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     News: Prostitution, abolition of victims, and postmodernist defence of the status quo

    Sexual PoliticsProstitution, the abolition of the victim, and post-modernism's defence of the status quo
    Posted by Stuart at Scottish Socialist Youth on September 25, 2010


    I’ve just finished reading a book by the Swedish socialist, anarchist and feminist Kajsa Ekis Ekman which she primarily devotes to debunking the arguments used to justify prostitution and the surrogate-mothering industry. Her book was written as a response to the media’s misrepresentation of prostitution as some sort of smart and glamorous career choice for young women to make and at the increasing number of post-modernist academics and ‘queer-theorists’ who have been questioning Sweden’s prostitution laws by, among other things, ludicrously trying to frame prostitution as something ‘transgressive’ and which ‘challenges gender norms’. The abolition of the victim Ekis Ekman highlights at length the tactics which the supporters of prostitution have adopted in recent years and exposes how false, absurd and damaging their arguments really are. Particularly interesting I think is when she writes about the attempts that have been made to abolish the term ‘victim’ from the debate around prostitution. To be a victim has come to be seen as something shameful and to refer to someone as a victim is, according to the post-modernists, to deny them their ‘agency’. Ekman exposes why this lie has come about and what wider political consequences it has. Her point here is summed up in a review of the book in Dagens Nyheter:
    “To be able to defend that women sell their bodies (and that men buy them) one must first abolish the victim and instead redefine the prostitute as a sex worker, a strong woman who knows what she wants, a businesswoman. The sex worker becomes a sort of new version of the ‘happy hooker’. “Ekis Ekman shows in a convincing way how this happens through a rhetoric which portrays the victim position as a trait of character instead of using the correct definition of a victim: someone who is affected by something. In such a way the terrible reality in which women in prostitution find themselves is concealed. The fear of the ‘victim’ in the prostitution debate … is something which mirrors neo-liberalism’s general victim hate – since all talk of the vulnerable person immediately reveals an unjust society. Through making the victim taboo can one legitimise class inequalities and gender discrimination, for if there is no victim there is no perpetrator.”
    Those who defend prostitution, as Ekis Ekman points out in an interview in the socialist newspaper Flamman, “have a contempt for weakness, a cold and cynical view of humanity, which has the consequence that you only have yourself to blame”. To see evidence of this we need look no further than the works of ‘academics’ such as Laura Agustin, someone who has gone as far as to deny the existence of human trafficking. Victims of pimps and human traffickers are referred to, in her language, as “migrant sex workers” who actively choose their situation. Discussing women brought into western countries by criminal gangs and locked into flats and prostituted for months at a time, Agustin writes:
    “These circumstances where women live in sex establishments and seldom leave them before, without being asked, moved elsewhere receive great attention in the media and it’s taken as a given that this involves a complete denial of freedom. But in many cases migrant workers prefer this arrangement for a number of reasons. If they don’t leave the area they don’t waste any money and, if they have no work permit, they feel safer in a controlled environment. If someone else finds the meeting places for them and books their appointments it means they don’t have to do it themselves. If they have come on a 3 month tourist visa they want to devote as much time as possible to making money”.
    Another sickening example from Ekman’s book is that in Australia, a country which has long championed legalised prostitution, victims of child abuse have came to be referred to as “child sex workers”. An official report there talks about a 9 year old abuse victim having been “offered a warm bed and a nice meal” by his abusers and of “thinking it was fantastic” when the men who raped him gave him $50. Any details of the crime he was subjected to are on the other hand almost completely absent, apart from the words: “sex took place”. What these examples all have in common is that they remove the focus from the perpetrator. They make it sound like the abused, prostitutes, children, the victims of poverty, drug abuse and economic exploitation, have themselves chosen the situation in which they find themselves. By changing the definition of the victim so as to turn it into a personal trait, by turning ‘victim’ and ’subject’ into the opposite of each other, the post-modernists lift away all talk of the deeper structures and power differences which affect people’s lives, something which of course suits perfectly the interests of the rich and powerful by masking the oppressive and unjust nature of the society in which we live.Transgression of divisions as opposed to their abolition In another section of the book she talks about what she describes as ‘the cult of the whore’, about the district of Raval in Barcelona, the people there who wear T-shirts with the slogan ‘Yo també soc puta’ (‘I am also a whore’). The cultural admiration of the prostitute is, in Ekman’s view, just contempt from another perspective: “It is still not a recognition of women’s humanity, rather a love of all that is nasty and low which the prostitute is associated with.” Those who wear the T-shirts in Barcelona think they’re being radical, that they’re transgressing norms. But “what they don’t understand is that the whore is not a whore, she is a person”. As Ekman writes:
    “White ‘wiggers’ absorb hip-hop, backpackers and travellers absorb third-world cultures, male transvestites and drag-queens absorb the female and the femme absorbs the prostitute. The ‘transgressing’ of divisions anticipates that the divisions remain. When the white play black or when academics declare themselves whores and drug addicts, they are mocking those people who are black, who are prostitutes and who are drug addicts”.
    They are, she points out, acting from a position of power and have a complete lack of understanding for what life is actually like for those whom they imitate and shower with false admiration. The difference couldn’t be starker between, on the one hand, the post-modernist’s ‘transgression’ of norms and divisions between people and, on the other, the revolutionary’s desire to abolish them. As Ekman concludes:
    “In the absolute meaning there are no whores. There are people in prostitution for a longer or shorter period of time. There are no ‘types’ of people, no characters. They are people who have ended up in a certain situation. The fetishised ‘transgressing’ of divisions separates itself from the the revolutionary ‘abolition’ of them. The abolition of divisions arises from seeing the human being, the humanity in everyone, everyone’s equal needs … It is an objective solidarity which is built on a subjective understanding. One puts themselves in another’s place and imagines themselves under different circumstances. It is to look into someone else’s eyes and see yourself. And with this insight comes also an insight into the cruelty of the system which has made her into a ‘type’.”
    Fiction of unions for ’sex workers’ I also liked the section where Ekis Ekman highlighted the fiction of so-called ’sex worker’ unions. The International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW), for example, which is affiliated to the GMB and has spoken at conferences of the Labour Party and the Green Party, is run by a man called Douglas Fox. Fox claims to be a ’sex worker’ and accuses radical feminists of being big meanies out to silence him. Yet on closer inspection it becomes clear that Mr Fox is a liar. Sex worker he most certainly is not, rather he is a pimp who runs one of the UK’s largest escort firms. The IUSW’s membership, you see, is open to anyone, to pimps, to men who buy sex, to sympathetic academics. Of its minute membership of 150 (which compares to the 100,000 plus women and men who work in the UK’s sex industry) only a tiny minority are actual prostitutes. It’s the same all over Europe where similar organisations exist (such as ‘de Rode Draad’ in the Netherlands) – their membership is tiny, most aren’t even prostitutes, and they have never succeeded in pushing any independent union demands. Those who support prostitution though have of course never been ones for the facts. We see this idea of ‘unions’ coming from both the left and the right because it’s convenient, it gives prostitution a certain false legitimacy. It doesn’t work and it never will work, but it successfully diverts attention away from the deeper questions around prostitution and why it exists in our society. Related to this is the growth of the so-called ‘harm reduction’ lobby who have gained influence in recent years within a number of governments and international institutions. Ekman shows how this influence grew particularly around the time of the HIV/Aids epidemic of the 80s and 90s when the lobby was asked in by a number of organisations to determine policy on the issue. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) have, for example, both come out in favour of legalising prostitution on the grounds that it will increase state revenues and make it easier to fight the spread of Aids. Both organisations, Ekman writes, have started using phrases such as “she is not a victim, but a subject” and have called prostitution “a women’s job which should be recognised”. The effect of this lobby gaining strength has of course been to further legitimise prostitution and make it harder to fight. When Ekman visited the offices of the organisation TAMPEP in Amsterdam, a group for HIV prevention among ‘migrant sex workers’, and asked if they couldn’t do anything to help women leave prostitution the reply she got was “But why would we do that? Our goal is to teach women to be better prostitutes” (ie. using condoms so as to protect the men who abuse them from infection). This aim (of teaching women to be better prostitutes) is supported with millions of euros of EU Commission money each year. Similarly an official pamphlet produced with the backing of the Australian government instructs prostituted women to “look like you’re enjoying it all the time” and tells the women how to turn down a violent man’s demands without “making him lose his lust”. In addition the pamphlet points out that it might be a good idea to try to avoid bruises because it “can force you to take time off work and as a result lose more money”.
    for the rest click "Read More" bolded below

    Posted by SMBerg on Tuesday, November 09 @ 12:11:19 EST (6332 reads)
    Read More... | 20733 bytes more | News | Score: 5

     News: Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution, new UK activist group

    Sexual PoliticsImagine a world where women and girls are not for sale. Now make it real.
    We are a coalition of UK Feminist individuals and groups who believe that prostitution is violence against women:
    • This is a UK wide group advocating a common approach to prostitution for the whole of the UK
    • We invite all Feminist individuals and groups, from all backgrounds, to join this Coalition

    • We are calling for the decriminalisation of all women, children and men involved in prostitution - and demand that all criminal records for loitering and/or soliciting be wiped so that survivors are not barred from employment branded as 'sex offenders'

    • We urge the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly to consider a Swedish style law to make buying sex illegal and to invest money in exit services such as housing, education & training, legal advice, welfare benefits and health care

    • We believe that prostitution is not inevitable - end demand
    We keep in touch via yahoo groups e.mail group - sign up online at: http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/radicalsister Please note - this list is moderated, membership is moderated. We are unfunded, we welcome donations to our campaign to build a world where nobody is for sale - to make a donation to FCAP please contact for bank details - londonfeminist@yahoo.co.uk

    Posted by smberg on Wednesday, February 20 @ 18:07:53 EST (10563 reads)
    Read More... | News | Score: 3

     News: Media banned from red light district

    Sexual Politics
    Media banned from red light district

    Katy Duke
    Wednesday May 3, 2006

    The German city of Cologne has banned foreign press from its red light district in the run-up to the football World Cup, after prostitutes complained about journalists chasing away their customers since British media reports raised global interest in local "drive-in brothels".

    A story last week in the Sun looked at a number of red light districts, especially in the World Cup cities of Cologne and Dortmund, where local governments are "expanding and improving" the areas in order to cope with the expected influx of foreign football fans.

    England are due to play Sweden in Cologne on June 20.

    Following the report, journalists from across the continent have flooded the city to film the infamous drive-in brothel zone and interview prostitutes about the increased demand and the competition from cheaper eastern European girls.

    Andrea, 31, a local prostitute, said: "There are crews from all over Europe here, I was just questioned by a Swedish crew. People film us as if we were zoo animals. At the moment, if someone pulls over next to you, you can be almost positive that it's just a journalist who wants to talk nonsense. All our normal punters are backing off now."

    And now Cologne authorities have announced a total ban on journalists using still or video cameras in the Geestemuende district where the drive-in brothels are located.

    Robert Kilp, the head of the city's public affairs department, said if a journalist was caught filming in the area the tape would be removed and a warning issued, but if he or she was caught a second time the consequences would be more serious.

    "The second time we will be really angry. This zone is owned by the city of Cologne and is not considered a public street," Mr Kilp said.

    "Anyone filming or taking pictures there will be liable to prosecution. Prostitutes are having sexual intercourse in cars there, it is not a good thing to be filming."

    But Mr Kilp insisted the German authorities were not trying to prevent serious reporting on the world's oldest profession.

    "If a journalist goes to a brothel and gets the owner's permission to film that's fine. But the drive-in brothel project is trying to protect girls and keep them off drugs and we do not want to scare them away," he said.

    "These journalists do not seem interested in that. They have only started coming now because the World Cup will be here soon."

    Anne Rossbach, spokeswoman for the SKF, the social project behind the drive-in brothels, agreed, saying: "The worldwide media interest is huge. The Geestemuende area is supposed to be a social project, not a tourist scheme."

    · To contact the MediaGuardian newsdesk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 7239 9857 · If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

    Posted by smberg on Wednesday, May 03 @ 12:22:04 EDT (3468 reads)
    Read More... | News | Score: 1

     The Paradox of Pornography

    Sexual Politics

    By Robert Jensen
    Feb 1, 2006
    Pornography’s business has always been the exposure of women’s bodies for the pleasure of men, and that was readily evident at the annual Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas last month.

    But also exposed at the sex-industry gathering was the paradox of the pornography business at this particular moment: At the same time that the pornography industry and its products are more normalized than ever in the United States, the images they produce are more brutal and degrading toward women than ever. How can it be that a once-underground industry that lived at the margins of society has become mainstream, at precisely the same time that its sexual cruelty toward women is most pronounced?

    The resolution of the paradox offers disturbing insights not just into the sexual ethics and gender politics of the United States, but into the underlying values of the entire society.

    The AEE -- which attracted 350 exhibitors to the Sands Expo Center, one of Las Vegas’ major convention facilities -- is part industry-insider gathering and part public spectacle. About 18,000 fans, the vast majority of them men, paid $40 a day to wait in long lines to pick up autographs from their favorite women in pornography and be photographed next to them. While fans indulged their fantasies, pornography producers focused on deal-making, often sounding as if their business were no different than selling shoes. In seminars, industry experts talked about improving marketing and retailing practices to expand market share and increase profits

    On the convention floor, most everyone would have agreed with Paul Fishbein, president of Adult Video News, the trade magazine that sponsors the event: “[T]he industry is ready to serve the needs of adult retailers, as well as consumers that seek to celebrate their sexuality.”

    And “celebrate” they do, with no questions asked. In Las Vegas, no one was discussing the social implications of the commodification of sexuality and intimacy in the 13,000 new pornographic videos and DVDs released in 2005. Questions about the effects of sexualizing male dominance in a $12-billion a year business were not on the table. This was a venue for self-indulgence, not self-reflection.

    Pornography -- though still resisted by some, from either a conservative/religious position or, on very different grounds, from a feminist point of view -- has become just one more form of mass entertainment in a culture obsessively dedicated to the pleasure-without-thought-about-the-consequences principle. Not everyone likes it, but few see it as worth debating.

    But the paradox remains: At the same time that it is more accepted, pornography’s content is becoming steadily more extreme. In the “gonzo” style (those films with no plot or characters, just straightforward sex on tape) that dominates the market, directors continue to push the edge, filming increasingly rougher sexual practices involving multiple penetrations of women by two or three men at a time, or oral sex designed to make a woman gag, while the language used to insult women during sex grows harsher. Since legal controls on pornography began loosening in the 1970s, pornographers have pushed the limits of sexualizing the denigration of women.

    Though the pornography industry loves to talk about growing sales to women and the so-called “couples market,” men are still the vast majority of pornography consumers in the United States. Producers and distributors I interviewed at the convention all estimated their clientele was 80 to 90 percent men.

    What do these men want to watch? It turns out they like viewing sexual acts that the majority of women do not want to perform in their lives. While there is no survey data about women’s preferences regarding multiple penetrations or gag-inducing sex, informal investigation suggests such things are not common in the day-to-day lives of most people and not sought after by most women.

    So, how can we explain the paradox? People typically do not openly endorse cruelty or the degradation of women. Yet just as those features of pornography are more extensive and intense than ever, graphic sexually explicit material is more widely accepted than ever. How can a culture embrace images that violate its stated values? Wouldn’t a society that purports to be civilized reject sexual material that becomes evermore dismissive of the humanity of women? There are two potential explanations.

    First, because of the way pornography works, most of the consumers don’t see the material as being saturated with cruelty or degradation; the sexual pleasure that pornography produces tends to derail critical viewing and thinking. When consumers are focused on the pleasure, the politics drop out of view. So, when fans I interviewed said they didn’t think the material they watched embodied male domination and female subordination, they likely were being honest. They don’t see it, because they are too absorbed in feeling the sexual pleasure to be thinking about such issues.

    But some men are quite clear about the gender politics in pornography, and they like it. Most of the advertising for the gonzo style highlights the subordination of women -- one company brags it is in the business of “degrading whores for your viewing pleasure” -- which suggests that’s exactly what some men are looking for.

    The second explanation is a painful reminder that, in fact, the United States is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation. After all, there was no sustained, collective outrage over the revelations of systematic torture by U.S. military forces, epitomized by the photos from Abu Ghraib in Iraq. One prominent right-wing commentator compared it favorably to fraternity hazing rituals, which is not entirely misguided -- fraternity hazing is routinely cruel and degrading, albeit at a much lower level.

    The United States is a society that uses brutal levels of military force, including the illegal targeting of civilian infrastructure (such as in the 1991 Gulf War, when power, sewage, and water facilities were targeted) and the routine use of weapons that military officials know kill large numbers of civilians (such as cluster bombs that continue to kill long after the conflict is over, as unexploded bombs detonate for years). The culture celebrates this as evidence of our benevolence as we “liberate” other countries.

    The United States is a society that locks up more than 2 million people, a higher percentage of its population than any other country, disproportionately non-white. The everyday conditions under which many of those human beings are kept in this prison-industrial complex are so harsh and degrading that leading human-rights groups condemn U.S. prison practices. The culture celebrates this as evidence of the superiority of our system of “justice.”

    And the United States is a society that has built thousands of glittering temples to unsustainable levels of consumption -- called shopping malls -- in this wealthiest nation in history, while nearly half the world’s people live on less than $2 a day. The culture celebrates this state of affairs as the wondrous workings of the magical market.

    So, there is no paradox in the mainstreaming of an intensely cruel pornography; pornographers aren’t a deviation from the norm. Their presence in the mainstream shouldn’t be surprising, because they represent mainstream values: The logic of domination and subordination that is central to patriarchy, nationalism, racism, and capitalism.

    What pornography says about sexuality, intimacy, and gender politics in the contemporary United States is frightening. What it says about our entire society is even more disturbing. http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/%7Erjensen/index.html Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center, http://thirdcoastactivist.org/. He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books). He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

    Posted by smberg on Friday, February 03 @ 17:34:23 EST (3347 reads)
    Read More... | Score: 4.66

     News: No brothel visit for Swedes at World Cup

    Sexual Politics
    STOCKHOLM: The head of Sweden's football federation, Lars-Ake Lagrell, has given a personal guarantee that players with the country's national team won't be using any brothels at next year's World Cup in Germany.

    Lagrell made the comment in response to a call in the Swedish parliament for high-profile Swedish players such as Juventus striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fredrik Ljungberg of Arsenal and Barcelona's Henrik Larsson to involve themselves with a campaign to fight prostitution during the World Cup.

    The sale of sexual services is illegal in Sweden although the client is the one who faces the charges.

    “We are travelling to Germany for sporting reasons and can't constantly be taking a stand on all kinds of problems,” said Lagrell, adding that no Swedish player will enter any erotic centre during the tournament, which runs from June 9-July 9.


    Posted by smberg on Tuesday, December 27 @ 12:26:55 EST (3017 reads)
    Read More... | News | Score: 5

     News: Local business attacks prostitution problem

    Sexual PoliticsIn the last month, there have been 157 prostitution related arrests in the city of Memphis. It's an epidemic police have yet to get a handle on.

    But one local business woman is making a unique effort to solve the problem.

    Customers call her Sarah Clayborne "the pie lady". But now this self-made businesswoman wants to help other women get out of the oldest profession in the world.

    "It's called the Saveahoe Foundation," Clayborne said. She knows the name may be a little hard to get past.

    "People have a problem with the name so I asked them what's wrong, a ho don't need saving?"

    Clayborne says there are too many women working the streets because they feel they don't have any other options.

    "When I see it my heart goes out to them, it's a lack of knowledge they don't know any better," she said.

    The foundation will offer women job training and financial counseling so they can do better.

    "Women need to arrive and learn how to use their mind and not their behind so that's why we're here to preserve the dignity of women," Clayborne said.

    She plans to hold a seminar next month to formally introduce "Saveahoe Foundation" to the public.


    Posted by smberg on Thursday, August 25 @ 10:44:56 EDT (3009 reads)
    Read More... | News | Score: 4

     Women's Wrongs--Repealing prostitution laws won't help anyone

    Sexual PoliticsOctober 20, 2004, 8:38 a.m.
    National Review Online

    At the polling booth this year, Berkeley residents will have a unique voting choice: Yes or no to the decriminalization of prostitution.

    Decriminalization means the repeal of measures that outlaw prostitution, soliciting, pimping, pandering, and brothels. Although the vote will take place only in the city of Berkeley, the decriminalization campaign's ultimate goal is the repeal of California state laws on prostitution and related offenses.**

    Posted by smberg on Thursday, February 24 @ 03:13:12 EST (5725 reads)
    Read More... | 8221 bytes more | Score: 0

     News: U.S. Feminists Split Over Berkeley Prostitution Measure

    Sexual PoliticsBy Kai Ma , November 1, 2004 01:49 PM
    Reporting by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
    North Gate News Online

    BERKELEY -- Measure Q, the Berkeley ballot initiative that will ask voters on Tuesday to make the crime of prostitution the lowest police priority, is raising larger questions among feminists around the nation about whether the world's oldest profession represents a form of oppression or is instead a hallmark of female empowerment and independence.

    Posted by smberg on Thursday, February 24 @ 03:11:21 EST (7918 reads)
    Read More... | 7862 bytes more | News | Score: 3.5

     News: Importing policies

    Sexual PoliticsSwedish message
    Sep 2nd 2004
    From The Economist print edition
    Once Scandinavians came with swords; now they come with social policies

    IF POLICIES were commodities, Sweden would have a large surplus on its trade balance. This small nation of 9m people has already exported to Britain active labour market policies, a model for universal childcare, and a merged prison and probation service. A ban on smacking children, pioneered by the Swedes in 1979 and successfully sold to 11 other European countries, was, after a struggle, voted down by the House of Lords in July. None of these policies, though, is being marketed so aggressively as Sweden's policy of outlawing the purchase of sex.

    Posted by smberg on Thursday, February 24 @ 02:18:26 EST (2753 reads)
    Read More... | 3637 bytes more | News | Score: 0

     News: It's a career to die for

    Sexual Politics Bodies for sale often end up in the morgue
    By Natalie Pona
    Winnipeg Sun

    It took more than a year for Geraldine Silva to be able to return to work after her daughter's skeleton was found in a field. "I've had a lot of tragedies in my life, losing my parents and my brother ... Losing my daughter was totally different. It takes the legs out from under you. It takes the breath out of you and you don't know how to get it back," says Silva, 60, whose daughter Therena's murdered body was found on Templeton Avenue on Dec. 15, 2002.

    Posted by smberg on Thursday, February 24 @ 00:29:48 EST (15068 reads)
    Read More... | 7327 bytes more | News | Score: 0

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