Not Work, Not Crime: Who Are the True Agents in Prostitution?
Kler, Daisy, Canadian Dimension
IN MY PRACTICE OF FEMINISM I view prostitution as a form of violence against women, racialized misogyny, and a form of exploitation that capitalizes on women's oppression. I come to this opinion as a feminist, south Asian anti-violence worker.
Thinking of prostitution as "sex work" lends legitimacy to prostitution. It suggests that it's a trade like any other, with corresponding occupational hazards. This naming implies that prostitution is a free choice for women, among other viable options. Placing the onus on women, this perspective denies the responsibility of men who humiliate, degrade, and violate them even if they pay for it. Calling it work doesn't remove the stigma attached to prostituted women, but legitimates johns and profiteers of the multinational sex industry--those who do have a choice not to exploit women. Characterizing it as a woman's individual choice and as work conceals the violence and power relations.
In a Vancouver study, 90 percent of women engaged in prostitution said that they would exit if they could, the same percentage that reported having been assaulted in prostitution. The average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen, long before the age of consent, and between 65-90 percent of prostituted women report a history of incest. Prostitution and the issue of choice is better understood as women's lack of choices. Few women have unconstrained choices: one in four women in Canada still faces male violence, and we earn less than men for equal work of equal value. When we consider the inequities experienced by Aboriginal or women of color, the suggestion of freedom of choice becomes even more questionable.
Prostitution reproduces racism, perpetuating it both locally and globally. All women in prostitution are viewed as commodities that perpetuate sexism and capitalize women's poverty but women of color are "sold" to men in a particular way. …