Archives de Tag: Stigma

Federici about sexwork, stigma and feminism

(question) ok, the institutionalising of prostitution. something that the European constitution is complying to…We don’t see burning women in Bangladesh but we certainly see bordellos in the border of Austria and the Czech Republic and i think this is a very important struggle with the compliance of institutionalised prostitution…

Silvia Federici: I think there is a continuity here with the 1980s and the globalisation process and, in a way, the early phase – the period that saw the development of capitalist relations. Those of you who have read ‘Caliban & the Witch’ will know that I speak of the massification of prostitution. One of the main first consequences of land expropriation was certainly the massification of prostitution. At the very moment when prostitution had actually been accepted socially throughout the Middle Ages, it became criminalised and nevertheless, of course, this was one of the avenues that women resorted to with the end of, basically, the access to the commons. We see the same processes today. In fact, there’s been a massification of prostitution as sex work across the world.

I think that to some extent, to some extent, but I think to a limited extent, that the increase in the number of women who are turning to sex work has also had to do with the feminist movement. It has given a contribution to undermining that kind of moral stigma attached to sex work. I think the women’s movement has also given power for example, to prostitute -to represent themselves a sex workers.

It’s not an accident that with on the wake of feminist movement you have the beginning of a sex worker’s movement, throughout Europe, for instance. So that the stigma, the feminists, they really attacked that hypocrisy: the holy mother, that vision of women, the whole self-sacrificial and the prostitute, which is the woman who does sexual work but for money.

And she gets paid, so she is in fact in violation of the first rule: that you work for nothing. And you have that separation of the ‘bad woman’ and the ‘good woman’. The women’s movement has really challenged that separation and in that way given power for the sex workers to move.

So part of the increase in the number of sex workers…there are many women -students, also housewives, I know, in the United States – who do sex work on the side, to complement forms of wage labour that don’t pay enough. Or to pay your tuition, to do some sex work on the side. I know many, many cases of women who do that. Particularly now that you can do sex work electronically, you can actually do it from your bedroom, you know; interactive sex for instance. I don’t know if you have this form of sex work. But sex by phone, interactive sex; these are all ways you can integrate sex work into your routine, as you’re cooking your food. But much of the increase in the number of sex workers has to do also with the conditions of living. In the end, sex work pays better than working as a maid. Many women – I’ve done work, research work, on immigrant women who migrate as a maid, as healthcare workers..and after in many cases after one or two years if they can they may opt to do sex work because what they may earn in a much shorter time is much more.

But of course as part of sex work you have all forms of coercion, all forms of brutality, the sex business is one of the most violent businesses. But it is not the most violent business. If you work in a free export zone your life is as much in danger as if you work in a brothel or on the street.

I think there is a major problem – there has been a major major problem in the feminist movement. The feminist movement has been really split on the question of sex work. And I don’t know how it is here in Croatia, how it is in The Balkans, but I know that I have many many discussions with feminist friends, and often they are on the opposite side, because I have some friends, and some feminists, who do not want to hear about sex work. They think to even speak of sex work is to validate a kind of activity that is contrary to women’s rights, that is contrary to basically the transformative image of women.

And on the other hand, there are many other feminists who see sex work as a legitimate type of work among the options that are available to women, and I place myself in that second group. I think that to particularly criticize the women who opt for sex labour is very short sighted, because it really stems from a sort of moralistic position, given that there are many many other forms of work today that have very…..expose women to the same dangerous situation. And perhaps in some cases even more – and expose women to situations that basically put them in a completely subordinate position, and it’s a position that makes them vulnerable to violence so..

OK. I will leave it at that. And i would like to hear, maybe, some comments, coming from you (gestures to audience), on this question.


(facilitator): comments please. don’t be afraid of the sex topic.

(another silence!) à partir de 1:10:23

transcription Ellis Suzanna Slack

the Whore insult

Because so long as there are women who are called whores, there will be women who are trained to believe it is next to death to be one or to be mistaken for one. And so long as that is, men will feel they can leave whores for dead with impunity. The fear of the whore, or of being the whore, is the engine that drives the whole thing. That engine could be called “misogyny,” but even that word misses something: the cheapness of the whore, how easily she might be discarded not only due to her gender but to her race, her class. Whore is maybe the original intersectional insult.

Melissa Gira Grant, Playing the Whore, Verso, 2014, p. 127-128

à propos du « slut shaming »

This has been one of the foundational contributions of sex worker feminists to feminist discourse and activism: challenging whore stigma in the name of all those who live under it. There ’s an echo of this in the popularization of whore stigma in a milder form as outrage at “slut shaming.” What is lost, however, in moving from whore stigma to slut shaming is the centrality of the people most harmed by this form of discrimination.

Melissa Gira Grant, Playing the Whore, Verso, 2014, p. 77

ôtez de l’échange économico-sexuel le stigmate de putain, et la prostitution s’évapore.

Gail Pheterson, Le Prisme de la prostitution, p. 11

Since all our desires and actions still grow up under white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, we need to problematize not only choices to participate in the sex industry, but also choices not to. Whores, too, are something that women are not only supposed to not be, but also, not be mistaken for. This division translates into a mandate to not only be virtuous, but also to appear virtuous, to again demonstrate our affiliation with the privileged half of the good girl/bad girl binary.

Compulsory virtue, then, is also something that informs and constricts women’s every move, i.e., “I could never wear/say/do that, someone might think I’m a whore ! ” Beyond the internal constrictions women experience lie external risks, as well. As with other pariah categories, one does not have to actually be a whore to suffer a whore’s punishment or stigma. Getting mistaken for a whore can land one in jail, as Priscilla Alexander and Norma Jean Almodovar point out. Recent laws, such as one passed in January, 1996 in San Francisco, give police officers the power to arrest someone for appearing to intend to exchange for money. As with most laws governing sex work, women are disproportionately targeted and arrested, although the total number of men who participate in prostitution is far larger than the number of women.

Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997; “Introduction”, p. 5