Thursday, September 25, 2008

1/1,000th of the thoughts I have on this

I'm doing a project on prostitution for my feminist legal theory class, and it's got me pretty down. I'm reading law review article after law review article and then blogs and news stories, and they're all trying to say what the problem is or isn't and how to fix it. There's little agreement, though, except that the current situation is bad. The dilemma that I keep having as I read through all of the solutions is that the situation has ALWAYS been bad.

There seems to be this idea on the part of the radical feminists that there is some way to move towards a gender equality where men will no longer want to pay for sex. And all I can think in response to that is HA! Haahaha! And I'm not smiling. Prostitution has always been there, or at least since anyone had to pay for it. I guess beforehand, they just took it (not that they don't do that now as well).

And don't get me wrong - I know that a sex transaction does not only happen with the male as purchaser and the female as provider. I know that there is male/male prostitution (although that's most often teenage boys as the provider). I know that there is prostitution with the man or boy as provider and the woman as purchaser. But those are much rarer. When we're talking about prostitution, I don't have an exact number, but I'm going to guess that we're talking 90% male purchaser/female provider situations. At least.

Reading the liberal feminists, I have a hard time viewing it as a choice. I can see that it might be for some - a choice to not live in poverty, a choice to get out of an abusive home. I've read about some who have nice, comfortable lives and choose to start a sex work business on the side to make extra money or engage in fantasies they have had. While I can't say that I understand these choices, I accept that they exist. But I can't separate these women out from the broader picture, which is that I'm reading stories about 13-year old girls who are being invited into cars so that 40-year old men can have sex with them. I'm reading about women who have been working as prostitutes for years to support a drug habit. I'm reading about women who have been stabbed by the men who purchase their services, men who are never caught. I'm reading about women who kill themselves because they cannot live with the life that they lead. I'm reading about women who live in fear of upsetting their pimps lest they be beaten or raped.

Does legitimazing prostitution - organizing unions and working towards legalization - does that help the woman with the sex business on the side or the woman who just got stabbed by her john?

I'm torn between this feeling that legitimization might help the women in the short term - help them to feel safe reporting crimes against them to the police, help them to get medical care. But I agree with the view that if you legalize it, you are telling the men who profit from this system that it's okay. I know, you're telling the women who profit from it that it's okay too. I just don't know the answer here. It seems like the people who are arguing for legitimization are often the women who have the better deal already.

And I guess I just keep coming back to these young girls. These young abused girls who are victimized and, if caught, often serve more time than either the pimps who profited from them or the johns who bought them.

There's a movie about an organization that works with young prostitutes in New York. It's not out on dvd yet, so I've only seen this trailer. I don't know how the women at this organization do it day after day - knowing that you may have helped this one girl but that the day she came in, 3 more girls probably just turned their first trick.


Anonymous said...

such a complicated issue that always leaves me feeling like the problem is just so big. i've seen those documentaries/news reports on the Nevada brothels that are legalized and the situation out there is better for the women on a day to day basis--but it still doesn't address the bigger nastier picture I think you are hinting at here...
This is one issue that I just don't know how to tackle.

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