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Prostitution: Another Facebook kerfuffle

06/09/2010

Ah Facebook, you seem to bring out the worst in people.

A ‘friend’ (though no longer after this argument devolved into insults and cursing on her part) recently posted a link to her page about Craigslist’s decision to remove Adult Services from its classified ads. She fully supported it and rejoiced in the restriction.  She then posted a response to one of the comments she recieved as another status in which she referred to prostitution as a “wretched career.”

This pissed me off.

And so I voiced my disagreement with this stereotype by pointing out that not all women in the sex industry consider it a “wretched” profession, especially in countries where it is legal and regulated. Then I posted a link to a study that supported me.

Her reply was to say that there is still human sex trafficking in Australia. As if somehow that invalidated my point. Sure, there is some sex trafficking in Australia. But that has nothing to do with legal, regulated prostitution. It’s a completely different issue and it is illegal. Is hiring someone to take up the hem in your pants is morally wrong because there are still sweat shops in Indonesia?

She then questioned my source. “Who produces that website?” Which implied that anyone who would conduct such a study must have a hidden agenda. Well, the site that produced that link is the World Association for Sexual Health which is a scholarly umbrella organisation of sexologists and created the Declaration of Sexual Rights in 1999. A scientific institution that would be most likely to be unbiased on the issue, furthermore, they’d be a pretty good source of information about sex in general.

She then claimed prostitution was “wretched” because the average age of entry was 18. The website she got her information from was Prostitution Research and Education. Which states its goal on its website, “…to abolish the institution of prostitution while at the same time advocating for alternatives to trafficking and prostitution”  A clear bias, if you ask me. They are an anti-prostitution site. They have an agenda. So their conclusions are suspect. Again, she is equating prostitution with human trafficking. It’s like citing a pro-life website to prove that women who get abortions are all unhappy with their decisions. Sure, the figures might be right, but I’d question the sample and the methodology, not to mention the conclusions drawn from the study.

She also deleted my original comments.

So I replied again, stating my objection to her generalisation of prostitution as victimising and evil.

I should have pointed out that the age of entry for almost every career is about 18. But what I did say was that there are few careers where a woman of 18 can make $4,000 a week (I figure a sensual masseuse can service 4 clients a day, five days a week for about $200 each) with no training and flexible hours.

That’s when her arguments started to get really sloppy. She accused me of “thinking sex work is enough for [my] country’s little girls” and warned me that the sex industry would take advantage of my ignorance and “draft that little baby in [my] lap at age 18.” Little girls? My little baby? An obvious emotional attack, and not even a very effective one. But still, how dare she bring my son into this!

She also voiced incredulity that $4,000 a week was a reasonable income (I’ve already stated how easy that would be) and suggested that “screwing 20 men a week” was not a “good career for any woman.” Really? Who are we to judge what someone does as a career? Is it more degrading than cleaning hotel rooms? Is it more degrading than flipping burgers? Collecting rubbish? Changing oil? Ever watch Dirty Jobs? If someone can find job satisfaction collecting semen from turkeys, I think doing the same for humans would be slightly less degrading by comparison.

I responded by saying that 18 year olds are adults, capable of making their own decisions and that I’d rather my son chose a career in the sex industry where it is legal and regulated than be drafted to join the military where he’d be cannon fodder for corrupt governments.

Though I probably shouldn’t have, I called her view narrow and puritanical and suggested that she was unable to see the validity of  my arguments because she was too emotionally invested in her viewpoint.

She followed by attacking with cursing and accusing me of “trying to insult” her by calling her puritanical – I wasn’t really, but it obviously hit home. She asked me to explain what prostitution and casual sex have to do with each other – apropos of what, I’m not entirely sure. Once again she claimed I was ignorant about the issue and was talking “out of [my] ass.” Which is to say she could not support her argument, nor explain how she found fault in my argument other than calling me “ignorant.”

I told her that, for one, casual sex and prostitution are both sex without intimacy. Then I went on to explain that I knew several people in the sex industry who worked hard to fight against negative stereotypes and that they were definitely not victims.

And with that, having said my piece, I deleted her as a friend.

Sigh…

You see, this is another position on which I suppose I differ from some flavours of feminist. I believe that prostitution should be legal. Yet, at the same time, I wish to see the end of the patriarchy that puts restrictions on women’s sexuality, and thus creates a situation where prostitution is necessary (I don’t think it will ever disappear entirely, but it will definitely lessen in demand if the patriarchy falls). This ‘friend’ of mine could not imagine a world where women would actually choose to be a sex worker, when, I actually know two personally and if you look at the study I cited, they are not the exception, but are a significant majority. According to the study, most get into it for the money, but a significant minority get into it because they like it. In fact, citing just one sex worker who enjoyed her work and did not find it degrading, the entire position of “prostitution = victimisation = BAD” falls apart. That’s what makes generalisations impossible to defend; if you don’t allow for exceptions (which this person flat out refused to do) then you lose.

Conflating prostitution with sex trafficking is a common mistake, but in some parts of the world, they are synonymous, I’ll give her that. Australia is an example of a country that has made prostitution legal (though not nationally) and sex workers have seen the benefits of that decriminalisation. If it were true that nobody ever wants to be a prostitute, then the people advocating legalisation would be pimps and clients, when mainly it is the sex workers themselves who advocate for legalisation as a means to legal rights and protection. If they didn’t want to be prostitutes, why would they be fighting for it to be legal? I seriously doubt it’s some sort of Stockholm Syndrome (as one commenter on this ‘friend’s other thread claimed).

Legalising and regulating prostitution is good for women and therefore is a valid feminist position to take. (Though some may argue that regularisation is just a harm reduction measure and does nothing to protect un-registered prostitutes.)

Shaming women for their career choice, calling what they have chosen to do with their bodies or what they do for money “wretched,” and worse, criminalising what for some is lucrative and enjoyable career, is bad for women and is therefore an anti-feminist position.

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10 Comments
  1. 06/09/2010 4:03 pm

    To be fair to Facebook, it sounds like all it did was allow your friend to share her already strong opinions and give you a place to respond to them.

    It seems to me that you advanced a very well-reasoned view, even if she didn’t listen.

    If Facebook allowed her to show her worst, it also allowed you to show your best.

  2. Ken Sheaffer permalink
    06/09/2010 5:07 pm

    I do so enjoy reading your rants and arguments. You are so logical and rational in your thought process. The problem is that the people you argue with appear not to employ the same system of logic, which makes arguing with them almost futile. I run into the same problem, especially when dealing with people complaining at work. My pointing out the errors in their logic or attempting to reason with them doesn’t work, as they are not thinking rationally – only emotionally. It’s very frustrating for me, as I frequently have to just suck it up, ignore reason, and let them think/say what they want.

  3. noblecaboose permalink*
    06/09/2010 8:59 pm

    It was no big loss to lose this friend. She was a friend’s friend who added me, and she seemed like a reasonable woman.
    I really resisted the urge to delete her until her last comment to me, in which she actually said “fuck you very much.”
    I don’t need that.
    In the aftermath, I saw that more than one of her friends “like”d my comments, which I hope sends her a message that maybe I had a point. Or several, in fact.

  4. noblecaboose permalink*
    06/09/2010 9:51 pm

    Ooh! And here’s a great article on the whole Craigslist thing that goes into the topic in depth and covers the sex industry in Singapore as well as the US.

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/singapore-the-us-craigslist-sex-trafficking-and-wtf/

  5. Tom permalink
    06/09/2010 10:09 pm

    Good post, Liz. I agree, I avoid facebook these days. I have no control over the friends-of-friends who post on there, and more often than not a visit to that place leaves me upset for some reason. Or tediously bored.

  6. 07/09/2010 7:39 am

    You seem to becoming better at shedding irrational friends 🙂

  7. Mike Walker permalink
    07/09/2010 1:23 pm

    I have quite a few acquaintances who used to work as prostitues, and I knew someone who used to work hard to improve the health and rights for sex workers. Most of those acquaintances regret having worked in the field now. There is a lot of exploitation that goes on. I don’t think they feel like victims, they just made choices that they regret now.

    But if we made prostitution illegal, it would still happen, just be driven underground. And then it would become near impossible to help and protect these women. It would make the situation worse for them.

    i also think there is something to be said for prostitution as a necessary release valve for our society.

    • noblecaboose permalink*
      07/09/2010 1:51 pm

      There is something to be said, but I think we’ve all heard it before. 😛

  8. Terence permalink
    08/09/2010 10:25 pm

    Great article, having a friend who has been in the industry for a while. I think a regulated prostitution industry is the only way to go. Even if it is simply for having the same rights as people who work in other industry sectors.

    Like the writing, keep up the awesome 🙂

  9. 19/04/2011 5:11 pm

    There is definitely something to be said about legalisation and regulation of many things. I feel there is just as strong a case for some recreational drugs. I’ve known a few young women who actually use prostitution to put themselves through university, but often have to take physical risks of working for themselves because there is little/no regulation of their other potential employers. What is “wretched” about the profession is how women are treated within it.

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