Aside

This is an edited version of Maureen Master’s comment on “The trouble with Twitter feminism”

“In the short time I have been following some of these exchanges on twitter, I have noticed that baseless charges of racism against radical feminists are part of a wider strategy to discount radical feminism’s critique of the sex industry by painting radical feminists as a homogenous group of pearl-clutching, bourgeois white women who want to both silence women of color and “rescue” non-white, non-Western women from prostitution. This narrative completely discounts and erases the critically important roles of radical women of color in the struggle against sexual exploitation. For example, in the midst of the frenzied (and mindless) twitter assault on Meghan, the radical feminist group Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI) issued a press release condemning the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Bedford case. This press release expressed support for the Nordic model and urged “all those who seek justice, freedom, and equality to view prostitution as a colonial system and as a form of violence against women and girls that must be abolished.” The press release was also published on Feminist Current, but it does not fit with the pro-sex industry lobby that paints radical feminists as only privileged white women so it was ignored by them, as was the position of the Asian Women Coalition ending Prostitution, which also supports the Nordic model and has highlighted the sexualization of racism in prostitution.

When the sex industry lobby paints radical feminism as a bourgeois white women’s movement, they erase Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a woman of color and France’s Minister of Women’s Rights who fought tirelessly to ensure that France adopted the Nordic model; they erase Kamala Devi Harris, a woman of color and San Francisco, California district attorney who has done more than any other official in the United States to educate the public about the reality of prostitution and who passionately opposed efforts to legalize prostitution in San Francisco; they erase the women of Apne Aap, an NGO founded by Indian women in prostitution, which supports the Nordic model and has started a global campaign to oppose the move of some UN agencies’ to promote the decriminalization of pimping and buying sex. The list of women who are erased by the pro-sex industry narrative goes on and on.

Listen to what Alice Walker said in an interview in Ms. Magazine when asked about the resurgence of prostitution in Cuba:

“When I see older white men with these primarily young, educated women of color, it is hard on the spirit. The women are too naive and inexperienced to know that they are engaging in an ancient system that oppresses women. They think of what they’re doing as a lark because it enables them to get a new tube of lipstick or some shampoo. But it’s very dangerous for them.”

Is Alice Walker a moralizing “whorephobe” who is denying young women of color their agency by claiming they are the victims of “false consciousness”? Or is she engaging in a critical and radical analysis of racial and sexual oppression in the institution of prostitution? The sex industry says the former; radical feminism says the latter. But it is in the interest of the sex industry to ignore, erase, or misrepresent, Alice Walker and other radical women of color, because to acknowledge them is to acknowledge that the insights and contributions of radical women of color are vital in the fight against sexual exploitation and that radical women of color bring a critical analysis of racism and colonialism to the discussion that is often otherwise missed.

This narrative means to erase radical women of color. That is its purpose. If the sex industry can characterize feminist opposition to it as coming only from privileged white women who are on a rescue mission, it is much easier for them to claim to speak on behalf of those most affected by the sex industry – i.e., poor women of color.

As you have probably figured out by now I could go on and on, but I will stop here and simply say that for me the erasure of radical women of color is the central issue, as well as the erasure of the voices of survivors, which I have not touched on here but is also critical.”

Aside

Special Johns: Mr. Disabled Dude

Sex trade propagandists endorse the sexual use of prostituted women in a myriad of seemingly creative ways. One of these is by putting forward the notion that sex with prostituted women may be the only path for a disabled man seeking sex.. This pulls a sympathetic heartstring in many people working towards a more egalitarian society; no one should be discriminated against, based on ability, right?[1] I question the notion that legitimizing the sex trade for men on behalf of men with disabilities is the bold path to equality.

One place the sex-trade propaganda surrounding this issue came to my attention was in the thread comments at this post over at Feminist Current.  More than one “john” spoke up, saying they paid for because they was unable to form a sexual relationship with a single woman. Specifically, one man opined that his physical appearance is so shocking no woman will sleep with him. No woman he hasn’t paid that is. Yet, this same man goes on to state he has never forced women to do anything they don’t want, nor is he is  asserting any form of power-over. After all, he pays them $200 an hour, so he is really the one getting ripped off. Never mind that this is typical “john” aka rapist speak: “the woman is controlling me” “the woman made me do it:, “she got more out of it than I did”.  It’s enough to make one think Mr. Disabled John isn’t so different from your average sex predator/purchaser after all.

So, he can’t get any woman to sleep with him. And many, if not most, people consider sex an important, enjoyable, part of their life. Yet, there are many, many people who are celibate, whether by choice or otherwise. In my own life, I know a man with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He is paralyzed from the waist down, so presumably, he can’t have sex. This man also has one of the most positive attitudes of anyone I’ve met. True, he isn’t sexual. Instead, he spends his time making things more accessible for people with disabilities. This man told me he doesn’t go to MS support groups, because they are too negative. He describes rooms of people fully sighted and able to walk, complaining bitterly about every negative thing in their life that week. His response? “If these people didn’t have MS, they’d find something else to complain about.” He further went on to tell me about a friend of his with an extremely severe, rare form of MS. This man’s entire body is paralyzed. He is in his forties, and is reliant on his mother for care.  He has also found incredibly creative ways to find enjoyment, including sky diving (!!!). Presumably, neither of these men are spending laborious amounts of time and energy whining on feminist blogs about how horrible their life is because they can’t get laid. Rather, they are just going out and doing things they enjoy, and in the case of the first man working to build a more just society at the same time.

Moving onto the second argument from Mr. Disabled John on Feminist Current–Sex is a need, sez he. Not to be reduced to a mere want, it is actually necessary for life. Well, yeah, in a certain sense, pro-creative hetersex is indeed necessary for the continuation of the human species, but somehow, I don’t think that was what he was referring to. What he meant was that sex was a need for him personally, going so far as to invoke Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What then, does Mr. Disabled John make of women and men that are celibate? Are these people not really humans after all, but some sort of super-human entities? He is capable of getting himself off, but sex with oneself,  the one person who could choose to love him, isn’t what he’s after.

As with the other johns AKA sex predators who post on FC and other feminist blogs, including and perhaps especially those written by women who have exited the sex trade, Mr. Disabled John S. Predator goes on to assert how he is a gentle john, never forcing a prostituted women to do anything she doesn’t want to. As if prostitution itself isn’t coerced. Disabled men, certainly the type whining on blogs about how much their disability negatively impacts them, must realize at some level that people do not leave in a vacuum. Disabled people know that while disability may be physically real, it is especially the real-world, social, impacts of the way society is designed that are most damaging. Well, dudes, the same goes for women. Women, most certainly those in the various strata of the sex trade, are there first and foremost as women in a deeply sex unequal society. I’m not going to go over all the reasons women get into the sex trade; this is feminist 101 material and can easily be found elsewhere.

The bottom line, disabled men, as much as society is constructed for abled-bodied people, you are choosing to take advantage of people, those called women, ultimately because you are men. What is wrong with you that makes you think you have that right? See all the rage I feel towards you as a woman??,I imagine you feel that towards the able-bodied, and justifiably so. Join a movement for an egalitarian society, one where all people are treated compassionately and with dignity. The very dignity you so long for.

I am further reminded of hearing about a group of poor white men holding signs saying, “We may be poor, but at least we’re not black.” In other words, these men are clinging to their privilege over blacks, instead of working towards a more egalitarian society for all.

It appears most “johns” who post on the forums of exited women, as well as feminist abolitionist blogs, believe they are unique. They are all different than the sex buyer who coerces a woman into doing sex acts she doesn’t want to do. That men, let alone male sex buyers, may not have an accurate idea of what coercion is in the real world doesn’t seem to occur to these johns. Hell, almost all rapists of non-prostituted women and children don’t believe they did anything wrong; the victim “wanted it.” If they truly can’t find any woman without pay to have sex with, why do they think a prostituted woman “wants” to have sex with them?

Ultimately, men with disabilities have a choice: they can align with other marginalized people, including women, and especially prostituted women, or they can exercise the power-over that all men can choose to abuse. And persons outside of the sex trade can choose to stop using “those poor men with disabilities” as a defense for the sexual use of women in prostitution.  Interestingly, these people never discuss disabled women’s “right” to sex; it’s men that are supposedly unable to go without. Men’s right to sexual access is not more important than women’s right to live as human beings.


[1] Yet for some reason these people are not the ones going out and having sex with men who “need” it.