Home > feminism, philosophy, politics > Prostitution: When Feminists Become Patriarchs with Lady Parts

Prostitution: When Feminists Become Patriarchs with Lady Parts

lena dunham

Actress and “Feminist” Lena Dunham

“Across 110th Street a pimp’s trying to catch a woman that’s weak.” –Bobby Womack

Lena Dunham’s crusade against Amnesty International’s push to decriminalize sex work is the epitome of white privilege elitist feminist hypocrisy. What’s more perverse than a rich and famous actress claiming to be a feminist while simultaneously trying to convince the world of what women should or shouldn’t be able to do with their own bodies?

Even more absurd is Dunham’s reliance on sources with zero credibility on the issue, like Nick Kristoff of the New York Times, as opposed to journalists on the feminism beat like Elizabeth Nolan Brown and experts with blogs like Maggie McNeil – or the groundswell of sex workers on social media.

Opponents of sex work decriminalization must be unaware of what happens to the market for a good or service once driven into the criminal underworld. In short, there’s violence and uncertainty without market regulations and courtrooms to adjudicate disputes. Operating in black markets carry higher risk premiums, so who really suffers behind sex work prohibition? Sex workers. You know, women.

Street pimps and sex slave traffickers don’t want to see sex work legalized. It would hurt their wallets. Badly. That’s pretty telling. They’re probably Lena Dunham’s biggest fans right now.

At it’s core, Dunham & Co. represent a dangerous strand of feminism driven by their own self-righteous, arbitrary feelings and beliefs from issue to issue – sitting way up in their ivory towers – as opposed to the idea that all humans possess natural rights to their life, liberty, and property. These rights are subsequently suppressed, threatened, eroded, and robbed by coercive, patriarchal institutions, the nation state chief among them.

If the goal of feminism is to smash patriarchy, feminists must endeavor to smash the state. Only in a bizarro world would a feminist look to cure the horrors of the sex slave trade and daily dangers faced by sex workers (created by borders and prohibition) by championing the same coercive borders and prohibition laws that perpetually oppress and harm the very victims they seek to help. Legalization is the only solution that allows for sex workers to peacefully practice their profession and earn a living without the threat of violence or incarceration.

For more, my favorite commentary to surface thus far regarding Lena Dunham’s supposed feminism is by Kelly K. Vee over at C4SS: Will the Real Feminists Please Stand Up?

UPDATE: Due to some of the sillier reactions on social media, I just included a comment in the thread below in hopes of quenching some fires and letting cooler heads prevail. Most reactions have been positive or at least respectful. For that, and all the attention and traffic this post has already received, I’m quite grateful.

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  1. August 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    I’d like to think we can discuss this issue with level heads. It seems a bit dismissive to say guys can’t possibly be feminists, or that their opinions on feminism are invalid due to their sex. Especially guys that advocate total liberty and immunity for women from any coercive patriarchal institutions attempting to dictate their behavior — like the nation state, whose borders and sex work prohibition laws oppress women and keep them trapped in dangerous, violent black markets.

    Also, to call this piece a lecture or mansplaining is a bit of an overreaction. It’s merely pointing out the hypocrisy of so-called feminists like Lena Dunham and her cohorts (good intentions aside), who condescend from a place of privilege and push solutions that exacerbate the very problems and hurt the very people they seek to alleviate/help. The post contains links to expert journalists on the issue and a groundswell of sex workers on social media pushing back against Dunham and advocating for Amnesty International’s decriminalization efforts.

    Whether or not you assume sex work to be exploitative and wrong, making it (or in this case, keeping it) illegal doesn’t make any sense either. The vulnerable parties (the sex workers themselves) are made more vulnerable by removing what philosophers call the “distributive justice of markets,” which does not exist in a black market absent of safety standards, market regulations, and courtroom adjudication to redress greivances.

    For an example, look at the state of Nevada, where prostitution is legal. It’s completely safe from fear of violence, robbery, disease, and criminal prosecution.

    To draw a parallel, it would be like saying that the drug war creates perverse incentives in the criminal justice system that produce racially disparate outcomes (which it does, with black and brown faces being incarcerated and being on the receiving end of police violence way more than their white drug using counterparts), but that to help those black and brown faces being exploited by the drug war we can’t possibly legalize drugs.

    If the goal of feminism is to smash patriarchy, feminists must also endeavor to smash the state and their oppressive laws. They are one in the same. The ultimate hypocrisy here is a feminist trying to use the violent monopoly power of the state to yield an outcome that will continue to harm women.

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