Archives de Tag: Travail sexuel

As numerous social historians have described, the attendant features of modern-industrial capitalism—phenomena such as urbanization, the expansion of wage labor, and the decline of the extended kin-based “traditional family”—brought with them new cultural ideologies of gender and sexuality, and new symbolic boundaries between public and private life.3 The development of “work” as an autonomous, rationalized, and prototypically masculine sphere of economic activity outside the home produced a sexual “double standard” and an unprecedented gender division of life activities, dichotomizing women along class lines.4 While white, bourgeois, married women served as caretakers and practiced an ideology of sexual restraint in the private sphere, many working-class women and women of color joined men in the public sphere as wage laborers or as sexually available prostitutes.5 By the early twentieth century, numerous “vice commissions” had been created to study—and definitionally constitute—the social problem of modern prostitution.6
By contrast, the forms of sexual commerce that prevailed prior to this period were self-organized, occasional exchanges in which women traded sexual favors during limited periods of hardship. Early modern prostitution was small in scale, frequently premised on barter, and generally took place within the participants’ own homes and communities. Only with the onset of modern industrial capitalism and an increasingly gendered social divide between public and private spheres did a new class of specially demarcated “public women” come under increasing scrutiny and control. In contrast to the casual and informal exchanges that had previously transpired in coffeehouses, taverns, and pubs, large numbers of women now found themselves sequestered in a space which was physically and socially separate, and affixed with the permanently stigmatizing identity of “prostitute.”7 In the United States, it was not until the Progressive Era in the early twentieth century that a statutory definition of prostitution even existed. As the historian Timothy Gilfoyle has observed, prior to this time the crime of prostitution was primarily “a condition of vagrancy and being female.”8

Elizabeth Bernstein, Temporarily Yours, Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce of Sex, The University of Chicago, 2007, p. 23-24

Objectification literally means to hold oneself as subject and everything and everyone else as object, the object of one’s actions and thoughts. According to this definition, traditional feminists objectify strippers. This paradox grows increasingly obvious considering the us/them construct such discussions inevitably employ. “Those strippers undermine our ends.” Are not strippers and their patrons the objects of these women’s disapproval ?
Or maybe they mean “object” as a thing devoid of humanity. But a stripper’s humanity, including her sexuality, is intrinsic to her profession. In my experience, few men would talk to me at length and grow aroused by my personality while simultaneously denying my personhood.
I maintain that a man isn’t denying a woman’s humanity if he admires her breast and not her intellect in the appropriate context. Human phyisicality takes precedence in many arenas. As long as theses instances remain free of sexuality, no one complains. Few people argue that Martine Navratilova and Mary Lou Retton, much less men such as Michael Jordan or Mikhail Baryshnikov, are dehumanized when others admire their physical prowess.

Stacy REED, “All stripped Off”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p.  182

The power of Hima B.’s film and the 10 Percent articles is in their juxtaposition of the subjects’ self-described “real” sexuality with their professional, or performed sexuality. The juxtaposition of paid “straight” sexuality with lesbianism actually illustrates that there is nothing straight about sex work. What these women are doing is performing heterosexuality as they perform a sexual service for money. They do not go straight, they play straight. I would like to argue that the sex work in these texts represents a performance of heterosexuality, regardless of the sexual self-identity of the performer. Its defining characteristic is the exchange of money for a sexual service, which is, I would argue, a queer act. Selling sex is quite outside of the normative codes of sexual conduct, whereby sex is privileged as something you do for love or, in a more liberal world view, for fun or, if it is in a Hollywood film like Pretty Woman or Indecent Proposal, for a whole lot of money.

Eva Pendleton, “Love for Sale”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p. 75-76

I have waitressed, and been sexually harassed by bosses and customers. I have modeled for art classes, and watched students and teachers fuel their fantasies with my motionless body. I have worked in an office, and been stuck in a cubicle with a coworker who just could not grasp the hard fact that I preferred my woman lover over him. I have worked in the film industry, and felt myself a cog in a multimillion dollar machine that designs and markets “entertainment” around the sex-values of its stars. These all look like sex industries to me. I wondered : What is the difference between jobs within job systems that hypocritically deny the importance of sex to their smooth operation as opposed to those that exploit it as their very reason of operating ? If capitalism was structuring my work experiences, and if sexism was structuring roles within capitalism, what had I to lose by facing overt rather than covert realities ? I certainly had choice of not doing this particular work, but I never had a choice of not dealing with its existence

J’ai été serveuse, et été harcelée sexuellement par mes patrons et mes clients. J’ai été modèle pour des cours d’art, et vu les étudiants et les profs nourrir leurs fantasmes de mon corps immobile. J’ai travaillé dans un bureau, où j’étais coincée entre quatre murs avec un collègue qui n’arrivait pas à concevoir le fait que je puisse lui préférer mon amante. J’ai travaillé dans l’industrie du cinéma, et je me suis sentie comme un petit maillon dans une machine multimillionnaire qui crée du ‘divertissement’ sur la base de la valeur sexuelle de ses stars. A mes yeux, ces industries sont toutes des industrie du sexe. Je me suis demandé : ‘Quelle est la différence entre des jobs dans des systèmes de travail qui nient hypocritement l’importance du sexe dans leur fonctionnement, et celles qui exploitent le sexe comme la raison même de leur fonctionnement ?’ J’avais clairement le choix de faire ou ne pas faire ce job en particulier, mais je n’ai jamais eu le choix de ne pas avoir à faire face à l’existence de cette réalité.

Vicky Funary, “Naked, Naughty, Nasty”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p. 19-20

La différence d’accès à la propriété en faveur des hommes, et ce au-delà des différences de classe, ainsi que (là où existe le travail salarié, dans les sociétés industrialisées et en voie de développement) les salaires inégaux et l’inégal accès au travail, en particulier à des emplois plus qualifiés et mieux rémunérés, constituent autant d’éléments matériels bien connus qui continuent à forger la dépendance des femmes aux hommes, y compris sur le plan individuel, et, partant, à instituer l’échange économico-sexuel comme forme générale des rapports entre les sexes.
Dans les sociétés stratifiées, donc, le service sexuel en soi, séparé des autres aspects de travail et de reproduction propres aux relations matrimoniales, peut devenir le moyen direct de subsistance pour les femmes qui le fournissent, et ce fait marque une rupture qu’il faut souligner. L’échange économico-sexuel apparaît là sous une forme nue et devient objet de négociation toujours plus explicite en chacun de ses termes (rémunération, modalités de la prestations et de la négociation, durée du service). Le service sexuel est proposé et géré directement par les femmes qui le fournissent – donc les femmes ont une position de partenaires ou sujets de l’échange – ou bien, dans les systèmes d’exploitation privés ou étatiques, il est géré et réglé par d’autres – les femmes n’y sont que les objets de l’échange – dans un éventail de rapports de travail non indépendant qui peuvent aller jusqu’aux formes de travail sexuel forcé, où le travail sexuel des femmes est exploité dans des rapports que l’on peut qualifier d’esclavage.
Il faut rappeler que ces deux modalités d’échange sont différentes et peuvent avoir un poids social très variable, et qu’il serait tout à fait incorrect d’identifier d’emblée toutes ces formes d’échange à la prostitution. Bref, la démarcation se situe d’une part entre l’échange direct entre l’homme et la femme, échange dans lequel, quelque soit le pouvoir de décision et de négociation de chacun des partenaires (et nous verrons l’ampleur des variations), la transaction s’effectue entre les deux partenaires, acteurs du rapport; et d’autre part l’échange dans lequel l’homme qui aura accès à la femme de façon durable ou pour des actes sexuels singuliers fournit un don ou un paiement à qui détient des droits sur la personne de la femme.

Paola TABET, La grande arnaque : Sexualité des femmes et échange économico-sexuel. L’Harmattan, 2004, p. 69-71