Feminist Issues in Prostitution
The recent exchanges on the other board have made me explore radical feminists' views on prostitution. The following was presented to the 1997 International Conference on Prostitution at Cal State University, Northridge. It was republished in 1998 in an anthology entitled Prostitution: On Whores, Hustlers, and Johns by Prometheus Books:
Here are some interesting passages:
Radical feminism does not view prostitution as a victimless crime, but as a situation where men have reduced women to an image of being mere sexual objects. This allows men to unconscionably oppress and coerce women in order to satisfy their own fantasies through prostitution. Political and economic power seems unfairly divided in the world to these feminists. Men are in the position of dominance, demanding and getting what they want. “According to the radical feminist view, men are socialized to have sexual desires and to feel entitled to have those desires met, whereas women are socialized to meet those desires and to internalize accepted definitions of femininity and sexual objectification.”
From the radical feminists’ standpoint, the issue of prostitution is an extension of the power politics that govern social intercourse between men and women. They assert the inherent immorality of prostitution by defining its wrongness in terms of its corrupting influence on the dignity of all women. They also seize the higher ground in a battle between men and women, using prostitutes as pawns in a struggle to assert their world view. In the heat of this battle, the idea of prostitution is oversimplified and subsequently molded into a form that fits well into the political views of the radical feminist. Oversimplifying an issue frequently produces a logical outcome that can support just about any political position. Prostitution is an enormously diverse and complex issue. Lumping virtually all prostitutes into one general category will yield an inaccurate and insensitive view of their lives.
Radical feminists do not generally subscribe to this broader view of prostitution as outlined in the above nine categories. It seems almost imperative for such individuals to find a link between pimps as oppressors and a generalized theory of male dominance that views men as perpetuating their power by being oppressors. By narrowing their view of prostitution, radical feminists make a point. Moreover, by reducing social dynamics to sexual oppression as the central focus of male-female relationships, radical feminism attempts to make an end run around conventional and classical ethical views of right and wrong. Constructing a theory for the restriction of the rights of prostitutes in terms of oppression, not morality, is simply another creatively conceived method of rejecting prostitution as a valid way of life.
The focus of Barry’s writing, which can in some senses be seen as representative of radical feminists, appears to be a heroic intervention on behalf of prostitutes and women in general to save them from violence and degradation. The extensive abuse that Barry cites can be viewed as a statement on the condition of human civilization in which it is clear that humans are not nearly as moral as they believe themselves to be. She cites numerous instances where violence perpetrated by pimps is the rule rather than the exception in prostitution." Violence and abuse are about immorality. Political dialogue constructed in terms of oppression is a second-order attempt to solve a first-order problem better resolved in conventional moral terms. Contemporary and classical ethics have built, over centuries of ethical discourse, a fairly stable foundation (or foundations) from which to evaluate self-serving and exploitative behaviors. On the other hand, the social theory of Barry, which assigns the cardinal value of moral discernment to be sexual oppression, does not have a substantial foundation on which to build and integrate well into other areas of credible thinking. Theory that is held to be superior is generally theory that integrates well into a broad spectrum of human experience, scientific fact and other theoretical views. Theory that is narrowly subjective usually has a limited scope of application. In my view Barry’s assessment of the moral nature of prostitution falls into this limited category.
There are other reasons for being skeptical of her strong case against prostitution. First is the hasty way in which she develops her ideas and second is the way in which she holds out a pitiful view of the prostitute’s life without distinguishing a wide spectrum of experiences relating to prostitution. She frequently moves from premise to conclusion with great rapidity, and employs strong, emotionally laden language to assert the authority of a premise. This kind of reasoning guides one down a selected pathway rather than conveying an understanding of the situation. Appeal, however subtle, to the wretchedness, despair, and abuse of prostitutes can support a theoretical position only so far. Quite a few of Barry’s ideas are presented well, but the constant hammering away at oppression eventually paints a portrait of wretchedness and despair afflicting prostitute women without any counterbalancing concepts. Observations that might include enjoyment of prostitution in repartee with clients, or experience that might show pimps in a different light, are totally absent from her work.
If The Prostitution of Sexuality does in fact inspire a sense of pathos for women to make a point, it commits an informal fallacy of logic" because the issue becomes clouded with emotions that prevent an objective analysis of the situation. Observing poverty is almost always a situation that evokes emotions. Mixing poverty and prostitution together as one thing may give prostitution a different emotional appeal than if it were analyzed on its own. In an over-populated world, there may simply be situations that leave no other choices to women. The pain and suffering they experience might perhaps be realized with any choice they might make. Many probably enjoy what they do. In spite of the seemingly tragic aura of some of their lives, many prostitutes might be more accurately described as being friendly, warm, and sensitive human beings; not as women whose greatest value is to be pawns in a game of political chess for the empowerment of one political group over another. If the primary cause of predatory practices and trafficking is a function of over-population, educational deficiency, feudal social policy, or fierce social competition for attention at school, wealth, and jobs, the fact that prostitution thrives and subsequently degrades women is beside the point. Feminists are likely blaming the wrong people for the existence of a degradation that is a part of a vicious cycle of degradation that has its sources elsewhere.
Last edited by General Gonad; 01-05-2007 at 01:36 PM.
Some people want it both ways.
Some feminist believe that prostitution is a way for men to victimize women, then there are other feminist that will tell you that a woman should have the right to use her body in any way she wants to. Including renting it out for sexual pleasure.
There is a major flaw in all of those feminist ideas, and it is that male prostitution also exist, both gay and for females.
Also, sincerely, after hobbying for a number of years, I never felt that I abused anyone, but I have felt abused myself quite a number of times!
Feminists are just pissed because they couldn't even get laid by a horny chimp in the zoo, much less get paid for sex.