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I can't believe all the tearing down of beautiful, sexual women going on here!
I'm a waitress and I get good tips. Do some patrons see me as a sex object? Probably. If that makes me a sex worker so be it. I gotta make a living somehow.

You know, I'm hearing a lot about how girls are 'just expected to look pretty' and 'brainy girls are ignored' and I toooooootally disagree. I'm constantly feeling inadaquate for being 'just a waitress'. I wish I could make the feminist community proud and be a doctor or pro-skater or something to be proud of.

I was brought up under pressure to be good at math and science. I went to an uptight, all-girl catholic prep school that boasted high test scores and graduation rates. We had to dress modestly and we were not allowed to express sexuality in any way. I always felt like a failure because not matter how hard I tried, I could not excel in my studies. I was always daydreaming about sex and romance (eventho I wasnt exposed to much) and really could care less about being a career gal or 'powerful'.

Honestly, as much as some women hate the beauty standard they feel they cant live up to, I hate the 'female ceo/executive/politician/phd' standard I feel I cant live up to.
Am I not a feminist because I am not sucessful in male-dominated avenues? Am I not a feminist because I gravitate towards love and sex and beauty rather than math and business? Am I not a feminist because I own porn tapes and go to strip clubs? bah.
greenbean-where do you see women being torn down? I think it's a good discussion-people are just expressing their opinions.

The waitress thing is a good point- you probably get tipped better if you flirt or smile at the nasty guys that leer at you...but you aren't exchanging sex, so it's different.

i know what you mean about the whole "if i was a good feminst, i'd be a doctor, or somethign!" something more than what i am....

i don't know what your sexual orientation is-but do you go to male or female strip clubs? just curious, cause i find a lot of women will go to female strip clubs with their man.
I agree...I don't think anyone's being torn down at all. In fact, given how controversial the other thread got, I'm surprised at good of a discussion is going on here and how people are expressing opinions without getting jumped on.

I think the talk about waitresses and wives and that sort of thing is really more about expressing frustration at the broadness of the topic. Everyone's definition of empowerment is different; everyone's definition of sex work is going to be different. I think because we are looking at such a broad subject it is really hard find generalizations that fit each area. It would be easier to divide it up and look at the different areas of eth sex industry...and tehre again we get back into the definition of whether certain jobs are really part of the sex industry.

How about the ladies who sell sex toys at the home parties? I would say they work in the sex industry, but I see what they do much differently than a stripper or prostitute. They are selling sex, but they are not necessarily selling their own sex appeal.
ooh, that's interesting pixie! or what about a store like good vibrations which is i think a feminist run place....

greenbean: what does being a feminist mean to you?
ok so i guess this thread got started. first off i want to apologize for the last thread (and to you busties, or apologize for taking it off course and getting so heated. i stand by alot of what i said, however, this is clearly a better place to talk about it and i just got so angry and of course the pms didnt help. anyhoo....

i wanted to comment on nohopes definition and just say that i am not sure its accurate. by his definition, even women who get promoted bc of their looks (which sucks and isnt fair but we all know it happens) makes her a sex worker. i dont think that fair seeing as how she has no part in that choice. many sex workers dont (human trafficking and whatnot) however to extend it to a pretty girl who gets a raise seems a bit ridiculous.

i also think traditional marriage is basically legal prostitution.

i am not sure we can define empowerment for the exact reasons you stated maddy, that it means something else to everyone. you may not think stripping is empowering, but for some it is bc they have a different defintion. i personally dont know how i view it, i only know i support a womans right to choose that. and by choose i dont mean forced into bc sex work is the only industry where a woman can make more than a man or can make money quickly.

i think that if anything bothers me about sex work its just that. that a woman can use her body to make a ton of money and its the only place where women DO make more then men on all levels, whether it be prostitution, stripping or anything else. it pisses me off that the one industry where it is possible for women to do better then men is based on a mans purchase of her or her services, and not her brain but her body.

then i go back and think, well, are we just capitalizing on men's inherent stupidity and inability to keep it in their pants? and if that is the case, then maybe its not infurtiating to me.

none of this addresses the sex workers who truly enjoy it, which i know are maybe not the majority but aare many and we heard from a few. in that case, if what you are doing makes YOU happy and YOU feel good, well then to me thats all that matters alot of the time.
I wouldn't say I see sex stores in the same avenue as sex workers. Especially places like Good Vibrations and Smitten Kitten. (By the way, I got to visit smitten kitten last week while on vacation and it was such a great inviting and the owner was really friendly and helpful and I loved how informed she was and how she explained how toys were unsafe and why she doesn't carry some, but I digress.)

I don't see them as selling sex, necessarily. I guess I jump to the defense of stores like that because I feel like my sexuality could have been pretty oppressed as I was growing up, except I kind of tripped over it and discovered it by myself when I was 13 and took it upon myself to get educated. But my best friends, some of which are older then me are so scared of themselves sometimes. I think even progressive women often still have trouble understanding that sex is not just for the benefit of men. I know that for a long time I had trouble having an orgasm from oral sex because even as a feminist who knows all this I would still think in the back of my head 'he doesn't really want to be doing it' even though I like giving as well.

I feel like the feminist run sex shops are a really good avenue to reclaim sexuality that some people may still feel ashamed about. I wouldn't say they're selling sex...they're selling sex toys, but I don't see it the same way as say...using sex to sell clothes or shoes or perfume. I've never been to a sex toy party but I've heard good things about them. They sound like they have more of an positive atmosphere that I'd be looking for. Other sleazier sex shops however, I have a different opinion of. Mostly because of atmosphere and I know they aren't catering to me. They're usually there for men and I don't feel welcomed or informed walking into the local shops here in my city.

Greenbean, I understand what you mean. I think that goes back to what I said earlier about feminism being about choice, and that doesn't mean being able to pick and choose what choices we think are suitable but supporting the choices that are made whether we agree with them or not. And I know how you felt in school...I tried so hard but I always just barely scraped by with my marks and it always made me uncomfortable around my other friends who were in advanced classes, like I wasn't good enough. I am glad I'm in school now, because I really feel like I've found my niche but I know plenty of people who stayed happy doing whatever they wanted and not going to uni or college. I have a friend who says that she always feels like she's not as smart as me because she's not in uni, but we read the same books, have the same opinions and have wonderful discussions. There's a lot of pressure.
I think a big issue is that no one's choices are made in a vacuum. We are all influenced by our experiences and our environment, so while many women may choose to enter sex work because it's simply what they want to do, it is still difficult for me to see it as a choice 100% free from the influence of patriarchal culture. After all, the bread and butter is in playing out (mostly) heteronormative fantasies of love and sex. I think (like katiebelle said) the bigger problem occurs when women enter the field because they lack choices or are coerced.

I am so envious of women who feel sexy, truly, and have found a way to express that which not only makes them easy in their minds, but also sends some cash their way. It sounds beyond awesome to me. If I were capable of it (meaning, if my ego could take it), I could easily see myself posing for some pictures some day, but I'm stopped by my own personal "ick" factor. Men in general squick me out, which is something I am working on, but I couldn't stand the idea of strangers masturbating to my image, and projecting all sorts of unknown and potentially violent fantasies onto me. I know that I would not be aware of any of the actions of the strangers who saw the pictures, but I have an overactive imagination and would certainly torment myself about it. Not from any puritan guilt-induced haze, but because I am uncomfortable with it in the same way I am uncomfortable wearing certain items of clothing in public; eliciting what I see as negative attention is not fun to me. And I feel like a bad feminist for that, because shouldn't I feel strong enough to wear what I want?

That said, that is all obviously my own shit, and I DO think there is a certain dialogue within the feminist movement that cock-blocks itself by focusing too much on porn. Porn does not feel like the issue to me; sexual slavery and human trafficking and violence against sex workers in real life is the issue. Porn - in mainstream America, at least - seems to me to be a symptom of a deeply sexually repressed culture which takes things to the extreme. Maybe if it wasn't still so shameful to be sexual, to be naked, to be honest, there would be a smaller market for the sorts of porn that squick many people out. I like the natural porn - the amateur stuff - real couples who are honestly just filming themselves having fun and getting each other off. I don't really like downloading anything online, and there seems to be a smaller market for that sort of porn than for the ultra-fake, ultra-Barbie stuff I think of when the word "porn" is mentioned.

Empowerment is so tricky, isn't it? I'm not even sure what it os to feel empowered. I certainly feel good about myself when I fulfill my responsibilities (that I have voluntarily taken on), proud when I achieve something I've worked hard for, happy when I'm free to be creative...but I never actually feel powerful. Tough, certainly. Maybe that's it. If that feeling comes to other women by engaging in sex work, then that's great.

As for marriage equalling prostitution, I say yikes! I don't know if I believe in marriage for myself, but I don't think that it is always necessarily entered into solely to have access to sex and money. If Mr.Luci and I were to ever stop living (deeply) in sin wink.gif, I could see health insurance benefits as the driving force of our making things legal, since his job doesn't do the domestic partner benefits, yet. Certainly not to establish exclusive sexual rights, or to legitimize children. He makes far more money than I do, which pays rent and food, while the minor ducats I will receive until I graduate are just extra. But I don't consider myself as selling him sex for a roof over my head. I hope we're not an anomaly in that regard.

Okay, that was rambly, but it took me a while to write it, so y'all have to read it.
let's just throw some definitions around for fun.

empowerment: Empowerment refers to increasing the political, social or economic strength of individuals. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities.

feminism: Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women. Most feminists are especially concerned with social, political, and economic inequality between men and women..

pornography: Pornography is the representation of the human body or sexual activity with the goal of sexual arousal. It is similar to, but distinct from, "erotica", [which] is used to imply artistic quality, sensuousness, or implied sexuality, whereas "pornography" tends to signify explicit sexual acts.

sex worker: A sex worker is a person who earns money by providing sexual services.


greenbean: i would say if you support the feminist movement, you are a feminist, regardless of what others think about who you are. no one person is perfect, free from inconsistency, or adheres strictly to the party of which they choose to affiliate. so you're not a ceo, but that doesnt mean you will never be. being a passionate person does not invalidate you as a feminist. it sounds like you are a very feminine woman, and that's just how you are. there is no set standard or characteristic guidelines that make you a feminist or not. in my opinion at least.

wives and prostitution.. tough call. i believe in love. i do not believe prostitutes love their johns, but i do believe, or i'd like to believe that most wives love their husbands. i can see it as an equal exchange within the marriage dynamic.. they're living a life they believe in (whether or not it's simply due to their conditioning) and exchanging different forms of affection and appreciation. i think it is unfortunate when people marry for status, looks or money, but that is just the type of persons those people are.. they're shallow.

sex is all around us. i see sex parties and sex stores as advocating sexual activity. i agree that the exploitation of sex is a result of a repressed approach to sex within our society (america anyway). i've never been to europe, but i've heard europeans are more lax when it comes to their sexuality. i havent done any studies, but i wonder the comparison between sex crimes over there vs. america. i wonder the major differences between people with healthy ideas of sex, vs. those who view sex as dirty or shameful. would the people with healthy ideas of sex even need pornography? is pornography so popular because it is considered a dirty little secret, and that contributes to the intrigue and the excitement of it? or is it just the exhibitionist/voyeur in us all wanting to come out?

Traditional marriage=prostitution would be a real stretch. Yes, there are the few people who marry for money or sex but I believe they are the exception to "traditional". Traditionally people marry because they love each other. They want to be with each other, support each other and share a life with each other including kids(if wanted) and career goals. Most families today, both the man and woman work, so I don't see wives as totally financially dependant on thier husbands. Plus, prostitutes don't have much of a "choice" in what they do. The Johns pick them, tell them what they want and pay for services. Johns are not performing sexual favors for them. Wives in a traditional marriage would have a husband who would want to please her sexually. She would have a choice in saying no, I don't feel like it tonight, or no, I do not perform that sexual act. Sex between married people should involve intamacy and sharing, affection, and closeness that would is not present between a protitue and a John. If marriage equals legalized prostitution, why have so many gays fought for the right to do it?

And I wanted to clarify, when I said earlier that the ladies at the home parties, or shops for that matter sell sex...I don't mean intercourse, but they do sell self sex, masterbation tools ect so they are just selling sex with an inannimate object rather than sex with themselves, so I would clasify that as working in the sex industry, however I view them in the same light I would someone who sells tupperware.
knorl, thanks for the definitions - most helpful. smile.gif

As to views of sex correlating to use of pornography, I dunno. I do think sexuality is pretty fluid, and what one finds sexy now is not necessarily what they'll find sexy in ten years time; nor is healthy vs. unhealthy easily definable (for purposes of study) in some cases. That is to say, I think because sexuality is such a key aspect of human personality that one's views of sex and consumption of porn and/or erotica and all the variety therein can vary with the normal ebbs and flows of personality and life (with obvious, glaring exceptions to incest, pedophilia, rape and any other abhorrent behavior). And once you eliminate those exceptions it's all a question of personal morality, isn't it? *puzzled by my getting hung-up on how to conduct this nonexistent study*


pixie, yes i agree, most traditional marriages hold these values and prostitution does not.

luci: "That is to say, I think because sexuality is such a key aspect of human personality that one's views of sex and consumption of porn and/or erotica and all the variety therein can vary with the normal ebbs and flows of personality and life.." i really really like that statement. such a great point... that sexuality is merely another aspect of our lives, which will also naturally change with new relationships and circumstances. i suppose what i meant by healthy, would be a person who considers sex normal and doesnt deny its importance in their lives. but then again, highly spiritual people are usually celibate, so not engaging in sex doesnt make them "unhealthy". so i guess it really can be broken most simply down to personal morality, this is true. but in the same respect, i wouldnt consider a person who is open-minded about their sexuality to lack strong morals. i think morals really are relative, based on so many different factors, including the time in which we live. like you said, what's sexy now may not be in ten years. an example being the trend of the barbie icon for the past thirty years; before she was created, that image was pretty much non existent among real women. husbands and wives sleeping in the same bed used to be considered immoral, and now that's ludicrous to even consider. so then what it really comes down to is following our own idea of what we consider moral and standing strong in those beliefs.. regardless of whether or not they are congruent to the social norm. one person engaging in sex acts is what they choose to do, and whether or not we agree with it, they are still going to do it. so where do we go from there? i mean really? it's such a tough call because there is a higher rate of crime within that lifestyle. do we just throw our hands up and say, "well, that's just their personal morals", when they are inflicting harm on others? and if the answer lies in social reform, how do we integrate that into the lives of those who segregate themselves from mainstream society?
If sex toy stores are involved in the sex trade, then so is Sears and other department/catalogue stores, because they've sold vibrators for years...for over a century, actually. Not to mention lingerie! I think if we're talking about the "sex trade," it's probably necessary to differentiate between "goods" as material objects for private consumption (and really, anything could be a sex toy - a piece of rope or a cucumber!), and "services" as an exchange between two or more people (the buying and selling of a person's time and/or labour).

I brought up "traditional" marriage - and maybe I should use the term "old school marriage" instead - for the same reasons other people brought up things we don't generally see as part of the sex trade, like advertising and bartending and the like. (And I'm not trying to shit all over wives or bartenders or waitresses...I used to be a waitress, btw, and my last co-worker at the women's centre held down a 2nd job as a bartender.) I brought it up because I think it's too easy to judge one group of women for how they make a living using their bodies and sexuality (sex workers), while at the same time ignoring how a variety of women make a living using their bodies and sexuality.

My real point was not that we should judge wives and waitresses (there's enough judging of women going on out there!), but that we have to look at the overarching context of how women use - and in a lot cases are forced to use - their bodies and sexuality in exchange for financial security. I think we make assumptions about (and therefore judge) women who are prostitutes and strippers, in ways that we DON'T make assumptions (and judgements) about other women who use their bodies/sexuality to achieve financial gain. And I think that, in particular, is unfair to women who are involved in what we understand to be "the sex trade."

I'm sure it makes those of us who have used our bodies/sexuality for financial gain very uncomfortable to see ourselves in the same context as those we call sex workers. And I'm not cutting myself out of this discussion here. I certainly did use my body and my sexuality to increase my tips when I was a waitress - I even used to do very deliberate experiments using different lipstick colours! (But let's also be fair - it's still true that male servers earn higher tips than female servers, and so we do use our sexuality to bridge that gap.)

And when I think about it, I use my body and my sexuality even to this day, as a public spokesperson for a feminist organization, by doing my hair and wearing makeup and body-flattering clothes when I'm in the media or speaking in public. I do the clothes/hair/makeup on purpose, knowing that it helps me to "sell" feminist ideology to people who might normally dismiss (or at least, be less receptive to) what I am saying if I did not appear attractive...according to accepted social norms of beauty standards (i.e.: if I looked like a stereotypical feminist, sans makeup, with "butch" hair and a turtleneck, or something like that).

Just to come back to my main point about "traditional marriage" or "old school marriage"...I am not trying to lambaste anyone's choice to be a stay-at-home wife so much as I'm trying to make the point that I, personally, would feel more independent, more powerful, and more "empowered" if I were earning and in control of my own money, regardless of HOW I earned it - running a small business or taking off my clothes (or selling marijauana, for that matter) - than I would if I were financially dependent on another person for my food, shelter, and other basic necessities of life. (And to clarify, I've never been dependent on a partner, but I was dependent on public welfare in the past, so I've definitely had a taste of what financial dependency feels like.)

There is a poster in our women's centre that talks about how feminism is not about helping "some poor, downtrodden woman over there," but about helping ourselves, as women. This is an essential understanding to me. The problem IMO is that we are all, as women, in the same boat: we lack economic equality and freedom from violence, and that perpetuates our social, political, economic, and legal position as unequal citizens. And while a few privileged women have managed to achieved something close to "equality" and freedom of choice, equality for SOME should never be construed as equality for ALL...most women are on the same continuum of having fewer genuine choices than our male counterparts.

So, women achieve (or just plain survive) using our bodies/sexuality as commodities - whether we make a "good" marriage based on our beauty, or we accept a promotion that is given to us because we are attractive, or we wear revealing clothing to make better tips, or we take our clothes off in a bar - because that's the main source of power the dominant culture has allowed us to have. (Certainly no one can deny that at the same time women are starting to achieve more towards equality, the culture of "looksism" and bias towards increasingly narrower beauty standards for women also increases...whether it's coincidence or not, it's a fact.)

And I believe, as a feminist, that we all need to recognize that we are sisters on that same contiuum, in order to develop and implement the steps we need to take to achieve genuine equality - and genuine freedom of choice - for women.
doodlebug: so then in that light, women should attempt to conform to society's standards of beauty if we want to be given more equality and opportunities? i've deconstructed my own image of beauty because i didnt like the interactions i've had with men and women as a result of my appearance. i would much rather redirect people's attention to my character, to my personality, to my competence, than my arse or my whatever. i feel that following a changing standard of appeal sucks the realness and originality out of each woman's unique beauty. and one could say, this is my choice, based on what results i want to see... and that like it or not, women who do follow that standard are the ones who are more successful as a whole. but what matters then is what determines our own idea of success. if i wanted to i could conform, each one of us could, but if it is not really what we want, then our success and happiness will not be genuine.
knorl, if you are reading what I wrote as saying women SHOULD conform, I fear I must have mis-stated my point entirely somehow, because that's very much the opposite of what I'm attempting to say.

ETA: I suppose what I'm trying to say is that many women use their bodies and/or sexuality as a commodity, and it's not fair to judge or deride one group (sex workers) and ignore other groups of women who also engage in sexual/physical commodification. AND that we need to understand these similarities, and their context, in order to build a strategy for change.
doodlebug: could be i misunderstood you. i think i understand that you present a pulled together very feminine image as sort of a form of irony. you embrace your womanness, and dont deny it, and you are not ashamed of it. i think the statement that threw me for a loop was the "Certainly no one can deny that at the same time women are starting to achieve more towards equality, the culture of "looksism" and bias towards increasingly narrower beauty standards for women also increases...whether it's coincidence or not, it's a fact.)" but that was not all that i gained from your post, it was very informative and well thought out. i only brought up the point that i did to try to get a more thorough understanding of your perspective.
knorl, I edited my last post as you were posting! Oops!

Okay, maybe I can clear it up....what I was trying to illustrate in that particular sentence was an aspect of the cultural and societal backlash against women's achievements towards equality. Some people might feel women's equality achievements and the push towards "looksism" are coincidentally concurrent aspects of women's reality, but I don't. I think "looksism" is a prize example of the dominant culture trying to force women back into the narrower context by which we are defined and understood (backlash), and the dominant culture is succeeding (so far) by portraying appearance and sexuality as a way for women to achieve power - and one that has worked in the past. The dominant culture is a lot more comfortable with women having power on those terms than with women having power in other contexts.

Does this make any sense? I've got a lot on my mind these days, so my brain is all over the place...
doodlebug: ahh. yes, completely. thank you for clarifying :-)
Traditional marriage=prostitution would be a real stretch. Yes, there are the few people who marry for money or sex but I believe they are the exception to "traditional". Traditionally people marry because they love each other. –Pixiedust

Just to clear up the terms here, what you're talking about, pixie, isn't traditional marriage at all, it's marriage starting from about the 1950s. Before that, marriage was really about an exchange of goods: a women stopped being her father's property and became her husbands. Love rarely had anything to do with it (with a few exceptions, of course). In fact, feminism was one of the major reasons that marriage become about love: once middle class women began working for pay, they could afford to stay single until they found someone desirable for reasons other than finance. (That's why it's so ironic when the fundie's make such a big fuss about "traditional" marriage. They're talking about something less 100 years old.)


Anyway, I do think that there are a lot of problems with the sex industry, but I don’t think the problem is porn or prostitution. I think it’s that it exists in a patriarchal, sexist world, and for so long, instead of addressing the large problems like who has the control and what the images are representing, feminists tried to eradicate porn. And that didn’t work, and it’s not going to. I think there’s major problems with the sex industry and I think they’re amplified because it’s unregulated. But I think that could be different. I give major, major props to women working in the sex industry who are working to change it: starting unions, creating women-owned businesses and establishments, giving women more control over their bodies and their images, challenging the norms of what is sexy, representing all body types, genders, and orientations. I realize that these women are likely coming from a privileged place or they wouldn't be able to make these stands, and not every women in the sex trade has these choices, but it's a start.

I also don't think it's fair to say a woman could do better than using her body to make money, or that this is somehow less than using her mind. Everyone is different, has different strengths and interests, and I don't think one is necessarily better than the other. Also, creating good porn does involve using your brain: good porn can be art, and to make it aesthetically pleasing, subversive or challenging, you gotta be smart. I'm including hardcore stuff in the art category, by the way. I don't really like the distinction between erotica and porn, because it's totally subjective. There's also the business side of things: many women like falljackets are their own promoters, hire their own photographers, do their own websites.
battygurl, I would really like to see some documentation or sources regarding the state of marriage changing in the fifties. In my own limited experience (and that of my family in the US), while the institution itself certainly tried to make the woman a second-class citizen, within individual couples it was very much about love and equal partnership (again, in my family, both between uber-English-WASPy types and first generation Polish peasant immigrants). Again, I'm not trying to be contentious, but I'd really love a source I could dig at supporting the assertion that marriage hit some turning point in the 1950s, specifically. While I agree that it was certainly practically a necessity for (mostly white, middle class) women to find someone to take care of them, since the economic and social system disenfranchised and infantilized them so successfully, I have honestly never heard of what you're proposing and am genuinely interested.

doodle, I've noticed that trend too, in fashion history. As gains were made, standards became more stringent. It's very cyclical and my deeply cynical black little heart likes to think that such happenings are not coincidence.

Eek, I shouldn't have posted when I was so tired. I think I'm mixing things up a little. I was thinking of how the "traditional" nuclear family: mom who stays at home, dad who goes to work, kids and that's it (no extended family living with you) really took off in the 1950s. Like, before that it existed but it was either an anomoly or confined to upper classes. But it's something fundies are always raving about as being under threat. Of course it is: it was never a stable formation. It doesn't make sense, it isolates and disconnects people from support networks and it places too much stock in "natural" (read freakishly unnatural) gender roles. It was under threat from the moment it was forced into existence.

Um, sorry that's a sidetrack. I still think that marriage hasn't always been about love, but was firstly about economics, but I think the shift might have been earlier than the 50s like I said last night. I'll try to dig something up on that for you lucizoe.

ETA: The best I can do right now (got to get out of bed and get going!) is this link to Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays. Skip down to the one titled "Marriage and Love" (sorry, it's near the end, but there's no direct links). She talks about the myth of love in marriage at the time she was writing (early 1900s). I know there's other sources, I'll keep thinking about it.
I do think that there are a lot of problems with the sex industry, but I don’t think the problem is porn or prostitution. I think it’s that it exists in a patriarchal, sexist world, and for so long, instead of addressing the large problems like who has the control and what the images are representing, feminists tried to eradicate porn. And that didn’t work, and it’s not going to. I think there’s major problems with the sex industry and I think they’re amplified because it’s unregulated. But I think that could be different. I give major, major props to women working in the sex industry who are working to change it: starting unions, creating women-owned businesses and establishments, giving women more control over their bodies and their images, challenging the norms of what is sexy, representing all body types, genders, and orientations. I realize that these women are likely coming from a privileged place or they wouldn't be able to make these stands, and not every women in the sex trade has these choices, but it's a start.

Took the words straight outta my head.

One thing that most feminists do seem to agree with when it comes to sex work is that the problem is patriarchy. Some would argue that decriminalization is just another way for a male-dominated society to take control of the situation of prostitutes, who are for the most part, women. To quote Audre Lorde, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house". However, I think many of us have learned that sometimes you have to use the tools that are available to you to begin to make changes. A decriminalized situation would be safer for all involved in sex work. Another argument against patriarchy is that as it stands today prostitution is an illegal option that further perpetuates male power structures by hijacking women's rights to decide how they wish to use their sexuality.

A logical solution is for women to take control. This means taking control of sexuality, rights, production, and jobs. The alternative porn that is being created now is usually created by women seeking to allow access for other women to enjoy their sexuality. A recent film, "Made in Secret: The East Van Porn Collective", is about a group of queer women and men who wanted to make a documentary about an anarcho-feminist porn collective. Sick of seeing exploitive, unarousing porn, they create their own collective, taking charge of their little corner of a patriarchal industry; in their words, "To attack the porn hegemony!"

Rather then trying to abolish porn and sex work, i think taking power and control of the industry is going to be the first step to change. By infiltrating a patriarchal industry, maybe we would be able to tear it down, inside out. I can see this happening now with organizations like COYOTE.
Ooof, there have been a lot of new posts since I was last on and I havent read all of them,..but I'll try to answer some questions that were asked of me...
First of all, I was being sensitive about the broadness of the definition of sex work some of you were using.
It made me feel like I was back in catholic school were if you arent a caste, virgin mary-type then you are a slut. As for the tearing down of sexual women it was a vibe I got, particularly from posts suggesting that sex appeal is fleeting, thus it should be dismissed. I dont agree with that.
Secondly, I am sensitive about being a waitress, and dont like feeling guilty for getting good tips. I feel like many feminists think that a 'true' feminist is a successful career gal, and unfortch, whenever a group of business women in pantsuits come in to the joint I work at I fear I'm gonna get bad tips--its just the way it usually goes. Recently a woman chewed me out for a mix up the restaurant had with her reservation, and she said, "This is a special occasion for me because I just passed the bar exam! ...and you are dumb as rocks and thats why you're just a waitress!" Anyway, I know that doesnt really fit in to the discussion about sex work but its just where I'm coming from.
And good tips for good-looking people goes both ways,..the hot guy at work gets more tips than anyone in the whole joint fer sure. Some women even get up from a table in my section to get drinks from him, even if I was just there asking for their order. Go figure. People can drink at home, but they go to bars for the social contact and yes, flirting.
Oh, and Maddy, the way you described it, "flirt or smile at the nasty guys that leer at you" is a bit offensive not only to me but to my male patrons. Most men arent "nasty", and flirting isnt a bad thing. I know youve been thru sexual trauma and you may see things that way, but I'm saying from my perspective it isnt a gross thing. Infact, a few posts gave me the vibe that guys are 'nasty', or at least guys who masturbate are 'nasty'.
Isnt that a bit puritan? We are all sexual animals, can we cut the guys some slack?

Your second question Maddy,..I am straight and I first started going to female strip clubs with my sister when we were under 21 because a. we werent allowed in bars and we needed to experience nite life somehow,...and b. It was kinda a 'fuck you' to our catholic upbringing.
Now I go to clubs once in a while when they are burlesque nights. Usually I go with a coed group. The last show I saw was real fun. One girl did a strip tease where she started out like Napolean Dynomite doing that dance,..another girl did a striptease in the way of 'Carrie', where she ended it by smearing fake blood all over her naked body.

Knorl, to me being a feminist means believing rape and abuse towards women is illegal and punishible.
It means women have a right and oppurtunity to vote, be involved in government, have equal rights to men in education and work. It means that women have rights to their own body, family planning and sexuality.
It means they have a right to recieve sex education, and a right to enjoy sex.
And it also means that they arent punished for being sexually active or experimental,..for instance I dont it should be allowed that a woman (or man) can be fired from work for something sexual they do outside of work (unless its illegal of course). Heres an example:

Sorry if this has derailed newer discussions....
Heh, battygurl, I got ya. I agree that the lily-white nuclear family image hails from the fifties; I mean, atomic age, televisions are in wider use - what better method of control is there? Ozzie and Harriet, right? Certainly that image was dominant, but like today, what family was ever like a sitcom?

I understand the marriage-as-sexual-and-physical servitude angle, the tyranny of husbands, domination, etc. Granted, the social norms of the time in which Goldman wrote certainly didn't frown on married women as chattel. I love Emma Goldman; much of her earlier writing and speeches are full of the tales of the worst of the worst as they were unabashedly propaganda meant to draw people into the cause, but her later autobiographical work possesses a level of honesty I have rarely encountered. I do think the level of servitude and equality in marriages depended greatly on one's social class, with the added *bonus* of oppressing every woman across the board in some way. Today, not so much, though still not equal in many, many cases.

Sorry for the rambly derailment.


You know, the sex industry that I've witnessed sucks. The sex industry that I've personally seen has teenage girls and boys coming through homeless shelters making a living FOR SOMEONE ELSE on their backs. The sex industry that I've witnessed is a gazillion dollar industry, a very small percentage of which is comprised of rockin' chicks doing it because they want to and it gets them off, and the rest of which is Thai teenagers. The friends of mine who are or have been in the sex industry regret it, even the ones who are still in it. In my experience -- and this is coming from someone who has seriously considered sex work herself -- the industry sucks, and is coming from a shitty place, and does nothing to make women as a class more financially, socially, or politically secure. And if those are "male" arenas, they shouldn't be.

I'm not denying anyone's right to take naked pictures and feel good about it. But is BangBus cockblocking feminism? You fucking bet. Is Girls Gone Wild empowering anyone but Joe Francis? Please show me how. I will be so much happier if I can believe this.

I don't know what housewives and waitresses and lipstick and everything else has to do with it.
Talking about things like bangbus and girls gone wild, I would definatly agree that they do nothing for feminism. I think they're pretty deplorable. I don't have much sympathy or support for mainstream pornography. I try to seek out alternative stuff when I can but there ain't much out there. I like porn, i've liked it for a long time, and I'll probably continue to like it. I don't like mainstream porn and the way it portrays women most of the time. Which is why I'm glad when alternatives manage to make their way into my field of vision.

See Girlbomb, thats why this discussion is so confusing to me. Homeless kids having sex to survive is what "sex work" means to me, so its seems to belittle their situation when we say that erotic performers, models, and waitresses and housewives are all sex workers too. Its like discussing apples and oranges,...and cheetos and steak and flan.
I don’t think it’s all that different at all. Just cause your not on the street doesn’t mean your not making compromises out of fear that you are inches away form the street. The fact is, if you are like me, and I think many people at Bust are, then even when life is good and your living the “good life” still the fear of the street is still very real.

Why? Cause if your an average American, you have lots of debt, and if you don’t have that, you have no savings, and rent equals half your income, and bills and food take up the rest, and if you lost your job…. You would be up shits creak… So you do what you have to do.

You don’t even entertain falling “in love” with someone who you believe would be a financial burden, and if you can manage to fall “in love” with a doctor or someone who can give you some financial stability you do it…. and to do that, many women “sex themselves up.” And the same goes for better tips, or to further their careers or whatever…. This is something men don’t really do.

Cause…. Men are valued first for performance…. Women are valued first for their sex appeal…

And in fact when we say, “being proud of being a women,” that is just short hand for fitting the feminine paradigm… no one is thinking of a dike…

Why, cause dikes or tom boys according to the unspoken lingo of femininity aren’t “real women” they are wanabee boys…

And when I hear talk about “not being ashamed to be a women.” Or “not compromising ones femininity” or what eve other rubbish…. I think what are you talking about? There are lots of ways of being a women and a dike or a tom boy is just as feminine as a any other women…. And some of those ways look exactly like masculinity… just as a Queen is just another form of masculinity….

If feminism don’t recognize that…. Then why even bother being a feminist. Because unless women can be liberated to be feminine however they choose, feminism is just another form of oppressive doctrine.
oh, nohope. speaking true. nice one.
Yeah, nohope I think you're right about most people operating out of fear that they'll end up on the streets. I think that's why we treat them like shit so much of the time. We don't want to admit that they're people just like us, we have to distance ourselves from them in order to not see how easily we could end up like them.

And it frustrates me too, when people only acknowledge narrow and rigid boundaries of masculinity and femininity. It pisses me off though, that traits that are thought of as traditionally feminine are valued so low.
During (yet another) sleepless night, I decided to try and find out for myself what exactly the impact of women entering the production end of the industry is. After several hours of diligent searching, I wasn't able to come up with any concrete numbers regarding the number of women directing an/or producing porn, but I did find a number of interesting articles. Its hard to find a very objective viewpoint out there, but here are some links to articles that I found pretty interesting, that represent a variety of opinions. Thought some of you might like to check them out. ("Revisitng the Obscenity Debate") (Nina Hartley's reply to the previous artice) (re: women seeking labioplasty) (Women Driving Growth of Porn Catering to Women) (Using condoms in porn) (interview with Candida Royalle) (First Annual Feminist Porn Awards) (Ladies who like loses its stigma);ex=1154404800
(Wall Street and the sex industry) (Burning Angel interview with Becky Goldberg) (Critique on Jenna jameson/Belladonna) (Porn & Degradation) ("Adventures in the Skin Trade) ("Bondage and Bikinis") (sex workers outreach program) (Legalizing Prostitution at the U.N.) (A Brief History of Prostitution in America)

I know this list is pretty heavy on porn topics, but I was trying as best as I could to find things related to the legal sex industry in the U.S., which is why I didn't really include any links about sex trafficking.
Ok..I went to bed thinking about teh "traditional marriage " talk and the definition someone gave yesterday. I know I've read a ton of romance novels, which has probably tainted my perseption of things in histoical times because I mostly read hisorical romances, but it seems to me that even in say 18th centuray England, most women of teh upper and lower classes had some say, or right to refuse a husband. it was teh middle class and impoverished nobility that really seemed to sell thier daughters to the highest bidding. And my thought on that is that it isn't legalized prostitution so much as human trafficing and slavery.
Wait, nohope...what? Are you saying that whether we like it or not all women are whores anyway? unless we dress like a butch or a tomboy? Are you saying feminism cannot exsist until all women abandon 'feminity'? (and by the way, I do dress like a boy most all of the time, but it doesnt diminish my sex appeal, so I guess I'm doomed, huh?)
I honestly don't think that was what he was saying, even though I can't believe I am actually defending him. *waves hands in front of eyes* But I think I see what he's saying.

I think we get into this idealist thought of what a feminist should be and it becomes just as stereotypical and negative as any other group we could belong to. It's just like the peopel who stumble in here and think that because we are feminists we should blindly support all womens issues, be femnazi's, and man haters. Am I less of a feminist because I am married, have children, and cook? Does that make me a June Cleaver wanna be?
I've decided I can support womens rights including abortion, even though for myself, I find it morally wrong. Who am I to decide that everyone must live up to my morals? Morally, I could never be part of the sex industry, but if someone really wants to be there and it is not just the pressure of being the only way to support oneself. I can accept and respect that.
pixie: i think thats the key. to live according to our own morals, but not to impose them on others. what i feel i need to do is stand up for what i believe in by living my own life according to those beliefs. we all have the right to choose what we feel is best for our circumstances. if people want help, by all means, i'll try to offer it. but i cannot be ignorant to think that just because someone doesnt agree with my approach to life means that they need help or that they need to adopt a new philosophy of living.
greenbean- im not sure where you got the idea that i think all guys are "nasty" or that men masturbating is "nasty." I don't think that. thanks for calling me a puritan though, i never hear that enough.

The waitress comment was just from what my friend the waitress told me. She had a lot of businessmen types, and they'd treat her liike she was this total airhead, flirt and stuff, but be mean at the time. It was just really icky and she hated it. They were more of the attitude that they kinda owned a part of her while they were there eating, it was weird. that's all... i mean half the time "Flirting" is really just being friendly anyways.... (those men were kinda like this awful lawyer you describe-just soo entitled and sure that you must be a moron-that's how people treated my friend, like, all the time)

girlbomb-fab post. i can't remember if i already posted this, or if i just thought about posting it. but yeah, it's a TOTALLY different thing to talk about the maybe 1% of sex workers that are "like us" and are doing it because they truly like it and have other options, etc.

Maybe 1% is subversive, consensual adults just having fun. And that's fine. I really don't care how anyone gets off, as long as it's not hurting anyone else.

But it seems that when we talk about the sex industry, people get really defensive- because they feel they are being included in it. Or, because they feel like "hey, I do sex work type stuff, but it's all good and cool for me." Ok, that's great. I'm glad to see that there are some women out there who are just having fun and are safe, and it's not destroying them or eating their souls or anything.

But that's not the vast majority. so why are we spending so much time talking about the 1%? Especially because the rich businessmen who go to thailand to fuck little girls and boys-they aren't going to have any interest in watching your women-friendly feminist porn.

Like someone said-this isn't really about sex, or sexuality, it's about power. It's about patriarchy, and sexism. I think it's also about repression/suppression, and seeing sex as a dirty thing or a sin. i think that people's desires get more and more extreme and weird, when they aren't allowed to have any kind of sexual feelings or releases. (someone else can probably say this much prettier than me) smile.gif

Personally, I'm not really into watching porn. Every now and then I'll watch something for a few minutes, but usually it's just such a short-lived thing, because i usually just end up laughing. To me, it feels like a cheap thrill.

I"ve been to a male strip club which to me was just weird and sad seeming. i mean, my friends had a great time, but I was really uncomfortable with it. Downstairs was the saddest female strip club (well i've only seen the one) but the girls looked all whacked out on drugs and it was just pathetic. Mostly, it's just not interesting to me.

la la la, ramble ramble ramble.
Maddy, so sorry if you thought I was calling you a puritan, I wasnt. I meant the vibe I was getting from some posts (not just yours) seemed to be putting down mens' urges which seems puritan to me.
And sorry your friend has to deal with a-holes. Luckly, men like that are few and far between where I work and on the rare occasion I do feel like I'm being treated like a piece of meat, I will give them a hard time.

Also, if this thread is gonna be strictly about the illegal side of the sex industry, so be it. I know it exsists and I think its terribly sad. I dont see it as a feminist issue though, because we are talking about boys too. I see "porn and feminism" a different issue, cuz its more about female beauty standards and that sort of thing, where as a discussion about the international sex trade has nothing to do with looks, and everything to do with abuse and kidnapping and terror. Different ball of wax I think.

Its hard to come up with a solution for it, especially when its an international problem, not just local. San Francisco is making strides in its protection of prostitutes, like trying to convince them to report crimes commited on them without fear of being arrested themselves. Its a step anyway.
Right on Maddy! There will always be exceptions to any standard, especially when talking abotu feminists, because they are exceptional women. I agree with you that there are far more people out there involved in the sex industry because they feel it's the only way to get by o rthat they have nothing better to offer. those people make me sad.
It's just like the peopel who stumble in here and think that because we are feminists we should blindly support all womens issues, be femnazi's, and man haters. Am I less of a feminist because I am married, have children, and cook?

No, but frankly using the expression "feminazi" does make you less of a feminist, IMHO. Now I realize that you don't think we're "feminazis" but the use of that expression at all (and the implication that we're not but, well, feminazis do exist) - well, I don't even know what to say that I haven't already covered in the past already. Not only because you've seemed to have absorbed the anti-feminist rhetoric that states that "radical feminists" hate men (I've known dozens of feminists over the years and I'm still waiting to meet that mythic creature), but because conflating feminism with Nazism even as a joke is deeply, deeply insulting. . .especially when you consider that the Nazis were pretty much against everything that feminism represents. It's one thing when people who don't consider themselves feminists use that expression, but when feminists do? Yikes.
Snafooey...I said it was like "the people who stumble in here and think...." I was meaning their thinking that we should be these things, not my own. I'm sorry you misunderstood.
Fair enough - it really wasn't clear to me from the way you originally phrased yourself.

Incidentally, why is abortion "morally wrong" but drunk driving* is something that, you know, everyone does once in awhile but just doesn't get caught? What is your definition of morality?

Sorry, I'm a bit a defensive - I'm aware that abortion is not a black and white issue, but well, it's funny - for a long time I was convinced that pro-lifers were the immoral ones so it's always interesting for me to hear the opposite perspective. I'm just sick of the whole "Well, I would never ever have one b/c they're immoral, but don't get me wrong, I would never ever judge someone for doing something immoral like that" attitude.

As for porn, I haven't read through all the posts yet (I find the new lounge format difficult on the eyes), but I think we need to look at the difference between being pro-woman and anti-sex. I realize that independent, feminist sex workers are often in a privileged position, but I also think we need to remove the stigma that sex work is, like, the absolute worst thing a woman can do with her body. As for morality, there is nothing wrong with, say, people - male or female - who want to have sex on screen or the people who want to watch them on screen - the issue for me is working conditions of sex workers (and what choice they had in the matter of becoming sex workers) as well as the types of porn/imagery that are so prevalent in our culture.

There was a column in my local alt-weekly about sex-workers from India (? - I'd have to check) who formed an organization in order to combat what they felt were paternalistic Western attitudes to what they did - their point was that even when people tried to get women out of prostitution by buying them materials to make clothing, etc., a lot of the women went back. Why? Because ultimately sex work was more satisfying and less demoralizing than factory work. So, in that sense, we really need to look at the bigger capitalist picture. The fucked-upness we associate with the porn and sex industry is the result of commodification of women's bodies in general more than the fact that there is anything inherently wrong with sex work in and of itself. That is to say, it would not be my ideal job. . .but I can think of a lot of jobs that would not be what I wanted to do for a living either.

Does this mean I'm picking up a video camera and making it my mission to create feminist porn? No, b/c i)it's not my top priority as a feminist and ii) I'm fully willing to admit that I'm socialized to the point where I would not feel entirely comfortable in that realm. I do think we have to look at the porn and sex work as they stand in our culture as a symptom of the overall problem rather than the roots of it. If we lived in a completely egalitarian world and and porn and sex work still existed as safe, protected, well-compensated options, would you still be against working in the sex industry just on principle?

*See Celebrity Gossip
I'm going to try to keep this short. I'm tired of being flamed. Yes, I have driven drunk. It's not something I am particularly proud of, but I was young once..and in my part of the country, in the times I was a teenager, young adult, it was pretty common. My mistake to forget others do not have the same background. Likewise, I was brought up that abortion was against God, so to me, immoral. But I have lived with Holy Rollers and peopel who push their religion down your throats my whole life. I don't operate that way. i fyou want to be a christian great. if you don't want to be, that has nothing to do with me and I think everyone has the right to make the choice of what thier morals are. I struggled with the abortion issue a long time. Some people I really love have had them. I don't love them any less. But I know *I* could not do it. I've decided I can support the Right of choice without supporting something I don't personally believe in.
So is everyone who challenges something someone else has said flaming them? Whatever happened to debate? This thread is nothing compared to the kinds of discussions that surrounded me growing up - we disagreed on many things but that didn't keep us from talking about them.

My issue was with the sentence:

Who am I to decide that everyone must live up to my morals?
[italics added]

People can have differences of opinion - my problem is the tone of condescension involved when discussing people who have possiblly made different choices - moral and otherwise - than we might have. You might not personally believe in abortion but someone who does is not failing to live "up" to anything.

Just because you grew up around a particular mindset doesn't automatically make it something you have to accept b/c, well, that's just the way it is. I have grown up around people who hold views that I find problematic - I don't say, "Well, it's just how I was raised" - I acknowledge that, yeah, it's part of my background, but it's still something I have to examine and unpack (as the lingo goes). Why was drunk driving common practise in your background but abortion was frowned upon? Those are the kinds of questions I am asking. I'm genuinely curious.
Well...I guess I see debate as expressing ideas and discussing them.Picking apart posts from all over the board, not reading the entire discussion going on and challenging everything you possibly can...feels a lot like flaming. I can handle people disagreeing with me, But sometimes it is best to agree to disagree. Thank you for at least not resorting to calling names. But I am going to Bow out of this "debate" and let this thread get back to the people who were having a great a discussion.
Great discussion? It's "debates" like this thread that have made people - including dozens of former busties with whom I am still in touch - abandon this site en masse. The level of feminist discourse these days is appalling - and not responding to challenges put your way because you feel personally insulted is a huge copout.

I think all these issues are tied together. Why is it that the people - and I don't necessarily mean you in particular but the background you describe - who are the most okay with drunk driving or "the war on terror" are often the most likely to be offended (in theory anyway, not always in practise. . .but that's a whole other thread) by pornography, sex work, abortion and all those other nasty feminist issues? It's definitely worth discussing. I'm sorry you don't seem to think so.

Just for the record, I have read many of the posts in this thread - but after awhile it became clear that it had just become a repetition of every other single discussion we've had on this topic for as long as I've been here. Except that I know for a fact that a lot of busties (former and current) are refraining from posting how they feel b/c they don't really see the point anymore.

I'm extremely grateful to have had Bust in my life - I hang out regularly with people that I met online, I've met at least a couple of dozen busties IRL and I even stayed with a bustie that I had never met in person when I went on vacation. But it's not just whining about the good old days when I say that this site just ain't what it used to be.
all i am going to say is (and i know many other busties agree)..... Amen Snafooey, Amen.

I too long for the old days when you could debate people without someone attacking you for disagreeing or responding in an extremely condescending way.

i love how we all have different opinions on stuff and have learned some great stuff from many busties, not to mention just seeing different arguing styles which i think is a great great thing. i think challenging eachother (and getting an intelligent well thought out response to that challenge) is part of what (did) make bust so great.

Normally I keep out of these, but I think that pixie is somewhat justified because of few of the replies to her posts here and there have been somewhat hostile. Although I think that's been happening here and there on the board. Everybody breath. tongue.gif But I think that for the most part this discussion is going really well, despite passionate feelings and i really appreciate that.
Erinjane, I see what you're saying, but I refrained from posting until I finally reached the boiling point. I don't expect everyone to agree with me and I will admit that my own thoughts on porn and sex work reside somewhere in the grey zone. . .but I get a little worried when words like "morality" get thrown about so casually in a thread like this one.

Btw, here are the links I was mentioning before about that group of foreign sex workers and their attitude toward what they perceived as a largely Western misunderstanding of their situation:

The Foreign Fuck

The Foreign Fuck Part II (scroll down)

Empower Foundation

My apologies if I'm repeating links that have already been posted (or are too similar to links that have already been posted). Obviously they are not the last word on feminism and sex work, but they gave me some food for thought. Sasha is a local sex columnist and sex worker and I think she has a lot of interesting things to say in general.

ETA: When I said below that this read has just become a repetition of every other discussion of this topic, I did not mean to imply that I think that no valid points are being made, just that we seem to be going in circles rather than moving forward.

Thanks, Katie.
Yeah, I understand, i get really defensive myself with these issues. 'Morality' isn't a word I'm fond of either because it's so subjective.

I think it's so hard to break new ground in these discussions because everyone is trying to defend their thoughts, to a point, and it's hard to find common ground to move forward on. I know this has already been said in this thread many times, but I think the issue shouldn't be whether or not we agree with sex workers (in terms of prostitutes, etc.) but that we try and make their choices (if they are choices) safe as possible, because it ain't going anywhere anytime soon.
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