This post was inspired by a chat on Twitter with @wordgeeksarah and one of her old posts: http://cunninglinguaphile.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/flaw-in-feminism-parte-ye-firste.html?m=1
(@wordgeeksarah didn’t say any of the stuff below; her point was that nothing has changed in the feminism/sexwork clusterfuck. However if she hadn’t tweeted me her post, I wouldn’t have written this.)
The fact that the radfems created the No More Page 3 campaign is great. The fact that in Britain they are the most outspoken anti-porn group is brilliant. And above all, the fact that the radfems are the political movement which is most vehemenly anti-sexwork (and which hurled the most incoherent hate at Belle de Jour upon her revelation of her true identity) is wonderful.
This may seem a strange thing for a self-identified sex positive feminist to say. We’re so used to seeing their existence as an anomaly and their politics as a joke. (Both these things are true, of course. Well, the second bit is true – I don’t want to get into a comments war on the definition of “anomaly”.)
However, go back a couple of decades, and the fact that Christian conservatives don’t have a virtual monopoly on pornography and sexwork would’ve been unthinkable. In America, it is again becoming unthinkable as conservative values grip the country and threaten to turn it into a theocracy. Guys, we have an actual ex sex worker writing books, having those books turned into a TV series, and now writing a mainstream broadsheet column – and the conservatives are (mostly) silent! There’s no cry of “morality” and “wrong-ness”; instead the buzzwords are “trafficking”, “victims” and “what’s best for women”.
Which proves that conservatism is largely defunct. If you want to
enviously bitch about challenge sexwork nowadays, you need to do so from a rhetoric of concern and feminism as Rhoda Grant MSP is doing; a politics of justice and gender equality. A politics of “My God says it’s bad” or “sex is immoral” just won’t fly anymore. The conservatives have been defeated and if they want to re-enter the fray, they will be obliged to do so under the banner of concern and feminism (as indeed some are currently doing.)
We’ve grown up as a society.
And this is great, because it is harder to change the religiously-based cultural conceptions of ‘morality’ than it is to simply show that the radfems are wrong by using statistics and evidence. To speak against the trafficking myths you only have to comment or blog. But changing patriarchal religion-backed prejudices takes much longer. Yes, the war is not over, and sexworkers are being stigmatised (even fired or murdered) left right and centre. Glamour models are extensively stereotyped in popular culture; sluts are shamed and erotica writers generally keep low profiles or write under pen names. We have a long, long way to go and it won’t be an easy road. But this is a major victory.
The radfems themselves were once a marginalized and radical group calling for change. They may be a force of oppression now, but the fact that feminists have usurped the patriarchal religious conservatives means we have won a valuable victory. We have separated morality/ethics from sex, and by the efforts of ourselves and of the generations that have gone before, we have inherited a more reasonable, logical and positive political world.