What exactly is prostitution? Most people immediately focus on the version of prostitution that we usually see portrayed in the media. This is about men going to brothels or picking up women standing by the road, and purchasing an hour of their time in exchange for engaging in various sexual activities.
The first thing wrong about this picture, however, is that in real life the prostitute and the customer may be either male or female or transgender.
The second thing to note is that the payment for services rendered sometimes occurs after the act, sometimes well after. That payment may not be in cash either, it might (for example) take the form of a gift or gifts. In such cases we begin to move into the realm of mistresses or ‘sugar babies‘ or ‘paid dating‘, for example.
From here on in we launch into even murkier philosophical waters. For example some people argue that spousal support payments as routinely ordered by divorce courts are, at least in some circumstances, a form of prostitution (delayed payment for services earlier rendered). Some feminists, like Jane Caro, have even suggested that marriage itself is a form of prostitution (see here and here). Others go further and say that any form of paid work is a form of prostitution, in that work involves someone selling the use of their body by the hour.
What is the feminist perspective on prostitution? Well it depends on the particular feminist you are speaking to, but most see it as highly undesirable and indicative of patriarchal exploitation of women. In keeping with feminist discussion on many other issues, feminists routinely ignore those aspects of reality that don’t support their narrative. Thus they assiduously look the other way when it comes to male prostitutes, woman who pay for prostitutes, women who operate trafficking or prostitution businesses, and women (with other employment/income options) who freely choose to work as prostitutes.
Driven by their narrative, feminists in various countries have lobbied to have the act of selling sex decriminalised whilst making the act of buying sex a crime (example). And again, in this particular debate both feminists and media alike keep discussion focussed on female prostitutes and male clients.
In a September 2014 discussion on an Australian TV program, Kay Hymowitz raised feminist hackles by questioning why prostitution warranted being a major feminist issue, at least in part because of the relatively small number of women who were prostitutes. One of the other panelists then stated that it warranted being a major issue because one in four men used prostitutes (cue applause). So it’s all about the ‘menz’, huh? Comments like this reinforce the view that a significant factor underlying female opposition to prostitution is the notion of devaluing women’s ‘sexual currency‘.
Please review the selected linked articles below for further information:
Sex worker clients are increasingly women – and they’re seeking more than pleasure (9 October 2019) Australia
Spanish court rules union of sex workers illegal (21 November 2018)
Australian sex workers have a message for women in relationships: ‘Understand your man’ (23 March 2017)
Legislation to clear prostitutes of criminal charges while shifting the blame to the nearest man (14 January 2017) USA. Reddit discussion thread with linked article
‘Why should I wait any longer?’: 20-year-old student auctions virginity online for $230,000 (28 September 2016)
Decriminalization of Sex Work Is Not Associated with More Men Paying for Sex: Results from the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships (24 February 2016)
Eat, pay, love: A new app lets women charge for a night out (14 July 2016) with related Reddit discussion thread here
Daddies, “Dates,” and the Girlfriend Experience: Welcome to the New Prostitution Economy (7 July 2016)
‘Do you think we’ll pay for bad things we’ve done?’ Revelations of Aussie sex tourists in Thailand (3 July 2016) Feminist blogger serves up clickbait journalism that vilifies (white) men whilst promoting a biased misrepresentation of the Thai sex trade. See related Reddit discussion thread here, and follow-up post from the Ms Swilks here.
It is both an affront and most ironic that the author implies that expat men committing suicide in Thailand are doing so out of feelings of guilt (supposedly due to exploiting bar girls). These suicides are a real issue, but I would wager that the cause is the legacy of a life-time of exposure to the toxic anti-male environment in their countries of origin, this leading to substance abuse and general feelings of failure and hopelessness.
In reality many western feminists could not give a damn about the welfare of Asian sex-workers. Their real agenda is male demonization esp. in relating to curtailing the expression of male sexuality. Some background on that aspect in this blog post.
The author of this article conveniently fails to mention that:
- plenty of western women also travel to Asia for sex (both commercial and non-commercial)
- many Thai prostitutes are male or transgender (and are apparently not worth ‘rescuing’?)
- many if not most men who travel to Asia don’t have sex with prostitutes
It is absurd to suggest that “Australian men [are] among the largest contributors to sex tourism in southeast Asia”. The reality is that Caucasian clients are simply the icing on the cake of the Thai sex industry, and Australians only one of many groups represented amongst tourist/expat clients.
Many (or even most) of these so-called sex-worker “rescue” organisations are either woefully ineffective in terms of getting girls out of the industry permanently – or they are out-and-out scams (example).
The dangers of rebranding prostitution as ‘sex work’ (7 June 2016) By feminist activist Kat Banyard
Sex trade surivors deserve a chance to speak (8 April 2016) Australia. Imagine feminists decrying those villains who would deny others a platform to speak. Oh the irony!
Why France Is Adopting A New Law That Criminalizes The Clients, Not Prostitutes (8 April 2016) with related Reddit discussion thread here
Prostitution row: A ‘male sex deficit’ – what about us horny women? (6 August) and related reddit discussion thread
Amnesty International says prostitution is a human right – but it’s wrong (29 July 2015) and related reddit discussion thread
Over half of UK prostitutes find their work rewarding (5 March 2015) Short video
Tag The Sponsor Exposes The Depravity Of Modern Women (2 March 2015)
A letter to my MP about laws on prostitution (12 November 2014)
Push to ban Swedes buying sex abroad (7 October 2014)
Who runs the girls? (20 September 2014)
Canada is following the wrong lead on prostitution (12 August 2014)
The truth about radical feminism (15 July 2014)
All about the men (9 May 2014)
Men have a right to prostitutes? Really? (23 May 2014)
Conflict and agency among sex workers and pimps: A closer look at domestic minor sex trafficking (28 March 2014)
Reddit discussion thread on European moves to legalise prostitution but make buying sex illegal (the thread links to an article dated 26 February 2014)
“Getting Away” With Hating It: Consent in the Context of Sex Work (21 March 2013)
Do female pimps do it better? (17 September 2009)
The relationship between prostitution and spousal support/alimony
Marriage is prostitution (A Youtube video)
Other related issues
Radical feminists’ objection to sex work is profoundly un-feminist (9 August 2017)
Why Cambodia’s sex workers don’t need to be saved (23 March 2016)
Feminism and male trafficking (17 December 2015)
When Rhode Island accidentally legalised prostitution, rape decreased sharply (17 July 2014)
Youtube video called ‘Sex, lies and Rinsing Guys’