Decriminalize Prostitution Now Coalition
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FEMINIST MORALISM, PORNOGRAPHY, AND CENSORSHIP

Brief Highlights related to prostution from a long article at http://members.aa.net/~nw-fact/femmoralism.html
by Barbara Dority Exec Director of the Washington Coalition Against Censorship and co-founder of the Northwest Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce
(This is the text of a talk given at several universities and colleges.
We need to free sex from state control through the decriminalization of prostitution and sodomy, instead of creating laws that assume women are victims of sex and that sex is evil. Such protectionist legislation fits right into the agenda of conservatives to clean up society by eliminating amoral sexuality and the immoral sex industries, and by putting women back into their traditional roles.

Which brings us to the subject of women in the sex industry.

We are told by feminists that no 'normal' woman rationally chooses or consensually participates in the sex industry, being at best naive or brainwashed. How moralistic and insulting can you get? I often suggest that such people make an effort to find out how these women feel about their judgmental condescension and their 'we know what's best for you' attitude. I suggest they talk to them, and listen to what they say. If this activity is beneath them, I suggest they read any number of their works to be found at the library.

We are pleased to have women in the sex industry as members of the Northwest Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce. Several are topless dancers. Again, as they have for some years now, the local NOW chapter is urging the Seattle City Council to adopt a resolution recognizing pornography, specifically including prostitution and topless dancing, as harmful to women and a violation of their civil rights. Our members have written several letters to the editor, pointing out that their so-called sisters in NOW are proposing that they and their work be criminalized, and promoting their further ostracism. 'Aren't we your sisters, too?,' they ask. 'Don't we have just as much right to decide to use and display our bodies to make a living as we have to decide not to use our bodies to gestate a fetus?' Perhaps, they suggest, the National Organization for Women should change their name to the National Organization for Holier-Than-Thou Women.

It is argued that women who work in the adult entertainment industry are often abused. Yes, this is too often true. We should be working to see that those who perpetrate this abuse are arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. These women receive less protection and are sometimes abused specifically because the larger community has stigmatized them, condemning them as 'bad women,' including their feminist 'sisters.' We should be working for the rights and safety of these women and promoting respect for them and their work, not further jeopardizing them by heaping scorn on their work and attempting to criminalize it.

As for women who enjoy pornography -- feminists have pronounced them 'brainwashed by patriarchy.' This Victorian imagery -- pure, morally superior women controlling the vile, lustful impulses of men and being unable to think independently for themselves -- is a sexist stereotype we should be working against, not one we should be promoting. In this analysis, as many 'feminist theorists' bluntly tell us, women can never freely choose to have sex with men. In this analysis, women can never choose to use 'male-identified' imagery in their sexual fantasies and practices and certainly can't ever freely choose to earn their living by inviting the rapacious male gaze or providing sexual services to men.

Authors Margaret Valentine and Mavis Johnson assert this latter point in their introduction to Prostitutes -- Our Life: "[prostitution laws] keep all women under control. At any time, any woman can be called a whore and treated like one.

In a culture in which whores are so maligned, it is particularly dangerous for all women: women in the trade have no legal recourse for wrongs inflicted upon them; they are subjected to the labeled "common prostitute" and their records are kept on police file, making them unemployable in the straight world thereafter; they are forced into silence and immobility; and worst, violence against and murder of prostitute women is not only ever present -- it's encouraged. The strength of the anti-prostitution movement stems from it's pervasive classism and moralistic hypocrisy.

"The countries with the most restrictive legal systems... have the most problems with violence against prostitutes (and women perceived to be like prostitutes)." (Alexander 195-196) The dividing line between 'good' and 'bad' women results in "justice" being handed down in a revoltingly biased manner.

As long as prostitution is kept illegal, and women are persecuted for acts which harm no-one, prostitute women will be subject to brutality at the hands of misogynists and moralists -- they are, arguably, the same group. And when prostitutes are treated as second class citizens, and in extreme cases, as less than human, then all women who dare to step out of their social constructs will be labeled as whores and treated accordingly. For these reasons, the rights of all women are contingent upon the rights accorded to the most vulnerable women.

Dr. Jocelyn Elders

Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 Internatinal Prostitution Conference highlights Keynote speaker was Dr. Jocelyn Elders. Elders was surgeon general until Pres. Clinton fired her for supporting masturbation. Elders called for prostitution to be decriminalized. The session also included awards given to sex workers from other countries(including testimony by a sex worker from Nicaragua about harassment by Customs at Miami Airport), and to COYOTE founder Margo St. James and conference organizers Norma Jean Almadovar (author of Cop to Call Girl) and Prof. Vern Bullough of CSU Northridge.

Dr. Elders has also said: "We say that [hookers] are selling their bodies, but how is that different from athletes? They're selling their bodies. Models? They're selling their bodies. Actors? They're selling their bodies."

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