The'Subject' of prostitution (Scoular 2004) (The alienated subject…
The'Subject' of prostitution (Scoular 2004)
Prostitution viewed in feminist theory as the absolute embodiment of patriarchal male priviledge- graphic example of male domination, exercised through the medium of sexuality
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 an important cubicle to test the central mainstays of feminist theory
The very idea of prostitution- radical feminist perspectives
Done most to highlight the harm experienced by women in this area within a gendered analysis of state and sexuality
Understanding of prostitution as violence against women in practice and the idea of 'buying sex'- considered linked to a system of heterosexuality and male power representing an embodiment of the patriarchal male priveledge
Prostitution as the ultimate reduction of women to sexual objects which can be brought and sold as the foundation of women's oppression- sexual slavery
Informs contemporary campaigns by radical feminists in political and legal arenas as all prostitution violates women's human rights
Support from an array of actors arguing on basis of work, choice and sex. At the expense of considering a women's agency and the complexities and contradictions when selling sex across space and time.
The alienated subject of prostitution
Importance of gender in structuring the sale of sex- women selling sex is the epitome of oppressive sexual relations- the public's recognition of men's mastery
However, By overdetermining gendered power-dynamics critics have noted that domination theory simply essentializes and fails to move outside the phallocentric
imaginary. Reducing womens identity to a single trait, regardless of the structuring roles of class, money and race
All women are reduced to prostitutes and prostitutes to their sexual acts, reifying subordinancy and sustains the myths and norms of the sex industry
Difference between freedom and subjectification
Accepts culturally specific processes that separate work from relationships of intimacy
Prostitution is a 'bifurcated event'- an act that cannot be
identified as singularly a market transaction or the realisation of private desire. Creates a whole stigma, met with criminalisation to force back public elements into the realm of private sexuality- deny's the financial and status rewards of work- patrols the boundary between sex/ affective labour
Sex workers claim a different experience
Opposition against the dominant notions of appropriate sexual behaviour and campaign against the legal constraints on their apparent 'deviant' identities
Tendency to cast the deviant category as normative, giving it legal recognition and contributing to the stigmatisation and suppression of all active and sutonomous expressions of female desire
By equating the restrictions on women’s sexual activity
with the suppression of an apparent ‘natural’ sexual drive she inadvertently reinforces dominant notions of sex as pre-social and confirms the centrality of sexuality to subjects’ identity. Created by power structures
Sex work may more usefully be viewed with ambivalence given that it is an activity which challenges the boundaries of heterosexist, married, monogamy but may also be an activity which reinforces the dominant norms of heterosexuality and femininity.
Promoting sexual expression and freedom of women
Postmodern work considers prostitution as neither a subversive sexual practice nor an inherently oppressive one
the contingency of current constructions, for example radical theory’s reliance on modernist discourse in constructing the prostitute subject as ‘other’ which reproduces the dualisms of modernism in the form of ‘victim and subject’ alongside ‘good and bad’, ‘whore and madonna’. Othering process
variety of forms prostitution takes and the differing degrees of control sex workers have over their lives
Avoiding viewing prostitution as oppressive or as an expression of sexual freedom
the ‘profound contradiction of involvement in prostitution
as both a means of securing material and social survival and as a relationship that threatens that survival’
a vocal and seemingly united feminist movement – in
the form of the Ladies National Association. They are significant to Jeffries as they share with radical feminists an understanding of prostitution as the ultimate ‘profanation of the dignity and individuality of women’
History is interpreted through preconceived categories of gender and sexuality
the Contagious Diseases Act, which constructs prostitute women’s bodies as a site of moral and medical degeneracy, can be read as an attempt to control these anxieties. of womens shifting role of unmarried working-class women
appeals to the state for protection by middle-class feminists on behalf of their ‘poor sisters’ often cast prostitute and young working-class women as objects of
care and concern.
By failing to address the material needs of young women or to challenge the way in which the state regulates prostitution to the benefit of male power, feminist politics by seeking protection for others maintained rather than altered relationships of inferiority, fuelling the asymmetrical dynamics of prostitution.
Victorian women sought to extend their reach of women in the colonies by invoking ideas of womens ability to identify with suffering bodies and represent them politically
attempts to fuse the two concepts of trafficking and
prostitution, but in doing so totalizes the experiences of all women and migrants working in the sex industry in a ‘variety of situations involving different levels of personal will and makes it more difficult to propose practical solutions’
Contemporary writers have also criticized the recurring focus on ‘the injured body of the third world prostitute’
in current trafficking discourse which acts as a powerful metaphor for advancing certain feminist interests and interventionist impulses.
commercial sex is shown to be contingent on social, economic and cultural factors but with law, money and sex playing key structuring roles; in particular the collection reveals a persistent theme of the feminization of international labour migration, where experiences of dislocation and migration are often oppressive, and addresses the role of law in prohibiting sex work and immigration consequently creates further obstacles
for women crossing borders
Yet the benefit of this and earlier postmodern work is
that by maintaining a critical distance from oppressive structural factors, theorists are able to resist attempts to see power as overwhelming and vonsuming the subject. This creates the discursive space for a transformative
feminist theory which seeks to utilize the disruptive potential of the counter-hegemonic and ‘resisting’ subject to challenge hierarchical relations.