Some More Education On Sex Positive Feminism And Sex Worker Activism From Carol Queen (Read And Learn, ZJ And Heather!!)

I had originally posted this as a page to my SmackDog Chronicles blog back in 2005-ish…it immediately came to mind when thinking of a response to Heather and ZJ.

 

Sex Radical Politics, Sex-Positive Thought,

and Whore Stigma

by Dr. Carol Queen

(From Whores and Other Feminists, ed. Jill Nagle (New York, Routledge Press, 1977, pp. 125-135)

I GROW MORE DISAFFECTED FROM POLITICS – both traditional and progressive – with every passing year.  Only one sort of politics keeps my attention, feels relevant, stays vital:  the politics of sex.  I don’t mean primarily feminism, the politics of gender, but rather what some people call sex radicalism.  Sex radical thought departs from both right- and most left-wing ideologies by honoring sex and desire and by posing the power relations of sexual orientation and behavior vis-à-vis the culture’s traditional sexual mores. What is illegal?  What is despised, and why?  What is transgressive; and what systems are shored up by the boundaries we transgress?

Sex Radicalism and Feminism: Not Always in Bed Together

As we will see, sex radical thought is both deeply feminist and also profoundly challenging to many attitudes and assumptions promoted by contemporary mainstream feminism.  While I continue to identify with feminism, I also regard it with some disappointment: though I feel that most of its core principles go without saying, I certainly do not feel their unmodified relevance to all areas of my life, particularly to sex.

Feminism has greatly influenced the intellectual development of sex radicalism, many of whose earlier theorists – Gayle Rubin, Pat Califia, and Carole Vance, to name just a few – were (and are) outspoken feminist women.  Feminism itself, however, does not embrace sex radicalism completely; nor is a feminist political analysis that is untouched by sex radicalism enough to unravel the various sources of sexual – not just gender – oppression.  Gayle Rubin notes in her influential essay “Thinking Sex” (1) that sex radicalism’s analysis focuses on oppression sourced in “the stigma of erotic dissidence”; feminism, by contrast, is a theoretical attempt to analyze and act against gender oppression, having no position on sex except where sexual issues are seen as devolving from gender inequality.  Feminism finds no shortage in gender-linked problems with sex – rape, spousal abuse and abortion rights are three examples that have spurred much feminist organizing and action – though I will argue that it is possible to cast this net too widely, seeing gender as the primary or sole issue where matters are more complex, as in lesbian oppression, S/M, pornography, and prostitution (just a few issues that have challenged mainstream feminism).

I myself grew up into feminist thought when it was fresh from its dalliance with ‘60s-style sexual liberation ideology.  A woman ought to be able to do what she wants with her body and her sexuality, I read in books like Sisterhood is Powerful and Our Bodies, Ourselves.  In my wholehearted agreement these became my feminist foundation.  I was treading water in a sea of hormones, beginning to experiment with partner sex, learning to masturbate, slyly managing to access forbidden books.  I wanted to know about sex; I wanted to feel powerful in it; I wanted to experiment, have lots of lovers, love both men and women; to be sexually free in a way I knew most women of my mother’s generation – and certainly my mother herself – were not.

For a time it seemed – at least, I believed – that feminism was my straight-forward ally in these desires.  But mainstream feminists, as it turned out, had never been entirely been comfortable with sex.  While I was happily devouring Sisterhood is Powerful at the age of thirteen, the National Organization for Women was trying to purge lesbians from its membership; not long after, Betty Dodson caused a heated stir – accompanied by walkouts – at one of NOW’s national meetings when she showed slides of vulvas.  Sexual representation, even that of women, was controversial within orthodox feminism long before the mainstream media discovered Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon.

The trail of my sexual fascinations, no less than my sexual politics, led me into the gay and lesbian community; and I stayed there from late adolescence through my twenties.  There I learned a lot about sexual freedom and living as an outlaw; I was out as a lesbian in a small city, where I got my share of hate mail and death threats.  I learned that many people are profoundly unwilling to let others live their own (especially sexual) lives.  I saw the politics not only in gender but also in sexual behavior and sexual identity.  Within a culture, power accrues not only according to class, race, and gender, but also by virtue of sexual orientation and behavior, actual and presumed.  Uneven access to power formed the very basis of the way my generation learned to understand politics, even though within feminism the phrase “sexual politics” meant something quite different than the politicized sexual dramas I saw playing out all around me.

The next fork in the road came when I explored S/M with a lover.  She was too nervous about other people’s opinions to let anyone know about our experiments in power-erotica, although I had heard rumors that in fact there was a small lesbian S/M support group within our community.  I learned from this how fearful of discovery over a sexual “kink” even someone who was sexually well-adjusted – and already living counter to social norms – could be.  Not long after, I began reading in the lesbian press that many women all across the country were conducting similar experiences; and that my lover had in fact been right to be worried about our community’s response.  The lesbian/feminist community was being torn apart by heated disagreements about what constituted appropriate lesbian sex.  In this context, more than the Maoism that had also influenced early radical feminism, I became familiar with the term “politically incorrect”. (That this term has been co-opted and used against feminists and progressives is only one of the bizarre political reversals faced by those of us whose politics were forged in ‘60s era notions of liberation.)

I had now learned that a key point in my understanding of feminism – that it is my and all women’s right to explore and define our own sexuality – was not universally accepted in the community of women who called themselves feminists. Arguments raged about sex and about sexual representation….that is, pornography.  Increasingly I found myself on the side that was being termed politically incorrect.  So when I heard the term “sex radical” for the first time, I knew before I even heard the definition that it applied to me.

Sex Radical, Sex-Positive

Sex radicalism means to me that I am automatically on the side of the minority sexual viewpoint or behavior; because our culture carefully and narrowly circumscribes what is acceptable, much of the sexual world gets left on the wrong side of the fence.  Sex radicalism also means that when I hear the voices of those who have been left out of the discussion, I choose to believe what they tell me about their own lives, even if it contradicts some “expert’s” opinion; it also means that I maintain my own sexual integrity, if not cultural popularity, when I follow my own desires and trust where they lead.

Sex radicalism is also profoundly feminist, and with good reason.  While many men are oppressed (in reality or potentially) for their sexual desires and practices, women are encouraged to never explore or experience sexual feelings in the first place.  We are supposed to exist sexually within a (married, monogamous) relationship with a man, or else not at all. When we do step across the boundaries of compulsory heterosexuality and “good girl” propriety, we are often treated viciously.  Women need each other’s support (although we do not always get it) to navigate the rough waters of living nontraditional sexual lives.  Mainstream feminists learned this lesson from lesbians, who would not withdraw their demand for support from feminist organizations and institutions; it has not, however, extrapolated what it has learned to women elsewhere on the sexual fringe.

Upon further exploring sex radical thought, I learned the concept of “sex-negativity”, which most of us in this erotically benighted culture drink in along with our mother’s milk.  I learned that there is indeed a community of people who are sex-positive, who don’t denigrate, medicalize, or demonize any form of sexual expression that is not nonconsensual.  In our general society – where sex is sniggered at, commodified, and guiltily, surreptitiously engaged in – being outspokenly sex-positive is sex radical indeed; for even those of us who love sex are usually encouraged to find someone else’s preferred sexual expression abhorrent.

I discovered sex-positive thought in various places: through my study of sexology; through my friendships with sexually adventurous others, especially gay men; in the leather community; and, perhaps most importantly, through meeting women who were both outspokenly sexual and feminist and who refused to let one quality cancel out the other.  These “sex-positive feminists,” as many of us have taken to call ourselves, embrace the feminist analysis of gender inequality, but challenge the silence or conservative positions of Dworkin- and MacKinnon-influenced feminism on sexual issues.  Many sex positive feminists are veterans of the feminist sex ward over pornography and S/M; and many are current or former sex workers.  Coming to a radical sexual world view, especially through my contacts with women who could relate to and who could mentor me through my confusion about sex and feminism, actually proved to be excellent preparation for becoming a whore.  When I did so, I discovered a world very different from the one for which the vague warnings of mainstream feminists had prepared me.  My comments are sourced in the whores’ world I have known; I do not intend to encompass the experience of those whores who do not work voluntarily, who are underage, and who act out the negative expectations imposed on them by a sexist and sex-negative culture.

 

Why Whores Need Sex-Positive Thought

Sources as disparate and discordant as Hollywood movies, right-wing Christians, and prominent feminists tell us that the sex industry make a career of pandering to men’s desires because, as victims of histories of abuse, we have no boundaries and sometimes no choices.  For some of us there is some truth to this; there are certainly people whose mental and spiritual health would benefit from getting out of the business, and they are well served by support in doing so.  But we learn next to nothing about those women for whom sex work is an excellent occupational choice and nothing at all about male sex workers – isn’t it a bit ironic that men are present in the sex industry in every capacity that women are, yet their lives, failing to fit neatly into theory, are simply ignored?

One orthodox feminist argument against whoring is that it gives men further sexual access to women; leaving aside whether reality is so simplifiable, how might they choose to argue against men having access to men?  And why aren’t more of them clamoring for women to have equal access to sexual entertainment and service?  These questions point to more fruitful areas of exploration about the nature of female and male sexual socialization, the reasons male patronize prostitutes (of whatever gender) and the place of sexual pleasure in male and female lives.  Sex-positive feminists find these questions compelling; mainstream feminists often do not even ask them.

As an activist in the sex-positive community, I have met well over a hundred prostitutes, a few dozen dominatrices, and a number of models and porn actresses – far more than have most anti-sex work activists and even most sex researchers.  Just one factor stands out to distinguish those who live well, with no loss of self-esteem, from those who may find sex work a difficult or even damaging career choice.  Most of the former have sufficient sex information and are sex-positive.  Most, too, are staunchly feminist, even though some of them refuse to embrace the term, associating it with women who do not understand their circumstances and who do not support their right to work and control their own bodies.  Most of the latter have internalized negative attitudes about sex, especially divergent sexual behavior, and certainly about sex work itself.

In this respect, the latter are no different from those who have devoted their lives to agitating against sex work.  None of these crusaders, whether they emerge from the Religious Right or the feminist Left, voices respect for sexuality.  (Rubin, in fact, calls mainstream feminism a “system of sexual judgment”(2) — an accusation its adherents have not yet managed to disprove.

If these activists truly wanted to improve the lot of sex workers (which, of course, they don’t; they merely want to do away with the sex industry), they would insist upon thorough and nonjudgmental sex information for clients as well as whores.  One basic piece of information would be that women – and whores – do not exist to be sexually used by men, but that any sexual interaction, including a paid one, benefits from negotiation.  This would facilitate the climate of respect that anti-sex work demagogues claim is absent in a paid act of sexual entertainment or gratification.  The paucity of sex-positive discussion about what is possible in a commodified context often negatively affects sex workers themselves.

In fact, when we whores see a client or when a peepshow worker or stripper interacts with a customer, the presence or absence of respect has much to do with how sex-positive the client or customer is – and something to do with our own sex-positivity. It also depends upon each person’s degree of self respect and presence or absence of sexual shame.  Men who have taken (and internalized) the most damaging blows around their right to sexual pleasure are among the most unpleasant clients to deal with.  Unfortunately, the well-publicized opinions of the anti-sex work crowd are highly judgmental about the motives of those who pay for sexual pleasure and entertainment.  I have encountered many men whose self-acceptance – and social skills – have been impaired by hearing too much media credence given to the opinions of people who are in no position to make even an educated guess about what friendly relations between whores and their clients would be like.  Sex-positive feminists are only now beginning to get enough media attention that their message can trickle down to these men and to other women.

Combined with our treatment by a sex-negative law enforcement and legal system and the notorious tendency of the police to think of aggressions against us as something other than crimes, many of us are routinely victimized – by police if not by our clients and customers.  Meanwhile, most of society looks the other way, including many feminists who are quick to point out how egregiously our clients are “abusing” us simply by giving us money for sex of erotic entertainment.  Feminists should be among the first to clamor for decriminalized prostitution, yet many remain silent and even vigilant in the fight to further criminalize prostitution.  Feminists should raise their voices in protest when police abuse whores or ignore our need for police protection.  Yet too often these voices are silent, even though these socially sanctioned abuses fall disproportionally on those most lacking feminist and other support: women of color, poor women, transgendered women.

Even when a supportive hand is extended, it often comes with a stipulation: get out of the business of do without help.  The not-so-silent message is: if you elect to stay in the sex industry you can expect abuse, and we can (will) do nothing to help you.  Parallel this to the deep (and deeply legitimate) concern feminists have shown to women in battered and abusive relationships; current thinking in the battered women’s movement emphasizes that women be supported where they are, not offered conditional assistance.

Some of us want out of the business, but many of us want to see conditions improve, with everybody else out of the way.  All of us would be served by a dose of sex-positive thought, which might allow us – many for the first time – to think of what we do as a professional service, not demeaning, on-the-fringe behavior.  An ever-increasing number of us want our sexually schizophrenic culture to look at the realities, not the lurid myths, of what we do; and to see that when sexual pleasure is seen as positive and honorable goal, much of the negative fruit of the sex industry is deprived of soil in which to grow.

Why Johns Need Sex-Positive Prostitutes

One stereotype has it that sex workers provide sexual relief to society’s “wretched”: the old, the unattractive, the unpartnered.  This myth can fetch us a certain amount of grudging respect even as it lets others (who can’t imagine having sex with such people) distance themselves from us – as if only the young and the firm are allowed to have a sexuality in the first place, and as if whores render a service by keeping unacceptable sexualities out of the public eye.  Certainly we count among our clients those who could fall outside the rather narrow limits of the erotically entitled.  We also count among our clients the married, the well-off, the conventionally attractive, the famous, the socially skilled: the inheritors of patriarchy.  Whores know, if no one else in society is willing to admit, that outside their relations with us, these men often have as little luck getting their erotic needs met as their “less fortunate” brothers.

One often frequently hears that whores are sought by kinky clients whose desires are unacceptable  to other people.  This, I think, is the source of part of the contention that clients want to abuse us; in spite of the fact that all over the country women are slurping on their partners’ cocks for free, experimenting with bondage, and arranging or at least fantasizing about threesomes, a large percentage of the U.S. population still considers activities like these beyond the pale, degrading, and abusive, even when consensually performed.  In fact many clients bring socially unacceptable desires to sex workers – or at least desires that are unacceptable in their own bedrooms. And until the climates in their bedrooms change, sex professionals will be among  their only outlets.  The anti-whore sentiment that grows out of the conviction that there is only one kind of appropriate sex and that all others are sinful and/or abusive (depending on the sort of morality embraced by the critic) is precisely the cultural norm in opposition to which sex radical politics grew.

Sex radicals see as a problem – and a source of oppression – in any one’s conviction that their own sexual patterns are right while someone else’s are wrong. Getting between the lines of the anti-sex-work ideologues’ reasoning, we find various concerns embedded but not often articulated: a married man is wrong to take his sexual desires to anyone but his wife; a married man is wrong to have sexual desires if his wife isn’t comfortable with them; oral sex is depraved; giving men an outlet for blowjobs will just make the man want them at home, and blowjobs are demeaning to women; sex is demeaning unless a romantic bond (or a Christian bond) exist between a couple; giving a man an outlet for any kind of sex, including sexual looking [voyeurism], will make him want more sex/kinkier sex, if a prostitute isn’t immediately available, he will harass/rape other women; getting sex from a professional is the same as infidelity; men should not have access to sexual variety; prostitutes carry HIV (to “innocent victims”).  (This says nothing of the numerous married men who actually patronize male whores; but again, this common situation is scarcely ever recognized and commented on by sex-work abolitionists, especially feminist ones.)

It is as though sex, especially male sex, is a bubbling cauldron of trouble, and if we don’t keep a lid on it, awful things will result.

In fact, this is precisely the lesson my mother tried to teach me. Her example, however, was not inspiring; and if all the women who rail against the sex industry have sexualities as closed as hers, the culture is in a painful, festering state indeed.  “Do you know,” she whispered to me wide-eyed some months after my father’s death, “your father tried to convince me to perform oral sex on him six times during our marriage?”

“Dad,” I thought, “you animal!  Once every five years!  Have you no self-control?”  More than once I’ve wished my distressingly buttoned-down dad – whose sexual unhappiness rubbed off on everyone in my family – had turned to a whore to let off some steam.

Like my parents, a majority of our clients have marriages marked by desire discrepancies and difficult communications about sex.  Many women have grown up being fearful about sex, either because of unpleasant experiences or because these feelings were inculcated in them at (sometimes literally) their mothers’ knees.  Others have grown up believing that sexual experimentation is wrong.  Feminism, when it successfully reaches to these women at all, rarely contradicts the deep sexual antipathy they carry.

The availability of paid sexual gratification and entertainment does nothing to improve these partners’ sexual relationships except, perhaps, to take the pressure off; it has been argued that having a valve on the pressure cooker actually preserves marriages like this by minimizing the impact of their sexual contradictions.  I’m inclined to believe this is true, but it still doesn’t cast a very rosy light on the situation; for one thing, are the women’s sexual desires being met in relationships such as these?  Not very likely!  My answer to the problem – universal sex-positive education and sexual empowerment for women – lies far away in the horizon.

Wives Need – and Can Learn From – Whores, Too

In the meantime, I think the unequal lot of these couples could be balanced somewhat by a growing availability of sexual entertainment for the women whose partners are going out and getting theirs by hiring professionals. Of course, this scenario would involve that our culture take a whole new look at women and sex.  The gander may not be ready to share the playground with the goose; but, just as importantly, women may not be prepare to take into the marketplace desires they’ve been trained to romanticize.  Much feminist theory has spotlit the ill effects on women’s self-esteem and autonomy of channeling sexuality into a relationship; but few feminists have suggested women could learn something by having more options for sexual fulfillment in the marketplace.  As with the question of pornography and its appeal/availability to women, many sex-positive feminists support more female-centered choices in sexual service and entertainment, the proliferation of which might well affect the entire sex industry for the better.  And if conflating sex and romance keeps women available for marriage (usually implying their acceptance of male control over their sexuality), how might detaching sex from romance serve to change what women desire from sex?

Viewed from a sex radical lens, whore stigma derives from whores’ sexual availability and presumes copious sexual activity.  From a sex-positive feminist perspective, most whores are available and sexually active on their own terms. It’s no wonder that whore stigma attaches itself more viciously to women than to men, for in this society a sexually emancipated woman is threatening and despised; neither “slut” or “whore” is a name most women want to wear.  Sex workers cross this line, either proudly or not, for money, adventure, or rebellion.  Would our client’s wives – or even many mainstream feminists – be willing to brave that stigma for a chance at sexual agency?  What about for the promise of greater solidarity among all women?  Early feminism tried to erase the whore stigma for just that reason; today’s feminist orthodoxy would often rather do away with whores.  Any issues that divides women – and this is one of the most potent divisions of all – is crucial for feminists to consider and resolve.

Other whores won’t necessarily agree with me, but I’d be glad to see sex work wither away because everyone became so sex-positive that a market for our services no longer existed. Perhaps then we could become the sexual healers and sex educators that many of us believe we (potentially or already) are.  Of course, we’re nowhere close to that utopia; in the meantime sex workers can help facilitate gratification for those who wouldn’t ordinarily get it, and we can all – whores, sex radicals, sex-positive feminists, and critics alike – continue to ask questions whose answers point to an increasing level of comfort and safety for sex workers (as well as, incidentally, for our clients).

 

A Sex Radical, Sex-Positive, Whore’s-Eye View

The stereotype about sex workers that says we are driven to this demeaning lifestyle by a damaged history must be exposed as the sex-negative and, yes, sexist crap that it so often is. (How eerily this parallels what used to be said about lesbians?)  This image is neither universally truthful nor even helpful for analyzing the situations of those whores whom it describes, unless the question is also asked: What separates those sex workers who experience their lives negatively from those who do not?  Abolitionists won’t ask this question, because it implies that there might be a strategy for creating a positive sex industry, but we whores and all our supporters, including sex-positive feminists, must ask it continually.  Abundant and accurate sex information, as I noted above, is a key determinant.

And while I maintain that it should be everyone’s right to do sex work, I hope people will consider their motives for it whether they are thinking about entering the sex industry or are already a veteran.  It is never too late for anyone to begin to root out his or her sex-negativity, and the whores who haven’t done so – those whose damaged lives and horror stories are so eagerly pointed to by the anti-sex-work activists, and even those who disrespect their clients’ desires – may lack the most important qualifications for the job.  It is the responsibility of the culture to work on its negative attitudes about sex and us and our work; but it is whores’ responsibility to work on our negative attitudes about ourselves.

The movement for sex workers’ rights should acknowledge that we have professional responsibilities and should assist every whore in meeting them.  Giving sexuality, the basis of our trade, the respect it deserves must be foremost among these.  In fact, as of this writing the North American Task Force on Prostitution has a subcommittee that is developing a code of ethics for whores.

Women and men who do sex and sexual entertainment for a living are targeted by laws as well as social opprobrium, and so are our clients and customers – though the latter form a shadowy, hard-to-recognize army.We are regarded more as outlaws than they are, and this can be one of our strengths:seeing, often with the support of other sex workers, that we constitute a group with different sexual norms, oppressed because of these differences, is the first step toward embracing radical politics and understanding that we are only one group out of many that have been culturally labeled and mistreated.A feminist analysis, too, helps us see ourselves as a group with shared circumstances, one for whom gender is by no means irrelevant.Certainly, we should have pride in ourselves and hopefully in what we do, and sex radical politics, along with a sex-positive belief system and a sex-positive feminist analysis, can go a long way toward ensuring that we develop that pride.

There is no sexual majority, although the whole society conspires to behave as though there were.Our clients – mostly married heterosexual men who show an illusory exterior of “normalcy” (whatever that useless concept means) – are also cross-dressers, anally erotic, bisexual, fetishistic, wrapped up in wild fantasies no traditional heterosexual marriage could ever contain.And what the “poor abused whores” lobby will never tell you is that many sex workers, too, are fetishistic, sexually curious, nonmonogamous by nature, and exhibitionistic, delighting in the secret proof our profession provides us that restrictive sexual mores are rupturing everywhere.

No one should ever, by economic constraint or any kind of interpersonal force, have to do sex work who does not like sex, who is not cut out for a life of sexual generosity (however high the fee charged for it).Wanting to make a lot of money should not be the only qualification for becoming a whore.We in this profession swim against the tide of our culture’s inability to come to terms with human sexual variety and desire, its very fear of communicating about sex in an honest and nonjudgemental way.We need special qualities, or at the very least we need a way of thinking that lets us retain our self-esteem when everyone else, especially do-gooders, would like to undermine it.

Activist whores teach, among other things, a view of our culture’s sexual profile that differs from traditional normative sexuality.Every whore embodies this difference each time s/he works.It is time for all whores to embrace this difference, to become ambassadors for sex and gratification.The politics of being a whore do not differ markedly from the politics of any other sexually despised group.We must include radical sexual politics in our agenda, becoming defenders of sex itself.Our well being and our defense depend on it.

 

Inviting Feminism into Bed with Us

And in the end, what does this have to do with feminism?

Today, mainstream feminism is a site for anti-whore activism, a locus for demagogues like Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, and Kathleen Barry to agitate for the abolition of our livelihoods and to lobby for our silencing.Ordinary feminist women are often swayed by their rhetoric and may have no opportunity to hear our side of the story.(Certainly every letter I’ve ever sent to Ms. has gone unpublished.)We have learned to our dismay that a woman’s feminism is no guarantee she’ll be open to sex radical thought; sometimes, sad to say, the opposite is true.Whores make other traditional feminists defensive about issues of sexual stigma, boundaries, and the nature of women’s sexual relationships with men.However, we could equally powerfully raise consciousness around these issues, since sex-positive whores have learned to sexually negotiate at the intersection of our clients’ desires, our limits and boundaries, and with regards to issues of safety and emotional well-being.Were we to be acknowledged by orthodox feminists as the experts we are, our voices could help push the feminist analysis of sex in positive, productive directions.This could only strengthen feminism’s appeal, since sexuality is such a powerful, and often problematic, issue in so many women’s – and men’s – lives.If feminism were to take seriously my question about what separates the experiences of women who hate sex work from those who thrive doing it, would that not have profound implications for the lives and sexual strategies of ordinary women?

Further, taking whores – whores, not just “degraded” ex-whores – seriously would support a feminist claim that is at the moment fatuous:that feminists care about the experience of all women and are open to learning from the experience of all women.Whores are only one of a multitude of groups who do not get an open-minded hearing in mainstream feminism today. 

It can be argued that whores labor on the front lines of patriarchy.Feminists really ought to be more interested in the things we see, hear, and experience there.Sex-positive feminists are, of course, and support the issues we consider important, including improved working conditions, safety, and freedom from harassment.They, unlike so many orthodox feminists, understand that we do not consider our work itself a form of sexual harassment; that many of the abuses committed within the sex industry have little to do, in fact, with sexuality; that we are not selling ourselves or our bodies (a reprehensible turn of phrase repeated, often as not, by feminists, who ought to have more concern for the power of language to shape reality) any more than does any other worker under capitalism; sex-positive feminists remember that any worker under capitalism is subject to mistreatment. [Note: My emphasis added here, for the benefit of you fellow leftists out there who will deny any concerns about economic discrimination.  -- Anthony]

They understand that we value our work when it allows us autonomy, free time, and a comfortable income; we often like living outside the narrow circle society circumscribes of ladylike behavior; we are not “good girls,” nor do we aspire to be; and we relish the opportunity our work provides us to learn secrets, to support our clients’ forays away from traditional masculine sexuality, to transgress restrictive boundaries and rebel against the rigid limitations created by our own fear of sex.

To what degree is the failure of mainstream feminists to educate themselves about us a result of their fear of sex and/or of being labeled a whore?Like many feminists’ antipathy toward lesbianism, this is a feminist issue with implications far beyond the politics of sex work.

Sex-positive feminist whores invite all women to consider these issues, confront their own whorephobia, and learn from us.

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