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Tag Archives: Feminisms

McGrow, Lauren. ‘Doing It (Feminist Theology and Faith-Based Outreach) with Sex Workers – Beyond Christian Rescue and the Problem-Solving Approach’, Feminist Theology Vol 25/2 (2017): 150-169.

Abstract

This paper problematises the usual Christian motif of rescue of sex workers that is disseminated by most faith-based groups working in the field. By focusing upon the problem of prostitution and individual rescue as the primary solution, broader relationships of accountability are neglected and complicated sex worker identifications become impossible. New strategies for thinking about human sexuality are needed that incorporate indecency as a way of questioning traditional moral representations reproduced by Christian outreach projects. As well, three strategies are outlined that could form counter-narratives for ministry and feminist theological reflection not based upon sex work as a problem to be resolved but instead carving out creative space for mutual engagement between pastoral practitioners and sex industry workers. 

Showden, Carisa R. “Theorising Maybe: A Feminist/Queer Theory Convergence.” Feminist Theory 13, no. 1 (April 1, 2012): 3–25. doi:10.1177/1464700111429898.
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In this article, I examine the seemingly incompatible epistemologies of sex offered by dominance (‘governance’) feminism and queer theory. While these bodies of work, especially when applied to US legal and political activity on prostitution, are commonly viewed as divergent sparring partners, I propose a ‘convergence’ of the two in the form of a revived and enhanced sex-positive feminism. If dominance feminism is the ‘theory of no’ to heterosexuality’s male gender power, and if queer theory is the ‘theory of yes’ to the defiant possibilities of sex, sex-positive feminism is a ‘theory of maybe’: it examines practices of gender and sexuality in multiple contexts to find the ways in which heterosexuality can sometimes reify, and other times resist, the transfer of eroticised dominance and submission to political practices of patriarchy. After tracing the split between feminism and queer theory and arguing for a ‘sex-positive queer feminism’, I use the example of prostitution to consider some theoretical and practical implications of this shift in feminist lenses.
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Research conducted at the New York State Reformatory for Women at Bedford under the direction of founding superintendent Katharine Bement Davis produced some of the most influential data on prostitution in the Progressive Era. While Davis and Bedford have figured prominently in histories of the women’s prison reform movement, historical studies of the social response to prostitution in the Progressive Era, and feminist biographical accounts of women in early twentieth century reform crusades, the relationship between penal reform and the changing social organization of labor has been overlooked. This paper undertakes a critical reexamination of the Bedford data, demonstrating that while Davis advocated a social scientific approach to reform, she systematically displaced the significance of structural factors at two crucial levels: her studies of inmates and her own philosophy and practice of reform. Studies of inmates discounted the role of economic factors for women’s entry into prostitution in favor of explanations that emphasized familial and personal weakness. The institutionalization, training, and parole of inmates functioned not simply to place inmates in domestic service but to effectively disqualify them from other sources of respectable employment. Viewed through the lens of a social organization of labor perspective, a previously neglected dimension of the logic and practice of reform is illuminated.

Abstract

Can there be such a thing as feminist pornography? Many still say no. Echoing decades of anti-pornography feminist literature, Gail Dines told the Daily Beast in 2012 that “anyone willing to feed off women’s bodies and use them as raw materials to make a profit has no right to call themselves feminists.” But many feminists, including those who make porn, disagree. Despite decades of efforts to suppress it, porn is reaching larger audiences than ever. Making porn more politically progressive for those who consume it and making sets safer for performers are critical issues for feminist intervention—and feminist pornographers have chosen to take on both.

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What do discourses about prisons, trafficking and “prostitution” have in common? This paper analyses the ideological framework of social movements with respect to the rhetorical deployment of abolitionism. Critical to all of these movements is the concept of abolishing slavery. After tracing “the new abolitionism” of trafficking and prostitution back to the 19th Century Anglo American temperance movement, this paper will address the following: How are these social movements impacted by considerations of (social) class, religious fervor, gender, sexuality, citizenship, race, and ethnicity? Who is speaking for whom and why does it matter, politically and ethically? In what ways are today’s opponents of “prostitution” reproducing yesterday’s slogans of “white slavery”? It is argued that there are some fundamental differences between contemporary anti-prison movements and the anti-sex industry movement. Prisoners’ rights activists focus on the causes of mass incarceration and explore which demands best lead to overall decarceration; penal critics demand excarceration and a complete transformation of the penal system. Those who condemn “prostitution” rely heavily on the prosecution of “pimps” and “johns” with the goal of freeing the girls and women from “sexual slavery.” Finally, the paper will explain in detail why it is misplaced to label the movement against the sex industry as abolitionist rather than, say, prohibitionist.

Scoular, Jane, The Subject of Prostitution (June 20, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1868127 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1868127

Prostitution is often viewed in feminist theory as the sine qua non of the female condition under patriarchy. Frequently cited as ‘the absolute embodiment of patriarchal male privilege’ (Kesler, 2002: 19), the highly gendered nature of commercial sex appears to offer a graphic example of male domination, exercised through the medium of sexuality.

This construction is, however, as convincing as it is problematic. By reviewing the work of Shelia Jeffries, Judith Walkowitz, Gail Pheterson, Shannon Bell, Jo Doezema, Kamala Kempadoo and Jo Phoenix, I aim to illustrate that feminist writers, by assuming different theoretical lenses, offer diverse interpretations of the subject of prostitution – both in terms of women’s subjective positions and as a problem of a particular type. Prostitution therefore rather than having a singular meaning is more usefully viewed as an important crucible for testing the central mainstays of feminist theory. As Donna Guy notes:

Full of apparent contradictions and discrepancies, the history of modern prostitution control offers a dynamic perspective on the private lives of women as well as the public functioning of medicine, patriarchy and the nation state and emphasizes the need to understand how gender and sexuality are interrelated inextricably to race, cultural diversity and economic circumstances. (Guy, 1995: 182)

As this quotation suggests, and as I will demonstrate in the course of this article, there are limitations in viewing prostitution as straightforwardly paradigmatic, given the contingencies and diversity of the structures under which its materializes.

Full text available here.

Cyrus, Norbert. The Concept of Demand in Relation to Trafficking in Human Beings. A Review of Debates since the late 19th Century, DemandAT Working Paper No.2, 2015. 

Abstract

The 2000 UN Trafficking Protocol has obliged states to discourage demand that fosters exploitation that leads to trafficking. Fifteen years later, there is still no shared understanding of what demand means in the context of debates on trafficking in human beings (THB). The terms “trafficking” and “demand” display a lexical and referential ambiguity. This paper provides a history of the occurrence and usage of the concepts “trafficking” and “demand” in the context of debates on trafficking and explores the different meanings and understandings attached to these terms in past and present debates. The paper covers debates on trafficking in human beings since the 1860s and shows that terminological confusion was and still is a constant feature of these debates. The term abolition referred initially to the abolition of state regulation and not – as it is understood in the present-day debates – to the abolition of prostitution. The term trafficking is introduced in past and present debates with a confusing diversity of meanings, referring to the kidnapping of girls for the purpose of prostitution, fraudulent procurement of unsuspecting women for prostitution abroad, procurement of consenting women for prostitution, abetting of irregular border crossing or fraudulent abetting of irregular migration with the purpose of exploiting migrants after arrival and other issues. The term demand was introduced in past and present debates and has a diversity of meanings. It can refer to the biological drive of males, to a demand generated by a system of state regulation of prostitution, to a demand of brothel owners and pimps, or to a demand of male clients to purchase commercial sexual services. Thus, when the issue of demand is raised in debates of trafficking, the meaning attached to the term in a communication context is usually not clear; and the same speaker can often use the term demand rather metaphorically with changing meanings. The paper shows that terminological confusion is effect and cause of ongoing and unsolved controversies about the legal handling of prostitution. The paper shows how the issue of demand originally entered the UN Trafficking Protocol and how subsequent attempts failed to develop an authoritative definition. Although debates are characterised by terminological ambiguity, even the claim that a definition is a necessity is denied. Conceptual confusion hampers mutual understanding, prevents reasonable dispute and undermines the capacity to develop policy approaches which effectively provide protection from trafficking and exploitation. The paper closes with the observation that the controversy surrounding the meaning of demand in the context of anti-trafficking efforts has the effect of raising attention to deal more directly with the issue of exploitation.

Full article available here.