Thursday, January 8, 2009

What If Selling Sex Is Your Business

image I was asked to write this post by a few readers.  I have mulled over my thoughts and still yet I am not sure that I have a coherent response.  In all things that I do I want to support women, and this quite honestly comes from a place of love.  I truly love women with a passion that is undeniable.  I know that for many the circumstances that they are born into  dictate what opportunities that they will have in life.  We live in a society that sells the lie of meritocracy but in truth the road is not paved in gold and not every kitchen larder is filled with food.

I don't believe that any little girl grows up and thinks to herself. I want to be a prostitute, or a stripper.  I do  believe that little girls are taught not to dream about excelling and the best ways in which to turn their natural abilities into marketable abilities. For some working in the sex trade industry is the result of lost opportunities, abuse, addiction, and violence.  For others it is a legitimate choice.  Many sex trade workers have said repeatedly that they entered this field because they enjoy the work and that they find it empowering. 

Being a WOC I have had many people attempt to interpret my words in an effort to tell me what I really meant to say.  I have had people impose meaning that I did not even come close to implying, and if I were to reproduce that behaviour, and challenge sex workers when they say that they find a sense of empowerment in their chosen field, I would simply be performing the same behaviour that has worked to silence me; I therefore take these women at their word.

This is not a profession that I would choose for myself but because I ultimately believe in the right of a woman to have control over her body and her sexuality, I cannot sit in judgment of the result of where that decision leads.  My concerns are for the ones that are being prostituted without their consent.  My concerns are for those that are addicted, abused and raped.

As women we come from various different backgrounds and therefore we cannot always agree on what is appropriate behaviour, but I think that we should all agree that those that make up the most vulnerable sections of our society should be protected.  When I think of sex workers rights, I think of things like education programs for the ones that want to change, I think of forcing the criminal justice system to take their rapes and murders seriously.  These women are deemed disposable as if somehow the fact that they choose to perform sex work somehow makes them less human.  I take issue with that.  Patriarchy will always find a way to devalue women and if we allow them they will attack us all.

I also believe we need to stop talking at sex trade workers as though they don't have a voice of their own.  So many feel that because they have a moral position that they can sit in judgment and speak on behalf of these women.  I believe one of the first things that feminists need to do if we really want to help is to STFU &L.  For to long these women have been denied any legitimate voice and therefore it is time to listen.  If we want to know what they need, we need to ask. We need to follow their lead and respect their experiences. 

In every action as feminists it should be our goal to empower all women.  When we make distinctions based in so-called morality, we are doing the work of patriarchy.  We are allowing ourselves to be needlessly divided and in the end the only ones that benefit, are those that seek to keep women as second class citizens.  If we truly love our feminism and have a deep and abiding faith in women, we need to seek ways to actively help each other.

I remember when  Stephine Beck's killer received one day in prison for her murder.  Such a thing was only possible because she was a prostitute.  Today Ryczak her killer walks the street a free man, while she sleeps in an icy grave.  This sentence was only possible because we do not support sex trade workers.  We do not demand that they receive human respect.  As feminists this is a betrayal of women and everything that feminism stands for.  I know that my position is a great departure from radical feminism, but if we decide that feminism is about uplifting women then no call to arms should be ignored.  Allowing one woman to be raped, battered, and murdered makes us all victims.

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