Prostitution and consent

A conceptualisation of sex work is used by anti-prostitution (abolitionist) feminists: prostitution as paid rape

Here’s a quote from campaigner Julie Bindel (source):

Prostitution has been described to me time and time again by the women who survive it as paid rape. The men who pay for sex are buying sexual subordination. If “consent” has to be bought, it is not consent.

When two people really want to have sex, they do it without any payment. So when there’s payment, the situation is: someone wants to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to do it with them. So, the reasoning goes, despite the fact that the terms of the exchange are mutually agreed upon, there isn’t genuine consent there. So the consummation of the contract amounts to: rape.

Why isn’t paid-for consent considered genuine? Well, in jurisdictions where prostitution is legal, it is. Under the feminist ideas behind the Nordic model, it isn’t. Who’s in the right?

The Nordic Model approach to prostitution (sometimes also known as the Sex Buyer Law, or the Swedish, Abolitionist, or Equality Model) decriminalises all those who are prostituted, provides support services to help them exit, and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence, in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking.

One might try to define sex work as consensual (c.f. Francois Tremblay’s critique):

Here is one definition proposed by the “sex worker” lobby: “a person who consensually exchanges their own sexual labor or sexual performance for compensation.”

But we don’t get to define facts into existence. That’s not a valid move.

The abolitionist side provides some strong reasons for the position that paid-for ‘consent’ is not genuine, but coerced:

The prostitute does not want the man to have sex with her, but needs the money desperately – either due to drug addiction, poverty, being forced into the business, etc. The only way she will have sex with the man, sex which she does not want, is by being paid.

That’s from Lorraine Spiteri, Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations chairwoman, quoted by Malta Independent.

Who would argue that those involved in prostitution out of hunger, force, deception, or drug addiction are truly free? Their bargaining options are obviously restricted. The punters and pimps they’re forced to deal with can be clearly seen as exploiters, taking advantage of women in dire straits.

But, then, who would say there is no distinction to be made between those women, and high-price escorts and porn performers who have other money-getting options, who are able to be highly selective about their clients, and are more concerned about using sex work money to buy luxury items rather than the necessities?

They want to keep their sexual and economic rights to engage in prostitution, and under the Nordic model, they technically would! They would not be criminalised as sex-sellers. Only sex-buyers would be, in order to reduce demand for paid sex, with the intent to reduce prostitution-connected harms and mistreatments. The predictable reduction in income for happy sex workers is collateral damage.

Against the Nordic model, feminist group Sisters Uncut writes:

The implications for people who sell sex should be obvious: in seeking to reduce the number of men willing to pay for sex, the Nordic model makes sex workers poorer.

Sucks for them, but that doesn’t impinge upon their rights. (It impinges upon the punters’ and pimps’ rights, but no one cares about them. That’s why NM will probably win.)

It’s not really about consent, not fundamentally. That seems to be a distraction. Among the sympathetic parties, those working in prostitution, there’s an economic conflict of interest.

Sexual consent is a crap concept, anyway, check this out:

And look at these tweets from 2015. Famous feminist Julie Bindel and bald MGTOW John the Other agree!

consent-bindel.PNG

Julie and John point out the nonsense of applying the term ‘consent’ to sexual matters. Well, this nonsense is the law.

Older legal definitions of rape included the concept of force. Forced sex was rape.

The modern one uses consent, so sex with a lack of consent from the other person, is rape (by the man). That includes forced sex, but it’s a wider definition, so it includes more. Consent is more complex than force. A sexual situation, without force, that appears consensual may, under closer examination, prove to not be so. Like sex obtained by deception.

The newer definition raises the standards, and despite the logical difficulties with the concepts involved, I do not advocate a reactionary move to return to the old law.

Consent doesn’t imply desire. Sex should be mutually desirable (even though that has its own logical difficulties). Consent, as a standard for determining good, healthy sexual interactions, is too low!

Whoremongers implicitly know this, as do their service-providers, which is why they play-act being enthusiastic, lusty participants. That’s part of the service. Pretending to like the dude. Prostitution, like porn, is a simulation of good sex. The line between genuine desire and simulated desire might be blurry sometimes, but I sure as fuck know which side I clearly want to be on.

 

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6 Comments

  1. I like to question the issue of consent as well. It’s very clear that people either grossly misuse it, or the meaning has changed so much that it’s pointless. We have to reframe the issue in a way that makes clear that paying someone for sex, or coercing someone into sex, is not acceptable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m on the look out for arguments against the Nordic model. Interesting ones, ones that seem potentially popularly convincing.

    So I’m looking at that Sisters Uncut article again.

    “Furthermore, Sisters Uncut believe that poverty – in particular the fact that women are disproportionately affected by poverty – has to be central to our understanding of domestic violence and women’s safety. We believe that poverty is a feminist issue, and, like many in the feminist movement, we believe that making women poorer makes them less able to leave abusive relationships.”

    Okay. I cannot see how this would persuade anyone to decriminalise punters if they’re convinced that they’re morally equivalent, or close enough, to rapists. At most, it’d persuade them to agree to allocate more resources to the ‘exit services’.

    I can think of another way to argue against NM. It involves highlighting the variety in punters, their varied attitudes and behavioural tendencies, and therefore varied preferability in the eyes of prostitutes. There are, we might say, nicer ones, and nastier ones.

    E.g. https://nordicmodelnow.org/myths-about-prostitution/myth-punters-care-about-the-women-they-buy/

    And the NM-guided criminalisation of punters would, probably, reduce the pool of punters disproportionately. Nicer ones probably are more law-abiding, so we’re left with a smaller, nastier (more dangerous) pool of potential clients.

    Someone who thinks this is a really good argument could state it better than I have here…

    SU has this video on their page. Now watching…

    Like

  3. “These laws also reinforce stigma and hatred against sex workers.”

    But the stigma is there for powerful reasons. There’s a long history to it. There’s still stigma about it in New Zealand, isn’t there?

    Apparently, under the NM period of France, there were vigilante attacks on sex workers. Awful and bizarre…

    I guess hard statistics to compare the numbers and wellbeing (somehow) of sex workers under different legal regimes would be useful.

    Like

  4. Fleshbags will prove no match for total machine supremacy.

    More thoughts on the Nordic model’s 2nd point (according to https://nordicmodelnow.org/what-is-the-nordic-model/ ), the support and exit services.

    Even full-decriminalisation advocates could support this measure. Prostitutes who want to leave, get help to leave. Why would those who want to stay in the trade oppose that? Less supply means they can raise their prices and they can be more selective about clients.

    But, then higher prices would make prostitution, pimping and trafficking more attractive businesses to get into. So, probable increase in supply. Downward pressure on prices. More exploitation/negative consequences.

    Other points of NM would be deployed to mitigate this.

    Liked by 1 person

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