A Study In AntiPorn/AntiSexWork Paternalistic Idiocy: A Response To “Nikolay”

[Slight edit by me due to an error pointed out by Greta Christina in the comments...thanks to her for everything she has done....and is still doing.]

One of the wonderful things about debating antiporn/anti-sexwork ideologues is that for all their attempts at trying to fudge and distort the issue of self-agency of prostitutes and porn performers, it always seems to come back to the core belief that the latter are so incapacitated by their “background” and their profession that they simply can’t be trusted to speak for themselves, and need the special paternalism of their “saviors” to rescue them from their fate.

The essential principle goes thusly:

“I really don’t like what those dirty sluts and whores are doing, they are enabling rapists and insatiable men, and degrading and objectifying real women and children, and making things bad for us respectable men and women who use sex for its proper sacred purposes, like monogamy and intimacy and making lots and lots of babies. But, I’m too chickenshit to be honest about my sexual prejudice…plus, I want to stll keep my ‘progressive’ credentials as a concerned activist..and I have feminist credentials that I want to keep. Oh, wait, I know…I’ll just say that those tramps and ‘ho’s…errrrrrrrr, those ‘prostituted women’ are mere ‘victims’ of their past psychological and physical sexual abuse as children, and that their supposed ‘love’ of their job is simply a ‘rationalization’ used to cover up their past abuse and justify their current lies. That way, I can dismiss their supposed ‘self-agency’ as merely a cover for succumbing to the patriarchy, as well as a mask to hide their true ‘illness’, and make me look more like the paternalistic, but well meaning, avenger sweeping in to ‘rescue’ them.  Go, me!!! Gail Dines RULZ!! Nina Hartley SUCKS a Million Cocks!!!  War Melissa Farley!!! OUT!!!”

As has eternally been the case with most sex-negative bashers, they often wrap this basic principle in the flag of “expertise”, based on the “overwhelming evidence” proving their thesis, well documented in peer-reviewed and carefully modeled studies.

Of course, when other people actually manage to access those studies and report back that the “overwhelming evidence” turns out to be nothing more than the explicit anti-sexworker, if not antisex, propaganda based on nothing but the usual right-wing stereotypes and slanderous hyperbole of what sex workers and their clients (or porn performers and their fans) actually do, these vaunted “crusaders” all of a sudden get an extreme collective case of hemmoroids, claiming that they are being attacked and abused and ambushed and distorted, and that their critics are nothing more than enablers, even paid agents, of the “prostitution lobby”, or just (if they happen to be men) simply deniers letting their dicks and their “addiction” speak for them.

Being a long time advocate for decriminalization/destigmatization of sex work and a sex-positive Leftist, I’m more than intimate with those kinds of assaults, since they are thrown at me personally on an occasional basis for my heresy of believing that sex workers and porn performers are worthy of respect and dignity and having their opinions and experiences respected as well. Some attacks, thoough, are whackier than others.

The following would fall under the “totally whack” category.

You will recall that I participated in a debate now brewing over at Free Though Blogs on the issue of decriminalization of sex work. It all started when “abolitionist” activist and writer Taslima Nasreen decided to post some blog blasts decrying what she called “sex slavery’ and endorsing the “Swedish Model” legislation (save the women, jail and punish severly the men) as the only real solution to eliminating the real harms of illegal sex trafficking.

This so upset Greta Christina — an FTB regular, an atheist humanist, and sex-positive progressive feminist, and the one who introduced welcomed Nasreen to FTB — that she was moved to post her own counterpoint refuting Taslima’s assertions, and standing up for the right of sex workers — most of whom oppose the “Swedish Model” as counterproductive to their efforts to reform sex work and make it work for them.

Snipping from Greta’s post does it no justice, so I’d rather you just go there and read it for yourself.

Of course, any time anyone decided to make a defense of sex workers, it will bring out the usual anti professional trolls who will attempt to “correct” people who dare to challenge “abolitionist” ideology. People like “Nikolay”, for instance.

Here is his initial contribution to the conversation:

[...]

This is why I mainly see prostitution as a non-coercion form of sex slavery; there is often not much of a choice. There is a lesser extent of this you’d see in first world countries of course.

However, one should seriously consider the background of those, who despite having other choices, venture into prostitution. While there is-as far as I know-insufficent study into the background of prostitutes, overwhelming majority of those-as high as 75 percent-come from abusive background, often rooted in their childhood. So one must consider the psychological and bio-genetic psychological effects that abuses have on the developing brains. It essentially re-wire the brain, not to mention wrap one’s conception of the world. Even those who say they do it out of choice, one must consider how much of a choice did they really have in the first place? This is something the author completely failed to consider when speaking of the prostitutes who seem to be content with their work and see it as something of a job, or a choice.

This is why prostitution is inherently harmful. Instead of giving them compassion and empathy, we reinforce their psychological view of the world; that people don’t really care about who and what they are. All they (johns) care about is seeing them as sexual objects, not as human beings, even if they are treated with respect.

It is for the reasons above that legalizing prostitution would be wrong, not to mention immoral on so many levels. Of course, the reasons above are rarely something that people take in account, especially the law-makers. Simply put, people generally don’t attempt to conceptualize or internalize others well at all.

Not to mention that Dutch’s legalizing of prostitution actually makes the situation worse, and Sweden’s anti-prostitution law more successful. Look it up yourself.

Unfortunately that is all people generally see prostitutes, as whores and not human beings with pain deep somewhere inside their soul that they choose to blocked out.

Or, a shorter Nikolay: Prostitutes (and porn performers) should not be trusted to speak for themselves because they all are speaking from the pain of long term sexual abuse as children, and their support of their profession is nothing more than a cry for help and rescue from their scrambled brains from all that abuse.

Of course, Nikolay offers no such initial evidence of such, nor does he cite any instance of where he gets his “75%” figure…he just asserts it with the affirmation that he’s knows what he’s saying, and everyone else is totally wrong.

I had been contributing my thoughts to other comments there, so I decided, “What the hell, might as well sound my Black ass off here, too.” Thusly…

Responding to Nikolay @ #269:

    Me: “And yet, even at that, even in a perfect world where everyone is paid a decent livable wage and able to economically fend for themselves, they will always have sexual desires and feelings, and want outlets for those desires. And, not always within monogamous marriage, either.”

    Nikolay: Yes, clearly, but you’d still find number of prostitutes halved by more than half in this scenario.

And you know this….HOW?? Because you know every damn sex worker/prostitute/woman in the world?? Because you simply assume that in your perfect world, trading sexual favors for some form of value wouldn’t still exist?? Of course, plenty of prostitution as currently defined would vanish if total egalitarianism (aka “communism”) was achieved…but a lot of it would evolve in the same way that midwifery, pharmacology, and most other social industries were evolved through professionalism.

And remember this, too, Nikolay: The countries with some of the most horrid conditions of sex workers and the worst forms of human trafficking (sexual and otherwise) also happen to be pretty much the same countries with authoritarian governments that impose a very conservative sexual morality (whether religious or “radical feminist”) and which state as their public moral duty to eliminate all alternatives of sexual commerce or sexual choice other than those narrow forms they impose by political fiat.

And yet, despite all that sexual repression (or, probably more likely, BECAUSE OF IT), there still remains a vast “market” and a never ending “demand” for sexual favors. What you attempt to censor the most, you merely make more desirable, and when you deny people the ability to channel basic human desires through safe and sane and consensual channels, they will inevitably seek them through other, more dangerous means.

Besides, I did say that I’d prefer a world where sex was freely given and sought and delivered through less dangerous forms than the current system..and if that results in prostitution being reduced anywhere near 50-75%, well, so much the better. As long as the remaining 25-50% who would still choose sex work are given their proper respect and worth as full human beings, there should be no objections from anyone truly progressive.

    Me: “The fact remains that not even abject poverty prevents men an womem from having sexual feelings, and as long as there are people with cash and people willing to offer themselves to relieve those issues, then they always will be some form of prostitution or sex work.”

    Nikolay: ….I’m not sure you wrote this carefully when you did, it doesn’t make sense. Abject poverty, not sexual desires-is what pushes huge number of women and some men into prostitution or labor hardship.

I wrote exactly what I meant; you just don’t want to acknowledge it. Plus, you totally distorted what I said, anyway.

Yes, abject poverty is the principal means by which poor/working class people are pushed into human trafficking in general…but that still does not mean that everyone who does sex work who was economically coerced into it will be so turned off by the sexual aspect.

Sex work should be treated like any other kind of work, and those who perform it should be given the same type of respect, responsibilities, and rights that other workers take for granted…..but that doesn’t mean that the basis of their work — namely, the SEX — shouldn’t be ignored. Take away the abject poverty and the stigma, and you will still have plenty of sexually assertive and sexually aroused human beings searching for outlets and releases for their desires. And, even poor people have sexual feelings and desires; just because they don’t have the outlets that middle- or upper-middle-class folk have doesn’t mean that they are all merely robots or fundamentalists.

I guess that the fundamental difference between us, Nikolay, is that I as a sex-positive leftist RESPECT human sexual desire that transcends race, class, gender, and nationalities, and that I’m not willing to have working class and poor people be forced to surrender their right of self-determination in all matters just so I can impose a perfect “one size fits all” morality on all of them.

Sex and consensual sex work is NOT the enemy. Human trafficking and poverty IS. Learn and understand the difference.

The main point here I was trying to convey is that as much as sex work is like any other work, it is still about SEX, and as long as there is human desire and the willingness to exchange sexual favors for subsistence, there will always be some form of sex work, even in societies where full egalitarianism is the rule. If religious fundamentalism hasn’t been able to squash out sexual desire through government fiat or physical punishment or even the death penalty, do you really think that something like the Swedish Model (or mandatory condom usage) will accomplish the same social engineering??

Well…that really must have fried Nikolay’s brain, for he thusly proceeded to attempt to waylay me for “distorting” everything he said…while promptly reinforcing every single one of his theses…and adding some real whoppers in addition. I’ll just hit the highlights for brevity’s sake.

Nikolay: ….I’m not sure you wrote this carefully when you did, it doesn’t make sense. Abject poverty, not sexual desires-is what pushes huge number of women and some men into prostitution or labor hardship.

Anthony: “I wrote exactly what I meant; you just don’t want to acknowledge it. Plus, you totally distorted what I said, anyway.

Yes, abject poverty is the principal means by which poor/working class people are pushed into human trafficking in general…but that still does not mean that everyone who does sex work who was economically coerced into it will be so turned off by the sexual aspect.”

Never said it applies to everyone. The keyword is MAJORITY-majority of the women WORLDWIDE are forced into prostitution due to economic hardship. I don’t doubt you’ll find women who might enjoy prostitution despite the economic coercion. After all, it surely helps to rationalize and justify your profession that you would never have chosen to do in given alternative economic outlet. And that’s not even mentioning those who are psychologically damaged by abuses of any kind or other delerious background in their childhood-teenhood. It’s simply human nature to try to rationalize what you do despite inherently disliking it. Your mind simply would not have coped otherwise.

Let me define the economic hardship. “You” shall be in reference to yourself and your family members. When you cannot obtain medicine treatment necessary, attend school, pay rent, and other basic needs to survive or to create economic mobility, i.e going from school into a job, that is an economic hardship. It never has been sexual desire that becomes the driving vehicle for women into prostitution. Most women can easily get sex at the snap of the fingers upon walking into the bar if they do wish to. Most women don’t venture into prostitution merely because of their morality belief, social or cultural belief or norms. In additional, generally there are predictable characteristics of your average prostitutes.

The problem with that assertion — well, other than the gall of Nikolay deciding that he can define what the “average” prostitute feels and what their motivations are — is that he ignores the basic fact that human trafficking isn’t just about sex trafficking or prostitution. There are many forms of human trafficking involving cheap labor, from field work to domestic labor to industrial jobs, and none of them involve engaging in sex with your employer. (At least, not publically. Now, exploiting the economic disadvantages and legal immigrant status of most laborers to force sexual favors out of them IS unfortunately all too common, but mere sexual harassment is a fundamentally different kettle of fish from being “forced into prostitution”.)

And, what a perfect mechanism Nikolay has to blow off the assertions of sex workers not so favorable to his prefered solutions: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they speak.” Even if they insist that  they were never abused as children, even if they provide solid proof that their upbringing was free of abuse (other than the usual economic strife), Nikolay can simply dismiss them as either abject liars and enablers saying those things to avoid “the truth” of their “oppression”, or pathetic sick women still suffering the byproducts of their “abuse”…or simply, that depleted “minority” exception that only exists to prove his rule about the “majority”. Shelley Lubben would be mightily impressed.

And this just takes the cake: “Most women can get easily sex at the snap of the fingers upon walking in the bar if they wish to.” Yeah, right…but most women can’t easily get sex AND GET PAID FOR IT. That’s pretty much the point, isn’t it? Plus, I thought that according to most “abolitionists”, women of that sort didn’t exist, or were just a byproduct of the “pornification” of popular culture and the “objectification” of women??

But oh, no….Nikolay’s not quite finished yet.

Anthony: I guess that the fundamental difference between us, Nikolay, is that I as a sex-positive leftist RESPECT human sexual desire that transcends race, class, gender, and nationalities, and that I’m not willing to have working class and poor people be forced to surrender their right of self-determination in all matters just so I can impose a perfect “one size fits all” morality on all of them.

Ridiculous, I have never advocated that. I refer you to my preceding paragraphs. Let me ask you (which means any guy in general) this; you come across a beautiful prostitute that you are willing to pay to have sex with. She tells you that she was sexually abused as a child. Or because she could not afford to find alternative economic outlet that she desperately needs to support her child(ren) or parents or sick family member in needs of treatment. In the first case, do you think it’s okay to use her to fulfill your sexual desire? Don’t forget, you are having sex with a person who used to be a child that were abused. In the latter cases, is it okay to do the same? If their background scenarios were the opposite, they are very unlikely to pursue the prostitution venue. Don’t you think that’s really overlooking their basic human dignity?

Ahhh…nice attempt to guilt trip me with that variation of the old “How would you feel if that was your daughter, or wife, or sister??” card. I mean, clearly, those (male) clients who pay for consensual sex work must be heels for ignoring the fact that they are really raping those girls (or at least, taking undue advantage of them) because they are ignorant of the abuse that those poor girls are suffering from…and if they really cared for those girls’ being rather than merely using them as mere cumdumpsters, they should immediately cease and desist and give all that money they would have given the girl/woman for all that ‘objectified” sex over to groups like Shared Hope International to end sex trafficking for good!!  Because, of course, as Ashton Kutcher said so well before he cheated on Demi Moore: “REAL MEN DON’T BUY GIRLS!!!”

Most normal people would see that as an insult to people who are surviving and recovering from real abuse, or those who are truly coping with mental illness.  Not to mention, those who are in sex work who are totally sane, of sound mind, and still like the idea of getting paid for doing sexual acts they also happen to like for free.

Yet even this is just an appetizer for his roundhouse finish, where he turns his guns on porn performers, and shows his “expertise” is nothing more than the usual paternalizing bullshit you’ve come to expect from the Maggie Hays/Robin Morgan/Diana Russell crowd.

“Sex and consensual sex work is NOT the enemy. Human trafficking and poverty IS. Learn and understand the difference.”

……Perhaps I should now mention that human trafficking is my main area of study. I have read several books, hundred of articles, etc on human trafficking. So perhaps you need not assume any ignorance on my part as to the difference. Poverty IS the driving vehicle and the enemy for prostitution and human trafficking. Your average prostitute is un-educated, poor, lack alternative outlet for economic opportunity to support themselves/their children/family. I’d rather to give free money to the prostitutes than to use them to satisfy my sexual needs. In this way, I’d respect their basic human dignity, respect them and love them as my mothers, sisters, childhood friends.

In respond to the conjecture criticism, and to Anthony on elaborating more; there are very few studies on the background of porn actresses. Inherently this is due to the shady nature of porn industry. However few that does exist, they indicate that the vast majority of the porn actresses come from abusive background, broken home, farther issue, with low self-esteem the norm. Imagine that your cheerful fourteen years old classmate girl announced on one day that she wishes to enter pornography or prostitution. That never happens, even in a society perfectly acceptable with these institutions. The exceptions I’ve read are in some eastern Europe countries where social culture and institution of the communism era collapsed completely with enormous rise of abject poverty, child pornography and prostitution, in the landscape enveloped with violence, alcoholism and broken homes.

Simply put, conjecture or not, your average girl or woman isn’t going to participate in prostitution or porn industry if she comes from psychological and loving background, are given economic alternatives, grow up in cultures that are not hostile or marginalized them nor hyper-sexualized them from early age as is currently the form in USA, which does shape the consciousness of both genders, even fully-grown adults (especially males). That isn’t just going to happen, whenever it be due to self-imposed values, social or cultural norms, religion, etc. It’s not “oh please, think of the children and the world”. That simply ignores the reality. As I’ve said, your average prostitute or porn actresses generally have these following characteristics of their background; abuse in their childhood, broken home, abject poverty, economic hardship ( the latter two are generally seen in a lesser extent in western society such as USA or Canada as compared to eastern Europe or Asia countries for instance). The hyper-sexuality media institution in all forms further foster the pattern of thinking within males that makes it seem acceptable to view women in a more marginalized sense. I see this all of the time in movies of any country.

Anthony, you asked me if I have interviewed these women. I don’t need to do that to know this is simply true. Why don’t you do the interviewing yourself? Or read up more on this very subject. Or watch the interviews and listen closely to their words, in what they say, and watch closely their eyes, their faces, even in the face of rationalizing themselves. In either case, if you’re lucky and get honest answers from prostitutes, you’ll find that what they tell you fit in perfectly with my statements. To me, this is common sense just on the basis of human dignity, on the basis of seeing them as not merely faces but daughters, sisters, mother, on the basis of understanding what and how sexual trading inherently are, and their basis for their evolution.

Yes, indeed.  When facts don’t jibe with the ideology, just adjust the facts to fit the ideology.

If porn performers like Nina Hartley (Bachelors of Science in Nursing, San Francisco State University, 1984, magna cum laude) or Asia Carerra (proficient enough in piano to have performed TWICE in Carnegie Hall, IQ of 156), or Shy Love (TWO Masters degrees in Accounting and Taxation) or Lisa Sparks (Masters of Art in Multimedia) or Vicky Vette (extended career in middle management and even a licensed home builder prior to entering porn at the age of 39) disprove the thesis that porn stars are merely psychologically damaged young ingenues…well, just ignore them and speak as if they don’t exist.

And, of course, blame the “hypersexualized culture” and the “hypersexuality media institution” for warping men’s heads into denying that these women are nothing more than sex objects for men to masturbate into, rather than women to be respected for all of their accomplishments, sexual and otherwise. Because we all know that actually recognizing sex workers as complete and full human beings offering sexual services to people who are willing to pay for those services while still treating them with respect would blow huge holes in the ideology of radical antiporn/antisexwork activism. Small wonder that Nikolay can only resort to insults and regurgitation of his “facts”.

Ultimately, Nikolay wore out his welcome, and got run by Greta, but not before polluting her blog with his numerous brain droppings of rhetoric. Perhaps, we can learn from this that the way to handle trolls like this is to just give them enough rope to hang themselves….and allow their essential antisex nature to show itself ultimately…right before breaking them off with the truth. In other words, first you kick their ass with solid truth, and then you kick their ass OUT. Never failed me…ever.

Props also to Divinity (aka GodlessStrumpet), XXXild, Iamcuriousblue, Ace Of Spades, and FeministWhore for adding their contributions of truth…and especially Greta Christina for showing fools like Nikolay what it is and where the door is at.

 

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  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/ Greta Christina

    Thanks for this! One small factual correction: I'm not the one who introduced Taslima Nasreen to FTB. I welcomed her to the network, as did many of us, but I'm not the one who introduced her to it.

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    • Anthony Kennerson

      Thanks back at \’cha, Greta….and I have corrected the record.

      Anthony

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  • http://twitter.com/xxxild X

    Anthony thank you for dealing with Nikolay. I wouldn’t even know where to begin, and it becomes so tiresome for me, the same arguments over and over. I try to understand the anti position, and I think I do get it, but what I don’t get is the broad brush, and it’s so tedious every time. Thank you a million for taking it on and so thoroughly.

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  • aceofsevens

    And another small correction. It's Ace of Sevens. Very good coverage of the issue here.

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  • analog2000

    Love your post, agree with most of it. And thanks for taking this guy on! But just one tiny thing . . . . Why argue over the percentage of sex workers who were sexually abused as children? I agree that it isn't the astronomical numbers "Nikolay" cites. But what if it was? So what? What does your childhood experience have to do with your ability to make a rational economic choice about your vocational options as an adult?

    Are we saying that an adult woman who was sexually abused as a child cannot freely choose sex work? Do you think she could freely choose any other career? Could she choose to be an accountant, or a teacher, or would that also be a sign of her brainwashing? What does that say about how sex work (and by extension sex workers) is/are viewed?

    I think it is irrelevant if a sex worker has a history of abuse. Just as it is irrelevant if any other adult woman has a history of abuse, regardless of her chosen profession. She is an adult and can make her own choices. Childhood sexual abuse does not always (or even usually) damage someone beyond the point of repair. Adult survivors can lead perfectly normal lives and make the same decisions everyone else can.

    Again, great post overall. But too often in discussions about, anything, really, not just sex work, adult survivors of sexual abuse are portrayed as having no agency. Why is that? Why are survivors always seen as forever soiled doves, rather than as people who something bad happened too -- and now they are getting on with it? Thanks again for your post!

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