Feminist theory and prostitution

Editor’s Note: The author, Andrea Clark, is a student in the spring 2011 Women’s Studies Program Feminist Theory course at The University of Akron.

I decided to write about feminist issues in prostitution. This seems like an interesting issue that people may not necessarily think about when thinking about feminism. However, there are many forms of feminism and each one has at least a slightly different view on the issue.

I will start by quickly breaking down what each ones thoughts are on prostitution. Radical feminist believe that it is completely degrading. They also believe that it “Furthers the power politics of the male gender,” (Bromberg, 1997). They are making a moral statement. Women should not be willing or even consider selling their bodies to men for money.

Prostitution as an economic transaction

Liberal feminists, on the other hand, view prostitution as a “private business transaction.” Women should be allowed to make up their own minds and have the power to make choices. Women have fought for their personal freedoms, and not allowing them to act out freely constricts this. It was said that, “Liberal feminists believe that personal “rights” should predominate over concerns for the social good” (Bromberg, 1997).

Marxist feminists are more in-depth about their views on prostitution. They oppose any action that encourages enslavement and oppression of any workers. They go on to say that, “Prostitutes may feel that they are free, but looking at the larger economic picture in Marxist terms, they are in reality oppressed workers reinforcing and perpetrating an exploitative capitalistic scheme” (Bromberg, 1997).

Prostitution as oppression

Socialist feminist thoughts are related to Marxists thoughts on prostitution. However, they do not think that the economic factor is the main source of oppression. Socialist feminist “sees the oppression as having psychological and social roots,” (Bromberg, 1997). They feel like a broken down society is to blame to driving people into prostitution. We recognize class distinction and degrade and objectify certain classes. (Bromberg, 1997).

There seem to be a variety of different reasons people become prostitutes. I have read that, “Prostitution, a metaphor for American penetration and exploitation of the Third World, is an inevitable consequence of the clash of interests, wealth and cultures,” (Todd, 2008). Prostitution is at higher rates in bigger entertainment areas as well.

Unfortunately, prostitution will never go away. It is on the same line as drug use and even abortion. Whether it is legal or not, people will still participate in it for their own reasons.

Prostitution and the personal

That is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it does not matter how much a person knows on the subject at hand; it comes down to them and what they want. No one can make a person change, only suggest change if needed.

These different forms of feminism all make valid points, I believe. Who is really to say what is right or wrong for someone to do with their own body? I see how it can be so degrading and wonder how a woman could literally pull herself together and go through with having sex with someone with no emotions, thoughts, or feelings, just for the money. It is against the law for a reason.

However, I can see where women would want a say in their own personal and sexual life.



2 Responses

  1. Er, how, exactly, do the views of feminists on prostitution differ from the views of non-feminists on prostitution? (Or don’t they?)

  2. In the United Kingdom prostitution is not illegal but many of the activities associated with it, for example street soliciting are criminal offences. It is not illegal to pay for sex with a person aged 18-years-old or over, however it is an offence to purchase sexual services from a prostitute who has been “coerced” irrespective of whether the purchaser was aware of the coercion. I don’t believe that the state ought to intervene with what consenting adults do in private whether payment is entailed or not. The mark of a liberal society is, surely leaving people free to pursue their own ends provided that, in so doing they don’t harm others. Resources should be focused on tackling forced prostitution not on hounding consenting adults.

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