Sluts, slut-shaming, and sex work

01Dec09

FeministWhore’s post about slut-shaming is really interesting to me. While I certainly can’t get behind the supposedly feminist justification for supporting sex work on the “but I just like sex!” grounds, I get really annoyed by people who somehow think enjoying sex is okay but profiting from enjoying sex is not. You’re a commodity!

I read a book based on that argument that I’m trying to wrap my brain around. Sex work is a form of profiting off the reduction of the person to essentially a glorified sex toy. I’m not sure I buy that. While not all people enjoy the sexual experiences they have in sex work, not all people don’t. I go back and forth. Sometimes I enjoy it. Sometimes I don’t. I want to read about what determines that, when I’ll enjoy it and when I won’t. Some people who exchange “actual” sex for money/goods have orgasms; some don’t. And not all the time.

So, I’m trying to figure out the role of enjoying or not enjoying the activity in sex work. Obviously, it’s tied to privilege and the ability a worker has to choose the client, the activity, and the environment, as well as the worker’s ability status. (You certainly can’t orgasm on some SSRIs!)

That really has little to do with FeministWhore’s post, but I think the struggle to stop slut-shaming and the struggle to stop whorephobia are related. While enjoying sex isn’t grounds for supporting sex work, I think that harmful stereotypes about women who like and have”that kind” of sex are linked.

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4 Responses to “Sluts, slut-shaming, and sex work”

  1. I think a true enjoyment of sex is certainly a start for supporting sex work. I know that is where I began understanding that yes, sex work can be chosen by women, specifically. Personally, I have found that people, again especially women, who do not enjoy sex, who only do it because they feel it is their duty as a girlfriend/wife/fiancee in a het context are very much against prostitution on the grounds of, “well I hate doing it so they (prostitutes) must hate doing it too”. The old, “no woman can possibly enjoy sex” chestnut. Now, when I was having unenjoyable sex in my early years, I couldn’t understand how a woman could choose to have sex for a living, though I understood how someone could be forced into doing it. I could pity a victim but despised the free agent. Odd, really, because before I had sex for the first time I was much more sex-positive and sex worker positive.

    On the other hand, women who could definitely be described as sex-positive, who enjoy sex for its own sake, can understand that casual sex/sex without ‘love’ isn’t negative or a bad thing as long as both/all parties are in agreement are decidedly more likely to support sex work and sex workers and not just from the sex angle. They tend to understand the many facets of sex work and its politics and even if they are unaware of some contentions about it, they’re open to learning about it and considering it in the larger picture.

    I’m hoping I explained myself. Having problems putting words down in digital paper.

    • I totally agree with you on all points. I should have been more clear. I’m not into the position that sex work is a sexual identity. As in, the choice to become a sex worker advances the sexual liberation of women. I just don’t buy that. I think you should like the work (aka having sex) to be that kind of sex worker just as much as I think people who aren’t into BDSM shouldn’t be Dommes. But I also think that it’s equal parts a job. I don’t enjoy making drinks for other people (though I enjoy drinking — zing!), but I didn’t hate it (free booze has that effect).

      It’s interesting about the whole enjoying sex thing, though. I should write another post about that. I used to think sex work and pornography were degrading and objectifying — when I wasn’t having sex. The first person I had sex with (I’m talking PIV, het sex) was a douchebag. So I kind of “snapped out” of my good girl ways and started having the sex I wanted with who I wanted to be having sex with. And my attitude about sex work changed. That’s not to say that people who object to sex work and porn on those grounds hate sex. Just that my personal attitude shifted with that experience.

      Of course, having lots of sex in a business sense can end up deadening my own personal sex life. But that’s a different and very complicated story. (It’s hard to find a quality dude to have sex with, for example, when he’s like, “Awesome, you’re a stripper!!! I want to tap that!!!”)

  2. Oh okay, yeah, I totally agree. Sex work definitely shouldn’t be a sexual identity but I can see how it could be a form of sexual expression. The two are conflated a bit and I think most people think identity and expression are one in the same.

    “(It’s hard to find a quality dude to have sex with, for example, when he’s like, “Awesome, you’re a stripper!!! I want to tap that!!!”)”

    Ya. Totally. At least among the straight/square crowd. I think men who are genuinely sex-positive (and not just claiming that in order to get more action) are the best to date. But again, gotta wade through a lot of bullshit to find them.

  3. 4 FW

    Hey you’re talking about me! Squee! That post was really wierd, I mean mine, not yours 🙂 It’d just been rolling around in my head and then I decided to finally type it out, mostly I didn’t have anything else to write about that seemed interesting.. It was weird because then a couple days later we heard about that whole slut-shaming suicide, and I just felt really bummed, like: too little way too late.

    Yeah, I agree though, anyway, that “i just love sex” isn’t a good reason at all to become a sex worker, not if that’s the only reason, not if it’s the main main main reason… because it will probably dampen the natural enjoyment. I think it makes you cynical, which is good, but too much cynicism too early isn’t good. What I didn’t really go into in that post, but I sort of did in a couple posts after I heard about that suicide, is what is the “like” in “liking sex” because I think that “sluts” often have sex for not the best reasons – if the best reason is supposed to be love, that’s not really why they are having it. I didn’t have it for that reason, not primarily, it was to feel wanted or special or interesting, but then especially the slut-shaming does worse harm, because those are the girls who are most unsure of themselves to begin with. My hope is that women, feminist or non-, stop the exclusion and become a haven of sorts for those unsure oversexed types without pity or judgement. The pity hurts as much as the shaming, sometimes more…

    I think the pro-sex thing, the slut thing, the whore thing – it’s all interconnected, and different in many ways, the same in other ways…. sigh, yeah… complicated no matter how you look at it.
    🙂


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