the sex industry
January 13, 2003 05:32 PM

This week on We Have Brains, we finally sit down and talk about that oft-discussed feminist topic: the Sex Industry.

[It's so much fun to capitalize, isn't it? Makes it seem like That Horrible Industry That Might Devour Us Whole.]

I unloaded some of my random thoughts on pornography/erotica a few weeks ago. So as not to bore those of you playing the home game, I'd suggest you read them: here (if you're interested). Suffice to say - I see no reason why women shouldn't actively participate in porn. Creating and consuming, both. So, why aren't I doing more of either? Quite honestly, I'm one repressed chica. I hardly even talk big when it comes to things sexual. But I am working on it.

I'll also add to my previous comments, that I believe the only difference between "porn", "erotica" and "erotic art" is taste. Many people may disagree. Here, on this blog, they're all wrong, and I'm right. If it titillates you, call it whatever you want. It's all the same to me. Well, that's not entirely true - I've seen some sexy art that actually challenges the psyche enough to meet my definition of art - but it's rare as hell.

So. Given that. Pornographers are entertainers. In my book, that's equivalent to being Disney, or the guys who make Grand Theft Auto. Entertainment is a vehicle for release - of whatever in you needs releasing. Entertainment is okay. Television is okay! Porn is okay! All of these things can, at times, cross lines for different people, can turn offensive. Different people have different lines. Ergo, no one line can be drawn culturally (much as I'd like to draw my own and line people up on either side of it).

What I'm trying to say is - porn is no more dangerous to the psyche than any other form of entertainment. Any form of fun can turn dirty, but that does not justify keeping people away from it via legislation or cultural stigma.

Okay. Porn topic over. For now.

Let's talk about sex workers. I have yet to meet even one sex worker who feels degraded and exploited by her work. Whether they be phone sex operators, prostitutes, or strippers, every woman I've met who represents some aspect of the sex industry has chosen her career and largely enjoys it. Now, admittedly the sex workers I've met have all been American, and that makes a big difference.

But I will not sit by and allow other people to declare these women's voices null because they don't fit some sort of stereotype of the victimized woman forced into a life of degrading sex. We cannot ignore the viewpoints of the people who are actually doing the work we theorize about while we theorize about their work. [Dr. Seuss would be so pleased with that sentence.] That's just plain patronizing - and more importantly, it leaves out one of the most valuable perspectives on the discussion - it's like talking about the "Woman Problem" in 1910 without talking to a woman.

So, what have I heard from these sex workers? This. Sex is fucking empowering! Why do you think fat folk are so keen to prove their sexiness? Because they know that being sexual is a source of power and satisfaction. Sex can be deeply spiritual - and I don't just mean the high you get from sex with someone you rilly rilly luv - sex is one of the most basic human desires, and sex work in all its forms can tap into a certain primal male/female identity for some people. And hey, if you add the often very nice money you make while doing it - well, that's a pretty good case for sex work.

That's not to say that there are no sex workers who feel they've been exploited. Simply that it's not fair to assume they all are when that isn't their experience of their own situation. That robs people of self-determination. That is, in my book, anti-feminist. Just as it would be for me to assume that the handful of strippers I know represent all strippers ever.

When we talk about The Sex Industry without talking to the people who are the industry, we continue to marginalize that work. We fail to understand its appeal. We guess. And we gloss over critical issues like the need for healthcare and other benefits for sex workers. In short, we make ourselves stupid and narrow-minded.

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your wicked thoughts

You should seriously write a book called "The World According to April: How Things Should Be" because you could convince me of anything.

I like the point you make about how knowing how a handful of strippers (more than a handful, if you want to be pervy about it) feel about an issue is in no way representative of how ALL strippers feel about that issue, or are experiencing their careers.

Like how I am hoping that nobody finds a few feminists and decides that they are The Spokepeople for feminists everywhere.

We all have slightly different (or vastly) experiences and stories to tell.

I'm hoping sex workers respond to this prompt, because it's easy to speak on their behalf...

these are the thoughts of kerri on January 13, 2003 10:38 PM

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