Montag, 26. Juni 2017

Feminism kicking the bucket – the häppy sexwörk lie and a feminism that just isn't.

Pixabay - CC0 Public Domain
This text by Mira Sigel originally appeared in German on the Störenfrieda website. There is also an outspoken refutation of the pseudofeminist celebration of prostitution (renamed “sexwork”) written by survivor Huschke Mau on her website, both in English and in German.

Background – in Germany, as in other countries, attitudes towards prostitution split the feminist movement (such as it is) and draws a clear line between opposing camps. Acceptance of the status quo, negotiation of terms within the current societies and male hegemony and individual empowerment to do just that? Or coherent political and ideological criticism of male hegemony and the status quo? A marketing of oppression, when it comes to sexually exploitative practices, or an ending of these practices? “Sex work” as an aspect of female (and female*) sexual liberation? Or a form of oppression? After being presented with the usual marketing strategies put forward by the sex industry, this time regurgitated by a group of people who call themselves “Feminismus im Pott”, Abolition 2014 were relieved to see feminists take this up and publish a reply. Solid myth busting, and we hope useful to our sisters and fellow abolitionists around the world.

The Störenfriedas, the “Disturberesses of the Peace“, people say, are always so much against everything. That is true. We are against a lot of things. We are here, because we loudly and clearly want to give voice to an opposing view, because we've had it with feminism becoming a lifestyle, with women no longer demanding nothing less than freedom for themselves, even when that means attacking ancient privilege and being downright inconvenient. A feminism that is convenient, pleasant, that is applauded by the centre of a society that neither recognises nor reflects upon its patriarchal precepts is no feminism, but this contradiction escapes most, and not by coincidence. Engage in “inclusive“ feminism, and you'll be used as a fig leaf, with publicity. Call out bullshit, and you'll be attacked. The first category is exemplified by the “Positioning on Sex Work“ by the feminist collective Feminismus im Pott. (1)

For quite some time I hadn't wanted to read it, because in the end it is only a repetition of the prostitution-bullshit-bingo we all know ad nauseam, but then I read it anyway. Doing so, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Laugh, because such a contradictory stance steeped in lobby-speak  clearly unmasks what this is about (most certainly not the women, who anyway may only be named with loads of asteriks and other decorations (2) - “we are not all male“), or cry, because it shows that all the feminist struggles, all the courageous women across the world battling against a devastating and deeply misogynist system of exploitation and progressing there are bitterly needed and yet are being thrown back again and again within feminism.

Why? Why do we succeed in convincing hardcore brothel users that it is a sign of corrupted humanity to buy a 20 year old Romanian woman in a brothel and to rape her for money, and yet fail with those who like us allegedly join the fight to make life better for women? Internalized self-loathing? The ignorance of the privileged? An absolute lack of empathy? Or simply the result of brain-washing?

Our position as women* speakers is characterized by none* of our team engaging in sex work or defining herself as such*. Our position is that of a supporter, of an ally*,

Feminismus im Pott writes. I wonder: Have you ever spoken to women who are in prostitution or who have exited? Have you ever looked inside a brothel? The Ruhr area is full of those. And if this is too high a dosage of reality for you, it suffices to take few peeks into the local punters' forum, the Ruhr-Freierforum, and in order to avoid overtasking you, I have simply selected a few comments there from recent weeks:

One of the entries is about a girl named Belana. The punters are not sure if she is really of age, but they are happy that she is “so gloriously tight“. There is great worry that she may soon cease to offer her “fair“ services of various positions for € 30.00 as she begins to know the language better. But witty and smart as punters tend to be, they have a solution:

“Hello Lattman ( = boner man). In order to prevent that, we just have to keep ”stuffing her mouth“. She has already been acquainted with the right cork …. and she didn't get to make a sound with it!!!!! Regards, Strichscout ( = 'working' area scout)“

Lattmann and Strichscout write diligently, there's no trace of spelling or grammar, but according to their statements they daily buy sex and then grade the women. Although “women“ is the wrong term in their context. For these two men who are typical punters, women are not human beings whose sensitivity to pain needs to be taken into account:

“Irony on …. doesn't the length of the nipple depend on the pulling force of your fingers in combination with your ability to ignore/ not hear the lass's screams? Irony off …“

“Feminismus im Pott“ calls prostitution work and thus uses the ideologically loaded term “sex work“ that was originallycoined by the US lobbying organization NSWP in order to decriminalise the brothel keepers and the pimps and to have their actions viewed as normal activities. To again spell it out: This term has never meant the women, but the exploitative jobs around them. And this leads us right to the core of the entire häppy-sexwörk-machinery:  Who succeeds in making invisible what women in prostitution endure can succeed in turning paid rape into a service, pimps into managers, brothel keepers and traffickers into businessmen and punters into mere clients. This is how the euphemizing of prostitution works which “Feminismus im Pott“ busily contributes to. 

Prostitution is not a job, even if some like to pretend it is, with a fatalistic nod to global capitalism. Next, cleaners and geriatric nurses are cited, who also do unpleasant jobs nobody wants, and each and all of us who are in paid labour are said to be somehow prostituting ourselves. First the cynicism here is overwhelming in saying: “Capitalism owns it all anyway, our labour, our consumption, our time, our property, so we can also easily hand over our sexuality“, and to say this from the privileged position of well-educated, probably basically white women, who have never been brought into a situation where they had to sell their bodies to 20 men a day. Where then shall we draw a line? Selling our organs? Children?

Viewed like this everything about us is some commodity, our entire lives are perfectly commodified and the one and only way of dealing with capitalism is to wholly submit to it. Yet, and in addition, we are not, in fact, all equal before capitalism, capitalism needs a separation of the sexes and a subjugation of women in order to function. Women do the unpaid housework and care work, women sell their bodies, and this is then glorified as an “opportunity“ and as “self-determination“ by cynical German feminists. Not to see this and still call yourself a feminist is so absurd that it begs the question why some call it feminism, even. We know that most of the women neither want to work in prostitution nor to remain in it, but that our society hardly leaves them another option. This “no other option“ is then generously declared to be the pinnacle of a post-modern dealing with the capitalist world order. It doesn't get more contemptuous of humankind, nor more devoid of solidarity. 

It does make a huge difference whether someone receives their earnings via manual labour or via their own sexuality. Sexuality is a part of our personality, our identity. It is about the most intimate thing we have. How can this be sold? Or how can it be assumed that what is offered is a “sexual service“ that has nothing to do with ones's own sexuality? Scientistsand trauma experts have proven conclusively that women in prostitution are constrained into permanent dissociation, into permanently splitting off their thoughts and feelings, away from their bodies in order to be able to bear strangers using their sexuality, a procedure that has severe psychological consequences and can often only be endured through the use of alcohol or drugs. Since the vast majority of the women in prostitution have already undergone sexual violence in their childhood and youth, they know the mechanisms of dissociation and their trauma deepens.

Which job on earth, shitty as it may be, demands a splitting off of thoughts and feelings in order to bear it? In which job do I have to fear that a client may use my own scarf to strangle me? Regard beatings and physical pain as part of the equation? Allow being degraded and risk permanent sexually transmitted diseases?  

Prostitution is legal in Germany. And yet none of the women have health insurance, none of them pay into the pension system, none of them receive unemployment benefits. The woman herself neither profits from minimum pay nor from any legal provisions for her safety, she is surrendered to the punters' whims and to the traffickers. She cannot call in sick, she cannot declare her vacation. All of these points are clear evidence that prostitution is not a job, but a business in misery, and first and foremost capitalizing on women's misery.  And this is feminism's rub: Without partriachal oppression prostitution would be unthinkable. Its origins stem from slavery and the first slaves were women. It is not the world's oldest occupation, but one form of the world'soldest oppressions. And feminists manage to stand up and proclaim that prostitution as sex work is great? Prostitution is unthinkable without the dehumanization of women, without degrading them to purchaseable objects whose feelings, desires and rights count for nothing, and this is why prostitution regards us all. Not only because it is a matter of humanity to stand in solidarity with those who are being exploited in this way, but also because a society that views some women as venal, as purchaseable, views all of us as such and as of little value.

The punters who buy women each day by the hundreds of thousands and who then merrily write reports dripping with violence and hate, are our colleagues, our fathers, brothers, friends, partners and husbands. It is inconceivable that a feminist site publishes a declaration of bankruptcy and then calls that feminism.

If prostitution is such a great, as sexually liberating, activity, why is it only being engaged in by very young, very poor, very uneducated and above all non-German women? Why don't all those cynical pro-sex work “experts“ place themselves in the brothels and experience what they propagate on their own bodies? They could meet up with the punters there, whose rights they so diligently defend:

I've got a possibly unusual question but am hoping for an answer. I'm looking for a woman in street prostitution who can be handled somewhat roughly and who can take a slap or one across the face. All that not too wild, (well, no real SM), but not the normal sex you get there as a standard. I know to find ladies and clubs on the internet., who offer this. But I want one used to working in a car or in open nature. Just sounds exciting to me. Thanks already for your help!

And of course there's a tip for him, fast:

Hey nk 1206 Personally I know of none out there, but I bet if you just ask around and put some extra dough with it you'll find something. I've always found the kind of stuff I wanted.
And believe me – normal sex is just boring :-D
I'm more into other stuff and I've always got it out there, right, a slap on the bum is not the same as one across the face as with that you take the person's rights. That is Degrading and I almost doubt if you find this. Little hint: try it with the junky fraction [i.e. drug addicted women in prostitution] :-)

If feminism works towards the acceptance of such attitudes in society then that feminism is kicking the bucket. It is a feminism that prepares women for accommodating to given conditions, to resign themselves to their own oppression and exploitation and that of their fellow women, a feminism that euphemizes terms in order to make them convenient to the mainstream and in order to render the misery, the suffering and the violence invisible. It is a feminism pressed into the service of the oppressors. There's nothing new to this, nothing revolutionary and it's got nothing to do with feminism either, but a lot with the capitulation of one's own reason and one's own heart before other people's vested interests in money and in power.

A final remark: To call the opponents of prostitution “neo-abolitionists“, a term resounding with “neo-fascism“ or “neo-nazi“ shows how far one is ready to proceed in the name of these interests. Just to be perfectly clear about this: This is not about self-determination or freedom. This is about the right of a few to sell other human beings and their most intimate core and to profit from the sale, it is about profit from the dehumanization of women. Is that still feminism or can that be thrown out? 


(1) Feminismus im Pott: A group writing on the internet on feminist issues based in the “Ruhrpott“ area in Germany, a formerly highly industrialized area with its own working class pride. Pott  means “pot“ as in both saucepan and melting pot, and begs for the pun used when it is called Feminismus im Eimer – Feminism in the bucket, meaning “trashed”. (That is the politer version, Feminismus im A**** is rougher, and that word begins with an “a” in English, too.)

(2) asterisk, * in German usage of men*, women* or any noun that refers to a human being: The asterisk, which some universities have made mandatory, is to denote that “woman“ is a concept rather than a lived reality or position in society, and thus open to debate in its perception. That includes debating the perception of the conditions of women's lived realities (rather than the realities), and is meant to include all those who are or may be perceived as “women“ as well as all those who view themselves as such and wish to be included in the category. In other words, problems are a matter of perception rather than of conditions or power structures, and “woman” is a matter of identification rather than a specific position in a gendered society. In short: The terms become so open to interpretation that they are virtually meaningless and that is usually the intention. 

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