Sex work is so unique, finding valid comparisons can be difficult. One that I think stands to some extent is modelling, people’s bodies (mainly women’s) are judged and sold. There are different forms of modelling, some of which are fairly innocuous some of which are deeply damaging. Whether models find modelling objectionable is not necessarily the issue, the bigger problem is the impact on society.
I have no doubt that many Page 3 models who make a relatively decent wage from semi-naked photos don’t consider themselves to be exploited, not least because it isn’t in their immediate interests to do so. Similarly with sex workers, potentially the flexible hours, good pay and self-employment might make prostitution (whatever form that takes) an attractive option.
What is really starting to irk me is that despite extensive reading, debating and research, I am continually told that my opinions are worthless because I haven’t directly consulted sex workers. Annoyingly, the only ones I know of in my neighbourhood don’t speak English and are surrounded by really scary people, which is most inconvenient. But that aside, given the sex industry is as diverse as it is all-pervasive I’m not sure how one would go about finding a representative sample anyway.
Arguments about exploitation aside, modelling is in part a reflection of a society where women’s worth is based on attractiveness and it in part helps to create it. No-one has ever suggested to me that I speak with a Page 3 model to inform my argument against objectification.
When I go into an office and am confronted by a semi-naked woman in The Sun, I’m not a colleague, I’m a subordinate. When the most prominent images of women in our society are of them naked, that has an impact, on individuals and society. I understand this through living as a woman; I haven’t run my opinion past a model to have it validated.
I cannot count the number of times my points have been countered with ‘but my friend is a sex worker and she loves it.’ Great. Good for her. That doesn’t make the idea that men think they have a right to women’s bodies any less vile. Feminism is about the collective experience of oppression, about gender and patriarchy. I am tired of having my experience, understanding and voice denied because it offends some prostitutes and their suspiciously gonad-laden advocates.