Sex Work BY rachelleoooo As a supporter of sexual freedom, I think that women should have the choice to explore and act on their sexuality and sexual desires in any way that they feel comfortable. To openly desire women sexually is thought of as a normal part of male behavior, but for women to express their own sexuality it is considered deviant and abnormal. Because of sexism and patriarchy, oppressed women are abused, degraded, used, and stigmatized. In order to truly have sexual freedom we must, as a whole, be free from sexism.
By doing this we can diminish the stigma women receive nd develop an appreciation for sex work and the individuals who choose to work in this industry. Social scientists have studied reasons why woman begin sex work and why they continue. Sex work is work that is within the sex industry. A sex worker refers to individuals in all areas of the sex industry including prostitutes, escorts, pornography models and actors, phone sex operators, and exotic dancers. The term “sex work” was invented in 1980 by sex worker activist Carol Leigh. The usage of the term “sex work” marks the beginning of a movement.
It acknowledges the work done rather than being defined by status. Leigh states, “After many years of activism as a prostitute, struggling with increasing stigma and ostracism from within the mainstream feminist movement, I remember the term sex work and how it felt to, at last, have word for this work that is not a euphemism. Sex work has no shame and neither do l. ” (Leigh) Much research depict these women as alcoholics and drug addicts, abused, being from broken homes, low self esteem and not possessing the skills or education to do anything else.
Generally research suggests that women would only choose stripping because of desperation or poverty. Overtime social orms have broadened and more research has emerged on the women who work in the sex industry and their motivations for doing so. I would like to focus on exotic dancing for this paper. Dancing is a form of expression as well as an art form that has existed throughout history and in all cultures. Like any art form, dancing may be perceived differently by different people, and varies in different cultures, with age, education, and socioeconomic status and should not be Judged.
Exotic dancing is a type of dancing that is highly criticized and viewed as a deviant act. The body should be nothing to be ashamed about. Why is ballet not considered deviant? Money is exchanged to get through the doors, beautiful, thin, young women are dancing on stage, they wear body hugging outfits, makeup, and dance for the pleasure of the audience. Their bodies, talent, and ability to entertain the audience are why they are there and they are making money. The fact is that the exotic dancing itself is not the sin; it is the actions and culture that surround it that are.
Stripping is legal, prostitution is illegal, and stripping is not prostitution. The dancers are paid and tipped to entertain and they are not engaging in sexual intercourse. People often judge what they do not understand, and a strong stereotype surrounds the girls and the world of stripping. Many women choose to strip dancing to pay for college or to support their families, and are happy with what they are doing and feel good about themselves. Women who enjoy what they are doing, have control over what they are doing and are not harming anyone should not be Judged for the profession that they characterize her based on stereotypes.
They will think that she has “daddy issues” or that she must have been abused as a child, or that she has self esteem or self image roblems and this is the only way that she can feel good about herself. There are women from all different backgrounds, cultures, religions, economic status, and social classes that have issues as the ones Just mentioned. Some are teachers, Janitors, lawyers, stay at home moms and many more Jobs, some choose their profession while others take a Job Just to pay the bills, or because it is more convenient for their lifestyles.
Whatever the reason, these women are not stigmatized in any sense the way that a women is for choosing to work at an exotic dancer. Everyone has their own story and diverse reason for the Jobs that they are doing. Objectification is another criticism of stripping that is used after it is determined that one may, of their own free will, choose this profession. Why would a woman want to objectify herself like that? This question is extremely hypocritical. Objectification and contradictory messages about sexuality are everywhere.
Sexually explicit imagery is everywhere. Open any magazine, turn on the television, look at social media site or walk into any clothing store and you will encounter provocative representations of youth and desire. At the same time, although we are bombarded with the images of nearly aked women in every media form we encounter, Americans are prudish when it comes to speaking about sex and harsh when Judging someone who invests in their body for their profession Economic need is a primary motivator for working in the sex industry.
Women’s economic status in the United States has and continues to be below that of men. Previously a woman’s decision to do sex work may have been connected to substance abuse or extreme poverty. Research is now showing that a woman’s lower economic status and difficulty acquiring Job that make enough money may be lead women to sex work. The basis of economic need for sex work is different for different individuals. What we would label as the average women is the same women working in these areas of the sex industry.
Married and single women, mothers, and college students can be found in strip clubs, brothels, and escort services and phone sex hotlines. These women are tapping into their “erotic capital”. Erotic capital is the term given by sociologist Catherine Hakim that describes a certain Je ne sais quoin that includes, but is not limited to, sexual attractiveness. The 3 main types of capital known are social, economic, and cultural. Your capital depends on the assets and resources you can potentially use for gain. Hakim says that we are neglecting a fourth type of capital and that is erotic capital. Men’s demand for sexual activity and erotic entertainment of all kinds greatly exceeds women’s interest in sex,” Hakim writes. In this line of thinking, sex has a market value, and women have the potential to control their ability to supply men’s demand for it. Women need to be able to take control of sexuality and not be ashamed to use either explore it or capitalize off if it without the fear of being condemned by society. This does not mean that every female sex worker chooses to work in the industry free from any outside influences such as drugs or personal hardships.
However, if it were less stigmatized and seen as a positive way to gain capital then it may no longer automatically be seen as something one falls into due to poor circumstances, but as a practical option made by women from all backgrounds. While most would respond be seeking to transcend, Hakim maintains that erotic capital has been largely ignored because “it is held mostly by women, and the social sciences have generally verlooked or disregarded women in their focus on male activities, values, and interests. She also holds responsible feminists for ignoring an opportunity to utilize female erotic capital and that feminist theory encourages women to choose between using their looks and using their intelligence to succeed. Many believe that when a woman turns to stripping or some other form of sex work, it is an example of a common tendency to devalue their sexuality, to see themselves merely as objects for men, and to engage in sexual activity with no basis for the decision.
Katherine Frank, former stripper, learned things in her earlier years that she said may have helped her to avoid negative sexual situations, and Just exactly how economically valuable her sexuality could be. In this capitalist context, where sexuality is sold and used to sell diverse ways, a father’s greatest failure would not be that his daughter became a stripper. In fact her choice of a profession in the sex work industry could be seen as a smart entrepreneurial choice.
Open sexual control and discovery is such a taboo for women and it can be hard to look past the hypocritical Judgments that people have of sex workers. Common perceptions are that prostitutes are miserable, strippers are exploited, and that porn stars had all probably experienced some sort of psychological trauma. However, the sex industry is not a panacea for sexual ills or a capitalist utopia for that matter, but an industry with many of the same benefits and drawbacks as other industries. Frank) The dislike and disgust that people express when faced with explicit sex-for-money exchanges is hypocritical and rooted more in ideology and unknowing than in any real truth about sexuality. Sex work is a stigmatized work and unfortunately there will always be those in current society that ill see sex workers as “trash” and “broken”. Women in the sex industry will likely continue to find themselves fghting against the labels and Judgments that go along with the profession. Women in the sex industry have come a long way. Things have improved. There is now an international network of sex-worker organizations.
In some areas, to be a young feminist working her way through college as a stripper has become not only acceptable but chic. Women are making and distributing their own pornography their way. Fetishes and fetish wear have become fashionable. (Sprinkle) There are some extremely successful sex industry businesses that are owned and ran by women who are on the side of their female workers. All kinds of sex workers are out of the closet about what they do and have decided to stand up for the satisfaction, pleasure, and gratification that their profession brings to them.
Nina Hartley states, “While I’m no apologist for some of the more negative aspects of my industry, I do a lot of public speaking and outreach, putting a human face on a highly stigmatized business. My life is richer and more rewarding for having chosen a sexually oriented occupation. Main rewards for working in the sex industry can include an increased self awareness and self confidence, as well as bringing pleasure to others, enhanced self image, sexual variety, creative erotic expression, exhibitionism, fantasy fulfillment, and economic gain.
This cultures sexual mores stem from those of the founding religious fanatics who hanged women who were different; our current sex laws come directly from their warped, religiously based pleasure tempts one away from godliness. Anti-female, anti-sex, and anti-pleasure proponents who put such severe restrictions on where, when, and under what ircumstances it is permissible or accepted to express sexual feelings, set the stage for the sorry state of affairs today. Hartley) Money seems to be the number one reason that most women begin working and continue to work in strip clubs. Stripping offers more money than other low status Jobs and if you have little education or little professional skills, then dancing can offer a significant amount of money more than other Jobs that are available. “With problems such as finding affordable housing, transportation expenses to and from work, drug testing, and an overall lack of time to ook for better paying alternatives.
A woman who needs to make fast cash can avoid most of these problems through exotic dancing. ” Curiosity and the excitement from the adventure are positive reasons that one might find themselves dancing. As stated in this book, dancing can be especially attractive to women who feel repressed, bored, or frustrated with their lives. Dancing can be a way for some to express their own sexuality and/or breaking taboos. High wages and flexible hours are also positives. Having the ability to be in control of how much you work seems to be a positive among dancers as well.
Barton) Some sex workers want out of the business, many Just simply want to see conditions improve. All would be served by a dose of sex-positive thought, which might allow many in the sex industry to think of what they do as a worthy professional service, not a demeaning behavior. Our sexually schizophrenic culture needs to look at the realities, not the lurid myths, of what sex workers do and see that when sexual pleasure is seen as a positive and honorable goal, much of the negative fruit of the sex industry is deprived of soil in which to grow.
No one should ever, by conomic constraint or any kind of interpersonal force, have to do sew work who does not like sex, who is not cut out for a life of sexual generosity. Wanting to make a lot of money should not be the only qualification for becoming a sex worker. Those who are in this profession swim together against the tide of out cultures inability to come to terms with human sexual variety and desire , it’s very fear of communicating about sex in an honest and non Judgmental way. Queen) Open sexuality can teach the value of your body, that it is acceptable and wise to set your own limits about what inds of activities you wish to engage in, to learn to take control of your sexuality, to overcome fear of sexuality that tends to pervade many people’s lives, and to think critically about sex, power, and love, and hope to live in a world where some women are not highly valued at the expense of other women and where a woman’s sexual desire, interest, experience, pleasure, or mistakes, are truly her own.
Frank Katherine. 2006. “Keeping her off the Pole: Creating Sexual Value in a Secular Society. ” In Flesh for Fantasy: Producing and Consuming Exotic Dance, with R. Danielle Egan and M. Lisa Johnson. Thunder’s Mouth Press. Leigh, Carol. 1997. Inventing Sex Work. ” In Whores and Other Feminists, edited by Jill Nagel. New York: Routledge. Barton, Bernadette. 2006. Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers. New York: New York University Press.
Queen, Carol. 1997. “Sex Radical Politics, Sex Positive Feminist Thought, and Whore Stigma. ” In Whores and Other Feminists, edited by Jill Nagel. New York: Routledge. Sprinkle, Annie. 1997. “We’ve Come A Long Way- And Were Exhausted! ” In Whores and Other Feminists, edited by Jill Nagel. New York: Routledge. Hartley, Nina. 1997. “In the Flesh: A Porn Stars Journey. ” In Whores and Other Feminist, edited by Jill Nagel. New York: Routledge.