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

What It's Like Being A 20-Year-Old Virgin In The 21st Century

For now, I wait. And that is perfectly okay.
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Sex. The topic we only spoke of in hushed tones in the past has quickly become a part of our everyday interactions. It seems to be the center of our motivations, thoughts, actions, and feelings. This is the reason I don't feel uncomfortable dedicating this week's article to the subject. Now, mom and dad, if you're reading this, I won't be offended if you stop. I'd actually be quite happy. Everybody else, do me a favor and ask yourself this:

What does it mean to be a virgin in today's society?

There is a social stigma associated with being a virgin. We're all prudes, are mega-religious, and have never even thought about what it would be like to share a night with Ryan Gosling. Right? Wrong. I promise you the majority of virgins you'll meet are virgins by choice - not because their moms have them chained to a metal post with their legs strapped shut. I've been racking my brain about questions and concerns and the million-dollar-question I have for y'all is: If it's no big deal to have sex, then why is it a big deal not to have sex? I mean really, whose business is it anyway?

I feel the criticism from my own doctor at times. She'd ask, "Are you sexually active?" I'd respond with a lightening fast "No", which she'd follow with a quick sigh and an even quicker response, "Have you ever been sexually active?" Unreal.

In a culture so consumed by "Netflix and chill" and the infamous right swipe, it's hard not to constantly wonder when (and with who) my time will come. It's almost like we're racing against the clock of chastity. I wonder if Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, or Amelia Earhart worried about who'd swipe their V-card as much as I do? Probably not, they were too busy making the world a better place.

I can't go a day without hearing about sex, talking about sex, or honestly... thinking about sex (sorry, dad). I remember a time when it was "shocking" to discover anybody was having sex and now it's "shocking" to discover anybody isn't. The reactions I get when people discover I still hold the key to my innocence aren't only mildly insulting but sad. When did it become shameful to be a virgin? I'm only 20 years old. I've only lived 1/4 of my life and in no means do I feel rushed to get down and dirty.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't plan for my life to go this way. Shocker, but my Magic 8-Ball didn't prepare me for this. I am a huge supporter of doing what you want, when you want, and with whom you want to do it with. Hell, half of my friends aren't virgins and I'm happy for them. They were with someone they loved (or at least liked) and made a choice. I've made a choice too. I am evolving with the world around me and taking life one wine bottle at a time. I don't want to settle for less than I deserve. I want somebody who loves me, respects me, and understands where I'm coming from.

I'm prepared to deal with the douchebags and the nobody losers who can't deal with the decision I've made equally as much as I'm prepared to meet the guy who can.

For now, I wait. And that is perfectly okay.

Cover Image Credit: Bustle

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I Asked People The Weirdest Thing To Happen To Them During Sex And This Is What They Said

Like having certain things blow up in your face.
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I was watching "Friends" and they were asking each other about sex and making fun of each other for weird quirks.

I began to think about what people in this generation would say so I polled them, and boy, the responses were hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.

Of course, names will be left out and you should know that this stuff happens to EVERYONE. It's normal and this is NOT meant to shame anyone. It's for humor and to make others feel comfortable about the weird things that happen during sex.

1. Having certain things blow up in your face.

"He had a funny facial expression and I thought he was well, you know. Then 0.2 seconds later he sneezed on my face."

Nope, not that.

2. In sickness and in health.

"We both came down with a cold. We decided to have sex anyway, and I think we both fell asleep in the middle of it because we woke up in the middle of the night naked and he still had the condom on. Then I'm pretty sure we tried AGAIN and either fell asleep again or just gave up at that point."

I mean, horny is horny.

3. Finding the perfect balance to your relationship.

"We have to move from the bed to the floor a lot right in the middle because both our beds are super squeaky and we both have roommates!"

A bed, sofa, table, or a floor...anywhere is a good place to let your wild side go. But the floor or couch is the best if you have loud sex. Just saying.

4. A moment to release...things.

"Pausing to fart."

Hey! Everyone does it!

5. Taking time to spend quality time together, no matter what (who?) you are doing.

"Stopped to laugh at the emoji movie playing in the background that we turned on so we wouldn't wake his uncle sleeping down the hall."

I mean, the movie was funny. James Corden was in it.

6. Nothing like a tongue punch to the fart box.

"Eating out their butthole and actually enjoying it."

Well, OK then. You never know what you'll like until you, apparently, try it.

7. Remembering to lock your phone from now on.

"Before we started having sex, I was laying down and watching videos on Facebook. One thing led to another and while it was happening, one of us accidentally touched my phone (I didn't lock it when things started up) and random noises started playing from the video I was watching. We both started cracking up and just couldn't go any further. I definitely will remember to lock my phone from now on."

At least she didn't pocket dial her phone and call her mom.

8. The other body fluids during sex.

"Drooling on him during sex."

And that's not the only thing that gets everywhere.

9. Moaning, groaning, and other noises.

"Making weird, comedic noises at each other."

On top of the none comedic ones. I hope no one was home and if they were I hope you explained things to them.

10. Shouting the wrong (or right) name.

"At the moment of climax, I (drunkenly) yelled, 'Prince Zuko' in my best Uncle Iroh voice. 'Prince Zuko' has since become a codeword...for stuff."

This is my personal favorite because it's hilarious and I love "Avatar: The Last Airbender."

11. Trying to staunch the flow and cock block a bit.

"Calling him 'daddy' if he is about to come too quickly (he hates it so it calms him down)."

Hey, you need some orgasms too, and if a word gets him a little soft then I say go for it.

12. Man-splaining at the worst moment, ever.

"He lectured me on piston-cylinder assemblies as we f*cked and differences between male and female orgasms as he came."

Ummm...I hope it was good sex, at least? If not, then at least you learned something new. Guess you really do learn things in the most unlikely of places.

13. The right kind of relationship involves laughing and more noises.

"Burped, its actually hilarious. We just stop and look at each other and start laughing. Ladies, get you a man who doesn't care if you burp during sex."

I support burping during sex.

14. Taking the good kind of break.

"Pausing to have a conversation in the middle."

Hey, everyone needs a few seconds to catch their breath.

15. Wait...before I forget!

"Pausing to remind them about something so you don't forget by the end."

It's usually something dumb or about what happened to you during the day, but it seemed important in the moment!

So just know that the weird things you guys do during a good sex session are totally normal, even if at the time they seem abnormal and embarrassing.

**Responses were edited for clarity and/or length.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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