Prostitution And Pornography: Important Questions

Some say that it is a woman’s choice to work in the sex industry. They say that it is her choice to become a prostitute and that it is her choice to do porn videos. Today, I will be asking important questions and making a few points to challenge such claims:

1. If a woman chooses to work in the sex industry, then I must ask: Did we go from a sexist world, where it is the duty of EVERY woman to satisfy a man’s desires, to a world where it is the duty (as it is a job) of SOME women to please and satisfy a man’s desires? In terms of “duty” and from a woman towards a man: Is there a duty that a woman has towards a man that is not outside of sexism given the history of oppression that women have faced? How can sexism be outside of the context of “choice” when it comes to women, given the fact that it has asserted it as her duty to please him, while still claiming that prostitution and porn is within the context of her choice?

2. If a woman “chooses” to be a sex-worker, does she have the right to choose which man she may serve? Or is the man usually the one who chooses which sex worker he wants to engage with? And since it is the man who is the one who mostly chooses which sex worker he wants to engage with, where is the woman practising her right to make a choice? And if one was to say that “she is choosing to work in that profession regardless of the clients”, then I must inform you: Usually when it comes to women having sexual relations with men, the idea of choice pertains not only to whether a woman wants to have sex with anyone at all if any, but the idea of choice pertains to the individual she chooses. Now, every where in our world today women are made to adhere to a certain criteria in how they must look and how much they must weight and how they should behave. This has lead to many mental and physical health issues for women which include self-cutting and anorexia and low-self-esteem. When it comes to sex workers, the criteria is more directly practiced since it is the choice of the man to decide which woman he wants to engage with for sex. And most of the time the woman who matches the societal criteria expected from women, is the one who is chosen by men the most to get paid for sexual services. Yet, there becomes another criteria that sex workers must meet in the sex industry: Men want to say that this criteria is ” a woman’s choice” to work as a sex worker. Is the criteria that a woman must match in this world something that is an inflection of men except for the woman’s “choice” to sleep with a man for money? Or is that societal criteria aimed at making women feel more at ease with choosing such career paths as it is a criteria that has the goal of making them more sexy and more sex applicable/appropriate?

3. When it comes to sex workers, today we are using the word, “choice” in order to portray an idea of a woman who is in charge of who she sleeps with despite the fact that it is the men who choose the sex worker they want to engage with. And today, we are using the word “choice” in order to speak about a woman having a say so in every aspect of her sex life although what we are speaking about when we say “choice” is her decision to work within the industry in general outside of the empowerment that the word “choice” is pertaining to. And since what we are speaking about when we say “choice” is her decision to work within the industry, then can’t we say that most women have made that same choice by simply choosing not to carry on a celibate life? Meaning: the sex worker has merely said, “I want to have sex” just like many of the women have done in the world today. In stating that “I want to have sex”, she has not made any extra choices past that which any non-celibate-sexually-active woman has done. Where is the empowerment in the choice that the sex-worker has made? Is it in the money that she is getting paid? And if so, I must ask: Is money used as a tool to make women choose sex-work over other occupations—and since money is being used, is it not true that a sex worker’s choice to have sex is more diluted than any other women’s choice to have sex despite the fact that society is trying to paint a totally opposite picture of what is really going on? This is  is proven by the fact that other women can say, “I, due to me, made that choice”–her choice is made in accordance to her;  and the sex worker must say, “I, due to me and due to me needing money, made that choice”—her choice is partly due to herself and partly due to money.


4. What makes a prostitute different than a porn star is that a prostitute has direct sexual interactions with all the men she is engaged with while the porn star is having sex with some men as the rest of the men are participating indirectly with the woman through the captured video. Many men say that porn is not the same as prostitution. Yet, what becomes clear is that what makes them different is not in regards to the importance of the woman but it is in regards to the importance of the men and the level of interaction they are allowed with the woman: Hence, the man may look at a prostitute and think, “I will sleep with her” and he may look at a porn star and think, “I cannot sleep with her… I can only watch” where the man will conclude, “For me, these two are not the same”. Yet, when we look at the situation from the perspective of both of these women, we can see that both women have to sleep with all the men they are engaged with where the porn star has an extra audience. Hence, for these woman: the difference between doing porn and being a prostitute is nothing more than a video camera. And for the men, the difference between watching porn and being with a prostitute is something more significant: whether he gets to sleep with her or whether he gets to only watch her. Does this not show us that what is being regarded as important in regards to these women is not in accordance to these women and their choices and what they must/have to do; but what is regarded as significant is in relation to men and how important the difference between these two women are for MEN? “FOR MEN”: how we see these women and how we value these women is not truly in relation to what it is they are actually doing but it is in regards to the men and how many of them get to be directly involved in relation to the overall number of men benefiting from that situation. For a prostitute, if she is directly involved with 10 men, then 10 men have benefited. And for a porn star, if she is directly involved with 10 men, then maybe 40,000 men have benefited. Yet, both have slept with 10 men nevertheless if we were to look at the situation from their perspective. The question becomes: what is the validity of your opinion, dear men, in relation to how we view these women? AND What is the validity of your opinion, dear men, in relation to how we classify these women? In addition, what does the difference in how we view these women—since it is in regards to the benefits that you have reaped/want to reap and not in regards to the truth of what these women must do—say about the power of her choice in relation to the power of your choice?

5. Since some claim that a woman chooses to work as a prostitute, then I must ask her: “which man do you want to sleep with for money?” and since the answer is: “most men who are willing to pay”; then I need to ask: If a sex worker is to sleep with most men who approach her, then what is the importance of consent in relation to that dynamic since most women do not consent—as they do not choose— to sleep with most of the men who approach them. And since this consent is not in regards to the men who are approaching her per-se, then is she not consenting based on money and not based on the individual? Hence, is the prostitute choosing to sleep with a man and then she is getting paid? Or is the prostitute choosing to get paid and then she is sleeping with a man accordingly?  Is it not true that the sex worker is not necessarily choosing to work in the sex industry but that she is consenting to getting paid where money becomes the thing that she is basing her sexual consent on? Meaning: a sex worker is not consenting to having sex and then by-the-way she is getting paid. No. A sex worker is consenting to getting paid where having sex is based not on her individual preference but on who is able to pay—in that her consent is based mainly on money and not on a personal choice to have sex. Is this not against the idea of consent and does it not contradict the reasons why we value it?

6. There is a woman who is currently engaging in a sexual activity with a man…they decided to film it on a video camera. After they were done, she decided to publish it as a “porn video”. You see, that woman had sex…she gave her consent to having sex…and THEN she happened to film it. Now, a porn star is a woman who has the job of being filmed during sex and she will give her consent accordingly to that job. The first woman: she chose to have sex without intending to make a porn video of it… when she filmed it, she decided to turn it into a porn video. The second woman: She had the intent of being filmed while having sex…and then a group of people looked for a person to have sex with her in order to create that video. It appears to me that the first woman chose to have sex while the second woman was imposed into having sex by the fact that she wanted to film an adult video. The choice of the first woman was made in regards to sex while the choice of the second woman was made in regards to making a film, correct?

7. Warning: Explicit Language…. A man may say that a woman feels empowered by her choice to work in the sex industry. If a man was to say, “women should make a living sucking it!” then he would sound very sexist, don’t you think? And if a woman was to say, “I think that it is my job to suck it” then she would sound very oppressed, don’t you think? I mean, how much more can you tell someone to go kick rocks than to tell her to “go suck it for all I care”?!

8. When men say that a woman chooses to work in the sex industry, I hope that they are not insinuating that a woman has every single other job/career pathway to choose from as alternative options where the other choices are within reach. For I myself do not have all the options available in the world to choose from and neither do you, probably. So if a woman looks around at all the other jobs and careers in the world and she concludes, “I would rather be a prostitute/porn star”, which other options are within her reach to choose from? And how easy is it for a woman to work in the sex industry in relation to her fulfilling what it takes to work somewhere else? In addition, isn’t the sex industry one of the most inviting industries for women as they welcome new women and the ones returning back to the industry long after they have left? Why isn’t the rest of the world so open and welcoming and what is the influence of that on the choices that a woman makes?

9. If a woman was to say, “I think that having the job of pleasing a man sexually is great”. And if a man was to say, “I think that women should have the job of pleasing a man sexually”; are they not both speaking about two different things where the woman is speaking about working in the sex industry while the man is speaking about a sexist ideology against the woman that stretches past sex work but is most directly served through sex work?

10. I understand the ambiguous area that is hard to explain when it comes to trying to prove that the sex industry violates a woman since people in other career paths use their bodies and their skills and their personalities in the jobs they have. For one can point to a massage therapist and explain the correctness in one person using his/her body to bring comfort to another person’s body. And one can point to a motivational speaker to explain the correctness in one person using his/her mouth and tongue as a legitimate job to help others. So when I look at prostitutes and porn stars, I am put in a state of anger as I am unable to pin point the difference between them and the rest of the jobs out there. Yet, I will try to describe this difference in the best way I can: When it comes to sex workers, what the woman is using is not necessarily requiring her to use her body in order to carry a task; but what the woman is using is requiring her to make an organ and its function/past its function* available for a man to use in order that she helps him carry the task of sexual satisfaction. And what is more is that the woman is not necessarily required to have any skills that she must use in order to do the job correctly but what the woman is required to have is her will—as a form of skill—to do the job. Is it okay to consider the will of the woman as a skill she has? And is it okay to consider the availability of her sex body organs as a way that a woman uses her body for a job?
*–whether it is within its function or past is function is up for another article to be discussed

11. Again, the difficulty in trying to distinguish the difference between sex work and any other job out there is quiet frustrating. And it is due to this difficulty that men have been able to assert a position that sex work is a legitimate job that women may do–thereby silencing many feminists and many women who may confront them with otherwise. And it is due to this difficulty that women have felt invalidated in their feelings where some women may not have been able to find a way to establish a difference in order to validate it for themselves that they have been mistreated. Women are mistreated in the sex industry as much as women have been mistreated throughout human history… for men to assert a position of “if you cannot prove it, we can and we will do it and get away with it” puts me in a position where I must twist and turn my own mind to try to find and to prove a point that I should have never tried to look for to begin with. Let us add this to the fact that if women were to disagree in opinion, men take the opportunity to assert the woman whose opinion better suits them as valid while asserting the other opinion as being dismiss-able. On the other hand, however, it is due to the disagreement between men and their opinions that we have a world full of different cultures and different ways of life where men and women must live in respect towards all of them. Doesn’t the fact that sex work has been flagged, as it stands out, for being a job that most people must think twice about in regards to whether they should view it as a legitimate job or not, prove that there is a general consensus that a disagreement against sex work is more valid than an agreement for it? For I can ask, “do you think that being a doctor is a valid job?” and one would say, “yes”. But if I was to ask, “do you think that sex work is a valid job?” one must think of the oppression and the sexism and the issues that women are facing and have faced where the woman is no longer the one who is offering her help but she is more of the person who is in need of help. First: Doesn’t the discussion in and of itself prove that the women, who assert that the sex industry is degrading towards women, are correct specially in relation to living in a world where it is okay to dismiss the feelings that women have and the will they want to carry? And Second: due to sexism, is it not right to say that the opinion that suits men the least is probably the more correct one in terms of women’s rights specially when it is difficult to prove which woman has the more correct opinion? And third: why is it that when women disagree, men resolve the disagreement—not by helping us find a proof of who is right since it is in the wrong they have done that we have those issues—but they precede by abusing the disagreement and siding with the opinion that better suits them while making women carry the burden of having “chosen to see it this way instead of that way” for the long haul?

12. Again, and once more: It is quiet difficult and frustrating to try to find how sex work is not the same as any other job out there. And it is quiet difficult and frustrating to try to find a point that I can express other than through my own feelings that can be summerized as, “Sex work is not a legitimate job but it is abusive and degrading of women”. Yet, I have been walking around for a while thinking about the difference between those two and as I was walking in the Home Depot and I saw a sign pointing to their “rental center”, I asked myself as I am asking you right now: Isn’t a sex worker similar to an equipment that one is able to rent and return back to its owner once the renter is done with it? And what is the difference between an equipment one needs but does not have and he must rent and the woman he must pay for to have sex with–what is the difference other than the obvious difference that one of these two is alive for her own self?

This is the first part of my questions in regards to Porn and Prostitution.

About the Author
Liliyan Hassan

Liliyan Hassan

Founder: Go for Women

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