Someone linked to this blog on the Jezebel article a while back about hardcore porn (warning - you might not want to hunt that one down) and it made me wish that more writers and commenters would read stories like this and really acknowledge the horrific damage done by the sex work and pornography industries instead of framing sex work as "empowerment" or "choice".

Every time some blogger or academic focuses on women celebrating their sexuality through sex work using the framework of 'choice feminism' they are ignoring the fact that the majority of women who end up in these industries are not there by choice. They have ended up there because their lives have been filled with tradgedy, poverty, rape, abuse. They can only cope with the mental and physical demands of their work by substance abuse.

This is the experience of those of us who know what these women's lives are like because we have a)had these experiences and/or b) are close to them and know their stories and their feelings about sex work. We're not coming from the outside and interviewing women who we don't know as research for a paper. The arrogance of some middle class feminists who somehow think they know all about the lives of sex workers because they majored in women's studies or go to bdsm parties on the weekend is unbelievable.

All this isn't to say there aren't women who enjoy sex work but their enjoyment/empowerment is not in any way worth the suffering of women who are all-but-in-name raped and tortured daily and the women and girls who are trafficked and sold.

Choice feminism/Third wave feminism is seriously fucking up in regards to not speaking up for the victims of the sex industry in favor of the minority of lucky women who manage to find enjoyment and fulfilment in these professions. The focus often seems to be on removing stigma from sex work so that the women who choose that profession aren't shamed or harrassed. This is admirable and a worthy goal but there are far, far more important issues that should be given priority here. A lot of contemporary feminist discourse (or at least the way its presented) seems to be incredibly individualist, callous and classist in respect to sex work and the damage done to the poorest and least powerful.

Just to be clear I'm not necessarily advocating for any particular social policy here - eg criminalising prostitution (it became legal where I live about 10 years ago which has had good outcomes for sex workers over 18 but made things worse for children on the streets) because its a complex issue and this post would end up a mile long. But as a starting point I think we need to shift the focus to one of solidarity and listen to the few voices that actually make it into the public sphere to tell us the realities of their experience and ask ourselves as feminists if sex work is really good for women when this and this and this is happening.

For people who want statistics read this FBI report: