Exploited Sluts

I been getting into arguments on facebook…

I’m not going to repeat the whole thing, it’s available here if you want to see. But to précis, the group is all about campaigning against the trafficking of women into the sex industry. How this works I am unsure, I mean we could campaign with as much effect against suspicious tax dodging, little scrotes smashing windows on the local estate and all the other things that are illegal, (arguably) distasteful but really the powers that be couldn’t actually give too much of a toss about. But that’s a digression.

Anyway, the PC brigade stepped in (in my interpretation anyway) bringing in prostitution in general, which in my mind actually defeats the object of any campaign against trafficking.


Because they are simply two totally different issues.

Apologies here, I lied. I am going to repeat a certain amount of this argument, as it actually fits and provides a good springboard for a subject post that’s been brewing in my mind for a while and also leads nicely into a future rant I am researching (and working out how far I need to tone it down to avoid a Chris Morris style lynching) on paedophilia.

After Teela Sanders (2005) I posited the argument that actually not all women working in the sex industry are forced into a torrid existence having it stuck up ’em only to have all their money stolen my some evil pimp; some make a reasoned decision to embrace their profession. OK, I do not claim to be an expert on the sex industry (hey, it was always an ambition, but I was either getting it, or short of cash so that dream never came to fruition), but the findings from Sanders’ ethnography are, to my mind convincing.

My side point was that some people are more exploited doing an “acceptable” job that they are forced into than others who choose a “deviant” existence selling sex (n.b. not selling their bodys, in all cases, many prostitutes actively manage the distinction).

It seems I was misunderstood, however. Of course, when the word “choice” was mentioned, the accusations came flying: by saying that a woman has a choice to enter that trade, I am therefore denigrating these poor souls, who through poverty have no choice at all… no-one chooses to be exploited instead of dying of hunger (presumably as the welfare state will protect them… hmmm..?), therefore the choice is forced upon them, being exploited into selling your body cannot be compared with working in a sweatshop etc…

I’ll leave you all to make up your own minds about that, I’ve rattled on about the background too much.

What saddened me was the overtone that anyone working in the sex trade was to be pitied. This seemed to come from a background of Christian charity towards down and outs. It’s interesting how peoples background defines their views, though not rocket science, I guess. If you work with street people, then many of then will be unhappy. So if many of them sell sex, then you will encounter people who are unhappy selling sex. I don’t deny the girls who used to stand outside my house on Spencer Place were not all happy (and welcomed the coffee we gave them on a cold night), but from this experience one cannot say that all working girls are a priori unhappy with their lot. The women Sanders spent time with weren’t. Sure they moaned about their job and wished they didn’t have to do it in order to feed the kids etc, but have you heard me after the umpteenth rogue landlord, the millionth Chinese student who has been done for plagiarism for referencing the way they learned to, and so on? OK I can’t make the converse judgement from the literature I’ve cited, but that’s half the point.

I in no way deny that many women are forced or coerced into the sex industry. That many make the choice when they can see no other option. But I wonder if it’s the sex that’s so distasteful…

Of course the feminists would say that it’s this Patriarchal society that leads to the exploitation of women. What about the Capitalist society that leads the the exploitation of 8 year-old Indian children making Gap hoodies?

Going back to my facebook argument:

-A Guy works in a resort bar, where he is expected to flirt and have sex with customers to get business.
-A person earns a six figure salary, but knows if s/he doesn’t work 60 hours a week s/he will lose her/his bonuses.
-A woman has sex with her husband every night ‘cos he gets tetchy if he doesn’t get “his nookie”.
-A lad flips burgers for minimum wage, ‘cos if he doesn’t get a job they’ll stop his benefits.
-A girl supplements her student loan lap dancing.
-A woman works in a tea plantation for 10p a day.
-A woman works in a supermarket, ‘cos after having 6 kids and no job all her life she has no skills.
-A man works in a cocoa plantation for £2 a day (which is a living wage, yet the price that a rich westerner will pay for the amount of fairtrade chocolate he picks beans for in 20 minutes)
-A girl works the streets ‘cos she can then afford her heroin, grossly overpriced from her pimp.
-A lad spends a year in the Greek airforce as he will lose rights if he does not.
-A Woman earns £300 a night escorting businessmen, and can double that (by choice) if she sleeps with them and her only outgoing from this is running her website.
-A farmer is up a 6am every morning, ‘cos he needs to work harder now that a chicken sells for £2 in Tescos.
-A girl masturbates on camera, but will not do sex.
-A girl is kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
-An asylum seeker works picking fruit for 12 hours a day, ‘cos he gets £20 a week vouchers to live on, and that’s all.
-A bloke works in an office for a good wage to support his family

Can we absolutely, no arguments, no crossover say who of these is exploited? Who has a choice?

Where do we make the boundary? Gender? Legality? Choice of Job? Sex? Penetrative sex?

Exploitation in the sex industry is nasty. I 110% concur. As is any exploitation. But I think it’s the sex that’s the problem here, and that for some reason confuses me.

A couple of thoughts to illustrate.

Consent is a defence for the offence of assault, unless that consent is given for the assault to be for the purposes of sexual gratification. So if I say that you can beat me black and blue ‘cos I like the colour of bruises, then you’re fine. If I say you can batter me ‘cos it gets me off, they you’re going down…

Think of cinema. you can show no end of slaughter in a 12 rated film (provided there’s no blood and gore). In fact how many people died in the U rated Star Wars episode iv? But you can only gently allude to even consensual love-making until the rating becomes a 15 or even an 18 (by which time the viewer has been old enough in Law to be doing it themselves for 2 years.)

I’m not advocating some free-love-porn-rape-fest. Though some of Heinlein’s (1961, 1973 for example) work does quite a good job of showing how a society with the sexual taboos broken down could work. But I am just wondering why sex always clouds the issue, why we fear and control it so much, more even than death, violence it seems…

And of course, for girls it’s worse. We all know that if a lad has many sexual partners he’s a Stud, whereas a girl is a Slut. But even policy has consistently focused on female sexuality (Hudson 1982) and (one of the few studies to address this) Parker et.al. (1981) found how when young women come before a Magistrates Court, little attention is paid to their offence, but plenty to whether they may be promiscuous.

What this shows, is simply that even those who (albeit rightly) champion a cause still seem bound by the stereotypes that lead (in part at least) to the problems that give them a cause to champion.

Anyway, I’m off to look at some tits on the ‘Net. As I’m sure I will now be branded a pervert or a misogynist or something I ain’t got owt to lose, have I?


Heinlein, R (1961) Stranger in a Strange Land. New York: Putnam

Heinlein, R (1973) Time enough for Love. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Hudson, B (1982) “All things nice?”, Social Work Today, 13,41,13-14

Parker, H, Casburn, M, and Turnbull, D (1981) Receiving Juvenile Justice. London: Basil Blackwell.

Sanders, T (2005) Sex Work: A Risky Business. Cullomptan: Willan