Monday, December 13, 2010

the privilege in Choice

I love this post on power and sex work. The author makes a distinction between people with privilege and power using sex work as a lark while simultaneously othering sex workers without agency. In classes often when presenting sex work as part of the frame work of oppression - predicated on the belief that some people (mostly men, mostly privileged with power) have the right to buy other people (mostly women, mostly not privileged with power) for sex. The argument of choice comes up - in terms of women who choose sex work (it almost never comes up in terms of men who choose to oppress women).

I think that choice is an incredibly middle classist (privilege, power) construction. The way that this comes out in the post from Kmareka is again in terms of the workers, not the consumers, but I think is highly illustrative of our myths about sex work. Some people do choose sex work for reasons that the middle class can understand and of their own free will, so it's difficult for people to wrap their brains around those who don't have the ability to choose sex work - those who don't have agency over their bodies - who don't have a choice because of economics or addictions or trauma or abusive boyfriend/pimps. Because they're trafficked, coerced, forced, and have no other viable options to live in the world.

And the key is that the proselytizing middle class believer in "choice" or the so called "pro-sex" camp can't tell the difference. Neither can the people buying women. That's what the privileged sex workers that Kmareka talks about are capitalizing on when they distance themselves from the "others". The problem is that there is no distance, there's only throwing others under the bus - maintaining the oppressive status quo, the objectification of women. You're not doing something different because you "chose, because you actually do have other options. You are sacrificing others who don't have that privilege. You are maintaining a fantasy that the oppressed class are so for a reason.


Serg said...

That was a great post. You have officially succeeded in making me rethink my position on prostitution.

spectral_ev said...

thank you for the kind words and the link to kmareka.
another blogger, sixtoedkitties, took issue with my post on power and choices, seeing it as an attack on people who sell sex. we had a correspondence. see here...

I have not changed my view that in our society, where there is so much inequality, that the choices we make are bounded by what we think we deserve, or will be allowed to have.
but after talking with sixtoedkitties I'll try hard to make it more clear that I do respect personal freedom, and though I oppose selling sex (for reasons too complicated to list here) I do not support criminalizing or disparaging people who do so.