Ren on Feministe: Sex Work is Not a Monolith and Is Not "Selling Yourself"

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Ren has two more posts up as part of her guestblogging stint at Feministe . They both address issues that seem like they should be stunningly obvious to anyone with progressive politics and who sees sex workers as human beings, but they turn out to be hornet's nests of controversy:

The Problem With Creating a Monolith:

If I’ve said it once, I’ve probably said it 123,675.2 times:  The Sex Industry is not a monolith.  People will often argue this point with me endlessly, but that does not actually make it a monolith, and when one is looking at the topic from a harm reduction based realm of activism, making it a monolith is actually very counter productive for one very simple reason:  If the assumption is the industry is a monolith, and the problems therein are also monolithic, well, you’re not really going to be able to help much of anyone, because needs and concerns vary wildly.

A surprising number of people seem to resist the very basic idea that Ren's proposing here, and that points to a big reason that discussions about sex work and feminism often feel like they've gotten stalled somewhere back in 1982. But her second piece has kicked up even more dust, with people defending the definition of "to sell" something, and whether or not a sex worker "sells him/herself" or "sells his/her body."

The terms, when speaking of sex workers, “selling their bodies”/ “selling themselves” need to die in a fire.  Rather than write about it yet again, I am just going to hack a few bits from previous posts over from that dive I call a blog so perhaps some perspective can be gained and I won’t have to see those terms in any more comment threads!  Hey, a gal can dream, right?...

When something is bought or sold, it implies direct ownership. You buy a car, you own it. You buy a pair of shoes, you own them. Yes, in some unfortunate cases, some sex workers are owned, literally, but by in large, that is not truly the case. What ever other reasons, conditions or motivations rest behind a woman or mans involvement in sex work, be it stripping or erotic massage or porn or nude modeling or prostitution, they are not owned. They are not bought. They are not selling themselves. They are providing a service, which does not result in ownership. I also think often, whether intentional or not, when people use such terminology “you are selling yourself”, there is a level of shock tactics involved. Such terms imply slavery…that the sex worker, regardless of his or her conditions, level of autonomy, or choices is, merely via the terminology, property.
Speak up at Feministe. Ren is saying important things, and I think that feminism is literally doomed to irrelevance if it can't incoroporate these very basic truths. Share/Save