As a recession-era college grad who was a drop-out for financial reasons for an entire academic year, I have done all kinds of things in my quest to remain financially independent. A lot of the work I did was not exactly anything that I, as a college graduate from an upper middle class background, expected to ever do. Some of it was interesting and world-view expanding, while much of it exposed to me just how pettily, irrationally, and inefficiently the world is run.

I was able to finish my degree and move back in with my parents to bide my time. Those workers without such resources  have it bad. It is really depressing that in all the fuss that is made about the "degrading" nature of certain types of work, all other degredations present in other forms of work go largely ignored.

I spent some time an employee at a francise sandwich shop. I was by far the most enthusiastic worker, picking up other people's shifts as well as the overall slack, since most of the other employees weren't relying on the job for survival. Eventually, the owners stopped giving me as many hours. When I asked them why, the owner said not worry about it since I was so good at picking up the shifts of the other, flaky employees who would cancel at the last minute. Eventually I, along with every other female employee there who wasn't thin and blond, was eventually let go. They changed their reasons for firing me multiple times and broke the law by giving me my final paycheck several days after firing me and by stipulating that I had to return my work shirts and hats before I could get the check. It was humiliating to pour my soul into a job only to find that I wasn't at all valued by the employers, and to have to sob "they keep switching their stories" to the person at the unemployment office when I was phone interviewed so that I could receive my palty unemployment benefits.

I worked "part-time" (read: just enough below full-time hours so that I could be denied benefits) at a 24-hour drugstore. Some weeks, I was on the overnight shift, while during others, I was working during the afternoons and evenings, so my body never knew when to be tired and when to be awake. I was sexually harassed by customers at least once a shift and incessantly berated by customers and fellow employees alike for not knowing "enough" or "good enough" Spanish (everyone assumed I was Mexican and took me to task for not being in touch with my assumed-by-them heritage). Any requests for shift changes or scheduling considerations operated at the manager's whims, and he punished you for taking him to task about any inconsistencies. The assumption was that you had to be able to deal with it all lest you be replaced. We were forced to join a union that took rather large chunks of our paychecks but that didn't do anything of note to improve our working conditions. Between the shifting hours, the fear, the anxiety, and the simple lack of reasonableness, I retreated into a mental fog and can barely recall the specific incidents that occurred in those seven months without the aid of a calendar. Being slowly beaten down by an unreasonable corporate employment system is pretty dehumanzing.

Working for companies that aren't large comporate entities isn't necessarily better, either. When I worked at a certain small business, my name was used to throw off bill collectors and most of my job was diverting people to whom the owners owed money by lying over the phone. I also had to guess at the owners' intentions and please them without guidance, since my "supervisor" was a former meth-head and alcoholic who hated me because I clearly wasn't Christian and because, after snooping in my web browser history the one day I forgot to delete it, she found out that I looked at pro-LGBT websites during my lunch break. At another small business, I was scapegoated during my first week for not reading the owner's mind regarding a some minor point on a spreadsheet. He basically misunderstood how Google Keywords works and blamed me for it. My direct supervisor admitted that I was right but that I should have "anticipated the owner's needs." On my fifth day of work. Without any guidance. Being expected to read minds, lie without compunction, and subject all aspects of yourself to the scrutiny and caprices of an employer is degrading.

This all occurred in one of the most affluent parts of the United States, where allegedly, we have protections as workers. All of these experiences have made me regard any efforts to single out sex work as bad with a great deal of skepticism. Is there not plenty of degredation, humiliation, and dehumanization inherent to many types of work, not just sex work, especially when you consider places where there is no enforced protection of workers?

In terms of the illegality of the matter, sex work is comparable to the drug trade: both are illegal in the majority of places and thus carry great risk; both are commonly assumed to be done by people without the skills, abilities, education, or access required to do work considered more legitimate by society as a whole; both are considered to attract people with some sort of addiction or problem; and both are more dangerous for the provider than for the customer. However, you don't see widespread moral panics over drug dealers where they are seen as victims who must be rescued from their livelihoods.

Why not? Sex, of course.

In comparing a sex worker to a textile worker, for example, sex is often considered more intimate and therefore more invasive and potentially harmful than sewing. Not everyone would regard this to be the case. Factory workers go blind and suffer from crippled hands thanks to work sewing. All work can be invasive and harmful if devoid of protections for the worker.

Of course, there are real issues domestically and worldwide with human trafficking, pimps, sexual assault, and other forms of physical danger. Those issues, however, are not necessarily inherently a part of nor are they limited to sex work. Plenty of people are trafficked to work as domestic or factory workers. In countries and in situations devoid of workers' rights, non-pimp employers can be just as abusive and controlling as the worst pimp. Women and men face largely unchecked sexual harassment, discrimination, and even assault in most lines of work and places in the world. Factory workers in developing nations fall ill, are maimed, and die with alarming frequency. Where is the outrage for them?

It's easy to create an uproar over an issue as fraught and taboo as sex. It's far more difficult to examine the way in which workers in all industries are treated and work towards making all workers' lives safer and better.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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94 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Steve Marandola
    April 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm —

    Another excellent post, Heina. I can certainly relate to what you have written, in terms of working for small businesses. Even more so, about being assumed to be Spanish. Having grown up in South Florida and being of Italian extraction, I was often mistaken for being Cuban and was also berated for my lack of linguistic skills, when it came to speaking Spanish. 
    I see that I have missed a few postings and I'm on my way to catch up, now. Keep up the great work!
     

  2. Profile photo of scribe999
    April 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm —

    Heck, it's become popular to use prison populations in some places to farm for virtual gold and resources in large Massively Multiplayer Online Games. It's kind of amazing how much more dignity entities with power can squeeze out of an individual when given the opportunity.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/25/china-prisoners-internet-gaming-scam

  3. Profile photo of mrpopularsentiment
    April 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm —

    I fail to see the difference between sticking my butt in someone's chair for money and sticking my butt in someone's lap for money. All of us, every single one of us, is selling a part of ourself for cash – it's our time, it's our bodies, it might be our health or our emotional wellbeing. I've never understood why sex workers are singled out as special.

  4. Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
    April 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm —

    Great post; saying precisely what I have long believed.

  5. Profile photo of punchdrunk
    April 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm —

    Sucking dick for money – it's serving coffee, essentially!
    Taking it up the ass for a few extra bucks – it's washing dishes, essentially!
    Telling my family and friends (including my daughter) that they're suckers for working menial jobs when they could be working on their knees and on their backs – it's vocational counselling, essentially!
    Treating women as fuck toys – it's the free market, essentially!
    Average age of a woman entering prostitution, 13 – it's junior high, essentially!
    Women brought from other countries to work in brothels – it's a cultural exchange program, essentially!
    Using the tiny percentage of 'free trade' prostitutes to justify the entire system – it's logic, essentially!
    Divorcing sex from humanity and intimacy and ignoring everything we  know about psychology, sex, and human beings – it's skepticism, essentially!
    Forced  sex – it's like an unwanted hug, essentially!
    Ignoring the 90%+ of sex workers who say they desperately want out – it's empowering, essentially!
     
     
     
     
     

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      April 11, 2012 at 9:35 pm —

      Oh, dear. I was trying to avoid makign an argument that would be misconstrued in this way. I guess that doesn't matter. I really feel like your comment is directed at other pro sex-work pieces and people rather than at me and what I wrote.

      Sucking dick for money – it's serving coffee, essentially! Taking it up the ass for a few extra bucks – it's washing dishes, essentially!

      I never said that, I just said that there are plenty of forms of work that are as degrading as sex work for some people.

      Telling my family and friends (including my daughter) that they're suckers for working menial jobs when they could be working on their knees and on their backs – it's vocational counselling, essentially!

      I never advocated sex work over other forms of work. The comparisons that I did make were to emphasize the possibly degrading nature of work other than sex work.

      Treating women as fuck toys – it's the free market, essentially!

      Women not in sex work get treated that way, too. With or without sex work, women and girls are sexually harassed and assaulted. Objectification and abuse are not limited to sex workers, as most readers of this site well know.

      Average age of a woman entering prostitution, 13 – it's junior high, essentially!

      That's statutory rape and child labor, not an issue inherent to sex work.

      Women brought from other countries to work in brothels – it's a cultural exchange program, essentially!

      I addressed human trafficking. It is an issue, and an important one, which is why, again, I did bring it up.

      Using the tiny percentage of 'free trade' prostitutes to justify the entire system – it's logic, essentially!

      I never brought them up. At all. They had nothing to do with my argument.

      Divorcing sex from humanity and intimacy and ignoring everything we know about psychology, sex, and human beings – it's skepticism, essentially!

      What is "everything we know," exactly? Could I please have an explanation? Not everyone sees sex as necessarily more intimate than other activities. Again, I wasn't advocating sex work, just wondering why people are more upset over it than they are over other forms of exploitation.

      Forced sex – it's like an unwanted hug, essentially!

      That's sexual assault and/or rape and not something for which I would advocate. As with trafficking, it's an important issue that I did address.

      Ignoring the 90%+ of sex workers who say they desperately want out – it's empowering, essentially!

      I wasn't ignoring them, just pointing out that the nature of the work itself is not necessarily any more degrading than other forms of work.
      You're mentioning things and arguing against things that aren't part of my argument. I actually share your frustration with people whose pro-legalization argument is based around the small percentage of sex workers who truly are free to do as they choose. However, there are plenty of workers in other industries who face just as much in the way of coercion and danger as sex workers do. That was my point, and nothing more.

      • Profile photo of punchdrunk
        April 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm —

        But all of these issues are inherent in the sex industry, as it exists, right now, in the real world.
        And, if you truly believe there's no difference between sex and any other form of labor, then sexual assault shouldn't be treated any differently than shoving someone because you were angry.
        And, yes, I'm responding as much to commenters who want to believe the 'happy hooker' myth as I am to your OP. I don't want these serious issues to be swept aside in discussing the issue – and it's rather insulting to tell me, and other lower class women, that fucking for money isn't more degrading than mopping floors. It is, for me, and for almost everyone I know who has had to rely on the government and the kindness of strangers to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.
        I'm not trying to erase the people who choose it freely, but please, don't tell me that it's a great career option for me, or any of the women I know who work in food service, janitorial, warehouse, and kennel and stable jobs. Don't tell us that what we do is no different, ok? Don't tell us that we're just 'prudes' who don't know what's what. Please don't feed into the idea that sex as a commodity is good for anyone. It may be a necessary evil, and decriminalization may be part of the best harm-reduction strategy, I'm not arguing that.
        But the sex industry, as a whole, is more abusive and degrading and dangerous for most people than the menial labor jobs so many want to compare it to. And it's deeply angering to see people making that comparison. It's not the same. It's not.
        If I'm offered a place to stay, there's no difference between an agreement to do the housework in lieu of rent, and an agreement to blowjobs on demand? You really believe those are equal arrangements? And you don't think that's insulting to housekeepers? After all, pretty stupid to be working so hard, when sex is just a better paid form of labor. How stupid all those low-level workers are!
         

        • Profile photo of borkhead
          April 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm —

          You must have read a completely different article than I did.

          • Profile photo of punchdrunk
            April 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm

            It's true, this is part of a much larger argument.
             
             

        • Profile photo of marilove
          April 11, 2012 at 10:37 pm —

          You're doing it again.  She didn't say 99% of the crap you're accusing her of saying.  I started to copy/paste but then I realized I was copy/pasting your entire comment.  You're arguing about something SHE IS NOT TAKING ABOUT.  Stop.it.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          April 11, 2012 at 10:38 pm —

          What she IS saying is that other types of work can be very degrading, though for different reasons or in different ways, but just as — or more so, in some cases — degrading as sex work can be, or is percieved to be.  Yet people rarely talk about it.  It's almost expected, really, to be treated like shit as a lowly hourly worker, especially in certain industries in certain locatoins.  I've heard working for Amazon sucks *royally*, for example.

          THAT was her point.  Easy peasy.
           
          And while it's cool to expand on a topic and start a discussion, you're going completely off topic and also accusing her of a bunch of shit she never even said, which is seriously obnoxious and uncalled for.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            April 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm

             
             
            "It's almost expected, really, to be treated like shit as a lowly hourly worker, especially in certain industries in certain location"

            I want to ad:  ESPECIALLY as a minority or woman.  What if you're an undocumented immigrant?  Conditions then can be awful, especially for women — and even because of law environment or other "professionals".  No one really gives a shit, though.  Because they are "illegals".

        • Profile photo of Will
          April 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm —

          Not only are you not talking about anything she wrote, but you're throwing around claims that you really should be citing. Where do you get your 90% figure? Claims like "But the sex industry, as a whole, is more abusive and degrading and dangerous for most people than the menial labor jobs so many want to compare it to" really ought to be backed up with some evidence. That is a qualitative claim and it depends on what people consider "abusive," "degrading," and "dangerous."
           
          You must forgive me if I don't take your word on these things (especially considering it differs quite a bit from the literature I'm familiar with and comes across as extremely sex-negative–as if oral or anal sex are an inherently bad things that are just made worse by adding an economic transaction on top of them).

        • Profile photo of kagehi
          April 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm —

          But all of these issues are inherent in the sex industry, as it exists, right now, in the real world.

           
          Of course there is, but the question is, "How much if this is precisely because, as its conducted, you literally have ***no way*** at all, to seek protection, or restitution for what someone does to you?" You honestly think that its not as bad to, in some places, get strip searched by a boss, on a whim (there is internet video of this happening in the US, but then, there are also laws protecting you from it, and the cops won't laugh it off, and tell you to go home before they arrest you for flipping burgers), you aren't as likely, in the US or other western countries to got dragged out and shot, or stoned, for doing it, at least not unless some right wing wacko goes nuts and guns everyone down in the brothel you work at, but… odds are, if it happened, half the assholes on the planet would be saying you deserved it, and even the jury for the murderer might give him a reduced sentence. Hell, he might claim he had once got something from someone in a brothel, so felt "scared" and one of these new "stand your ground" laws would get used by some activist right wing judge to say, "Oh, he was entirely justified in it, so let him go."
           
          If you have no protection, you have no one looking out for you, your boss can do any damn thing he pleases, you **must** do your job, regardless of who its with (hell, even my job has a rule that if a customer is pissing you off enough, you let the manager handle it, and go someplace else to calm down, not be *forced* to deal with it), and, on top of everything else, if you do manage to get the attention of authorities, they are more likely to put you in jail, than the asshole that tried to beat you, rape you, or kill you. And you can't seem to comprehend how the hell this constitutes a *core* problem with why damn near every single person in the industry says it sucks? Every job would be horrifying, if you had to abide by those rules while working at it.

    • Profile photo of megan
      April 13, 2012 at 8:44 am —

      Have you ever sucked dick or taken it up the ass for money? Because I have. By my own choice, no less. It's not nearly as bad as you're making it sound. Is it my first choice for how I would like to make money? No, but I can think of far worse ways to do so, and Heina did a pretty good job of listing several of them. The sex industry isn't some totally empowering wonderland like some make it out to be, but it isn't the hopeless pit of despair you're making it out to be, either.

    • Profile photo of doctressjulia
      April 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm —

      THIS.

  6. Profile photo of marilove
    April 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm —

     
    And you know, I get not being comfortable with the comparison.  I’m not entirely comfortable with it, either.  It’s complicated and problematic.  But I understand the connection, and my other points still stand.

  7. Profile photo of simonsays
    April 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm —

    Er, there are plenty of people who are plenty outraged at the abuses of corporate America and in fact make attempts at organizing against it. In addition, there are many who also argue that a small time drug pusher who sells to finance his/her own addiction is in fact being victimized and degraded.

    • Profile photo of Will
      April 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm —

      I think her point was that there is not the same moral outrage as there is when it comes to sex work, not that people are not outraged about our growing corporatocracy. I think this is pretty clearly evidenced by the exchange above. I, for one, have never heard people denouncing capitalist entities in moral language in the mainstream, though I have heard it directed at drug dealers and addicts (but not in the same way or to the same degree).

    • Profile photo of Tiercelet
      April 12, 2012 at 12:43 am —

      "Everything we know" about psychology was written down in a book about psychology written by a guy who died in 1939? We haven't learned *anything* about psychology in the intervening eighty years?
      Beyond this, I think you're just making sex work a more monolithic category than is warranted. I don't see how that's going to do much more than antagonize the exact fundamental disagreements you seem to be responding to (wherever they may be found originally).

    • Profile photo of Will
      April 12, 2012 at 12:45 am —

      So, again, we are at a point where there are qualitative issues. For example, from the second link:
       
      "When violence against women is considered, prostitution is often exempted from the category of violence against women. However, a consideration of the dire health consequences of prostitution demonstrates that prostitution not only gravely impairs women’s health but firmly belongs in the category of violence against women."
       
      Do you realize how many forms of work could fit that description? Most of that article is clearly written with an agenda, not with an eye towards actually understanding the complexity of the issues or with non-judgmental suggestions for improving the lives of sex workers. And comparing prostitution to female genital cutting? Really? Seems more like an appeal to emotion than an actual argument to me. It also looks very much like cherry-picked data–where are the comparisons to societies where prostitution is legal and regulated? Granted, regulation is not a cure-all or even necessarily a good thing, but I find it interesting that this source leaves out any statistics that might paint a more complex picture that doesn't fit their narrative.
       
      I have a nitpick about the paper from the University of Chicago link–it's not ethnography (as they claim in the abstract). It's quantitative data collection based on surveys. There is not a single quote from a sex worker in the paper, and I don't really see much in that paper that isn't obvious or that people here would disagree with. It's a focused study on a particular set of sex workers at a particular time in a particular place focused on economics, and doesn't really do much to back up your claim.
       
      I don't think anyone would argue with you that teen sex work is a bad thing, so I'm not even going to look at that link.
       
      The Prostitution Research link also clearly has an agenda. For example: "Prostitution is sexual violence which results in economic profit for perpetrators." Or how about: "sex work, which defines prostitution as a job rather than an act of violence against women." Well, those are certainly one way to look at prostitution and sex work, but they're not the only ways, and there are plenty of people engaged in sex work who would challenge that definition.
       
      And don't you think a book written by a sexologist from the late 19th century is a bit outdated for our discussion here? Seems like you're grasping at straws there.
       
      I still don't see where you get your 90% statistic in any of that, though it's possible I missed it in my skimming (I did see the 96% statistic from surveys of women in Indonesia). It seems to me that a better approach would be something like: http://sexworkersproject.org/

      • Profile photo of punchdrunk
        April 12, 2012 at 12:54 am —

        From the first link:

        Average age a female becomes a prostitute
        14

        Percent who reported assaults
        58%

        Percent with STDs
        20%

        Percent who want to quit but can’t due to lack of money
        92%

        And the textbook was just what I could find online for free. The other ones I found were pre-1910. I was asked about sex and psychology, and it's too vast a topic for me to do anything except recommend 101 psych texts, but all I could find were behind paywalls or only available for sale.

        • Profile photo of Will
          April 12, 2012 at 1:58 am —

          I see. So, I have issues with that page, too, that I neglected to address.
           
          It only looks at United States, I'm assuming? There is no methodology section. The statistics in the second part were from 169 prostitutes in Chicago. A few Google searches has not turned up an original source for those US Department of Health statistics, so I have no way to evaluate their validity.
           
          Anyway, I don't think you'll get much argument that trafficking is horrendous and out of control, and that teens should not be allowed to engage in prostitution. I think Heina's comparison is fair when we compare people who choose to work in the sex industry versus people who choose to work in other industries. There is a certain moral outrage that is unique to sex work while the exploitations going on in other areas of work see outrage but, as has been said, it's not expressed using the same moral or ethical langauge.

    • Profile photo of aceofsevens
      April 12, 2012 at 1:44 am —

      You seem to be arguing against the idea that prostitution is all sunshine and puppies. Heina didn't claim or imply that. The point is lots of jobs are degrading. Most people can't afford to lead their jobs. Some peopel find sex work preferable. Who are we to say they are wrong?

      • Profile photo of punchdrunk
        April 12, 2012 at 2:03 am —

        Sex work poses unique psychological harms, and exists within a structure that oppresses women, in part, by reducing them to sexual objects. You can't divorce it from psychology, sociology, or existing structures of oppression. I believe it is different from other menial jobs, it is more demeaning to most people by its nature. Sex is not comparable to other labor commodities, it has deep psychological repercussions for most human beings.
        The exploitation is so much deeper. It's asking more than time and effort.

        • Profile photo of Will
          April 12, 2012 at 2:30 am —

          Housework poses unique psychological harms, and exists within a structure that oppresses women, in part, by reducing them to domestic objects. You can't divorce it from psychology, sociology, or existing structures of oppression. I believe it is different from other menial jobs, it is more demeaning to most people by its nature. Domestic work is not comparable to other labor commodities, it has deep psychological repercussions for most human beings.
          The exploitation is so much deeper. It's asking more than time and effort.
           
          Fashion modeling poses unique psychological harms, and exists within a structure that oppresses women, in part, by reducing them to physical objects. You can't divorce it from psychology, sociology, or existing structures of oppression. I believe it is different from other menial jobs, it is more demeaning to most people by its nature. Modeling is not comparable to other labor commodities, it has deep psychological repercussions for most human beings.
          The exploitation is so much deeper. It's asking more than time and effort.
           
          Sweat shop work poses unique psychological harms, and exists within a structure that oppresses women, in part, by reducing them to labor objects. You can't divorce it from psychology, sociology, or existing structures of oppression. I believe it is different from other menial jobs, it is more demeaning to most people by its nature. Sweat shop work is not comparable to other labor commodities, it has deep psychological repercussions for most human beings.
          The exploitation is so much deeper. It's asking more than time and effort.
           
          And so on and so forth. See how easy it is? These are all qualitative points of belief on your part (that sounds like a lot of you making things up). Sorry, but you still have not provided one shred of credible evidence to back up your claim that all sex work is bad for people and is incomprable to any other form of work.

          • Profile photo of camw
            April 12, 2012 at 9:34 am

            "And so on and so forth. See how easy it is?" Yeah, I see.  It is pretty easy to play word games, isn't it?
            Housework may pose unique psychological harms (personally I think that's utter bullshit, where exactly is the problem inherent to folding the laundry?) but to directly compare that psychological impact to those involved in "sex work" is pretty damn explicitly saying ""Taking it up the ass for a few extra bucks – it is washing dishes, essentially!"
             

          • Profile photo of MrPopularSentiment
            April 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

            @Camw – You're ignoring the broader context. Being a housewife isn't as simple as just folding laundry. It also carries the weight of hundreds of years of patriarchy behind it, and the expectation that it is the *only* acceptable choice for a woman regardless of her personal inclinations and proficiencies. Many women will freely choose to become Stay-At-Home-Mothers and thrive in that environment, just as many sex workers freely choose their professions and are quite happy. Many more of both suffer dearly for having the choice taken out of their hands. The comparison between the two is definitely justified.
            Let's not forget that marriage/housewifery has long been considered a kind of legal prostitution, in which a woman submits to sex and labour in exchange for economic protection. If you read some feminist works from the Victorian era, the connection is made quite explicitly. 

        • Profile photo of aceofsevens
          April 12, 2012 at 2:41 am —

          Isn't degradation in the eye of the beholder? If a woman doesn't feel degraded, or figures she's degraded less than she she otherwise would be, can we really second guess her and tell her she doesnt understand how degraded she should feel?

          • Profile photo of punchdrunk
            April 12, 2012 at 2:50 am

            I said that sex has a deep-seated psychological component for most people, which makes it different from other labor markets.
            Are you disagreeing that sex and sexuality have deep-seated psychological components, or that it can leave human beings especially vulnerable to exploitation and harm? Because I believe we should take those things into account.

          • Profile photo of Will
            April 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

            I said that sex has a deep-seated psychological component for most people, which makes it different from other labor markets.

            And you base this conclusion on what, exactly? You're making a factual claim and not providing any credible evidence to back it up.

            Are you disagreeing that sex and sexuality have deep-seated psychological components, or that it can leave human beings especially vulnerable to exploitation and harm? Because I believe we should take those things into account.

            No one is disagreeing that sex and sexuality have psychological components. What people are disagreeing with you about is that they are the same for all people and that anyone who engages in sex work of any kind is psychologically disturbed by their work. There are LOTS of forms of labor/work that have unique, "deep-seated psychological components" that can be equally as (or more) harmful, but that people don't get self-righteous and morally indignant about those forms of work because they don't involve sex. And just because some people get vocal about sex work (I can only assume it is based in their own "deep-seated psychological" issues with sex) doesn't mean that all people who engage in sex work also have "deep-seated psychological" issues with sex. You're trying to paint a picture with a broad brush that only paints in black and white, and you're setting up straw arguments in the process (i.e., teenage prostitution, human trafficking, etc., which are not part of the understanding of sex work that Heina is getting at).

        • Profile photo of doctressjulia
          April 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm —

          Thank you. Well said.
          It's not 'sex work'- it prostitution; human trafficking. That term really erases the abuses that women have to deal with when they are prostituted. And don't forget the femicide.
          And, yes: I have first-hand experience being an 'escort' (read: prostitute). I still have flashbacks to this very day.

  8. Profile photo of Otoki
    April 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm —

    As a sex worker, and as someone who runs a sex worker support group, I'm going to politely ask you not to equate all sex work with forced work.  Slavery is slavery.  It's not the sex part that should upset you.  Voluntary prostitution and other forms of voluntary sex work happen, and those who choose to engage in it should have protections.
     
    We should be trying to eliminate shoddy work environments in all work, not just those we would be willing to do ourselves.
     
    Sex workers are people to, and as one such person, I would appreciate it if you would ignore the voices of those of us who find our jobs as good as or better than some of the alternatives out there.
     
    Thanks.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 11, 2012 at 11:44 pm —

      Wow, my post was supposed to be in response to PunchDrunk.
       
      I recommend reading this book:
      http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/global-sex-workers-k-kempadoo/1102393179?ean=9780415918299
       
      It's quite fabulous, has a lot of perspectives from sex-worker and academics from AROUND THE WORLD, and it actually shows it as a "complicated issue".
       
      You said "happy hooker myth" while claiming that you don't wish to dismiss those of us who are happy sex-workers, or just fully consenting sex-workers.  But calling happy pros a myth is exactly that: denying their existence, and thus denying them the right to speak.
       
      Don't do that.  It's shitty.

      • Profile photo of punchdrunk
        April 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm —

        I apologize for calling your experience a 'myth'. You're right, that language does erase you.
        I should have more accurately argued against using the minority to erase the majority of what that work looks like.

        • Profile photo of Otoki
          April 13, 2012 at 11:20 pm —

          Punch, this isn't all aimed at you, but more a response to a general attitude I see far too often in these discussions.  
           
          Here's an issue I have with a lot of "studies" about prostitutes: it tends to focus on street walkers: the sex workers in the most physical danger, with the least protection, who are often in those dangerous situations due to severe abuse or chemical dependency.
           
          I have a problem with people saying "Bad things happen in the industry so it shouldn't be legalized" while ignoring that most of the "bad thing" that happen are exacerbated by the worker's lack of legal protections.
           
          I have a problem with people saying that because THEY would consider being a sex worker of any sort more degrading than working at Walmart, and use that reasoning to shoot any claims pointing out that some would find the opposite to be true, because that erases MY experience, and the experience of many of my fellow sex workers.
           
          I worked at B&N for three years.  In those three years I got sexually harassed while I had to be NICE and SMILE to these ASSHOLES who felt it was appropriate to make little COMMENTS about my looks, or my age.  All of us had to continue to be polite and civil to these people when they said gross shit to our co-workers, and the only real solution was having a dude take the register.  I even had a stalker.  Classy.
           
          In the six years I've stripped, I've never had a stalker.  When people say rude shit to me, I get to tell them to fuck off, or go on a long rant, or get them kicked out of the club.  I have an incredible amount of control and power in  my job because without it, my job would be dangerous and not at all enjoyable.  I CHOOSE to be a sex worker.  I CHOOSE to work in clubs that look out for me, rather than clubs that don't give a shit about their dancers' safety.  I CERTAINLY don't see the existence of those clubs as sufficient evidence to say "Stripping is inherently degrading, unsafe, yadda yadda yadda."  Hell, I have friends who work in plenty of clubs I would never work in, because they are personally comfortable and happy with their jobs.  
           
          Are a majority of strippers happy?  No one knows.  Because there have not been any RELIABLE STUDIES done with strippers, despite our occupation being legal.  I have met many women in this industry who have been raped in the past.  Then again, I've met about the same ratio in my non-industry life who have also experienced rape.  I find the argument that "formerly abused people seem to go into this industry" is a weak one when used to claim that the industry is inherently abusive.  Many of the survivors I talked to about stripping said it gave them control over what happened in the past, a way to control sexually charged encounters.
           
          I have to say I feel the same way about sexual harassment.  In my old job, I felt powerless to actually address it.  In this job I am actively inviting sexual remarks, and if I don't like what I hear or someone thinks they should be assholes, I have control over that situation.
           
          Sex work of ANY form isn't for everyone.  I have seen many women leave this industry worse-off than they entered it, because they weren't willing to admit that the industry did not fit them.  I have seen women and men whose souls were crushed because they hated working in the clubs.  But I've seen that same shit happen to friends in other jobs.  If you really hate a job, or have no control in the job, or are treated poorly, that has real psychological impact.  Sex being involved does not automatically lead to HORRIBLENESS and TRAUMA.  
           
          In the end, most of us go into the industry because the money is supposed to be good.  For me and most of the people I work with, it is great money.  And sometimes even if they don't like the job, they'd hate being, say waitresses more because it's a lot of the same bullshit (minus the openly sexual stuff) with a tiny fraction of the money.  If we enjoy it, it's a bonus.  But not liking it isn't the same as being FORCED into it.  It's insulting to those of us who choose this industry to be painted as agency-lacking victims, and counterproductive for the actual victims who actually are forced into any job.
           
          We should be upset about slave labor and forced labor.  We shouldn't confuse sexual labor with forced labor.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm —

      WORDS ARE HARD.
       
      "We should be trying to eliminate shoddy work environments in all work, not just those we would NOT be willing to do ourselves.
       
      Sex workers are people TOO,"
       
       

  9. Profile photo of Jack99
    April 12, 2012 at 1:49 am —

    Great post, Heina!
    What is the solution?
    When I read about injustice such as you had to suffer, it makes me want to break up paving stones, take the red flag and man the barricades!
    However, despite what our detractors say, I am only a mild social democrat just like most of you all.
    I guess realistically the solution is to become more involved in the Union movement and put some more teeth back into it, as in days of yore.

    • Profile photo of absinthia
      April 12, 2012 at 8:13 am —

      Unions have become a profit making enterprise in and off themselves; Heina's experience with the union at the chain pharmacy is not isolated or one-off. 
      They're not toothless, they're lazy (personal opinion – why work when you get paid anyway?) – how do you fix that?
       

      • Profile photo of Jack99
        April 16, 2012 at 12:20 am —

        @absinthia: yes you are right, I too am cynical about unions, but perhaps an influx of young enthusiastic idealistic types could turn the game around.
        I also agree with what DDP says below – fast becoming one of my favorite commenters!

  10. Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
    April 12, 2012 at 8:35 am —

    Okay, so you know what the solution here is?  Legalize the fucking job, because it will happen anyways.  Also stripping =! sex work, so those who do it should not be classified as 'sex workers'.
     
    Prostitution often becomes abusive today because it must be done illegaly.  Therefore there's a much higher chance to suffer abuse at the hands of a pimp or customer, no health facilities for STDs, and no regulation of it.  In Germany and several other Western European countries, it is legal, and highly regulated. 
     
    What this does is it gives women (and men too) who participate in it the power to be legally self-employed, have access to health services and education, and work in MUCH safer conditions than are possible when it is illegal.
     
    But of course, the United States in its hypocritical puritan mindset will never go for it because it will "destroy our blessings with god" (or some shit like that…).

    • Profile photo of absinthia
      April 12, 2012 at 9:39 am —

      Legalizing it will make it safer, but not necessarily safe.  Heina's point is that many legal workplaces can still be dangerous, humiliating, and degrading.

      • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
        April 12, 2012 at 11:01 am —

        That's true certainly, which is why we should legalize it.

        • Profile photo of absinthia
          April 13, 2012 at 8:54 am —

          Agreed.  My province has taken one tiny step forward by legalizing brothels.  If it survives the NIMBYism.

    • Profile photo of lisavilisa
      April 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm —

      How does one define sex  work? I've always heard of strippers as sex workers, I'm curious about another point of view.

      • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
        April 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm —

        Well I think there are two classes.  One would be an actuarial definition used by organizations such as governments, corporations, or think tanks used to establish datasets for probabilistic and statistical calculations.  The other would be completely arbitrary definitions by individuals.
         
        My arbitrary definition would be anyone who has oral, anal, vaginal, or hand-based sex for money.  What would be interesting would be to know what various governments' definitions are, because those are the numbers that are used to make social policies.

        • Profile photo of MrPopularSentiment
          April 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm —

          What about, for example, doms who may not do those things (or even have any touching at all) but are definitely offering sexual gratification for money? They are exposed to all the same risks and someone who gives handjobs for money, so I don't see the distinction. 

          • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
            April 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

            Yeah, it's a gray area, and it doesn't matter what my opinion is about the details of it.  My core argument is that government should legalize prostitution and put up specific legal controls around it such that protection should be used during any contact with the anus or genetalia, that registered sex workers are allowed safe, public places in which to practice, or that any place of prostitution is prone to regular undercover inspection by the health department, etc..
             
            And to Heina's point, the media is extremely sensationalist.  So currently if a law is changed on whether or not dominatrixes are allowed to practice, you will find the public far more concerned with that, then say labor laws that affect 50% of the public.  However, I don't see this changing much in the future, people will suckle on mass media for many years to come.  Blah.
             

      • Profile photo of doctressjulia
        April 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm —

        Stripping is sex work. And, when I was a stripper (briefly, in my 20s), not ONE of those women were happy doing it. Not one. Most felt as if they had no better option. Drug addictions were the norm, and often these women had their wages taken away from them by abusive boyfriends and husbands. That's just my experience, however.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm —

      I have to correct you here.  Sex work is any sexual labor, which includes phone sex operators, strippers, peep show models, prostitutes, professional doms, professional subs, and porn actors.
       
      If we're referring solely to prostitutes, we should say prostitutes.
       
      Besides that one semantic point, I totally agree with you.  Legalizing it is the first step.  Unfortunately, real protections don't become a reality unless the stigma is gone.  That's why there are so many clubs (and, in NV, brothels) where the workers get a shitty deal, because very few people will be on their side solely because they are sex workers.  But without legalization, workers have NOTHING to protect them. 
       
      If people are really that outraged about adults AND CHILDREN being forced into this labor, they should be pushing for legalization so it's all out in the open, and workers can go to the police if they notice their employers blatantly ignoring or breaking laws.  There are and have been many class-action lawsuits where strippers have sued the clubs they worked at for treating them like employees while withholding benefits under the guise of them being "independent contractors".  The industry would be so much worse if there were no laws protecting us, giving us the right to hold the clubs accountable.
       
      All workers, sex-related or not, deserve safe work environments and legal protections while doing their jobs.  Those employers who do not comply with those laws should be taken to task.

  11. Profile photo of sevendaysofnot
    April 12, 2012 at 8:53 am —

    Ethiopian woman now face dying painfully after childbirth because hard line christians are holding charity funding to ransom.
    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3476188.htm

  12. Profile photo of MrPopularSentiment
    April 12, 2012 at 9:34 am —

    Why are we all assuming that sex workers are, by default, female? Or that sex work is, by default, "degrading to women"? 
    Bringing up that the average sex worker starts at 14 is just silly in the context of this discussion. We're talking about sex work in comparison to other jobs, therefore we're assuming that if sex work is made legal, all normal employment restrictions would apply. There would be an age limit (probably at least 18, as is the case with most jobs that present a potential health risk). Sex slavery does not exist in that paradigm, unless you first believe that wage-slavery is literal.
    As for the psychological associations between emotions and sex, yeah, some people do feel that very keenly, and those people should not go into sex work or use sex worker services. But frankly, I'd say it's stupid to tell people who might choose to enter into sex work that they shouldn't be allowed to because WE know better than they do how it will affect THEM psychologically. 
    Meanwhile, I am sitting at my desk at work while my baby is at home being raised by someone else. You want to talk about psychologically damaging? Should my desk job be made illegal?

  13. Profile photo of Reuben Kellen
    April 12, 2012 at 10:21 am —

    It's easy to create an uproar over an issue as fraught and taboo as sex. It's far more difficult to examine the way in which workers in all industries are treated and work towards making all workers' lives safer and better.

    If I'm reading you correctly, the premise that your piece rests upon is that there is more concern about sex worker rights than other forms of labour rights. This may be true, but I think your post lacks supporting evidence.
     
    It seems to me that while the North American labour movement has lost some of its vitality and prestige, it is still present and heard in a way that stands in stark contrast to the marginalization and erasure of sex work. (I'm Canadian, so you'll have to forgive me for hopping back and forth across the 49th parallel with my examples.) Stephen Colbert testified before a Congressional committee about migrant farm worker rights, not sex worker rights. Condom use has long been a contentious issue in the pornography industry, despite California (where much of the industry is located) law that requires workers be protected from contracting diseases in the workplace. Institutional bias against sex workers in the Vancouver, British Columbia police force allowed the serial killer Robert Pickton to pray on vulnerable women (he confessed to killing 49). I recognize that these are just a few examples, but I think they illustrate my point qualitatively, if not quantitatively. If someone has quantitative evidence that points the other way, I'd certainly be interested in looking at it.

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      April 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm —

      No I don't think she's saying there's more concern, I think she's saying that it's easier to create a shitstorm over sex work than worker's rights.
       
      This I think is true. 

  14. Profile photo of beermansburden
    April 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm —

    . This whole thread has gone off on the sex work tangent, causing "instant outrage" because that is a hot topic. The writer wanted to use sex work as a taking off point.  She then takes an anecdotal and honest restrospective of the corruption and dehumanizing effect of selling your body and soul by the hour. This might be something we all have to do to survive. But dealing with self-serving egotistical  hateful bosses can be psychologically and physically taxing or even harmful. Even if you do your job well, if they don't like what you do with your life or your view of the world will or even if you look at them funny one day. They will try to destroy you on your  road to living another day and making ends meet. Most people don't know their rights, exercise them, or can even properly enforce them. And the system is only around to protect against big violations or violations that get enough press coverage. But what about the worker who's bosses just don't like her and they put up arbitrary obstacles to get her to quit. Since you can't prove "conspiracy against job satisfaction" in court and since there are no laws against it they are free to bully as man employees as they want as long as they don't do it overtly.

  15. Profile photo of James Fox
    April 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm —

    I appreciate that many jobs are degrading, stressful and difficult. However if you really want to talk about physical harm the list of most dangerous jobs interestingly includes jobs people fall into because of what’s available in the local economy and other jobs that people really want, train for, and seek. Also some of the most dangerous jobs have the most involved and effective unions so representation is no guarantee that harm will be reduced nor is high pay apparently. I have no idea what the overall physical risks of being a sex worker would be compared to this list, but I'm sure if assault and health issues were added up sex workers would likely be in the top ten, but probably not sandwich makers.
    .
    So just for conversation sake here is a list of the ten most dangerous jobs in the U.S.

    Fisherman
    Logging worker
    Airplane pilot and flight engineer
    Farmers and ranchers (farm hands and ranch hands included)
    Mining machine operator
    Roofers
    Sanitation worker
    Truck driver and delivery worker
    Industrial machine worker
    Police officer / law enforcement

    • Profile photo of Jack99
      April 16, 2012 at 5:37 am —

      That's a really interesting list, Jacob.
      My first two jobs were farm laborer then shit man (sanitation worker), and I have the fondest memories of both.
      It's OK when you are young I guess.
      But speaking of shitty jobs, you have not lived until you have homogenised a 3 day faecal collection in water in a gallon tin!
      I do it regularly. The Nietsche quote about the vortex or the abyss staring back at you is all too apt!
      When the stirrer broke at 5000 rpm a few years ago, shattering the tin and splattered faeces all over the lab, the lady who was there was traumatised for life. She still has issues which the fucking hierarchy refuses to address.

    • Profile photo of doctressjulia
      April 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm —

      Those are all male-dominated jobs. Where's the list of the top 10 most dangerous woman-dominated jobs? I'd bet prostitution is in the top 3…

  16. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    April 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm —

    I've worked some incredibly bad jobs for outrageously low pay. I don't mean "the boss is a dick and I hate the uniform" jobs, I'm talking "people walking around with the stumps of fingers and hands lost in machinery and taking bets to see when someone is going to die on the job next" jobs. And you can get people drummed up to complain about the sexist treatment of women at those places, and especially these days about the differences between wages of women and men, but not so much energy over the fact that EVERYONE is working too many hours in unsafe conditions for crap wages. 

  17. Profile photo of deedub
    April 13, 2012 at 7:55 am —

    On a personal level, I would rather work at Walgreens than be a prostitute because I don't want to ruin something I do for fun by having to do it for a living. Sort of like how working in graphic design might drain the enjoyment I get from making art, or writing commercial jingles might ruin making music for me.

  18. Profile photo of thebewilderness
    April 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm —

    I suppose if prostitution were legal, and it is no more degrading than any other job, it would be quite similar to the days when having sex with the boss or the clients was not in the job description but was expected. Legalize it and they can go ahead and put it in the job description that employees will have sexual relations with clients and supervisors as directed.

    • Profile photo of mrpopularsentiment
      April 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm —

      There's a world of difference between something being required and on the job description, and something being required but in no way part of the job and clearly abusive/predatory. Making sex work legal doesn't negate  the wrongness of abuse of power, assault, sexual harassment, or rape.

      • Profile photo of Otoki
        April 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm —

        Exactly.  Fuck, do people really think that legalizing prostitution is tantamount to legalizing rape?

        • Profile photo of doctressjulia
          April 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm —

          Yes. I do. Paying to use a woman's body is paid rape. Would you let those johns prong you for free?

          • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
            April 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

            Women have sex with men for all kinds of reasons. Do you really think that all male-female encounters that aren't prostitution are done for reasons wholly and completey unrelated to resources? Traditional marriage can easily be "promise to only fuck me (i.e. hide your affairs) and to provide for me for life and I'll fuck you for life." Monogamous marriage is "promise to only fuck me for life and I'll fuck you for life." Traditional dating often seems to be "pay for my dinners and entertainment and buy me pretty things and I'll fuck you." 
            Marital rape was not a concept until relatively recently and, like so-called "date rape," is still considered a grey area by many (not me, of course). Furthermore, marrying for love is another relatively new concept. Plenty of women date and marry men who, without resources to give them, the women would not have looked at twice.
            Resources can also be less tangible. People marry for status ("check out my hot/successful partner"), comfort, children, whatever. It's not all true love all the time in non-prostitution-based relationships.
            It seems to me that people seem mostly squicked by the idea that the exchange of resources in prostitution (and other forms of sex work) is aboveboard instead of informal, implied, or hidden.

          • Profile photo of mrpopularsentiment
            April 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm

            Whoa whoa whoa! Prostitution (and I'm talking about prostitution, not human trafficking) is when a woman consents to sex in exchange for money. If we're going to expand the definition of rape to include times when a woman consents to sex but she does so for reasons that we don't approve of, we're diluting the term beyond any kind of usefulness.

          • Profile photo of Otoki
            April 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

            There are a lot of things I wouldn't do for free.  I don't let people do a whole host of things that are perfectly legal because I personally am not comfortable with those things.  Does that mean that every single sex worker who says she enjoys her work is lying?  Does that mean that my friends who ARE prostitutes are deluded when they say they prefer their job over others they've had?
             
            Are you really willing to stand face to face with these men and women and tell them they are allowing people to rape them?  Seriously?  Do you see how fucking condescending and disrespectful that is?
             
            I am sorry that you had bad experiences as a prostitute.  But please don't use that as a reason to ERASE the experiences and voices of those who have a different point of view.  

  19. Profile photo of thebewilderness
    April 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm —

    They would have to get rid of those pesky sexual harassment laws first, I suppose.

  20. Profile photo of thebewilderness
    April 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm —

    For the vast majority of women and children who are prostituted pay to rape is exactly what it is.
    But why pay attention to them when you can focus on pretending that it is just another crappy job like any other.

    • Profile photo of aceofsevens
      April 14, 2012 at 8:54 pm —

      If the claim is only that sex work doesn't have to be any more degrading than other jobs, this isn't really relavant. Even if most prostitutes or sex slaves, the point is that is is quite possible for people to choose it of their own volition based on a rational analysis of their job prospects.
      Also, your claim is not in evidence. I've seen lots of people assert that the vast majority of sex workers are involuntary, but never seen any solid evidence. It's usually a couple horrific anecdotes with an assertion they are normal, claims based on non-representative groups, and ludicrous definitions of terms. For instance, studies that show 92% of sex workers wouldlike to leave their job if they could afford it. Assuming the methodology used to get that number is correct, it still sounds like a better job than burritto assembly. THat was kind of Heina's point. The vast majority of us put up up with things we wouldn't like to do in order to get paid and a lot of us accept significant risk. That doesn't mean that we are slaves.

      • Profile photo of Crip Dyke
        April 23, 2012 at 11:13 am —

        The 92% figure was of persons – almost entirely non-trans women, but with some trans women and queer folk included – engaged in prostitution on the street in an economically depressed urban area. While obviously a lot of prostitution happens in such environments *so much* doesn't. It's impossible to know how representative such samples are as long as prostitution suffers from its current stigma. Only in a world when kidnapping, rape, and assault still have their stigma but taking money for sex does not will you find good data. 
        And we really don't have that world much of anywhere, yet. 
        So, the 92% figure is important, and its in line with other studies I've seen that draw from similar areas, interviewing similar people – though the others were typically non-trans women only – that typically get about 90% on that question. But this only tells us about certain kinds of experiences within prostitution. Forced prostitution is something that certainly doesn't only happen to those forced to work on the street, but it's more common there. Also, theft and restriction of income mean living in often horrible conditions. If you're in a situation of pay-for-rape or if you were abducted as a young teen and turned out only after beating down your spirit or if you're engaging in prostitution but seeing none of the money, of course you'll want to leave. But who would want to stay in any kind of job under those conditions? 
         
        Thus the figure is meaningful, and something to which we should pay attention. But we should also examine that meaning carefully and skeptically, not extending it to populations not represented by the sample. 

        • Profile photo of Otoki
          April 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm —

          Well said, cripdyke.  Using figures from pros on the street to talk about the industry as a whole is disingenuous and not at ALL skeptical.

    • Profile photo of kagerato
      April 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm —

      Would you like to cite a broad survey of sex workers that demonstrates they believe your claim that their job is merely a "pay to rape" scheme?
       
      The comparison to other potentially awful jobs is more about broadening the debate and looking for the root causes.  It's not supposed to belitte anyone or claim their suffering is not real.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm —

      Also, I'm failing to see where anyone said children should be in the industry at all.  Strawmen all over the place.

      • Profile photo of doctressjulia
        April 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm —

        The average age for a girl to enter prostitution is 14. That is a child.

        • Profile photo of Otoki
          April 27, 2012 at 9:25 pm —

          Again: WHERE DID ANYONE SAY THAT CHILDREN SHOULD BE PROSTITUTES?  Seriously, WHERE?  I don't think you're actually reading people's posts honestly.  I'm pretty sure most of the posters here who addressed the issue think that fucking under the age of consent is statutory rape and thus NOT CONSENSUAL OR LEGAL.  No on is advocating legalizing statutory rape, paid or otherwise.  What some of us ARE advocating is letting GROWN ASS ADULTS who are choosing this profession do so with the knowledge that they WILL be afforded legal protection and rights.  
           
          I have already stated many times that most people aren't suited to this industry.  But aside from the fact that you're trying to deny the voices of people who do/did enjoy or prefer or not mind this industry by saying "prostitution=pay to rape", it seems like you're missing an important point about safety: if prostitutes want to get out, don't you think it would be easier if they knew they could actually go to the cops and the government for safety without worrying about getting arrested?

    • Profile photo of doctressjulia
      April 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm —

      Well said, agreed completely.

  21. Profile photo of Otoki
    April 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm —

    Well, Heina, at least you proved the point of your title.

  22. Profile photo of victoriadashtwenty
    April 17, 2012 at 3:18 am —

    These conversations always make me feel violated. I kiss on the second date. I have sex on the third. It will be at least 6 months before we know each other well enough and have developed enough trust for you to start claiming ownership of my body and giving me orders regarding which consenting adults I may have sex with and under what circumstances you will allow me to have sex. I realize you guys have lots of great arguments and I respect your right to have those, but my answer is still no. I don't give you permission to make these decisions. This is my body, not yours.
    I'd also like to correct some misconceptions about what it means for prostitution to be illegal. It means someone with a handgun and a PR-24 forcibly abducts these women. It means the metaphorical prison of having to do degrading work for money is replaced with a literal prison. You probably know that rape is tolerated in many prisons in the US, but did you know that guards are often the perpetrators? Did you know that female prisons often have male guards? For many women, this policy means exchanging questionable consent for clear and unambiguous rape that they cannot escape from. That's not where it stops, either. These people get criminal records that prevent them from getting decent jobs doing legal work.  Even if prostitution wasn't their choice, they often find that it's the only job they're qualified for that pays a living wage.
    Oh, and those poor trafficked children everyone's using to justify all this? In some places the policy is to prosecute those children as though they were old enough to give consent. That will teach those kids an important lesson about not getting abducted!

  23. Profile photo of kagehi
    April 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm —

    Oh, and those poor trafficked children everyone's using to justify all this? In some places the policy is to prosecute those children as though they were old enough to give consent. That will teach those kids an important lesson about not getting abducted!

    From my understanding of the situation, its actually far worse than that. In many police departments the "default" assumption is that if no ransom is demanded, its not an abduction, but a runaway. So, by extension, they don't need to do anything about it, since abduction with intent to sell/kill/sometimes both, etc., someone's kid, just doesn't happen in the US. But, heh, they don't need to worry about guns shoved in their faces during the abduction. Its much easier to use someone their own age, to trick them into visiting some out of the way location, then drug them to the gills, before first selling them to wackos that want to beat them, and take the virginity. If they survive that, then they get sold off to a regular pimp.
     
    Or, was I the only one that watched that frakking documentary about this crap on TV, and how shitty they get treated, once they are on the street, instead of being treated as actual victims?

  24. Profile photo of ufischer
    April 18, 2012 at 1:22 am —

    Right on!   Most wage work sucks.   Illegal work sucks worse.

  25. Profile photo of Crip Dyke
    April 23, 2012 at 10:59 am —

    I've been saying similar things for years. 
     
    In particular, I'm still waiting for a significant group of feminists to recognize that since abuse – sexual, physical, and otherwise – is rampant in the textile industry, since abusive employers demanding new employees as they discard the ones that they have literally crippled create demand for and use the services of human traffickers to kidnap young girls and women, since slavery is endemic within the industry that by gosh, they're taking a stand and insisting that clothes should never again be manufactured and that anyone who wears clothes is an oppressor and certainly they themselves would never think of wearing clothes – except, of course, those clothes that they hand weave/crochet/knit and sew together at home in a loving, consensual, family environment where they can prevent the impingement of these dark forces. 
     
    yeah, when I start seeing groups of feminists coming to work naked because they're still learning to weave and are having trouble finding a supplier of ethical raw cotton, then I'll take them seriously when they say that the only ethical response to prostitution and other sex trades is to abolish those trades altogether. 

  26. Profile photo of violetlilac
    April 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm —

    This might be an interesting blog for some of you to read:
    http://secretdiaryofadublincallgirl.wordpress.com/
    It's by an ex-prostitute. In her blog she talks about what life was really like for her when she worked as a call girl. Perhaps her experiences could shed light on whether sex work is just like any other type of work. Maybe start with this post where she describes how she became a prostitute:
    http://secretdiaryofadublincallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/the-subtle-infiltration-of-prostitution/
    And then have a read of this one where she talks about the idea of prostitution as 'empowering':
    http://secretdiaryofadublincallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/empowerment/
    Some of the things she's been through make me feel sick to my stomach. I've been in ridiculously low-paid jobs, I've scrubbed other people's shit and puke from toilets, I've been bullied at work, discriminated against, slut-shamed, and so on… and yes any exploitation should (and does) cause outrage. But I would never, ever, put anything I've been through in the same category as her experiences.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      April 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm —

      Her experiences are horrible. However, similar experiences are by no means limited to the world of sex work. Additionally, if sex work were legal, she'd have protections and recourse for all of that.

  27. Profile photo of doctressjulia
    April 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm —

    It's not 'sex' I'm outraged at: it's rape.

  28. Profile photo of Amber Lin
    April 27, 2012 at 7:02 pm —

    "Of course, there are real issues domestically and worldwide with human trafficking, pimps, sexual assault, and other forms of physical danger. Those issues, however, are not necessarily inherently a part of nor are they limited to sex work."
    Human trafficking, pimps, and sexual assault is not inherently a part of sex work? Only someone who has never seen it in action could make that patently false claim.
    I wonder if you are talking about the very high-level and completely fictional view of a nice, clean, disease-free man offering an hour of polite sex in exchange for some mutually comfortable sex, with a woman who has other options. That world doesn't exist, either in places where sex work is legal or where it isn't. That thinking reminds me of how communism sounded great on paper, but that's not the reality.

    • Profile photo of mrpopularsentiment
      April 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm —

      We can't separate the issues that are inherent in sex work from the issues that are caused by the illegality of sex work. What I would like to see is accounts and studies from countries where sex work is legal (and regulated). 

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm —

      Sexual assault in the workplace is not something that only happens in sex work.  NOR is it something that is to be TAKEN FOR GRANTED in sex work.  I've only been in one section of the industry (stripping) but I have plenty of friends who are prostitutes, and let me tell you that they see things pretty differently than you do.  Please don't try to pull the argument from authority on a skeptical website as an excuse to deny the existance of happy sex workers.
       
      And are you trying to imply that all the men sex workers deal with are diseased, mean, dirty, and impolite?  What the fuck?  Generalize much?  It's called screening your clients.  And yeah, you'll find more unsavory bullshit on the streets, but then again, that seems to be the only group anti-prostitution people seem interested in getting data on, because the girls who care more about their safety don't tend to be easily found by non-customers.
       
      You don't have to like prostitution.  I don't give a fuck. What I DO give a fuck about is you dismissing and silencing sex workers who claim to enjoy or not mind the job.  How the fuck is that helpful to giving sex workers agency and treating them like people?

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