We are glad ‘the feminist anti prostitution argument’ will be discussed here today. The workshop looks good and we hope it will be productive.

As anti-prostitution feminist activists we may be ‘on the other side’ but there are things we share: we want everyone, sexworker or not, to be safe, to have autonomy in their lives and control over their sexuality.

But. As you celebrate sexwork this weekend, bear in mind the bigger picture. This event may be ‘alternative’ with a more politicised, and LGBTQ sensibility, but consider the following points about the sex industry within the larger society we live in.

  • We all live under patriarchy (or, as bell hooks puts it, white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy), and in the context of an Earth where men, as men, own and control most of the money, land, food and resources, men buying sexual access to woman is not a neutral process.
  • The demand to buy sex, globally, is overwhelmingly male (C4 docs about rich ladies buying Gambian men notwithstanding). It’s about men buying women and children.
  • The rise of internet porn, and the mainstreaming of the sex industry, is pushing an agenda of disinhibited, unrestrained, male entitlement.
  • It is changing sexual and social relations, especially amongst teens.
  • Not for the better.
  • As social/sexual inhibitions are lost, so are economic ones, accelerating the pace of commodification, pushing the agenda that everything has a market value, and we are all expected to accept this uncritically.
  • We’re accused, as radical feminists, of being anti-sex, but the opposite is true. The idea that sex is essentially labour is profoundly anti-sex. We are pro-female sexuality, and think that a liberated, fully expressed female sexuality is incompatible with just servicing men—which is, out there on the streets, what sexwork consists of.
  • The everyday reality for most women workers is not the same as it is for politicised LGBTQ sex workers. Contrary to the claim made by organisers in the Guardian on the 3rd April, we do not believe that only a minority of people want to leave the sex industry (just as exact figures on trafficking are notoriously difficult to prove, this statement is unverifiable). If you don’t believe us, just hang around any of the dozens of lap dance clubs and sex establishments around here and talk to the workers as they come off shift, and a different picture will emerge.
  • As radical feminists we want always to keep consciousness of coercion and trafficking to the fore: London is a major hub of agricultural, construction, domestic, sex and textile work trafficking, with latest research showing the links between these industries (both in terms of interlinked gangs and workers between the industries. As relatively privileged people we don’t see this underclass. But our lives are subsidised, serviced, eased by their labour.
  • Industrial sex happens in a context of a sexually abusive society in which, for many women and children and men, being sexually acted upon has been oppressive not transgressive.
  • The expansion of the mainstream sex industry (more porn, more sexwork ads in job centres, more ‘adult entertainment’ venues) is basically counter to the equality between women and men we fight for.
  • For these reason, we question the value of recruiting into this industry.