Happy hookers: sex workers and their would-be saviors

Happy hookers: sex workers and their would-be saviors

Melissa Gira Grant on the framework in which sex work is discussed.

The following books were not published in 1972: The Happy Secretary, The Happy Nurse, The Happy Napalm Manufacturer, The Happy President, The Happy Yippie, The Happy Feminist. The memoir of a Manhattan madam was. The Happy Hooker climbed best-seller lists that year, selling over sixteen million copies.

When it reached their top five, the New York Times described the book as “liberally dosed with sex fantasies for the retarded.” The woman who wrote them and lived them, Xaviera Hollander, became a folk hero. She remains the accidental figurehead of a class of women who may or may not have existed before she lived and wrote. Of course, they must have existed, but if they hadn’t, say the critics of hooker happiness, we would have had to invent them.

Is prostitution so wicked a profession that it requires such myths?

We may remember the legend, but the particulars of the happy hooker story have faded. Hollander and the characters that grew up around her are correctly recalled as sexually omnivorous, but desire alone didn’t make her successful as a prostitute. She realized that the sex trade is no underworld, that it is intimately entangled in city life, in all the ways in which we are economically interdependent. Hollander was famous for being able to sweep through the lobby of the Palace Hotel, unnoticed and undisturbed, on her way to an assignation, not because she didn’t “look like” a working girl, but because she knew that too few people understood what a working girl really looked like.

In The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, a 1977 film adapted from Hollander’s memoir, a scene opens with teletype bashing the screen with Woodward-and-Bernstein urgency. Flashlights sweep a darkened hall. Inside an unlocked office, a criminal scene is revealed: a senator embracing a prostitute. Hollander is called before Congress to testify. When the assembled panel interrogates her career, attacking her morals, she is first shameless, then spare but sharp in pointing out the unsurprising fact that these men are patrons of the very business they wish to blame for America’s downfall.

What’s on trial in the film is ridiculous, but the questions are real. What value does a prostitute bring to society? Or is hooking really not so grandiose as all that? Could it be just another mostly tedious way to take ownership over something all too few of us are called before Congress to testify on (the conditions of our work)?

Did you know that 89 per-cent of the women in prostitution want to escape?” a young man told me on the first day of summer this year, as he protested in front of the offices of the Village Voice. He wanted me to understand that it is complicit in what he calls “modern-day slavery.” The Village Voice has moved the bulk of the sex-related ads it publishes onto the website Backpage.com. This young man, the leader of an Evangelical Christian youth group, wanted to hasten the end of “sex slavery” by shutting Backpage.com down. What happens to the majority of people who advertise willingly on the site, who rely on it to draw an income? “The reality is,” the man said to me, not knowing I had ever been a prostitute, “almost all of these women don’t really want to be doing it.”

Let’s ask the people around here, I wanted to say to him: the construction workers who dug up the road behind us, the cabbies weaving around the construction site, the cops over there who have to babysit us, the Mister Softee guy pulling a double shift in the heat, the security guard outside a nearby bar, the woman working inside, the receptionist upstairs. The freelancers at the Village Voice. The guys at the copy shop who printed your flyers. The workers at the factory that made the water bottles you’re handing out. Is it unfair to estimate that 89 percent of New Yorkers would rather not be doing what they have to do to make a living?

“True, many of the prostitution ads on Backpage are placed by adult women acting on their own without coercion,” writes New York Times columnist and professional prostitute savior Nicholas Kristof. But, he continues, invoking the happy hooker trope, “they’re not my concern.” He would like us to join him in separating women into those who chose prostitution and those who were forced into it; those who view it as business and those who view it as exploitation; those who are workers and those who are victims; those who are irremediable and those who can be saved. These categories are too narrow. They fail to explain the reality of one woman’s work, let alone a class of women’s labor. In this scheme, a happy hooker is apparently unwavering in her love of fucking and will fuck anyone for the right price. She has no grievances, no politics.

But happy hookers, says Kristof, don’t despair, this isn’t about women like you – we don’t really mean to put you out of work. Never mind that shutting down the businesses people in the sex trade depend on for safety and survival only exposes all of them to danger and poverty, no matter how much choice they have. Kristof and the Evangelicals outside the Village Voice succeed only in taking choices away from people who are unlikely to turn up outside the New York Times, demanding that Kristof’s column be taken away from him.

Even if they did, with the platform he’s built for himself as the true expert on sex workers’ lives, men like Kristof can’t be run out of town so easily. There’s always another ted conference, another women’s rights organization eager to hire his expertise. Kristof and those like him, who have made saving women from themselves their pet issue and vocation, are so fixated on the notion that almost no one would ever choose to sell sex that they miss the dull and daily choices that all working people face in the course of making a living. Kristof himself makes good money at this, but to consider sex workers’ equally important economic survival is inconvenient for him.

This business of debating sex workers’ choices and whether or not they have them has only become more profitable under what sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein terms “post-industrial prostitution.”

After the vigilant anti-prostitution campaigns of the last century, which targeted red-light districts and street-based prostitution, sex work has moved mostly indoors, into private apartments and gentlemen’s clubs, facilitated by the internet and mobile phones. The sex economy exists in symbiosis with the leisure economy: personal services, luxury hotels, all increasingly anonymous and invisible. At the same time, more young people find themselves without a safety net, dependent on informal economies. Sex work now isn’t a lifestyle; it’s a gig, one of many you can select from a venue like Backpage or Craigslist.

Recall the favored slogan of prostitution prohibitionists that on the internet, they could buy a sofa and “a girl.” It’s not the potential purchase of a person that’s so outrageous; it’s the proximity of that person to the legitimate market.

Bernstein calls these “slippery borders,” and asks us to observe the feelings provoked by them, and how they are transferred. Anxieties about slippery market borders become “anxieties about slippery moral borders,” which are played out on the bodies of sex workers.

The anxiety is that sex work may be legitimate after all. In a sense, the prohibitionists are correct: people who might have never gotten into the sex trade before can and are. Fighting what they call “the normalizing of prostitution” is the focus of anti-sex work feminists. In this view, one happy hooker is a threat to all women everywhere.

“It’s sad,” said the speaker from the women’s-rights ngo Equality Now in protest outside the Village Voice. She directed her remarks at the cluster of sex workers who had turned out in counterprotest. “Backpage is able to be a pimp. They’re so normalizing this behavior that a group of Backpage advertisers have come out today to oppose us.” So a prostitute’s dissent is only possible if, as they understand prostitution itself, she was forced into it.

“Why did it take so long for the women’s movement to genuinely consider the needs of whores, of women in the sex trades?” asks working-class queer organizer and ex-hooker Amber L. Hollibaugh, in her book My Dangerous Desires. “Maybe because it’s hard to listen to – I mean really pay attention to – a woman who, without other options, could easily be cleaning your toilet? Maybe because it’s intolerable to listen to the point of view of a woman who makes her living sucking off your husband?”

Hollibaugh points to this most difficult place, this politics of feelings performed by some feminists, in absence of solidarity. They imagine how prostitution must feel, and how that in turn makes them feel, despite all the real-life prostitutes standing in front of them to dispute them.

It didn’t used to be that people opposed to prostitution could only get away with it by insisting that “happy” prostitutes didn’t really exist. From Gilgamesh to the Gold Rush days, right up until Ms. Hollander’s time, being a whore was reason enough for someone to demand you be driven out of town. Contemporary prostitution prohibitionists consider the new reality, in which they deny the existence of anyone with agency in prostitution, a form of victory for women. We aren’t ruined now. We’re victims.

Perhaps what they fear most of all is that prostitutes could be happy: that what we’ve been told is the worst thing we can do to ourselves is not the worst, or even among the worst. What marks us as fallen – whether from feminism or Christ or capital – is any suggestion that prostitution did not ruin us and that we can deliver that news ourselves.

Originally posted: August 2012 at Jacobin Mag

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Comments

jonthom
Oct 15 2012 17:34
Book O'Dead wrote:
I've never seen so many half-baked, misinformed and perverse opinions regarding prostitution!

You and me both mate!

Quote:
I think that some of you avoid using the word "prostitution" by insisting in the term "sex work". To me it reveals a certain insecurity about your own views as well as the futile desire to elevate it into something it is not: honorable work.

This is really just ridiculous; the only person with this fixation over "honourable" versus "dishonourable" work here is you. Why you think the rest of us are tailoring our language around a concept nobody else has even mentioned is beyond me.

I tend to use the term sex work for a number of reasons. Partly it's just a fairly commonly used term anyway (e.g. the IUSW), partly because it encompasses fields other than prostitution such as stripping, porn, etc. - and partly because it emphasises they are sex workers, who, like anyone else, are forced to sell their labour in order to survive, and often have few options for other fields to go to.

You on the other hand have repeatedly used the word "whore", a harsh, aggressive, dehumanising and thoroughly misogynistic term which is frankly appalling for any self-declared socialist. Presumably your "proletarian morality" doesn't extend as far as treating fellow workers - even those in industries you find reprehensible - with basic respect.

I would continue but Stewart Lee got there first (from 5:10):

Quote:
In light of that assessment, it is ridiculous to even discuss whether what a whore makes is wages. Those are "wages" I could do without! I am confident many others feel that way.

Quite possibly. I imagine for those actually involved in sex work, doing without said wages would be a bit of an issue.

Quote:
Some of you have raised a false equivalency by comparing prostitution to child care and other honest occupations. I believe that any genuine worker that heard that argument, if they are intelligent and honest, would spit in your face for that insult. I certainly find it insulting!

Elaborate. What, precisely, is a "genuine worker"? Do you have a newsletter of some sort?

I'm also curious as to whether your vitriol is purely limited to prostitutes, or if it extends further. Factory workers building bombs to kill other proles, for example. Or callcentre workers selling credit cards that get other workers into debt. Or folks selling drugs on the side to try and make ends meet. Or, well...pretty much any profession, really.

Quote:
I am not a religious fundamentalist that believes in imposing his personal morality on others.

You say you're not a religious fundamentalist. Fair enough. But the fact is that, at least from my perspective, your line of argument is pretty much identical, except presented in the language of Marxism rather than faith. The disgusted outrage directed towards those who sell sex, the constant moralising ("perversion", "vulgar", "honourable"), the dehumanising and abusive language ("whore"), the plaintive cry to "think of the children", the almost missionary zeal to, as you put it, "make prostitution disappear from the face of the Earth!"...you're basically Pat Robertson with a red flag.

Quote:
I am indifferent as to how you enjoy your sex. But i will not accept that prostitution and its practitioners is somehow another category of legitimate work for whose emancipation from capital we must strive. On the contrary, we must struggle to abolish the conditions that make it an inevitable choice for so many poor oppressed workers; we must make prostitution disappear from the face of the Earth!

See, here's the thing. For starters, this whole concept of "legitimate" and "illegitimate" (or "honourable" and "dishonourable") work is a bit of a peculiar one, and is basically a fusion of traditional conservative morality on the one hand and socialist lingo on the other.

We don't support our fellow workers because we respect their profession; we support our fellow workers because they are workers. That the class is divided in all sorts of ways - professional versus manual, public sector versus private sector, the white, grey and black economy and so on - doesn't change that.

I doubt anyone here would disagree that we should struggle to abolish the conditions that leave people with few other choices than prostitution. But your vitriolic, hateful, moralising tirades against those who make that choice in the here and now are really just appalling.

Quote:
But fundamentally, what this discussion reveals is the atrocious level to which our morality as workers has sunk under capitalism; that we are willing to tolerate and defend the sexual exploitation of others--whether voluntary or not--is a sign of how rotten this system is and how infected we are by its decay.

Tell me. Who exactly here is "willing to tolerate and defend the sexual exploitation of others"?

If you can possibly bring yourself to read the words of one of these perfidious harlots you've been railing against so strongly, this might be of interest: To the would-be sex work abolitionist, or, 'ain't I a woman'?

NannerNannerNan...
Oct 15 2012 17:36

I think you guys, and this shitty article, are wrong.

Yeah, BOD is a worthless misogynist who we should really stop responding to since he doesn't have a brain, but what is all this SEX WORKERS DON'T NEED YOUR HELP crap that you guys and this shitty article is pushing?

Sex workers have to sell themselves because of the capitalist system, they have no agency because ALL workers have no agency. And the idea sex working isn't especially degrading is just a bunch of obtuse pedantry, 93% of dutch sex workers would leave the entire industry if they had a choice. And the remaining 6% probably enjoy their job the only way anyone at all can enjoy a job in the capitalist system while still being in the working class.

BOD, those "whores"(you fucking misogynist) would become GOOD RESPECTABLE WORKERS (white men) if the capitalist system didn't screw women especially hard.

And morality wise, the real problem are the capitalists who have reduced every intimate social relation in society, even what is supposed to be the MOST intimate, into just another goddam thing to be bought and sold. Yeah, post that dumb ANTI SEX BINGO CARD HUR but my point still stands that sex workers probably don't want to do what they have to.

Of course, this isn't an excuse to be a giant dickhead and shun them for being in a bad position, I'm just saying that we shouldn't put our head in the sand to appeal to a bunch of left-liberals who've never even seen a prostitute in their entire lives. We should organize and aid all working people, oppressed people, and people who our elitist and selfish society shuns - not because it's "anarchist" but because it's the good thing to do.

And since everyone's turning this entire damn comment section into how "useless" morality is, I might as well just say that I don't much care for how we view sex in the modern world much either.
I guess I'm just a terrible anarchist, but I don't think our culture of one-night stands and meet-someone-lets-"screw" is worth preserving. I think sex should be a special act of intimacy between two people who love each other, not put on every billboard and all over TV. I don't think the first thing a guy thinks when he meets a nice girl should be CAN'T WAIT TO FUCK HER SILLY

And why is the internet under the assumption that caring for our children is a bad thing? Why does everyone ask call me a republican when I say 5 year olds probably shouldn't be watching Blood Death Massacre 69 while downing a barcadi breezer? If you want to insult BOD, just call him a sheltered misogynist. Be mean the right way

Also he's not a "moralist" because Jesus helped lepers and prostitutes, he would just be another dumbo to the Great BOD.

Also that guy in the article picture defended sweat shops and apartheid so theres that

laborbund
Oct 15 2012 17:50

On a related by tangential note: I like the idea of a "proletarian morality", which to me would suggest a set of ethics derived from the experience of being on our side in the class struggle. I think such an ethics would suggest that we ought to support other workers in their struggles. The only occupational exceptions I can think of are cops and the like (I wouldn't take sides in a cop strike). Plenty of workers go to jobs everyday which do a lot more real social harm than prostitution. For instance oil workers are helping to kill our planet. But we understand that they have to work in order to live and we support them when they struggle. So I think a "proletarian morality" would recognize that because we live in a class society, we all have to make ethical compromises all the time in order to survive. The ones we can't make are the compromises that betray our class - the one's where we sell each other out.

That's all to say nothing of the "morality" of engaging in sex work. Yes, capitalism will find a way to commodify anything, no matter how sacred we believe it to be. Perhaps one sex worker believes that they have made a good choice, and they are in an occupation they like. In that case I would feel obligated to support them in a fight against their boss or the state even if I had personal reservations about their work. Suppose another sex worker hates their occupation, and believes they have been forced into it by circumstance. This situation points out that capitalism creates a situation of limited and shitty choices for working class people, and I could hardly be judgmental that someone chooses one shitty choice over another shitty choice, when all the choices on offer are shit. And in that case I would still feel obligated to support such a sex worker in a fight with their boss or the state. Making the shitty (if you believe it to be such) "choice" to be a sex worker isn't totally fucked like the choice to be a cop or a strike breaker or something.

Also, I don't think anyone here wants sex work to exist in a post revolutionary society, but I also think most of us don't want "work" in its conventionally understood sense to exist either.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 17:58

I'm not down on prostitutes, they have their own problems to deal with. I'm down on imbeciles who argue that it is a worthy occupation.

[edit]

Oh, and for those of you who think I should be banned for assuming a principled stand on the question: Isn't the call to ban me for my dissent the coward's way out?

Konsequent
Oct 15 2012 18:10
Book O'Dead wrote:
I'm not down on prostitutes, they have their own problems to deal with.

Yeah and apparently we'll get no help from you.

Book O'Dead wrote:
I'm down on imbeciles who argue that it is a worthy occupation.

Has anyone here described it as such?

Book O'Dead wrote:
Oh, and for those of you who think I should be banned for assuming a principled stand on the question: Isn't the call to ban me for my dissent the coward's way out?

Coward? I can't see anyone here feeling threatened by what you're saying. The calls to ban you are just because you've been such an offensive bigot. I think that's fair enough though I'd rather you stuck about because you're the funniest joke I've seen on here in a while.

Everyone seems to be able to counter your arguments perfectly well so no reason to get rid of you for that reason. You still seem to be having problems with it though. Will you please answer the questions to you.

jura
Oct 15 2012 18:12

I think we should keep Book O'Dead, if only as an example of what much of the working-class movement was like in the 19th century, in the glorious times of craft workers proud of their worthy occupgations etc. etc. Literally like some Book of Dead.

Seriously, you have no other justification for your views than "morality". There simply is no way your views can be justified by an analysis of capitalism (i.e., productive - unproductive, working class - capitalist etc.). This in itself should be like a big fucking red light that something ain't right with those views.

jolasmo
Oct 15 2012 18:37
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
what is all this SEX WORKERS DON'T NEED YOUR HELP crap that you guys and this shitty article is pushing?

Where the fuck are you getting this from? Both the above article and the comments below criticise anti-sex work feminists and Book O'Dead's anti-working class misogyny precisely for failing to offer any meaningful solidarity to sex workers.

Quote:
And the idea sex working isn't especially degrading is just a bunch of obtuse pedantry, 93% of dutch sex workers would leave the entire industry if they had a choice.

Yes, and this point is explicitly refuted in the article above, which I'm guessing you haven't actually bothered to read:

Quote:
Let’s ask the people around here, I wanted to say to him: the construction workers who dug up the road behind us, the cabbies weaving around the construction site, the cops over there who have to babysit us, the Mister Softee guy pulling a double shift in the heat, the security guard outside a nearby bar, the woman working inside, the receptionist upstairs. The freelancers at the Village Voice. The guys at the copy shop who printed your flyers. The workers at the factory that made the water bottles you’re handing out. Is it unfair to estimate that 89 percent of New Yorkers would rather not be doing what they have to do to make a living?

So what is your actual issue here? From the rest of your post, it looks like the old Chestnut that sex work is different because sex is special:

Quote:
the real problem are the capitalists who have reduced every intimate social relation in society, even what is supposed to be the MOST intimate, into just another goddam thing to be bought and sold.

...

I think sex should be a special act of intimacy between two people who love each other

Juan Conatz has pre-empted this argument above:

Quote:
1)There is some sort of sanctity to sex, and by agreeing to exchange sex for money, a violation of the sanctity of sex happens.

...

The first argument I'm not really sure how to respond to. It's a kind of moralism, particularly conservative and or religious. We can probably all agree that sex is a lot different than other human activity, but I think it's hard to place morals on it outside of issues of consent between people and safety (such as using protection, etc. If there's some sort of non-religious perspective that advocates that the sanctity of sex, you should say it, because I'm not immediately aware of it. Also, if sex work violates it, then what else? Sex outside marriage? Sex with multiple partners? Polyamory? I mean that's the logical conclusion I see out of this.

The fact is, for lots of people, lots of the time, sex isn't this great mystical spiritual bond or whatever. Saying that prostitutes, swingers, cottagers etc. are exploited because they have sex that doesn't meet these criteria isn't much of an argument.

~J.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 18:39
Konsequent wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
I'm not down on prostitutes, they have their own problems to deal with.

Yeah and apparently we'll get no help from you.

Book O'Dead wrote:
I'm down on imbeciles who argue that it is a worthy occupation.

Has anyone here described it as such?

Book O'Dead wrote:
Oh, and for those of you who think I should be banned for assuming a principled stand on the question: Isn't the call to ban me for my dissent the coward's way out?

Coward? I can't see anyone here feeling threatened by what you're saying. The calls to ban you are just because you've been such an offensive bigot. I think that's fair enough though I'd rather you stuck about because you're the funniest joke I've seen on here in a while.

Everyone seems to be able to counter your arguments perfectly well so no reason to get rid of you for that reason. You still seem to be having problems with it though. Will you please answer the questions to you.

Anyone here who insists on calling prostitutes "sex workers" is arguing in favor elevating it to a dignity it does not deserve. Prostitution is an undignified trade that deserves the stigma that is attached to it.

While some here will argue that there is a basic indignity about being a wage worker of any kind--something I tend to agree with--I would disagree that there is any kind of stigma fundamentally attached to the work done by a mail carrier, a bus driver, a steelworker, a soldier, a street sweeper, a waiter, etc., however exploited those workers may be.

georgestapleton
Oct 15 2012 18:39
Book O'Dead wrote:
I'm down on imbeciles who argue that it is a worthy occupation.

I'm down on imbeciles who argue that working as a researcher on economic policy is a worthy occupation.... because that is my what I work at and I want the abolition of waged-work and the idea of "a worthy occupation" is absurd even though most people would think I have one.

Seriously, this idea of worthy and unworthy work has nothing to do with Marxism, working class struggle or communism. All of which, of course, want the abolition of prostitution but not because we think prostitutes are 'deplorable', 'perverse', 'repugnant', 'vulgar' 'whores' lacking in 'self-respect and personal integrity' and 'morality'. Jesus, I feel sick even quoting you.

And fwiw, I also don't think its the case that prostitution is simply "another form of wage labour". It plays a rather difficult to disentangle role in being paradigmatic of sexual relations under capitalism. The recent issue of The Commoner is quite good on this. In particular the essays by Silvia Federici and Lara Agustin

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 18:44
jolasmo wrote:
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
what is all this SEX WORKERS DON'T NEED YOUR HELP crap that you guys and this shitty article is pushing?

Where the fuck are you getting this from? Both the above article and the comments below criticise anti-sex work feminists and Book O'Dead's anti-working class misogyny precisely for failing to offer any meaningful solidarity to sex workers.

.

How am I being misogynistic? Except for one post in this thread I have referred to prostitutes in the gender-ambiguous "They", "Their", etc.

Perhaps you have brought out your own brand of misogyny by assuming I have been referring exclusively to women. A Freudian slip on your part, methinks.

jonthom
Oct 15 2012 18:50
Book O'Dead wrote:
How am I being misogynistic? Except for one post in this thread I have referred to prostitutes in the gender-ambiguous "They", "Their", etc.

Perhaps you have brought out your own brand of misogyny by assuming I have been referring exclusively to women. A Freudian slip on your part, methinks.

Are you really so oblivious that you don't think the word "whore" could have certain, shall we say, less than favourable gender attitudes associated with it?

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 18:53
jonthom wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
How am I being misogynistic? Except for one post in this thread I have referred to prostitutes in the gender-ambiguous "They", "Their", etc.

Perhaps you have brought out your own brand of misogyny by assuming I have been referring exclusively to women. A Freudian slip on your part, methinks.

Are you really so oblivious that you don't think the word "whore" could have certain, shall we say, less than favourable gender attitudes associated with it?

Perhaps only in your own gender-biased mind.

NannerNannerNan...
Oct 15 2012 19:02

So what you're saying is that his name is less an internet handle and more what he secretly jerks off to every night? Well, judging by his grade-a posting...

Anyway, I agree with Laborbunds' proposition that we ought to think about a "proletarian morality" and how capitalism affects societal values.
Why is it that some clothing - a necessity - cost thousands of dollars if it got "Chanel" on it? Why is it that having more useless consumer goods proof of obvious virtue and having less proof of being "workshy"? Why is it that we consider greed wrong until a guy in an expensive suit is doing it? Why does right wing politics revolve around contempt for the weak? Are the values of working people and rich people different? If so, how are these values seperately developed?

And finally, the classic FREE SPEECH "argument"
"Isn't the call to ban my paper for an alternative viewpoint the coward's way out?"
-Julius Streicher (google it, he's like the logical conclusion of the daily mail)

Edit:
"Dude dont call chicks whores"
"WELL ITS ONLY OFFENSIVE IF YOU GIVE THE WORD MEANING YOU BANANA"

Can you tell us your reddit account along with how many ladmags you've subscribed to? Also, on a scale of one to ten, how bad was your relationship with your mother?

jonthom
Oct 15 2012 19:02
Book O'Dead wrote:
jonthom wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
How am I being misogynistic? Except for one post in this thread I have referred to prostitutes in the gender-ambiguous "They", "Their", etc.

Perhaps you have brought out your own brand of misogyny by assuming I have been referring exclusively to women. A Freudian slip on your part, methinks.

Are you really so oblivious that you don't think the word "whore" could have certain, shall we say, less than favourable gender attitudes associated with it?

Perhaps only in your own gender-biased mind.

I'm sorry but this is just laughable. "Whore" is, along with "slut" and a range of other terms, employed as a specifically gendered insult - most often referring to women who are believed to be overly promiscuous. While it can be applied to men, ignoring the gender aspect and pretending it's some sort of neutral, inoffensive term or job description really just defies belief.

Juan Conatz
Oct 15 2012 19:09

I'm done with this thread, because it's frustrating and angering me, which is not the reason I engage in discussion here. But just thought I'd throw in, Book O'Dead, you have basically not responded substantially to my or really anyone's posts. In the end it keeps coming back to morality and the sanctity of sex, which you haven't explained, defined or given any sort of extended argument for, which is annoying, because many here (including myself) have responded in good faith (at least at first).

wojtek
Oct 15 2012 19:13
Quote:
Book O' Dead wrote:
I grade

Lord have mercy on this mind jailer and deliver him from evil. Go get an 'honourable' job and stop indoctrinating children! Teachers... lowest of the low.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 19:16
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
[...]

And finally, the classic FREE SPEECH "argument"
"Isn't the call to ban my paper for an alternative viewpoint the coward's way out?"
-Julius Streicher (google it, he's like the logical conclusion of the daily mail)

Edit:
"Dude dont call chicks whores"
"WELL ITS ONLY OFFENSIVE IF YOU GIVE THE WORD MEANING YOU BANANA"

Can you tell us your reddit account along with how many ladmags you've subscribed to? Also, on a scale of one to ten, how bad was your relationship with your mother?

If those statement are aimed at me they are beneath contempt.

Moreover, I am not dishonestly arguing in favor of some abstract right of free speech when I say that it's a "coward's way out" to want to ban me for expressing an unpopular opinion (however unfortunate the coincidence of words may be).

I understand that my privilege to participate in this forum is contingent on my abiding by certain rules of behavior (which I presume includes a ban on the sort of reckless insinuation you've just made against me), and limited by my adherence to certain ideological principles. I am under no illusion about free speech in this or any other moderated forum. After all, I know, perhaps better than you, that I have the whole world outside of this forum in which to exercise my "freedom" to opine.

NannerNannerNan...
Oct 15 2012 19:17

Verily, that is not how a proper English gentlemen calls those dirty tramps! A good gentlemen calls these wo-men of ill repute - who sell their bodies to just about any man - harlots. They shall be damned to hell, like all dirty street people, stinking vagabonds and shiftless beggars. Don't they know the poorhouse is just down the road? Now let me tell you the proper place of a wo-man,

- Book of the dead, page 376

laborbund
Oct 15 2012 19:41
Book O'Dead wrote:
Anyone here who insists on calling prostitutes "sex workers" is arguing in favor elevating it to a dignity it does not deserve. Prostitution is an undignified trade that deserves the stigma that is attached to it.

While some here will argue that there is a basic indignity about being a wage worker of any kind--something I tend to agree with--I would disagree that there is any kind of stigma fundamentally attached to the work done by a mail carrier, a bus driver, a steelworker, a soldier, a street sweeper, a waiter, etc., however exploited those workers may be.

So, if all work is basically undignified, why does prostitution in particular deserve the stigma attached to it? Why not other jobs? You mentioned soldiers as an occupation without and undeserving of stigma and I have to jump on this. You see, it really does piss me off when people on the left get on their moralistic high ground hating soldiers. I grew up around soldiers and as much as I hate my government's foreign policy (and the military itself), I still kind of have an affection for soldiers. I was first introduced to radical ideas going to barracks parties in my teens. You see an army barracks is like a college dorm for poor kids, and its a great place for a rebellious army brat to learn about heavy metal, different ways to get intoxicated, and class society. So the first time I heard the word "anarchism" used in a non-pejorative, non-hot topic kind of way, I was in a barracks. And I support soldiers when they resist, when they mutiny. I like things like IVAW. Just seems natural to me that most soldiers are poor kids, pushed by shitty circumstances into making a shitty choice, and when they refuse to accept the choices and circumstances as given to them, its a positive thing worthy of solidarity.

Now one could easily make the argument that soldiers deserve a great deal more occupational stigma than prostitutes. And I base this on the fact that a soldier's job is to deliberately kill other human beings (other proles most often) in order to advance the interests of the capitalist classes of their various countries. No matter how much shit we talk about defending the country, protecting freedom, etc, at the end of the day the job of the soldier is to murder people. They are, after all, gangsters for capitalism.

Prostitutes may do something that seems icky to you. Perhaps your personal sexual inclination is that sex is a special, intimate human activity and shouldn't be turned into a commodity. I know that this is my personal sexual inclination. But I also recognize that its only that: my personal inclination and not a universal ethical principle. So prostitutes might (or might not, who knows?) have a different personal sexual inclination than you, but they don't deliberately kill other human beings. So why would prostitutes deserve the stigma of their occupation but soldiers don't deserve such a stigma? If anything, the stigma attached to prostitutes is a major factor which contributes to the shit conditions they often endure.

Also, I'm assuming that like me, you are an American. I assume that because the proposition that soldier is a "worthy" occupation but prostitute not smacks of that good old American morality where violence is just fine for the whole family but sex is an awful, dirty thing best not spoken of. Imagine yourself blowing up a city full of people (imagine puppies and kittens in the city if you like). Then, imagine yourself having sex for money. Let me know which one bothers you more.

Konsequent
Oct 15 2012 19:54
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
And morality wise, the real problem are the capitalists who have reduced every intimate social relation in society, even what is supposed to be the MOST intimate, into just another goddam thing to be bought and sold.

I'm all for discussing what's messed up about prostitution. I've been thinking of writing something for some time on how I experience alienation specifically as a prostitute and the, to me, somewhat troubling insights into the commodification of sex. When I compare the sex I have as work with the sex I have for fun and/or to express how I feel about someone, it reminds me of how grim capitalism is. The article doesn't contradict this. Neither do the people posting here.

I'm a bit concerned about the phrase "supposed to be".

NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Yeah, post that dumb ANTI SEX BINGO CARD HUR but my point still stands that sex workers probably don't want to do what they have to. Of course, this isn't an excuse to be a giant dickhead and shun them for being in a bad position, I'm just saying that we shouldn't put our head in the sand to appeal to a bunch of left-liberals who've never even seen a prostitute in their entire lives.

The left-liberals and anyone who refers to sex work as empowering or, worse still, thinks that some sex workers enjoyment of their work should be the basis of our solidarity, are infuriating, granted. But once again, neither the article nor the posters arguing with BOD have said this.

NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
I think sex should be a special act of intimacy between two people who love each other.

So in a post-patriarchal, post-capitalist society you would be against people having sex with each other for the fun of it if they weren't in love? How is this desirable or enforceable? I know a number of people who have no interest in sex with people they merely respect and find attractive, but only really enjoy it with people they're romantically involved with. Other people enjoy having sex with people even if they aren't in love. Please tell me how why this should not be?

Book O'Dead wrote:
Anyone here who insists on calling prostitutes "sex workers" is arguing in favor elevating it to a dignity it does not deserve. Prostitution is an undignified trade that deserves the stigma that is attached to it.

The term sex workers is hardly a euphemism. It just describes what it is. It is sex which is work. Do you not think it's sex? Do you not think it's work? You've just described it as a trade.

Who deserves the stigma? The prostitutes? The clients? "The trade"?

I couldn't care less about which word we use tbh. I use prostitute as a subcategory of sex worker for those workers who are actually having sex. As a rentboy I don't think my working conditions have a massive amount in common with those of someone selling phone sex other than the stigma and as I've mentioned to my coworkers numerous times I think we have better things to do than concerning ourselves with this. You did make me wonder about this briefly, but as this thread seems to illustrate quite clearly, I can at least count on a lot people with similar political outlooks to myself for support which is something I appreciate.

Book O'Dead wrote:
While some here will argue that there is a basic indignity about being a wage worker of any kind--something I tend to agree with--I would disagree that there is any kind of stigma fundamentally attached to the work done by a mail carrier, a bus driver, a steelworker, a soldier, a street sweeper, a waiter, etc., however exploited those workers may be.

What on earth is "fundamentally attached stigma"???

lzbl
Oct 15 2012 20:08
Book O'Dead wrote:
I would much rather have my kids know that I clean toilets for a living than that I am a human toilet, a repository for all of the depraved misfits looking for a quickie.

I have no idea why BOD was allowed to post beyond this.

laborbund
Oct 15 2012 20:11

Good point, Izbl.

libcom
Oct 15 2012 20:20

Book O'Dead banned due to horrific misogyny. Hopefully can get the thread back on track now.

Ramona
Oct 15 2012 20:24
lzbl wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
I would much rather have my kids know that I clean toilets for a living than that I am a human toilet, a repository for all of the depraved misfits looking for a quickie.

I have no idea why BOD was allowed to post beyond this.

Well we'd not all had time to read the thread, I only just saw it now. Sorry about that, he's gone now anyway.

NannerNannerNan...
Oct 15 2012 21:37

@Juan Contanz (since Senior Book Dead was banned, everyone lol)

I know it's very poor form to make so many posts in such quick succession in such a short time, but I think I've happened upon something.

You know, I haven't really taken this thread very seriously. I haven't even bothered to fix my terribad grammar and spelling in all my posts. I was pretty much reading Sir Book's posts for some laughs and I thought we should all just be just making fun of him more.

It's quite revealing that he didn't even respond to legitimate arguments anymore and just started engaging in textbook pedantry. It shows that it wasn't just about his backwards, reactionary morality or even his latent sexism.

It's also about classism and a fundamental lack of empathy. It's about looking down on certain workers not just because of arrogance, but because of elitism. He considers some work so "unrespectable" that he can only display a visceral, irrational hatred of it. He probably feels the same way about plumbers or garbagemen - although we can easily fit both into the mythical straight, white proletariat.

His socialism is not the liberatory anarchist communism we believe in. His is a paternalistic, deeply reformist socialism that's more about showing a "concern" for the "undeserving poor". His socialism is looking at old pictures of muscle-ly factorymen and reciting marx.

He does not understand the reality of poverty in the modern world and what it looks like. I can look out my window and see what capitalism does, maybe he can't. He does not understand that poverty is not always "noble" and "clean". In fact, quite the opposite. Poverty is crack dens and drug addiction, bad schools and bad kids, broken homes and broken families. It's not watching a Micheal Moore documentary about factory shutdowns, or looking at the latest unemployment numbers. It's desperation. It's joining a gang because jobs won't employ. It's about welfare fraud because it's the only way. It's about, as Tory MP Sir Book Dead said in his speech to parliament, being "scum" and knowing it.

It is the duty of a socialist or a communist or an anarchist to look past all that. We radicals know that there is no such thing as a "noble profession" when someone can live a life of luxury based on winning big at the Womb Lottery©. With systems as evil as capitalism, authoritarianism, patriarchy, privilege, etc. you have no right to judge what people have to do. When you are poor, life is about being moved - not moving. It's about living a regimented life, knowing you have no hope and no future, and attempting to drown your sorrows in any way you can. Some drink, others smoke, some shoot up.

This cat, (R-)Book Dead, doesn't realize this. Maybe he isn't poor, maybe his neighborhood isn't as bad as mine, maybe he just stays in his home too much or watches too much TV. But the only duty of a revolutionary is to fight this by any means necessary. It's about rabble-rousing, peasant organizing, workplace occupations, slow working, no working, striking, and, when the time comes, fighting. It's about organizing the "vulgar scum" to fight the "clean and noble". It's the tattered and dirty fighting the clean and respectable. It's about the proletariat fighting the bourgeoisie.

Book Dead's problem with sex workers isn't just about his dumb morality. It's a whole lot more than that.

Edit:
Konsequent, I've since realized that I was probably being a bit of a puritan. That "human toilet" comment has made me think about things. I've always wanted to be a moral person to be a better revolutionary.... but christ i see the people who agree with me. I promise to be a bit more liberal. I guess I was being a bit of a self-righteous prude.

Schwarz
Oct 15 2012 20:44

Great post by laborbund. I think Jura touched on something really perceptive when he joked:

Quote:
I think we should keep Book O'Dead, if only as an example of what much of the working-class movement was like in the 19th century, in the glorious times of craft workers proud of their worthy occupgations etc. etc.

It's not just De Leon quotes, I think Book has been expressing a lot of the leftist 'hangover' from the workers movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The struggles of the last 50 years or so have really undermined the idea that there is a positive side to labor that just needs to be freed from the parasitism of capital. At the same time, important work has been done to show that the structures created within capitalist society are more than mere epiphenomena of exploitation, but the ways in which that exploitation is reproduced on a daily basis. The two most important of these are gender and race.

And yet you would have us go back to a 19th century craft unionism politics where productive labor is a noble endeavor carried out by breadwinning, native white men of probity and dignity?

Give me a fucking break, Sam Gompers.

The morality you keep harping on about is, as people have pointed out, the hypocritical moralism of the Victorians. That is to say, it is the morality of an ascendant ruling class that found it necessary to distinguish themselves, on the one hand, from the unwashed, degraded masses and, on the other, from the decadent, rentier gentry.

Included in this moralism, of course, was an attack on all sorts of vices: alcohol, gambling, prostitution, etc. That these efforts were largely attempts to craft an obedient and productive working class while simultaneously blaming the victims of capitalist accumulation says a lot about your political project here.

It is no surprise that bourgeois moralism had an affect on the early workers movement, since that movement arose not from some philosopher's head, but from the real world of capitalist society. But when you go on about 'whores' and 'dignity' and 'proletarian morality' you are reproducing some of the great and enduring failures of the working class movement, failures that extremely brave people (yes, including sex workers, caregivers and their allies) have risked so much to struggle against. And you would shut them up again?

Do us all a favor and join us in the 21st century.

Edit: FYI I addressed this to BOD while he was in the process of getting banned (yay).

laborbund
Oct 15 2012 20:45
libcom wrote:
Book O'Dead banned due to horrific misogyny. Hopefully can get the thread back on track now.

I like the "back on track now" sentiment, but it might be a good idea to address how BOD's comments were specifically mysoginist. He earlier made the point that he was using gender-neutral pronouns, and should thus not be looked upon as a mysoginist. Another poster (sorry I've forgotten your user name as its not right in front of me!) aptly pointed out how he was still being a mysoginist, but it might be useful to put something up about how contemporary sexual morality and condemnation of prostitutes is most often bound up with some woman hating bullshit. It shouldn't be necessary on a libertarian communist site, but it probably, unfortunately, is. If only for confused newcomers.

Ramona
Oct 15 2012 21:24

I mean, I think other posters have done that quite well so far. Do you mean posting something on this thread specifically, or in general, or in the posting guidelines?

I mean, sure the words might be gender-neutral technically, and of course people other than women are sex-workers, but the word "whore" is, I'm pretty sure, one that is applied as an insult to women who sex work and women who don't, in the same way "slut", "slag", and all those other words are used. I think perhaps you underestimate the minds of confused newcomers.

Yes he could have been describing people of any gender with words like "whore" and "human toilet", but it's unacceptable whoever he was using them about and has place on this site as you rightly say yourself.

NannerNannerNan...
Oct 15 2012 21:36

Conservative PM Booklius Deadlius thought it was immoral because a) WOMEN OUT THE KITCHEN and b) because it's "dirty".

For example,
I haven't watched TV in a loooong time. We couldn't afford one if we wanted too. We got a 5 year old PC, a 2 year old itouch, and a Nook (which is mine because my mom is awesome).

I just finished work, but SA was down, the computer was crapping up, and I was in the proces of downloading books from the pirate bay to get on my nook. I decided to go on Netflix and watch this "breaking bad" tv show everyone keeps on going on about.

IT IS AWESOME, but this is besides the point. In short, the show is a dramaticized depiction of the lucrative drug trade from the perspective of a neophyte protagonist and his streetwise friend. The show is a morality tale and by time the end of the last season, they're both brutal, mentally damaged murderers. Seriously, it's great, I marathoned four seasons in a couple days. Gets crappy in season 3, but it picks up quickly.

The show depicts everyone below a certain class level as, basically, urrhumans. They're scary, they're dangerous, too stupid to be evil, too smart to be good. Pretty much everyone who isn't middle class/upper class are so stupid they're a danger to themselves and others. These poor people have no restraint, they are portrayed as a sort alter-human race that exist to make trouble for all the better folk. Sex workers are just methhead junkies who don't have their priorities straight, gang members are child murderers, and lower class children can kill with ease. They are sometimes physically unclean.

If you watch Breaking Bad, you probably wouldn't even remember that poor people exist considering how little screentime they get.
Most of the baddies are really rich, but this is never an indication of their character. They are not ravenous zombies, like the poor people in Breaking Bad. If you've seen the series, just watch it and pay attention to class just slightly. You'll see what I'm talking about.

The show teaches a sort of bizzare morality in this respect. If you are below a certain class level, you become feral. Sexually promiscuous and vindictive if you are a women, violent and cruel if you are a man.

I could talk about some very... interesting themes in the series regarding class but I think you get my point. Morality is a very important theme in the show, so it's even stranger that the poor are essentially irredeemable.

This is the good, american morality that Sire Book Dead believes in. His hatred of sex workers comes from a media that tells people that poor people are a species apart. It's Jerry Springer morality - the only morality that matters is that poor people (especially poor women) can only be inherently bad and for no reason.

Their stories, reasons, and realities don't mean anything - perhaps they're too stupid to even think.

It's a Victorian morality, but even more inconsistent and akward. Porn stars are just fine, but "hookers" and "whores" aren't. Porn actresses are seen as middle class (they're not), so they get a free pass by these types. "Prostitutes", however, are a bunch of "toilets".

I might, however, be putting class too much on a pedestal in lieu of plain jane misogyny. Good ol' Book Dead might have just hated "sluts" and his hatred of sex workers might have been the conclusion of that. Personally, I think it was a deeply classist sexism, considering the amount of classist tropes he invoked.

Edit:
oh christ i just remebered "depraved misfits". Ughhhhhhhh

laborbund
Oct 15 2012 21:53
Ramona wrote:
I mean, I think other posters have done that quite well so far. Do you mean posting something on this thread specifically, or in general, or in the posting guidelines?

I was thinking like an article in the library which explains this stuff in very simple language. Probably something like this already exists, and we can point people towards it in the future should the same conversations come up.

Ramona wrote:
I mean, sure the words might be gender-neutral technically, and of course people other than women are sex-workers, but the word "whore" is, I'm pretty sure, one that is applied as an insult to women who sex work and women who don't, in the same way "slut", "slag", and all those other words are used. I think perhaps you underestimate the minds of confused newcomers.

I think most of our newcomers wouldn't ignore something we bring directly to their attention. I also think people have a tendency to skim, especially when something seems uncomfortable or challenging. I seem to run into a lot of people who share at least some of BOD's notions in radical circles. The majority of these people are newcomers. Maybe it just seems like a lot of people to me, but I can totally understand where many newcomers to Anarchism or radical politics in general bring in some reactionary baggage they've picked up somewhere. I can't understand getting all crazy and defensive about reactionary viewpoints like BOD did though.

Ramona wrote:
Yes he could have been describing people of any gender with words like "whore" and "human toilet", but it's unacceptable whoever he was using them about and has place on this site as you rightly say yourself.

Agreed again? smiley face.