Archives de Tag: Travail sexuel

One the one han…

One the one hand, the woman is formally prevented from selling herself as houseworker and as prostitute in the same time, given that one person cannot at the formal level exist as legal (houseworker) and illegal (prostitute) subjects simultaneously. On the other hand for the prostitute to sell her labor-power as its capacity for production would also be formally incompatible. But in practice she can and she does. Nowadays, for example, with the crisis of family so rampant, housewives and others are becoming part-time prostitutes, as too are students, workers, teachers, secretaries, etc. The division in the female job market between prostitute and non-prostitute is thus blurring. Entering and leaving the two markets has become far easiest than in the past […]. The rise in prostitution, coupled with women’s increasing absenteeism from housework, is dangerously changing the face of the male worker’s consumption, where his consumption of housework should not only be complementary but also fundamental to his consumption of prostitution work, and vice versa. In response, capital has intensified its efforts to regain its quantitative control over the supply of prostitution work. The wave of repression of prostitutes is in reality capital’s attempt to re-establish the complementary aspects of the exchange, and to once more place prostitution work in a secondary position to housework in terms of the male worker’s quantitative consumption of it.

Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction : Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital; Autonomedia, 1996, p. 44-45

D’un côté, la femme est formellement empêchée de se vendre comme ménagère et comme prostituée en même temps, étant donné qu’une personne ne peut, au niveau formel, exister simultanément en tant que sujet légal (la ménagère) et illégal (la prostituée). D’un autre côté, pour la prostituée, vendre sa force de travail comme sa capacité pour la production serait aussi formellement incompatible. Mais en pratique, elle le peut et elle le fait. De nos jours, par exemple, avec la crise si endémique de la famille, les femmes au foyer et autres deviennent des prostituées à temps partiel, de même que les étudiantes, travailleuses, enseignantes, secrétaires, etc. La division dans le marché du travail féminin entre prostituée et non-prostituée devient brouillée. Entrer et quitter ces deux marchés est devenu bien plus facile que par le passé […] L’augmentation de la prostitution, couplée au croissant absentéisme  des femmes du travail ménager, est en train de dangereusement changer le visage de la consommation du travailleur, puisque sa consommation de travail ménager ne devrait pas être seulement complémentaire, mais fondamentale, par rapport à sa consommation de travail de prostitution, et vice versa. En réponse, le capital a intensifié ses efforts pour récupérer un contrôle quantitatif sur la réserve de travail de prostitution. La vague de répression des prostituées est en réalité une tentative du capital pour rétablir les aspects complémentaires de l’échange, et pour, une fois de plus, placer le travail de la prostitution dans une position secondaire par rapport au travail ménager en ce qui concerne la quantité qu’en consomme le travailleur.


In the case of …

In the case of housework, the relation does not appear to be between the woman and the capital, but between the housewife and the male worker, thus it appears as a relation which is intended to satisfy reciprocal individual consumption and not the work it is – a relation of production. In prostitution, too, the relation does not appear to be between the woman and capital, but between the prostitute and the male worker. In this case too, prostitution appears to be intended to satisfy reciprocal individual consumption and not the work it is – again a relation of production. Thus both these relations posit themselves as non-directly waged relations of production which take place between woman – as houseworker or as sex-worker – and capital, through the mediation of the male worker.

Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction : Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital; Autonomedia, 1996, p. 23

Dans le cas du travail domestique, la relation ne semble pas être entre la femme et le capital, mais entre la ménagère et le travailleur, ce qui apparait alors comme une relation destinée à satisfaire la consommation individuelle réciproque, et non comme le travail que c’est – une relation de production. Dans la prostitution, également, la relation ne semble pas être entre la femme et le capital, mais entre la prostituée et le travailleur. Dans ce cas également, la prostitution semble destinée à satisfaire la consommation individuel réciproque, et non pour le travail qu’elle est – à nouveau, une relation de production. Ces deux relations se présentent alors comme des relations de production non-directement rémunérées, qui prennent place entre la femme – en tant que ménagère ou que travailleuse du sexe – et le capital par la médiation du travailleur. 


To this day the controversy continues and has in fact reached a stalemate, partly because both sides mostly base their arguments on the motivations and responsibilities of individual prostitutes, debating whether prostitution is a result of coercion or spontaneous choices. The global sex industry, however, is not the result of millions of individual choices; it is a highly structured intervention by corpora- tions (both legal and illegal) and international financial organizations. Thus, we cannot look at prostitution as presently organized as a set of individual transactions between prostitutes and their bosses or between prostitutes and their clients. It is this broader context in which pros- titution operates that decides the possibilities which sex workers have to gain more social power and the possibility for self-determination. From this viewpoint, sex-workers organizations are correct when they argue that prosti- tution is work; prohibition and criminalization can only worsens work conditions, making sex workers more vulner- able to police harassment and exposing them and indeed all migrants to the risk of deportation; commercial sexual work is not more violent or enslaving than many other jobs available in today’s global labour market. Indeed, the increased incidence of slavery and indentured servitude is not unique to prostitution and cannot be eliminated by criminalizing sex work any more than chattel slavery in the 19th could have been abolished by prohibiting cotton picking.
It is also true, however, that the decriminalization of the sex industry will not be sufficient to improve the status of sex-workers, as in a world of increasing competition for survival the market itself becomes an instrument of violence. Nevertheless the argument that prostitutes are workers is more relevant now than ever; since increasingly the exploitation and abuse they suffer is on a continuum with that of other workers – migrant or not – internation- ally. Coercion, in fact, has become a key aspect of work in the present phase of globalization, that is reminiscent in many ways of the period of “primitive accumulation” when an ex-lege proletariat was formed (Federici 2004). This implies that the situation of sex workers cannot be trans- formed by an exclusive focus on sexual domination and sexual slavery, and by differentiating sex workers from other workers, in the same way as we cannot address the question of reproductive work by focussing exclusively on care work. Precisely to the extent that sex work is often non-free labour, the sex worker is becoming the paradigm worker in the global economy, in the same way as under- paid, precarious, “informal” female labour is becoming the paradigm for all forms of exploitation. As in the ’70s, to- day as well, the question is whether this realization will become the ground for a recomposition among different sectors of the female work force. Indeed, sex work, like domestic and care work, poses one of the most significant challenge to the currently existing feminisms.

Camille BARBAGALLO et Silvia FEDERICI, “introduction”, The Commoner n.15, Winter 2012, Care Work and the Commons


A parallel top-down dynamic coexists with our servicing of the male workforce—that of the enforcement of “caring” upon sex workers (particularly those who perform illicit, undocumented, full-service, or street-based work). The logic of “saving” women (savior rhetoric tends to ignore people who aren’t women) from performing this kind of marginalized labor is a direct legacy of the emerging middle-class social-working women of Victorian England and their contemporaries in the US. Rarely discussed is the classist, coercive, and hypocritical history of women’s entry into the “caring professions”—particularly with regards to the construction of the “prostitute” as a particular subject in need of saving, reforming, and steering into respectable middle-class life by “benevolent” ladies during the “rise of the social” of the late 19th century. During this era, “those doing charitable works entered into a governmental relationship with the objects of their charity, and created themselves as important social actors in the process….‘Helping’ became a profession that relied on identifying subjects and then placing them in closed spaces where they could be worked upon and controlled.”[2] Modern non-sex-working feminists who support abolitionist/savior tactics or engage in these caring-projects themselves presume a more dignified identity than that of the sex worker, and often end up replicating a system of enforced docility based on misogynistic, bourgeois notions of respectability and the proper placement of women within the public sphere. Middle-class academics and writers who make their living off promoting a framework that casts sex workers as an inherently victimized identity “for their own good” do so at the direct expense of the agency and economic livelihood of women of lower socioeconomic status. Statist feminists’ rhetoric of “fighting the sex industry” typically relies on State power in the form of legislative reform that criminalizes at least some aspects of sex work, increases the power of law enforcement, & overregulates the sex industries in ways that further marginalize the least privileged workers by making their participation in these economies prohibitively expensive or difficult (see Britain’s Policing and Crime Act of 2009)

Thus, sex workers are triangulated in a system of caring labor—that which is enacted upon us (sometimes forcibly) by carceral feminists, paternalistic liberals, the prison-industrial complex, the surveillance State,[3] and the superstructure of capitalist-patriarchy, and that which we perform for (primarily white) middle- to upper-class men (to say nothing of the unpaid reproductive labor we are often mandated to perform in our homes and communities). In some ways this system self-replicates harmoniously—“From homemaking to professional housekeeping—not to mention nursing, hospitality, and phone sex—women and people of color are disproportionately responsible for the care that keeps this society functioning, yet have disproportionately little say in what that care fosters. Likewise, a tremendous amount of care goes into oiling the machinery that maintains hierarchy: families help police relax after work, sex workers help businessmen let off steam, secretaries take on the invisible labor that preserves executives’ marriages.” (“Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care,” CrimethInc. 2013). Other times, the State and the hierarchical institutions that collude with it to oppress sex workers (such as academia and the nonprofit-complex) are positioned in contradiction to the selling of sexualized services, often by way of support for or enactment of various forms of direct or indirect/“backdoor” criminalization;[4] more indirectly, these institutions control the discourse around sex work, feminism, and labor via the creation and maintenance of a professional class of “experts” on these intersections, who have often never engaged in sex work themselves but assume entitlement based on their positioning as members of “the sex class.”[5]

There’s a predictable but rarely-acknowledged irony that the privileges of scholars, authors, non-profit representatives, policymakers, abolitionist activists, professional feminists, and other “experts” on sex work come under less scrutiny than the supposedly “privileged” sex workers who critique non-sex-workers’ skewed analysis of the industry. It’s a fallacy to assume that non-sex-working feminists are more qualified, more entitled to speak on behalf of the “most marginalized,” than actual sex workers who are assumed to be “not representative” of the “average” sex worker, or who don’t fit into our culture’s perception of what the “worst off” looks like. That’s not to say that these experts are always blinded by their economic and social privilege, that none have adopted their views as a result of their experiences working in the sex industry themselves. Identity itself isn’t always the deciding standard for sound analysis. The problem is that (usually relatively privileged) non-sex-working feminists do overwhelmingly take up space at the table where sex workers, especially sex workers who are particularly marginalized & institutionally disenfranchised (street workers, drug users, trans women, single parents, people of color, etc.) should be debating effective strategies for liberation, resistance, and survival, in whatever forms these may materialize. We should be finding ways to help each other avoid exploitation, violence, and desperation, without contributing to a culture of stigma or perpetuating rhetoric that makes criminalization of sex work a winning strategy for politicians and good PR for celebrities and CEOs.

Grin and Bare it All: Against Liberal Conceptions of Sex Work” (via marginalutilite)

Tout comme le travail domestique et les autres formes de care, le travail du sexe a connu une restructuration majeure depuis les années 1970, que les mouvements féministes et de travailleurs du sexe commencent seulement à analyser et à intégrer à leur mobilisation. Toutefois, nous pouvons dire avec certitude qu’un aspect de cette restructuration a été la multiplication des travailleurs du sexe et la diversification des types de services commerciaux disponibles, ainsi que l’internationalisation de la main-d’œuvre du sexe. Ces développements s’expliquent par plusieurs facteurs, notamment la réorgani- sation du travail, des rapports de genre et de la sexualité produite par les politiques néolibérales. Il est clair que davantage de recherches doivent être menées sur ces développements. Mais il est certain qu’aujourd’hui la majorité des travailleurs du sexe sont des femmes migrantes ainsi que des hommes et des transsexuels originaires d’Afrique, d’Amérique du Sud et d’Europe de l’Est.
Les statistiques sur le nombre de travailleurs du sexe sont controversées dans tous les pays et régions, en raison de la nature clandestine du travail du sexe et de la stigmatisation dont il est l’objet. Cependant, si l’on considère que l’industrie du sexe inclut non seulement les personnes travaillant dans la prostitution, mais aussi les danseurs et danseuses, les modèles et acteurs ou actrices de films pornographiques, les employées de peep-shows et de bar de striptease, les opératrices de téléphone rose et les cyber-stripteaseuses, les réceptionnistes, les gardiens, les chauffeurs, le nombre de femmes, de trans- sexuels et d’hommes employés mondialement dans l’«industrie du divertissement pour adultes » est sidérant. […]
Dans l’ensemble, les conditions du travail du sexe se sont dégradées en comparaison avec celles des débuts du mouvement des travailleurs du sexe à la fin des années 1970. En raison de la détérioration du contexte économique et de l’intensification de la concurrence dans l’industrie du sexe, il est devenu plus difficile pour les travailleurs de ce secteur d’exercer le type de contrôle que les prostituées avaient établi auparavant sur leurs conditions de travail. De nombreux travailleurs du sexe migrants sont en situation irrégulière et, en raison du durcissement du contrôle des frontières et des politiques d’immigration en Europe, ont dû compter sur des intermédiaires criminels pour financer et organiser leur voyage à l’étranger; par conséquent, la violence et la coercition à l’encontre des travailleurs du sexe se sont aggravées. En fait, les travailleurs du sexe, en particulier celles et ceux qui travaillent dans la prostitution, sont aujourd’hui pénalisés à trois niveaux: en tant que travailleurs du sexe, en tant que travailleurs sans papiers et en tant que victimes de la servitude pour dette et de l’exploitation. Depuis les années 1980, la question du « trafic sexuel » divise l’analyse féministe de la prostitution en deux camps opposés et marque une ligne de fracture importante parmi les féministes. D’un côté, les personnes convaincues que la prostitution est une activité non volontaire qu’aucune femme ne peut choisir librement proposent de définir tous les cas de prostitution comme des violences à l’encontre des femmes. De l’autre, celles qui affirment qu’en considérant la prostitution, sous quelque forme qu’elle soit, comme intrinsèquement violente, on menace la sécurité des travailleurs du sexe, et qu’en outre cette position infantilisante et moraliste nie la violence inhérente aux autres perspectives d’emploi qui s’offrent aux travailleurs du sexe, et généralement aux femmes, notamment s’ils et elles sont originaires de pays qui ont subi des formes drastiques de libéralisation économique. […]
Il n’est pas possible de transformer la situation des travailleurs du sexe en se concentrant exclusivement sur la domination et l’esclavage sexuels, et en différenciant les travailleurs du sexe des autres travailleurs, de la même façon que nous ne pouvons pas aborder la question du travail reproductif en nous concentrant sur le travail du care. Précisément parce que le travail du sexe est souvent du travail non libre, le travailleur du sexe devient le paradigme du travailleur de l’économie mondiale, de la même façon que la main-d’œuvre féminine sous-payée, précaire et « informelle » devient le paradigme de toute forme d’exploitation. Comme dans les années 1970, la question est aujourd’hui de savoir si cette prise de conscience sera à la base d’une recomposition parmi les différents secteurs de la main-d’œuvre féminine. Car le travail du sexe, à l’instar du travail domestique et du care, pose l’un des défis les plus importants aux féminismes actuels.

Camille BARBAGALLO et Silvia FEDERICI, “Travail domestique, du care, du sexe et migrations dans le contexte de la restructuration néo-libérale : de la politisation du travail reproductif. In Genre, migrations et globa- lisation de la reproduction sociale. Cahiers genre et développement. N° 9. (Dir.) C. Verschuur et C. Catarino. 421-430. Paris : L’Harmattan.” p.  427-429

It was important for feminists to see, for example, that much housework and child rearing is work of policing our children, so that they will conform to a particular work discipline. We thus began to see that by refusing broad areas of work, we not only could liberate ourselves but could also liberate our children. We saw that our struggle was not at the expense of the people we cared for, though we may skip preparing some meals or cleaning the floor. Actually our refusal opened the way for their refusal and the process of their liberation.
Once we saw that rather than reproducing life we were expanding capitalist accumulation and began to define reproductive labor as work for capital, we also opened the possibility of a process of re-composition among women.
Think for example of the prostitute movement, which we now call the “sex workers” movement. In Europe the origins of this movement must be traced back to 1975 when a number of sex workers in Paris occupied a church, in protest against a new zoning regulation which they saw as an attack on their safety. There was a clear connection between that struggle, which soon spread throughout Europe and the United States, and the feminist movement’s re-thinking and challenging of housework. The ability to say that sexuality for women has been work has lead to a whole new way of thinking about sexual relationships, including gay relations. Because of the feminist movement and the gay movement we have begun to think about the ways in which capitalism has exploited our sexuality, and made it “productive.”
In conclusion, it was a major breakthrough that women would begin to understand unpaid labor and the production that goes on in the home as well as outside of the home as the reproduction of the work force. This has allowed a re-thinking of every aspect of everyday life — child-raising, relationships between men and women, homosexual relationships, sexuality in general– in relation to capitalist exploitation and accumulation.

Silvia FEDERICI, “Precarious Labor : a Feminist Viewpoint” à lire ici 

In his book, The Trouble with Normal, the queer theorist Michael Warner describes the ways that diverse “sex publics” became endangered by the Giuliani administration in late 1990s New York City. Focusing primarily on the demonization of gay sex venues, Warner reminds us that it was not the moralizing agenda of the Christian Right but a broad-sweeping and multifaceted “politics of privatization” that cast the initial pall over class- and race-integrated cultures of public sex.61 Yet the neoliberal policies which systematically eliminated “public sex” in postindustrial cities did not eliminate commercial sexuality altogether—far from it. Ultimately, these policies were even less successful (and arguably, less interested) than their Progressive Era counterparts in eliminating sexual commerce in its entirety. Whereas Progressive Era social activists drew on the language of moral critique to shut down the organized brothel system and to drive prostitutes outdoors, neoliberal “broken windows” policing in the 1990s drove the sex industry back inside. Commercial sexual encounters were thus relocated to spatially dispersed interior venues where they could be marketed to class- and race-segregated customers, while the marginalized populations left behind bore the burden of the heightened police presence associated with gentrification.62
Following Warner’s analysis of the sexual transformations that transpired in Giulianiera New York, one can similarly note the ways in which postindustrial economic transformations led to a privatization of sexual commerce in San Francisco, impacting the world of public streetwalking (and thus, the social institution of modern prostitution) in at least three key ways: spatially, privatization occurred through prostitutes’ retreat back indoors after the prohibition of brothels nearly a century earlier; socially, privatization represented a shift away from a street-based social milieu to one-on-one, technologically mediated encounters with clients through cell phones and the Internet; and, as I shall discuss in the next chapter, privatization also had a significant impact at an emotional level for sex workers by altering the nature of sexual labor itself, propelling women to provide their clients with ever more profound and more intimate forms of erotic connection—what I term “bounded authenticity.”

Elizabeth Bernstein, Temporarily Yours, Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce of Sex, The University of Chicago, 2007, p.  68-69