Feminist theorists are arguing whether sex markets in the form of pornography and sexual services really pose a threat on women on all contexts. Some feminist theorists believe that a sex worker give away his/her freedom and sexuality once been paid. Others argue that selling sex pose threat to sex worker’s morality. Sex commerce exists into many social practices which include pornography, prostitutions, escort services, cyber sex and phone sex. Among these practices, pornography and prostitutions are considered the main focus of many feminist theorist and philosophers. Pornography
Pornography’s birth in Europe in the nineteenth century comes along with the development of mass media. Ideally, pornographic literature and works were considered a material for a political aim or agenda (Hunt, 1996). Today, most of the pornographic publications are use for sexual enjoyment and entertainment. Many moralists from churches and various independent organizations take their stand against these pornographic publications. They believed that pornography in any form can create harmful impact on society’s moral values and decency. In the US, pornography has been regulated in different ways.
Pornography will be against the law if it is proven offensive to a person or group and if it lacks its political, scientific or artistic value. Pornography is the focus of the feminist activism, for they believed that this reflects the traditional violence against women. Many feminist activists believed that pornographic films and publications create illusions of sexual assaults, torture and violence against women. Feminists have argued whether pornography is just merely a reflection of the sexual abuse and sexual acts against women or one of the factors that tend sexual tortures and violence came into place.
In the 1980’s, feminist philosophers argued that pornographic works could increase sexual violence against women because it support or recommend the violation and degradation of women (Longino, 1983). According to Helen Longino, pornography makes women be treated as less than human. By making women a dehumanized object, pornography supports the idea of treating women without moral regard. In Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom, Longino writes, “What’s wrong with pornography, then, is its degrading and dehumanizing portrayal of women (and not its sexual content).
Pornography, by its very nature, requires that women be subordinate to men and mere instruments for the fulfillment of male fantasies” (Longino, 1983). Prostitution Prostitution is often considered the oldest profession. According to Gerda Lerner, prostitution existed as early as the ancient Mesopotamia in the form of temple prostitution. Commercial prostitution was also formed later in the period. Gerda Lerner analyzes that prostitution was brought by the social structure and organization at that time.
Commercial prostitution derived directly from the enslavement of women and the formation of classes. And as slavery became an established institution, commercial prostitutions of women still continue making slave-owners and masters more powerful. This commercial prostitution still exists today and is widely spread throughout the globe. Many feminists believed that sex work is harmful to women. According to Carole Pateman, female prostitute is different from other workers. She argues that the inferior social and political status of women is express in the work of female prostitutes.
Moreover, she believes that a woman who works as a prostitute sells her womanhood, thus, selling herself. Christine Overall similarly claims that the prostitute’s work difference from other low-paid jobs is that it is a form of labor that can not be reciprocated (Overall, 1992). Martha Nussbaum recognizes that sex workers are currently stigmatized for their profession. The stigmata that attaches to their works are not justified, thus, Nussbaum concludes that feminists should oppose the stigmatization of the sex workers rather than oppose sex work itself. Legal Status
Among the model legal approaches that found its supports from many feminist philosophers and activists is the model ordinance created by MacKinnon and Dworkin. Nussbaum offers some reservations on the ordinance: 1) the justification in distinguishing between moral wrongs that are legally actionable and those that are not; and 2) violence against women has a variety of causes and it is difficult to isolate the distinct contribution of pornography. Nussbaum also work against the appeal to the First Amendment for the protection of pornographic speech. Feminists have different opinions on the legal status of prostitution.
Some feminists support anti-trafficking laws. Nevertheless, many feminists still believe and worry that these laws can not be applied fairly to women that may lead to persecution of women for sexual promiscuity. In the past decades, many feminists throughout the world have developed and formed many labor, civil rights and health institutions that helps sex workers protect their rights and privileges. List of References Anderson, S. (2006) “Prostitution and Sexual Autonomy: Making Sense of Prohibition and Prostitution”, in Prostitution and Pornography: Philosophical Debate about the Sex Industry.
Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bromberg, Sarah. (1997) Feminist Issues in Prostitutions [online] available from <http://www. feministissues. com/index. html> [8 may 2009] Butler, J. (2000) “The Force of Fantasy: Feminism, Mapplethorpe, and Discursive Excess”, in Feminism and Pornography, D. Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dworkin, A. (1999) Pornography: Men Possessing Women, New York: Perigee Books. Garry, A. (1979) “Pornography and Respect for Women”, in Philosophy and Women. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Hunt, L. (1993) The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800, New York: Zone Books. Lerner, G. , (1986) The Creation of Patriarchy. New York: Oxford University Press. Longino, H. (1980) “Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look”, in Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography. New York: William Morrow and Company. Overall, C. (1992) “What’s Wrong with Prostitution? : Evaluating Sex Work”, Signs. Sullivan, Barbara (2003) Feminist Approaches to the Sex Industry. University of Queensland
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Topic: Feminist Perspectives to Sex-workers
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