“Choice” was so ten years ago.

18 05 2008

Something has been bothering me for a while about certain sections of the feminist movement.

Remember “choice”? You know, what we were fighting for a bunch of years ago? Well, it seems to have gone out of style.

Sure, anyone will still valiantly defend your right to choose certain things related to reproductive health; namely, birth control and abortion. Unless we’re talking about “pro-life feminists” (shudder). But, especially lately, a lot of choices aren’t seen as nearly as valid. Specifically, choosing to do things certain feminists don’t approve of.

You know what I mean. Choose to have an abortion, or become an engineer? Good on ya! Choose to wear something revealing, be tied up, or be a stripper or porn star? Suddenly, you lose your ability to choose that. You know, because it’s all a product of brainwashing by the patriarchy.

I’ll definitely admit that sexism does influence our choices sometimes. So does racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism, and whatever other internalized prejudices one might have. But those aren’t always the only reasons someone might choose to do something (especially something you don’t particularly like or approve of). And, really, when it comes to women in porn or sex work or whatever, do people who call themselves “feminists” really think women are that weak and unintelligent? That they’re so brainwashed by the patriarchy that they couldn’t possibly make a choice of their own?

And as for choices that aren’t frowned upon? Well, I’ll be the first to admit that people don’t always have the most pristine of motives for, say, having abortions. Like, you know, wealthy families who don’t want a kid with Down Syndrome because they’ll never graduate from Princeton. Is it a choice I would make? Probably not. Is it influenced by a lot of ableism? Probably. Am I going to badger them constantly, and tell them how wrong and brainwashed they are? Hell no. It’s not my place to judge, let alone harass them over it. Which is why I distanced myself from a lot of the pro-lifers at Aspies for Freedom – but that is another rant for another time.

You know, it’s hugely ironic when certain feminists go on about “choice”. Then, when someone chooses something they don’t like, that person’s ability to choose suddenly vaporizes.

At some point, regardless of the motives they might have, we have to step back and let other people make their own decisions. Especially when those people are telling you to back off.

When I say I’m pro-choice, I mean it. And it’s not just about abortion.

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11 responses

18 05 2008
Brianne

‘Nuff said.

19 05 2008
ouyangdan

out. fucking. standing.

seriously.

loved it!

19 05 2008
Sunflower

Yeah, Certain Feminists can really be something, can’t they?

I like that term for them, because it points at the stance, not at a person except insofar as they take that stance, but also because so many of those who do take that stance are oh-so-very certain.

I have a lot of trouble seeing why a feminist saying, “you have to behave this way,” is different from a man saying, “you have to behave this way.” Sounds kinda, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” to me (and to lots of others; I’m far from the first to apply that Who quote to it).

Sunflower

19 05 2008
Sinead

Right on, Lindsay. And Sunflower pretty much took the words out of my mouth.

19 05 2008
Jesurgislac

You know, I got dumped on recently for being an “anti-choice feminist”, and when I unpacked what the person dumping on me was reacting to (which was partially several very anti-feminist and vociferous commenters on the same blog who were saying very loudly that my position is anti-sex and anti-men):

Being a sex worker is, for the vast majority of women – and men – who are sex workers, dangerous, unpleasant, damaging work, done because the money from being a sex worker is better than any other options available to them. There are a minority of sex workers who are by any defintion simply being raped for profit (not their profit) and a smaller minority of sex workers who do the work because they enjoy it.

I was getting dumped on for being “anti-choice” because I chose, in a group of people – mixed men and women, feminists, non-feminists, and anti-feminists – to focus my discourse exclusively on the vast majority who do not actually enjoy having their bodies made use of by men who want to have sex without having to make themselves pleasing to their prospective sexual partner.

(By definition, a man – and the *customers* in sex work are pretty much entirely men – who makes use of a sex worker for his pleasure, is a man who prefers *not* to go to the trouble of finding someone who actually wants to have sex with him.)

The person who dumped on me seemed to feel that it was anti-choice to declare that

(a) I would rather men quit thinking that they’re entitled to sex without needing to make themselves pleasing enough that someone will want to have sex with them

(b)I would rather that no one was in such a bad position economically that they had to opt for sex work because it was the least bad option they had.

And finally, (c) I would rather that discussions about sex work, and especially about prostitution, did not focus on talking up the few people who actively choose to do it because they want to and they enjoy it, while ignoring the vast majority of low-income women and men who do it because they’re compelled by necessity, and the significant minority who do it because they are made to do so by someone who “owns” them – family, pimp, or straightforwardly, someone who bought them.

19 05 2008
missnomered

I do hear what you are saying, Jesurgislac. However, I would argue that there are a lot of dangerous, unpleasant and less-than-enjoyable jobs people take up when they’re desperate – and I’d prefer it if nobody had to take up a job that’s dangerous and they hate, which is why our economic system sucks in a lot of ways. Also, I’ve always said that sex trafficking and pimping were bad – as I’ve said, over and over again, “choice is the operative word here”.

Don’t forget, there are many kinds of sex work – street prostitution (which you seem to be focusing on), high-end escorting, porn, fetish modelling, pro doms, and so on. I think if one focuses on the bigger picture, not just street prostitution, you’ll possibly find a) a lot more people willingly in the business, b) more men as sex workers and c) more women as customers. For example, there is a huge market for gay male porn, and a lot of women go to doms.

But, I could be wrong. Anyways, thanks for stopping by!

19 05 2008
jesurgislac

Missnomered: I think if one focuses on the bigger picture, not just street prostitution, you’ll possibly find a) a lot more people willingly in the business, b) more men as sex workers and c) more women as customers.

I find it interesting that while you claim you “hear what I’m saying” you repeat something that indicates you prefer to ignore what I’m saying, since you appear to be responding to a series of points I didn’t make.

1. You seem to think that “a lot of people are willingly in the business”. Define “willing”. I say that “willing” means a lot more when it’s not just “provides better money than is available by any other means”.

2. You bring up “more men as sex workers” as if you think I hadn’t thought of that, demonstrating that you didn’t actually bother to read my comment. See second paragraph, 13th/14th words. Thanks. Indeed, it would be nice if you read the comment, in full, then responded to what I was actually saying.

3. More women as customers? No. Sex work is targeted at male customers. Some sex workers are male. That women buy porn produced for (and sometimes by) gay men, does not alter the fact that it is not produced for women – no more than the commercial porn that is theoretically “about” lesbians is produced for women, even when it’s marketed as if it were.

and a lot of women go to doms

You have a fantasy that there are Pro Doms, like there are Pro Dommes? No. Look, let me explain the economic/power structure of prostitution. Male subs like pro dommes because that way, even if he’s down on the floor licking the soles of her filthy shoes and cumming over the humiliation of it all, he’s in control, because he’s paying her to do these things to him. It’s not her fantasy that’s happening in a Pro Domme/male sub: it’s his.

Ask any dominant woman who’s been involved in the BDSM scene, and you will find that she’s been asked, several times, by men, if she’d like to “turn Pro”. By which they mean: “I find you attractive as a dominant, but the last thing I want is to get into a mutual scene where I have to think about fulfilling your fantasies. I want to be in a scene where you are focussed on fulfilling my fantasies, because that’s what I’m paying you to do.” Seriously: this is not just what I’ve heard from friends into BDSM, this is what I’ve heard from any dominant woman who got into the BDSM scene unless she stuck to women-only parties and club nights…

Ask any dominant man who’s been involved in the BDSM scene how often women ask him if he’d like to “turn Pro” – fulfil their fantasies rather than his own, for pay.

I’m fully expecting you to ignore this comment, too, but I just wanted to point out that while you can ignore comments from strangers on your blog, it’s just annoying when you pretend to respond but respond to an imaginary comment.

19 05 2008
missnomered

I was referring to dom/mes of both genders, by the way. Sorry for that confusion.

Also, I think I addressed the economic issue: that it’s totally shitty when people turn to sex work because they have no other options. And, like I said, I don’t have all the answers. I’m really not sure about what you’re taking issue with here, and what questions, exactly, you’d like to answer.

As for the gender/power thing – I don’t think fantasies of power or submission are exclusive to women or men. Hmm. I think Ren explained it really well in this post: http://renegadeevolution.blogspot.com/2008/05/have-i-mentioned-lately.html

And no, as said before, I don’t have the answers to everything. But personal liberties are really top priority for me, regardless of people’s motives for this or that. Like, I personally find sexists/racists/homophobes/ableists rather stupid and actually quite repulsive, but I oppose hate speech laws unless the speech in question is a direct incitement to violence. What it all comes down to for me at least is this: freedom of choice includes freedom to do or say things that I or other people personally don’t like.

20 05 2008
jesurgislac

Also, I think I addressed the economic issue: that it’s totally shitty when people turn to sex work because they have no other options.

freedom of choice includes freedom to do or say things that I or other people personally don’t like.

Indeed. My point is that doing sex work because it’s the best economic choice of multiple shitty options has nothing to do with “freedom”, and that opposing the way in which people end up in shitty jobs has nothing to do with being “anti-choice” – and I resent being typed as “anti-choice” because I persistently point out that sex work is a shitty job that the vast majority of sex workers do, not because they like it, but because of all the shitty jobs available to them, it’s the best-paid.

To argue that people should be “free” to “choose” to do shitty jobs would make you sound like a conservative if the job was anything other than sex work – so why do people think it makes them sound like a liberal when the shitty jobs that they think people should be “free” to “choose” involve sex work?

I don’t think fantasies of power or submission are exclusive to women or men.

Good grief, you’re STILL responding to comments I hadn’t made!

I’m really not sure about what you’re taking issue with here

Well, see above: I’m taking issue with people who feel that people should be “free” to do shitty jobs, and that opposing that “freedom” is a sign that you’re “anti-choice”, not a sign that you object to people having to do shitty jobs. Especially shitty jobs that accomplish nothing positive – I mean, street cleaning is a shitty job but someone’s got to do it if we want clean streets, so I support both encouraging anti-litter campaigns AND well-paid street cleaners. But sex workers merely confirm for men that they have a right to have sex without needing to become a pleasing sexual partner. I’m not seeing you address any of that. Anywhere.

Also, I’m taking issue with you ignoring what I’m saying and responding to something else that I didn’t say. I’m, talking about men who react to their own submissive fantasies and attraction to dominant women, by trying to get the women they are attracted to become sex workers so that sub men don’t have to consider their partner’s sexual fantasies as equal to their own, but can expect to have only their own sexual fantasies catered to. I’m talking about how male belief that they are entitled to sex is the source of sex work – whether the sex workers are female or male. Instead of responding to that – agree, disagree, whatev – you come up with something out of the blue that bears no relation to what I’m talking about. Why do you do that? What’s the problem with responding to what I’m saying? Or just ignoring the comment completely, if that’s what you prefer – you’re under no obligation to answer me, I just have a problem with your faking answers to what I didn’t say.

23 05 2008
Feminist Jen

Hi…I think I might (gulp) be a Certain Feminist. (Just to be perfectly clear, since we are on the internets, which are a series of tubes that can clog implicit meaning….my tone there was meant to be light.)

First, let me clarify what I am *not* saying:
1) Women are unable to choose to participate in sex work.
2) Sex is bad and shameful and should be kept private and in the bedroom
3) BD/SM is violence (that’s a whole different conversation, right?)

Alright, basics covered. That said, I feel pretty strongly about sex work. I think that the sex industry is often sexist, even misogynist and sometimes violent, even to the point of terrorism.

I think we need to fight misogyny, coercion and violence, together as feminists, and acknowledge that even if many, or even if the majority of women choose sex work freely; even *one* woman being forced into it is too many!

I guess I see misogyny as the soil of patriarchy, and the way our society currently views sexuality as rooted in that. Some sex work may be working to uproot it, to queer it and to free it. Other sex work is the result of hatred of women, violence, incest, oppression, the limiting of options. We can’t acknowledge one part of that, but not the other.

It’s a difficult and painful issue within feminism, but I think people are harmed if we say either:

1) Women are free to choose whatever they want! Sex work is but one of many options; stop pretending it has anything to do with violence or misogyny!

or

2) Stop all sex work! Women are forced into it; it can never be part of our freedom!

Sex: it’s something many of us engage in; enjoy; revel in. It’s also been a battleground, full of violence and degradation; it’s been used as a weapon.

It’s hard to admit the painful in the face of the beauty; and it’s hard to see the beauty when faced with the painful.

Feminist love,
Jen

25 05 2008
gallinggalla

jesurgislac:

That women buy porn produced for (and sometimes by) gay men, does not alter the fact that it is not produced for women – no more than the commercial porn that is theoretically “about” lesbians is produced for women, even when it’s marketed as if it were.

You never heard of the magazine On Our Backs? That was a WLW magazine produced by and for women. Or, say, Pink and White Productions, which is run by a woman who produces WLW porn for women? Sure, you can’t stop a man from whacking off to On Our Backs or P&W Productions films, but the magazine and the films are not intended for men.

I think that you are painting porn and sex work with an awfully broad brush.

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