Sex-Workers Unite

The first section of Sex-Workers Unite provides some really interesting arguments that I still see today. The first section briefly touches on the concept of the Madonna/whore complex, which is the notion that men will either view women as inherently sexual objects or not see them as capable of having sex at all. This concept is still being seen today, as many social media posts that state that “if he likes you he won’t want to sleep with you” have circulated across TikTok and other social media platforms. This belief presents an overtly sexualized view of women, which is what “straight” feminists were attempting to guard against. However, it is not the job of women to adapt themselves to be seen as more appropriate and respectable to men. The job of the oppressed is not to make themselves more appealing to the oppressor, but at the beginning of the feminist movement it was evident that some feminists were interested in still appearing pure and appealing to the male gaze.

I think it is interesting that the conferences that brought different groups of feminists, including “straight” feminists and sex workers, had to spend so long convincing women than other women were allowed to actively express their sexuality in consensual ways. The belief that those who are actively expressing their sexuality are actually oppressed or even “asking for it” still permeates today’s culture. Sex-workers and even just people who dress more revealingly are subject to commentary and opinions from people that they didn’t ask. The concept of slut shaming is still alive in all aspects of our culture and even people who are “doing everything right” may still become victims of sexual assault. However, this does not mean that we should villainize sex-work because with or without sex work, abusers and assaulters will still commit crimes. The continued repression of women’s sexualities will not help fight the problem that some people believe it will.

The belief that sex-work is inherently misogynistic is interesting because the concept of the male gaze exists with or without sex-work. WLW relationships that have nothing to do with men are still subject to the sexualization of men, so I think it is not fair to blame sex-work for this. Along with this, sex-work does not have to heteronormative, and the belief that sex-work is only benefitting cishet men is a dangerous narrative to push as well.

Along with this, Sex-Workers Unite touches on the concept of using the term sex-worker instead of other terms to assert that they are, first and foremost, workers. We tend to forget that sex-workers are workers and need the same protections and help that other workers do. The second half of the reading, specifically in the chapter “Assembly Line Orgasms” addresses the need that sex-workers had/have. As the chapter states, it is hard to unionize sex-workers, and the problems that all employees face, such as “sexual harassment, race discrimination, disregard for OSHA rules, and violations wage and hour regulations” (121) affect sex-workers the same way. The difference, however, is that institutions that are supposed to protect citizens, including sex-workers, is actively harming and arresting them instead of helping them.

Finally, I’d like to touch on the topic of “gender-fucking” (12) which I believe is similar to the concept of gender bending or just dressing non-gender conformist. I think this was an interesting concept for Sex-Workers Unite to bring into the text because it is very similar to many concepts we see now. Especially as nonbinary people take a bigger space on the stage, as they should, we are seeing more people go completely against the gender binary. As we have seen, younger generations seem committed to continuing the concept of “gender-fucking” which I think is important to the future of people’s gender identities and the revolutionization of the gender binary.

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