State Feminism and Sex Work

It’s important to understand the other side’s worldview, especially if there is a particularly vitriolic, drawn-out conflict. I thought I started out understanding the abolitionist perspective, but as more time goes by, I understand it less and less. I know for a fact that key figures and intellectuals on that side know about police violence and exploitation, know about that exacerbates the violence by clients, and are already quite vocal about dangerous working conditions for many sex workers.

But the conclusion here is that more prohibitory state intervention is necessary, not that the power that the police have (and have sometimes extended to the clients) is unacceptable. When I read articles like Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8, I’m left with nothing profound confusion about what abolition is supposed to achieve. If abolition is to be enacted by the police, is there a magical stash of good cops that we have hidden away in the back? Isn’t the war on drugs already a good barometer for how things will go?

One thought on “State Feminism and Sex Work

  1. Are all abolitionists entirely about repression through police-work? I was only abolitionist because the studies I saw about what happens with decrim/legal made me think it wasn’t really a good idea (I also have strong feelings about it morally, in terms of economic justice for women and communities). At the same time, I am also cognizant of the nature of what criminalization of prostitutes does to them, as you’ve noticed other abolitionists doing. I’ve mostly developed the position that the majority of conversations about decriminalization is pretty much bunk, in the sense that they wouldn’t overall improve the welfare of women. I.e., the problems mostly have to do with a wide range of laws (in most cases of decrim, local lawmakers rapidly introduce new laws that exploit, illegalize, or otherwise restrict women in the industry, and any benefit is dependent on protection from migrant labor or whatever sex trafficing that could happen) and social deprivations–isolation from social services as well as disrupted home life/familes. In effect, you have to decrim/legalize women to get this to work. I don’t particularly favor legal changes on the front end. What has to happen are stronger feminist moves about economics, particularly full employment and stronger anti-discrimination policies, and stronger administrative efforts to see that prostitutes have access to social and legal services. The law will take care of itself, because the laws only ever existed to reinforce societal misogyny. Prostitution, which I define as, more or less, the sale of another’s consent (whether society does it for you by asphyxiating vulnerable subcultures or otherwise) is explicitly dependent on societal racism, classism, and misogyny and I think it should be illegal, and my wish would be to warp the laws and twist it into something better. Sex work, where you’re actually providing a mutually beneficial transaction (apartment in a safe place, control over their workplace and what services are provide, specialization, training, etc as hallmarks), I think is different, and should be legal.

    Yeah, I like your twitter thread and am happy to find your blog.

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