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One of the touchiest subjects between feminists is the relationship to sex work/porn/stripping/etc. Rather then further derail the Porn and Boys thread (but you can check it out for a bit of background ) come on in to this thread and share your thoughts.

What do you define as sex work? Are you pro/against? Why? Do you have a background in it, know anyone involved, are you involved? As Pixie asked, Does anyone see it as conforming to the sterotypes that feminists are against? Does it hurt or hinder feminism?
Just a few questions to get us thinking. So throw out some thoughts!

*I'm just running out the door but I wanted to get this going before I left. I'll be back hopefully this evening to throw in some of my opinions.* smile.gif
I define sex work as stripping, porn or any kind of prostitution.

I would be okay with it from a feminist stand point, if it was what a woman wanted to do. The problems I have with stripping and prostitution are that they aren't safe for women as it is now. Because it's not legal partly. So I feel like anyone who is working as a prostitute now (I say prostitute specifically because strippers are protected from customers by security) is doing so as a last resort. If there were legal protections for prostitutes, I'd be all for women doing it if they wanted to.

The other problem with prostitution as it now is that so many people are trafficked into it. I heard a story about a woman in the Bronx who was forced to prostitute by her husband to pay off his debt. She was arrested and had to spend time in jail for it because there are no laws protecting women or children (or anyone) from the human trafficking that goes on to support the sex industry.

Not sure how I feel about porn actors.
thanks to ej for starting this thread. i have lots to say but it gets me so worked up and upset that i gotta pace myself

that being said-thanks for the support in the other thread. usually people just dismiss my opinions/feelings because of my past. i do want to try to work out some of this stuff in my head, which i why i really appreciate people talking about it.

i do believe that prostitution should be legal and destigmatized. it would be much safer and more practical ( I doubt most hookers have a 401K or health insurance).

to me, sex work is anything where you are getting paid to let someone look, touch, or do something to your body in a sexual context or manner. (so that people who sit for art classes aren't doing sex work, because it's not a sexual context.) so posing for photos and putting them online and getting money for it, or winning a wet t-shirt contest, or being in a porno, or being a stripper, escort, prostitute, domanatrix, etc. If you are getting paid, and someone is getting off, that's sex work. to me at least.

i have another question-which will probably sound snarky and rude, but i truly don't mean it that way. What is empowering about sexy pics on the web, or stripping, or whatever? I hear that word thrown around a lot, and I don't get what people mean when they say this. I think EJ said it and maybe someone else? I understand that it feels good to show that you can be a non-toothpick and be sexy. but beyond that, i don't get what's powerful about it-isn't it just doing what piggy men want us all to do? pose for them? get them off?

i think the key in all this is: MONEY. it's "easy" money. but isn't that sad that if a woman needs to make a lot of money, selling her sex is the best/only way to go? it's very appealing to think of all that money coming in, but there's so much more to it than that.

more later.
I second Maddy's definition of sex work. And I would also like to know why exposing oneself on the net/in a club is empowering. I personally don't think it is.
But I really don't think prostitution should be made legal. I can't help but imagine how much worse the sex industry (when I say this, I mean the mainstream, male-dominated) would be if it were.
Wow, okay, this is a verrrry broad topic.
If y'll saw my last post in the 'boys' thread, you know that I dont consider posing/stripping to be sex work, I call that performance or erotic/adult entertainment. To me its only sex work if you are performing sexual acts for money.

I am on the side of that I believe erotic/adult performance/entertainment/web pics CAN be empowering. The human form and human sexuality is a beautiful thing, and it can be very fun and exilerating to participate in exibitionism. I don't think its "just for guys". I've been to burlesque shows where most of the audience is straight women cheering on other straight women. Its fun! And I know performers who dont do it for money, but as a hobby.

But there is another side to it for sure, and most girls/women dont live in freedom and equality lala land like I do, so they have a totally different perspective.
I've talked about posting this before, but I wrote my final paper on this subject and I think I'll link to it. It says a lot of what I want to say. Keep in mind it deals ONLY with consensual sex work, and I had a page limit to write it so I barely touched upon certain aspects.

(I will come back later again, but I only had a few moments to jump in now)

Feminist Activism in Sex Work
I mentioned this in the other thread, but aI'll mention it here thoughts are that a well educated women have far more to offer to the world than her body, even if it doesn't pay as well....and think that is what most feminists are working towards is getting society to pay women more for their intellctual contributions than their I personally would feel it was a sell out. I think it is sad that it does pay so much and is considered such easy money. I think a lot more women make the choice to do that for a living than would if they were chosing solely on what they truely wanted to do with thier lives. In that sense I almost question whether some of these woman are truly empowered by the "choice" because I think some feel they have no other choice.
I meant to make this point in my last post, but forgot. I just wanted to mention that I know some people considering my modelling nude (but nothing sexual) to be sex work, but at this point I am not actually being paid because the site is just beginning to get up, and because the girl who is starting it is a friend, and my boyfriends best friend. I think the fact that whether or not I get paid would make a different in people's opinions. So does my getting paid or not for what I do make a difference in your opinion of my modelling?
ej-what is the website for? who is it geared at? what are the pictures for?
I'll try and keep this as brief as possible (hard, when there's so much I want to say!). First, I tend to agree with Maddy's opinion of what constitutes sex work. Regarding prostitution, its been around for a long time, and I don't see it going away. Although it makes me sad to think that anyone would have to pay for companionship, sexual or otherwise, I do see benefits to legalizing it in terms of safety for the women involved. Among legal, registered "sex workers" in Nevada, there have yet to be any reported cases of HIV. Testing is rigoruous for STDs. There have been very few cases of violence against the women, as generally the brothels are monitored by security cameras.
As for feeling "empowered" by sex work, well...I think some people do feel that way, but I don't think i would be one of them. Just my personal opinion. Here's my (accidental) experience with it: I have struggled with hating myself b/c of my looks most of my life. I have always felt like I was smart, accomplished, funny, and a good friend. All things to be proud of, but it wasn't enough for me. I wanted to feel beautiful and sexy as well. Not just because of societal pressure (i don't think, although it plays a role) but also because I've been raised to believe I can "have it all". And I want to. So last year (I looove photography) I took a picture to send my husband who was overseas. It was black and white, and I was fully clothed (sweater, ruffled bloomers, and fishnets). I loved the picture. Artistically, to me, it was the best I had done. Furthermore, I thought I looked good in it! It was a huge thing for me, as I used to typically hide from mirrors and cameras. I was so proud of it I asked if he minded if I posted it online (MySpace), and he said sure. I guess I was naive, but I saw it as art. From my friends I got a very positive response, and it made me really happy. And then the comments and emails from strangers started rolling in, and some of them were outright disgusting. Requests for phone sex, just really graphic descriptions of what they wanted to "do" to me. I took the picture down, but it made me angry, and a little sad too. It really disappointed me that these people who i didn't even know, took something I had been proud of and turned it into something sleazy. I guess Porn is in the eye of the beholder. I supposed if I had INTENDED the picture to be pornographic, i wouldn't have been so bothered by the response. But the whole experience left enough of a sour taste in my mouth that I can't see myself doing it again in a public forum.
I think I'd have go with the answers from some of Maddys questions. Paid vs. not paid really doesn't change anything in my mind. Poseing nude for pictures for your own pleasure or to share with your significant other or for art is different than say posing for a porn site. I also think it has a little to do with content of the pictures. I like to see beautiful women posed...but I'm not so big into sexual acts. The idea that this man and this woman are doing something that intimate not by choice( as in, you're hot, I'm into you, and I wanna do you), but for a job...really just turns me off.

ETA: working and posting so it's taking me a while and I am cross posting with people. Zahia, I think you are right about porn being in the eye of the beholder. And even though we were specifically discussing hardcore porn in teh other thread, even soft porn can be a problem if someone is obcessed with it. YOur story also reminded me of someone who I used to know who was really into me and told me that he thought about me while masterbating. It really turned me off and made me feel dirty and used even though I had never done anything to encourage it.
I'll give you some direct info from the website:

So you want to model for cherrystems? Sounds good! Since I�m a fan of making people fully aware of what they�re getting into, I�m going to be up front with you and tell you exactly what to expect.

Who can model for cherrystems? Anyone. Female, male, any shape or size. I just need to know that you�re confident in doing this. It�s a great project to be a part of, in my opinion. We�re Canadian, we�re individuals, and we�re doing our part to show the porn industry that plastic is not sexy, and that just because someone has made the decision to be a nude model, she or he is not of lesser intelligence, nor is she or he an object without a voice. There will be profiles for you to customize, journals to write in, message boards to vent on, and more.

Will I get paid? If you�re asking this question as one of your first, I�d really like you to ask yourself about your motivations. I�m not expecting to make money for myself from the site. I�ll be putting any money I make right back into the site, in hopes that it takes off and catches on. I need to do things like paying for a dedicated server and secure credit card verification system, etc. I will be paying out backpay to models that ask for it once I can (when the site takes off and we start to pull in some membership coin.), but it will not be a huge huge number. Most of the models for the site are doing this because they love themselves and are dedicated to the cause. Some want to have the photos for personal fulfillment, to say that they did it. There�s all kinds of motivations, money should not be your top motivation at this point. I�m paying for everything out of pocket at this point, and I�m a student with tons of debt. I�d love to pay all of you for being so beautiful, but I just can�t right now. For that, I feel kind of shitty. But if we all work together and give up a bit of coin now, it�s more than likely that we�ll see more in the future.

So what do I do? Get naked. As naked as you�d like. Staying in some sexy underpants is fine. As much as I hate to say this, I�m going to make boobs a requirement for the ladies and bums a requirement for the boys (to be fair, boy boobs are different than girl boobs). I hate having requirements, but that seems to be the nature of the beast at the moment. We have to offer something up. Once we become established, I think we can play with the rules a lot more. Anyway. The fun stuff! You can get naked in any way that you�d like. Consult with me, or a friend, or the photographer of your choice, or a rock. Anything! Be sure to have fun with it. Pick a theme that makes you happy, or a place that makes you happy. That tends to make you more comfortable and your photos will reflect it. Like I say, if you need any help at all with ideas, you have a well of resources at your fingertips.

It's really aimed at anyone. I know women my age who would use it. I know a lot of girls who browse sites like that in an effort to see a variety of shapes and sizes of women as a body positive thing. But I'm not naive, in that I know that men will be using it to get off as well. The aim, as far as I've been told, is more to the twenty something, feminist-like crowd, but I imagine who will actually view it will be quite varying.
I, too, wonder about the "empowering" thing. I understand that it's pleasurable to be viewed as sexy, but I'm not sure it gives anyone "power," outside of a temporary ego boost (and possible financial boost). I've read some Girls Gone Wild girls talking about how "empowering" the experience was. Really? Okay. If you feel that way, more "power" to you. Looks to me like your superpower is extracting sperm from troglodytes -- not a difficult trick.

You know who's empowered? Condoleeza Rice. Hillary Clinton. Barbara Boxer. Love 'em or hate 'em, they got some fucking power.
I can't help going back to what falljackets said yesterday about how she would probably be fired from her job and has been turned down for another because of the photos she did which seem kind of in the same line as what you are going to do. I don't think I would find that very empowering.

I think just about evryone has a fantasy at one time or another of getting paid for sex or wanted by lots of guys at once...I wonder if it isn't just the thrill of acting out these fantasies that leads some people to make the choice to get into the sex industry. From what I hear, a lot of people get disillusioned pretty quick.

Erin, I think what you are doing probably falls into some sort of gray area. You are doing your pictures privately, you'll probably never have an interaction with your patrons...from your end, it's not sex.
Pixie, what you mentioned about FJ made me think. Why was she even fired for that? It was a perfectly legal job! But that double standard exists, and it drives me crazy. For example, porn is rampant in the military, especially on deployments. No one seems to bat an eye at it. BUT, if you pose in a pornographic magazine, website, what have you, you will be discharged, most likely under "dishonorable". What I'd like to know is why is it sanctioned to consume and pay for pornography, but not to earn a wage from it? Its so hypocritical it makes me want to tear my hair out!!
zahia: the double standards exist and it is frustrating for any woman who just wants to be free to be who she is.. to be the given the same social rights as a man to choose what she finds pleasure in and what she chooses to engage in. what i've learned is that, no matter what path we choose in life, we must be confident in that decision. people are going to be ignorant. people are going to have an opinion about us and what we do in life; those who dont follow the social norm simply get more attention and reaction from those who live an average life. but in order to not allow ourselves to be oppressed, we must remain strong in who we are and what we can offer as individuals.
wow, knorl, i completely agree with your last post. nearly word for word.

in regard to the empowerment question. yes, it's true that i could lose this job if my co-workers found out about the pictures. i'd also lose it if i streaked my hair blue or pierced my eyebrow. it's a suck corporate job that i hate anyway. and if i did lose it, i'd find some other way to make my own way. why? because of my fucking charm, wit, common sense, education AND the beautiful body that it's wrapped in. i am empowered enough to pull myself up by my own bootstraps (if i happen to be wearing them, mind you) and do whatever it is that i WANT to do to make my own money, using whatever parts of my whole that i choose - whether that means posing for more pictures or starting my own marketing firm.

i enjoyed taking those pictures and i love how they made me feel and continue to make me feel when i look at them again. while i could be fired by small-minded people because of them, i'm certainly not threatened by them or ashamed of them in any way.

This is a fantastic thread and I'm so glad to see intelligent, thoughtful conversation going on. I'm more interested in reading than commenting, but I did want to throw one thing out - sort of a request.

There have been several mentions of prostitution being illegal, which is true in the U.S. (with some exceptions, noted by other posters) and many other places. But there are quite a few BUSTies who live in countries where it's legal, and even (as mentioned about Nevada) regulated. I would really appreciate hearing their thoughts on the matter. It would also be fantastic to hear from those who are counselors to or advocates for individuals involved in any kind of sex work.

That's all I have. Thanks for your patience with the de-lurk and mad props again for a great thread.
Prostitution is actually legal in canada, but NOT decriminalized. Huge difference that most people don't know about. From the Sex Professionals of Canada website:
Um...just want to clarify...while prostitution is theoretically legal in Canada, practising prostitution is NOT. The Criminal Code prohibits all forms of public communication for the purpose of prostitution, which makes legally engaging in it almost impossible. It does, in theory, place equal legal peril upon johns and pimps, but this has not translated into any real equal justice. Sex workers, who are mostly women, still bear the burden of legal retribution.

I also believe that survival sex - women (and children) engaging in sex for a meal or a safe place to sleep for the night - must be included in the definition of prostitution, even though it is perfectly "legal" (for women, anyway, if not children).

I work in a women's centre. A large number of women who access us are street-involved women, many of whom are involved in the sex trade. In my job, I provide woman-centred information, referral, support, and advocacy to any woman/child who asks for it, including sex workers.

I do NOT support legalization, because I know there are welfare caseworkers who would have no problem telling women: "There's work out there, go get it." I also believe legalization would provide another avenue for the state and private businesses to control and regulate women's bodies, potentially to the detriment of women's health and personal freedom. Legalization also doesn't put an end to women (and children) working illegally, if they don't meet regulatory standards for "legal" prostitution work...such legal divisions could actually drive these women (and children) underground, making it harder for them to access legal protections against abuse and exploitation.

I do support decriminalization. The main reason I support it is because removing prostitution from the criminal justice system would allow for an environment where sex workers could organize, be more independent, and have more guaranteed protections from pimps, abusive clients, abusive police officers, and others. It would also make it much harder for communities and governments to keep their heads in the sand about the resources sex workers need.

I can't really say whether or not sex work is empowering to women, mainly because it's not up to me to determine what is empowering for another woman. I have never engaged in any aspect of sex work, so I have no personal experience to draw from. I have huge issues with the poverty and violence that perpetuates most of the problems related to the sex trade, but I've also heard some sexual abuse survivors say that engaging in sex work (not "just" prostitution, but also activities like stripping or making porn) is the first time in their lives they felt empowered about their bodies and their sexuality, so what can I say to that? I also believe there are cases where legitimate "healing" can be gained by clients of sex workers, and let's face it, while it's often thought that men who hire prostitutes are sad and lonely and/or "creeps," some people just cannot access regular sexual companionship, for many reasons, which may include disability, appearance, or surviving childhood sexual abuse. If it were me, and I were genuinely helping someone on a healing journey, I might end up feeling pretty empowered by it.

I can say that most women (and children) in my community who engage in sex for money are doing so to support themselves and their children first, and their addictions second. Please note that I'm not saying all sex workers are addicts...I'm actually trying to dispel a myth. In most cases where addictions exist, the addictions came about as a way to cope with the lifestyle - the idea that people enter the sex trade in order to support addictions is a misconception...although it is true in some cases. Unfortunately, many people engaged in prostitution do not have the skills to complete a post-secondary education. Most are not the "kind of people" a business owner would even think about hiring - that's the truth. In my community, and probably many communities across Canada, most prostitutes are poor Aboriginal women (and children) who have already experienced some kind of abuse in their lives.

I believe that as long as we do not have economic equality and freedom from violence, sex work cannot really be considered a genuine "choice" for women. While some individual women may be able to choose sex work freely, the reality is that most of those individual women are women of privilege (white, educated, etc.), and they don't represent the majority of those involved in the sex trade. I also think trying to eradicate sex work is a terrible waste of time, energy, and resources, because I don't believe sex work can be eradicated - and in a "utopian" society where women would have free choice, I doubt it would need to be eradicated. I prefer to devote my own time, energy, and resources as a feminist to ensuring that women are safe, supported, in control, and that they are being paid appropriately for their work.
great post doodlebug. you said what i was thinking this morning-it's all nice and good for us, as educated, relatively well-off, free women to talk about posing for our own enjoyment. But like you said, the VAST majority of women in the sex industry are there for survival. and that is sad. that's what i have the problem with.

i hear you about the legalization thing and caseworkers! i never thought of that! instead of bush's whole "get married and get off welfare" it'll be "anyone can be a hooker!!! no more welfare for anyone!" scary thoughts.

girlbomb-LOVE your post about power. it may FEEL powerful, but in the end what is your power? to get some dude to drool over you? is that really power? when women say that, like strippers or whatever, even sexual abuse survivors, i think they are just missing it. i mean yeah, it feels powerful compared to being raped! compared to being objectified by someone else, it feels powerful to get out there and do it yourself. but that's not really power. not real power.

i see it as this false power that men offer to women. (that whole men are powerless when it comes to a beautiful woman-so be a hot woman and you'll have power over men. what a joke!)

this is a great thread. i was thinking last night that we all are pretty passionate people, with strong opinions. when very touchy subjects come up, it's hard to not just react and be defensive. i think it's impressive that we are having a civilized discussion. i realized that i don't need to change anyone's mind, and that i don't really want to. i just want to hear a great discussion, a variety of opinions expressed, and people's personal experiences.

Seconded doodle. I don't think I made it clear in my short post but I don't support legalization either, which is why I posted the link. It doesn't help anyone's situation.

(ETA: Someone mentioned they weren't able to read my essay, I accidently left it Friends Only but it's public now. For anyone interested. )
Condoleeza Rice. Hillary Clinton. Barbara Boxer.
Damn straight they got power, but we can't all be them.

Yes, prostitution as the 'only' option sucks, and being forced into porn sucks,...
but if a stripper tells me she is empowered by it I believe her.
Power comes in many forms, and personally, I think sexuality is a power.
Same with other forms of entertainment. Take a comedian thats onstage making a
crowd laugh, isnt that a power?
Or a pianist playing a concert that has everyone mesmerized, doesnt she have a power?
A woman (or man) that can captivate a group with sheer body language is a beautiful thing to me.
Intellectuals may dismiss it as having no merit but I disagree.
I agree greenbean. I wouldn't define power exclusively in terms of people like hillary or Condie. I think it comes in many different forms.

I've been sitting around trying to articulate the empowerment I feel but I still haven't come up with the right words. mellow.gif
I think the problem here is that there are so many different ways to define power. What one person might see has power (ie. the power that strippers seem to hold over men) another might see as just ridiculous. I think it just depends on how everyone views power.
That's exactly what I was thinking...another 'defining our terms' thing.
maddy: i do agree.
i'm big into philosophy, so i'm gonna interject with this quote, "that which you hold, holds you".. a woman may think she's empowered through her sexuality, but if she were to lose her sex appeal overnight (god forbid) do you think she would still consider herself an empowered woman? and in that sense, considering sex appeal is subjective, doesnt then her power rest simply in a man (or woman's) interpretation of her appeal? wouldnt then her power only exist if there were another person viewing her from the outside? if she isolated herself from society, do you think she would still feel powerful? just questions i've asked myself through the years. at one time i did think i was empowered through my sexuality, but i learned that it was controlling me more than anything. but that was just me. i found it to be a complete distraction with me, that it took my energy and attention away from what made me really feel powerful. so that's why i have the opinions i have, not out of narrow minded judgments of others, just due to my own thoughts about what i've experienced in life.
That's a good point Knorl. But it made me think...the same could be true of anyone who gets a sense of empowerment just from one thing. A dancer could be in an accident, and end up crippled. A brain surgeon could get Parkinson's disease. I think that the real danger is for anyone to derive a sense of empowerment soley through one avenue.
Sex work, in some form or another, has existed for a very long time, and I can't see anything making it disappear. So whether or not it is empowering, there will always be women who choose to work in it for a variety of reasons. Being that the majority of people who are participating in the industry are women, I feel like whether or not I agree with its moral implications, its important to support making it a safer industry for women to be part of.
The is really good insight khorl. It looks like you and I follow a similar thought process. I know for *me* teh sex industry would not be empowering because of the reasons I have mentioned below. I have never really had any friends that were industry, but I was very good friend with a guy who's girl was a nude stripper.(Most around here have to keep 2 articles of clothing on) I only met his So briefly, but I know she was a deeply troubled and unhappy person. They had children together and had broken up for a period. She foisted thier kids on him without a look back because they didn't fit into her world. She was a very emotionally cold person. I always wondered if the coldness didn't come from a desensitization because o fher profession where she was constantly holding herself aloof.
Love this knorl!

"considering sex appeal is subjective, doesnt then her power rest simply in a man (or woman's) interpretation of her appeal? wouldnt then her power only exist if there were another person viewing her from the outside?"

Thanks for saying what I was trying to get at but couldn't! This is exactly what I feel, too. You SOOO SMAAAHT! smile.gif

Pixie-that has been my experience too, with women I've met briefly who've done stripping or whatever. NOt that I have met too many though...that I know of.

totally agree with zahia's post too-that we must make it a safer industry, somehow.

about decriminalizing prostitution- i feel the same way about the drug war. i think pretty much all drugs should be legal. in some way. especially weed. becasue it's like Prohibition-people still drank, they just did it on the black market. teh gov't has created a HUGE class of criminals with drug addicts and users, and prostitutes. (as well as poor people and non-white people but that's a whole other thread!). i think it's insane that all this money is going to prosecute minor drug offenses and prostitutes (and not their violent pimps), when there is so much actual crime out there that needs money, etc.

i love this thread. it's like doing this huge piece of healing work for me, it's amazing! thanks so much!
Hey all...this is a quick post...I'm sorry I don't have time to be really thoughtful about it...hopefully I'll be back later today!

On the subject of empowerment, though, I do want to add that many forms of empowerment are not meant to be permanently empowering. Often incidents of empowerment are steps on a longer road to healing and self-acceptance. So if a sexual abuse survivor tells me she feels empowered about her body/sexuality by stripping, I certainly don't expect her to feel that way forever, any more than I expect her to always remain "stuck" at a certain point in her healing from the sexual abuse.

I could say the same thing about my own political activism. Whereas there are forms of political activism that used to make me feel really empowered about my own situation (i.e., when I was living in poverty), those activities DON'T make me feel empowered anymore. This happens mainly because I no longer need to feel empowered in relation to that particular thing, whether it's because I'm no longer experiencing it, or because experiencing it no longer disturbs me.

Some things that made us feel empowered when we were younger wouldn't have the same effect on us now; and some things that feel empowering to us now probably won't at some point in our future. That's just part of moving forward through life.

Since sex work exists, I would rather women reach a place where they feel empowered and in control of what they do, rather than disempowered and NOT in control.

I hope this is making sense. Like I said, I'm in a bit of a rush this morning!
very true doodle:)
You are right Doodle! You couldn't stay empowered that way forever. I mean eventually age and gravity are going to catch up with you, or you become one of the plastic, unreal "undead" we talked about in the other thread. And I think that goes for anything. The things that have made me feel empowered over the years has changed drastically and often.
When I was in an unhappy marriage where I was getting negative sexual attention, I felt empowered by finding men who were interetsed in me in positive ways. Now that I am in a happy marriage, I am no longer empowered by the attention of other men period, no matter what their motives.
i think that makes total sense, doodle.

people grow and change, so what makes us feel empowered (or any other feeling) is going to change over time.

in fact, it might be the empowerment that allows for the growth and the change.

i'm a much more outgoing and secure person than i was before i did any modeling. and it was something that my ex husband would NEVER have allowed me to do. he would have called me a whore and accused me of sleeping with photographers if it even got that far. and now that i think of it, maybe that's part of why it was so empowering to me.

and i think i can speak sort of on knorl's question "a woman may think she's empowered through her sexuality, but if she were to lose her sex appeal overnight (god forbid) do you think she would still consider herself an empowered woman?":

as i indicated on the derailed thread, the reason i am not modeling right now is because i was involved in a serious auto accident that left me with a broken back. i had to have five vertebrae fused and have a titanium cage put in to replace a vertebra altogether. as such, i have some serious scarring on my back and across the left side of my torso. when it happened, i knew i'd never really be the same, but i think i was thinking more about my livlihood than my sense of empowerment. i didn't think i could model again because who would want a "broken" model with scars across her side and back. but i surely didn't think i was less of a woman because i wasn't going to be able to model again. (or so i thought... i HAVE modeled again since the accident, i just can't do it full-time because it tires me out so much to be on my feet and hold my body in those positions for so long. still, i got a positive response from people who saw the photos, even the ones that clearly show the scarring.)

furthermore, i don't agree with the idea that my power would only rest in the eyes in the interpreter. my power was within me. i don't care what the people who viewed my images felt about me. i felt great about myself and still do because of those pictures. if there was no one to view them, i'd still feel sexy as hell taking them. when i take sexy self-portraits and look at them, i feel just as powerful as when they were done by a pro.

maybe i'm an exception to the rule but i really don't think so.
so fj-for you it's more the taking of the pictures, rather than the showing them to others. like, if no one went on your website, you'd still do SOME pictures for your own fun.
absolutely. i took down the website nearly two years ago, but have done four pro photoshoots since then, not to mention the countless ones that i do on my own or with hubby...

maybe i'm just in love with my own image... rolleyes.gif
That makes sense FJ. I am always mezmerized with pictures of myself, not because I'm vain, but because it is the only real chance to get to see ourselves as other see us.
I'm inclined to agree with Falljackets in terms of the power being inside me. It wouldn't really matter to me if my sets were on a website, or sitting hidden in my room where only I could see them. I like what Zahia said about a sense of empowerment from anything. I feel really empowered being a uni student and at my job but I don't do that for anyone else, it's all for me and my enjoyment. I get that same kind of powerful feeling from's not about the people looking at my pictures, but about me and how I feel about myself.

In terms of losing sex appeal...I can't really wrap my head around that because I'm not really sure what that would mean losing. I can't imagine feeling unsexy no matter how I looked or what happens to me. I think I'm really beautiful on the outside, but I feel like a lot of my appeal comes from the inside and my confidence and ambition.

Being that the majority of people who are participating in the industry are women, I feel like whether or not I agree with its moral implications, its important to support making it a safer industry for women to be part of.

This is how I feel about it. Along a similar vein, I feel like a large part of feminism is allowing people to make choices for themselves. We can't pick and choose what choices are 'right' because we don't agree with them sometimes. We can however educate and make sure that the choices are as safe as they can be.
absolutely no time to reply, at work. just wanted to write quick and say i love the feedback.
FJ: you have an amazing philosophy on life that i think everyone can benefit from, whether male or female regardless of sex appeal. standing up remaining strong and doing whatever you can to create the life you want to live. i admire that.

zahia: that's a very good point. i just think it's different with sex appeal because it is so subjective; i dont really see it as a strong foundation of which to establish one's identity.
i agree that there is no way to stop sex work, they say it's the oldest profession. and as maddy pointed out, people will always find a way to engage in whatever activities they want, whether or not its legal or moral. people want their freedom. education, tolerance and safety are huge in creating a more healthy society, this is true. the thing is that i dont necessarily see social order as a way of creating a better society, as i see that it is primarily dictated by parties who have vested interests. i dont see too many people standing up and speaking for women in the sex industry, and i wonder how long it would take for prostitution (etc) to be decriminalized. but its definitely worth the fight if even a small change can take place..because that's where it starts.

pixie: i know it, is true. and then there are the mothers who dont have time for their unruly kids so they put them in boot camp. everyone is going to raise their kids as best they know how regardless of their profession. its just unfortunate that, in general, the lifestyle of a sex worker really isnt conducive to a stable family life.

maddy: most definitely; you know, you just wonder if someone's self esteem rests in their sex appeal or appearance, how would they feel surrounded by blind people? sounds silly, but really, they wouldnt have the same affect on these people, because their appearance wouldnt even matter. so then how would they feel about themselves, really? what would they feel they could offer as an individual?

doodle: so very true. our ethics and values change throughout life, the more independent minded and mature we become. the more we experience and learn about ourselves, the more we can determine what really matters to us. each one of us should have the advantage to be in control of our own lives, unfortunately there are many circumstances that sometimes make that difficult.

erinjane: you seem like a very down to earth well rounded intelligent woman. more power.
Okay, I'm not trying to be a total see-you-next-Tuesday, but again, if "empowerment" means that you feel good about yourself, then great. I support women feeling great about themselves, especially sexually. I personally feel great about myself, especially sexually, after two margaritas. So is booze empowering? Is it a feminist choice for me to get drunk to feel sexier? What if I feel powerful when I insult people of other nationalities? That may be empowering to me, but how meaningful is that empowerment in the real world of social interaction?

I don't want to take away from anybody's right to feel good about their naked pictures. I love feeling great about my body; I love feeling like other people find me sexy. I just think the word "empowering" is kind of...broadly applied. I don't think porn equals power.
I consider anything in which sexuality is used to produce an outcome to make some kind of market transaction as something that is part of the sex industry. To me that extends form Gap jeans, to bartending, to prostitution, even I think it extends to market transactions in relationships where sex or sexual appeal are used to influence transactions between the partners.

I agree with people here who are saying there is a fundamental difference between feeling empowered and being empowered. I also think there is a distinct difference between individual empowerment and group empowerment. A women could be empowered by sexuality with in patriarchy because patriarchy denies women any other form of empowerment, and so this reliance on sexuality as a form of empowerment, particularly if it is the sole means of empowerment, can at the same time act to disempowered women hood, that is it could act, and I think does act often to deprive women who want to exercise other avenues of power from doing so.

i.e. who many women are in the sciences… and or think I’m a girl…. Girls are scientists…. I’m going to be a scientist…. Not to many….. Compared to say girls who think I’m going to be a model….

Some how being a model, a teacher, a nurse are automatic acceptable concepts of what it means to be a women… I’m going to be a scientist just isn’t.

I find that troubling… and that is what I find most troubling about the sex industry… the way it narrows the focus of what women can imagine themselves as being….

And ultimately if patriarchy has a deep power that power comes from who it controls the way men and women think about themselves and about their roles and relationship to the world…. The way it closes off not opportunities, but the very ability to conceive of oneself out side the gender construct…
girlbomb: thats an excellent point. it's true many people are self-centered when it comes to their lives, which i think extends far beyond the porn debate. unfortunately, i feel the media plays a huge role in creating this approach in people, especially women. i mean really, we are told that what is most important about us is looking beautiful. we are bombarded with messages, advertising, and images everyday that force us to feel we either conform to this idea of beauty or end up alone. not too many women are encouraged to engage their minds, the brainy ones are portrayed as uncool, masculine, or dowdy. unfortunately, young women growing up (especially in todays society) dont have too many strong role models in the media of whom to look up to. it's interesting because as far as we've come, it seems we will always face resistance and struggle. there are still going to be the people who hold onto the idea that the most favored woman is the one who is seen and not heard. i feel both men and women alike feel a smart woman is a threat, simply because i feel women do have an advantage in being female. we have to be stronger, we have to work harder, we have to prove ourselves more than a man. i feel any minority has to do this, considering the average person is going to have some sort of prejudice toward minorities. i see that many woman who are considered sexy could derive their identity from their sexuality simply because this is what society expects of her. i really find it hard to believe that all these beautiful sexy women in the sex industry have either average or below average intelligence (not meant to be an insult, only an observation considering none of them have really accomplished anything intellectually). i think that because this is all they're told they have to do in life, be beautiful and sexy, that's all they work toward. they dont engage their minds because they dont need to, they can get by in life on their looks. i just wonder how fulfilling it really is. and you're right, how meaningful is that empowerment in the real world of social interaction? but again i can see that just comes back to ethics, morals, and personal responsibility. but that's something we cant really impose on people, because it takes away their freedom to choose if we did. there are ways to do our part to help enlighten and educate others, and set a strong example, without taking away their right to be who they want to be. i feel one of the greatest things we can do for others is to be our best self, and be the person we most respect, to set a strong example. i feel that first and foremost, this is what we can contribute to society independent of any political activism or social reform.
Okay, I'd edit my last post, but I'd rather let it stand and try to clarify it, because now it doesn't look right to me. I'm not equating racism and porn; I understand that posing is something that doesn't affect anyone else while racism is. I just meant to say that whatever we do that makes us feel powerful is "empowering," and I think feminist empowerment is defined more narrowly.

I have tremendous respect for all Busties in this discussion, and their choices, and don't want to cast aspersions on anyone (see other thread for my defense of sex workers). As noted, it's not up to me to decide what empowers other people. Just, that term is so misused, I think, and it frustrates me.
nohope: although i respect your opinion, i completely disagree that bartending and prostitution are at all in the same category. i was a bartender, and it is a hard job, both physically and mentally. it requires physical stamina and mental agility. waitresses and bartenders work hard for their money, and it has nothing to do with how they or others view them sexually.
So, I think what girlbomb is trying to differentiate is the difference between female empowerment (anything that makes a female feel empowered) and feminist empowerment (that which makes a female feel empowered but includes the context of current female roles in patriarchal society and that society's resulting inadequacies towards the feminine). Is that a close definition?

Although I do see what nohope meant about bartending (I've watched the same attractive bartender make more money in tips than her less attractive but more experienced and knowledgeable co-worker week after week at my local, and had conversations with both about it. The attractive bartender told me she wears more revealing clothing simply because she knows she gets better tips, and her co-worker says she doesn't care because she's probably going to be made bar manager soon-which is true) I think that his definition of the sex industry is far too broad, because it includes literally everything.
I got so wrapped up reading what you all had to say that I completely forgot about dinner and burnt the rice. My house is now filled with the most awful stench!! You guys are that interesting tongue.gif
I see what Nohope is getting at, and it took me a minute to sort this out in my mind...but there's a difference (i think) between sexual marketing, and sex work. In sexual marketing, a company (clothing, alcohol, etc.) uses the illusion of sex to sell a product that is actually totally unrelated to sex. In sex work, you are literally selling sex for money, prostitution being the most literal form of that, pornography being a little more figurative.
FJ- i love the attitude you have. It reminded me that i need to be less concerned with how others view me, and more concerned with how I feel about myself.
As for empowerment...its such a vague thing to try and define. I guess for me, I believe that its something fairly steady that you feel, like a sense of control, and security, and satisfaction in your life, rather than a momentary boost of confidence. Also, that its something you derive from within yourself and results in "power" over your own life. So, then the best non-example I can come up with is that I wouldn't consider someone involved in the white power movement to be empowered, because they are concerned with power over people they consider inferior.
I don't have the brain power for this tonight, but one thing comes to mind....

If we are going to extend the sex trade to bartenders and advertising (which I agree is worth discussing), why not stay-at-home wives? Surely the way some women fuss over their appearance in order to attract and "win" a husband who will support them is a form of prostitution?

I mean this sincerely. While I think being a stay-at-home mom (or dad) is a job (which ought to be compensated), what about women who don't work outside the home and don't have kids? Unwaged maid, cook, and prostitute? When we talk about men marrying trophy wives, why don't we call the women who marry them prostitutes? ESPECIALLY when we're talking about what happens to appearance-reliant women when their looks are "gone"...we know that men dump their trophy wives for newer and younger versions all the time.

When The Total Woman came out, there was something in it about a woman who greeted her husband at the door wearing nothing....and the very next day, she got the new fur coat she wanted! To me, that's prostitution. But the woman who wrote it was selling the virtues of traditional marriage!

So where DO we draw the line? Because I tell you honestly, I think I'd feel more powerful earning and controlling my own money by selling my body as a stripper, than marrying a guy and being financially dependent on him.
doodle-it's funny you brought up marriage, because i got in a fight on another board-this woman was saying she married her hubby for financial security, and doesnt' love him. they were saying she was a prostitute. i was like that's just marriage, not prostitution! but it's true, she didn't have kids, didn't take care of the house, didn't do much of anything except just be a warm body for her husband.

the thing about that damn word- "empowerment" is that it's become this catchy catchall term that really doesnt' mean anything much to me anymore.

and i agree-feeling good does NOT equal empowerment. getting drunk feels good, but it's not empowering. stripping may FEEL good, and you may FEEL powerful, but it's just an illusion of power.

I guess, maybe we should try to define empowerment. what does that really mean? the ability to make your own choices? a sense of being in touch with what you want, and feeling able to go out and make it happen? is it freedom?

i'm in a bit of a silly struggle- my boy is interested in taking some arty shots of me, nothing porn like, no nudity or anything-just like nature shots with me in them. so part of me is all excited and is like weee! i get to dress up like a wood nymph and feel all beautiful and crap! the other part of me thinks-shit, is this just exciting to me because it makes me feel like some kinda model? is it fulfiling some need to be seen as beautiful, or feminine, or what? i mean, i think it's fun sometimes to get dressed up all girly and stuff, but does it just feel good because it's like i'm finally doing what society wants me to do? i'm probably overanalyzing, hee smile.gif

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