We will be starting a series next week on prostitution or if you prefer, sex work. It will not be for the faint at heart. What we will be covering are the realities about why and how women become prostitutes. It will be done in our style – “Insightful, Inspiring and In-depth,” never judgmental but clearly offering views that might not fit the stereotypical ones.
Two Contributors will help walk us through this topic:
Katelyn Roth, who lives in the United States and advised me that she will be participating in an upcoming conference in her community on human trafficking and the sex trade. She will bring us highlights of those conversations as well as her understanding of the psychology of female sex workers.
Neelma Tashfeen will give us an insight into the lives of prostitutes in her country of Pakistan. Her posts will be presented in narrative form with representatives of the various “categories” of sex workers telling their stories. Pakistan has a very entrenched class system, so Neelma will tell the stories of these women from each class, starting with the lowest.
The decision to do this series was made against the background of this blog’s fundamental aim being inspiring women and all those who love them – no matter the status of the women in society.
My personal journey crossed paths with prostitutes and sex workers on several occasions. I have worked with them in the country of my birth, Jamaica, long before it became politically correct to use the term “sex workers” through a small not-for-profit that served those women who entered the business to provide for their families. My professional life in the correctional system here in Canada would again put me in immediate contact with many former sex workers. My professional relationship with them was very intense, as my interactions were with women on the maximum security unit of a federal institution, serving time for crimes committed while “at work.”
What this particular post and others over the next while will do, is to create a framework for our upcoming conversations with Neelma and Katelyn. You might have noticed my dancing between the two words – prostitution and sex worker. This has been a topical tango for a few years now that remains somewhat unresolved.
Sex Worker or Prostitute?
Let us first have a quick look at the conversation around the “re-branding” of prostitution to sex worker. Here is an interesting quote from Sarah Ditum on this movement:
When we talk about “sex work”, we endorse the idea that sex is labour for women and leisure for men – men who have the social and economic power to act as a boss class in the matter of intercourse. And most damningly of all, we accept that women’s bodies exist as a resource to be used by other people.
Precedents and labels matter, especially when they inform the treatment, response and regard to life – all life. The argument offered by Ditum on the naming of the oldest “profession” in our history – prostitution – to the more politically correct “sex worker,” has a lot of merit to me. Yes, again my position might cause consternation among those who think that being liberal means you unquestioningly agree with everything and that you hold the party-line. That has never been my style. Questions are meant to be asked on every issue. Only then each of us can arrive to our own conclusions and keep asking more questions to continue our personal evolution and deepen our understanding.
So what’s wrong with saying “sex worker”? For one thing, it’s a deliberately broad term. It covers street walkers and escorts, strippers and phone sex operators, dominatrixes and dildo retailers, as well as their respective managers. Clearly, all these things are not the same, and any theory or legislation that attempts to treat them as identical is liable to founder on the object that not all sex work is like that. “Sex work” is also a studiously gender agnostic phrase: “prostitute” is so ingrained as feminine that it’s necessary to specify “male prostitute” when referring to a man, while “sex worker” suggests a figure who could be male or female. This may be well intended, but it’s misleading: the majority of those in prostitution are women, and those who purchase sex are almost exclusively men. When it comes to prostitution, gender neutrality is a lie.
In my view, and clearly that of Dittum, when a woman enters prostitution whether forcibly (through trafficking) or as a mean to an end, it is not a job that she earns a pension at the end of her tenure, nor does she gets monthly benefits such as healthcare, eye exams, and unemployment insurance – not for the most part and most certainly not everywhere in the world. Yes, while political correctness allows us to be sensitive to those who do become “sex workers” out of choice, it shrouds the reality of those who did not have a choice.
Read Dittum’s full article here and share your comments below whether you believe that all those involved in the sex industry are “workers,” and whether such a label masks the harm and destruction of lives that many women around the world are suffering.
Here are some other links that you might also find interesting, leading up to Neelma’s post next week on the life of one Pakistani woman of the lower class who is in the industry.
- Prostitution By Country – An overview of the laws in the regions around the world
- 15 Countries Around The World Where Prostitution Is Legal (including Canada)
- Prostitution Is A Human Right – Says Amnesty International
- My 25 Years As A Prostitute – One Woman’s Story
Until next week, when we present the first in this series of posts on this very personal yet public issue, decision, and often times violent matter, do check out those links and share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Be sure to Subscribe and receive a daily email update of our articles. You can also get acquainted with our featured Contributors’ work by reading their latest posts. Neelma recently published “A Peek Into The Daily Lives Of 3 Pakistani Women,” and Katelyn guided us through “9 Things Every Woman Should Do This Fall.” Check them out and share your thoughts in the comments section of each post.
Have a great Thursday!