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Obviously I don’t like pornstitutionists (a term for people who oppose abolitionism in prostitution and pornography), so I don’t have a high esteem of their reasoning faculties to begin with. But the more I read their articles and entries, the more I realize that most of what pornstitutionists write are just plain lies and misrepresentations. These are not honest people.
A good example of this is Sex, Lies, and Abolitionists, by Matthias Lehmann, a German researcher who traveled to Korea to “advocate for [prostituted women's] rights.” The angle given to the abolitionist position is all lies, but I think many people who aren’t versed in the debate would read his entry and come out of it with a sense of rage against the evil abolitionists who hate prostitutes. Because that is exactly what Lehmann wants you to imagine. Let me begin:
Rather than replying in the comment section only, I chose to respond more publicly in this post, to highlight the defamation that proponents of sex workers’ rights frequently have to endure.
Yes, of course. It’s much more important to address the defamation that privileged male advocates of pornstitution endure than the defamation inflicted on ex-prostituted women or on prostituted women. This is not really an argument, but I thought it was a nice place-setter for the nonsense that follows. Once again, it’s always about men and the supposed male sexual needs that they defend.
Since the author mentions her view about which groups dominate the prostitution discourse, how about we take a look at the spectrum of prostitution abolitionists? In my view, those are predominantly radical feminists or members of faith-based organisations.
From this point, he refers to both groups as “they.” Lehmann here is leaning on the common lie that radfems and fundamentalists are ideologically allied in the fight for abolition, when in fact both groups are completely opposite in values and aims. He wants you to associate radfems, who are against all exploitation of women and against gender, with fundamentalists, who support the exploitation of women’s sexuality in a traditional gender-based hierarchy.
They are the ones who ignore the realities of sex workers, since their opinions often rest on their own concepts of morality and disproven research.
When I asked Lehmann to provide me evidence that disproves the study I presented, all I got was papers that propagate more lies about abolitionism and personal attacks against one of the authors (Melissa Farley, who they particularly object to). He’s got nothing to disprove at least some of the research presented.
The term „prostituted“ supports the notion that sex workers lack agency and aren’t able to make informed decisions.
As I’ve argued before, there is no such thing as “choice” and no such thing as “agency” because there is no such thing as contracausal free will, so on that basis I reject this argument. No one makes “informed decisions” because human beings are entirely moved by non-intelligent, non-informed deterministic causes. What this has to do with the term “prostituted,” I have no idea; there is nothing in the definition of prostitution that implies some kind of human capacity that exists beyond the realm of causality. Being prostituted is no more or less a sign of (non-existing) “agency” than not being prostituted.
I defy any pornstitutionist who objects to my reasoning to demonstrate to me the existence of “agency” by pointing to an entirely uncaused, self-generated “choice.” There ain’t no such animal.
“to be prostituted” is a passive term that supports the notion that one cannot actively choose to work as sex worker. Is a construction worker “constructed” then?
I don’t know why Lehmann thinks he’s made some kind of witty point with this. Of course the concept of “construction worker” is just as socially constructed as any other form of work. Why would he think otherwise? Anyhow, people no more choose to be a construction worker or a prostitute than people choose anything.
I suppose the pornstitutionists might accuse me of missing the point here, that this is not really about agency but about labeling prostituted women as if they are children or otherwise incapable. I don’t see how the term “prostituted” or “to be prostituted” treats people as children. Rather, it is a rational acknowledgement of the lack of options and lack of privileges of the vast majority of prostituted women, something which also exists in actual jobs, mainly jobs which do not offer good working conditions and fulfilling work.
I, on the other hand, am tired that forced prostitution and pornography are conflated time and again, and that those who oppose the criminalisation of sex work are branded as proponents of sexual exploitation.
There are a lot of lies packed in that one little sentence. First, the most egregious: radfem abolitionists are against the criminalization of prostitution, only of pimps and johns. Prostitution is not the crime, the demand for prostitution is the crime. Because Lehmann has already associated abolitionists with fundamentalist Christians, the reader will easily believe this new lie.
It also doesn’t speak well of Lehmann’s researching abilities that he can’t figure out the connection between prostitution and pornography, especially since half of prostitutes report having been used for the purposes of producing pornography. Both prostitution and pornography are about exploiting women’s bodies for profit, and this is made possible by gender roles. It’s really not rocket science. We call pornstitutionists “proponents of sexual exploitation” because they are… advocates of institutions which aim to exploit women’s sexuality. The fact that he balks at this is more a reflection of his own inner contradictions than of some error of evaluation on our part.
Rather, prostitution abolitionists frequently dominate the discourse and silence any dissenters.
A not too subtle attempt to bolster his side with a victimhood complex, trying to portray himself as a good guy. Again, this is not an argument, but a distraction; as a researcher well versed in the terms of the debate, he knows very well this is a lie; but because he’s already conflated abolitionism with fundamentalist intolerance, he makes the lie seem believable.
If you don’t agree with them, prostitution abolitionists will denounce you as pimp, punter, torturer or – here – will-less parrot.
Actually, this is a bizarre example of misrepresenting a quote that he gives right there in his entry. How can he misread someone this badly? What he quoted was:
Much of the poison-speech by the Left is the language of pimps and punters – men who are not pimps and punters parrots their words without questioning.
So clearly the quote is not about how every pornstitutionist is a pimp or a john, but rather that people who are not pimps and johns adopt the language of pimp and punter advocacy groups to talk about pornstitution. How can Lehmann believe he can get away with lying about a quote he himself included right there in his entry?
The interests of sex workers are best represented by sex workers themselves. Those include fighting forced prostitution and violence, by the way. But for as long as prostitution abolitionists fight against sex work itself, a collaboration with sex workers is hardly in the cards. Sex work is work. Forced prostitution is forced sexual labour.
Lehmann here gets the first part right. We should fight forced prostitution and violence. This makes no sense given his (implicit, as a pornstitutionist) support for pimps and johns, but at least he’s not outright lying here. But he gets the last part wrong: prostitution is not work or labor. This is clearly an attempt to portray prostitution as “just another job” or “just another choice.” Prostitution is rape. To make the claim that abolitionists should just give up and stop fighting against rape is eye-rollingly ludicrous.
Most of the rest of the entry is about prostituted women’s unions. I don’t really see the relevance of unionizing rape (or bringing prostituted women indoors, as if that’s not already what pimps and johns do), so I will refrain from commenting further. Again, it is merely a red herring designed to reframe prostitution as a job like any other job, a “choice” like any other “choice.” We must clearly reject this reframing and put an emphasis on the conditions that make women turn to prostitution.
As for the conclusion:
Please question your views if they undermine the rights of sex workers. Failing to safeguard sex workers’ rights, will prevent fighting forced prostitution and violence in sex work effectively.
The abolitionist view does not undermine the rights of sex workers, but rather enforces those rights. It will not prevent fighting forced prostitution or violence, rather the opposite. Abolitionism is not the final solution, but it is preferable to the pornstitutionist policy of supporting the (mostly male) criminals. The real final solution is to end gender roles, and people like Lehmann, because they explicitly support the exploitation of women based on gender roles (just not “forced” exploitation), are not part of that solution. The “research” they do, no matter how well intentioned, always starts from patriarchal premises and cannot escape this circularity. They are, figuratively and literally, circle jerks.
PS: After this entry was posted, Lehmann commented on his own entry to object to… my denial of free will (no, he did not acknowledge any other part of my critique!). When I asked him for counter-evidence, he just mocked me. What a useless asshole.