Sex Work: A Feminist Analysis

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For practically of modern history, women have been subjected to scrutiny that privileged men have not needed to face. A prime example of this is being sorted into one of two groups, which are here referred to as either a ‘Madonna’ or a ‘whore’. There have been other terms to refer to the same split, such as ‘virgin’ or ‘whore’, as well as simply ‘good’ versus ‘bad’. The Madonna is someone who partakes in acceptable sexuality. Examples of such acts include being of appropriate age (not too old nor too young), having one longstanding monogamous partner, and only engaging in sexual acts in the privacy of one’s bedroom. The opposite of this is the whore, who is not of appropriate age, has multiple partners, and/or has participates in sexual acts …show more content…
There is a further dichotomy in regards to sex workers, which is that “...of the ‘voluntary’ versus ‘forced’ model of sex worker” (Doezema, 34). As the name suggests, this dichotomy states that women are either coerced into sex work by pimps or by economic demands, or they willingly choose to do the work. Jo Doezema argues that we need to break down this dichotomy, as the system is based on racist and classist views, such as that all white women were forced into sex work and are therefor ‘innocent’. This counters the abolitionist view that all women who are involved in sex work are victims of male dominance and violence. In some countries, prostitution is illegal, and therefore women who have been convicted claim to be coerced into the sex work as a defense means. This can also be problematic. Doezema states that by following the forced vs willing dichotomy, we are reinforcing “...the belief that women who transgress sexual norms deserve to be punished. This division is thus a threat to the entire concept of women’s human rights” (Doezema, 42). I believe that the Madonna/whore split does impact every woman in their …show more content…
Others believe that only sex work is tied to a woman’s sexuality. I personally fall somewhere in between these two opinions. Sex work officially refers to any sex/sexually related goods that are exchanged for money. Sexuality is definitely a vital asset needed in certain industries that do not expressly involve sex work, such as waitressing or modeling. Though not for all, many of these jobs are easier to succeed at if one partakes in expressing sexuality or femininity in some way. Some examples of this include wearing sexually revealing clothing, flirting, and being overall conventionally attractive. Katherine Frank says that strippers use tactical femininity that draws upon cultural fantasies of femininity to attract customers, and therefor often receive more business and more money, such as tips for waiters. In her article Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality, Gayle Rubin discusses how even the Supreme Court justifies sexuality in some contexts: “For instance, the Court ruled that neither nudity nor sexual activity per se were obscene” (Rubin, 272). In theses cases, using sexuality outside of sex work can be beneficial for the individual, however this is a fine line to walk. One potential risk is that of being declared a ‘whore’ (as opposed to the Madonna mentioned above), which could result in the termination of

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