I was overjoyed to join a Facebook group dedicated to radfems who are not transphobic when someone uttered the phrase “consenting sex workers.” Dear goddess, why? The funfems are everywhere!
I responded with this:
“The phrase “consenting sex workers” is so fucked up. We live in a world where women are expected to be sexually available to men at all times, and where women are kept in relative poverty to men, and where women are economically and socially coerced into prostitution, and some outright forced. This idea of consenting to sex work is a funfeminist idea. It’s just like “I choose to wear high heels, and if I author this choice, I therefore can’t be a victim of it” as Twisty puts it. You’re not really freely choosing something that the patriarchy makes practically compulsory, and it’s definitely not feminist to advocate that we do exactly what the patriarchy wants and call it “feminism”.”
Well, guess what. I was called “whorephobic” and “1970s”. This is absurd. I was born in the mid-eighties, and therefore have never even set foot in the 1970s. Even my feminist ideas come from the 1990s and 2000s, as I’ve rarely read anything that was written before then. Furthermore, I’m not at all scared of prostituted women, nor do I hate them.
There are plenty of people who hate prostituted women. The religious right, the police, the johns! But not feminists. There are no feminists, liberal or radical, who hate prostituted women. The phrase “whorephobic,” when slung at a radical feminist, really means this: “How dare you point out that my job is exploitative!” I’m not even sure why people object to others pointing out that their job is exploitative. It’s not an insult toward the individual, it’s an observation about the system in which we live. My own job is exploitative, and if someone pointed this out I wouldn’t call them “office worker phobic”. Why would I? Obviously, if it were not for economic necessity, I wouldn’t force myself out of bed before the crack of dawn each day to go sit in a cubicle and listen to customers rant over the phone about how much they hate the company. Why would I do that if I wasn’t being coerced?
Invariably, when a funfem throws out the word “whorephobic” it’s because there is a dispute over the idea of agency. Invariably, the funfeminist thinks she has complete agency, and therefore is not being exploited or abused or raped. But no, women do not have complete agency in a patriarchy. I would go as far as to say that no member of the working class, female or male, has complete agency in our system. Anyway, here I will have to quote Twisty, and if you haven’t read this post of hers, please do so immediately:
If we don’t think we are victims, we won’t be victims.
You know; only sick people take pills; therefore, if I don’t take pills, I won’t be sick.
What this argument fails to consider, regardless of a few funfeminists’ purported choice to choose choices, is that, hourly, billions of women worldwide suffer everything from discrimination to murder exclusively because of their sex. Women cannot choose the “I’m-not-a-victim” choice. Not even the funfeminists can choose it, not really, because when stuff like “you cannot rape me” or “my appearance is meaningless” or “the state cannot interfere with the contents of my own personal uterus” is not on the menu of choices, no real agency exists.
“Spinster Aunt Reads Comments on Dawkins Website, Wrinkles Lip”
I did mention this to the funfem in question, and she completely dismissed it. She said that everybody has agency, and get this, our agency is located in the neocortex. Awesome! So gals, next time a dude rapes you or abuses you and gets away with it, just use your neocortex, and voilà! Problem solved!
There is another line that I hear every time the word “whorephobic” comes out. It’s the idea that “sex work” is not “exploitative” because that would make every other job exploitative too. What on Earth makes anyone think that other jobs are not exploitative? Of course other jobs are exploitative! One of the successes of the capitalist system is convincing the working class that we are not oppressed. Everyone who is forced to sell their labour to a company in order to have a place to live and food to eat is being oppressed. You’ve got one rich guy who pays dirt cheap for other people’s labour and gets to keep a whole bunch of profit for himself, and all those other people have no choice but to keep going to work and making money for someone else to keep because if they don’t they’ll have nothing to eat and no place to live. If that’s not exploitation and abuse, I’ll eat my foot.
Obviously, I deleted myself from this group. I don’t need antifeminist ideas coming right up in my Facebook news feed. There’s enough of that shit everywhere else. The only reaction to my leaving was the thought that it’s too bad I “flounced” because I should have stuck around to “learn something”. No thanks, gals, I don’t want to “learn” anything else from people who think that women have agency in a patriarchy and freely choose prostitution. I have definitely already “learned” this idea, and all other antifeminist ideas, and thankfully, I have managed to unlearn a lot of them.