Housework and compulsory heterosexuality

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Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
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Apr 21 2013 16:05

exited?

Deck access's picture
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Apr 21 2013 16:14

someone who is no longer prostituted
here is Rebecca Mott's blog

Chilli Sauce's picture
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Apr 21 2013 21:02

Hmm...I find that terminology really weird. Why 'exited'? Why 'no longer prostituted'? Why not just say someone who previously worked as a prostitute?

I mean, I'm sure there could be valid semantic reasons for this, but this is new terminology to me and I have various friends/comrades in the sex industry whom I've talked with about these subjects.

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Apr 21 2013 21:06

Steven:

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As communists, we find it useful to define classes in relation to the means of production (principally, in terms of owners/controllers of it, and those without any). If you have an alternate definition of class by which you can show men and women are indifferent ones I would be happy to hear it.

Hmm, throughout feudalism/in some capitalist situations, women have been barred from inheriting property and, unable to own homes or land for growing crops, were forced to access wealth only through putting themselves in service to men - both sexual and otherwise caretaking - and to use their bodies to reproduce male heirs who would inherit the means of production.
To me the argument even makes sense that the division between men and women is the earliest class division in the world - and that, in a free society, gender wouldn't be assigned to people at birth and differences between people's bodies would be irrelevant to their role in society.

It bothers me a lot to see who gets to claim the title "Radical Feminist," so much that I usually don't use it to describe myself, although I am a feminist and a radical.

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Apr 21 2013 21:22

I totally see where Chilli is coming from.

I can sort of see some twisted language-politics logic to saying all sex workers are 'prostituted' in the same way as all workers are 'proletarianised' (ie if we were really free none of us would choose a life of alienated labour and exploitation- its a condition we fall into because of the surrounding force of social relations) but you wouldn't say use that sort of language for any other work people get lumbered with- I quit an admin job- but I wasn't de-administied, ex-plumbers were never 'plumbered'- so it sounds a bit anti-sex worker to me. You can't stand in solidarity with people if you label them with negative-sounding terms and make them feel like what they do to make money is somehow more bad than normal or whatever (unless they want you to aid their fight for better pay and conditions or better options- because that is all of our fight!). People who get paid to have sex in many cases prefer that to lots of other jobs they might get- sex work is just another of the general range of shit jobs we proles have to put up with, we shouldn't label it as something distasteful beyond the normal badness of alienated work... it seems to me that's what these terms do- stick to the worker- and not the system that creates the conditions they endure as best they can.

edit- feel like that wasn't put very well and maybe I should think more before I post. Hope a more eloquent poster (with good knowledge of sex work) can comment on the use of the terms 'exited' and 'prostituted'

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Apr 21 2013 21:23

I'm definately warming to the gender-as-class perspective, but still can't see why that captures or describes something which 'patriarchy' doesn't...

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Apr 22 2013 01:07

that's fair. and it seems natural to me that supporting sex workers' organization is also supporting making it easier for people to get out of prostitution if they want to, i mean, folks uniting around common interests generally want more options, not less.

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Apr 22 2013 07:10
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feel like that wasn't put very well and maybe I should think more before I post. Hope a more eloquent poster (with good knowledge of sex work) can comment on the use of the terms 'exited' and 'prostituted'

I thought it was really well put.

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Apr 22 2013 10:54

Good, thanks Chilli and armillaria for saying so. Still find it hard to talk about gender politically but glad I sometimes think along the right lines. (I used to think women were naturally more pro-social than men, and 'if women were in charge the world would be a better place'... I gave up on that when I realised it basically meant I would expect higher standards of social behaviour from women than I would from myself embarrassed )

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Apr 22 2013 19:02
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People who get paid to have sex in many cases prefer that to lots of other jobs they might get- sex work is just another of the general range of shit jobs we proles have to put up with, we shouldn't label it as something distasteful beyond the normal badness of alienated work... it seems to me that's what these terms do- stick to the worker- and not the system that creates the conditions they endure as best they can.

And men who buy sex are just like any other customer, are they? If prostitution is no worse than any job, why do feminists who aren't even anti-capitalist still want to end prostitution?

What is negative-sounding about 'prostituted' and 'exited'? Are you serious? How bad an opinion do you have of radical feminists, that you think they'd blame prostituted women and not the system?

armillaria put it very well

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Apr 22 2013 19:48

From what I can tell men who buy sex are quite numerous. But I think generally, they are just alienated consumers like all of us when we buy something to meet our unfulfilled/ socially-distorted needs...

From what I gather from following radical sex workers on twitter- most of the feminists (generally liberals) who target their anger at sex work, tend to provoke the ire of sex workers, and potentially harm sex workers' struggle.

The anger against the exploitative nature of sex work, if not properly done through standing in solidarity with the workers, leads to fallout on the workers who endure it (criminalisation, leading to difficulty doing it safely because of need to hide, people shunning sex workers socially for 'moral' reasons, harassment, feelings of personal guilt for not taking another (possibly even worse) job etc)...

I can't say more than that really because my understanding of the issue is still developing, but this isn't just an impression I made for myself, it is one I've gleaned from exchanges between certain feminist sex workers and anti-sex work (non-critical of capitalism in general) feminists who generally tend to have little or no understanding of the reality of sex work (certainly they know less than the workers themselves)...

I wasn't trying to say that the terms 'extited' and 'prostituted' were intentionally aimed at the workers themselves (though I have seen 'feminists' verbally attacking sex workers for supporting the expolitation of women- which is plainly fucked up), just that I get the impression the negative baggage these terms imply (because they have been invented to show 'sex workers are different somehow- because sex work is double-plus-bad') would attach itself to the workers, rather than the system. Why the need for such words specifically for sex work- if we recognise that the workers are doing what they can to make ends meet in a fucked up system and have agency to direct the struggle themselves and call for solidarity on their own terms?

I want to be part of a movement to abolish sex work, but not by making a moral crusade against the industry. I want to help abolish all work alongside the workers who currently endure capitalism whatever way they think is best. I tend to take my cue from the workers, rather than from an outside agency claiming to represent their best interests (or labelling them as 'different in a bad way' to normal workers)... as a rule of thumb.

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Apr 23 2013 11:16

Sorry for posting so much- really keen to hear from others still (also like armillaria's posts, and I'm glad to see deck access sticking with the thread as it's providing a good discussion).

Just wanted to add, I do get the impression that some 'feminists' would rather see sex workers forced (by the state or social/ economic pressure) to clean toilets at minimum wage or something equally crap, rather than to fight alongside sex workers to improve their quality of life and work towards the abolition of all forms of exploitation. I'm not saying that's your view DA (I'm pretty sure it ain't) but I'm not sure what your take is on how we go about supporting sex workers struggles without resorting to some form of coercion (where they are acting against whatever form of coercion)...

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Apr 22 2013 21:40

I think we definitely agree in practice, that we should support the self-organisation of sex workers to achieve better conditions/better pay/the abolition of prostitution along with all other work. I would think we can support sex workers struggles just like struggles in any other industry.

(I also think housewives can self-organise just like any other industry. But in that case, it is men who are in the position of exploiter. Since Joseph Kay linked to the piece about sex strikes, I am becoming more convinced that is the case.)

I don't think saying punters are 'just alienated consumers like all of us' does them justice though. Have a look at Rebecca Mott's 'Letter to a Punter'

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I'm glad to see desk access sticking with the thread as it's providing a good discussion

Thank you, I'm glad you are finding it helpful as well smile

Quote:
I do get the impression that some 'feminists' would rather see prostitutes forced (by the state or social/ economic pressure) to clean toilets at minimum wage or something equally crap, rather than to fight alongside sex workers to improve their quality of life and work towards the abolition of all forms of exploitation.

I am not invalidating your point at all, but I think it is naive to assume that prostitution is better than cleaning toilets. And of course cleaners can also organise.

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Apr 22 2013 22:46

"Prostituted" might make some sense in the sense that the situation a person finds themselves in, that means they have to work (in prostitution as with all other work) is something that happens to them, rather than something they choose. The choice of the word in this case seems to be to clearly define prostitution specifically as the result of a lack of choices. This might be fair enough if Radical Feminist writing on the sex industry pointed towards the causes of this. Prostitution does increase with poverty. It is something a lot of people will leave as a last resort. The only other option might be starving, or not being able to go to college, or having to take full time work leaving no time to look after the kids, or barely scraping buy on benefits, etc with the point at which someone would choose prostituion varying from person to person. In this case a concern for womens' lack of options and their resulting work in the sex industry, should result in the fight against the causes of these narrow options, women's lower wages, no affordable education, inadequate child benefit, etc. Instead Radical Feminists go about attacking the sex industry in a way that worsens things for those people they claim to be showing compassion for. It's this which is anti-sex worker.

I've noticed that the English Collective of Prostitutes make the link very clearly, between poverty and prostitution, in their analysis. As such their demands include rights for sex workers as well as demands that would give women more options than prostitution. These demands are demands for the needs of those workers, with no concern for the interests of the sex industry. They don't refer to themselves as the English Collective of Prostituted Women.

Rebbecca Mott states clearly she believes sex work is not work, but violence against women. She thinks calling it work makes it sound better than it is. But then she seems to think work is something better than it is, so that would explain that to some extent.

"Exited" makes no sense to me. It sounds like exiting is something that happens to you, rather than something you do. Is it not enough to dismiss the agency of people going into prostitution, they have to be dismissed on their way out too?

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Apr 22 2013 22:35
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I am not invalidating your point at all, but I think it is naive to assume that prostitution is better than cleaning toilets. And of course cleaners can also organise.

Of course cleaners do organise as well (neither, or any, group of workers organise enough though imo)

But I'm sure that is a choice that exists for many sex workers- sell sex or do something else (perhaps something not as unpleasant, but still not nice) for much worse pay. I've never sold sex so can't really relate to that choice... However, I have the impression that most sex workers (within the confines of markets forces, and their need to earn a wage etc) get to choose:
- who they take on as a 'client' and who they don't
- what hours they work
- what they are willing to do, and for how much money etc
- whether to get paid to have unwanted sex, or do something else they don't want to do for money

I don't want to sound like I support the idea of maintaining a society where that choice should ever need to be made... and trafficking, coercive pimping etc is a much more pressing issue that often gets mixed up in the minds of people when thinking about all sex work in general.

Honestly, I do find the whole idea of buying sex a bit gross, and I would never do it. But the prevalence of the sex industry must show that a good proportion of ordinary men are willing to pay for it.

I don't for a moment doubt that many of the men who pay for sex have abhorrent ideas and behaviour, and many workers in the industry suffer traumatic experiences at the hands of punters. But there are loads of willing punters, so I can't see them as abnormal, just the whole system which creates the conditions for punter / sex worker relation as a bit fucked up.

If you're on twitter I recommend following some sex workers- you get some really interesting perspectives which my previous post really didn't do justice to. That letter is very distressing to read and I don't doubt that sex work can be very distressing. I wish it didn't exist at all, but it has to be ended in the right way (and I think we generally agree here- it's just a very emotive topic and difficult to discuss especially without much insider experience and relying on seemingly conflicting first-hand accounts...)

(edit cross-posted with Konsequent)

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Apr 22 2013 23:19

I'd never call any sex worker a "prosititute" - it's just as bad as "whore" in my opinion. And as workers, we need to extend our solidarity to them rather than act all elitist and "compassionately" want to get rid of them. It's true sex workers are getting exploited in the worst way, but we need to attack the system (capitalism) rather than an aspect of it (women selling sex). If there's one thing we should agree with the Radfems on is that sex work is a Bad Thing, but as anarchists we'd extend that critique to all jobs under capitalism. We'd extend it to the notion of "work" itself!

Oh, and fuck 'Punters" (we call these scum 'Johns' here in the US) they're "alienated consumers" the same way drug runners are "alienated consumers" when they buy weapons from an international arms dealer. If the punters all died from heart attacks from realizing how reprehensible they were I'd laugh. The fact people hurl so much invective towards sex workers and not the misogynistic, abusive, violent johns and pimps is proof of how misogynistic society is.

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Apr 22 2013 23:54

I am inclined to agree that punters deserve vitriol but I know a guy who admitted to buying sex (one of very few close male friends I have) and he wasn't at all dissimilar to most guys I know in his attitude towards sex, women (and people in general in fact). He was possibly just more honest. He treats women a lot worse (like objects for meeting his needs) when he is mentally unstable but generally he isn't that bad as men go... (I mean seriously, listen to any group of men discussing sex and women in the pub or after a game of sport- look at the majority of pornography online-designed to appeal to an average bloke- it's fucking atrocious)

Most of my close friends are female and I find most men a bit difficult to be around (notable exceptions being a couple of comrades I met because of politics, who I don't see much of IRL)- now, I want to blame patriarchy for that, 'macho' or 'patriarchal' behaviour, logically... but I still feel inclined to put a bit of the blame with biology... I do feel that most guys are dick heads who say and do mean, selfish, coercive shit all the time (not just to women but to other people in general) but is that a product of their social conditioning or in their nature? Or is my feeling towards most men a product of my conditioning? I dunno.

I really didn't want to sound like I was defending men who pay for sex- I feel that they don't really deserve sympathy- but I'm trying not to see men- in their nature- as the problem per se but the social conditions we experience leading a good number of our gender (and probably all of us at one time or another) to behave in abhorrent ways. But it does feel like always blaming conditioning and the web of social relations is a bit of a let-off for sexist, bullying, emotionally-stunted, self-centered, fuck-wits, but then again, so is blaming testosterone or instincts or whatever.

I want to believe that men who think and act abhorrently are a product of an abhorrent system of social relations- and I do, up to a point.

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Apr 23 2013 00:35
A Wotsit wrote:
I do feel that most guys are dick heads who say and do mean, selfish, coercive shit all the time (not just to women but to other people in general) but is that a product of their social conditioning or in their nature?

I don't think it's in men's nature to do mean, selfish, coercive shit all the time. Men are capable of not doing that kind of shit. That's lucky considering that if it were in their nature, then the only reasonable conclusion to the fight against patriarchy would be the one outlined in the SCUM manifesto. The idea that men and women's roles are inherent, and so the women should just suck it up, is the one which really supports the status quo.

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Apr 23 2013 07:02
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"Exited" makes no sense to me. It sounds like exiting is something that happens to you, rather than something you do. Is it not enough to dismiss the agency of people going into prostitution, they have to be dismissed on their way out too?

Yes, exactly. That's it's, it's the use of the passive voice. Even linguistically, the RadFems are denying sex workers agency.

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Apr 23 2013 07:09
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Oh, and fuck 'Punters" (we call these scum 'Johns' here in the US) they're "alienated consumers" the same way drug runners are "alienated consumers" when they buy weapons from an international arms dealer. If the punters all died from heart attacks from realizing how reprehensible they were I'd laugh.

Sorry dude, but there is a difference here: gun runners, at least those directing the running, are much more akin to capitalists than johns.

And besides, where does this logic end? I went to a strip club when I turned 18. Do I deserve a heart attack? What about watching pornography? I might not be paying the sex workers directly, but I am supporting an industry which pays people to have sex.

(Not defending John here, btw, I just think you're critique is a bit sweeping and not so thought-through here Nanner)

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Apr 23 2013 10:05

I once fell madly "in love" with a man, quite a bit older than me, we had a child, after a couple of years i grew "out of love" with him and didn't really feel like having sex with him anymore, i did fancy and want to have sex with other people though, however we had a home and a child and he supported us, he wasn't a bad man at all, and sex was after all an important part of being in this sort of relationship so I'd been told, friends said that i had to "work" at my relationship, i think that meant have sex with him when I didn't really feel like it, and i felt obliged to do this to keep things "sweet", this trundled on until i had the financial ability (a waged job) to leave

although a personal anecdote, I don't think this is an unusual scenario, the main problem I think lies with the fact that social reproduction is (mainly) tightly contained within a certain operating system (nuclear/extended family) and relies on the ideology of romantic love (in western cultures at least)

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Apr 23 2013 10:14

as to sex work, why is that any different from any other work?? surely that's just pure moralisation

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Apr 23 2013 11:01
Konsequent wrote:
A Wotsit wrote:
I do feel that most guys are dick heads who say and do mean, selfish, coercive shit all the time (not just to women but to other people in general) but is that a product of their social conditioning or in their nature?

I don't think it's in men's nature to do mean, selfish, coercive shit all the time. Men are capable of not doing that kind of shit. .... The idea that men and women's roles are inherent, and so the women should just suck it up, is the one which really supports the status quo.

Yeah, you're right. Fully agree. I got a bit carried away there.

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Apr 23 2013 11:12

I'm sure many women go through what you described there cardy lady. I used to read the advice columns in tabloids when on my lunch break if the papers were lying about (stopped because it made me so angry) and this whole 'work at your relationship' and 'make an effort for your man' idea was (and probs still is) pretty prevalent, and obviously a form of social coercion.

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Apr 23 2013 12:33

I agree with people who have said sex work is still a kind of work structurally similar to others, but I think there are a couple of caveats to make.

1. Sex work has an unusually large amount of internal differentiation. In the same city there will be sex workers who are literally slaves, sex workers who are being coerced by abusive partners, occasional sex workers who need to get a bit of money to make rent, sex workers who make an ok wage in ok conditions, and so on. Merging all these different situations, as some radical feminists and some of their opponents do, into one grand mass is an obstacle to understanding what's going on, I think.

2. Sex work does seem to play a special role in the various patriarchal logics that operate in this and other societies. For example there are all sorts of common insults that relate to sex work used to shame and control women in general by comparison to sex workers. I'm sure we can all come up with loads of other examples.

But I don't think either of those two observations make sex work some sort of weird separate thing to be analysed in a whole different way to other types of labour. After all, mining work matches the first description fairly closely, though on a global level, and nursing matches the second (in that it plays a major role in patriarchal conceptions of 'womanhood'). It would be absurd to set up campaigns against mining or nursing on this basis.

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Apr 23 2013 14:57

I completely agree with Nanner's attitude towards pimps and johns.

A Wotsit: Of course your mate who who bought sex was just a normal guy, that's the whole point- normal guys are abhorrent. He deserves as much vitriol as any other john.
On whether to blame biology or patriarchy for what the average guy is like, what does it matter? We have to stop it either way.
I'm not on twitter, but who are the people you follow? If they aren't private accounts, that is.

Chilli Sauce:
Yeah, strip clubs and porn are really bad as well. And you can't let someone off just cos they're 18. I'd think it perfectly fair if the workers at that club thought you deserved a heart attack, that's for sure. (I'm not saying I'm a great person, I've watched porn. But I'm not going to ever again.)

This source describes the reasoning behind 'prostituted' (I'm not saying I agree with it)

Quote:
Terms should be used that are neither pejorative or that ignore
the violence to women and children used in the sex industry.
Rather than refer to someone as a “sex worker,” it is preferable
to use “sexually exploited person,” “prostituted woman” or
“child used in prostitution.” These terms do not pretend that a
human rights abuse is ‘work’.
Negative terms-such as ‘prostitute’, ‘whore’ or ‘hooker’-should
not be used as they stigmatize victims.

(Coalition Against Trafficking in Women)

Quote:
Sex work has an unusually large amount of internal differentiation. In the same city there will be sex workers who are literally slaves, sex workers who are being coerced by abusive partners, occasional sex workers who need to get a bit of money to make rent, sex workers who make an ok wage in ok conditions, and so on. Merging all these different situations, as some radical feminists and some of their opponents do, into one grand mass is an obstacle to understanding what's going on, I think.

From what I've read, it might be near impossible to make a useful distinction between 'bad' trafficking, debt bondage, abuse and 'good' sex work. Certainly I think it would be naive to assume that the 'worst' forms of prostitution are the exception, rather than the rule.

But I think everyone agrees that sex workers/prostituted women can organise like any other industry.

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Apr 23 2013 15:40
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normal guys are abhorrent.

And, you see, that's reflective of a lack any serious understanding of patriarchy at all.

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(I'm not saying I'm a great person, I've watched porn. But I'm not going to ever again.)

And that's just moralizing.

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Apr 23 2013 16:00
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that's reflective of a lack any serious understanding of patriarchy at all.

A Wotsit said the same thing

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I do feel that most guys are dick heads who say and do mean, selfish, coercive shit all the time

So you think normal guys aren't abhorrent?

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that's just moralizing

Says the guy who visited a strip club, and clearly doesn't think it was that bad. Moralizing doesn't come into it. It's about violence against women. Porn is prostitution on film. It degrades women. Some of it is rape on film, and I would never watch it knowing I could be watching someone's rape.

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Apr 24 2013 12:12
Quote:
A Wotsit said the same thing

Yeah I sort of did, but then I agreed with Konsequents more considered post. I was being a bit over-emotional (which I'm not ashamed of- it's an emotive subject) and not really thinking about what I was saying- was heavily imbued with liquor when I wrote the 'basically, most men are shit' post...

Also, can't speak for him , but I think Chilli mentioned the strip club visit because in retrospect he realises it was not a good thing to do, but wanted to show 'nice guys are capable of being involved in women's exploitation, but that doesn't mean all men are automatically the enemy, we are capable of enlightenment'...

edit- deleted a bit... TLDR

Re. who to follow on twitter, there are quite a few tweeting radical sex workers- can't work out how to search for them- but the one that springs to mind is @AnarchaSxworker (not a private account so assume it's fine to share...)

I'm going to try and rid myself of the 'biological influence' ideas because we should abolish socially-constructed notions of gender and exploitation in all forms,I firmly believe that is possible, and I think everyone who's thought about this thread properly recognises we need to abolish patriarchy.. I feel like we can find a good amount of common ground here and I think people have generally given a good account of their views where they differ from your own...?

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Apr 23 2013 17:47
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Says the guy who visited a strip club, and clearly doesn't think it was that bad.

When the fuck did I say that? Tosser.

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It degrades women.

Again, more moralizing bullshit.