30 votes

Is sex work bad?

Prompted by a recent tildes post about vice, and also this from the bbc, and a conversation with a colleague who just went to a strip club, I keep thinking about this issue.

I have a stake in this, despite being cis male: I have mother, sisters, wife, and most importantly young daughter. And I am a feminist, on simple moral grounds.

My baseline position is that whether a woman chooses to engage in sex work is, and should be legally and socially supported as, entirely her own choice.

The only question I have any business answering, or participating in finding an answer, is whether my patronage of sex work is inherently exploitive, to either the woman whom I am patronizing* or to other women individually or to womanhood and general issues of gender.

And I just can’t come up with a good answer. I do look at porn, but increasingly, as with meat, the potential ethical problems of it are reducing the enjoyment. I have tried to ease my conscience by limiting myself to cartoons and stories, but those wouldn’t stop the harm that is caused by the mere existence of porn, if any exists.

As a purely practical matter, the existence of the industry leads to opportunities for exploitation of individuals, and the advancement of a culture of gender exploitation. But as the war on drugs has so ably demonstrated, any attempt at prohibition only increases the level of exploitation, while smart regulation decreases it. Regardless, though, there’s plenty of exploitation to go around the world, I heard there’s thing called #metoo.

I come from a sex-suppressing, fundamentalist “Christian” background. The quotes are there to indicate that I think much of the practices were anything but christ-like. The principles there swirl through the culture around me in varying degrees of intensity, and they inform and direct my choices (sometimes against my will and my better hopes and ideals). I have to be open to the notion that any objection I have to sex work, or my participation, is entirely a cultural construct. And while I don’t think it is true, I cannot dismiss the notion that morals themselves may have no possible objective existence, having relevance and utility (if at all) only in very time and space limited scopes.

It is what I believe the sociologists call a “wicked” problem. It involves really complicated normative stances, and there’s no data analysis that can provide any guidance. For myself, I expect my participation to continue to wane as I mature. I only hope that whatever I do only further enables and empowers the women in my life and everywhere.

  • I almost stopped myself from using this word when I realized potential implications, but ultimately left it in because it (and the fact it was my natural inclination to select it) really highlights the issue for me and hopefully others

Bonus hypothetical: If porn is somehow wrong and harmful, even drawings and writings, are sex fantasies also wrong?

33 comments

  1. [7]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    In my first year of teaching, I had a student who was a spunky, vivacious kid. She had an infectious laugh, loved witty conversation, and would always enter my room with an emphatic greeting and a...

    In my first year of teaching, I had a student who was a spunky, vivacious kid. She had an infectious laugh, loved witty conversation, and would always enter my room with an emphatic greeting and a seemingly impenetrable optimism. I had her in my first period class every day, and in a room full of groggy kids still blinking away the sleep from their eyes, her radiant, positive energy stood out.

    So when she came in one morning looking wilted and almost panicky, I immediately knew something was wrong. Her body language conveyed extreme distress, and before I could quietly check in on her (to maintain her privacy as there were other students present), words and tears started spilling out. On her way to school a car had pulled up beside her and a man had started asking her questions. She tried to keep walking and ignore the guy, but he was persistent. Sensing danger, she started running and thankfully was able to go into a nearby grocery store, which was the only business open at the time. She hid inside there for a while before leaving again, now worried that if she didn't go she'd be late for school. In a crisis moment of fearing for her safety, she still worried about being late for school.

    Other girls in the room comforted her and shared similar stories while I called the counselor who came to get her. I didn't know this at the time, but the route that she took to school was also a local hotspot for prostitution. While it's possible that the man who spoke to her in the car was merely attempting to solicit her, the counselor shared with me later that it was far more likely he was attempting to recruit or even abduct her. I was horrified to learn that my twelve-year-old students (and even those younger than mine) were common targets for sex traffickers. Up until that point I had assumed that sex work was largely the domain of adult women. It turns out this is far from the truth.

    I've learned a lot since then, not just from that incident but because I have a family member who works for an organization that attempts to support women who have exited sex trafficking, sometimes by choice but usually only after police intervention in their lives. Many, if not most, of the women she works with were recruited or forced into it at a horrifyingly early age. Though many of them are adults now, they certainly weren't when they started. In fact, she said that one of the hardest parts of her job is that most of the women she works with have never been able to develop as normal human beings in natural, functional human relationships. Their exploitation started when they were so, so young. She said that she often feels like she's talking more to the symptoms of chronic trauma rather than actual people. The women have severe trust issues, don't believe in kindness without ulterior motives, and demonstrate severe codependencies as well as frequent behaviors of self-harm and substance abuse. Her work is not a quick fix of teaching them some job skills and putting them on a path to economic enfranchisement. Instead she has to undo the years or decades of damage done to these women's understanding of how the world and people work.

    I read a book a few years ago, recommended by my family member, called The Johns by Victor Malarek. Rather than focusing on sex workers, it instead focuses on the men paying for sex, which is an odd thought for many, myself included, because sex work so often has visible supply but invisible demand. The idea of women selling sex is part and parcel of modern culture, but the idea of men buying sex is seemingly absent, despite the transaction being two-sided by its very nature.

    The book is an interesting if unacademic look into this invisible demand (he relies primarily on the self-disclosure of internet forum users which we know is shaky information at best). Nevertheless, I consider it worth reading for what it brings to the table: the idea that behind widespread exploitation of sex workers is the demand for them in the first place.

    A lot of conversations about sex work I see focus on it as an abstract ideal, navigating issues of consent, sex-positivity, and regulation. These are important issues to discuss, and I don't want to downplay them, but I think a lot of them often exist in a bubble that's separate from the lived reality of sex work, much of which is aligned with the worst parts of society: human trafficking, slavery, exploitation, abuse, etc. Certainly not all sex work supports these, but much of it does, and more than we think because so much of it is invisible.

    When my student was crying in my room after the incident with the man in the car, she was comforted by other girls in the room sharing similar stories. Twelve-year-olds were commiserating about the commonplace experience of potentially being targeted for sex trafficking -- that's how common it was in that area. What does that say about the "invisible demand" in that area? And can we argue that it's unique to that area, or simply equally hidden everywhere else? Years later I worked at a school in a completely different location but in an area that was similarly economically depressed. Multiple times, as I pulled into work at 6:30 AM, I would be propositioned by sex workers on my walk down the street to the school building from where I parked. As I was beginning my shift, they were ending theirs. These were not economically liberated women consentually selling their services; these were women doing what they could to survive in the poverty-stricken area in which I taught. I wonder how old they were when they started.

    Often conversations about sex work take a relativistic tack with regard to exploitation, where suddenly the whole world is seen in degrees of exploitation, of which sex work is only posited to be a few shades darker than other forms. I'm not a fan of this, because I feel like it's almost always done to downplay the indignity and danger of coercive sex work. Again, not all sex work, but much of it. It is often dependent on power structures which strongly disadvantage the worker, which sounds similar to, say, pulling minimum wage at a fast food joint but in reality is far more invasive and dangerous.

    Sex work, unlike many other jobs, is fundamentally inseparable from personal health and safety, and the economic factors that drive many women to pursue it also encourage women to compromise in those areas (netting more money for sex without a condom, for example). Abusive clients are not an if, but a when and a how much, and of course the sex worker has little to no recourse. In fact, there's often a really perverse incentive to permit the abuse in hopes of negating retaliation -- not so that the person doesn't suffer as much but so that they don't jeopardize their ability to continue their means of survival. In making money with one's body, one needs to make sure it remains desirable or, at the very least, functional. Even in the absence of overt abuse, sex workers subject their bodies to a constant intimate uncertainty that's unheard of in pretty much every other career, because it's not always clear when abuse might happen, and the mere threat of it is enough to act as a powerful and significant stressor.

    My family member who works with women from sex trafficking tells how frequently women are subject to grooming tactics. They meet a loving man who sweeps them off their feet with attention and gifts, only to slowly accustom them to sex work by habituation. The gifts can become leverage, with the man asking for financial reciprocity that he knows the woman can't give, tacitly encouraging her to sell herself to pay him back. They can also dry up, creating the illusion of financial hardship, so could she get them out of this bind, just this once? That once becomes one more time the next time the money dries up, repeating and ratcheting up until the woman's guard is down and her excuses are gone. Why would she now say no to sex for money, her partner will tell her, when she's already said yes to others two, three, four times? Parters often introduce the women to drugs, getting them hooked so that they are dependent on them. Sex work then becomes the method by which they manage their addiction, as it often inhibits them from working more standard jobs.

    Though the women are led down a garden path of exploitation, they often feel it was their choice or it happened for "valid" reasons. Many do not even realize they've been taken advantage of; that the boyfriend who led them into this was grooming them from the start. They still hold onto memories of his initial affection as an ideal of true love. The same forces and people that exploit them also make them feel complicit in or responsible for it. It is such a grotesque mangling of human intimacy that it makes me sick to my stomach. Using love and trust as a weapon is abhorrent to me, but then to hide your tracks and make it look like theirs alone? It's one of the most disheartening things I can conceptualize.

    I realize that much of my discussion up to this point has been gendered, but it's worth noting that men are exploited as well, and the power differentials that disadvantage many women in sex work also disadvantage them. The 2008 documentary Men for Sale details male sex workers who service primarily gay clientele, and the exploitation they face is identical to that seen by women sex workers. I don't want to give the impression that only women are harmed by sex work, but I also don't want to create false equivalencies either: it is still mostly women who are harmed.

    I also realize this is a long, meandering answer to your question, and it's ultimately an unfair one since I've chosen to focus on the worst aspects of sex work. Realistically the field is something more diverse and broad than I'm demonstrating here, but I say all of this because I can't adequately divorce myself from its most ugly elements: the elements that would prey on my twelve-year-old student and people like her; the elements that would use the guise of love and support to lure a person into their own exploitation; the elements that commoditize human intimacy to the point that it's a grotesque, unrecognizable facsimilie. These are fundamental and widespread problems of sex work, and ones that I feel too often go overlooked if we stick to purely academic and intellectual discussions of what sex work should be.

    The distance between ideal and execution is a tough thing to navigate. In 2010, Iceland banned strip clubs, with the politician who proposed the ban saying: "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold." The sex-positive part of me thinks that such a ban is overkill. Shouldn't it be fine for a person to strip and make money from it if they're doing it on their own terms and of their own volition? On the other side of a large gulf is the reality that very few women are likely doing so in such idealized circumstances, and if permitting the former, even slightly, indulges the latter, is that the right move to make? I don't know. This is yet another issue where I have very strong feelings but few good answers.

    28 votes
    1. [5]
      ibis
      Link Parent
      This is my experience as well. I'm seeing a new generation of young, economically privileged women choosing sex work. Around here, prostitution is legal and "SW-friendly" (sex worker friendly) is...

      A lot of conversations about sex work I see focus on it as an abstract ideal, navigating issues of consent, sex-positivity, and regulation. These are important issues to discuss, and I don't want to downplay them, but I think a lot of them often exist in a bubble that's separate from the lived reality of sex work, much of which is aligned with the worst parts of society: human trafficking, slavery, exploitation, abuse, etc. Certainly not all sex work supports these, but much of it does, and more than we think because so much of it is invisible.

      This is my experience as well. I'm seeing a new generation of young, economically privileged women choosing sex work. Around here, prostitution is legal and "SW-friendly" (sex worker friendly) is listed alongside queer-friendly as a desirable trait for any progressive space to have. I'm not objecting to any of this, I think it's great that young women are re-taking their own sexuality, and using it for their own profit.

      But it bothers me that most of the conversations I see about sex work seem to be based around this small subset of privileged women (and men). In this rush of enthusiasm to support sex positivity, I think the realities of the wider sex industry are being white-washed (which leaves women interested in pursuing sex work inadequately prepared for an industry that thrives on exploitation and humiliation (eg )).

      While it's great that young women are finding a way to profit from sex in an empowering way, I also don't think this will ever be the full reality of the sex industry - no matter how legal or regulated or accepted it becomes. My observation is that a subset of the market for sex work specifically wants exploitation and humiliation. It is built into the very fabric of how certain people see sex work and sex workers.

      The other thing to remember, is that as sex work becomes more and more regulated and safe and well-paid here, more and more clients are going to South East Asia instead. I personally know a man (I grew up with his daughter) who is very open about the fact that he goes to Thailand for sex workers - where he can easily afford to buy himself a full time girlfriend. He won't ever bring her back to Australia though - because here women living with men are eventually given de-facto status and get similar rights to a wife. He doesn't want a woman with rights, he specifically wants the power imbalance his comparative wealth can buy him.

      15 votes
      1. [2]
        vivaria
        Link Parent
        You mention sex positivity as a motivator here, but what role would you say visibility has in this? For example, it's a lot easier for your average person to come across only the end results of...

        In this rush of enthusiasm to support sex positivity, I think the realities of the wider sex industry are being white-washed

        You mention sex positivity as a motivator here, but what role would you say visibility has in this? For example, it's a lot easier for your average person to come across only the end results of very specific types of sex work on the internet. (e.g. cam shows, GoneWild subreddits, /r/sexsells -- where I'd guess the conditions are far removed from what you describe?) Is it possible that the conversation leans towards sex work as empowerment because of... ignorance towards what things are like underneath the surface?

        8 votes
        1. ibis
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Yes, I'd agree with that. Power and visibility are intrinsically linked (I don't mean visibility in a literal sense, I mean it in the sense of how widely known/shared/understood your existence is...

          Yes, I'd agree with that. Power and visibility are intrinsically linked (I don't mean visibility in a literal sense, I mean it in the sense of how widely known/shared/understood your existence is - as it is used in social science ~).

          I think a natural follow-on from empowerment is having the capacity and space to get your view point across. So empowered sex-workers are more visible and more able to share their experience and perspective of sex work.

          Those who are exploited do not have the capacity to share their experiences. They are exploited because they are less visible, and they are less visible because they are exploited.

          (Edit:
          ~ In case someone calls me out - I am aware that sometimes the opposite is true, and power can be linked to being less visible (eg. A white person in a white neighbourhood vs. a black teen). The dynamics of power vs. visibility is a whole subset of social research / theory, that isn't always as simple as visibility = good).

          5 votes
      2. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Well said. There's definitely a blind spot with regard to sex work and, as you pointed out in another comment, that's likely because the most exploited people are the least visible and able to...

        Well said. There's definitely a blind spot with regard to sex work and, as you pointed out in another comment, that's likely because the most exploited people are the least visible and able to make their stories heard. It's important that they don't go unaccounted for in conversations like these.

        To add on to your last point about people traveling for sex workers: for anyone unfamiliar with this practice, it's called "sex tourism" and is more widespread than you would think. The book The Johns that I referenced in my original post was my first introduction to it. Many of the men profiled in the book talk about their regular trips to Thailand and other countries where the disparity in relative wealth makes their money go significantly further than it would locally. Some also engage in sex tourism due to differences in laws or prosecution (they can get away with more) and even differences in age (they can get even younger girls).

        It's yet another example of the invisible demand, as someone who takes trips like these is unlikely to talk about it except for with an audience who is already in the know or at least in moral agreement with the practice.

        8 votes
      3. NoblePath
        Link Parent
        Thank you for giving specific articulation to one of my objections.

        . My observation is that a subset of the market for sex work specifically wants exploitation and humiliation. It is built into the very fabric of how certain people see sex work and sex workers.

        Thank you for giving specific articulation to one of my objections.

        4 votes
  2. [2]
    vivaria
    (edited )
    Link
    I don't very much vibe with the idea that sex work is inherently exploitative. That feels... too extreme to me? I'd want to explore positive ways of addressing and changing the flaws in the...

    The only question I have any business answering, or participating in finding an answer, is whether my patronage of sex work is inherently exploitive, to either the woman whom I am patronizing* or to other women individually or to womanhood and general issues of gender.

    I don't very much vibe with the idea that sex work is inherently exploitative. That feels... too extreme to me? I'd want to explore positive ways of addressing and changing the flaws in the current system before throwing out the system entirely.

    So, for me personally, I think it would depend on what sort of services you're spending your money on. How well do they address some of the issues found within sex work today? I'm not the most qualified person to speak on this, so I may be missing things, but here are some points:

    • What role does coercion, poverty, and vulnerability play in the recruitment and employment of the sex workers you're paying?
    • What attitude does a platform/service have towards things like financial transparency, revenue splitting and contracts/agreements?
    • How much agency and power do the sex workers have, e.g. with respect to what they do or don't do?
    • To what degree does the content itself play into/perpetuate harmful stereotypes and dynamics?
    • What systems and efforts are in place to maintain the wellbeing and safety of the sex workers involved?
    • How much focus is placed on alternative/norm-bending content and preferences? Which audiences are being catered to?
    • How much focus is placed on diverse representation?
    • Are the people behind a service or platform invested in changing the systems they operate within, or are they content to keep things the way that they are?

    There are lots of services out there (particularly online) that make a point to address any/all of these points! I like the efforts out there that are trying to redefine what it means to sell sex.

    If the idea of "ethical consumption" isn't something you're sold on, you could always devote some of your time and energy to help make systemic changes a reality, too. I'm not quite sure what that would look like, but I have a feeling <consume / not consume> aren't your only options as an individual.


    As a side note, it seems like you're grappling with some pretty big existential concerns about morality and harm and faith and what have you. In addition to the above, I'd maybe also recommend... taking a step back for a moment? I think it's important to take care of your own needs before you start to grapple with the needs of others, especially on the scale you're describing. Think too much about the big stuff and it starts to affect your ability to cope with the small stuff, too. Destabilizing!

    This might be the sort of thing that we as individuals just aren't able to handle "ideally" right now. We might just have to settle with doing the best we can with the knowledge we have in the moment, even if those choices seem regrettable in hindsight. That's a totally ok thing! :)

    23 votes
    1. NoblePath
      Link Parent
      🎵 There are times, when all the world’s asleep, the questions run too deep, for such a simple mind... 🎵 Pondering and discussin impossible to answer questions is a pastime. I live my life best i...

      🎵 There are times, when all the world’s asleep, the questions run too deep, for such a simple mind... 🎵

      Pondering and discussin impossible to answer questions is a pastime. I live my life best i can otherwise, including donations of time and money to those in need (mostly in the substance abuse arena).

      5 votes
  3. Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    I'm going to keep my answer pretty short. Sex work isn't inherently bad IMO. There is nothing wrong with a person making money from sex work. There is nothing inherently bad about being a customer...

    I'm going to keep my answer pretty short.

    1. Sex work isn't inherently bad IMO. There is nothing wrong with a person making money from sex work. There is nothing inherently bad about being a customer of the sex work industry.

    2. Cultural/social norms, legislation, and sexism/homophobia have created a world where it is hard for the consumer to differentiate when sex work is being exploitative vs voluntary. This is where things start getting murky. The industry of sexual work is perfectly fine in theory, the world we live in makes it a minefield to support.

    3. My best suggestion for this is the same thing I suggest for journalism and art: Accept that if you want a more ethical consumption, you're going to have to look to smaller creators and you're likely going to have to pay. Pornhub is free and so lots of people like them despite sex workers constantly talking about how terrible they are. Look to things like ManyVids and OnlyFans. Does it suck that you're going to have to pay $5 to watch porn? Yes. Is using those sites a perfect solution to avoiding the issues discussed above and in the OP? No, no solution is going to be perfect. But it is leaps and bounds better for sex workers.

    I'm going to stop myself here before I start ranting about entitlement and misogyny in sex work which is its own thing. But yeah. That's my take. The basis for most my thoughts/opinions is knowing friends of friends in sex work, following sex workers on twitter, and reading a couple articles a while back when there were some controversial legislation around sex work on ballots.

    9 votes
  4. [5]
    Happy_Shredder
    Link
    All work is exploitative. Everyone 1 sells themselves. They sell their hands, their minds, their body, their skills. There's nothing unique about sex work. The only issue is that in places with...

    All work is exploitative. Everyone 1 sells themselves. They sell their hands, their minds, their body, their skills. There's nothing unique about sex work. The only issue is that in places with poor regulation/protections for sex workers many are are trafficked, which is a form of modern slavery 2.

    In principle sex work businesses could be worker owned, which would eliminate exploitation.

    Porn's interesting cos there's a huge amount of amateur production, i.e. voluntary and self produced, potentially with no profit involved at all. So again there may be no exploitation at all.

    Also, if you haven't seen it philosophy tube has an interesting video on this topic.

    1 Aside from the capitalist class, academics, and self-employed people.

    2 And a stronger form of slavery than the wage slavery of other exploited workers.

    7 votes
    1. [4]
      ibis
      Link Parent
      There is a difference between sex work and other labour, otherwise there would be no difference between rape and forced labour (eg. in prisons). (Don’t get me wrong - I think Women should be...

      There is a difference between sex work and other labour, otherwise there would be no difference between rape and forced labour (eg. in prisons).

      (Don’t get me wrong - I think Women should be allowed to sell sex without shame. It is their choice and their body and their lives.).

      3 votes
      1. bear-punch
        Link Parent
        Forced labor (even in prisons) is also immoral though. It is different from rape in that the traumas are different, but neither are moral acts. Perhaps it is lingering Christian prudishness that...

        Forced labor (even in prisons) is also immoral though. It is different from rape in that the traumas are different, but neither are moral acts. Perhaps it is lingering Christian prudishness that makes them feel different culturally, but I don't think that either are morally acceptable

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Happy_Shredder
        Link Parent
        What's the difference between sex work and other labour? Clearly rape and forced labour are different economically; rape is a particular kind of extreme personal violation and harm, it's unrelated...

        What's the difference between sex work and other labour?

        Clearly rape and forced labour are different economically; rape is a particular kind of extreme personal violation and harm, it's unrelated to class struggle etc. Prison labour and sex slavery are certainly related: both are slavery and involve gross exploitation, abuse, and oppression, although for the latter there's a greater degree of trauma.

        (noting that yes there is a practical difference between labour for service and labour for goods production, but the general principle of exploitation applies widely)

        2 votes
  5. [3]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    You're worried about the exploitation aspects of sex work. This is a good thing to be worried about. Are you also worried about the exploitation aspects of other goods and services you buy? To...

    You're worried about the exploitation aspects of sex work. This is a good thing to be worried about.

    Are you also worried about the exploitation aspects of other goods and services you buy? To take just one example, do you check that the phone you buy has not been assembled by people who are being exploited?

    The reason I ask this is to make the point that any form of work can be exploitative. The exploitation does not come from the type of work being done, but from the conditions in which the work is being done. Is the worker being paid an appropriate wage? Is the worker's health and safety being cared for? Is the worker's voice being heard by their employer? Does the worker have the ability to leave their employment if they want to? A worker can be exploited while building a phone in Zhengzhou or while having sex in Chicago.

    If a sex worker has control of her employment, if she sets her own rates and hours, if she decides which clients to take and which to reject, if she chooses to work in prostitution without coercion, if she is in control of her destiny, then she is not being exploited.

    So, rather than worry about whether sex work is inherently exploitative, worry about whether the particular worker you are engaging has control over her employment and its associated conditions. Is she under the control of a pimp? Is she being manipulated by a male family member? Is she the captain of her own destiny?


    On another note, I noticed you say you have a wife and you participate in the sex industry (I assume, by hiring sex workers). This is an interesting juxtaposition, to say the least. I won't pry (even though I'm dying to), but if you happen to want to share more about this juxtaposition of your own volition, I, for one, wouldn't object. ;)

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      NoblePath
      Link Parent
      I’ll never tell ;) Direct Exploitation of the workers, while truly awful, is only one possible issue. I’m more interested in whether there is a more fundamental, unavoidable harm inherent in the...

      I’ll never tell ;)

      Direct Exploitation of the workers, while truly awful, is only one possible issue. I’m more interested in whether there is a more fundamental, unavoidable harm inherent in the work. And if there is, is it for me, personally? Or is it more general, or abstract?

      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        With all my talk about "the conditions in which the work is being done", I obviously don't believe so. However, there might be some harm to you in hiring someone to have sex with you, instead of...

        I’m more interested in whether there is a more fundamental, unavoidable harm inherent in the work.

        With all my talk about "the conditions in which the work is being done", I obviously don't believe so.

        However, there might be some harm to you in hiring someone to have sex with you, instead of making the effort to engage with people to find a sex partner. But I could also say there's some harm to you in hiring someone to clean your home, instead of you taking responsibility for cleaning up your own mess. There could also be some harm to you in hiring someone to deliver take-away food to you, instead of cooking for yourself.

        Everything we do involves some harm.

        Choose your harm! :)

  6. [6]
    Thrabalen
    Link
    Any time you're paying someone to use a portion of their life, it's exploitative. It's all degrees beyond that. As for sex work specifically, it's also about degrees. Obviously, coerced/forced sex...

    Any time you're paying someone to use a portion of their life, it's exploitative. It's all degrees beyond that.

    As for sex work specifically, it's also about degrees. Obviously, coerced/forced sex work is always bad (but then, so is coerced/forced cashiering.) Most of the time, sex work itself is not to blame, but is rather a symptom. If a woman can't survive without doing sex work, that's not the work's problem, it's the system that put her there.

    6 votes
    1. [5]
      ibis
      Link Parent
      I think it’s useful to separate the ideology of sex work and the reality of the sex work industry. Ideologically, there is nothing wrong with sex work. But the reality is that exploitation is a...

      I think it’s useful to separate the ideology of sex work and the reality of the sex work industry.

      Ideologically, there is nothing wrong with sex work.

      But the reality is that exploitation is a problem with the global sex work industry.

      And like I said in another comment, rape is not the same thing as “forced cashiering”.

      7 votes
      1. [4]
        Thrabalen
        Link Parent
        Slavery is slavery. Forcing someone to work is bad, no matter the work. That is also encompasses rape doesn't make the sex work the bad part, it's still the force that's the issue.

        Slavery is slavery. Forcing someone to work is bad, no matter the work. That is also encompasses rape doesn't make the sex work the bad part, it's still the force that's the issue.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          ibis
          Link Parent
          But the impact on the victim is wildly different. Imagine being forced to be a cashier. Now imagine getting fucked without your consent, and the video being uploaded on the internet for your...

          But the impact on the victim is wildly different. Imagine being forced to be a cashier. Now imagine getting fucked without your consent, and the video being uploaded on the internet for your friends, family, and acquaintances to freely see.

          Sex work is treated different for a reason - sex holds a different meaning for humans then other 'labour'. It holds religious meaning for a lot of people, it has the power to make or destroy romantic relationships, it has the power to humiliate beyond anything else. Most of our curse words are based around sex. You can't have a conversation about forced sex labour without considering the meaning sex holds for people. Comparing sex slavery to being a 'forced cashier' is dismissive.

          7 votes
          1. [2]
            Thrabalen
            Link Parent
            I'm not saying they're remotely similar. I'm saying that the force is the issue, not the sex work. Furthermore, yes, sex has a deeper resonance for some people... and for others, it's about...

            I'm not saying they're remotely similar. I'm saying that the force is the issue, not the sex work. Furthermore, yes, sex has a deeper resonance for some people... and for others, it's about getting your jollies and nothing more. Restricting someone from doing something because someone else holds it in as stronger regard is distasteful, in my opinion. It leads us to situations like the War on Drugs and Prohibition.

            1 vote
            1. NoblePath
              Link Parent
              I’m not persuaded that’s true, or that it’s even possible to reach that kind of conclusion. Sex ties to so much else, like identity at the physiological level. I’ll admit the possibility that sex...

              and for others, it's about getting your jollies and nothing more.

              I’m not persuaded that’s true, or that it’s even possible to reach that kind of conclusion. Sex ties to so much else, like identity at the physiological level. I’ll admit the possibility that sex can be a most casual thing, but all the evidence points in a different direction.

              3 votes
  7. PapaNachos
    Link
    One of the biggest problems with sex work is the fact that in the US we criminalize people who are victims of human trafficking. This makes it harder for people trapped in the system to seek the...

    One of the biggest problems with sex work is the fact that in the US we criminalize people who are victims of human trafficking. This makes it harder for people trapped in the system to seek the help they need to escape.

    At the moment I believe that decriminalizing sex work will allow people being exploited much more safely if they come forward. They won't be at risk of being thrown in jail.

    6 votes
  8. [3]
    envy
    Link
    Have you watched The Good Place?

    Have you watched The Good Place?

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      dotsforeyes
      Link Parent
      Not sure if we're thinking along the same lines but I immediately thought of The Good Place, as this topic reminded me so much of the ethical and philosophical problem of spoiler Doug Forcett

      Not sure if we're thinking along the same lines but I immediately thought of The Good Place, as this topic reminded me so much of the ethical and philosophical problem of

      spoiler

      Doug Forcett

      1. envy
        Link Parent
        Yes, just riffing off of @Thrabalen's comment. Our entire system is set up to prioritize profits over ethics. The Good Place asks a simple question, in todays age, is it possible to live an...

        Yes, just riffing off of @Thrabalen's comment. Our entire system is set up to prioritize profits over ethics. The Good Place asks a simple question, in todays age, is it possible to live an ethical life?

        3 votes
  9. [3]
    skybrian
    Link
    I don't know but I'll just caution against getting too caught up in binary distinctions. For example, classifying jobs as either exploitive or not doesn't seem useful? One way of clarifying the...

    I don't know but I'll just caution against getting too caught up in binary distinctions. For example, classifying jobs as either exploitive or not doesn't seem useful?

    One way of clarifying the question might be to figure out what you are curious about. Maybe you want to ask about the working conditions and effects of certain jobs. Maybe you wonder about what's going on with the people working at that strip bar your colleague went to?

    But the problem with getting specific is that I don't know if anyone here could answer those questions?

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      NoblePath
      Link Parent
      I don’t expect answers, i only hope for better questions. As it is, i’m not interested about whether any particular transaction, or type of transaction, is exploitive. Rather, i want to know is...

      I don’t expect answers, i only hope for better questions.

      As it is, i’m not interested about whether any particular transaction, or type of transaction, is exploitive. Rather, i want to know is there something inherently wrong with sex work that can’t be cured through better working conditions.

      1 vote
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        The word "inherent" is doing a lot work here. I guess the question is whether there is something about it that can't be fixed, and then the question is how far do you want to go in imagining how...

        The word "inherent" is doing a lot work here. I guess the question is whether there is something about it that can't be fixed, and then the question is how far do you want to go in imagining how things could be different?

        Also, it's not clear what your definition of "sex work" is? You briefly mention strip clubs, porn, cartoons, and stories, and I'm not sure they belong in the same category?

  10. post_below
    Link
    It's interesting to look at the morality, I've enjoyed the different perspectives on it in this thread. Regardless of what any of us think though, one thing is always going to be true: There will...

    It's interesting to look at the morality, I've enjoyed the different perspectives on it in this thread.

    Regardless of what any of us think though, one thing is always going to be true: There will always be both supply and demand for transactional sex.

    And, as others have mentioned, prohibition makes the problems worse, not better.

    So if it's not going away then does it really matter what anyone thinks about whether it's right or wrong? Shouldn't the focus (from a societal standpoint) be on how to make it reasonably safe and then leave it up to individuals to decide whether or not to participate?

    Some people think drinking is a sin. Others think marijuana is a corrupting influence that leads to all manner of evil. But we now know that letting people choose for themselves results in less of all the things we want to avoid (crime, addiction, etc..).

    I think with anything that has mental or physical health implications, education and open discourse are as important as regulation, maybe more. I'm not sure morality has a major role to play (which is not to say it's not valuable).

    3 votes
  11. tomf
    Link
    I'm all for legalization so long as it leads to unionization and protections to ensure that this line of work is safe for everybody involved. On the service side, the workers shouldn't be on the...

    I'm all for legalization so long as it leads to unionization and protections to ensure that this line of work is safe for everybody involved. On the service side, the workers shouldn't be on the street, etc.

    Years ago some friends and I were driving back from a party and we saw a girl we used to go to school with hooking. Prior to that I never would have considered the prostitutes I'd see on certain main roads -- but ever since then, I'm overcome by sadness.

    Ultimately, I want everything legalized with appropriate processes and controls in place that protect those involved.

    1 vote