Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 9.29

I’ve been involved in, read and listened to some discussions lately about what is and isn’t “feminism”.   I’m curious to hear what you have to say on the topic.  So my question for today is:

Can a woman still call herself a feminist if she poses nude, strips, or if she works in porn or prostitution?

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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122 Comments

  1. Can she? Yes. It’s definitely possible to do those things and still have a consistent feminist philosophy. However, it’s also possible to be hugely hypocritical. I’d say it depends on what she thinks about her job and how she behaves (e.g. what she communicates to others) while at work.

  2. Yes, absolutely. The only reason these things would be anti-feminist is in how they’re used, or the intent behind how they’re done, they’re not intrinsically harmful to women.

    Unless, of course, you consider free expression of sexuality to be harmful to women… which I would consider to be a very anti-feminist attitude.

    These days there’s enough female owned strip clubs, porn studios, etc., that make this question seem sort of ridiculous. They’re not the majority, but they’re growing in marketshare. Encouraging these kinds of self-aware, well managed businesses in these types of sectors is the only way to make progress in the long run, as there’ll always be a demand for the type of material they produce.

    That’s to say nothing about the artistic merit of doing nude pieces, where there seems to be an incredible double standard from uptight, self-proclaimed feminists who want no women to ever appear naked, but have no problems with classical male nudes. There’s basically nothing to debate on this point, as there’s nothing wrong with nude art, regardless of the gender of the subject.

  3. Just my 2 cents – I had a number of female friends in college who worked across the spectrum of adult entertainment, self-identified as feminists, and found it empowering – those women attributed that experience almost entirely to the support of a management that enforced rules re: limits of touching or contact and protection of staff, up to and including assistance with securing police involvement when needed. Women I spoke with from other (notably more politically conservative) regions of the same state were significantly less positive about their experiences, and their workplaces did not limit touching or discuss protection of women entering and leaving the workplace. I’m curious if this matches other womens’ experiences? My thought was always that there’s an equity that those safeguards provided (i.e., it demonstrates that these women were simply working a job that they were free and supported in leaving at the door when they went home) vs. less safe sites that did not maintain such boundaries, but as I male I may be way off….. I’ll look forward to reading other responses!

  4. Definitely, but it is also very much dependent on her approach to feminism and her job. If she thinks that all porn and prostitution do is foster the objectification of women, I doubt she would want to do such things. If she just sees them as a service she is performing, like changing the oil in someone else’s car, then it’s no big deal. She could also come at it with the philosophy that these jobs are all about her owning and controlling her own sexuality and decisions. Feminism is a very broad word that is applied to many different and even contradictory views.

  5. I think that to answer “no” might require the assumption that only men like porn and only men pay for sex. I’ve often wondered why the industry catering to women in these areas is so small. Is it because women actually want less porn and sex? Or is it because a Puritan society thinks it’s more dirty for women to want these things than for men to want them and so women are afraid to admit their desires?

    OK, I’ve talked myself totally into saying “yes.” To say no might even be construed as anti-feminist.

  6. full disclosure: i think naked women are HOT! why not? i don’t think being half naked on my gravatar makes me any less of a man or male activist. although i guess i don’t really feel the need to be as united with my fellow men as most feminists seem to be united with their female comrades. besides, isn’t clothing just another meme anyway? isn’t it more of the value that we assign to it? i would think that being in charge of and exploiting your own your sexuality for your benefit would be more empowering than demeaning, well, if you had a choice, that is. i guess i’ll be interested to hear what some skepchicks have to say about this.

  7. (Disclaimer: I say this as a dude.)

    There are definitely differing opinions among feminists as to whether sex work (whether it be porn, stripping, phone sex, or what have you) is something to be embraced or rejected.

    One camp holds that sex work is inherently degrading to women, it objectifies them, and turns them into objects for men’s lust.

    The other camp holds that sex work is liberating, as it allows women to take control of their sexuality.

    Both sides have elements of truth, and I can see the merits in the arguments of either side, even if I have my own personal leanings. Because it is a legitimate difference of opinion, I don’t think you can fairly say that someone is “not” a feminist if she chooses sex work as a living.

    On a personal note:

    A friend of mine, who I’m rather fond of (understatement), is a camgirl and phone sex operator (and will likely be posting here as soon as she sees this post :) ). I can’t imagine anyone saying that she isn’t a feminist based on what she does – she is intelligent, articulate, and is most assuredly in control of her own body and her own profession.

  8. I’m going to say something controversial here: Labels such as feminism and masculinism are ridiculous narrow-minded view points about people. There are too many subjective differences that abound in cultures and societies, that it is neither pragmatic nor ideal to judge people and groups of people by such closed principles. It is much more meaningful to label oneself a humanist.

  9. It is hard to get an unbiased view on the porn industry but I will assume that there is still porn made where the women are coerced/forced into it. Those are of course demeaning but this is (mostly) because of the force used.

    However, if the woman in question is doing it of her own will, has no problems with it and considers herself a feminist then who is to say she is not? As several already pointed out, it can even be empowering.

    Unfortunately, when one scratches the surface of the loudest “feminists” one often finds a bigot screaming underneath. Far from wanting women free, they often want them to act according to their wishes instead of those of the men-folk, especially when it comes to sex.

  10. @Cleon: I agree, I can’t imagine anyone saying she isn’t a feminist.

    Overall, for me, this boils down to semantics anyway. I think someone else defining how it’s ok to label myself, particularly when it comes to a label like “feminist” is a slippery slope.

    If I were to label my self a Texan… even though I grew up in NYC and now live in San Diego, and am therefore…not Texan, well, I can get that. The definition is more clear cut.

    But telling me or any other woman that to be a feminist, I have to do x but not y, and ALL feminists do z….well, that’s hooey.

  11. IT’S A TRAP!

    Really, no one has a right to say whether a person identifies with which ideologies. …Uhhh… apart from the person themselves.

    So the following is just MY OPINION (yes, I shouted that).

    Posing nude? Absolutely. HPB was right, clothing is an illusion. In fact, I would go so far as to say part of being feminist is recognizing that nudity should NOT be prohibited: it exacerbates the inequalities between the sexes.

    …Stipping, Porn, Prostitution? …Well, a person can call themselves a Pop Tart, and they have that right; that doesn’t make it true.

    Show me a woman who works in “The Industry” who understands intersectionality (meaning, one who has really explored what prejudice and sexism really mean), and I will publicly apologize for opening my mouth just before inserting my foot to say:

    “Mostly no.”

    (I was going to say “Yes”, but, hell, everyone else was saying it, so I had to be different. But seriously:)

    It largely depends on the person’s stance, but I would still say that 99.9% of self-identifying feminists who “work it” are making the problem worse in order to (try and) make their own life better (maybe).

    But again: I don’t have the right to tell anyone they’re not something. So all I’m saying is: I don’t see it that way.

    * Of course, by “equality”, I mean “equal opportunity”.

  12. I call myself a “feminist” (even though I am a man who goes to strip clubs) because I believe that women deserve equal pay for equal work, and are the final decision-makers on their bodies.

    I may not be using anyone else’s definition of “feminist”, though. But I’m open to hearing other takes on the topic.

  13. I think you would have to consider all the drivers that would cause women to choose the profession in the first place. If you assume that all things being equal, level playing field in the marketplace, equal pay for equal work, equal education opportunities, free child-care, etc… then yeah it wouldn’t be inconsistent.

    If you took away all the pressures that drive a person to seek any job, would she still choose it?

  14. This is a whole discipline onto itself, but why are some many skeptics not skeptical of the concept of free-will? As in, “If she does porn of her own free-will then she can be a feminist”. I’m sure most people here are skeptical of the “soul”, so what naturalistic reason is there to unconditionally accept the idea of free-will?

  15. @JRice:

    Show me a woman who works in “The Industry” who understands intersectionality (meaning, one who has really explored what prejudice and sexism really mean), and I will publicly apologize for opening my mouth just before inserting my foot […]

    I disagree whole-heartedly. I don’t mean to trivialize academia (ok, ok, I DO… gently!), but I don’t understand how reading a bunch of philosophical wankery about what predjudice and sexism means really impacts a person’s self-identification as a feminist. Reading a philosophical tome about the meaning of gun violence isn’t the only way to find out whether or not you’re against it, though it might change your opinion or the extent of your convictions.

    This isn’t to say that some women in these fields might not simply be deluding themselves into thinking they are choosing to use their sexuality or whatever while really being forced… but I definitely don’t think you need to have studied intersectionality or anything else to be able to decide whether or not you’re a feminist in ANY field, sexy or otherwise.

  16. @writerdd:

    I very much doubt that women have a lower sex drive than men, given the danger inherent in pregnancy and birth, it would be logical to expect humans to have evolved a stronger sex drive in women than men (to get them to get it on despite the dangers involved)

    The reason women seem (SEEM mind you) to consume less porn and hookers than men is, I think, due to the fact that the may be consuming it “quietly” (though it SEEMS a growing number of women under 40 talk openly about owning vibrators).

    Also (and here I hide behind the sofa to say…) anacdotal evidence would sugest that in order to scratch that particular itch, all a women need do is walk into a bar and decide which man she wants…

  17. I used to think of sex worker jobs as being anti-feminist, then I met some sex workers. Many have found the experience confidence and identity building, and I’ve seen in person positive effects on some of the women I know who work in this industry.

    Not to say there aren’t bad things that can happen, but there’s a lot to be said for the industry. I recommend looking up the Sex Workers Art Show and seeing what’s up with these people.

    I’ve come to the opinion that being anti-sex worker is really a more mysogynist position than it seems on it’s face. The idea’s root being that the woman’s body is something to be ashamed of and hidden. Can’t agree with that.

  18. Every point I was going to make has been made better than I could, so I’ll just say that in my (male) opinion there is no inherent conflict between those activities and feminism as I understand it. The devil is in the details as always though, different “brands” of feminism and the different environments where one may perform the acts in question could very easily change things.

  19. Is this just a really subtle way to tell us that the Skepchicks aren’t going to make any more Skepchick or Skepdude calendars?

    I mean… the words “Pin-up Calendar” are at the top-center of this page. It seems obvious that the view of feminism promoted by this site is at least compatible with posing nude.

    Which just goes back to the point raised by others that the concept of “feminism” takes on different means based on who is using it.

  20. I’d just like to underscore how much I dig naked chicks.

    Especially naked chicks who are smart, informed, and skeptical.

    Of which there are dozens and dozens in my hometown, Portland, OR.

    Which also has, anecdotally, the highest per-capita number of strip clubs in the US of A.

  21. @Expatria: That’s what I meant in the rest of my blathering post. ; ) Anyone can identify howsoever they wish.

    …And point taken that one need not study the academic side of things to understand it. I’m biased.

    …But, still: If a woman in the industry says she’s a feminist, I’m cool with her saying it… but I don’t see it that way. 99.9% of the time, anyway.

    I’m sure there are plenty of feminists in Cirque’s “Zumanity“, as a counter example: they dance nude, but they aren’t playing to sexual inequality. Or Pilobolus.

    Okay, they’re not stripping, and they’re only mostly nude, but I just felt like posting a link to that video. It’s still awfully hot. Treat yourself. Good video. And I think it has some things to say about sexuality, in an abstract way.

    Plus, the music is by Chronos Quartet.

  22. @audaciousman:

    I’ve come to the opinion that being anti-sex worker is really a more mysogynist position than it seems on it’s face. The idea’s root being that the woman’s body is something to be ashamed of and hidden. Can’t agree with that.

    That’s pretty much my stance.

    Is there a difference between telling women to cover up to promote women’s rights and telling women to cover up to remain “pure” for their husbands? Either way, you’re turning female sexuality into something dirty.

    I very much dislike the notion that I have to keep MY clothes on to enforce respect for women. My body = my body = MY BODY. It’s mine to do what I want with it, isn’t it? Isn’t the idea of feminism that I should be able to make my own decisions?

    Instead of pointing a finger at “bad girls” who are making it bad for all the other women and demanding they stop, maybe we should be taking a look at why it’s bad for women and change that.

    If we said that being a doctor was bad for women because men don’t respect “girl MD’s”, would we be telling women doctors to stop doing their jobs? Of course not.

  23. @Elyse: Grrr. I think you’re missing the point.

    The problem with the sex industry is not that girls are being bad. And you’re right: saying as much is totally misogynistic.

    The problem with the sex industry is the men. …”Enabling” them (I hate that word) is not a feminist thing to do, period. That doesn’t make you bad that makes you a bad feminist.

    For example, the comments that fuel the industry are just… horrific. And playing into that isn’t helping anybody. Can you listen to a man say the kinds of things, say, the host of phun.org says (WARNING: EXPLICIT MATERIAL, especially if you follow the links on that page), not act on it, and still call yourself a feminist? I think not. And phun is a pretty mild site out there. I’ve rarely seen better in my… ahem… “research”.

    But, hey, if you’re vocal about how such things are not cool, and are helping reverse stereotypes, then more power to you. Are there any “nice” porn companies out there? …I’d like to know. ; )

  24. @JRice:

    It seems like you’re saying that nude is okay as long as it doesn’t involve sex.

    Don’t you find it offensive, as a man, to be told that appreciating an attractive woman being overtly sexual means that you think of women as objects?

  25. Geez, I sure hope so. I spent a year living abroad supporting myself as a nude model at art schools.

    I was the definition of an object. I was there to reflect light and make an interesting shape. Not terribly different from a bowl of fruit. However, I never felt “objectified”.

    I am definitely a feminist.

  26. Sorry, I didn’t answer your question:

    “appreciating an attractive woman being overtly sexual means that you think of women as objects?”

    Sure. It’s comments like “I’d hit that” or “Slap that ass” or “It should be illegal for her to wear clothes”… that’s objectification.

    So, like I said, it’s not about sex, it’s about demeaning behavior.

  27. Feminism is, at its very core, about the rights of women to do as they choose. If a woman wants to pose nude or become an exotic dancer, that’s her choice.

    Telling someone they’re not a real feminist because they do something you find distasteful is ridiculous — in the original sense: worthy of ridicule.

    As for the objectification argument: porn does not objectify women; people objectify women. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy erotic art, nudity, even outright hardcore pornography, without objectifying women. Saying that the media (that is, the art or pornography) is the objectification is a bit like blaming ice cream for obesity.

  28. Feminism: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
    That’s the first definition that pops up at dictionary.com.
    I don’t think posing nude or stripping or porn necessarily detracts from those ideals. Prostitution I’m not too sure about, for reasons I can’t put into words right now.

  29. I know I’m not really a part of your community, but I really wanted to say something on this. It seems to me that the main idea of “feminism” is about freedom from oppression and equality under the law. I can’t see where stripping, porn, or prostitution goes against those unless the women are forced, coerced, or held to a different standard because of it.

    To me “you’re not a good feminist because you’re a stripper” is pretty much the definition of held to a different standard, isn’t it?

    That’s no different that the people who say you can’t be a feminist if you’re sexually submissive, or if you honestly prefer to be a stay-at-home mom, or if you like cooking or cleaning or oral sex.

    It’s just other people trying to control women by telling us what’s alright and what’s not alright. At least the people out there saying porn is wrong because it glorifies sex are equal-opportunity oppressors.

    @JRice: I’ve looked at a beautiful woman and said “it should be illegal for her to wear clothes.” There are sights in this world so beautiful that it’s a crime against nature to cover them up. We only have a problem with this because of our puritanical obsession with sex. It’s no different than saying that it should be a crime to cut someone’s beautiful hair off.

  30. I think of myself as a feminist since I want my wife and daughter to have all of the same opportunities and to be treated as equals. That being said. I believe that the answer is yes. I don’t have much in the way of first hand experience. I have known some strippers but it was because they were on parole and I was there parole officer. I have never been to a strip club during working hours. I have never seen a striper perform. As far as I know I have never been with a prostitute, I haven’t been with any who were working anyway. I have seen porn and nude shots.

    Strip clubs give me the creepy crawlies. I feel sorry for streetwalkers. But if they have made these choices of their own free will and aren’t there due to force or desperation. If they don’t feel degraded then the answer remains yes. And it isn’t any of my business.

  31. Feminism is a theory of equality for women. If feminism were true the question then is not “Can a woman still call herself a feminist if she poses nude, strips, or if she works in porn or prostitution?” but does a man psoing nude, stripping or working in porn get treated any differently that a woman or expect to be treated differently?

    My own desire for witnessing the inherent beauty of the female form *ahem* in preference to the male aside it is clear that women and men are considered as different when working in these industries. This goes back to sexual promiscuity. A man can screw around and be viewed as a stud but a woman is viewed as a slut. The disparity is wrong and feminists are right to point that out.

    If posing nude or working in the sex industry make steps to equalise gender opinion then of course it is a valid stance. If the opposite is true and the perception of men and women as being unequal is widened then no, I’m afraid you can’t call yourself a feminist. Not honestly anyway.

    Of course I could be wrong.

  32. Free people in a free market, who may or may not have free will, charging money for what we all hope, wish, desire or expect to get for free. I guess I’d say unbuckle and feel free to move about the plane.

    I’m wondering if there was some hope that the whole “it’s my body/choice” side of the issue would get mentioned. Logically it would follow that as a primary precept of feminism is the right of the individual to do with their bodies as they choose; then choosing to engage that body in some level of the sex industry would not preclude ones philosophical position of being a feminist. Just wondering.

  33. Hmmn.

    I fear I’m being misunderstood. I blame myself.

    @Darren: 1) I don’t define feminism that way; 2) I don’t find it distasteful, and 3) well, that depends on the venue (is a journalist who works for Fox really a good journalist?), but that’s also my point: the women aren’t doing anything wrong, per se, but they are (usually) saying it’s okay to be treated without respect.

    @Sabrina: That’s fine. In context, it makes sense. In the context of a porn video, it can be obscene.

    @jtradke: The art model example above was a good example of this, yes.

    I stick by my earlier point, which I think sums it up. Can you subject yourself to comments like these (WARNING: *VERY* explicit) and still call yourself a good feminist?

    If you say “yes”, then, again: I don’t see it that way.

    If you’re in the industry and you don’t abide comments like that, then, sure, you qualify in my book. I would love to see porn be about equals. Love it! (Hey, if you have links, send them.) Hell, we’d all love sexuality to be celebrated rather than reviled. …Well, everyone here anyway. : )

  34. @JRice:

    I stick by my earlier point, which I think sums it up. Can you subject yourself to comments like these (WARNING: *VERY* explicit) and still call yourself a good feminist?

    Why can’t you subject yourself to comments like that? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that most people are going to see porn and KNOW that it’s fantasy? Do you think that most men who go to those sites really hate women? Do you think they start thinking less of women because of those sites?

    I’ll be the first to say I despise the words “slut” and “whore”… but used as part of fantasy/erotic play, I think they’re fine.

    Don’t like:
    “Look at that girl’s skirt. What a whore.”
    “That slut stole my boyfriend.”
    “She hooked up with 3 guys last weekend. Slut.”
    “Hey stupid whore, why don’t you come over here and blow me?”

    Like:
    “Do you like it when I __{sex act here}__, you dirty little slut?”
    “_____ me like I’m your whore.”
    “When we get home I’m gonna ____ you like the slut that you are.”

    I put the comments on porn sites in the “like” column. It’s part of the fantasy.

  35. I know a feministe who works as a dancer. She believes in women standing by each other and supporting one another and in tearing down barriers for women.
    What the fuck is “insectionality” and what does it have to do with a human beings worth? JRice, I’ve read your blog and your comments are usually worth reading but on gender/race issues you really seem to go off the deepend. What you’re talking about isn’t “feminism” it’s a cult of victimization.

  36. @ “Are there any “nice” porn companies out there? …I’d like to know. ; )”

    I don’t know about “nice” but from what I’ve heard there are clubs that respect their workers more than others.
    In any words, it’s just like any other industry.

  37. @Elyse: I’m saying you’re not doing feminism any good when you do; moot; yes; yes.

    …As for your personal kinks, you’re welcome to them. (Everyone has some; I have mine.) My issue is when you’re perpetuating such perspectives as part of your job and still calling yourself a feminist.

    I’ll lose a few points by going into intersectionality again, but… could you call someone a racial activist if they were part of a thriving community of blacks who pretend to be slaves of white men?

    There’s nothing wrong with the act, but you’d be a pretty poor activist for playing part in it, right?

    Why would a strong feminist pretend to be someone’s hoar? (NOT including in the privacy of your own home/party–I’m talking about making a living at it.) …Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the act, but you’re a pretty poor feminist for indulging the sick fantasies of the fuck-head men who really believe that bullshit.

    DMS brought a definition: “advocating social, political, and all other rights”. Are you really advocating rights when you let this shit fly?

    (And, just to reiterate: these are my opinions. If a porn star wants to call herself a feminist, more power to her. I just disagree.)

    I asked my (feminist) wife to weigh in on the matter. She said: “this is something even feminists can’t agree on. I personally think “no”, but it’s not an opinion that goes over well in the community, because of rather vocal “sex-positive” points of view.”

    [shrug] I see what she means. …And I can understand the reaction: sexuality is something that, once we’ve come to grips with “owning” it, is not something we want to subject to scrutiny. It’s private.

  38. JRice, I hate to participate in a pile on like this; but this shit infuriates me. This Andrea Dworkin nonesense is the polar opposite of a what a legitimate civil rights movement is about.
    It’s definition of sexism is inherently sexist and it’s solution is to create gender based victim class.
    What about the rights of sex workers to live and work as they see fit? To define their sexuality and their rights for themselves? To speak for themselves (and by “them” I don’t mean The Sex Workers Class but the the individuals within the sex industry.) and advocate the brand of feminism that protects the rights they deem important.
    The Rad Fem movement is about about labeling people and dictating their gender roles. It says that sexism is what white men do by existing. And that a woman’s rights are granted by her inclussion in the feministe class; not by her worth as an individual.

  39. [sigh] I tried to make a disclaimer about that point. I wasn’t clear enough. NO: they are not equivalent. It’s an analogy, nothing more.

    For the analogy to work, you have to believe that a whore (I misspelled it earlier, oops) is someone who’s been dehumanized. And, yes, I believe that.

    BAH! I’m angry, now. Bailing on the conversation. Sorry.

  40. @Elyse: Oh, no… I know I don’t belong here.Rystefn tried to get me involved and it never worked. I almost always just got confused and couldn’t understand what everyone was talking about. I couldn’t even understand what he was talking about when he tried to explain where I fit in the whole atheist/believer scale.

    I just had to say something because I saw all the same arguments people tried to lay on me for being submissive and for not minding Rystefn being with other women.

  41. I think it is interesting that at this point a woman can get a college degree, start a career, get married, have children, become the governor of a state, run for Vice President (or some similar high office), and insist that she’s not a feminist. Which is something that happens.

    When I hear a woman say, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I reply, “Oh, good, make me a sandwich, and tell your father or husband I am here to discuss complicated man things… your hair looks lovely, by the way…”

    Not a feminist… yah, right.

  42. @Sabrina: I used to think I was smart – until I started reading skeptical blogs and read the words of actually smart people. A great deal goes over my head, but with what I can catch I learn a lot.

    You write clearly and by that criteria, you clearly belong here. This isn’t a community for only the skeptical, however much it may appear such. This is a community for those that are curious about, interested in, or obsessed with the skeptical mindset.

    So, while some here may type their comments merely for the sake of being seen, others are here to discuss and hear alternate views, to challenge their own preconceptions, and occasionally change their minds. I am.

    Of course there are times when I think I’m right and the Internet needs to be fixed…

    Welcome, then, to our community.

    John B. Sandlin

  43. I think – and have given this considerable thought – at least the length of time it took to read all the previous comments anyway – that absolutely a person can be a feminist in those industries.

    I would be surprised, however, if that were the rule, rather than the exception.

    JBS

  44. Anyone who says she isn’t is a hypocrite. They’d basically be saying, “A woman can do whatever she wants, as long as it’s on our approved list of things she’s allowed to want.” That makes them no better—and arguably much worse—than the chauvinists.

  45. “Can a woman still call herself a feminist if she poses nude, strips, or if she works in porn or prostitution?”
    .
    Absolutlely! Not only can she call herself one, she can be one.
    .
    Quite frankly, any answer to the contrary is just plain wrong. There’s no debate on this one.

  46. Well, this is a classic bone of contention in feminist thinking. Some feminists think that doing sex work hinders the progress of feminism. Others, who usually call themselves “sex-positive feminists” think sex work can be used to advance the cause of feminism. This schism is every bit as acrimonious as you might expect.

    Since the contrary viewpoint is well represented here, maybe I should say something about why some feminists object to sex work in general and pornography in particular.

    One of the ways the patriarchy harms us is that it teaches us that women’s value is measured by their attractiveness, by their worth as potential sex partners. So, for example, people talk about how much they’d like to sleep with Sarah Palin but about what Joe Biden’s experience is. People object to Hillary Clinton because they don’t find her attractive, but they object to McCain because he’s a liar. (Yes, people do talk about Clinton’s and Palin’s experience too; we’re not completely taken in by this attitude. Also, yes, it’s possible to value, say, your girlfriend’s attractiveness without it becoming her most important feature in your mind.) I would say that most feminists in both camps agree that this attitude oppresses women.

    Classic feminists argue that looking at pornography trains men to value women based on their attractiveness, to think of them only as sex objects, and to ignore issues of consent. This is a separate issue from whether the models are treated well – this is an issue even for, say, cartoon pornography, where there are no models (and possibly no women involved in the making at all). They also argue that pornography inflicts harmful and unrealistic ideas about women’s bodies and sex on the viewers, and through them, on society.

    “Sex-positive” (perhaps more accurately called pro-porn) feminists generally argue that yes, a lot of pornography does all those horrible things and exploits women directly besides. But, they argue, it doesn’t have to. If you made a movie (say) that portrayed sex as something between equal partners, where consent was very much part of the act, where everyone involved was well-treated and having fun, it could teach people better ideas about sex instead of reinforcing the bad ones.

    I’m not totally sure where I stand on this issue, though I guess I lean towards the idea that if pornography really can change attitudes, it should be possible to design pornography that changes attitudes in a positive way. But I can’t agree that the feminists who think all porn is harmful are being inconsistent.

    People who support individual rights generally support the rights of people to do things right up to the point where they start harming others – and no further. If it were somehow legal to push people in front of trains, I could hardly call myself a caring person if I made a habit of pushing random strangers in front of trains. And that is what these feminists believe: that by making or looking at pornography, you are harming women everywhere. Do women have the right to star in pornography? Not if it harms others.

    So the key question is, it seems to me: how does looking at pornography affect your attitudes? Let me be specific: how does the skepchick calendar affect your attitudes to the skepchicks? Do you read this site for the articles only, as it were, or also for the little frisson of being able to imagine the authors naked? Can you take the skepchicks just as seriously as skeptical thinkers now that you’ve seen them naked for your pleasure? What about a hypothetical skepchick who was (say) too fat to be conventionally attractive – would you read her articles as assiduously if she wasn’t in the calendar? If she was?

  47. I am a feminist, and I’ve stripped, made porn, and been a fetish model.

    As to whether I was a feminist while I was bent over a desk taking it up the bum or jiggling my boobs for strangers is open to interpretation.

    I will say one thing for sure: I was bored to tears on almost every job. I wasn’t thinking of empowerment or taking control of my sexuality — I was thinking of getting my check and doing something more interesting.

    I think of sex work as a means to an end. The money saved my ass (ahem) a number of times, and helped me get through school and move on with my life.

    That’s my two cents.

  48. I think Pseudonym hit it on the head- “yes, but it’s far from a guarantee.” I think taking a long perspective helps-do the actions of women, engaged in the production of porn, eventually work to create equitable conditions for women, in the long view?

    Well, I think the answer is clearly both. On the one hand, you have women capitalizing on their uniquely feminine attributes, getting quality income from a well-policed industry, expanding sexual possibilities for everyone, women included, and producing a product that seems in some studies to be inversely correlated with sex crime-this sounds like a winner. On the other hand…I think I hardly need to elucidate the arguments-cracked out, surgery-laden ditzy bottle blondes burnt out by 30.

    When you try to wheedle out various personal “ick” factors, I think the former is a bit closer to reality-which isn’t to say we can’t do better. The veritable surge of young queer women graduating with human sexuality degrees will almost certainly start producing more porn that depicts naturalistic relationships, mutual pleasuring, protection, blatant consent, and the like, and that’s a trend I hope the consumer supports.

    I do remember an essay in a Playboy of yore exploring this topic-and the author raised the good point that the people declaring the performers to be mere meat weren’t the ones getting off…

  49. Hell yeah, nude models, strippers, porn stars and prostititutes can be feminists! To say they automatically can’t or aren’t is to place stereotypes on the mindsets of those women and the activities they participate in. However, it is (in my experience) somewhat less than the majority of these women that embrace truly progressive ideas about themselves and the work they do.

    Personally, I do not have any issue whatsoever respecting a person in any of these professions, nor do I view them differently after knowing or seeing them perform. This is not the case with everyone, I know. But there is no way to break us out of the old prudish ways that cause such reactions except to be more open and accepting of consentual sexual activity in all it’s forms. Have you noticed our clothing has become more revealing over the years, causing decreased excitement over ankle sightings? The oversexualization of taboo body parts or sex acts breeds objectification. Slowly but surely we are overcoming these taboos. How? By just breaking them. Certainly not by reinforcing them.

    To some extent I see the truth in the idea that women typically in porn being surgically sculpted and generally of one of a very small range of body types may be inadvertently teaching men to think that’s what a woman should look like. However, that crap comes and goes with clothing and other trends. In the Victorian era women all were expected to wear corsets, which I’m sure had some men expecting women should look like balloon animals. In the end, people will always find something unusual that is deemed more sexy by the majority, and as more people try to conform to that and/or trends change, there will be something else made up to replace it. So be it.

  50. Can a male stripper or sex worker be a feminist? Before anyone says that men can’t be feminists (I’m sure no-one would) let me point out that feminism is a social movement and attitude independent of reproductive equipment. If the answer is that a male porn star or male prostitute can be a feminist just as much as their female equivalent then sure, females in those industries can too.

    On the issue of prostitution I really wish that the distinction between people forced to sell their bodies by human traffickers and people who choose to sell sex were clearer. I’m very anti human trafficking and any form of slavery but am ambivalent about what a person chooses to do with their bits for money.

  51. Can a man still call himself a chauvinist if he poses nude, strips or works in porn industry? It’s the same question. All of the above are jobs. Most of us wouldn’t want to do them, but we wouldn’t want to do an awful lot of things, and yet we don’t ask people if they’re less insert-your-preferred-name-here if they take such jobs or hobbies, do we?

    Can a woman be called a feminist if she’s a stay at home mom, a cleaning lady, a cook, or a waitress? The above post namely also begs one more question – can a woman be called a feminist only if she works in a formerly predominantly male fields?

  52. Sorry it took so long for me to respond to this, I had lots to do today and so it had to wait several hours. I actually happen to be in the Sex Industry as a camgirl and as a phone sex actress. Naturally, I will concede that this gives me a bias regarding the subject matter, but I think not being biased on matters like this would be a pretty rare condition for anyone.

    Essentially, I think that the answer to your question relies on too many variables and needed a somewhat lengthy response. Also, I wanted to be sure that the thoughts it provoked got enough attention and I preferred posting that amount of effort where my own readers would be more likely to see it. Thus, I answered your question at the following link:

    The Whore and the Feminist: Story of a Possible Dichotomized Personality Disorder.

    (Hopefully it isn’t rude to link it like that – I can never tell when other people will think something is an acceptable link or not).

    One thing that I didn’t write about there that is perhaps relevant to some of the comments that should be mentioned from my perspective is that many people find work in the sex industry to be rewarding and empowering. I know that the sensation that I felt on stage stripping is unparalleled by other experiences that I have had and that when I am on cam or talking on the phone to a client it is also nearly as empowering (something about the proximity of my audience apparently plays a role in how much of a rush I get). From where I stand and where many other sex workers stand, some parts of the feminist movement and the conservative right are trying to take away something that we do that we enjoy and earn our livings on without doing demonstrable harm to others.

    I’ve been in a debate on the jref forums before about prostitution and talked about how prostitution is not slavery and I don’t have the time to pick out all the arguments in the comments here right at the moment, otherwise I would.

  53. Stacie:

    “However, it is (in my experience) somewhat less than the majority of these women that embrace truly progressive ideas about themselves and the work they do.”

    Do they have to embrace progressive ideas in order to be a feminist? I don’t know if you’re saying that or not, but if you are I think my above statement would apply to that as well. I know several feminists who are libertarians, and I don’t see any reason why they can’t be conservatives, too.

  54. Okay, I’ve calmed down. Three things:

    1) I’m sorry for my little hissy-fit. I didn’t need to take my toys and go home: I was taking it too personally.

    2) I’m VERY sorry for comparing prostitution for slavery. I knew I shouldn’t have gone there, but I did anyway. Argh.

    3) Last night, I gave more thought to why there was such a schism, here.

    I think the argument boils down to people’s definition of feminism, and I think this is an interesting way to characterize the distinction:

    Most of the people here seem to think of “feminism” in a psychological sense. One person, and her ability to do what she wants. This is valid.

    I think of feminism in a sociological sense. That is, a feminist is one person who struggles against society’s misogyny.

    The former has every right to be a porn star, prostitute, or stripper. Have at it.

    The latter, however, needs to carefully consider what their actions are doing for society’s predispositions. They can pull it off, but they need to be very clear about their goals, and what they will allow.

  55. It is quite clear from reading the intellectualism and naive idealism posing as knowledge in this thread that none of you have any real first hand experience in any wing of the so-called sex industry. Or if you do have some first hand experience, it’s very limted and coloured by some sort of rose tinted specs.

    Although it was a long time ago, I’ve spent many years working in various wings of the sex industry, primarily in the stripping and porn movie areas.

    Yes, any woman working in any wing of the industry can call herself a feminist. As has been pointed out, anyone can call themselves anything they want. That doesn’t mean very much though.

    My first hand experience in the industry, having worked with well over 1500 women from Canada, the US, and Europe, is that only about 10-15% (at the most) of women in the industry — any wing of it — would even think to call themselves femininsts. And about 90% of those have no legitimate idea what a feminist is.

    Yes, a handful of women are in the industry because they feel it empowers them. But for most of those women “empowers” means nothing more than that it gives them a small position of power from which they can abuse, manipulate, and demean men.

    Doesn’t sound much like legitimate “empowerment” to me.

    Very, very few women choose the sex industry, whether it’s porn movies (though that wing has some odd anomalies that have to do with cultural and market forces), prostitution, or simply stripping because they “want” to. Sure some do, but for the most part it’s a choice based on simple, mean, survival economics. And in a challenging economy, which has always been even more challenging for women than men, that amounts to little more than sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle coercion and force. And feminism doesn’t play much of a role one way or the other.

    I have the impression that most of you seem to view the sex industry like some kind of Hollywood variation on Pretty Woman. Well folks, it ain’t. It’s cold, brutal, manipulative, vicious, and for the most part run by deeply sexist, very tough gangsters. It is an ugly world in which only a very, very small percentage of the women working in it have any real say over their lives or their careers.

    So I think it’s time to take off those pretty cherry specs. Sure, women in the industry can call themselves feminists. And some even are. But without exception most are not.

  56. @SicPreFix: “I have the impression that most of you seem to view the sex industry like some kind of Hollywood variation on Pretty Woman. Well folks, it ain’t. It’s cold, brutal, manipulative, vicious, and for the most part run by deeply sexist, very tough gangsters. It is an ugly world in which only a very, very small percentage of the women working in it have any real say over their lives or their careers.”

    Sounds exactly like the entertainment business as a whole, does it not?

  57. @marilove: And hey, the sex industry needs to be reformed. Just like the War on Drugs. Making things that have been around since the dawn of time (sex for sale, drugs) illegal does nothing except create a black market which exploits people (of both genders). Period.

  58. Well, I guess one person’s “condescension and arrogance” is just another person’s frustration and impatience with the apparent lack of critical thinking and valid experience being presented as informed and knowledgable wisdom.

    If I erred on the excessive side of flamboyant frustration, I’m sorry.

  59. @Cleon:

    Be nice.

    @SicPreFix:

    No one’s saying “Pretty Woman”. But come on, it’s not The Sopranos, either.

    And what about construction workers who yell demeaning things to women walking down the street? Should women not work in construction?

    Or “locker room talk” that athletes engage in? Should women reporters not cover men’s sports?

    What about the oppression of women in Muslim countries? Should women not be foreign diplomats?

    Or should women go into those fields and work to change things?

  60. “it’s not The Sopranos, either.”

    It’s a hell of a lot closer to the Sopranos than you think it is. For example, almost all the stripper and porn business in Canada (depending on where in the country you are) is controlled or outright run by either the Hells Angels, the so-called Mafia, or a conglomerate of Russian and Japanese criminal organizations. And yes, there are some exceptions, but they are few and far between.

    “… should women go into those fields and work to change things?”

    Of course they can, if they want to. I never said or implied otherwise. I was just trying to point out the reality versus the sort of romantic view of feminists in the sex trade.

    Yes, there are a few. Yes some of them are indeed trying to imrpove things. And yes, that’s excellent; a very good thing. But let’s not bury heads in the sand and pretend things are sweeter, kinder, and more informed than is the reality.

  61. @Elyse: Women should go into these fields and work to change things.

    That said, your analogies are awful. Porn isn’t about insulting women, it’s about using their bodies to get men’s rocks off.

    That said, your point is true. Women should go into these fields and work to change things.

    I subject that a large portion of self-identifying feminists in the industry aren’t trying to change things, they’re simply exercising their personal power.

    …Which is fine. But it doesn’t help change society’s predispositions. …Which is my definition of feminism. …Which is clearly not the popular definition.

  62. @SicPreFix:

    I’m not so deluded that I think everyone in porn is punching out at 5:00 and driving home smoking cigarettes in a hazy post-coital fog of satisfaction, empowerment and bliss. Or that it’s even the norm.

    I don’t pretend to think that women who walk the streets and hand over 100% of their profits to pimps are doing much for women’s rights, much less their own personal empowerment. There’s some REALLY BAD shit going on. But I think that telling women to keep their clothes on for feminism is offensive.

    If I, on my own, as an entrepreneur, started my own porn/stripping/prostitution/nudie mag company… or you know, took off my clothes for some calendar or something… would that mean I am not a feminist? Of course not.

    I’m not a feminist for a whole slew of other reasons.

  63. I think that telling women to keep their clothes on for feminism is offensive.

    I don’t disagree with that at all.

    If I, on my own, as an entrepreneur, started my own porn/stripping/prostitution/nudie mag company… or you know, took off my clothes for some calendar or something… would that mean I am not a feminist? Of course not.

    Of course not. And nowhere in any of my posts above have I said otherwise.

    Al I am saying is that from my first hand experience with over 1500 strippers, and hundreds of other assorted men, women, and whatsits in various wings of the sex trade, only a truly tiny percentage were practicing feminists as JRice defines them — which for the record I think is a useful if perhaps a wee bit narrow definition.

  64. Two things I’ve forgotten to say:

    @SophieHirschfeld:

    I really enjoyed your article. Thank you. (And no, it’s not inappropriate to post your link.)

    I’m not saying I actually know much about the nitty-gritty of feminism (around the interwebs it’s been made clear that I have NO CLUE what “feminism” is), but I like to keep my AI questions vague to engage more conversation.

    @JRice:

    I’m really glad you came back. I’m also glad you had the good sense to take a time-out when your head was getting all asplodey.

  65. @marilove: [nod] Sorry, I was actually in a meeting, so I was trying to be brief. : ) Hopefully put better: the disparity between men and women in construction and sports-news is very different than in the porn industry. None of them are good… but I daresay that in porn it’s not just considered “okay”; it’s part of the formula.

    Okay, I guess I can’t put that succinctly. I’m still missing the mark. Oh well, minor point.

    @Elyse: Thanks for saying so: I really appreciate it.

  66. “Quite a sweeping generalization you make.”

    Perhaps. But it’s based on more than seven years first hand experience with over 1500 strippers, and hundreds of other assorted men, women, and whatsits in various wings of the sex trade. So I believe it has some substance.

    “What is it about saying a woman can be a feminist in these industries but that I’d be surprised if that were the rule rather than exception leads you to that conclusion.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Could you rephrase it?

  67. @SicPreFix:
    The question is if a woman can call herself a feminist if she works in a field mentioned above. The porn industry may be ruthless, and people working in it may be as dumb as doorbells for the most part, but that still doesn’t mean that some women aren’t in it for the “fun” of it (the idea of fun being a purely individual thing). So, can a woman be a feminist in such a business? The answer is clearly yes. There may not be many of them, but there are. That answers the original question.

    The irony of it all is that you mention men in the “sex trade”. So men aren’t objectified, defined by the length and width of their equipment, not forced into anything? All men in the sex industry just adore what they do?

    Objectifying women has a long standing tradition, or so most would think, but that tradition is no older than the one of objectifying people in general. Like male strippers aren’t fed up with women they wouldn’t touch with a cattle prod stuff their hands down their drawers. Like they don’t find that demeaning (and like male strippers are a lot less sought after than female ones). It’s so easy to see male chauvinism in regard to women, but reverse situations seem to fall on blind spots in most people. Sure, men are abused less often than women, but that doesn’t mean they’re not abused at all. Ignoring that simple fact is not doing feminism any favours.

  68. @SicPreFix:

    “It is quite clear from reading the intellectualism and naive idealism posing as knowledge in this thread that none of you have any real first hand experience in any wing of the so-called sex industry. Or if you do have some first hand experience, it’s very limted and coloured by some sort of rose tinted specs.”

    I’ve been in the industry for four years, thanks, and part of the reason I’m here is to get a good look at things in the industry to debunk some of the commonly held beliefs that people hold regarding the industry. Also, just claiming that all who disagree with you are wrong because of some bias (“rose colored specs”) does not make your stance valid. It is simply an assertion you make.

    “Although it was a long time ago, I’ve spent many years working in various wings of the sex industry, primarily in the stripping and porn movie areas.”

    The industry has changed dramatically in recent years and that is something that is worth considering, at least in part, in this discussion.

    “Yes, a handful of women are in the industry because they feel it empowers them. But for most of those women “empowers” means nothing more than that it gives them a small position of power from which they can abuse, manipulate, and demean men.”

    Another assertion. What objective evidence do you have for this? I do find my work to be empowering, but I don’t find it empowering so that I can do harm to anyone else. In fact, I tend to be quite happy with the way that I carry myself in my work. I do what I do because I enjoy it and I really don’t see how I can possibly (from miles away) abuse the men I work with.

    Manipulation is a tricky subject, because it does occasionally happen. It isn’t, however, necessarily something every girl in the industry does. Demeaning seems to happen if that brings the guy pleasure (hey, some guys are submissive and who am I to deny them that?)

    Are you trying to somehow assert something that implies that men are powerless when it comes to making their own purchases? Doesn’t that argument have the exact same flaws as the one where people claim that women are too vulnerable to be able to rationally make a choice to be in the sex industry? I think that if that is how you feel, then you’re essentially painting mankind like a pack of helpless, vulnerable creatures in regards to their own sexuality. Hardly a flattering picture, IMO.

    “Very, very few women choose the sex industry, whether it’s porn movies (though that wing has some odd anomalies that have to do with cultural and market forces), prostitution, or simply stripping because they “want” to.”

    I have met only one woman so far who did not make the choice herself to be in the sex industry. I’m aware of women who have been forced into it, but it is pretty rare, especially here in the United States. Making a decision to do something does imply a desire – even if that desire is monetarily driven. It does seem to be the case, though, that most women start out actually wanting to do what they end up doing, even if you eliminate a monetary motivation.

    “It’s cold, brutal, manipulative, vicious, and for the most part run by deeply sexist, very tough gangsters. It is an ugly world in which only a very, very small percentage of the women working in it have any real say over their lives or their careers.”

    I’ve been involved in 5 different sex industry jobs with 9 different contracts and I don’t think I’ve ever met a gangster and I know I’ve been in control the whole time.

    “Well, perhaps. But it’s much more violent, and for the most part dumber.”

    Yeah, I’m dumb as a brick – but I can still play on the jungle gym, right?

    “It’s a hell of a lot closer to the Sopranos than you think it is. For example, almost all the stripper and porn business in Canada (depending on where in the country you are) is controlled or outright run by either the Hells Angels, the so-called Mafia, or a conglomerate of Russian and Japanese criminal organizations. And yes, there are some exceptions, but they are few and far between.”

    I asked two people about this today just so I could be sure – one is a stripper that works in Canada and the other is a Madame who runs a brothel and takes in prostitutes who have had either legal issues or some other socially driven problem. Both of them seem to think you’re wrong.

    Thanks Elyse, and thank you for the inspiring question!

    Regarding bad shit that really does happen: Yes, lots of bad things happen in the sex industry. The current attitudes toward the sex industry force both workers and clients to keep their activities private, more so the workers than the clients. Because of this, when bad things happen there is often not any means with which the victims can get help. If the victims can’t get help, then the person committing the crime has more freedom to take advantage. There are secure places in the sex industry, but even the secure places are made that way because of the companies involved. For example, the person who owns the cam site I work on pays special attention to the way that the men treat the girls and he becomes very protective. At the same time, if something really did happen to me in my own town, there is little chance that the law enforcement here would provide me with much help unless it was a very serious situation, in which case I could expect a lot of animosity and probably mistreatment. This means I can rely more on my boss to look out for my safety than the people who are supposed to be protecting me.

    So how do we solve this problem? Well, changing social attitudes toward the sex industry will help us create opportunities to examine some of the issues sex workers deal with and come up with pragmatic solutions. As long as people ignore the industry, any problems, and shun it because of those problems, we’re not going to see them go away.

  69. Oogabooga said:

    The question is if a woman can call herself a feminist if she works in a field mentioned above. The porn industry may be ruthless, and people working in it may be as dumb as doorbells for the most part, but that still doesn’t mean that some women aren’t in it for the “fun” of it (the idea of fun being a purely individual thing). So, can a woman be a feminist in such a business? The answer is clearly yes. There may not be many of them, but there are. That answers the original question.

    Yes, quite true. And if you had read my posts more carefully you would have seen that I said the same thing myself. Twice, I believe. But as I and others have said, anyone can call themselves anything they want. Doesn’t make it meaningful or true. George W. Bush can say (and perhaps even believe) he’s a democratic (not Democrat) kind of a guy. Doesn’t make it meaningful or true.

    Sophie Hirschfeld said: A lot of stuff. Sophie, you put a lot of thought into your post . I’d like to concede one or two of your points, but there are a few more that I think need a legitimate rebuttal. But I have to go to work so I’ll respond later.

    But there is one point I want to clear up right now. I never said you or any other stripper or sex trade worker was dumb. Please don’t cherry pick and put words in my mouth. Also, context is important. For the record I was responding to marilove’s comment, “Sounds exactly like the entertainment business as a whole, does it not?” by saying “Well, perhaps. But it’s much more violent, and for the most part dumber.”

    I was characterizing (and yes, generalizing) the business, not the individuals in it. So, let’s keep things accurate, okay?

  70. C’mon folks. It was a metaphor in aid of a generalized characterization. Please approach it in the right context, and let’s not get bogged down in near-meaningless minutae. And I in my later rebuttal ( :) ) will try very hard to do the same.

  71. I dislike relativism. It isn’t the case that intelligence is completely immeasurable. You may not find something with prefect precision that might measure intelligence, but you certainly can use some tools to measure some bits of intelligence. For example, I might be able to test someone’s intelligence in regards to mathematics by giving them a test – I could then find where their abilities compare within a group by finding the Standard Deviation (which is really what is now measured when we say someone is taking an IQ Test). If there were absolutely no way to test intelligence then we would have to accept that my intelligence would be incomparable to that of, say, plankton. Obviously there is something we could test for to show that my intelligence is greater than that of the plankton.

    My question was in regards to something more abstract and not generally characterized as having an intelligence. Because of the difference between people and things like businesses, the question of how you test a person’s intelligence is irrelevant.

  72. @SophieHirschfeld Thank you. Excellently put.

    I’d just like to plug, again, the Sex Worker’s Art Show, which I saw when it came through Tulsa a few months ago. Google it and check it out if it comes through your area. It’s very eye opening about who sex workers are and why our stereotypes of them are really silly when not actually destructive.

  73. Going back to the original question, can someone consider themselves a “feminist” if they work in an industry that primarily trades in female beauty and sexuality?

    SicPreFix’s point appears to be (forgive me if I’m over-simplifying) that the industry itself is primarily anti-female.

    But even if that’s true (and SophieHirschfield and others (including myself) appear to disagree based on their own experiences), that has no bearing on whether individuals working in that industry can hold feminist ideals for themselves or others, does it?

    Can factory workers hold anti-capitalist ideals? Can government workers hold anti-government philosophies? Of course they can.

    In fact, I’d think that if the sex industry as a whole were anti-feminist in nature, that might push it’s workers to be more feminist, not less, over time.

    And (anecdotally) that appears to be what’s happening over time.

  74. lunarobverse said: SicPreFix’s point appears to be (forgive me if I’m over-simplifying) that the industry itself is primarily anti-female.

    If we define the industry as the agents, club owners, pimps, and others who profit indirectly from the services provided by the women, then yes, I think it is predominantly anti-women.

    I’ve tried to keep things as short as I can. So there’s lots of truncation.

    Sic said: “It is quite clear ….”

    Sophie said: “I’ve been in the industry for four years…. It is simply an assertion you make.

    Yes, it’s just an assertion. But it’s an assertion based on a great deal of first hand experience, not just mere opinion. And that’s why “rose coloured specs.”

    Sic said: “Although it was a long time ago…..”

    Sophie said: The industry has changed dramatically in recent years….

    Yes, that’s an important and valid point. It has been a long time, and yes things have certainly changed. However — there’s always a however — I still have sporadic contact with 35 or 40 people in the stripper business: dancers, agents, club owners, and some DeeJays. Their take on the strip business, in Western Canada and in Ontario, is that it has declined a great deal. They tell me that there is far, far more prostitution directly in and out of strip clubs and agencies, the pay and job security for dancers is at an all-time low, and there are virtually no clubs or agencies left in Western Canada, Ontario, or Quebec that are not owned and/or controlled by the Hells Angels and a few Asian and “mafia” related organized crime groups. Now, of course these folks might be telling me fibbies, or be altogether wrong. But I find no reason to make that assumption.

    Sic said: “Yes, a handful of women are in the industry because they feel it empowers them…..”

    Sophie said: Another assertion. What objective evidence do you have for this….

    My objective evidence, which for some reason you seem intent on ignoring, is more than seven years experience with hundreds, and hundreds of people in the strip industry, the porn industry, and some in prostitution. And so I base my “assertions” on years and years of serious discussions with hundreds and hundreds of women (and men) about their attitudes towards and general feelings about the men in their lives both professionaly and personally.

    Sophie said: Manipulation is a tricky subject… It isn’t, however, necessarily something every girl in the industry does….

    I don’t know why you keep latching on to these all or nothing, black and white variants. I never said every women in the industry did any one particular thing at all. And saying “Demeaning seems to happen if that brings the guy pleasure” is just too false, too off the topic, and too limited. Lots and lots of men and women demean each other without the other side getting any pleasure out of it.

    Sophie said: Are you trying to somehow assert something that implies that men are powerless when it comes to making their own purchases?

    I never said anything about anyone being powerless. I am saying that lots and lots of people, men and women, can be taken advantage of demeaned and manipulated without their consent, without taking pleasure in it, and so on. These counter arguments you keep presenting have very little to do with my actual statements.

    Sic said: ““Very, very few women choose the sex industry….”

    Sophie said: I have met only one woman so far who did not make the choice herself…..

    You are cherry picking my argument again and leaving out the more relvant bits regarding choice. You overlook the issue of subtle coercion in need for income, peer pressures, fear of being alone, the need for a sense of power and/or appreciation, and countless other coercive emotional needs. Okay, most of the women who have entered prostitution and stripping did sit down one day and say, “This is what I am going to do.” But the reasons, rational, needs and motivations behind those decisions were not the “Oh this will be a fun little romp” that you seem to imply with your comment. It is also woefully naive and not in touch with realistic human experience to say “most women start out actually wanting to do what they end up doing.” That just cannot and will not hold up under any sort of serious scrutiny.

    Sic said: “It’s cold, brutal, manipulative, vicious, and for the most part run by deeply sexist, very tough gangsters.”

    Sophie said: I’ve been involved in 5 different sex industry jobs with 9 different contracts and I don’t think I’ve ever met a gangster….

    Okay, that’s fine. I’ve worked at about 12 strip clubs, gofered on perhaps ten porno shoots, helped around the office in three different sex trade entertainment agencies, and been social friends with perhaps 20 or 25 prostitutes, and all of that was full time for seven years in the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. Over that time, and with, around, and through all of the preceding I have met more Hells Angels, mafiosi, Japanese and Russian organized crime folks than I can even count.

    And those clubs, agencies, movie shoots, prostitues, etc. were almost universally owned and/or operated and controlled by one or another or more of those organized crime groups.

    I suspect it depends to a great degree on where you are based, and where you work. The sex trade in some states, and in some provinces, is not heavily controlled by crime groups. In other states, and provinces, it is completely and entirely run thus.

    Also, just because an individual performeer doesn’t have first hand contact and dealings with some organized crime person does not mean that the club, or the agency, or the movie set and equipment, or the bawdy house or the pimp is not owend, operated, and controlled by some organized crime person or group.

    Sic said: “It’s a hell of a lot closer to the Sopranos than you think….”

    Sophie said: I asked two people about this today….

    With all due respect, one stripper and one Madame is not a great deal of resource to ponder with. However, depending on where they work out of and how long they’ve been in the business (versus how long I’ve been out of it), their opinions may very well be valid. But as I’ve said, they certainly do not match my experience.

    I’ve run out of breath.

  75. @ SicPreFix (#101)
    When I said:

    Quite a sweeping generalization you make. What is it about saying a woman can be a feminist in these industries but that I’d be surprised if that were the rule rather than exception leads you to that conclusion.

    It was in response to:

    SicPreFix // Sep 30, 2008 at 10:36 am #80
    It is quite clear from reading the intellectualism and naive idealism posing as knowledge in this thread that none of you have any real first hand experience in any wing of the so-called sex industry. Or if you do have some first hand experience, it’s very limted and coloured by some sort of rose tinted specs.

    The original question of this blog entry was: Can a woman still call herself a feminist if she poses nude, strips, or if she works in porn or prostitution?

    So, my point was, I don’t think all of the posts in this thread indicated that degree of naivety or sophistry suggested by your response. I asked what in my post might lead to your conclusion, since I had posted it prior to your remark and thus must have been a part of that segment leading to that generalization.

    I should think that my qualification that the women who are feminists in the specified careers would be the exceptions, that is, rare, would indicate I understand that, in fact, these are not places that are friendly to feminism. I wasn’t the only one with comments in that vein.

    That was the very first paragraph of yours on this page, and so serves as an introduction. That word ‘none,’ as you use it, indicates you believe we are all snot nosed and sniveling tween-agers trying to show off for the adults – or at least that’s the tone I got from it. So I raised my objection.

    JBS

  76. John Sandlin said: “That word ‘none,’ as you use it, indicates you believe we are all snot nosed and sniveling tween-agers trying to show off for the adults – or at least that’s the tone I got from it. So I raised my objection.”

    Yes, and although my intent was not to say “snot-nosed and sniveling tweenagers…” you are indeed quite right to remind me of my quite unfair overgeneralization. I apologize for my off-target presumptions.

    I should have said:

    It is quite clear from reading the intellectualism and [somewhat] naive idealism posing as knowledge in this thread that [several of the more certain posters in this thread] appear to have little or no real first hand experience in any wing of the so-called sex industry.

  77. @SicPreFix:
    Yes, it’s just an assertion. But it’s an assertion based on a great deal of first hand experience, not just mere opinion. And that’s why “rose coloured specs.”

    And what evidence do you have that your experience should trump mine. Especially when my experience is apparently broader, includes possibly more resources and direct research and is more recent? My experience isn’t experience alone, it is research.

    Yes, that’s an important and valid point. It has been a long time, and yes things have certainly changed. However — there’s always a however — I still have sporadic contact with 35 or 40 people in the stripper business: dancers, agents, club owners, and some DeeJays.

    That’s a pretty small sample for a very large country (mine is too – but if mine is an exception to a generalization that you are making, then it is valid and casts doubt onto your claim). I would think that the best way to approach that particular claim is to have something that is cross-representational. We need information from all types of establishments in a wide variety of areas of the country. In the context of this particular argument, other countries also need to be considered and I’m quite certain those things are not an element of the sex industry in the United States, which means that the sex industry can exist without said problems and suggests that if that was really true (which I doubt even now) then there is likely a solution to fix it.

    “My objective evidence, which for some reason you seem intent on ignoring, is more than seven years experience with hundreds, and hundreds of people in the strip industry, the porn industry, and some in prostitution.”

    And I have data sheets, notes and diaries for nearly everything I have done (with a few exceptions that were lost due to a hard drive crash). I also have had lots of conversations with people I have met along the way. Each conversation, of course, is anecdotal evidence, unless based on a uniform survey of some type. It isn’t that I’m ignoring what you claim as evidence, it is that I don’t consider it to be very valid evidence as compared to what I have. Naturally, all you have to rely on regarding me is what I tell you just as that’s all I have in regards to talking to you. I do have lots of information that I can rely on that from what I can tell is more objective than yours. So really what do you expect me to rely on, your anecdotes or my data? I also have research on the industry and a few books that I consider to be more reliable than what you have presented. None of them, though, mention Canada, so it appears we’re lacking in objective evidence there.

    I never said anything about anyone being powerless. I am saying that lots and lots of people, men and women, can be taken advantage of demeaned and manipulated without their consent, without taking pleasure in it, and so on. These counter arguments you keep presenting have very little to do with my actual statements.

    There’s a reason that was presented as a question. The statements you made DID seem to imply that you thought men were somehow powerless to resist things like manipulation. It also ignored when the opposite happens and women in the industry are used. Thus, I asled a question and gave a response based on it. That’s something that I hardly think is unreasonable.

    Okay, most of the women who have entered prostitution and stripping did sit down one day and say, “This is what I am going to do.” But the reasons, rational, needs and motivations behind those decisions were not the “Oh this will be a fun little romp” that you seem to imply with your comment.

    Firstly, if you’re concerned about social and economic needs as a motivation for the sex industry, then you need to be concerned about it for every other industry on the planet as well, because those things are not unique to the sex industry.

    Also, I don’t think I implied in my post that every woman decided it would be a fun little romp – I stated that each of them made the choice on their own. That is extremely important here because no matter their motivation, it is still their choice.

    It is also woefully naive and not in touch with realistic human experience to say “most women start out actually wanting to do what they end up doing.”

    Wait, didn’t you just accuse me of cherry picking? That was the most blatant quoting out of context I’ve ever seen. If you had paid attention to the context, you would know that I was referring to the choice they made in the sex industry, including the motivations that they have (no matter if those motivations are financial).

    I suspect it depends to a great degree on where you are based, and where you work.

    EXACTLY! Which is why generalizations based on your experience are invalid and why such things are probably related to other issues and not to be blamed on the sex industry.

    Also, just because an individual performeer doesn’t have first hand contact and dealings with some organized crime person does not mean that the club, or the agency, or the movie set and equipment, or the bawdy house or the pimp is not owend, operated, and controlled by some organized crime person or group.

    I have investigated every agency I worked for, in great deatal, with one exception. That exception was based overseas and doing the same amount of research for them would have been impossible, so I settled for several conversations with the owner and some of the workers.

    Take care that you understand that I point that out because it is yet another exception which casts your generalizations into doubt. I’m not saying that corruption doesn’t exist in the industry, I’m saying it is not widespread or even close to the level you seem to be portraying it as.

    With all due respect, one stripper and one Madame is not a great deal of resource to ponder with.

    If you make a generalization based on your experience, all I would have needed was one piece of evidence to shatter it. I simply put forth the extra effort to get more than one. That’s simply a part of working with logic. I can easily say the same about your 25-40 resources that you make claims about.

  78. Sophie Hirschfeld, you have some very good points. Yes indeed there are several flaws in my reasoning — though I would argue we share many similar logic fallacies and/or weak arguments.

    I suppose I feel my “evidence” trumps yours simply because I was directly involved with the industry for a longer time than you, and even today maintain sporadic contact. So that amounts to some involvement in the industry over a 26 year time frame.

    It’s that sporadic contact that makes it so difficult for me to accept your claims. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying I have trouble accepting your claims. You are the first person, in the recent past, I have encountered who makes such claims for the current health of the industry.

    From ’85 until around ’96 or so, every now and then I’d run across a stripper (never a deejay, club owner, or agent interestingly enough, but there could be myriad reasons for that, both legit and sinister) who made somewhat similar claims as do you regarding the general health of the stripper business.

    You, however, are the first person I have encountered whose claims cannot be instantly ignored or dissmissed

    I bow out to your more immediate experience. I still have a great deal of trouble accepting your claims, but I cannot make and effectively backup my counter-claims. And too, my claims may indeed be based on fluff.

    This argument has, for me, reached the point where it is pointless to continue it online. It has become far too long and unwieldy to maintain on a blog medium.

    By the way, I thought what you wrote in the prostitution blog quite interesting, and agree with much of it.

  79. It seems like we’re debating two questions here: “Is stripping, prostitution and porn acting inherently anti-feminist?” and “Is the sex industry, as it stands, feminist/woman/female-friendly?” The answers to each would affect whether or not it would be hypocritical of a woman in porn, stripping or other sex work to be a feminist.

    Isolating the second question for a moment, if the industry as it stands is not female-friendly, there would be no contradiction between being a feminist and a sex worker. That is because it would be outside forces, namely the attitudes of consumers and peddlers and their treatment of the women involved, that make sex work “sexist,” and not necessarily the act of selling sex itself.

    On the other hand, if selling sex is inherently demeaning to women, one in the industry cannot call one’s self a feminist without there being some hypocrisy.

    In my opinion, at least some sex work, such as erotic art, is not inherently demeaning to those involved. It is only the attitudes of those producing and consuming the work that would make it demeaning.

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