Compromising Positions

A sex ed blog with more

Sexual Ethics: Sex Work

Featured image photo credit goes to feministing.com.

I am taking a course on Sexual Ethics, and I think it may be helpful for me to regularly post about what we are reading and discussing in class.  The professor has asked that we suspend our biases or, that we try to be objective when reading and discussing. It is important for us to be able to critically look at various viewpoints as we go through the course. This semester we will be looking at topics such as prostitution, pornography, intergenerational relationships, nonmonogamy, and many more. Moreover, we will look at these issues from cross-cultural and historical perspectives, with research and examples from different parts of the world and various time periods.

Upon reading the syllabus, I thought I had an idea of where I stood on each of the topics we will be covering. Heads up: I am pro-sex work and think that the most recent Canadian law is not at all reasonable; more on that in an upcoming post. But then I started reading the first article about this week’s topic, ‘Prostitution and Sex Work,’ and I was both surprised and confused upon realizing the value in understanding how others have come to conclusions that I do not agree with.

That being said, “Should Feminists Oppose Prostitution” seemed to be following one track, but then concluded differently. This author contends that sex work itself is not the problem, but rather various systems within Western society (read: patriarchy) perpetuate negative stigma and issues surrounding prostitution, therefore feminists cannot support it. Perhaps through class discussion I will gain a greater understanding as to how she reached her conclusion, because to me it seems as though it came from out of the blue.

When reading the article, “Should Feminists Oppose Prostitution?” the author cites Andrea Dworkin at one point and it caused an audible ‘WHOA.’ As in, ‘I hadn’t thought of it that way! Brilliant! Mind blown!’ I wonder if I’m becoming jaded, because I find that it happens more and more infrequently. The terms that we use, and the way that penis-in-vagina intercourse is described, are very telling and linked with both “physical assault and imperialist domination”: “The thrusting is persistent invasion. She is opened up, split down the center. She is occupied.” I had not considered ‘imperialist domination’ in regards to intercourse. Is it important? I never think about imperialist domination …. Should I? Or maybe I do think about it but in different terms. Is it another way of saying colonialism? Showing my ignorance here: If it is about colonialism, does it make sense if everyone is the same race or culture? This took a turn! Hello, tangent. Intersectionality is so cool. Important discussion, for sure, but in regards to this class and sex work? Those that I immediately think of include class, race, and ability. There is absolutely a hierarchy within sex work, and even within prostitution alone, due to each of these intersections. I suppose race links to colonialism, which is connected to imperialist domination. I will write another blog post about what I have learned about these hierarchies within the realm of sex work. It’s really interesting stuff.

I do often think about the terms that we use while having sex, about sex, and in regards to sex. In my experience of English, intercourse is all about the vagina being ‘taken’, ‘penetrated’, ‘had’, ‘fucked’, ‘banged’, ‘screwed’, etc. by the penis, fingers or phallic toy. The vagina is the recipient, and the non-vagina is taking a dominant and active action. “Should Feminists Oppose Prostitution?” demonstrates how, according to Ann Garry, in North American culture we equate sex “with harm that men do to women, and because we think of the female role in sex as that of harmed object, we can see that to treat a woman as a sex object is automatically to treat her as less than fully human.” I hate reading that, writing it, hearing it. It hurts me. I must be living some kind of cognitive dissonance: I know that it is true, but I refuse to acknowledge it in my own life because it is too difficult and confusing. Why must it be true? How can it be true? I certainly do not view myself as a harmed object, but I use terms about the act of intercourse and even during sexual acts that would lead to the same conclusion. I suppose I am thus perpetuating rape culture without realizing it. Whoa.

Is it okay for me to want to be banged? Screwed? Can I be a feminist (someone who believes in gender equality) and a slut (someone who has sex with who they want, when they want, and how they want)? I mean, I want to say yes. But can I say yes while being a harmed object, while being treated as less than fully human? Am I a harmed object if I don’t think that I am a harmed object? This is where ethics comes in, and why we have debates about grey areas such as harm.

It’s ridiculous to me that one paragraph of this 12 page article could cause such a rambling. It’s not even explicitly about sex work, simply about intercourse and terminology! Yowza. I think this course is going to be eye opening and jarring for me. I think that I am going to be exposed to all kinds of new ways of looking at topics that I would initially view as clear-cut. Goodness knows I have strong opinions; I guess I better get ready to have them shaken up.

 

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One comment on “Sexual Ethics: Sex Work

  1. Ms. Fet
    September 23, 2016

    very interested in those topics in your Sexual Ethics course. I’m fascinated by every aspect of sex.

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This entry was posted on September 23, 2016 by in Sex Education, Sexuality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .
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