‘My body, my choice’ and ‘my life, my decision.’ These are slogans that we have heard or even uttered ourselves for decades. But when it comes to matters such as prostitution, pornography, and other roles in the adult entertainment industry, does this attitude have far-reaching and damaging consequences?
Since the Seventies or thereabouts, we’ve seen an increasing normalisation of the sex industry, with some factions even campaigning for the complete decriminalisation or legalisation of prostitution and/or the running of brothels. These attempts have proved successful in places such as New Zealand, Bangladesh and Holland.
However, problems such as forced prostitution and abuse in countries that have taken a more liberal view of the issue have divided progressives. This problem has forced some left-wing feminists to occupy the same side of the debate as social conservatives in their absolute aversion to the sex industry, albeit for very different reasons.
The rationalisation for a liberal attitude towards the sex industry given its advocates is often that ‘it’s the oldest profession in the world for a reason,’ therefore legalisation serves to end the hypocrisy of keeping something that happens all the time and has done for ages as a criminal activity.
They maintain that through regulation, prostitution can be made safe and de-stigmatised for those who choose it as an honest way to make a living. Although, the aforementioned continuance of darker elements in the industry casts doubts on that theory.
Which brings us to the core of this article. Just because selling your body in return for money has been happening since time began, is it not simply picking the lesser of two evils by making it a legitimate enterprise? You’re just making a bad thing a little less depressing and tawdry. This is often done by repackaging prostitution as ‘sex work,’ equating it to any other job.
In a recent interview on American television, Stormy Daniels, the infamous former pornographic actress and stripper who claimed to have had an affair with US President Donald Trump, said that performing sex as a career is just like any other type of work. In her view, a mechanic uses their body to fix cars, a gym instructor uses their body to keep people fit, and a sex worker uses their body to have sexual contact with another human being.
The comparison doesn’t quite gel for me.
Most importantly, other legalised employment doesn’t have a sinister underbelly that exploits vulnerable women for whom prostitution is not a choice and indulges the worst kinds of men. This is before we acknowledge the other criminality that often goes hand in hand with the sex industry: drugs, money laundering, and violence.
Then there is the morality aspect of the discussion. Certainly for a lot of people nowadays morality is an antiquated and stifling trait, but one thing that has always struck me as strange about the whole sex-work/feminism interchange is that the women (and men to a lesser extent) who work as erotic dancers and prostitutes, are potentially facilitating infidelity which can lead to both marital and familial breakdown.
This is hardly what I would call supporting the ‘sisterhood.’ Don’t get me wrong, the lion’s share of the blame for any unfaithfulness in a relationship should always be placed firmly at the feet of the unfaithful partner, as they are the one who has made a commitment to another person. But the very idea that the sex industry of all things empowers people, improves gender relations, and has a positive effect on society overall is an utter fallacy.
We are currently living in a world that has become far too sexualised. This is having a detrimental effect not just on adults but on children as well. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a child’s innocence and prolong their adolescence with the advent of social media and the widespread availability of the internet. This gives young people unhealthy expectations about relationships and sex, and often puts pressure on young girls to be sexually compliant.
I’m all for healthy, intimate, mature relationships between consenting adults. I just believe that it shouldn’t come at a cost – either monetarily or societally. Hopefully, in time, others will too.