The Complicated Feminism Of Sex Work

The Complicated Feminism Of Sex Work

Would decriminalization of the sex industry help or hurt the women involved?
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One of the most divisive issues among feminists today is that of sex work. Prominent feminists such as Gloria Steinem (who, although she has recently fallen from grace among many young women, is still an incredibly important and influential feminist icon), Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Maryl Streep, and Lena Dunham are opposed to sex work of any kind, and spoke out against Amnesty International's recent proposal to decriminalize sex work.

Their point of view is that the legalization of prostitution will only make it easier for women to be victimized and harder for women who are forced into the industry to find help. These celebrity activists are supported by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), which agrees that legalizing sex work would not help the women who need it the most.

This side of the argument believes that when a woman "chooses" a path of prostitution, there is actually very little free choice involved. Instead, this choice is made out of economic necessity or coercion, leading to what Gloria Steinem has called "commercial rape." The principle behind this phrase is that sex, when sold, is not an act of consent but an act of compliance. In accordance with this, the CATW states on their website that "a culture in which women can be bought for use is one in which rape flourishes." This contends that women who work in the sex industry are not exercising bodily autonomy or freedom of choice, but are instead being further objectified and marginalized by their work. The organization also argues that the decriminalization of prostitution would benefit pimps and clients, but not the women themselves, who are often forced into the profession and treated poorly by their higher-ups.

Aside from the complex issues of consent and exploitation involved in sex work, much opposition to its decriminalization comes from those who are concerned about the moral problems attached to the industry. There are those who believe that, above all else, prostitution is not and will never be morally justifiable, and should be illegal for that reason.

Now, let's look at the other side. In regards to the moral questions so frequently raised, Catherine La Croix, founder of the Seattle chapter of an organization called Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE), and a former sex worker herself, asks: "Why is it illegal to charge for what can be freely dispensed? Sex work is no more moral or immoral than the chocolate or distilling industries." Of course, this doesn't take into consideration the many moral violations that can and do occur internally in the sex industry -- injustices committed by pimps, clients, etc., -- but it does raise a good counterpoint. If a woman freely decides to work as a prostitute, who's to tell her she isn't morally allowed to use her body, the rights to which she exclusively possesses, to create a career for herself?

Those in support of sex work decriminalization also argue that it would hugely increase the safety of the women involved. Giving sex workers labor rights and legal protection could have a dramatic positive effect, allowing them to prosecute for mistreatment and abuse in a way that is not currently possible. Criminalizing the work these women do creates ideal conditions for them to be exploited, coerced, and trafficked, with no opportunity for any kind of help or support from law enforcement. It also creates a stigma around the work that leads to more secrecy and shame, creating a negative public perception of women who, aside from their chosen profession, are really no different from anyone else. This stigma only aids in making sex workers afraid and ashamed of seeking help when they end up in undesirable situations.

In an attempt to counteract this stigma, the Turn Off the Blue Light campaign, an Ireland-based sex worker rights association, has created ads that enforce a woman's right to choose a sex profession and still be afforded the dignity she deserves:

Of course, as the ads clearly state, these are women who chose their professions; for many women working in the industry, sex work is not something they would freely choose, and that's another issue in and of itself. Those who do choose it, however, should not be punished by law for their choice.

And in regards to all the high-profile opponents of decriminalizing this industry, as well-meaning and well-educated as they are, they largely do not have the support of the women they're trying so hard to help. In the words of a 30-year-old New York City sex worker, “If Kate Winslet and Lena Dunham are trading sex in a criminalized environment, then they should speak out [but] the role of an advocate and an ally is to step back and let these people speak." It is not the place of these big shot feminists to decide what is or isn't an appropriate way to address an issue with which they have no involvement. Instead, it would be much more beneficial for them to use their huge social platforms to give a voice to the women who are actually affected: the sex workers themselves.

In all, this is an incredibly complex and multifaceted issue, and I don't know if there's any right answer. However, I am inclined to agree with what Elizabeth Wurtzel says in her book "Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women":

"Pornography, prostitution and stripping exploit women, but women should be free to enter these professions just the same. [. . .] We should still support all efforts of any women wishing to escape life as sex workers without exacting a toll in shame (which, after all, is just more exploitation)."

So, yes, there are some dark and exploitative implications inherent in sex work, but that should not mean that we can't simultaneously provide sympathy and aid to those who wish to escape it and support and legal protection to those who do not.

Literally, so hot RN

Literally, so hot RN

8 Struggles That Only LGBTQ+ College Students Face Navigating Hookup Culture

Yep, college really does make being queer so much harder

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Hookup culture is an impossible labyrinth for any college student to navigate. Now imagine having to first figure out which fish are eligible in that great sea we're always told we've got to cast our lines into. That's what it's like to be LGBTQ+ and caught in the midst of a thriving sex fest, you get a smaller net and just a puddle to search through. But wait! There are even more struggles we have to cope with that I haven't even touched upon yet!

1. Bicuriosity will be the death of you

I don't have anything against people casually exploring their sexualities, but I won't lie and say it doesn't hurt to find out that someone you've been messing around with isn't actually gay. Not every queer person is willing to be "tried on" for the sake of an experiment, so you should always tell your partner beforehand that you're just acting on your curiosity and aren't looking for anything concrete. Put your intentions out there before anything physical ensues and you'll be saving yourselves from a lot of disappointment and heartache.

2. The "promiscuous" stereotype

For some reason, an individual who is anything but heterosexual is automatically assumed to be sexually-active and, dare I say it, slutty. "She says she KNOWS she likes girls, but how could she know unless she had sex with at least two or three of them to feel it out?" "He's gay, so clearly he's done it in the butt and he must be dirty as all hell."

I mean, seriously? You can be a virgin and STILL be confident about your identity! And just because we hook up with people of the same sex doesn't make us disgusting— especially while straight people hook up just as often.

3. "Was that just the alcohol or are they really into me?"

Give an sexually-adventurous college student a few ounces of liquor and you're bound to embolden them enough yield to live out their fantasies and play the field. And that's great for you at first—you've been eyeing that cutie all night and hoped they'd be into you, and it turns out that they sure do seem like they are. But there's always the possibility that your late-night lover let the alcohol do all of the talking, and they'll wake up with no desire to ever be with you again. And that can be terrifying for us queer folks to think about.

4. Chances are, your hookup knows your ex (who knows your other ex, who knows you OTHER ex)


While the LGBTQ+ community is sizable, it's not too concentrated in one area. Your college town will have a limited number of people who are emotionally and physically available to you. And your opportunities continue to shrink from there; you want to hook up with someone, for example, but you restrain yourself because you know for a fact that they're good friends or were once involved with your ex. The queer collective is the equivalent of a small town; it's inevitable that you'll cross paths with someone linked to your past in ways that aren't always the best.


5. The odds of meeting people in a public setting are slim

Assuming that 10% of the population identifies with an LGBTQ+ identity, there will only ideally be 10 people at a party of 100 who are open to being with you. And that's not even considering who is taken or just isn't into hookups…so it's safe to say that the search is going to be difficult. We aren't wearing any special badges that can distinguish us from the straight majority, so it's next to impossible to figure out if that cutie by the keg actually plays for your team without asking them.

6. People assume you're straight right off the bat

I don't need to convince you that I'm queer, nor will I ever expend precious energy attempting to do so. My sexual orientation doesn't have to be supported by evidence of a stereotypical appearance or demeanor to be valid. And it's not a safe assumption anymore to think that everyone you encounter is straight or even cisgender.

Even other queer people are guilty of expecting an explanation; some may confess to me that they were afraid to talk to me at first because I "looked too straight." What that says to me is that they don't think I'm genuine enough to be part of the LGBTQ+ community— and that is just plain hurtful.

7. Your Tinder matches only seem interested in threesomes

My sexuality isn't a toy for you to incorporate into your intimate lives. Just because I'm comfortable sleeping with the same sex doesn't imply that I'm up for being tonight's third. Bisexuals are especially victimized by dating apps in this fashion; everyone thinks you must be into threeways if you like having sex with both guys and girls because it's twice the fun.

Ugh.

8. Someone is always trying to label you

"So what are you, anyway?" "What do you MEAN you don't have a label?"

Oh, honey. Here's a newsflash: I am not a Campbell's soup can and therefore do not need to walk around with a name of any kind slapped onto my forehead. If you label yourself willingly and voluntarily, that's perfectly fine. But keep in mind that there are a lot of people who choose not to settle with one identity or simply haven't found one that fits them yet. Regardless, their sexual behaviors are none of your business. So if she exclusively sleeps with girls, but refuses to call herself a lesbian, that's HER choice.

It's not easy being queer in a college setting, but that doesn't mean we aren't proud to be who we are. The difficulties continue to shape us every day into stronger and more resilient individuals and we wouldn't trade that for the world.

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STDs Are At An All Time High In The United States Because No One Bothers Checking Their Hookup’s Sexual History

Were you safe? Did you ask about their sexual history or if they have been tested lately?

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Whenever a friend tells me they're seeing someone new, I always ask the same question:

"Were you safe? Did you ask about their sexual history or if they have been tested lately?"

My friends always roll their eyes and call me "mom." They say they didn't ask because it would've "killed the mood."Well the STD that person may have also kills the mood. Just saying.

STDs are at an all-time high because no one bothers to talk about their sexual history. Women, in particular, need to get their yearly checks because if the STD or other vaginal problems aren't caught there can be severe repercussions like contracting the new STD, donovanosis. (This is a "flesh-eating" STD that is spreading all over the UK.)

Truthfully, men and women have to be more careful, especially with hookup culture being so prominent. It's fine to sleep with whoever you want but there has to be a line and it has to be maintained. Think about what happens after that line is crossed. You get STDs, unwanted pregnancy, and, potentially, a disease for life.

Checking a hookup's sexual history is key but not just for avoiding douche canoes but also because AIDS is still prominent today. It's treatable, sure but it isn't curable. You'll suffer from a disease for the rest of your life because you didn't want to ask one simple question: Have you been tested recently?

The highest record of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2016. Over TWO MILLION cases were reported and we could've cut down on those numbers by practicing safe sex and asking awkward questions before jumping in bed.

These are curable but can lead to serious health issues such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth risk, and even higher chance of contracting HIV.

So ask yourself: Is it worth it?

Practice safe sex. Wrap it up.

And ask your hookup if they've been tested lately because you don't want to be another statistic.

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