The “sex industry”: finalizing objectification of women

Raleigh, North Carolina. (TFC) – Wikipedia describes objectification as “the act of treating a person as an object or thing as though they were a possession of another.”

I find myself confused when I ponder some leftist views of the sex industry. For instance, the term industry itself means the processing of raw materials. This is inherently dehumanizing. If women are defined within their job status as raw materials, finalizing of their objectified status has taken place in terminology alone, but some leftists call this empowering.

Women are in process objectified as well. Their bodies become commodities to be rented out like cars. They are priced according to social status (classicism) and skin color (racism), as well as function (what they can do for the buyer–mostly men). This extends from escorts, to pornography, to prostitution. To rape women is then akin to stealing property when women’s bodies and sexual acts are what is being purchased. To beat them would be to damage goods, akin to crashing your car rental. Even if women were to “sell themselves,” their bodies become objects when the “labor” occurs.

Feminism has long battled the objectification of women, and now it seems some sects of feminism have embraced the objectification of women as empowering. This has led to Orwellian terminology such as slut-shaming (an inherently shameful term), whorephobia (yea…this is a thing), and sex-negative (one who is against the sex industry and queer theory). These terms serve the purpose of shutting down the conversation about the actual effects the sex industry has not only on women within it, but all women in general. By labeling a feminist, or anyone really, a bigot–especially when they are attempting to analyze social constructs using justice theories– is quite simply flipping the script.

Women who speak out against the sex industry do so because it is harmful to the women engaged in it, and women in society as a whole. To paint them as the oppressor because they are speaking out about it is not a new tactic. In fact, it’s been happening to oppressed groups since they started speaking out against their oppression. This is the same well arguments and ideas of reverse racism spring from.

To appeal to other leftist ideologies: would you fight for other dangerous jobs such as working with chemicals or in dangerous coal mines? The ecoterroristic gas industry? Liberals fight against these kinds of jobs as well as their harmful working conditions all the time. They also understand that the workers take these dangerous jobs because they have to, as a part of their systematic oppression. People take unsafe or otherwise demeaning jobs because they are in a position of co-dependence by the society they inhabit. Subordinate socialization, lack of resources, and co-dependence on ones society are prerequisites for a person’s exploitation.

image source: Blemished Paradise. Flickr, Creative Commons Dancers at Love and Music bar, Angeles City

image source: Blemished Paradise. Flickr, Creative Commons
Dancers at Love and Music bar, Angeles City

The amount of money one can make has a big bearing on this. One would make more money working a dangerous job within the gas industry then to take even another dangerous job, such as construction. Make no mistake, working in the sex industry makes women unsafe. This is non-negotiable fact of the industry. Women must allow complete strangers intimate access to their bodies in order to complete their duties as a ‘worker’. For some reason it seems more obvious to us if we think of men in the position of a sex worker. I have asked my male friends if they would how much they would need to be paid to lick an old ladies vagina and I am usually met with snarly, yucky faces. But this analogy isn’t even sound, it’s just visceral.

To make it more sound, I would have to say: what if most of these women were bigger and stronger than you? What if they had more social power? What if you wouldn’t be believed by law enforcement if someone pushed your boundaries, or raped you? What if people who rape people like you hardly ever see jail time? What if this was your only option? What if you were socialized from birth to think of this as acceptable? What if you you were socialized from birth to cater to female pleasure and forget your own?

What if you had to do this 10 times a day? What if you started developing inevitable health problems that come from sexual over-use and bodily exhaustion? But there is no mass-demand for the commodification and violation of male bodies.

The circumstances around this kind of work are completely foreign to men, and apparently, the leftists who call themselves “sex-positive.” Furthermore, the sex industry is a much different kind of exploitation then other sub-par working environments. Although there are working environments which exploit the physical body by means of labor, the sex industry is its own category because of the intimate/sexual nature.

The sex industry requires and solidifies objectification of female bodies: it’s the ultimate manifestation of patriarchy.

To leftist men and neoliberal feminists alike, by all means: if this is a form of empowerment then I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is and go “empower” yourself. In fact, why not start a campaign telling young girls/boys to aspire to work in the sex industry as a form of liberation? I mean, isn’t this the logical extension of your ideology?

Charles Rae is a theorist who writes about power dynamics and social justice. For more women-centered news follow The Fem Column on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.