May 6, 2016

"The battle lines among American feminists over selling sex were drawn in the 1970s."

"On one side were radical feminists like the writer Andrea Dworkin and the lawyer and legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon. They were the early abolitionists, condemning prostitution, along with pornography and sexual violence, as the most virulent and powerful sources of women’s oppression. 'I’ve tried to voice the protest against a power that is dead weight on you, fist and penis organized to keep you quiet,' wrote Dworkin, who sold sex briefly around the age of 19, when she ran out of money on a visit to Europe. Other feminists, who called themselves 'sex positive,' saw sex workers as subverters of patriarchy, not as victims. On Mother’s Day 1973, a 35-year-old former call girl named Margo St. James founded a group in San Francisco called Coyote, for 'Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.' Its goal was to decriminalize prostitution, as a feminist act. In its heyday, Coyote threw annual Hooker’s Balls, where drag queens and celebrities mixed with politicians and police. It was a party: In 1978, a crowd of 20,000 filled the city’s Cow Palace, and St. James entered riding an elephant. By the 1980s, Dworkin’s argument condemning prostitution moved into the feminist mainstream, with the support of Gloria Steinem, who began rejecting the term 'sex work.' St. James and the sex-positivists were relegated to the fringes....."

From a long NYT article by Emily Bazelon, "Should Prostitution Be a Crime?/A growing movement of sex workers and activists is making the decriminalization of sex work a feminist issue."

36 comments:

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

It would be nice if we could have some kind of consistency on this. Either women are fully autonomous agents of their own sexuality, or they need to be protected from it. You can't have legal prostitution and the related codifications of the sexual autonomy of women at the same time as you have college campuses regulating the sexual and recreational behavior of legal adults.

David Begley said...

A "long NYT article?"

Is there anything else?

Kind of like referring to it as "the liberal New York Times." One doesn't even need to add the "L" words. It adds nothing.

Chuck said...


I think I would call this A Modest Proposal.

SGT Ted said...

What Dworkin founded is a hate movement targeting men and male sexuality. She has an ideological problem with biology. Women like her need therapy, not political power.

jaydub said...

Feminism is so intellectually and institutionally dishonest that it is futile to try to sort through its convoluted illogic. "Dykes good, penises bad" seems to be about the only core feminist principle.

John Henry said...

"My body, my choice"

John Henry

John Henry said...

BTW: Re Dworkin, if you are too cheap to buy a copy of "The Story of O", look for Dworkins extensive rant against it.

She quotes extensively from the book and gets pretty much all the good parts. Just ignore all the non-italicized Dworkin BS and you have most of the book that matters.

John Henry

Virgil Hilts said...

Per the different male/female bell curves, there are a lot of men on left side who will never marry or have children (greater # of women than men produce offspring). In this light porn/prostitution may play a role in providing a "release valve" for large groups of men who will never, ever have a regular mate. While the debate continues there is a lot of statistical evidence suggesting correlation between availability of porn and reduced sexual assaults on women. http://freakonomics.com/2011/08/04/porn-and-rape-the-debate-continues/

EMD said...

Prostitution should be legal.

Fernandinande said...

SGT Ted said...
Women like her need therapy, not political power.


Many feminists are good at turning their psychological problems into political issues.

Jupiter said...

What the feminists are concerned about is the fact that when a man gives a woman a substantial sum of money, he expects to get something in return. They regard that as unreasonable.

Laslo Spatula said...

After writing an incisive, thought-provoking comment on prostitution and sexual relations in a feminist-influenced society I then edited it down for concision. So here it is:

Anal sex.

You're welcome.

I am Laslo.

Rick said...

John Henry said...
"My body, my choice"


Keep your laws off my body.

Birkel said...

Stupid bicycles.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Among the many, many memorable vignettes in Mad Men is the one where Roger gets a crush on a prostitute.

Franklin said...

Women will always be in favor of controlling mens' access to orgasms, because that's the source of female power. Feminists will always be anti-porn and anti-prostitution. It's an hilarious double standard that they are anti-fleshlight (reduces a woman to a single body part!) but very pro-dildo.

Static Ping said...

It is to be expected that there will be serious policy disputes involving a philosophy that does not have consistent internal principles among its members. Feminism covers a wide variety of views from "treat women with respect" to "all women should be lesbians and men are evil." The word "feminism" is essentially a vague umbrella of beliefs through which various minorities try to lay claim as the voice for all women, despite the fact that most women do not identify as feminists and certainly not the views of the vocal minorities. I also understand that fund raising and politics are involved.

I do not support legalized prostitution. For all the stories of high-priced call girls and successful madams who are proud of their empowerment, there are a lot more stories of drug addicts, runaways, organized crime, sex slavery, VD, and broken marriages. Legalizing it does not fix any of that. (And, no, legalizing it in various areas of Europe has not fixed any of that.)

David said...

There are all kinds of whoring. Why is this one singled out so much?

(Answer: It's for the majority of the women. Legal prostitution empowers the prostitutes, but reduces the power of women who are not prostates by giving them more legitimate competition, and reducing the grounds for complaint against men.)

HoodlumDoodlum said...

"Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics" is perfect.

Static Ping said...

David: Legal prostitution empowers the prostitutes

Well, unless you are addicted to heroin. Or you were invited to the country to work as a nanny or paid someone to smuggle you into the country or we kidnapped or whatever, and then were forced into the sex industry by same. Or you get AIDS. Or you get raped, which is pretty common and nearly impossible to prosecute even if the police believe you. Or you get murdered, which prostitutes tend to be much more vulnerable.

It does empower high-paid, well-structured work environment prostitutes, so there is that.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...It would be nice if we could have some kind of consistency on this. Either women are fully autonomous agents of their own sexuality, or they need to be protected from it.

It would be nice, sure, but resolving those kinds of contradictions would also be fatal to modern popular feminism (as a movement) so don't hold your breath. Remember, equality means special treatment sometimes and the same treatment other times. It should surprise no one that such a system involves contradictory (and/or incoherent) views about women themselves (sometimes they're to be treated as "regular" people responsible for their own choices and outcomes, sometimes they're to be treated as "special" people whom society has to underwrite, excuse from the consequences of their actions, and straight up pay for, etc).

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Just thinking about it, what's the flip side of a splooge stooge anyway? The Professor heartily objected to men who wanted consequence-free sex but since the man in a prostitution transaction is explicitly willing to pay a (monetary) price I assume she wouldn't call them stooges...
What's the female equivalent of a splooge stooge? A woman who wants to use sex to get something she wants and to face no consequences for that choice? Isn't that what prostitution advocates want? I mean, they want the law changed to facilitate that choice. Splooge stooges (presumably) want the law changed to facilitate their choice (to have consequence-free sex by not being automatically responsible if a woman becomes pregnant against the man's wishes). Is the difference just one of "think of the children?!"

Legalized prostitution would likely have some bad effects on family formation, rate of marriage, etc, and might thus harm the whole "continuation of the species" goal the Prof. put forward as the main reason it is OK to treat some people (men) unfairly (in a number of ways). Should the Professor on that basis side with people who want to keep prostitution illegal? Laws against prostitution restrict some women's freedom & autonomy, but the same laws (arguably) help family formation/maintenance and in that way benefit people the Professor considers the "backbone of society."

It's perfectly ok to restrict men's freedom and autonomy (esp. w/r/t economic freedom) for the good of the family and/or children, so shouldn't it similarly be perfectly ok to restrict some women's freedom for the same reason?

William said...

I didn't read the article but Althouse notes the fact that Dworkin went prostitute in order to support herself on a trip to Europe. That's a fairly significant fact. We all have our price. Hers was a trip to Europe.......I sympathize with women who out of economic necessity have to hit the streets, and I grudgingly admire women like, say, Pamela Harriman who know how to get the best price for their services, but Dworkin's history is tacky on every level.

Joe said...

I wonder if Dworkin was unsuccessful as a prostitute, hence her anger.

Gahrie said...

It's perfectly ok to restrict men's freedom and autonomy (esp. w/r/t economic freedom) for the good of the family and/or children, so shouldn't it similarly be perfectly ok to restrict some women's freedom for the same reason?

Because women are different from men.

Unless of course we need to pretend that they are the same to benefit women in some way.........

ganderson said...

I find it hard to believe that anyone at any time paid money to have sex with Andrea Dworkin

Bob Matthews said...

If you look at modern (third-wave) feminism through the lens of Marxist class analysis, it is all perfectly logical and consistent. Because men (as a class) are more powerful than women (as a class), sex between men and women can never be truly consensual. All heterosexual sex is therefore rape. There are are only oppressors and the oppressed.

What about individual autonomy, you ask? Under Marxist analysis, there is none. The individual only exists to service the state. See, it all makes perfect, logical, hideous, and frightening sense.

mockturtle said...

I had the impression that most prostitutes ply their trade to finance their drug habits, therefore they are oppressed by addiction, not sexual politics.

OGWiseman said...

I wonder if--gasp--it's possible that sex work is neither oppressive nor empowering, but just a thing that some people do for a wide variety of reasons in a wide variety of environments to a wide variety of levels of emotional damage or satisfaction. It's almost like crude feminist politics are inadequate to describe actual human life.

wholelottasplainin' said...

But....but...Dworkin and MacKinnon both said that ALL sex was "problematic", since ALL sex was a form of men's oppression of wymyn.

So if consensual sex during marriage is oppressive, how can prostitution be any better?

William said...

Philosophical question: Which is inherently more damaging to the psyche and the body: Prostitution or professional football? I'd rather my daughter become a pross rather than a defensive lineman. There was a recent survey that showed 40% of all professional football players showed early signs of dementia. That's less than among the ranks of professional feminists but, still, much higher than among prostitutes.......They'll eventually come around to blaming the NFL for this, but I think most football players are aware of the risks and freely choose to take them. That's the trouble with free will. People make regrettable decisions.

Rob McLean said...

Either women are fully autonomous agents of their own sexuality, or they need to be protected from it.

Clearly, women must be protected from misplacing their pants.

n.n said...

Rent their integrity, their bodies, their wombs, ... [Unqualified] progress. Then there is reactive and planned parenthood. So "final solution".

Female chauvinists have jumped the ass and people have noticed.

Smilin' Jack said...

...wrote Dworkin, who sold sex briefly around the age of 19...

Uh, can we get some trigger warnings around here?

St. James and the sex-positivists were relegated to the fringes....

Yeah, St. James got a little freaky toward the end. Stick with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

T J Sawyer said...

Rubmaps lists 18 locations in Madison. Backpage has 67 listings under escorts.

Are we sure that prostitution is illegal in Madison/Wisconsin/USA?

Paul Snively said...

It's almost as if neither prostitution nor Dworkin-and-MacKinnon-style anti-male asceticism were psychologically, emotionally, physically, or spiritually healthy. Imagine that!