Friday, February 6, 2009

Sex Work and Privilege

There have been a couple of interesting and definitely provocative posts on sex work in the blogosphere in the last week. What else is new, right? This time, though, I'm joining the discussion.

Renegade Evolution does a good job of answering some of buggle's assertions about "special" sex workers, but she leaves out what I think is the most important point.

What we need here is a discussion of privilege.

Those who enter into any industry with lots of privilege are going to be safer, healthier, and less likely to take risks that lead them to brutal experiences. (By privilege, I mean having a penis, white skin, no disabilities, heterosexuality, good health, a supportive family, good education, and/or an already-healthy pocketbook, to name a few.)

If people with the above privileges do experience brutality, they're also more likely to be able to access support systems to help them escape it and recover from it.

People with less privilege have fewer options for making and keeping money. In general, our system puts these people at a disadvantage, systematically and through no fault of their own. If someone desperately needs money, they'll do desperate things to get it. In any line of work, underprivileged folks are more likely to be taken advantage of and harmed.

This definitely applies to sex work, probably even more than many other industries because of the stigma surrounding it.

I would never, ever want to ignore the speech of people who've been brutalized at the hands of prostitution. They need everyone's help and compassion. I also don't want to discredit the people who do have a choice in what they do with their bodies and their decisions to take money for sex.

We absolutely need to talk about the systems of privilege and hardship that cause women (and men, let's not forget they do sex work too) to unwillingly enter an industry where they're raped and abused. The fact that privilege protects people from all kinds of pain (in all aspects of life) and yet leaves others to be trampled is deeply fucked up.

I think, however, that this is a larger issue of helping under-privileged people and not simply getting rid of sex work. (Intersectionality, anyone?) Prostituted women and men are just one group of under-privileged people who need help and need a voice.

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