[Translated by Média Recherche Action and revised by friend (Thank you !)]
The documentary “Les criminelles” (“The criminals”) of Jean-Claude Lord presents a series of interviews with women connected to the sex industry, working closely or remotely as interveners involved with people deeply affected by the sphere of prostitution as well as a disabled man-john. A majority of these people are coming from a social sex network "women", having been or being, in the sex industry, supported a speech that could easily be described as pro-sex work.
Following the screening of the documentary, a feminist materialist, anarchist and abolitionist critique appeared. Far be it for me to moralize people who work in prostitution or have been in prostitution, which are expressed in this documentary, or to actively deny their words and experiences, I believe however that I can legitimately expose my criticism for the abolition of sexual exploitation for commercial purposes within this documentary as a woman and activist with other women like myself who have been involved in prostitution, among other things.
This documentary shows roughly how prostitution is simply a free choice within a larger decision making process of available trades and its major inconvenience is caused by the social stigmatization surrounding it. It goes as far to suggest it is but one way for a woman to express her womanliness. However, it should be noted that the presence of numerous testimonials of experiences relating to police and judicial repression due to the decriminalization of persons who prostitute (predominantly women or girls) in the sex industry is what is common between abolitionists and pro-sex work. However, my activism does not lie solely within “state framework”.
The director, a white, socioeconomically advantaged and heterosexual man, argues that the so-called aversion to nudity is largely to be held responsible for the prostitutionnal oppression (important to mention that a documentary section is also dedicated to his nudist friend!). All the while it is omnipresent in the commodification of women's bodies. It is clear that his analysis is flawed: "Why is it that when two consenting adults make love in exchange for money it is a crime, but when exchanging for travel or dinner it is not? What are the consequences of this social hypocrisy on violence against women and public health?"
What is remarkable about this documentary is the individualization and romanticizing of prostitution which removes the effects of sexual exploitation for commercial purposes on women-prostitutes, women as a class and overall trivializes the overlap in relations of domination and oppressive structures. This latter also defends, in my opinion, the interests of the lobby for the sex industry while recovering a portion of rather privileged women in prostitution.
Neoliberal capitalism is based on individualistic ideology advocating free choice of individuals while forcing upon us its speech about supposed individual freedoms. This Pro-sex work language fits into this ideology by individualizing the existence of material conditions for women as a class (and sub-class women-prostitutes).
Prostitution is part of the ownership continuum of the class of women by the class of men and fitting into systems of oppression such as racism, (neo) colonialism, imperialism and ageism, as well as class relations, neoliberal globalization and wage slavery by the capitalist mode of production and repression/complicity of the state. Prostitution cannot be developed as an individual choice completely removed from environmental or social relationships for personal liberation (of women). Even if some people are convinced, the effort to project prostitution in a post-revolutionary utopia does not interest me much. Neither does the discourse which aims to improve and develop the exploitation rather than abolish it.
The dispossession experience
Regarding the sexual nature of this commercial exploitation, as a woman socially marked and appropriated, it is for me, difficult to differentiate specifics between sexual prostitution, rape, normalized sexuality, self-sexuality and the various revolutionary practices known with sexuality; as prostitution based relations overlap in a series of sexual coercions dispossessing women. Prostitution is a form of coercion controlling socialized sexualized women into a mode inseparable from rape, pornography, the systems of marriage, coitus dressage, forced breeding, sexual division of space, labor and heterosexual contracts. Then we add (neo) capitalism, classism, racism, colonialism, imperialism and ageism.
I do not hold a romantic perspective on prostitution, because men-johns and pimps (even more insidiously) specifically appropriated and collectively branded women as a class of women by the mark of prostitution. The prostitution based relations, inseparable to oppressive structures cannot be considered a simple relationship between two consenting adults; neither can it as a relationship of reciprocity or mutual emancipation in the face of moral diktats.
Les criminelles” would like us to see women prostitutions as women, often white, in their thirties, without pimps and for the most part drug free, abandoning their integration in the globalized sex industry with recourse to the trafficking of women and girls. He presents women-prostitutes as independent, artists and glamorous courtesans, compassionate and, affectionate. Moreover, the woman often seen in the documentary is actually an actress (Julie Prieur) affiliated to Lord. As male-johns, they are obedient to their primary needs often dissociated from patriarchal, capitalist, colonialist, racist, imperialist, classist and state structures.
Normalisation or abolition?
With aim to improve the conditions of prostitution as a final political purpose, my sisters and I believe in reform of the operating structures. We want alternatives to prostitution, a revolution of social relations and social structures. Often, the de-stigmatization of prostitution is presented as the solution because it seems that the judgment of the individual hinders the emancipation of women in prostitution as a whole; johns also suffer the label of "the bad man." And once again the facts deny this beautiful discourse. For more than 80% of prostitutes , the average entry age is between 13 and 15 years old, while nine out of ten women prostitutes are dependent on a pimp (ATTAC, Mondialisation de la prostitution, 2008, p.15 et 77). It should also be noted that between 92 and 95% of prostitutes desire to stop prostituting (ibid, p.76). For the class of men, I ask, can we continue to accept the evoking discourse from the compelling male rapist sex drive? I would hope not. It is therefore inconsistent to fight for consent in sexual relationships while categorizing prostitution as consensual. It has become a sexual attack converted into cash.
There are those who want to withdraw from the women's movements abolitionist project under the pretext that it would be anti-feminist (this fashionable concept). We might as well accuse the abolitionists of violence against women-prostitutes. In short, what infuriates me the most is that it encourages women in prostitution, or those who have gotten out, to hate abolitionists, instead of letting them legitimately hate johns, pimps, patriarchy, capitalism, racism, colonialism, imperialism...