One argument by the pornstitution crowd is that sex trafficking is not consensual, while prostitution or pornography are. Here is one definition proposed by the “sex worker” lobby: “a person who consensually exchanges their own sexual labor or sexual performance for compensation.”
This, however, completely obscures one important issue: does a monetary exchange generate consent? As it so happens, the main proponents of “sex work” have already answered that question. By and large, they believe that the fact that someone gets paid to do something does not generate consent, and can often be explained by a lack of opportunities or a lack of education. They reject the premises of free market capitalism, including the sacrosanct authority of property owners over their employees.
In fact, they believe that monetary exchange does not, in and of itself, generate consent in any area of life except for “sex work.” In that area, they say that (monetary) “compensation” generates consent. Why? Because sexual activity, according to their sex-positive doctrine, cannot be questioned, prostitution and pornography are forms of sexual activity (according to them, anyway), therefore prostitution and pornography cannot be questioned. To cast doubt on the validity of the concept of “sexual labor” is heresy.
This is obviously, and deeply, illogical. If monetary exchanges cannot generate consent, then they cannot do so in the specific case of “sexual labor.” If they do, then either the principle is wrong, or the liberal is simply in error in the case of “sexual labor.” Either “sexual labor” is labor, in which case it is the result of social conditions which must be changed, or it is not labor, in which case the label is simply mistaken.
But let us imagine a different world. You go to McDonalds to buy a burger (I have no idea why you would do such a thing, but let’s go with it). The employees are all dressed like cows, with prominent teats. While the kitchen makes your burger, the cashier gives you a blowjob, or gives you a whip so you can whip them while it’s happening, or plays with their teats, whatever. No, these are not ideas for a future Joking and Degrading entry. It’s a way to make capitalism palatable to sex-positive liberals. If every transaction in a capitalist society includes “sexual labor,” then wouldn’t that make capitalism completely acceptable to them? We could call this liberal sexitalism. Imagine the fun, the exploitation of women codified in every single aspect of society. So it’s like today, except much worse!
Perhaps they would object that the McDonalds murder burgers would still necessitate the exploitation of other species, but what does that matter when they already endorse the exploitation of human women? Anyone who seriously supports pornography and prostitution doesn’t give a shit that marginalized women are getting sexually assaulted, raped, disappeared, and killed. So why should they be worried about a few tens of millions of cows? Or are cows that much more important than actual human women that we should care only about the former? I am as much against factory farming as the next leftist, but the correct reason to be against factory farming is not “because cows are more important than women.”
Why would anyone ever argue that monetary exchange magically generates consent in the case of sex? This makes even less sense in the light of the liberal argument that “sex work” is just like any other kind of work. If it’s like any other kind of work, and monetary exchange does not entail consent in any other kind of work, then how can it do so with “sex work”?
As it happens, I do think that pornography and prostitution are different from most types of work. I also think that neither are consensual under capitalism, so the difference has no relevance to the topic at hand anyway. But if there is one way in which they are different, it’s in that women in pornography and prostitution are at high risk of sexual abuse, rape, and PTSD… in short, they’re worse off than most workers, not better off. So, in my view, the liberals have it exactly backwards. They blame “sex workers” for their choices and for the abuses that result. I think that’s abhorrent.
We are also told that we (radicals) are against women in pornography or prostitution. The sole fact that I have yet to meet any radical feminist (or any radical, for that matter) who is against women in pornography or prostitution leads me to believe that this is absolute bullshit. This is pure projection, coming as it does from a group of people who blame women for the “choices” they make. The radical view is the systemic one, and blaming individuals is not the radical thing to do. It is, however, the neo-liberalist thing to do.