|| News: Prostitution, abolition of victims, and postmodernist defence of the status quo|
Prostitution, 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
“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
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 CST (3550 reads)|
Read More... | 20733 bytes more | News | Score: 5
|| News: Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution, new UK activist group|
Imagine 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:
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Posted by smberg on Wednesday, February 20 @ 18:07:53 CST (8153 reads)|
Read More... | News | Score: 3
|| News: Media banned from red light district|
Media banned from red light district
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 email@example.com 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 CDT (2136 reads)|
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|| The Paradox of Pornography|
By Robert Jensen
Feb 1, 2006
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by smberg on Friday, February 03 @ 17:34:23 CST (1815 reads)|
Read More... | Score: 4.66
|| News: No brothel visit for Swedes at World Cup|
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 CST (1676 reads)|
Read More... | News | Score: 5
|| News: Local business attacks prostitution problem|
In 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 CDT (1743 reads)|
Read More... | News | Score: 4
|| Women's Wrongs--Repealing prostitution laws won't help anyone|
October 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 CST (2877 reads)|
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|| News: U.S. Feminists Split Over Berkeley Prostitution Measure|
By 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 CST (5092 reads)|
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|| News: Importing policies|
Swedish 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 CST (1524 reads)|
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|| News: It's a career to die for|
Bodies for sale often end up in the morgue |
By Natalie Pona
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 CST (3420 reads)|
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| myth-heard by men|
|I will be the master of what is mine own:|
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything. -Petruchio in William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew 1594)
| ms-heard by women|
|Children's talent to endure stems from the ignorance of alternatives. -Maya Angelou|
| SMBerg Links|
| site dedication|