Friday, August 26, 2011

Sex work and Feminism

Over at Skepchick there's an "Ask Surly Amy" question, "Is Sex-work Anti-Feminist?". The questionner wants to know what the rational/skeptical response is to the question.

I love these kind of questions, because the answers are always more complex the deeper you look. I come down on the pro-sex side. I've worked in pro-sex environments and have had a lot of exposure to how sex can be used to liberate and empower people. As a gay man, the movement that has won me many of the rights I now enjoy was in part fueled by a pro-sex attitude. One of my earliest memories after moving to Toronto 10 years ago is watching my lesbian and trans co-workers talking about a new porn endeavour that was pro-women, pro-body-type, pro-people and just very, very positive. Our bodies and how we use them is a very personal thing, and sex is powerful in all kinds of dimensions, everything from biochemically right up to the largest segments of societies themselves. We're steeped in sex, and even beyond the "over sexualized" (which I'd argue is more of a "over exploited") environment that gets all the media attention, it colours everything we do. I think being anti-sex is damaging.

Of course, what does it mean to be pro-sex or anti-sex? This is where it gets complicated, and I think a huge part of that complexity is because we as a society haven't quite mastered how to communicate about these things. There's also a whole lot of cultural flotsam and jetsam, carryovers from oppressions past, rigid ideas we got from our grandparents, a whole bunch of deeply personal stuff that makes us act weird and crazy when it comes to sex. I was really intrigued by the part where she wrote:

People never tell you that if you’re using your arms to bake a cake, that you’re selling your body when you’re hired to do so. Nobody tells you that working as a driver, where you use your legs, is selling your body. In the act of doing nearly any kind of work, we use our bodies, and we are never seen as selling those body parts or selling our body when we are working. It is only in the world of the sex industry that one is considered “selling themselves” or “selling their body” as a part of work.

I think it's true that this is one of the ways that the sex industry is unique and it shows how much there is a disconnect in the ways that we act versus how we talk about sex and our bodies.

You know, ever since I worked "sex industry adjacent", I've always wondered what it would be like to work in the sex industry. Not as a performer, but on the administrative side of things. Wouldn't it be great to be an HR rep for a porn company or webcam site? I think it'd be kind of awesome.

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