Because “Overstating” The Truth Beats Understating Propaganda: My Rebuttal To Zinnia

Well…Zinnia Jones has responded  in her typical urbane and wordy way via both YouTube and her website to the criticism of her girlfriend Heather’s video blast against “sex-positive feminism” and the advocacy of sex worker activists.

Now, she decided to sidestep the issues about the smearing of sex positive feminists by Heather as unwilling to even think about the negatives of sex work, or the charges that sex positives are only obsessed with pushing the boundaries of what is “sexy” at the expense of the majority.

Instead, she decided to take head on, the critiques of activist sex workers like YouTubers Divinity33372, thecryptkeeper, and FeministWhore, (as well as sexpoz supporters such as BobChaos23), who directly challenged Heather’s expressions that activist sex workers working for decriminalization were being totally dismissive of the dangers and risks of sex work, and that reducing criticism of prostitution as a dangerous and damaging profession to “shaming sex workers” and the sole view of right-wing fundamentalists and reactionaries did not change or reduce the validity of the critiques themselves.

I will offer here a full rebuttal of ZJ’s response, through a friendly and respectful, if passionate, fisking, using the written transcript of her video. If anyone else decided to offer their own video transcript, then it will be posted here as an update/addendum, as well as ZJ’s original video response.  Please note that for the record, ZJ has been nothing but cordial in our dialogue, even if we somewhat disagree on the core principals.

First, for the purpose of giving legit credit, here;s Zinnia’s response on video:

And now, let the fisking…errr, the rebuttal begin.

Overstating the case for full decriminalization of prostitution

Perhaps the most controversial portion of the previous guest video was the assertion that sex work is often dangerous and harmful to women, in contrast to certain testimonials that suggest it is a relatively mundane profession. The backlash to this claim has been swift, fierce, and thoroughly informative. Along with assorted criticism of the idea that prostitution is itself a problem, the most common response was that the decriminalization of buying and selling sex would reduce the harms associated with prostitution. All of these views are certainly worth examining.

Actually, ZJ, I would say that in my opinion, Heather’s trite and blissful dismissal of sex-positive feminists as blithering idiots and adolescents needing to “grow up” and elitists who play with their dildos while the majority of women are left to suffer is far more controversial and bothersome…..but that’s a whole different kettle of fish for another blog entry. For now, though, the concerns you put forth will do just fine right now.

For starters, maybe my ears and eyes are deceiving me (I am approaching fifty years of age), but I see nowhere where any critic of yours or Heather’s even came close to saying that sex work of any kind was “mundane”, or that there weren’t any dangers or harm in doing sex work. Not from Divinity, not from FemWho, not from thecryptkeeper, not even from BobChaos23 or Iamcuriousblue

Also, the collective criticism that I heard from the sex workers you mentioned is NOT that decriminalization would solve all the issues of harm, but that decriminalization would be the best way of promoting the kind of harm reduction strategies that have been proven to work to diminish the dangers. Their fundamental point is that most of the harms associated with sex work are the direct result of criminalization encouraging both a hidden “black market” where prostitution and pornography exist under an umbrella of shame and darkness, where otherwise basic protections of human rights and autonomy are suppressed and denied under the reign of sexual shame and loathing and economic/class hierarchy, and where the very ideology of “protecting women” from the supposed vagaries of “male lust” actually reinforce the attitudes about sexuality that feed the current criminalization regime. Disagree with that if you must, ZJ, and you are totally entitled to that disagreement…but that argument deserves its own respect and dignity, and should not be so utterly dismissed as Heather attempted to do.

One of the first objections to arise was the suggestion that you shouldn’t talk about sex workers at all if you aren’t a sex worker yourself or if you haven’t spoken to sex workers. First of all, people often discuss topics that they may not be personally involved in, and while firsthand experience can provide unique and valuable insight, it does not necessarily make you any more correct on a given point. Furthermore, to assume that someone’s position on sex work must mean that they’ve never spoken with any sex workers implies that doing so will reliably alter someone’s views and induce them to adopt a particular stance on the subject. It suggests that it would be outright impossible for them to maintain their present position after, or even because of, speaking to sex workers. For anyone to insinuate that the experiences of sex workers will invariably support their own stance seems very overreaching.

Of course, no one is saying that only sex workers can have an opinion on sex work, any more than saying that only gay men should be allowed to have an opinion about homosexuality or only transgendered folk should be allowed to speak about cross dressing or intersexuality. (Remember…I’m not a sex worker, either…and that doesn’t stop me from expressing my opinions.) But, that’s not the real point here, isn’t it?? If you are going to say stuff about sex workers, however, I would think that you would not be so dismissive when actual sex workers happen to respond to your opinions…especially if they consider said opinions to be completely distortive, out of order, conjecture, and basically outright lies.

Also, ZJ…you seem to be mightily one-sided when it comes to analyzing opinions of sex work…for while you are so quick on the trigger to shoot down pro-decriminalization sex work advocates for assuming absolute truth, you ignore at your peril the even greater absolutism of the other side of the sex worker debate. At least Divinity and FemWho and other pro-sex/harm reduction/decriminalization advocates are willing to respect the other side enough to engage them in an attempt to discuss the issue. Such cannot be said of the likes of abolitionist radical feminists like Janice Raymond or Shelia Jeffreys or Donna M. Hughes or Kathleen Barry, who consistently dismiss not only the arguments of their critics, but even deny them even the decency of human respect..or even coexistence. For the latter, it’s either you’re for them or you’re a “traitor” to the “patriarchy”, a “cocksucker”; a “cumdumpster”, or simply “a man”.

And as for the notion that a sex worker’s personal “experiences” should not count as supporting their personal beliefs….funny how that seems to apply only to sex positives and not to the experiences of….say, Rebecca Mott, who is one of the more powerful former sex-workers-turned-abolitionists. I wonder: would Heather ever publish a YT video rejecting the spoken experiences of, say, a Shelley Lubben as very much an extreme anomaly and not necessarily the experience of the majority of porn performers? If she was attempting to be even handed, then why only go after the “pro-decriminalization” side as the “radical” and “extreme” side?? I guess that some experiences are more “insinuating” than others, then??

[Addedum by Anthony: I especially am impressed with the way that ZJ attempts to give Divinity the ultimate insult by not even acknowledging her concerns or her points...or even her existence. Come on now, ZJ...when you slam fundies or Wiccans or right-wing asshats, you at least give them the decency of calling them out by name. What's wrong with giving Div and FemWho and RubyDynamite the same respect??]

Others pointed out that sex worker rights advocates are often also involving in fighting for causes such as immigration reform and transgender rights. This is indeed a praiseworthy endeavor, but the validity of these causes does not make the remainder of their positions correct by contagion. Conversely, many noted that prostitution is also seen as harmful by fundamentalist Christians and certain severely transphobic feminists, as if to say that anyone who shares this view is just as bad as these groups. But the wisdom or idiocy of someone who holds a certain stance does not change the validity, truth value, or factual support of the position itself. The Catholic Church may oppose the death penalty as a matter of official policy, but this obviously doesn’t mean that this view is inherently linked to them or forever contaminated by its association with them.

This sounds so much like a combination of two divergent principles: 1) Just because you do good things doesn’t make the bad things you do disappear (the “irredeemable grace” dictum); and 2) Because an idea is expressed by obviously evil people does not make the idea innately evil; the same idea expressed by a progressive might be a pretty damn solid idea under another perspectice. The Main problem with Dictate #1 is that it ignores the overall conjoining principles of equality and human autonomy which motivate most sex positives to also support such causes as transgender rights and immigrant/migrant rights, essentially trivializing their motives. Is ZJ implying that the only motivation for sex pozzies to promote other progressive causes is merely to get into men’s pants or women’s panties?? And as for #2: if we carried that to its logical conclusion, then we could say that chattel enslavement of Black folk would have been a pretty damn good thing if it weren’t for those damn racist Southerners…if it had been more decent Northern “moderates”, then slavery would have been AOK.

Of course, an idea should be measured by its quality and its impacts on real people, not by whom’s selling or backing it. Slavery would be just as bad and should be opposed just as severely if it were Blacks enslaving Whites, even if such a scenario has never actually happened in reality. And, consequently,  just because some sex workers can be mistreated by their clients does not eliminate the possibility that the majority of prostitute/client relationships can be cordial and consensual…especially if the conditions underlying such relationships can be transformed.

Finally for this segment: how ironic that a militant atheist like Zinnia Jones ends up defending the Catholic Church, of all people, for their stated stance against the death penalty…especially considering that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church seems not to be quite as willing to enforce that portion of their doctrine as much as they do against reproductive autonomy for women. Or, for that matter, protections for transgendered folk or crossdressing men. *hint*

Further, some drew attention to the fact that various so-called “rescue” groups seeking to help sex workers leave prostitution are often run by evangelical Christians who frequently engage in religious indoctrination, and are otherwise insensitive to the actual needs of sex workers. This is clearly a problem, as is the invasion of religion into a multitude of charity and assistance roles in society. But just as with feeding the hungry, it does not mean that the very idea of helping sex workers who want to leave the trade is irredeemably flawed – only that its execution has often been compromised by ignorance and blind dogma, and this needs to change.

You will notice how ZJ attempts to spin this into an issue of religion and faith in general affecting charity and assistance to poor folk. Problem is, it’s not quite so simple. For starters, not all religious missionaries engage in the chicanery and blatant exploitation of poverty that groups like Love146 does; there are plenty of progressive religious folk who truly do not preface aid and relief on a prior ministering.

Secondly, once again, ZJ makes the assumption that sex pozzies only want to entrap people to stay in “prostitution” their entire life…a total fabrication that not even many passionate abolitionists dare to speak out aloud.  Hate to burst your bubble, Zinnia, dearie, but no respectful sex worker OR sex+ feminist I know has EVER advocated that people should remain sex workers against their will. In fact, ZJ, if you actually manage to open your eyes and ears and actually read up on actual sex worker activists, you will find that they are as much opposed to coercing people into sex work against their stated will as anyone else.

‘Ya think I’m lying?? Remember that essay from Dr. Carol Queen that I posted earlier here?? Here’s some interesting snippage from there that should put ZJ and Heather to shame:

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.

In other words….if you are simply thinking about doing sex work just for the money, you may want to think twice. It’s still, first and foremost, about the sex.

And, BTW…it still doesn’t help matters when a certain militant atheist activist pratts on about how bad religious missions to the poor are, when in the next breath they are hosting fundraisers for those very same missions to bring that same religious bigotry. Love146 still thanks you kindly for the donation, ZJ.

It’s also been mentioned that studies by anti-prostitution researchers such as Melissa Farley and Janice Raymond often contain methodological flaws which severely undermine their validity. But regardless of the nature of these errors, the flaws in studies purportedly showing that prostitution is dangerous do not mean that it must therefore be safe, just as flaws in a study showing it to be safe would not mean it was harmful. Instead, it indicates that the study in question simply does not tell us anything useful about the facts of prostitution.

Hmmm…does that mean, then, that were it not for those “methodological flaws”, then the crackpot theories of Farley and Raymond about how “90% of ‘prostituted women’ wanted out of the industry” or how transsexuality is merely a trick used by men to “rape women’s bodies”, should be accepted as legitimate and viable theses?? Or, as that other “methodologically flawed” study called the Meese Commission on Pornography once attempted to note: “The lack of causation should not be taken as the absence of one.”

And, considering that ZJ’s entire thesis in this effort to defend her girlfriend is that prostitution is indeed very much harmful and unsafe, and that critics of hers are simply in denial because they are impervious to the facts on the ground due to their “elitism”…then what does that say about her own methods??

I would guess that “methodological flaws” were the least of the problems of Farley’s “research” or Raymond’s “science”; their foundational bias and core bigotry against any form of sexuality not meeting their exacting standards of “bodily integrity” would be far more troubling to most people. But, any port in a storm, I guess.

Many people also seemed to suggest that claiming prostitution is harmful must mean passing some kind of moral judgment upon sex workers themselves for their activities. Finding this unacceptable, they concluded that it must therefore be wrong to say that prostitution is harmful. But regarding prostitution as harmful does not necessitate condemning sex workers. After all, many people have cited the dangerous working conditions for sex workers as a reason why criminalization is an inadequate and harmful policy. Passing judgment on workers would require some kind of ethical theory beyond the factual question of whether prostitution is dangerous, and I personally do not see the condemnation of sex workers as warranted or appropriate in any way.

Merely regarding prostitution as harmful may not necessarily render sex workers condemnable. Regarding prostitution as harmful and then working to wipe their profession off the face of the earth through the power of the State, on the other hand?  That would constitute condemnation to infinity. What Zinnia seems to be severely ignorant of is the essential fact that the people most likely to see prostitution as the most harmful are the very ones also most likely to condemn sex workers who defend their right to do sex work in the starkest terms. (The aformentioned “traitors” and “cumdumptsters” and “house n****rs” come to mind here.) The fact that they may say that they are “pro-sex worker” is merely a propaganda guise to fend off charges of complicity with the Right, and to provide a nice “progressive” patina for their fundamentally conservative objectives.

You would think that an intellegent, urbane (wo)man like ZJ would understand that, especially since (s)he has been the target of genuine hatred from fundies due to her atheism and her support of gay rights. All thoughts collapse, though, when it comes to sex, I guess.

On a related note, some people seemed imply that to criticize testimonial ads such as those from Turn Off The Blue Light in Ireland is tantamount to supporting social stigma against sex workers. Apparently, since these ads aim to diminish the stigma against sex workers, then taking issue with these ads must mean endorsing that stigma. But this doesn’t follow, and holding to such logic only serves as a way of using one’s well-intentioned motives to preclude any criticism of the actual results.

 A bit of background is needed here: Turn Off The Blue Light is actually an organization run by activist pro-decriminalization sex workers in Ireland that was created in response to an anti sexwork abolitionist campaign called “Turn Off The Red Light” (original Irish site translated to English via Google Translate here), which is currently seeking legislation to impose the “Swedish Model” brand of sex work criminalization on that country.

So, is this what ZJ is saying here?? TOTRL puts forth obvious propaganda deliberately intended to erase and wipe out actual human beings merely because TOTRL doesn’t like their profession, and TOTBL responds with testimonials from those actual people saying that they are perfectly capable of thinking and acting for themselves and they should have some say in their livelihoods being affected…and it’s the latter that ZJ attacks for being “illogical” and unfair?? Only the abolitionist side, which Zinnia continues to cloak and hide is concerned with stigma, then?? Or…I guess that only antis get to do testimonials about the “dangers” of sex work and to conflate legal consensual adult sex work with “trafficking”, and anyone who actually attempts to respond to that with real people gets branded as exploiting “stigma” for personal advantage??

Isn’t that what right-wing fundies do to atheists, gays and sexual dissidents all the time? Why should that be any less contemptible when a putative “progressive” does the same Goddess damn thing to sex workers and their advocates/supporters??

While it may not have been their goal, these posters neglect to mention the very real dangers faced by many sex workers as part of their job. In doing so, they give the impression that it’s not much different from any other profession – that it’s a safe, uneventful, and thoroughly ordinary way to make a living, chosen freely and on its own merits rather than due to a lack of alternatives. But for many sex workers, it is not a job that suits their needs, in terms of workplace safety, a living wage, freedom from exploitation, and, yes, not wanting to have to sleep with paying customers just to survive. Instead, these posters depict sex work as a satisfying, voluntary and harmless job like any other. That may be the case for some sex workers, but certainly not for many others. And unless misleadingly portraying such circumstances as typical of sex work is actually the only way to reduce stigma, no one is opposing such efforts by simply objecting to this approach.

And here comes the strawman one more time. ZJ, here’s my challenge to you, dear: go and search Google and name me ONE prominent sex worker activist who “neglects” the risks and dangers of sex work. Name me ONE sex worker advocate who even comes close to portraying sex work as a whole as inherently “satisfying, voluntary and harmless” for EVERYONE, in the same way that you and the antis portray it as the essence of rape and slavery. I’m not talking about individual experiences here; I am talking about overarching assumptions about sex workers as a collective.

Besides, the point that YOU miss is that for pro-decrim/harm reduction sex worker advocates, the issue is NOT making sex work “harmless”, it is about making it safer, and reducing the risks and harms by actually treating the worker and the client as human beings capable of thought and moral sense. The fundamental difference between that approach and the “Nuke ‘em all!!!” approach of the antis/abolitionists is essentially the difference between remodeling a broken house and simply blowing it apart with its occupants inside.

And yes, ZJ…many folk who do sex work probably do want to get out someday and not depend on “sleeping with strangers” for their subsistence. We get that….really we do. That’s why most sex worker advocates are also for such things like livable wages, expanding and fixing physical infrastructure, providing a decent floor of financial support, and increased access to education. What we will NOT do, however, is preface such aid on “accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior”, or admonishing poor women to “keep your pants zipped and stop sleeping around, you dirty slut”, or any other form of social engineering, or reducing every man/boy with a penis to a “potential rapist”. That kind of stigma is simply unacceptable. But, I guess that in your mind, if “progressive” abolitionists do it, then it’s no longer stigma, but simply “judgment”…right??

Most sex workers have their good days and their bad days…and some have good and bad on the same day. In short, they survive as best as they can, like the rest of us.

Many people did say that prostitution shouldn’t be seen as different from any other job, in that many people are forced to hold unpleasant jobs because there are no better alternatives and they need money. But prostitution is different: it frequently comes with an inordinate risk of assault, robbery, sexual harassment, rape, and murder, unlike that of practically any other job. Workplace safety is often lacking, if not absent entirely. For this, workers receive no hazard pay whatsoever. Given the conditions under which many of them work, it’s plainly inaccurate to say that there’s no more coercion in choosing prostitution than there is in any other undesirable job. Such circumstances do not tend to attract willing employees.

Once again, ZJ uses “many people” as a crutch to invent another strawman to burn down. Prostitution, pornography, and other forms of sex work are certainly different from other professions due to the nature of sexuality..but to say that they are so fundamentally different that they should be solely targeted for condemnation is selective to say the least. As if rape, murder, sexual harassment, assault, physical injury, and emotional stress aren’t issues with most other professions offering the reward of decent pay? Ask any secretary or waitress whether they feel any less under the gun from their bosses or from asshole clients. Ask any professional athlete recovering from knee surgery whether or not getting a fat paycheck from the NFL or NBA or MLB protects them from abusive fans.

And, it’s not as if even prostitutes don’t have any means of protection at all…porn has a testing regimen for STI’s that has been proven effective in containing outbreaks (in spite of the recent attempts to undermind and obliterate it in favor of the panacea of mandatory condoms), and the Nevada brothel system does include its own security. In fact, decriminalization, in its own effect, would bring the full force of the State’s legal protection in the form of rape/sexual assault laws and workplace protections into effect; while criminalization keeps such protections not only out of reach, but actually encourages further abuses. (Not to mention, abuses by the very police forces supposedly enforcing these laws.)

Oh…and how nice for ZJ to simply assume as always that she can read the minds of others and tell them how they were motivated to enter sex work. The idea that women may enter such professions as a means of expressing their sexuality, or as an extra source of income to get through college, or simply to meet and fuck lots of interesting people, simply cannot register in Zinnia’s mind..probably because she has assumed the same class-based sex negativism and elitism that is the embodiement of Heather and other abolitionist radfems. And yet, she allowed Heather to play the “sexual liberals/sex pozzies are elitists!!” card with impunity.

Sex workers themselves have attested to this. In a commonly cited study by the Pivot Legal Society in Vancouver, many workers said that prostitution should not be a job that anyone could be required to take as part of a search for work in order to receive income assistance:

“Well I should say sex work, being in the sex trade is not an option; it’s just like a survival thing. I mean… it’s usually… not by choice…. If someone were forcing you to go back, …that’s like a pimp, that’s kind of saying, oh you have to go risk your life.”

“I don’t think they should be forced into the trade [by an income assistance worker] because of things that could happen in the industry as being a sex worker – harmful to the mind like bad dates and drug use…”

“Because not everybody has the emotional control to be a sex worker, or detachment. Detachment to be a sex worker.”

 

“I believe that it is a very hard job to do, you are basically a sexual surrogate… and I agree that it takes a certain… personality type to do that kind of job. It’s a very, very specialized occupation.”

“There’s a difference between selling your ass and selling a hamburger. The hamburger’s not personal.”

If listening to sex workers is key, then it would seem that even sex workers consider prostitution to be different in kind from other types of employment.

Oh, but this is real funny….so, after spending two videos and nearly 65% of her essay discounting and rejecting and even silencing through lack of acknowledgment activist sex workers attempting to educate her on the realities, Zinnia now goes off and quotes….actual sex workers to reinforce her thesis that sex work is innately dangerous and special and worthy of special censure??

And even those quotes ZJ pulled out of that study prove..not much. No one ever said that prostitution was the same as other professions, only that it should be accepted and reformed and transformed into a safer and legitimate profession for those who want to use it for pursuing their sexual autonomy. What part of that does not register with you, ZJ??

People have often claimed that the hazards of prostitution arise from the criminalization of selling or buying sexual services, operating brothels, procuring and soliciting, and that many of these risks would be ameliorated if all of this were decriminalized and treated like any other fully legal profession. And there is quite a lot to be said for this position. When prostitution is against the law, this discourages workers from reporting any crimes against them for fear of prosecution, leaving them extremely vulnerable to abuse. It also leaves their jobs completely outside the realm of any kind of workplace safety regulations, and their employers aren’t required to operate within the applicable labor laws, creating an environment where exploitation flourishes.

First…if there really is “a lot to be said about this position”, then why not give legitimate credit to those who expouse that position (Divinity, FemWho, thecryptkeeper, et. al.)??

And secondly, sounds like simple common sense to me….so why dismiss it out of hand?? I suppose we don’t have to wait long to find out why.

In theory, decriminalization would remedy most if not all of these issues, and prostitution finally would become a job chosen because it suits people’s needs, with no more coercion than any other. But has this actually happened? New Zealand is often upheld as a model for full decriminalization, yet in a five-year review (PDF) of the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act, many workers reported having experienced assault, violent threats, being held against their will, theft, refusal to pay, and even rape. Few of them reported this to the police, and most who were surveyed felt that the Reform Act “could do little about the violence that occurred.” “…less than a quarter – felt there had been an improvement.” While there seem to be very few studies comparing the general well-being and safety of sex workers before and after this kind of reform, decriminalization does not appear to have been enough to prevent workers in New Zealand from continuing to experience violent abuse and mistreatment, especially those working at street level.

Riiiiight….just as, in theory, simply pulling anecdotal quotes from a 177-page report that actually concludes the exact opposite of what you claim would count to most people as sophistry…but, I guess I’m just a biased cismale with a working dick.

If prostitution should be treated like any other job, then it’s worth considering that we wouldn’t accept such unsafe conditions in any other job. Most people don’t have a problem with recognizing that some working conditions are simply too dangerous to be allowed, and such businesses are regulated or prohibited accordingly. Yet many advocates for decriminalization claim that too much legal regulation would only drive the sex trade underground once more and leave workers unprotected again. Clearly, determining the proper stringency of regulation is a challenging and delicate task, and the actual impact of a policy on workers should be the bottom line. But to suggest that anything which could conceivably impede the transaction must be done away with for fear of fueling the black market is simply negligent. Having the law look the other way on this does not make sex workers any more safe.

So, in other words, rampant criminalization such as the Swedish Model or the traditional fundie Christian model of jailing anyone involved in sex work (or any form of sexual activity not redeemed by the prevailing conservative social moral order of the day), while maybe a bit “excessive”, is far preferable to simply decriminalizing and allowing sex workers themselves to organize to mitigate and reduce such dangerous workplace situations. After all, sex should only be partaken for free and for the right reasons of marriage or “intimacy”, right??

I can just see Zinnia’s next YT video taking shape: “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Support Shelley Lubben, Michael Weinstein, And The Condom Mandate”.

Also, she does know about the Republican Party and the Tea Party and their war on reproductive choice, right??

If decriminalization does actually improve the safety and welfare of sex workers, then this is a great start. If it doesn’t, and their working conditions remain just as dangerous, then other options are worth considering. Many advocates for decriminalization approach this issue with a goal of harm reduction, and so do I. And if these unacceptable dangers are simply inherent to prostitution (or a certain variety of it) and cannot be minimized while leaving the profession itself intact, then reducing the harm of prostitution requires reducing prostitution itself.

Yup…and if all gay men can be proven to be such butt fuckers who dress in swarthy clothing and seduce young boys into homosexuality and rampant open public sex, then we can justify denying gay folk the right to recognize their relationships through marriage. Or, we could simply throw the “rectum-loving AIDS-carrying queers” in jail or shoot their asses down and be done with it. After all, can’t look the other way when it comes to sexual predators like Jerry Sandusky or the Catholic priests, right??

Sarcasm aside, of course…the not so thinly veiled assumptions found in that one graph alone would fill a full pig farm manure pit. And remember, Heather’s original guest vid was promoted as a “fair and balanced” comparison of the competing ideologies. So, I guess that this is what Zinnia considers to be “fair debate”. Gail Dines would wholeheartedly approve.

We can agree that certain legal regimes have been shown to be unsuccessful at accomplishing this, and even harmful to sex workers without addressing their needs, but it does not mean that this can’t be a valid goal. It shouldn’t be outside the bounds of acceptable discourse to believe that nobody should be exposed to such hazards in the course of employment. This does not have to imply an unbending adherence to any particular policy, whether it’s full criminalization, criminalization of clients, full decriminalization, or legal regulation. Many people contend that all efforts at reducing prostitution have failed, but just as with any other problem we’re faced with, past failures are no reason to stop developing new strategies.

Can we agree?? Really, Zinnia?? There are some of us who would argue that the US model of simply jailing everyone and slut shaming women has been proven to be an utter failure, and that the Swedish Model has done nothing to reduce the level of prostitution or illegal sex trafficking, but has made life a living hell for the sex workers they supposedly are out to protect. But, I guess that since we’re a bunch of permissive liberals, our positions and strategies should not matter, and since the only strategy that you perceive to be such a failure is the decrim/harm reduction model (funny how once again, other strategies don’t merit even one mention, because you don’t see them as nearly as problematic??), how else should we conclude other than that you favor abolition and criminalization as your desired strategy?

Finally, some people pointed out that because prostitution is often the only option for sex workers, then working to eliminate prostitution would be taking their only option away from them. That may be the case, but there are a plethora of circumstances where people are deprived of income because something is too dangerous or inhumane to be legally allowed, such as child labor and sweatshops. Even if someone claimed that they had a wonderful experience working at an unsafe coal mine, and wanted no legal interference in this arrangement, such conditions would still not be permitted. The answer is not to remove the laws which prohibit these kinds of employment, but to remedy the lack of options which is forcing people into unsafe jobs such as prostitution. Sex workers have often attested to the inadequate social support they receive, which leaves them with nowhere else to turn. If nobody ever had to enter sex work, then it seems likely that fewer people would.

Except that comparing consensual adult sex work to working in an unsafe coal mine or child labor or sweatshops is like comparing apples to bowling balls. Sex work might be very dangerous right now because of the stigma and the illegality, but the main argument of decrim/harm reduction advocates is that if the stigma was removed and the criminality of consenting sex acts overturned, and more traditional egalitarian laws and principles applied across the board, then sex work could become more feasible as a legitimate profession, as well as safer and more profitable.

And besides that…there is the question of what exactly would Zinnia and the abolitionists that she now has totally endorsed offer to those sex workers who would be torn from their livelihoods by their campaigns for “regulation”?? Is she out there advocating for free cradle-to-grave public education, single payer and/or national health care, mandated livable wages, a guaranteed annual income as a ceiling for families (especially single mother-led families), a vastly increased public sector job corps for reinvigorating infrastructure, and other such ideals? Because without those things, dearie, all you are doing is turning the screws that much tighter on the very people you say you want to protect.

It’s easy for you, ZJ, as a middle-class White atheist radfem taking advantage of a free YouTube account and an inexpensive webhost to talk about what poor and working-class folk need. It’s not so easy if you happen to BE working class and are forced with the choice of “heat or eat” every Goddess damn day. Don’t hate on those sex workers who manage to accomplish staying afloat and staying alive..and who also manage to get some decent fun sex in the process.

And yes, ZJ, I am calling you a radfem, because the only difference between you and Diana Boston, NuclearNight, and the rest of the Army of RadicalFeministWhackjobs is that you aren’t brave enough to even state your biases openly and honestly. You have to get your girlfriend to put them out, then use your passive-aggressive dulcet tones to cloak them…but your actions ultimately reveal themselves in living color.

The question of which legal framework is most effective for dealing with prostitution is far from resolved, but full decriminalization appears to fall short of being the panacea that many have presented it as. The presumptuousness of people who expect and then demand complete support for this policy position is vastly out of proportion to the actual evidence of its efficacy. Contrary to prevailing opinion, it has not been established as a proven fact that would be as foolish to question as evolution. There is room for disagreement here, and recognizing that prostitution remains a dangerous field does not constitute a blemish upon one’s rationality.

And that’s the bottom line, because Queen Atheist/YouTube Warrior Zinnia Jones says so!!

But, is it, really??

Who’s really being presumptuous here…activist sex workers who accept the diversity of experiences and the individual humanity and integrity of sex workers, who are willing to accept that not all sex work is sweetness and light and would gladly assist in helping to remove the bad seeds and greedheads and assholes from their profession? Is it those who say that sexual stigma and sex hate is far more responsible for sexual assault and battery and the awful social conditions and the trafficking than legal, consensual, freely sought after and negotiated sex work?

Or…is the real presumptuousness actually perpetrated by wannabe “saviors” — whether they be fundamentalist Christians, radical feminists or militant atheists — who simply think that because they can sound urbane and concerned and “progressive” in a YouTube video, that gives them license to distort and deny the experiences and even silence the voices of actual practicing sex workers who are on the front lines and face the battle every day?

Maybe, the real presumptuousness lies in people who think of themselves as such experts in their field of vision that they retain the right to make stuff up as they go and change the rules to fit their ideologies at the moment….and still find time to find alleged fatal flaws in those whom they don’t quite understand.

Like most folks, I support and cheer Zinnia Jones when she waylays fundies for their flights of illogical fancy. I’ll probably favor her again when she busts the balls of Santorum or another antigay whackjob. And, I could care less whether or not she is really a she or a he, whether he’s just a crossdressing male or an intersexual being. I don’t judge people by their innate characteristics; I prefer to use more legitimate judgments such as actions and treatment of fellow human beings and other life forms.

What I do care about, though, is that when someone who calls herself a putative progressive starts belting out sex hating bullshit straight out of the Gail Dines/Catherine MacKinnon style book, and then attempts to silence and deny the existence and humanity of those she maligns, then I as a progressive human being have a moral duty to call it out, to say why it needs to be called out, and to correct the record with actual facts.

That, Zinnia, isn’t just rational.  That’s morally RIGHT.

Or, as funk Jedi Master George Clinton once said: “Free your mind…and ‘yo ass will follow.” Try that sometime, ZJ..and LISTEN for a change.

And speaking of listening….Divinity has a word or a hundred to say, too.

 

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2 thoughts on “Because “Overstating” The Truth Beats Understating Propaganda: My Rebuttal To Zinnia

  1. Pingback: Why Downgrading Sex-Positive Left Activism Is Even Worse For Sex Worker Rights Activism: My Response to Audacia Ray | Red Garter Club Blog (Version 3.2)

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