Feminists at Odds over ‘Sex Work’
“Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure. The one who pays sins gravely against himself: he violates the chastity to which his Baptism pledged him and defiles his body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Prostitution is a social scourge.” (CCC 2355)
A fissure is splitting the modern feminist movement. The old guard thought that it was settled, that “sex work” (prostitution) hurts women. The new guard, however, wants to decriminalize it. The high percent of childhood sexual abuse, suicide, abusive pimps and increased likelihood for disease and death is of no consequence to them when pitted against choice at any cost. Neither is the fact that many desperate, betrayed and kidnapped victims end up trafficked into prostitution. (Although the debate centers on women, young men and boys also get caught up in homosexual prostitution.)
At a February city council hearing in Washington, D.C., the Daily Beast reported that the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) announced that they would not support a bill to decriminalize sex work, which is a degrading and violent oppression of women. But the local president of NOW said they were actually working on testimony to support it and that it was “very patronizing, in a very patriarchal way,” to tell young women what is best for them.
The debate is ongoing in a number of cities. Opinions range from keeping it illegal to complete decriminalization for both buyers and sellers to just the sellers. Sex workers insist that any criminal restrictions hampers their business.
Opponents argue that the measure would allow pimps and johns to exploit women without consequence and being alone behind a locked door, with a stranger buying sex, opens them up to danger. Sex workers refer to themselves as “consensual sex workers” as opposed to trafficked victims and tell those who want to protect them to mind their own business.
A Closer Look
Jess Echeverry, my co-author on an upcoming book on healing and forgiveness after abuse and dysfunction (text 'DAZZLED' to 555888 to be alerted of the release date) was homeless on and off for almost five years. During that time, her best friends were street kids, prostitutes and strippers. What she witnessed was “hell on earth.” In her case, previous abuse had steeled her against selling her body, so she acted in the role of support person for her friends.
“There were pep talks hours before the night on the Strip or in ‘da club’ which included drinking and drug use to help convince everyone that it was all good,” she said. “These kids, these friends of mine, were truly looking for love. So they convinced themselves that the men paying for every sort of perversion were actually taking care of them and ‘loving’ them.” Jess lost one friend to AIDS and another by suicide.
“They walked onto the street or into the strip club and they performed,” she said. “They did the unthinkable and entertained the most sinful. And when the night was over, they came back and fell into my arms, shattered into a million pieces. Or they were higher than a kite and happier than ever with a fist full of cash. I ask, is this the empowerment you speak of? If so, then I have to say to you… get behind me Satan!”
In an interview with former sex trade worker, Windie Lazenko, a leading advocate against human trafficking and founder of 4her ND which serves victims of sex trafficking and exploitation in the North Dakota oil fields, she explained that past child sexual abuse is extremely common among women in the sex trades. She was trafficked at age 13 after she ran away from home.
“As an adult, I told myself that I was in control and I was using my own body,” she said. “But really, it was just a continuation of the abuse that stems from the message that you do not deserve to be treated with dignity — that your body is available for the pleasure of others.” Lazenko said that most women get forced or backed into prostitution and want to get out. It was how she survived after fleeing a stepfather who sexually abused her and a mother who failed to protect her.
Betrayal of Victims
Last spring, Teen Vogue magazine, which is targeted to girls ages 12 to 17, published, “Why Sex Work is Real Work” by Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng. She runs a women’s health practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is heavy promoter of “sexual and reproductive justice.” She claimed that “interactions that may have started off as sexual could evolve into emotional and psychological bonding.” Sick. It is well-known that prostitutes often bond with their pimps in abusive, slave/master relationships.