The Idea of Prostitution

The Idea of Prostitution

The Idea of Prostitution

The Idea of Prostitution

Synopsis

The idea which this book explores is that of men's entitlement to abuse and profit from the abuse of women in prostitution. The book shows how this idea, central to male supremacist ideology, has been bolstered by masculine systems of thought such as sexology, sociology, historiography and queer theory. The feminist challenge to this idea has become more difficult in recent times because sexual liberalism, economic individualism and free 'choice' ideas have persuaded even some feminists that prostitution should be seen as 'just a job like any other'. Jeffreys argues that it is important to recognise men's abuse of women in prostitution as a variety of male sexual violence and a violation of women's human rights.

Excerpt

This book is called The Idea of Prostitution because it is concerned with ways of thinking about prostitution. The aim is to explain how feminist thinking on prostitution has become so polarised at the end of the twentieth century. Whilst some are defining men's use of women in prostitution as a form of sexual violence, there are others who seek to normalise and legitimise “sex work” as a reasonable job for a woman. Such opposite views, all calling themselves “feminist”, did not always exist. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, feminist attitudes were much more homogeneous. One prominent member of the Ladies' National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, expressed the typical feminist perspective of the time well when she wrote of prostitution as the “profanation of the dignity and individuality of women” (quoted in Jeffreys, 1997, p. 34). The feminist determination to end prostitution was strong and internationally united in this period, though there were differences in the analysis of why prostitution must end and how this was to be achieved (see Jeffreys, 1985, ch. 1). In the first chapter of this book, I document the ways in which the feminist antiprostitution campaigns of the period before World War I went international in the 1920s and 1930s. Feminists from a variety of countries and organisations sought a convention to outlaw the traffic in women, a campaign which resulted in a . . .

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