not interested in checking my backlinks: I’d rather not know when it happens to me (if it hasn’t already happened). I expect to be hated, I expect to be misrepresented, but in the end I don’t care. All that pro-porners can say is bullshit and childish name-calling. The politics of pornography and, more broadly, patriarchy are anti-evolution. It is so much easier for some people to be on the pro-porn side because it refuses a serious deep thinking which is an essential part of evolution toward real political action and revolution.

I know it happens to all of us fighting pornstitution: the better we are at what we do, the more shit we get for it. Pro-porners are overwhelmly male and we know it. They simply need to magnify the few pro-porn women and give them “megaphones” so they (men) then can attack us better! We’ll never be able to prevent pro-porners, MRA’s and their posse of porn users from vilifying radical feminists. Them using women to attack us is not new. It’s a two-decade-old pro-pornstitution tactic.

I’d rather not give a fuck. I’ve heard pro-pornography arguments during most of my life while I was the girlfriend of abusive porn-users. I’ve heard pro-pornography arguments during all those years I had to force myself to have sex in order to please men. Now, I’d rather stay away from pro-pornography arguments. They give me bad memories.

Whatever pro-pornstitution folks have said, are saying or will be saying about me, I know it’s only about them thinking their “We benefit from the status quo so that’s where our loyalties lie” me, me, me’s. Whatever pro-pornstitution folks have said, are saying or will be saying about me, I know it’s not true, I know it’s not me and that’s all that matters to me.

I’d rather not know and not give a flying fuck. I’d rather be spending my energy on doing some more patriarchy-bashing. In other words, I’d rather carry on what I’m doing and try to reach other women or people who have/will have a heart and understand the harms of pornography and prostitution.

I know that there are also a few well-meaning secular men, in this world, who have reconsidered their patriarchal socialization and who have understood why men (in general) should stop using pornography and should stop buying women and girls in prostitution too. I welcome them to be our pro-feminist allies.

Above all, I know that we, women, have to unite in a sisterhood as best as we can in order to, one day, accomplish the feminist revolution of overthrowing the whole patriarchal system!

“The Revolution is not an event that takes two or three days, in which there is shooting and hanging. It is a long drawn out process in which new people are created, capable of renovating society so that the revolution does not replace one elite with another, but so that the revolution creates a new anti-authoritarian structure with anti-authoritarian people who in their turn re-organize society so that it becomes a non-alienated human society, free from war, hunger, and exploitation.”
— Rudi Dutschke, March 7, 1968.

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In the comments that were made to my recent post On Choices, Delphyne made a great point:

“As always it boils down to who do we listen to. The handful of women who claim that sexually servicing men is fab and who are fully supported by the sex industry in their defence of it, or the much greater number of women who have been damaged and hurt by being sexually used and exploited by men. Of course the pornstitutionists want to pretend that what the latter say don’t matter, but we don’t have to go along with them.”

I agree that pro-pornstitution folks would have us believe that the vast majority of prostituting women who are abused in the ‘sex’ industry don’t matter, not as much as “sex workers’ rights”, or, more exactly the so-called rights of pimps (mostly men, but sometimes women) and johns to make big profits from and/or get off on the degradation of prostituting women.

As I said before, pro-prostitution women or “sex workers” who say they “defend sex workers’ rights”, very often, are in fact madams, or women who defend the rights of pimps to run a business which inherently relies on the sexual exploitation of women and children, and the rights of johns to (ab)use prostituted women. They sometimes are also among the tiny number of somewhat privileged prostituting/pornographized women who “made it to the top” (i.e. make a lot of money), the ones who genuinely want to stay in prostitution and, thus, who are magnified by male-supremacist porn culture (as I already talked about in my previous post on prostitution).

Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis!

Melissa Farley, Janice G. Raymond, Donna M. Hughes, Gunilla Ekberg, etc. are excellent prostitution researchers. I read their work, met most of them once or twice and have been in touch with them more than a few times. They have (like Mimi Silbert and Ayala Pines had in the early 1980’s) interviewed hundreds of prostituted women and girls (some of whom had had pornography made of them). The true stories of all these prostituted female human beings (who were interviewed by good researchers I know) apparently don’t mean jack shit to “sex work” advocates and pro-pornstitution “feminists”. How vile and sick all that is!

Of course, “sex work” advocates sometimes pretend to care about the stories of abused and prostituted women. But then, they usually quickly ignore them in favor of “sex workers’ rights” (please read “pimps’, johns’, and a few privileged women’s rights” instead of “sex workers’ rights”) and glamorized pornstitution stories. And “sex work” advocates obviously cruelly deny major research findings on prostitution.

As Dorchen Leidholdt, the other co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women wrote in an admirable essay entitled “Prostitution and Trafficking in Women: An Intimate Relationship” (which was published both in the Journal of Trauma Practice and in Melissa Farley’s masterpiece book Prostitution, Trafficking and Traumatic Stress) that explored legal instruments that addressed and defined trafficking, pointing out that distinctions between prostitution and trafficking in women have been promoted by organizations and governments trying to legitimize and/or legalize prostitution as work:

“A perceived need to define trafficking and to distinguish it from prostitution came only. . . in the 1980’s. The goal was to confine both the scope of domestic and international laws addressing the sex industry and activism against it. . . Media reports of the suffering of trafficking victims and the increasing globalization of the sex industry were fueling support for a campaign against the sex industry. Eager to ward off such a danger, pro-sex industry forces developed a strategy. Ignoring or denying the harm of the sex industry was not an option, for that harm was well documented. A more pragmatic approach was to focus on the most brutal and extreme practices of the sex industry — transporting women from poor countries to rich countries using tactics of debt bondage and overt force — while legitimizing its other activities in the name of workers’ rights. The old dichotomy of Madonna-whore was replaced by a new dichotomy: sex worker-trafficked woman. In order to defend prostitution as sex work, trafficking was articulated as gender-neutral, with labor trafficking and sex trafficking collapsed under the same rubric as “trafficking in persons.” Otherwise it would be too evident that the ultimate harm of sex trafficking is the decidedly gendered condition in which the trafficking victim is transported into — prostitution. “Prostitution” was stricken from the lexicon and replaced by “sex work.” Similarly, “pimp”, “procurer”, and “brothel owner” were replaced by “business owners” or “third-party managers”. The old terminology suggested that the sex industry was exploitive or worse whereas, according to the new understanding, it is about the right of individuals to make money as they choose. Indeed it is about the right to economic development. Even “trafficking” was troublesome because it implied that those who were trafficked were victims. The term “trafficking” began to be replaced with the more neutral “migration.” Because there was a danger that the agents who profited from transporting women might be stigmatized as common traffickers the phrase “facilitated migration” was coined.”

The term “facilitated migration” is about how some “sex work” advocates claim that trafficked women from poor countries are “migrating for sex work” so that pimps can profit without having to be recognized as traffickers. Leidholdt also explained, in the same essay, that prostitution and trafficking are fundamentally interrelated, to the extent that sex trafficking can accurately be viewed as “globalized prostitution” while generic prostitution often is a practice of “domestic trafficking.” I totally agree with that.

Here is a link to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women’s Case Against the Legalization of Prostitution.

Janice G. Raymond also argues that Sex Trafficking is Not “Sex Work”:

“Over the last decade, certain UN agencies, various governments, and some NGOs have promoted the policy that prostitution is voluntary and sex trafficking is forced. Yet, the reality is that prostitution and sex trafficking are habitually co-dependent. In countries that prohibit trafficking but decriminalize the sex industry, prostitution, sex trafficking, the illegal sex sector and child prostitution all expand. Even the indulgent Dutch are closing down their main tolerance zones, originally promoted as places that would protect women in prostitution and control the influence of organized crime. In 2004, Amsterdam’s mayor admitted that the “Tippelzone,” Amsterdam’s infamous prostitution zone, had become a haven for traffickers and unsafe for women. . . To its victims, sexual exploitation is neither sex nor sexy. Many progressives who state that globalized capitalism promotes gender, race and class inequality have a strange reluctance to criticize the sex industry for doing exactly that. They are out of touch with the majority of women in prostitution who want not “better working conditions” but a better life. Prostitution is not “sex work;” it is violence against women. It exists because significant numbers of men are given social, moral and legal permission to buy women on demand. It exists because pimps and traffickers prey on women’s poverty and inequality. It exists because it is a last ditch survival strategy, not a choice, for millions of the world’s women. . . When the American Civil Liberties Union joins with evangelicals to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or when the Congressional Black Caucus works with conservatives to pass the Sudan Peace Act, their progressive credentials are not suspect. . . Opposing sex trafficking, the system of prostitution and the sex industry doesn’t make you a conservative, a moralist, or an apologist for some political party or group. It helps make you a feminist and a human rights advocate.”

Also in the comments that were made to my recent post On Choices, Witchy-Woo made clear that:

“. . . the focus of attention needs to shift from women’s “choices” to the motivations and actions of those who create and sustain the demand for the sexual commodification of women and children.”

Jennifer Drew also said that:

“. . . we must switch from asking why do so many women enter prostitution/porn and instead ask why do so many men believe it is their right and entitlement to have a constant supply of fresh women and girls available for them to rape, sexually abuse and subsequently destroy.”

I believe that there are systems of prostitution (trafficking, pornography, strip clubs, escort services, etc. — as mentioned in previous post). I believe that those systems of prostitution are interconnected and are a violation of women and girls’ human rights. I wrote my previous post on choices so that now I can shift my focus from explaining prostituting women’s lack of meaningful choices toward writing about who has the real power over systems of prostitution in this patriarchal world. For systems of prostitution to exists, there has to be a demand for them.

This demand is generated by millions and millions a of men who seek to benefit of the sexual exploitation of women and girls one way or another. You’ve got a starting point here: you’ve got a large amount of men who want to get off on the sexual degradation of women and girls. Then, you’ve got another massive group of (mostly) men who want to capitalize on the sexual degradation of women and girls. Thus, pimps have to procure the supply to the johns somehow.

And, because there is a very little amount of women who would want this type of “job”(*), pimps usually prey on many young girls who either ran away from abusive homes or got kicked out of their homes, destitute women, girls and women who are marginalized due to class, race or ethnicity, battered wives who ran away from their husbands, women being transported from poor countries by traffickers, etc. The magnitude of violence against women and girls that occurs in the prostitution industry in order to cater to males’ desires for the sexual degradation of female human beings is gruesomely atrocious!

I don’t believe that legalization of prostitution is a solution to reduce the harms perpetrated against prostituted women and girls. Legalization has been proven to be an utter failure in countries where prostitution has been legalized or decriminalized. In those countries: violence against women has become more normative; there are very few exit programs for prostituted women; trafficking, child prostitution, and sexual exploitation of women in illegal brothels or on the street have dramatically increased.

I believe that the right solution to tackle the problem of prostitution, this atrocious and widespread crime against women and girls, is found in laws similar to the abolitionist Swedish laws. Prostitution is a form of slavery. Therefore, it has to be abolished. In passing their legislations that criminalize johns, pimps, procurers and traffickers while decriminalizing prostituting women, Sweden has adopted the right solution of reducing men’s demands (for this abject sexual crime against women) while assisting the prostituted with exit services. Sweden has given the overwhelming majority of prostituting women the assistance they want.

Of course male-supremacist mainstream media typically loves to discredit the Swedish model. But that’s an inevitable consequence of patriarchal capitalism trying to maintain the status quo.

As for the small number of somewhat privileged women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution: well, after all, they are not criminalized in Sweden, and consequently not oppressed. And, as I said above: Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis!

(*) See WHISPER one-page tongue-in-cheek “help wanted” ad for the “job” of prostitution.

Some further reading for those who are so inclined:

Legalizing Prostitution is Not the Answer

How Legalization has failed

Myths & Facts About Nevada Legal Prostitution by the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking

“It’s Abuse and a Life of Hell”

The Hidden Slave Trade

Opposing Prostitution As a Form of Male Violence: the Swedish Model

Sweden’s success against prostitution

Captive Daughters: Is it Possible to Reduce Demand?

“The best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them to get out of prostitution”

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The main speaker in both videos is Gunilla Ekberg from Sweden.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Another great feminist anti-prostitution video called “Not For Sale” can be found here.

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“Women freely choose to sell their bodies in pornography and in prostitution” is one of the main disputes that pornstitution defenders put forward as an attempt to silence any feminist critique of misogynistic industries. Wallowing in their muddy myopia, pro-porners and pro-”sex work” people argue that “women in the sex industry (especially the porn industry) are fully consenting adults and, besides, for the most part, they make a lot of money” and then they smugly hope that their “Women freely choose, so don’t criticize the sex industry” argument will obviate any fair criticism of the multi-billion dollar sexual exploitation business. In other words, this “choice” argument is one of the most common excuses that pro-pornstitution folks use as a conversation-stopper.
Radical feminists have never denounced prostituting women and pornography performers for their choices. Instead, we compassionately acknowledge that many of those women’s choices are made under a variety of constraints. We believe that any discussion regarding prostituting women’s choices should take into consideration the different conditions under which they choose.
As Robert Jensen wrote in his recent book Getting Off: “A meaningful discussion of choice can’t be restricted to the single moment when a woman decides to perform in a specific pornographic film but must include all the existing background conditions that affect not only the objective choices she faces but her subjective assessment of those choices.” The same applies to prostitution: one woman doesn’t suddenly wake up one morning and say “Oh, I’ve just decided today that I’m going to sell my body for sex among a wide range of opportunities to make money”, this is absurd! Prostituting women’s life stories are much more complex than this.
Debunking the “sex industry isn’t a monolith” lie
Before I raise awareness on prostituting women’s complicated choices and lack of choices, I believe it is important to mention how pornstitution’s defenders deliberately and frequently obfuscate the links between pornography, stripping, prostitution and any other forms of commodification of women’s and girls’ bodies with their “the sex industry isn’t a monolith” lie, namely pro-pornstitution folks claim that “the sex industry isn’t something merely uniform and massive; there are lots of opportunities, aspects and types.”
However, this view of the sex industry is very limited and male-centered. It all boils down to the consumerist vision of johns/porn users and the heartless capitalism of pimps/pornographers. This view of the sex industry serves to obscure the reality of a business that is one of the world’s major cases of trafficking (other main traffickings being in guns and drugs): sex trafficking, i.e. the global sexual exploitation of women and girls and their suffering inside of the sex industry.
A man can choose to take unfair advantage of the brutal and popular commodification of women and girls’ bodies in various ways: he can choose to be a strip-club patron, a pornography user, a john, etc. or he can choose to be a strip-club owner/manager, a porn producer/director, a pimp, etc.
On the other hand, a woman or girl entering the sex industry will very likely start as an exotic dancer or a prostitute,etc. then become a porn ‘actress’ or ‘nude model’, etc., or vice versa. To prostituted women, the ‘sex’ industry is something uniform and massive in this constant way: they are being (ab)used and controlled by men. The only different thing is that there are various ways within which they are being (ab)used and controlled by men.
To most prostituting women: prostitution feels like “paid rape”; pornography is prostitution plus a camera; trafficking is being transported from one place to another (domestically or internationally); stripping is a particular way of being prostituted and having one’s body being used (i.e. strip bars’ customers are often led to the impression that they have bought “the right to touch, grab, slap or otherwise violate, degrade, or devalue the woman stripping”, as former stripper Taylor Lee explained).
As a matter of fact, prostitution businesses are interconnected. The Truth is that prostitution is a global industry of sexual exploitation in which sex is traded for money, clothing, food, drugs, shelter, or favors. Prostitution (or “the sex industry”, term used as an euphemism) includes strip bars, lap-dancing clubs, massage parlors, brothels, saunas, adult and child pornography, street walking, live sex shows, phone sex, prostitution rings, Internet pornography, escort services, peep shows, ritual abuse, and mail order bride services.
Therefore, this “the sex industry isn’t a monolith or something being merely uniform and massive, blah, blah, blah” view promulgated by pro-pornstitution people is a male-centered and misogynistic myth because, in the end, it all boils down to this: the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women and girls will have various forms (in order to cater to different kinds of male needs to use female human beings as merely objects to degrade) but it still will be the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women and girls, and an ongoing suffering to them.
You’re right on this one point, pro-pornstitution folks: “the sex industry isn’t a monolith”; it is a mega-monolith of interconnected forms of sexual exploitations, abuses, and ongoing suffering of prostituted women and girls!

Corporate media propaganda

Given the mass-pornified media propaganda pervasive throughout this culture, it is no wonder that many people believe that “women freely choose to sell their bodies in pornography and in prostitution”. The malestream media typically portrays and elevates misleading images such as of “the happy hooker”, “the glamorous life of the stripper”, or “the empowering job of the porn star”. HBO and other major TV/cable channels are filled with deluding glamorizations like these in order to gloss over the dark side of the porn industry and other forms of sexual exploitation of prostituting women. Corporate media only shows the few “Jenna Jamesons” of the world, the few prostitutes/’porn actresses’ who “made it to the top”, while ignoring the overwhelming majority of women who appear in video and Internet pornography.

For instance, the problem with a typical HBO-type (or other TV channels) documentaries which glamorize the porn industry is this: the sample size (usually around 30) of porn performers interviewed is both too small and unrepresentative of the overwhelming majority of porn ‘actresses’ for these pro-porn TV programs to be accurate portrayals of what life is like for the women in the porn industry.

Of the millions of women who are pornographized worldwide, the (usual) thirty that HBO (or another TV channel) picks are the ones who are near the top of the business, who have some degree of name recognition and some kind of “fame” among porn consumers. It is likely that their tales differ to an extent from those whose names we will never know, who don’t get the “glamorous” Vivid contract, and who work in some disgusting grimy basement for a miserable amount of money.

Those on screen probably also have to protect themselves — if they say defamatory things about the pimps that prostitute them out for mass consumption, they’re likely to lose their position to someone who is a lot more compliant. Glamorized pornified documentaries such as these should normally be deserving of our contempt and little else. As a friend of mine once told me, “why does anyone believe mega corporations with billions of dollars invested into pornified media will provide a fair analysis of pornified media?” Unfortunately, too many people fall for the lies perpetuated by pornified media.

In a recent article which was published in the in Hartford Courant, Gail Dines wrote that mainstream culture “is accepting, even promoting, the media-generated sugar-coated image of the porn industry as glamorous, fun and cool. This image has been made popular by Howard Stern, documentaries on E! Entertainment and celebrity magazines such as People. The Vivid Girls are the elite of the porn industry, women who earn a decent, if short-lived livelihood, and are somewhat protected from the much larger world of more violent and body-punishing hard-core movies called “gonzo” by the industry. The (mainly white) Vivid Girls are the respectable face of the porn industry; their job is to make porn look like a wholesome route to stardom; they act as a recruitment tool for a mass production sweatshop industry that needs to keep replenishing its supply of female bodies.”

Dines also wrote that “Those women who do go into porn are mostly women from underprivileged backgrounds who, facing a life of minimum wage labor, see porn as a way out of anonymous economic drudgery. And why not? The only image they ever get of porn is one that highlights the lucky few who actually make real money and get to mix with a few B list celebrities. What they don’t get to see are the thousands and thousands of women who start in porn and end up, within a short time, working the brothels of Nevada for a pittance, or having to deal with substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Different stories

While I was having a conversation with Janice G. Raymond (the co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – CATW International) at a conference last year, she said to me “There are some women who choose to prostitute but there aren’t many”. I believe it is possible that there are a few women out there who do freely choose to enter the industry, are fully aware of what’s involved and/or make a lot of money. Still, I do not believe it is honest people focusing all their attention on those few somewhat privileged women while ignoring the vast majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to choose a better life, who are being controlled and mistreated by pimps, and who are used and abused by johns.

Stories of “happy hookers” or “women who love doing porn” are magnified by malestream media and are elevated in patriarchy. These “happy pornstitution stories” are exalted by pornographers and their defenders. All this done with the purpose to conceal or obscure the real life stories of those who undergo a vile and excruciating form of slavery: the sexual slavery that is prostitution.

What kind of a world is this, in which many women have to go through the pain of being penetrated vaginally, orally and anally by five to ten men a day in exchange for money (which for the most part goes to their pimps) and then all of this gets defended as “sex work”? What kind of a world is this, in which the very same acts which are done to these women, whose bodies are being sold, are filmed or photographed and then all of this gets defended as “sexual freedom” or “free speech”?

There is no doubt that pro-porners, cruelly reveling in their pornographic ‘fantasies’ and being deaf to the cries of millions of suffering women and girls, would rather not hear stories like:

Sarah Wynter’s:

“I was thirteen when I was forced into prostitution and pornography. . . I was drugged, raped, gang-raped, imprisoned, beaten, sold from one pimp to another, photographed by pimps, photographed by tricks; I was used in pornography and they used pornography on me; “[t]hey knew a child’s face when they looked into it. It was clear that I was not acting of my own free will. I was always covered with welts and bruises. . . It was even clearer that I was sexually inexperienced. I literally didn’t know what to do. So they showed me pornography to teach me about sex and then they would ignore my tears as they positioned my body like the women in the pictures and used me.”;

Rebecca Mott’s:

“My entrance into prostitution overlapped with stepdad’s sexual abuse of me. For me, it was a logical move, after all I was already having sex and getting gifts. I knew I was nothing more than some holes for men to use. So when I stayed up late and went to clubs, I was attracted to sleaze. I wanted to be the “bad girl” because being good never stopped the pain. . . From aged 12, I had started drinking. It deadened my pain. It made me not care how I was treated. I drank because then I forgot for a while. It was also a slow way to killing myself. It was within this head-space that I entered into paid sex. I was aged 14 when I first had sex for money. I thought I knew what I was doing but I had no idea. . . I was having sex too much. I had sex, but I had no love or affection. I had decided I was just an object for men to fuck. I had lost who I was. Now, I had hit on a form of self-harm that fitted me. I find it so hard to see that time, for I was so scared and abandoned. I see that time, and all I think is that I was recreating the images I had seen in hard-core porn. For, as I was being raped over and over again by these men, I had learned to act as if I was enjoying it… I was so dead inside, that after many acts of violence, I would “act normal” afterward. I could not allow myself to think about what had happened, because then I would lose my mind.”;

J.W.’s:

“[O]ver a period of eight years… I worked as a prostitute, dancer and nude model… As a prostitute I worked in massage parlours, peep shows, private apartments, street corners, bars and for escort services… At the age of seventeen I began dancing in topless and bottomless bars. I was working for a pimp and was under a lot of pressure from him and the club owners to make a lot of money. In these bars they had pornographic videos playing constantly which contained graphic scenes of various sexual acts. The women in the videos were usually naked and the men were often clothed except for their penis. . . I had never seen pornographic movies before. I soon found out that in order to make tips I had to lay on the dance floor, spread my legs and expose my genitals to the customers, just like in the videos. . . A lot of my work consisted of acting out particular scenes for the customer [john] which caused him to become aroused. . . Some of the most violent pornography that I saw was in the houses of customers that I saw through escort services… I considered the men who were into pornography to be the most dangerous and potentially violent since that is what aroused them. . . At least fifty percent of the men that I saw professionally were into fantasies and pornography such as I have described. They were men from all over the world and all types of professions. Every prostitute I know has had similar experiences. Often we keep it to ourselves because it is very painful to remember. I have been scarred for life both mentally and physically. I have violent nightmares on a regular basis which replay my worst experiences of sexual violence over and over. I have difficulty relating to people in normal social situations. I cannot make love with someone without having flashbacks of being a prostitute. I have very little self confidence…”;

Jersey Jaxin’s:

“I’m just tired of the industry. The way that they treat us as though we’re just pieces of meat. That we don’t have a mind and our body is everybody’s and we have no soul… [In the porn industry] Guys [are] punching you in the face. You have semen… Twenty or thirty guys all over your face, in your eyes. You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you. It’s never ending. You’re viewed as an object not as a human with a spirit. People don’t care. People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they’re being treated… You are a number. You’re bruised. You have black eyes. You’re ripped. You’re torn. You have your insides coming out of you. It’s not pretty and foofoo on set. You get hurt… You have to numb yourself to go on set. The more you work, the more you have to numb yourself. The more you become addicted, the more your personal life is nothing but drugs… Your whole life becomes nothing but porn… We’re ripped, we’re tired, we’re sored, we’re bleeding, we’re cut up, we have dried semen all over our faces from numerous guys and we can’t wash it off because they want to take pictures. You have this stuff all over you and they’re telling you, ‘Hold it!’… It’s all about the money. They’ve forgotten who they are and they don’t care who they’re hurting.”;

Suki Falconberg’s:

“[Melissa] Farley presented a panel on prostitution shortly after her book [Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections] came out, and a number of former prostitutes spoke. One said that Las Vegas is greatly lacking in services to help prostituted women, girls, and children. (The city has a thriving business based on the sale of young girls, ages 13-17.) She said that local charities would not help the prostituted. Once they discover you worked as one, they throw you out. . . At the panel, one prostitute came up with a startling fact: that very few women, girls, or children actually make it out of prostitution, and, of the few who do, life expectancy is short. Most are dead two or three years later. From insanity, suicide, disease?. Her remarks made me stop breathing for a few seconds. I now realize that I was incredibly lucky to actually survive the three-year stint I spent in prostitution and that the odds of my being alive now are amazing. When I was in it, I saw no way out. Esteem so low and a body and mind and emotions so battered that I could not see past the next hour or so. I felt as if I was in a ten-foot pit and could not see the rim. I smiled all the time, as if everything was okay. But I simply assumed I would die in prostitution. I gave up. What life is there after being raped thousands of times by men you don´t know? There is none. I have no courage, no self-worth―all these must come from inside and there is only empty cold space inside me. I am afraid to leave the house. I am terrified of everything. I am not a rape/prostitution survivor. I didn´t survive. I have no ´support network´ since I have never spoken to another prostitute. I am always afraid I will see the same sadness in her eyes that I see in my own. The only way I know what other prostitutes think is through people like Melissa Farley, who has talked to so many all over the world. With surprise, I found many similarities―whether it´s Bangkok or Bombay or London or Las Vegas, the raped body feels the same. Through Farley´s interviews, I have also found ones who are ´true´ survivors. Hope and peace and safety they have found. That´s not me. No hope, no peace, and certainly no safety―since I am terrified to go outside the door. This is a big deal for me since you can´t do much of anything else if you can´t cross the threshold, into the outside world. I pretty much live in spite of this. The beautiful things in the world–I know they are there–but I can´t reach them for comfort. I am still ten feet down, in that pit. I love sparrows. So small and cute and sweet and fragile, yet also so cheeky and spirited. I wish I could appreciate the beauty of a sparrow again.”; or

Carol Smith’s:

“What I saw were women just like myself who were desperate, addicted to drugs, homeless, and I’m sure probably at least 80 percent of them suffered from sexual abuse as children. I saw them re-living their childhood experiences by getting into that industry. They were looking for attention, pleasing men, and being abused. And that’s all they know. They think it’s great. They think it’s wonderful. I could’ve looked you in the eye ten years ago and told you that I loved being in pornography, was proud of what I was doing and that I was having a great time. But now I can tell you that it’s so far from the truth. I was very convincing. I could convince you. I mean, I could walk up to a porn star today and she could tell me the same story and I can remember being in that place.”

Pro-pronstitution folks would rather not hear such stories; they’d rather avoid such stories; they’d rather not care about such stories; they’d rather try to silence these women’s stories. I do not believe it is fair. There are many stories like these and probably many more that we do not even know about. These accounts are the true stories of the daily lives of many women an girls who are/have been in the sex(-slave) trade and these bought and sold female human beings don’t want to hear about “sex work”!

The problem is that, for most people, it is very hard to understand why women who are in prostitution or pornography would not enjoy their ‘job’, because people only see a few of them on TV pseudo-documentaries which glamorize the sex industry and the women they see typically say they do it because “they love the sex and they feel good about their bodies”. People usually fall for mainstream media propaganda and conclude that prostituting women are “having a great time” because “they say that they are having a great time”.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the mental process of dissociation. Of the 854 prostituted respondents interviewed by researchers, 68% met the criteria for PTSD. Women in prostitution whose tricks or pimps had made pornography of them had significantly more severe symptoms of PTSD than did prostituted women who did not have pornography made of them. While it is hard to tell how another person feels, we do know that prostituted and pornographized women often have their mind splitting into different parts of the self in order to be able to cope with what they do.

Dissociative disorders are common in prostituted women. Seeing a prostituting woman on a screen smiling and saying that “she loves her job” does not necessarily mean that she is happy . She might believe that she is happy while being shielded in a form of protective denial with the purpose to protect herself from the painful reality she lives in: the ongoing abuse which occurs in the sex trade.

In a study of the strip bar industry, strippers reported a dissociation to abuse: “It takes a willingness to do it…anybody can do it.” “It takes somebody who can shut themselves off and be really fake.” In her book Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress (2003), Melissa Farley, clinical psychologist and researcher (whose research on prostitution has been used by state governments, as well as by advocates and organizations providing services to prostituted and trafficked women) wrote: “In order to survive the brutal commodification of their sexuality in prostitution, women dissociate, and appear to accept the view of themselves as sexual commodities.”

Choices

In a study of 854 prostituting (mostly female) human beings from nine countries (Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia), 57% reported having been raped in prostitution; 73% reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution; 49% had pornography made of them; 75% were currently or formerly homeless; and 89% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately. Summarizing different study findings, research carried out on prostitutes (some of whom had pornography made of them) and clinical literature on different types of prostitution, it is estimated that between 65% and 95% of women in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children. This Farley et al. nine-country study is the most comprehensive research on prostitution which the world has known to date!

In Germany, where prostitution is legal, out of the estimated 400,000 Germany’s “sex workers” only 100 joined a union. That’s .00025% of German prostitutes. According to the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, 81% of women in the Nevada legal brothel prostitution urgently want to escape it. This makes even clearer that women don’t want to be prostitutes!

In spite of all this, “sex work” advocates carry on their propaganda by upholding the anti-woman status quo. “Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession”, they frequently say; this misogynistic saying should be translated as “Women as whores: that’s what women are for, have always been for, and will always be for: being men’s whores”. It is also worth pointing out that the pornstitution industry and pornified corporate media glorify the few women who defend them as an attempt to conceal the obvious misogyny of the ‘sex’ industry (i.e. trying to show something like this: “See, if some women defend it; it can’t be misogynistic”).

Many of the pro-pornstitution women are, without any doubt, financed by the ‘sex’ industry itself! So, pro-pornstitution women more often get to be heard than us (rad fems) in this atrocious patriarchy. Radical feminists know that the overwhelming majority of people who defend pornography and prostitution are in fact men, though. Pro- pornstitution women are merely a sideshow (a pro-porn tactic to create diversion).

The few somewhat privileged women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution (probably due to the deeply entrenched institutionalized female masochism enforced by patriarchy) are elevated in male-supremacist culture. They are magnified by pornified media, highly praised by “sex work” advocates and pro-porners; they are given megaphones, book deals, spaces on major websites, etc.

Some of those few women who “make it to the top” in the pornstitution industry become pimps (i.e. Madams) themselves and (ab)use the other women they sell, instead of channeling their internalized anger (from past abuse) in the right direction: toward the industry itself and the johns/porn users who abused them. The “sex work” advocates inhumanly refuse to hear the stories of the vast majority of prostituting women or prostitution survivors and attempt to silence them.

A few months ago, some “sex work” advocates violently attempted to disrupt a play entitled My Real Name, which used the real life stories of survivors of prostitution. My Real Name was about, by, and for survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, and was a racially and ethnically diverse production. Maxine Doogan, a “sex work” advocate who wrote a propaganda piece called “Anti-prostitution group commits violence on sex worker”, is a convicted madam from Washington state. She encourages prostituting women to oppose anti-prostitution feminists and sex industry survivors. Maxine Doogan was one of the women who orchestrated the racist and classist ruckus that occurred when the play My Real Name was being performed in Berkeley.

Some “sex work” advocates, such as Yasmin Nair in Clamor Magazine, have even gone so far as saying that women who are from poor countries and who are trafficked into the U.S. for prostitution, are lying about being pimped, enslaved, raped, beaten and sold into the American sex industry. Those “sex work” advocates have claimed that trafficked women are “problably migrating for ‘sex work'” instead. Victims of sex trafficking have been recognized by Amnesty International, Equality Now, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the Polaris Project and hundreds of other international organizations. This sort of “sex work” advocates’ propaganda indeed erases rapes and promotes racism.

There are many agencies that specialize in recruiting young women to the porn industry with the promise of making big money and becoming a star. Indeed, the money is an attraction for mostly young, working-class women who face limited choices in a harsh economy. Given those economic realities and the glamorization of pornography, it’s not surprising that some young women will see this as a viable career option. Undeniably, the whole culture promotes the “porn star” job as a glamorous job. In TV shows, the image of the “porn star” is shown as “liberating” and “empowering” for women.

Some young girls unfortunately, turning 18, fall for the pernicious ideologies that the media industries (whose owners, managers, producers and broadcasters are predominantly men) want them to believe. Brainwashing pornified pimp culture obviously trains women and girls to view the porn industry as glamorous. However, those young women and girls who enter the porn industry after having had a harmful pornified media training, are often not aware of the conditions in which they will “work”. They’ve only seen the glamorized side of porn and hope they can become the next Jenna Jameson. They aren’t aware of the ongoing sexual violence that goes on in porn.

The average age of entry into prostitution is 13-14 years old (Sources: M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, “Victimization of street prostitutes”, Victimology: An International Journal, 1982; and D. Kelly Weisberg, Children of the Night: A Study of Adolescent Prostitution, 1985). Many women in pornography are only 18, and are easily used and discarded by the industry. Most pornography performers have a very brief “shelf life”, they find themselves being overexposed so, even if they initially command a high rate per scene or per movie, their market value as “fresh meat” declines rapidly. Some ex-porn ‘actresses’ and people who knew pornography performers, are also known to have revealed that most women in porn are indeed survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

When we expose the facts, “sex work” advocates argue that we are “portraying women in the sex industry as victims” and that we are “denying their autonomy”. All this is untrue and “sex work” advocates fail (do not want) to understand our analysis of circumstances within which some women have much more limited choices than others in patriarchal capitalist society. “Sex work” advocates simply do not want to face the fact that denying major study results on prostitution along with real life stories of prostitution survivors is a deplorable repudiation of one’s empathy.

Some “sex work” advocates claim that the exploitation of prostituting women arises from the social stigma associated with prostitution. There is a great body of evidence that prostituted women are still being horribly discriminated against in countries where prostitution is legal. The issue of stigmatization of prostituted women and girls simply cannot be separated from their ongoing reality of economic exploitation and sexual and physical violence.

The ‘sex’ industry has done a great job in focusing the debate on “women’s choices”, while the focus of any discussion on the subject should be on the consumers who CHOOSE to use pornography, and, in the case of prostitution, on the johns who CHOOSE to buy women for sex.

“In the past we had a women’s movement which understood that the choice to be beaten by one man for economic survival was not a real choice, despite the appearance of consent a marriage contract might provide. Yet now we are supposed to believe, in the name of ‘feminism’, that the choice to be fucked by hundreds of men for economic survival must be affirmed as a real choice, and if the woman signs a model release then there is no coercion there”.
— Catharine A. MacKinnon.

ETA: For a follow-up to this post see this post here: On Choices (part 2): Prostitution and the Agency of Johns

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Ten reasons why I explicitly refuse to hear “the other side” of the porn/prostitution debate:

1) Before creating my website Against Pornography (which I had created before this blog), I had compiled many informations I had researched. The research I’d made on pornography and prostitution led me to the conclusion that pornography and prostitution are undeniably harmful and indefensible IMHO because, simply put, the level of harms done to women and children is way too high! Which was my motivation for creating an anti-porn site in the first place. And I’ve compiled the informations I had researched which led me to that conclusion here and there. My anti-pornstitution stance is based on thorough research, not mere guesses. I became an anti-pornstitution feminist due to my research and findings on the harms and there is no going back!

2) You are renouncing your humanity and empathy by refusing to acknowledge the FACTS that human beings are harmed in porn/prostitution and by pornography. This is atrocious and sickening! And this is one of the major reasons why I refuse to hear you. As a fellow anti-porn blogger recently told me: “Pro-porners have labeled themselves “sex positive” in a deliberate conflation of sex with pornography. It allows them to dismiss those who criticize pornography as “sexually repressed.” I, on the other hand, see the pro-porn crowd as ethically repressed, morally bankrupt, self-serving perverts that don’t give a shit who gets hurt as long as they get their masturbatory material.”

3) You wouldn’t go to a pro-abortion site and expect to hear the “other side”. These people are presenting their side! Good debaters take the arguments of their opponents and respond to them, which is exactly what I have done on my website and my blog. The FAQ’s section of my site gives answers to major pro-porn questions and arguments. This is what free speech is about: the right to take a side! There are many pro-porn websites which do not allow us to be heard. I know that there are also “sides of the debate” sites where somebody who is undecided can find both sides going at it. However, this isn’t the case here: I have fully recognized the harms of pornography and prostitution.

4) There are many MORE sites on the Net which defend pornstitution (and so does the mainstream media and culture) so, personally, I do not see anything wrong in having exclusively anti-porn/prostitution sites which fight back and give safe spaces to those who are/have been harmed and to those who understand, recognize or are interested in finding out about the harms (without having to hear the old tired “pornography’s harmless, etc.” arguments we hear in everyday life).

5) As One Angry Girl brilliantly put it in her website’s FAQ: “the “other side of the argument” is sufficiently presented by the bazillion porn sites already on the Internet, which currently outnumber the antiporn sites by about 300 million to one. Since the pornographers don’t feel compelled to present any antiporn arguments among their streaming videos of nasty teen sluts, we aren’t compelled to parrot their nonsense here. But in the spirit of fairness, we’ll offer a compromise: when every porn site on the Internet includes a chapter or two of Andrea Dworkin’s work, then we’ll include some Wendy McElroy here. Sound fair?”

6) Pro-porners and “sex work” advocates have money, corporate media, lobbyists, lawyers, managers, marketeers, industry analysts, paid writers of “opinion” and “journalism”, publicists, etc. to defend their fallacious arguments supporting misogynistic industries.

7) The pro-pornstitution side gets to be heard all the time in the world of pornified media. The pro-pornstitution side is what’s mainstream, not us. My job is to give a voice to people who aren’t heard as often. Radical feminist opponents are censored and repeatedly slandered by pro-porners and most of mainstream media in order to protect the pornography industry.

8 ) In a male-supremacist, capitalist society, the First Amendment protects only those who can exercise the rights it protects. My website and my blog aren’t arguing whether pornography should be protected by the First Amendment or not. The facts that my website and blog show is how pornography keeps women and other people who have been harmed from exercising their rights to free speech. And I’m sick of pro-pornstitution folks acting like their speech is being suppressed during one of the few times we get to be heard!

9) You are making up excuses of “being censored” (while you can have your free speech in more places than us) because you are scared and worried that if people find and read my anti-pornstitution web pages on the Internet and these are not countered with glowing reviews of the ‘sex’ industry, some people might start seeing pornography and prostitution for the detriments these industries are to women and children!

10) As rad fem blogger Captain Vanille recently wrote in her post Language, Definition and Privilege:
” “Pro-free speech” and “anti-censorship” are also misnomers; the vast majority, if not all, of anti-pornography feminists do not advocate censorship as a solution to pornography, but instead education with a goal towards a society-wide boycott of pornography and prostitution. It would appear, then, that the propaganda aimed towards silencing anti-pornography feminists is designed to be against the education of people about pornography; this is perhaps so, but a far more striking implication of this is that pro-pornography people do not want to know the truth about anti-pornography feminists; they simply want to hate us, as has been the historical privilege of the ruling classes. That is the point of all of this. Pro-pornography people are not making these terms and beliefs up to propagandise others against us; they are making these things up for themselves so that they can dismiss us.”

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