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commodification of human bodies: where does society draw the line?

While I began writing this simply as a response to this article, after doing some research about sex work in general I have decided to write about it as a whole in the second half.

Firstly I want to say that this article outraged me in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. And while I am horrified that an escort agency is selling a girl’s virginity, this article is what really offended me. Articles like this one are what are taking the cause of women’s liberation back centuries, not just the escort agencies who are profiteering off the victims in our society.

The issue here seemed to only revolve around a woman selling her virginity, rather than sex work in general. What I gleaned from this article was that if the woman in question had previously had a lover, then it would have been perfectly acceptable for her to be sold; though the issues of debt and isolation would still be in play and would still have been just as forceful.

Quotes such as “who are these people who are willing to put a price on a young woman’s virginity”, while good questions, are alienating those women in the same vulnerable situations who are not virgins. What about “who are these people willing to put a price on a young woman’s body”? Why was that not asked once in this article?

Another quote I found particularly offensive was this: “The damage it does to society and human dignity can’t be overstated”. Again, this seemed only in reference to women who still have their virginity. It seems that those who are sexually active need not worry about their dignity as it must have already disappeared as soon as they opened their legs.

The last straw was the part that read: “It’s illegal to trade in body parts,” he said. “Selling your virginity starts to get into that territory.”

He is right, it is illegal to trade in body parts, but selling sexual services does not seem to enter into that territory for society today. Selling your virginity is apparently a whole different matter.

I should stop here and make a confession; I used to be in the camp of ‘prostitution is a necessary aspect of society’. And judging from the amount of articles (including the ones in feminist magazines I respect), as well as media interviews and television shows, my former view tends to be shared. Over the last few years, the focus has been around prostitution fighting to be seen as an acceptable career choice, just like any other occupation. Girls were interviewed left, right, and centre who loved their job. And this is a good thing in a way; if they love their job well then, who is anybody to judge?

But as I mentioned, my views did change after I did a little research. Ninety percent of women in prostitution would leave it if they could1. They have a 40% higher risk of homicide than anyone else in society 2. They have a higher risk of rape than anyone else in society (73% in a US study reported having been raped) 3 . Over 50% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children 4 . And the average age of a woman (or should I say girl) in prostitution is fourteen years of age 1 .

While people argue for the legalisation of prostitution to ‘keep it safe’, research proves that this is not the case. When Victoria legalised prostitution, the illegal sector doubled 5 . When Amsterdam legalised prostitution, child prostitution went up by 300% 6.

Prostitution, when it really comes down to it, is the commodification of body parts, just as selling organs is, no matter how much the media tries to put an ‘empowering’ spin on it (though because of this, it almost feels ‘anti-feminist’ to say so). Allowing people to purchase someone’s body is simply preying on the victims in our society. Selling organs is illegal for that exact reason.

When did society become so backwards that paying money to use another’s body is acceptable, but a women selling her virginity is a moral outrage. Both are often victims (I understand that this is not always the case), and both deserve the respect and help that society has sadly withheld from them.

Yes, I do understand that this is a controversial subject. I understand that there are some people out there who choose prostitution. But for every person that likes it, there are nine others who would leave it if they could. And those people (whether they are virgins or not is completely irrelevant, and I’m ashamed that anyone would think otherwise) deserve the protection and care that is sadly lacking in the current system.

But enough from me, I think that Victor Hugo in the 19th century said it better than anyone:

“They say that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. That is incorrect. It still exists, but now it weighs only on women, and it is called prostitution.” –Victor Hugo (Les Miserables)

References:
1. Farley M et al, ‘Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’, (1998), Feminism & Psychology 8

2. Chris Grussendorf, “No Humans Involved, Part One”, http://www.catwinternational.org/factbook/usa2_prost.php

3. Prostitution, Violence Against Women,and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Melissa Farley, PhD and Howard Barkan, DrPH (*)Women & Health, 27 (3): 37-49. © 1998 by The Haworth Press, Inc.

4. Debra Boyer, U. Washington, Susan Breault of the Paul & Lisa Program, “Danger for prostitutes increasing, most starting younger,” Beacon Journal, 21 September 1997

5. Sullivan & Jeffreys, ‘Legalising Prostitution Is Not The Answer: The example of Victoria, Australia’, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), www.catwinternational.org

6. Tiggeloven, C. (2001,). Child Prostitution in the Netherlands. Available at www.nw.nl/hotspots/html/netherlands011218.html.

(Image credit: 1.)

43 thoughts on “commodification of human bodies: where does society draw the line?

  1. Were Scarlet Alliance or any other sex workers & sex worker orgs consulted in your research?

    Sex workers don’t sell their bodies – they sell sexual services. Or alternatively everyone with some sort of physical job sells their body – to move things, to make things, to dance, to act, to bag your groceries.

  2. First up: sex workers sell services. They do not sell their bodies.

    Secondly: if you call yourself a feminist, what business is it of yours how this girl disposes of her virginity? Yes, there is potential for exploitation here but I fail to see how this is different to women who barter sexual services for marriages to wealthy men.

    Third: Referencing Sheila Jeffreys is going to draw you a whorephobic conclusion regardless of how you read her research because Jeffreys IS a whorephobe!

    I chose sex work. I am also a law student and work two other jobs. Please consider consulting us before you represent us as slaves or unfortunates in future articles.

  3. Firstly: I mentioned at least three times that there were people out there who chose the job and enjoy their work. If you do, that’s great. If all of the girls involved in sex work did, I would never have written the article.

    Secondly: The point of my article was not about a girl disposing of her virginity at all. I spent the first half arguing against the people who were up in arms about the selling of a girls virginity, while I was talking about the sex trade in general.

    I wrote this article after doing A LOT of research (not just the one article you mentioned and have a problem with); I only referenced maybe a third of it. While yes, for many girls it is their choice and a form of employment, for even more it is exploitation and not a choice. I wrote this article to give those girls a voice.

    While other jobs do ‘use’ bodies, it is not nearly in the same way as prostitution does. To say otherwise is naive. Other jobs don’t come with the increased risk of homicide or rape that is so prominent in sex work. Other jobs don’t target the vulnerable in society like sex work does. I wish it weren’t the case that some people are forced into it through poverty, vulnerability, childhood abuse, addiction or plan coercion, but some are.

    And the reason I didn’t consult the people that do enjoy the job are because 1. I love studies that involve a large subject group, rather than rely on individual interviews and 2. As I mentioned, people who enjoy the job seem to be the only ones ever interviewed in recent years.

    I don’t mean to insult anyone’s career choice; but the percentage of people in prostitution that are harmed is too high for me to ignore.

    But basically, like all articles, this is one persons opinion. Feel free to ignore it :p

  4. To do fair research you need to include all sides of the story, *including* the people who would seem to not support your argument. Deliberately ignoring sex workers – who have made solid statements about this virginity-losing incident – is shoddy and irresponsible journalism.

  5. I mentioned in my article, many many times, that there are plenty of people of enjoy sex-work and chose it. And in the 90% of people who would leave it if they could, I feel that it didn’t need to be said that 10% would stay in it. If I had found statistics that supported sex-work, I would have used them.

    And I only included statistics. While I didn’t include testimonials from people who enjoy sex work, I also didn’t include testimonials from people who DON’T either; as I didn’t want the article to be too long.

    I made it clear from the beginning that it was an opinion piece, and if you actually read it properly, rather than jumping on your high horse, I was against the media making a big deal of the virginity-losing incident as opposed to sex work in general (I found it very insulting of them actually).

    But I guess it’s much easier to sit behind the safety of a screen and insult someone else’s writing; rather than saying anything constructive. If you want to give your opinion, go right ahead (after all, this whole piece is opinion). But if your just going to level out insults then please take your comments elsewhere. It’s not constructive at all. I wrote this piece, after reading the homicide and rape statistics, for the people who’s voices are not often heard. I never set out to hurt anyone’s feelings; my only aim was to maybe get people to think a little bit more about the people in society who need our help and support (AGAIN, not the people who chose it).

  6. Oh and to answer your question completely honestly, since I think I answered it very poorly (and maybe childishly) above; the reason why I didn’t include both sides equally is because it is an opinion piece. I have never ever read an opinion piece that wasn’t biased towards one side or another; I certainly haven’t read one that focused on both sides to the same extent. And I am not a journalist, nor have I ever claimed to be one. And even if I were, many journalists tend to focus on one side as well. Being neutral never led to a good article. I have a feeling that were my article all about how prostitution is a great form of employment, and I if only interviewed people who loved their jobs without any mention of those that don’t; that you would not have had any problem with it.

    Sorry for getting snarky earlier, this is the first controversial thing I have written here and I think I need thicker skin :p thank you for your comments, it was good to hear other opinions.

  7. An opinion piece will undoubtedly be one-sided. If it was perfectly balanced, is there an opinion within it at all? I think you dealt with a controversial subject pretty cleverly. You didn’t condemn the girls who want to work in the industry, you simply illuminated the tirade of those who don’t. Whilst, personally, I think the commodification of virginity is a touch worse than usual prostitution, I think such a view only stems from my conception that virginity equals youth/innocence and, I suppose, childhood. I imagine that is why people are more outraged. I think the sex industry is necessary and maybe should be more legalised in countries that it isn’t BUT I think this should only ever be done if women choose to do it, rather than become forced into it by no other means. I’m just not sure that ever will be possible.

  8. Hi Kaylia

    Whilst I understand in your article you are grappling with a number of concepts that you find disturbing and difficult to reconcile can I make a few points on your comments on sex work

    1. You don’t seem to understand the breadth and diversity of sex work. The title photo of your article shows a street based female identifying worker. Street based workers account for less than 10% of our industry and not all sex workers are female.

    2. You have taken all your statistics and sources from anti-sex work feminists and abolitionists and quote studies that have dubious methodologies and biased conclusions. Many of these sources are further biased as they concentrate only on street based work. A much wider range of sources would produce a more balanced view of sex work. I would refer you as a starting point to the website of Scarlet Alliance http://www.scarletallinace.org.au to get a more balanced and nuanced point of view.

    3. Because of the above you are starting from a point of assuming the majority of sex workers are victims and lack agency which is patently untrue. You keep quoting a 90% figure of people who would leave it if they could, a figure that I will tell you from 30 years of experience as a sex worker is absolute rubbish especially in first world countries such as ours.

    4. As a sex worker I even find your confession that you used to be in the camp of “prostitution is necessary aspect of society” offensive, and though I realise you may not have meant to be offensive but such statements are usually whorephobic as they are a shorthand for calling us a “necessary evil”.

    5. Can I also tell you that most sex workers find the terms “prostitute” and “prostitution” demeaning offensive in the same was that most African Americans find the “N” word offensive and I would ask that you not use it in any further comments

    6. There is clear distinction between the decriminalisation and legalisation models. Sex workers constantly argue for decriminalisation, we do not argue for legalisation. I again suggest you look at Scarlets website to understand that these two things are not the same.

    7. Prostitution is not the commodification of body parts. This is just plain insulting to sex workers as it demeans our work. As sex worker I do not allow anyone to purchase my body. What I do is I sell my attention span for finite units of time within boundaries that I set. I also work with more than just my sex organs; I work with the whole of my body and mind.

    8. You haven’t taken on board the idea that sex work is actual work like any other form of work because you have believed the right wing feminist arguments of Sheila Jeffreys and Melissa Farley et al and have swallowed their research views without questioning their validity. For example you talk of escort agencies “profiteering off the victims in our society with no evidence at all that the escort is a victim. An escort agency is like any other agency, it performs a service and charges a fee. It is the sex worker who has asked the agency to advertise their services and procure them work. Just as an actor’s agent does for an actor or any other employment agency does for someone who is seeking work. Again I would suggest a wider reading list to bring some balance to your opinions.

  9. 1) The vast majority are female. I chose that picture at random after typing ‘sex workers’ into google images. It did not form the basis of my article. My article includes some world-wide statastics; I will admit, a lot of what I did focus on was the illegal sector- though as studies have shown, making sex work legal does simply add to the illegal sector as well.

    2. I did look at the Scarlet Alliance website. They are biased as well, I would say more so, than any others I looked at. I only referenced a few; simply look for a peer reviewed article about sex work in any reputable journal and you will find similar statistics.

    3. You say first world countries. I was talking world-side. Though studies in America do come to the same conclusion.

    4. I did not mean it in that way at all. I am in no way ‘whorephobic’ at all; this article was written in no way to condemn those who choose sex work; rather to point out the dangers it can pose (namely assault) to women who are forced into it through circumstance. I call hospitality, of which I was a part of for five years, a neccessary part of society as well. It’s just how I say things, and I’m sorry that it brought you to that conclusion.

    5. I am sorry about that. I have a friend who is a sex workers and she never objected to the ‘p’ word (she used it herself all the time), so I had no idea it would be offensive. But I will not use it from now on.

    6. I would assume that when they say Australia legalised prostitution they meant to say decriminalisation? If not, I apologise. But I assume there would be the same rise in the illegal sector either way. Though I will read up more on it, and will look for peer reviewed articles about that as well.

    7. With any job you work with your body and your mind. I know that we will never agree on this but I do think that having sex for money is much more about the body than any other occupation.

    8. I actually read many left-wing articles that said the same thing. I had no idea who Jeffreys or Farley were. And again…only two articles I used. Out of many. Obviously they are disliked and I wish I had never referenced them.

    I am absolutely a left-wing feminist and I find it offensive that you would term me (or people who agree with me on this issue) right-wing simply because we hold a different opinion. I think that women should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies, but I don’t think that they should be paid for it as it can take the choice out of women’s hands.

    I say victim when I look at the child abuse, rape, homocide and drug use statistics (after looking at an Australian study , the amount of illicit drug use in the legal sector in Sydney is much much higher than the national average); not because I think all sex workers are victims at all.

    I was talking world-wide in my article, and I was not talking about every single sex workers experience as that would be impossible. I mentioned multiple times that they were statistics, obviously they don’t apply to everyone; particularly those who work in the legal sector in first-world countries. This is a world-wide issue and we need to look at it as such.

    Thank you for your comment, you gave me a lot to think about and I appreciate hearing other views. Lipmag are actually looking for someone to write a response to mine, so whoever is interested just email dunja@lipmag.com

  10. Actually I just wanted to clarify: when I say sex workers I mean people selling sex for money- not the other branches of sex work. So I’m not sure what the politically correct term for that would be or what you would like me to use…
    This whole article, including the statistics, were only about people selling sex for money (not the other branches of sex work). So when you say street workers account for 10%, I would assume you meant sex work as a whole? Because that was not what this article was about. To keep it short, I stuck to the one area.

    Just to make it confusing for all :p

  11. Thanks for your understanding on the “P’ word.

    Don’t give up on Scarlet just because you perceive them as biased. Scarlet is the voices of actual sex workers, every piece of research and writing that they do is done by sex workers and is peer reviewed by sex workers and every member of the organisation is a sex worker. As sex workers they consider themselves and not academics and others to be best qualified to speak on sex work issues.

    I would go as far as to suggest that it is patronizing and paternalistic to reject the voices of sex workers when they speak about themselves and their work and instead accept the voices of academics and non sex workers as being more qualified and unbiased in this debate.

    I deliberately referenced first world countries as I do not feel qualified to make assumptions worldwide on this matter. I don’t think anyone should make sweeping worldwide statements on the sex industry. The sex industry is hugely complex and diverse and large parts of it aren’t readily visible. Just defining who is and who isn’t a sex worker is hugely complex. For example is opportunistic sex work, sex for favours, at what point do many people who only do this work very occasionally or part time become counted as sex workers and are different forms of sex work eg no contact S&M work, phone sex, peep show sex actually sex work ? Also considering that sex work is criminalised nearly everywhere except NSW and New Zealand and is therefore mostly underground and illegal it is impossible to count it let alone make sweeping statements about how many people worldwide want to leave it.

    Further most studies that are done are driven/financed by prohibitions and the rescue industry who have a vested interest in inflating the figures and especially the figures of those that they define as exploited and forced. So I would again caution against quoting worldwide figures with any certainty.

    Decriminalisation is a completely different thing to legalisation. Decriminalisation refers to the removal of all criminal laws relating to sex work and the operation of the sex industry. The decriminalisation model is the favoured model of law reform of the international sex workers rights movement. It decriminalises the whole industry so that occupational health and safety and other workplace issues can be supported through existing industrial laws and regulations that apply to any legal workplaces. That is it puts sex work on an equal footing with all other forms of work.

    Legalisation refers to the use of criminal laws to regulate or control the sex industry by determining the legal conditions under which the sex industry can operate. Legalisation is usually highly regulatory or merely defines the operation of the various sectors of the sex industry. It can vary between rigid controls under legalised state controlled systems to privatising the sex industry within a legally defined framework. It is often accompanied by strict criminal penalties for sex industry businesses that operate outside the legal framework. This invariably leads to a two tiered system of with a small part of the industry operating within the legal framework and the majority of the industry forced to work outside the law.

    The difference between these two systems may not seem to be great at first glance but in practise there is a huge difference in the outcomes for sex workers.

    Sorry about the label, and I withdraw it. I actually called the position of Jeffrey’s and Farley right wing and criticised you for accepting it without questioning its validity. This was a mistake as right wing is not inherently a bad thing in itself and also there are feminists who would label themselves right wing who don’t hold the sex negative views of Jeffreys and Farley. Let’s call their position sex work negative as they believe that all sex work is rape and sex workers who don’t realise this are suffering from “false consciousness”. So you can see why sex workers themselves don’t give their views and work much time.

    I would also take issue with your study re illicit drug use and its use as a marker. First your stats are wrong on illicit drug use and I am not sure what study you used and if they were correct what of it ? Are you trying to say sex workers have no control over their lives because they may or may not be drug users or are you saying drug users are victims? Medical practioners also have apparently higher illicit drug use rates than the general population and are they spoken of as victims?

    Finally to go back to my previous point that sex workers are, and should be considered the experts on sex work I do take issue with your assumption that sex work is more about body than mind. Sorry but this is just the sort of ill-informed comment that gets up sex workers noses. With due respect the only people who are qualified to make that comment are sex workers and until you have worked as a sex worker please don’t presume to know what our experience is.

  12. The not more than 10% is just a rough indicative figure as counting those involved in sex work and defining who is a sex worker and who is not as I briefly outlined above is problematic. My point was that we are almost always defined by images such as the one that you put at the top of your article and whilst I totally support the rights of street based sex workers as part of our industry that image is not representative.

    Btw they are “street based” sex workers. I worked myself for a period of time as a street based sex workers (thats how I got myself a university degree) and in that time I never once had sex on the street. My business was based on the street but the actual work took place either in clients homes or hotels or in premises that I rented nearby.

  13. Thank you for your reply; it is interesting to read other opinions. I certainly don’t hold the view of Jeffreys and Farley if they think that all of sex work is rape. And thank you for clearing up decriminalisation and legislation. I really like Sweden’s model (It is a legislation model rather than decriminalisation, but they do provide a lot of support to sex workers). As I said, I was writing an opinion piece; I certainly did not spend months on my article.

    I prefer academic studies on sex work as opposed to ones done by people in the industry, simply because I think those working in the industry may not have as unbiased a view. But as you pointed out, many of the articles I referenced were biased as well. I think we will always lean towards articles that support our opinions.

    I think we will just have to agree to disagree. I was going on world-wide statistics, not individual interviews, and so do not claim to know what your personal experience is. I just think that there needs to be a change in the industry so that more workers are protected. Personally I prefer Sweden’s model as it has been shown to be quite successful in improving the safety in sex work, but that is just my opinion and as it involves fining the people soliciting sex workers I’m sure you won’t agree.

    Like I said; had my article agreed with your point of view none of you ever would have asked me to look at both sides to the same extent.

    I simply don’t hold your opinion and I probably never will. But I’m sure you’ll never agree with me either. So like I said, maybe it’s best just to agree to disagree; though I have to say, this debate has been fantastic and there has definitely been a lot of food for thought!

  14. It’s unfortunate that Kaylia’s original point has gotten a little diluted by all the comments around her research, because I thought it was excellent (even though I don’t necessarily agree with some of her conclusions about the sex work industry) – but this idea that everyone is far more outraged and concerned when it’s someone who hasn’t had sex before than when we’re talking about someone who has.

    I do agree Cameron that sex workers are in the best position to make comments about their work and the industry (I recently attended a forum rather aptly titled ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’), but if there are people being exploited, even if such exploitation isn’t representative of sex workers generally, then surely you agree that that does require attention? At the same time, I understand that it would be frustrating that this is often the only story that is told about sex work, rather than ones about it being real work.

    Lip is committed to sharing different feminist viewpoints so if anyone is interested in writing a piece about sex work from another angle or with different insight, please do get in touch.

  15. Sorry but you can’t just bow out with lets agree to disagree.

    These are issues that involve the civil rights, health, safety of lives of myself and my fellow sex workers and to for you to stride in and tell us that we need to be protected is arrogant to say the least. To then bring forward the Swedish model which has led to a whole range of negative outcomes for the lives, health and safety of Swedish sex workers just compounds this.

    You can, having written this article simply go back to your day job. We cannot as our lives, health and safety are under threat in nearly every state in Australia (and around the world) from restrictive, counterproductive and ignorant government legislation that is being put forward to protect us.

    Further to say that we aren’t qualified through bias to study and have a fully valid opinion on sex work issues I find incredible. You are a feminist who has just written an article on feminist issues, by that logic I should ignore you and only give weight to the opinions of non-feminist academics on feminist issues.

    Sorry I have to say that I find your dismissive attitude completely patriarchal and paternalistic.

  16. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of stigma, prejudice , and misunderstanding when it comes to sex work.
    Even in the comment, the author repeats that the article focuses on “sex work that sells sex for money- and not other types of sex work” when in fact she doesn’t realize that most “sex work that sells sex for money” is NOT street based sex work in the third world that the researchers use.Even when the sex worker points this fact out to her, she is SO prejudiced that she still can not comprehend that sex work does not equal street based sex work- especially does not equal the work in third world countries where I am sure everyone in every industry is looking for easier way of income. If we compared every industry and looked at the third world countries for statistics, it may indeed look like everyone is being forced into poor working condition.

    This is more of labor issues in regards to globalization, e.t.c..and the fact that research and the author target sex work makes it very biased and prejudiced.

    The only reason anyone can stigmatize us by targeting sex workers like this is because sex workers have no voice and if we speak up about it, it is seen as invalid opinion.While research done by radical feminists that thinks sex itself is violence against women are seen as VALID. It’s an insane world indeed!

    She is propagating the same myths and stigma that has direct influence to” violence” that she is claiming to be against.

    This article does not say anything new but the author’s opinion rising from gut moralistic reaction that was surely the effect that radical feminists were trying to get.

  17. I’m sorry I offended anyone. The reason I said ‘let’s agree to disagree’ is simply because we are never going to agree and I’m tired of having to repeat the same things every single day as each new comment comes up. I’ve had my say, you reached you conclusions about it (often wrongly- it’s seems that it’s easier to attack the wording of every single thing I say and assume it was meant to be offensive, rather than actually argue about the issue), I never said you had to agree. Repeating the same things over and over isn’t going to change anything. As Dunja said, my original piece got completely diluted from all of these comments. I never said your opinions are invalid- I actually suggested you write a counter article for lip so both views could be presented.

    I said I was looking at statistics that tend to focus on the illegal sector. You simply assumed I meant street work by that, which I did not. You forget that it’s illegal almost everywhere? (and this may surprise you, but I don’t actually agree with it being made illegal as it does more harm than good)

    As I said, I am tired of repeating the same arguments over and over. If you feel strongly, as you obviously do, then write your own article about it. I think mine has been done to death, and the original point got lost somewhere back amongst the first comment.

  18. And Nada: I was worried about the rape and homicide statistics; I certainly don’t equate violence with sex. And it was not a moralistic reaction at all; do whatever the hell you want with your bodies. I was simply concerned about the exploitation that CAN occur in SOME situations; that is what this article was trying to say.

  19. Just on the subject of sex work being more about the body than anything else, I am currently at work (in a brothel) with 9 other workers (two of whom are male) and asked all of them to help me out with this comment. We take pride in our work, it is a mentally, emotionally and physically complex and skilled job with some great benefits and some really rotten downsides. To say otherwise when you haven’t done it is demeaning and insulting.
    As in any job (for instance hospitality) there are people who love it, people who are doing it to support a drug habit (having worked in hospitality for years I have met a hell of a lot of waiters and chefs who work to support their habits), people who are doing it just to get through their studies and then will quit (similarly to hospitality) and people who feel trapped in it or stuck in a rut because they don’t feel qualified to do anything else (just like in hopsitality). Working in a restaurant as a casual staff member is very physically taxing and if you are sick you can’t get paid and often lose your job (just like sex work), people often find it hard to get jobs in other industries if they have worked in a fast food business for a long time (just like in the sex industry), they can suffer from mental and physical abuse (I was yelled at way more in hospitality and even spat on a few times. I nor any of the people I am working with tonight have experienced this in the industry I am in now, and if we do experience it we are actually allowed to tell the client to f**k off). The only difference is that sex work is illegal and discriminated against.
    Oh and just in case my opinion is “invalid” because it only includes one brothel, I have been a sex worker (performing full service sex work in brothels and privately from hotels) for 5 years. I have worked in 8 brothels in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The sex workers I met have been an incredibly diverse bunch ranging in age from teens (the youngest worker I met started when she was 16, is now 18 and halfway through uni which she wouldn’t have been able to do without this work since her parents were broke) to late 60′s, also ranging in personality, living situation and “social status”. Yes there are some who would leave if they were financially able but plenty (some would say most) people who work in restaurants, cafes and fast food chains would leave if they could. Are they poor helpless victims? No. And neither am I nor any sex worker I have ever met. And I have probably met a great deal more than you.

  20. Hey all, I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be responding to any more comments on this article. It is not that I think that you don’t have anything valid to say on the issue, because I do, but my responses seem to offend even more and nothing is getting resolved.

    I have responded to all of your questions to the best of my ability, apologised where I inadvertently caused offence, and now I think the only place to go is around and around in circles.

    Lip published this article with the idea that someone would write a counter article to show both sides. So email dunja@lipmag.com to talk about a counter-article if you feel that your voice isn’t being heard in the comments.

    Cheers.

  21. Kaylia, why are you so defensive about this? This is a rhetorical question, I’m not expecting you to answer, but I am hoping that you will reflect on this, and perhaps read some sex workers writings on the Swedish Model and why it doesn’t work.

  22. I thought it was a great article. Honestly, the comments are just ridiculous. Sex work is more about the mind than the body? Really? You think men give one iota of fucks about all that hard work and emotional preparation you put in? Prostitute is offensive, but whore isn’t? Don’t forget the other gems including the one where women that think sex is supposed to be for pleasure (yes, even for the woman!) as opposed to a commodity to be traded for survival are RIGHT-WING! That is an easy mistake to make, I guess. Everybody knows that radical feminist butch lesbians are the backbone of the Republican party.

  23. By the way, not all “sex workers” (it’s put in quotes because we are not talking about all sex workers; not strippers or phone sex operators, but specifically women who engage in penetrative sex or otherwise) have the same point of view of sex work being equivalent to labor such as restaurant work. http://rmott62.wordpress.com/ is just one of those women. Trigger warning for her whole blog, she does not gloss over the “downsides”.

  24. I’d also like to support you Kayla I found your article not to be condescending at all. You took care to include more than your own perspective even though it is an opinion piece.

    The problem with too many “sex worker” activists (in quotes because I think it’s a prissy euphemism) is too many of them have their own unresolved issues that they are projecting on others. i.e. accusing others of the shame they partly feel themselves.

    Trying to dodge that by hiding behind forms of words is bound to induce rage when others aren’t convinced either.

    To insist the writer has no right to her own considered opinion, doesn’t know what she’s talking about because her pretty little head is too fluffy for ‘proper’ research hardly represents the acme of women’s liberation.

    And to infer that having another view is the cause of abuse perpetrated on “sex workers” is dubious.

    And so is the idea that only they can comment on prostitution is ridiculous, too many women have been propositioned enough times not to have their opinions discounted.

    If “sex work” is just like any other labour then anyone can comment.

  25. Grr, the site ate my comment. I’ll try writing it all out again.

    I realise the author is not responding to comments, but those sources are still sitting there with nothing challenging them save a few people mentioning that they come from anti sex work authors and have dodgy methodology. I’d like to point out what we mean by that, and why it’s not a good idea to just take claims about sex work from the internet, especially when you haven’t investigated thoroughly the methodology of the studies you’re citing.

    Ninety percent of women in prostitution would leave it if they could. 1. Farley M et al, ‘Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’, (1998), Feminism & Psychology.

    Melissa Farley is one of my least favourite anti sex work “academics”, for the simple reason that she doesn’t even try to pretend to put together research that will stand up to peer review. Her work is junk science. In this instance, she used sample groups that significantly over-represented street based sex workers (who experience some of the greatest marginalisation of all sex workers) and sourced sample groups from services like rehab programs and exit programs. She then extrapolated her findings to the rest of the sex industry. The 90% figure is worthless.

    They have a 40% higher risk of homicide than anyone else in society. 2. Chris Grussendorf, “No Humans Involved, Part One”, http://www.catwinternational.org/factbook/usa2_prost.php

    I can’t find a full text of this either online or in my university’s academic catalogue, which I’m guessing means you haven’t read it either. Again, I’d want to take a close look at the methodology and examine who they studied and how. If it’s based on the Potterat study, there are significant problems with how that was conducted, as it’s an extrapolation of police reports of deaths of sex workers known to police compared to police figures of sex workers. This obviously excludes all the sex workers not known to police.

    They have a higher risk of rape than anyone else in society (73% in a US study reported having been raped). 3. Prostitution, Violence Against Women,and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Melissa Farley, PhD and Howard Barkan, DrPH (*)Women & Health, 27 (3): 37-49. © 1998 by The Haworth Press, Inc.

    Farley again only studied street based sex workers, and extrapolated her results to the entire sex industry. Furthermore, she made no distinction between sex workers being raped at work and outside of work and, as I’m sure you know, any woman has a distressingly high statistical likelihood of rape. A study of Sydney private sex workers by Roberta Perkins found that the sex workers studied were only marginally more likely than the health care workers she also studied to be sexually assaulted at work, but were more likely to be sexually assaulted outside of work. The problem here is not that our work is necessarily dangerous, it is that whorephobic attitudes and anti sex worker social mores tell people that sex workers are disposable and that if someone is a sex worker, you can attack them without reprisal. The answer is not to criminalise our work, thereby further stigmatising it and increasing this danger. The answer is to combat whorephobia.

    Over 50% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children 4 . 4. Debra Boyer, U. Washington, Susan Breault of the Paul & Lisa Program, “Danger for prostitutes increasing, most starting younger,” Beacon Journal, 21 September 1997

    Once again, I can’t find this actual piece, but from what I can find about it, it appears to have studied underage street based sex workers. I’d have to see the piece itself to be sure of that, but that is a particularly marginalised community. It’s unreasonable to extrapolate those findings to all sex workers.

    And the average age of a woman (or should I say girl) in prostitution is fourteen years of age 1 .1. Farley M et al, ‘Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’, (1998), Feminism & Psychology 8

    This is one of the ones that makes me really angry, because it’s so clearly deliberate. This number was obtained by surveying only those sex workers who were under eighteen. Their ages were then averaged and presented as the average age of all sex workers. A similar figure is presented as the average age of entry into sex work that was obtained by surveying sex workers who entered the industry under age. Numerous studies in a number of countries, of various sex worker populations, have found that the average age of sex workers tends to be somewhere around the early to mid twenties… which makes a lot more sense to anyone who has ever spent even a tiny bit of time around sex workers and sex industry workplaces, or even to anyone who understands how math works. There just aren’t enough twelve year olds working in the industry to outweigh every single worker from age sixteen to sixty.

    While people argue for the legalisation of prostitution to ‘keep it safe’, research proves that this is not the case. When Victoria legalised prostitution, the illegal sector doubled 5 . 5. Sullivan & Jeffreys, ‘Legalising Prostitution Is Not The Answer: The example of Victoria, Australia’, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), http://www.catwinternational.org

    Sex worker activists don’t argue for legalisation, such as is in place in Victoria, and Sheila Jeffreys knows this, which is what makes her argument duplicitous and misleading. Victoria has a licensing model, which has poor outcomes for sex worker health and safety, and creates a two-tiered system where sex workers who are not willing to register or submit to mandatory testing are forced to work illegally. Sex work under a licensing system is still dealt with under the criminal code. What sex worker activists actually argue for is decriminalisation, where all criminal laws relating to sex work are removed and it is treated like any other business, governed by occupational health and safety regulations.

    The LASH study, which compared brothel based female sex workers in three different Australian states working under decriminalisation, legalisation and criminalisation, found that the sex workers working under decriminalisation had the best health and safety outcomes and reported better relationships with police and health services. So actually, we claim that decriminalising the sex industry would make it safer, and now we’ve got research to back it up. A safe workplace is one where a worker is supported by OH&S legislation, is not afraid to go to the police if their employer is exploiting them, and experiences minimal stigma and discrimination. That is what we work towards.

    When Amsterdam legalised prostitution, child prostitution went up by 300% 6. 6. Tiggeloven, C. (2001,). Child Prostitution in the Netherlands. Available at http://www.nw.nl/hotspots/html/netherlands011218.html.

    Your link is dead, so I’m guessing that once again you didn’t read the source you’re citing. I’d really like to see the methodology of this one. Was it based on police reports of underage sex workers known to police? That could come down to a redirection of police resources: as police are no longer able to focus their efforts on now-legal sex workers, they turn their attention to the sex workers they’re still able to police. But that’s just postulation, I can’t say anything certain without seeing the study. At any rate, I’d remind you that sex worker activists don’t tend to support legalisation, we’re overwhelmingly in favour of decriminalisation. New Zealand conducted a very thorough review into their decriminalisation model a few years back and found that the legislative change had not increased underage sex work. http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy/commercial-property-and-regulatory/prostitution/prostitution-law-review-committee/publications/plrc-report/7-the-use-of-under-age-people-in-prostitution

    I’d really caution you about citing work on this topic when you haven’t examined the methodology, let alone when you haven’t even read it. There’s a lot of problematic research out there done by people who think an anti sex work agenda is a worthy substitute for academic rigour. Just as frequently, there are people who have done research in good faith and had other people take it out of context. Always check to see what population was actually studied. If the reference says “sex worker”, check to see if they studied brothel, private, or street based sex workers, as street based sex workers are particularly marginalised. If you can, find out where the sex workers were sourced from – sex workers sourced from crisis services or exit programs will obviously skew towards a certain type of finding, and studies based on police reports also bias results.

  26. I just wanted to let you know that a lot of those references were taken from an essay I wrote in my university days; so I apologise for not checking if the links were still active or not. I just assumed they were.

    Feel free to post any references that say ‘sex work’ (I’m talking penetrative sex work) is just as safe as any other job. I think that would really support your arguement.

    But like I said, it’s all kind of going around in circles now, and the original point of the article (that offering money for sex can lead to exploitation in some cases) was lost long long long ago- since no one has really said anything about that.

    And yeah, I have no self-control, probably shouldn’t have replied after saying I wouldn’t- but I promise I’ll stay away from now on. Good to see some lively debate is still happening, there have been a lot of good points from both sides.

  27. Actually you know what? To stop the same questions being asked and same statements being made (on both sides), I just want to clear a few things up:

    If you chose your career as a sex worker…this article is not about you.

    If you are part of the Scarlet Alliance and are fighting for your rights as a team…this article is not about you

    If your voice is being heard…again, this article is not about you.

    I don’t imagine for a second that you (the commenters involced in sex work) are being exploited. I never said it in my article and I’m not saying it now. But do you deny that some people are forced into it through circumstance? That the money sometimes takes the choice out of women’s hands? That once some sex workwers get into the industry they find that they are trapped and can’t leave? That some are these women ARE exploited?

    This article is for those women. I was hoping to get people to think about them; the ones whose voices aren’t heard, whether for fear of repurcussion, because they have no outlet, or because they are worried that others in the industry will point their fingers and call them a ‘whorephobe’ (which by the way to me is a highly offensive word and I would appreciate it not being used again).

    This article was never about you. It was about the women out there who are hurt because of the industry; who are exploited. Who don’t have the choices that were given to you.

    As well as this: I don’t have a solution. I never said it should be criminalised. And in fact, as you pointed out, my references showed that legalisation does more harm than good- which you agree with, so I don’t see what the problem is there. I never said anything about decriminalisation or criminalisation- my only aim was to get people to think about the industry as a whole.

    The link that No Sugarcoating put up was fantastic. This women WAS exploited and is getting her voice heard- which is so rare as they are often drowned out by the people who did have a choice. Here it is again if you’re interested. http://rmott62.wordpress.com/

    So I hope that you’ll give some thoughts to the downsides of the industry; whatever you think the reason is; rather than taking it as a personal attack on your job.

    You don’t have to agree with everything I say, it’s an opinion piece after all, but I hope that you will give some thought to what the article was really about rather than jumping onto the defensive.

  28. hey, so i thought i’d share my story. i started working at 14 so i could move out of home coz my parents weren’t okay with me being queer. i worked heaps and heaps but i still spent significant amounts of time (probably 1 year and then a few months a fews later) homeless. I have been raped. I have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. Is this enough of a pity story for you? I don’t think my lack of choices makes me more of a ‘real sex worker’ but apparently it matters to non sex workers who try to make this distinction between ‘happy hookers’ and ‘real victims’ and then try to argue that we need the swedish model or whatever to ‘protect us’ when in fact decriminalization helps all of us, how exactly do you think it would help if you criminalize people who are already often marginalized and criminalized in other ways by society??
    anyway within a month of starting sex work (at age 21) i started renting a house and i haven’t been homeless since and i feel so much better knowing that there is a way i can make money and still have days off if im feeling crazy and i don’t need to worry about being homeless and i can always work and afford a hotel now (even if i lost my house). You know I was far more exploited when i was working at a supermarket for minimal pay, where i always had to answer my boss or risk losing my job and not being able to find another one. With sex work I can make money when i need it, if i don’t wanna see a client or i don’t like my working place its so much easier for me to just get a new job or see a new client.

    i’m sorry that its upsetting for you being called whorephobic but there’s a pretty easy way for that to stop. You could stop making whorephobic comments and listen to sex workers.

    also how is an article written by sex workers ‘more biased’ than an article written by outsiders? if there was an article being written about women’s lives and the problems they face would you seriously regard an article that a man wrote about how they should address problems they face as more accurate and ‘less biased’ than one written by a women?

  29. Good grief. Just…good grief. I said above that I didn’t know the answer… I mentioned I LIKE the Swedish model but hey, I like the decriminalisation model as well. I don’t have a solution. If you feel that you do? Well awesome, keep fighting for it. I don’t, so I’m staying out of that debate.

    Once again we got sidetracked from the issue. I never said that all people were being exploited. I said some were. I’m glad you weren’t. But once again: you’re taking all of the focus away from the women who aren’t able to get their voices heard.

    I only have one question: Do you think the offer of money for sex leads to exploitation in some cases?

    If not, say no, let’s leave it at that. Because that is what this article was supposed to be about.

    Oh and call me a ‘whorephobe’ again and I’m disabling the comments. It’s a disgusting, offensive word and I’m shocked that someone would use it after I said how offensive I find it. I have only used the term sex worker after I found that other words were offensive to you. So yeah, personal attacks? Not okay in this little corner of the internet.

    Why have I been getting defensive? Because it seems that people are too busy picking on each reference and the words I used (I’m not in the industry- I’m not up to date with the politically correct lingo), rather than discussing whether it leads to exploitation is some cases; no matter if it’s the majority or just a small minority.

    I have listened to all of you, and I have taken it in (hence why I have been looking into decriminlisation). But I have to say- I don’t think one of you has listened to me in the slightest.

    As I said: I only wanted to get people to think about whether it can lead to exploitation in some cases. So instead of giving me one more comment about how you personally weren’t exploited; give a thought to the women that are.

  30. As an ex sex worker: Yes. It can lead to exploitation.

    Have I witnessed it personally? No. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it exists.

    I think it’s important that you understand that whilst you haven’t intended to go to the extreme of saying ALL sex work is exploitation, though a lot of your research would support that kind of argument (Thank you Hexy for writing such a detailed comment re: the research, I found it fascinating), there are a lot of people out there doing research, campaigning against the industry, that do go to that extreme.

    There’s not a day that goes by, as a Sex Worker, when you don’t have someone telling you your a victim. And as a woman who considers herself strong and independent, can you see how that might be a little insulting?

    I wasn’t a victim. I’m not a victim now. I worked in a state who had an excellent model and certainly one that is improving every day. I’m not working now, I may go back in the future, because frankly I enjoyed the work, but for now I want to focus on remaining involved with the industry and supporting those men and women still working, making sure they have the right information re: health and safety, making sure they know there’s an out if they want as in any job.

    Basically: I want to focus on the examples of REAL exploitation out there, rather than spend time berating women and men who have chosen the sex industry and enjoy what they do. If they’ve made that decision, no-one has the right to refer to them as ‘victims’ or make them feel guilty for enjoying what they do, which I’m sorry to say is something I see quite a lot of in all these arguments.

    Kaylia, I’m sorry you’ve gotten so much crap in regards to your article. Whilst I don’t look favorably on a lot of your research, I can see what you were trying to say and I think in the future, a similar article with some stronger research would be fantastic.

    People tend to have a knee jerk reaction to these kinds of things and it’s often defensive. I can’t put in to words the kind of heartache experienced when reading a lot of the very negative and hostile literature there is out there on the industry, when you’re working in it. Unfortunately you seem to have been caught in the cross fire this time. I hope this hasn’t turned you off doing more research!

  31. The word “Whore” is demeaning to women. If you want to call yourself a whore, that’s fine, just don’t expect everyone else to play along. Besides the bizarre cognitive dissonance of finding prostitution offensive and whore worth self-labeling, there is no courtesy or consideration that the word whore been used to abuse women, used while abusing women. That’s what’s wrong with the term, “Whorephobic”. Why not, “sexworkerphobic” if you must?

  32. Ok, there is SO much I want to comment on here, but it seems that the Author is changing tactics as much as possible to fight themselves out of the corner they’re in, to the point where they’re saying “but the offer of money for sex can lead to exploitation!!”

    The simple fact is that capitalism can lead to exploitation. The offer of money for ANY service can lead to exploitation.

    This fact does not validate or justify your arguments.

    I know that no amount of arguing is going to change anyone’s opinion, if they are anti sex-work that’s what they are. In fact there is a psychological term called “confirmation bias” which leads people to preferentially treat evidence which confirms their views, even if the evidence is proven to be false.
    Confirmation bias is an automatic process so no matter how level headed you think you are being, your psychology will always lead you to reject arguments which disagree with your opinion.

    So unless you have been a sex worker, (lived experience can change your bias, unsurprisingly) you don’t really get a voice. Your research will be flawed. As Hexy pointed out, examining the basis for statistics is important, finding bias in statistics is crucial to understanding them.

    I could quite easily say that 30% of receptionists are cis-gendered female, because at my last workplace that was the case, but examining the sample size for the statistic would show that the statistic is flawed due to constrained sample size and demographic.

    You presuming to speak for sex workers does not empower anyone, it silences them.

  33. Thanks so much for the fantastic comment Lucie. I never meant to imply that all sex workers were victims at all.

    Like I said, some of research was from an essay I did a few years ago; I guess I should double-check my younger self!

    Hexy did a great analysis of them all. Like I said, I hadn’t heard of Farley, and now that I have? Well I certainly don’t agree with her views. I do think that most of my articles were fine; all research has a bias, all research is essentially flawed (it’s impossible to do research that is perfect in every way), and I do think that Hexy made a few too many assumptions about the research and tried to pass them off as facts (like that people who don’t agree with sex work as an industry rape the workers: in many studies it shows that they are raped by pimps or owners of the work place- not people who think that sex work leads to exploitation).

    Just to clarify: I certainly don’t think that all sex workers are victims. That is definitely not my view.

    And Samantha? When bringing up exploitation I was actually trying to steer the conversation back to the original point of the article (I’m assuming you did not read it?). I don’t feel that I have been backed into a corner in the slightest. I just feel that I have been answering the same questions over and over and over again.

    I never said I wasn’t biased. I actually think I was the first one who said so. But saying that sex workers aren’t biased because they work in the industry is just ridiculous.

    And I’m perfectly allowed to have my opinions about it too. I have opinions about child abuse and I was never abused as child (by the way, before you all get angry: definitely not comparing sex work to child abuse. It was just an example!).

  34. Hmm, you make an interesting point. However, I maintain that any aspect of exchanging something for money can be exploitative, you pointing out that it could possibly happen in the sex industry is redundant at best. It happens in hospitality far more often than it happens in the sex industry. As someone who has worked in both industries I can say that in my experience degredation and exploitation are far more common in hospitality than in sex work. As a “feminist” I should think you’d need to speak for the poor helpless waitresses (who clearly cannot speak for themselves, or, when they do, are just the misguided happy minority whose voices do not count), who are being coerced into working long hours for low rates of pay, being treated as objects and being exploited.

    Sex workers may be biased, for all sorts of reasons, but our voices count way more than yours because it is our lives that are affected, it is us who have to live with stigma, it is us who have to deal with “feminists” trying to save us and speak for us because we cannot possibly speak for ourselves (and when we do those same feminists come in and let the world know our voices don’t count because they don’t agree with the stereotype of vctims).

    Do you really think that there are no sex workers who are activists who haven’t been in bad situations? Do we need to prove our stories are tragic for our voices to count?
    Will my opinion be more valid if I tell you that I had to give my (then) boyfriend half my working money because he needed to buy drugs?
    Does my voice speak louder because for some of my time as a sex worker I was unhappy? (Though not nearly as unhappy as I was as a waitress)

    What if I say I WAS unhappy and you STILL cannot speak for me. I STILL ardently support decriminalisation of the sex industry, I STILL value sex worker voices above plucky radical feminist academics.

    In addition to this you have TOTALLY missed my point about confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a different phenomena to bias in and of itself. It is a psychological process which, basically, ensures you will never pay attention to evidence which contradicts your beliefs. Feel free to google it…

    Sure, you are allowed opinions, but sex workers opinions count more. End of story.

  35. Um I know what confirmation bias is, but thanks for that… I could say the same to you.

    I don’t think that sex should be a commodification. I don’t think that men should be able to buy women’s bodies for an allocated amount of time. I think that offering money for sex takes away the choice a women has about who she sleeps with and when.

    Hospitality is so different to sex work but there is no point arguing that with you. You already have your mind made up about it all and any words I say will only be twisted against me.

    I never once said your voice didn’t count. But you are too set on leveling veiled insults at me to take any of what I have written the way it was supposed to be meant.

    I’m not going to apologise for my opinions. I said it was an opinion piece; not everybody is going to agree with me. Some do, some don’t. End of story.

    You’re the one who is ignoring any voices that contradict your beliefs. I have listened to you all and responded as best I could. I never said that you’re not entitled to your opinion, but you have blantantly stated that I’m not entitled to mine.

    So I’m not sure I’m replying (by the way, I discussed decriminalisation above and said that I was not against it, so not sure why you’re bringing it up again as if I am?), it’s not like you will pay any attention to what I have to say without skewing it to fit your own agenda.

  36. Hi Samantha,

    I’m a psych graduate so am very familiar with confirmation bias, however I don’t think this article is a result of Kaylia having any such bias. She actually wrote in the article that she used to have a different opinion, and it changed when she undertook research around this topic.

    Just as not all sex workers are going to have the same views of sex work, nor do all feminists. I reviewed Sheila Jeffries’ book ‘The Idea of Prostitution’ for Lip a couple of years ago, and stated that she was unfair and dismissive of the sex workers’ voices that she bothered to include at all. We welcome different feminist viewpoints, and Kaylia’s is but one of those, as she has repeatedly said.

    What she has also repeatedly said, as I have likewise mentioned, is that we would happily publish an article that looks at sex work from a different angle. Lip wants those voices to be heard too. Thus far, no one has contacted me wanting to write such a piece.

    I understand that there are many forums that are dismissive of sex workers. This is not one of them. I would much prefer that someone writes an article about their experience with sex work or their own reality of it or about the misconceptions surrounding it, than continue to vilify Kaylia based on this piece.

    The offer is still there, and my email is dunja@lipmag.com if anyone is interested. Alternatively, if anyone was happy to be interviewed, I would offer copy approval so as to ensure you were happy with how you were represented.

  37. I don’t think that sex work causes exploitation, any more than I think hospitality causes exploitation, or farm labouring, or housekeeping, or any other industry where it happens. I think exploitation is complex creature caused by many socio-economic factors, but it’s not ’caused’ by the industry it occurs in.

    And I never said that people who think sex works leads to exploitation were more likely to rape sex workers, I’m not sure where you’re getting that from (although maybe you are, I don’t know). I said I thought that given people the message that sex workers could be attacked without reprisal is a factor increasing attacks on sex workers, after pointing out that one study of a certain group of indoor sex workers found that the sample group wasn’t that likely to be sexually assaulted at work.

    I’m find this all a bit of wasted effort now, honestly. You initially said you didn’t have an opinion on sex work until you did some research, so I engaged with why the research was problematic. You’re still holding the views “backed up” by the dodgy research. Confirmation bias indeed.

  38. Oh goodness, it seems that nothing I say will ever be right. I certainly don’t have confirmation bias; I agreed with a lot of what you said about the research and I’m glad you posted your comment.

    We all have our different opinions about sex work. But just because I don’t like the industry as a whole (or certain aspects of it)does not mean I don’t like the people working in it. If I wrote a post about how fourteen year olds should not be working for such little pay it certainly wouldn’t mean that I have anything against the fourteen year olds I am discussing.

    If I could rewrite the article I would word it differently. I wouldn’t say ‘victim’ as it sounds patronising, though it’s certainly not what I meant at the time, I wouldn’t have painted things as black and white as I did (though that was only to get my point across. A weakly worded opinion article is a waste of time), and I wouldn’t have included some (certainly not all) of the research I did.

    I’m not naive; I know that as long as there is sex it will be used a commodity. I want, as much as any of you, for the industry to be safe; and for there to be a way out if they need it.

    This wasn’t an article against sex workers; far from it. It was an article against some of the dangers of the industry- whatever you believe the reasons for those are (that it’s not decriminalised etc.)

    I’m sorry that I worded it in a way that suggested it was to put sex workers down- that was definitely not what I was trying to do. Like I said, the point of my article was lost a while ago.

    I think these comments have gotten really out of hand; many have become quite personal on both sides and I think maybe it’s time to a take a deep breath and agree to disagree (this was not written in a patronising way- but in a ‘we’re rehashing the same arguments over and over so maybe it’s best if we quit while we’re ahead’.

    I respect your opinions and I’m glad you posted a lot of these comments, they were very informative and definitely got me thinking about a few things that I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. But I wish my article had been read as it was intended to be; I think it’s hard not to take things personally when it’s about an issue so close to you.

  39. its interesting that the comments are ‘out of hand’ and we need to stop debating now that lots of sex workers are speaking.
    And in reply to the claim that “I understand that there are many forums that are dismissive of sex workers. This is not one of them.” I’m pretty sure that is up to sex workers to decide. And a lot of us found this article problematic. And I think by saying that we should stop commenting on here and just write our own article or by telling us that it is ‘not dissmissive of sex workers’ or that the author ‘is not whorephobic’ is really problematic. It is not for non-sex workers to decide what is and is not whorephobic because you aren’t sex workers and you don’t face this stigma personally. And telling us that everything is okay and we should shut up is just another example of how your engagement with sex workers is dismissive, silencing and whorephobic.

  40. “It is not for non-sex workers to decide what is and is not whorephobic because you aren’t sex workers and you don’t face this stigma personally.”

    I can understand how subjective experience is the most legitimate in terms of making statements regarding whorephobia and sex work more generally, but I do also think that claiming that a person’s views are inherently irrelevant because they have not personally been the victim of a particular prejudice is limiting in terms of progress.

    If the aim is acceptance of sex workers and sex work as a legitimate practice, then this kind of exclusivity can only inhibit the ability of non-sex workers to engage with and relate to the issues at hand.

    I would also just like to state that at Lip, we believe in allowing ALL forms of feminist thought and expression to be published, engaged with and discussed on our website. Kaylia’s opinions, whether you agree with them or not, are her own, and she does have a right to express them.

    As we have mentioned earlier, we would be really, really keen to have any of your comments here expanded into a response article, so that we can share as many view points on this complex issue as possible.

  41. Pingback: Happy Hookers | Culture | Lip Magazine

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