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A feminist quandry

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Aug. 16th, 2012 | 08:41 pm

The other day while we were driving up to Aztec Falls a conversation erupted in regards to strip clubs. Now, let me preface this by saying that I consider myself a radical feminist. So why did I get so upset over the topic of sex work? This topic has always been tough for me. I find the idea of sex work degrading and oppressive, and yet I am still on the side of the women working. I can see how the feminist movement of the 60s was so divided over the topic.

  While driving, my SIL said she finds nothing wrong with strip clubs, and that she's been to a few in her life. I, on the other hand, have never been to a strip club, and I have made that a conscious choice. I know that for my brother's bachelor party they went to a strip club, as per usual. And it perplexes me as to how Bethany is not bothered by this, in the least. I went on to say that I cannot see how someone who considers them self a feminist, or a radical person in general, could visit a strip club.

  Jason and Dylan remained notably silent during this conversation, I should add.

  It got me thinking about a documentary I saw about how the strip clubs in San Francisco unionized, and how much I supported their effort while watching the film. Why do I support the workers, and not the men who frequent these establishments? I suppose that's not exactly a tough question. I believe that while the work itself is degrading and oppressive, the women themselves deserve protection. This got me to thinking about sex work in general. The history of sex work is vast and complicated, and I won't pretend to be well informed. I only know the basics: women have been doing sex work for a very long time, and sometimes it was by choice, and other times it was forced. When people say that being a sex worker is liberating, I can't help but cringe. This is mostly because I feel that sex is amazing, and very special when both people involved are having some sort of intimate connection - both physically and emotionally.

  As a 28 year old woman, I've had numerous sexual experiences, ranging from awful to amazing. The idea of performing sexual acts for money is not something I've ever experienced, or want to experience. I have had casual sex that was terrible, and casual sex that was great, but the best sex has always been with someone I truly love. And I guess it just perplexes me, and honestly makes me kind of sad, to think about someone who doesn't - or hasn't - had such an experience.

  I feel like this post is losing direction.

  Ok. I want to live in a world where women are valued for our minds. Where we are treated as true equals to men. And I can't help but feel that sex work has a direct relationship with patriarchy, and the mentality that women are valued based on their ability to satisfy a man.

  I also hate the whole concept of bachelor parties. One last night to get crazy with naked chicks before your tied down for life? Or some shit like that. Fuck that. I know that there are male strip clubs, and women may frequent them, but I find that living in a patriarchal society that treats women as second-class citizens kind of negates the validity to any argument relating to male sex strip clubs.

  Bethany got really defensive, saying that the strippers don't see the work as degrading. But the thing is, to me, that is irrelevant. I'm not critical of the women to begin with. Not to mention the fact that we often negotiate our beliefs and ethics based on our situations. And I can't help but wonder if these women would feel so empowered had they been raised in a truly equal society.

  And that is all I have for now.

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Comments {3}


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from: gracified
date: Aug. 17th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)

I completely agree! I have the same issue- I want people to be free to do what they choose. At the same time, this is all happening within the context of a really abusive culture. I find that it's helpful to debate things like that by establishing that first. Talking about how sexuality in this culture is all skewed and dysfunctional. I don't think many people would disagree with that, actually.

I think that a lot of dysfunctional things get wrongly portrayed as being empowered. Just like promiscuity often follows sexual abuse- I think that people naturally, in order to make sense of it all, do their best to accept and control the dysfunction rather than reject it. I think with sex work they see a glimmer of something healthy, but they feel like they have to justify the whole thing. I like how Derrick Jensen puts it- it's "toxic mimicry", the mimic of a once healthy expression now toxified by the modern culture.

Jeff didn't want to do the strip club deal for his bachelor party, but his friends insisted. When he really put his foot down about it, some of them went without him. Goes to show you what that's all about!

I personally think this stuff doesn't need to be either/or, and yet a lot of people feel so black and white about it. I acknowledge and celebrate men's specific sexual needs and desires while rejecting the exploitation of women in the process. I celebrate an openly sexual woman and her financial independence while rejecting the notion that she has to sell her body in the process. Seems simple enough. I also think an easy test of whether or not something like this is exploitative is to ask people if they'd feel equally as comfortable with their wife/sister/mother/daughter doing it. It kind of proves the point that one has to desensitize themselves in order to enjoy it, which I feel is pretty much the root of most of this culture's dysfunction. We need to know each other and make all this stuff personal again- sex, relationships, food, all of it.

Okay, anyway. I'm glad you're writing again.

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from: pithy_epigrams
date: Aug. 17th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)

I'm relieved to not be the only one torn on the issue. It seems that a lot of feminists that I read about or encounter are very pro-sex work. And I feel that it's so much more complicated than being either for- or- against an issue such as sex work.

I also completely agree with asking the question about how one would fee about their wife/mother/daughter/sister being a sex worker.

I don't know why I quit writing. I enjoy a platform to get all these ideas out of my head!

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