Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Do Steven D. Levitt and Summer's Eve Have In Common?

Answer: they are both douches.

Today, as you may be aware, is the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. In a culture where it's cool to play a game that has a "fuck prostitute then beat her to get your money back" option (yeah, I know, you can kill anyone in GTA, and maybe you can even rob anyone in GTA - the prostitutes, however, are the only ones that you basically get to rape by retroactively removing the grounds for consent) that is mighty necessary.

I've known a lot of women who have worked in the sex industry - phone sex operators, dancers, pin-up girls, escorts - and they tend to have several things in common, among which are (a) amazing senses of humor, (b) a very low tolerance for any variety of bullshit, and (c) stories about being treated like subhuman trash by bosses, clients, and even friends or lovers who had "moral" objections to their jobs. The abuse they take can be emotional, financial (just ask a dancer about how club owners work - they can charge you for working in their establishment, then take a percentage of the money that you make there, meaning basically that you pay a fee for making them a profit) or, yes, all too often, physical; what matters is that sex workers can't really fight back. When you enter the industry, it seems, you're stripped of both your voice and your right to defend yourself. The other person always has a superior weapon: I may be an asshole, a con man, an abuser, or a rapist, they can say, but you're a whore. The legal system, along with most of the American public, will agree.

Sex workers are considered expendable - and, because of that fact, they're all too often targets of violence. Because of that fact, it's also not considered necessary to treat their deaths with any pretense of respect or compassion.

Look at this. Now look at this. Now, tell me that I'm wrong.

Because sex workers aren't considered fully human, it's completely acceptable to form strong opinions of them or use them as fodder for your career-making journalistic think-pieces without soliciting their input, representing their (diverse, obviously) perspectives, or even speaking to one of them. Even DFW's piece on the AVN Awards had an unfortunate "look at the freaks/what if I get a boner?" tone, but the worst example of it, in recent memory, is Female Chauvinist Pigs, a Defense-of-the-One-True-Feminism type deal by journalist Ariel Levy. Female Chauvinist Pigs contends that (a) more women these days are modeling their sexuality on that which is presented by sex workers, specifically that of porn stars and strippers - which is true, (b) it has become culturally acceptable to visit strip clubs or watch porn, even if you are a lady - which is true, and (c) all sex workers hate their jobs and are exploited and sad and never experience "authentic" arousal, which could be true (although it's, you know, not, because you can never begin a sentence with "all sex workers" and have any hope of its being accurate) although Levy would have no way of knowing that, because in her little opus on the fakeness and sadness of sex workers she does not interview a single goddamn one of them. She seems never to have considered that they might have a perspective on the matter, or that they could say anything she could not say for them.

Which, all things considered, is still a step up from writing an article in which sex workers - people, who happen to do sex work- are referred to, repeatedly, as "goods." As objects. As inhuman, removed from any discussion of human opinions, or experiences, or rights.

Just in time for the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Wow, what a fucking douche.

[Via and via.]

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