In this post I will speak to Margaret Baldwin’s wonderful essay in “Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography”, which is “Strategies of Connection: Postitution and Feminist Politics.”
I will go through it thoroughly for to me it give hope and a route to revolution.
”Feminist activists confront profound challenges in crafting strategies against prostitution, and for prostituted women. Those challenges require putting into action the greatest and more demanding strengths of feminism: forging connections among women, confronting the political meaning of our silences, and refusing to abandon any woman by the side of the road. a feminist political approach to prostitution must begin from these strengths, and be tested against the standards set by them…. This paper attempts some modest answers to these large question.”
I use this blog and my talks to confront feminists with their isolating of the prostituted, their abandonment of the women who know male violence from the insides of their guts.
I am a feminist, but a despairing feminists as daily I know my feminists Sisters are othering my prostituted Sisters.
”In feminism, we are committed to promoting solidarity among all women. We do this based on the belief that our experiences as women are linked, and our destinies shared…. The history of women’s oppression is likewise a tale of fine distinctions made among us: who deserved it, who asked for it, and so on. The history of feminism is, in turn, the history of our resistance to those distinctions.”
Here we see the beginning of the Othering of the prostituted.
”… That men hurt, despise, and exploit women and girls in and by prostitution should be enough reason for solidarity with survivors. My question, though, is whether more is demanded of us in forging a connection between prostitution and other sexual abuse – and between prostitutes and other women – beyond an initial understanding that prostitution is abusive, too.”
This is my springboard to revolution, that there multiple differences between prostitution and other forms of male violence against women.
We must know the differences to destroy prostitution as an institution, and not to abandon the prostituted class.
”This is no to suggest that all women are the same, or experience the same kind of victimisation as women. Certainty, not all women are prostituted, and that is a good thing. Not all women, that is, turn tricks for money, five times a day, thirty-five times a week, with two thousand men a year, while suffering at least the usual incidence of incest, rapes, beatings, and sexual harassment that other women do. The prostitution is on top of that. Many women have to endure only pieces of prostitution. Many women are subjected to unwanted sex from men who objectify us, but not typically from two thousand men a year. Many women suffer serial battery from husbands or lovers, but not typically also at the hands of hundreds of relative strangers. Many women receive money from aharassing boss in the form of a pay check, but not typically in a context where harassment is the the job. Each of these transactions shares something in common with prostitution, but none of them is prostitution. We might observe, too, that none of these transactions is exactly like the others, too. Rape is one thing, domestic battery another thing, sexual harassment another, prostitution another. All of them, nevertheless, involve some expression or manifestation of sexual ownership. Each of these practices, understood this way, is like a particular tactical weapon in the arsenal of male dominance – each can be deadly, even if differently deplored.”
This a stark reminder that we must stop saying that prostitution is just too many rapes, just the same as domestic violence, is just sexual harassment at work.
It is more, on the scale of genocide, and like all genocides it done to those who considered to non-humans, so our pain, grief and fight for just justice is discounted.
”… For underlying each of our principal strategies in rape law reform, in domestic battery and self-defence work, and in sexual harassment resistance, is an assertion crying out to be believed – we are not prostitutes. Our rape shield rules are crafted to distinguish in a juror’s mind between the woman testifying that a man raped her, and the prostitute who presumably has sex with anyone, consensually…. “
All violence to the prostituted is nothing happening to nothing.
Our pain is blow into the wind, our humiliation is crashed into dust, our right to grieve our loss of humanity is laughed at.
We cannot be raped, we cannot be battered, we do know torture and our murders are not even recorded.
Nothing is happening here.
”… Like women in prostitution, feminism has been channelled, deprived, punished, and cajoled to maintain certain limits, to please in certain ways – conditions which may have come to seem normal for us, and which some of us will at times enthusiastically say we chose.”
”The biggest silence maintained by the anti- prostitute design of our sexual violence work is silence about johns. In reality, they are mostly white, married men with at least a little disposable income – real people, that is. Emperical research on johns is almost non-existent. Since johns are rarely arrested, their identities remain shielded from public disclosure, as well as from criminal sanctions. Even johns try to avoid the label. In prostitution transactions, johns frequently adopt a variety of sexual roles – as boyfriend, as lover, as father, sometimes as punitive avenger of the public good. By insisting on these roles, a john aviods seeing himself as just a trick. On all of these fronts – academic, legal, and personal – who johns are, why they buy women, and their culpability for doing so, are evaded questions”
This lack of centring in on punters is the biggest betrayal to the prostituted class.
Punters are your brothers, your work colleagues, our radical allies, your teachers, yours pastors or priests – heck punters are everywhere and nowhere.
But punters are allowed to not exist as criminals, or to be seen to do actual violence.
Their rapes, their torturing and their murders are purposely made invisible in order to make that nothing is happening to nothing.
”Prostituted women and girls themselves, who have the most insight and information on johns, have also been silenced. The prostitution itself takes its toll in despair, depression, denial, drug abuse, isolation, torture, and murder. Many women do not survive. Women who do survive prostitution usually find recalling and retelling their experiences enormously painful and disturbing. The law, too, plays a role in silencing survivors. Criminal records, mental health treatment histories, and substance abuse issues compromise a prostituted woman’s credibility, assuming she ever gets to talk at all about the men who buy her…. The obvious beneficiaries of the suppression of prostituted women’s voices, again, are the johns who use them.”
The grim reality of being an exited woman is our knowledge it was a toss of a coin that we survived.
We live alongside the ghosts of the majority of the prostituted who were thrown away, did not have the ability to stay sane or alive, who were made to disappear.
We live with the ghosts of the prostituted whose murders were unreported, who were tortured into losing hope, the ones who committed suicide.
To be exited is luck, our inner strength and warrior spirit is as strong as the millions of the prostituted who are lost to us.
”… Perhaps non-prostitutes, especially white, middle-class, married women, have some stake in this separation, too. It is uncomfortable to think of your nice husband or retired dad as a guy who buys women and girls for sex. Maybe this is a reason, however unconscious, for non-prostituted women, especially white, middle-class, married women, to keep separating themselves from prostitutes and their own abuse from prostitution.”
”Moreover, we know that some of the realities of prostitution are not confined to prostitution itself.”
”… One man is not the same as two thousand.”
This is my revolution, that the scale of the prostituted bodies is carrying the thousands of nameless and faceless punters pouring rape, tortures and deaths into them as their norm.
This is not normal for the non-prostituted, even though rape, battery and harassment in almost every women’s lives.
What hurts our experiences are dismiss and silenced.
One or three rapes garnered sympathy from feminists, but to be raped to when you lose counts or that you have a skin is too be ignored.
To be battered by a man who is known is a crime and access if lucky to shelter – but to battered by endless punters is just part of the job, or reframed as S/M sex.
We are being sold down the river.