“Pimp Post-modernism” by Sylviane Dahan

3 març

Translated from Castilian by Martin Dufresne, TRADFEM.

For a few weeks, we have been seeing an intense campaign for the normalization of prostitution. And it is very prominent here in Catalunya. Whether it becomes independent or not – the bankers and big entrepreneurs are not comfortable at all with the idea of self-determination – the country, in the mind of our ruling elites, includes prostitution as an important “niche market”. But its expansion is not possible without prior social acceptance. So we are being subjected to obtrusive reports on national television, articles and interviews in major circulation newspapers… All this coinciding with the Mobile Phone Congress, which has propelled the consumption of paid sex to new highs in Barcelona.

The talking points of the lobbies supporting the sex industries never lack imagination or cynicism, and they adapt to all circumstances and to all audiences, all the while remaining contemptible. So, we have heard the umpteenth “free and happy prostitute” telling how well she is earning her living; we were presented with an academy designed to teach “the art of whoring” – one of the prerequisites being “an appetite for sex”; we were announced the birth of a cooperative of self-organized prostituted women (although the coop is managed by a man); we were told that, renouncing “moralism”, we should understand that in times of crisis, prostitution should become a woman’s choice. (Apparently, some offices of the PP (Partido Popular) resort to invective to convey this option). And to give this whole advertising operation a patina of scientific rigor, we have seen come to the fore an anthropologist like Dolores Juliano, trying to convince us that, since men are prone to violence, prostitution is a “survival strategy” typical of women. As if this “strategy” resulted from the female nature or from women’s free will… and not from the patriarchal structure of society and the violent domination of men!

One of the key elements of such campaigns is to proffer as spokespersons and representatives of women in prostitution certain NGOs that are working with them – getting grants and helping them to cope with their prostitution, but not escape it – as well as pretend “trade unions” where there are hardly any women, which have never negotiated a contract, but are essentially media facades. This motley and noisy constellation, manipulating here and there a handful of women as a battering ram against abolitionist feminism, contributes to silencing an overwhelming majority of women being violated and exploited. One has to admit that the sex industries, in their attempt to normalize prostitution, have developed an extraordinary ability to talk to everyone in the language each likes to hear, reassuring their respective conscience. To the Left, they speak of unionism and the conquest of rights; to feminists, of personal autonomy and the right to one’s own body; to alternative movements, of cooperatives; to the Liberals, of individual responsibility; and to gay people, of sexual freedom. The acceptance of prostitution is sold with appropriate wrappers to each audience. The post-modern intelligentsia, which has lost any bearing of social progress for humanity, has provided the major pimps with a lovely terminological palette.

In the end, however, prostitution remains a trade among men in which woman, dehumanized, becomes a commodity. And this is what, above all, they intend to mask. What characterizes these campaigns and their multiple arguments is the concealment of the pimp and the “client”. Everything befalls the women. They are responsible for prostitution. It is their choice or their misfortune. But in any case, it is their problem: let no one dare see them as “victims”. For here is another twist in the perversion of language. Those who plunge women into prostitution stand in defense of their autonomy and try to rile them up against abolitionists, saying: “We don’t want to be victims.” Well nobody wants to be one. But to be victimized is a situation, not an identity. We are victims of many injustices, of exploitation and multiple oppressions. Still, we are not inert beings, incapable of rebellion. Revolt begins precisely with awareness of the oppression and identification of the oppressor. Yet, by proclaiming that prostituted women do not wish to be victims, the supporters of prostitution actually conceal the victimizers and lead us down an impasse.

Prostitution cannot be addressed through the so often biased alleged distinction between “free” and “forced” prostitution. Our societal model is the problem. A society that accepts prostitution as “sex work” endorses a whole list of structural inequalities between men and women – inequalities that affects all of us, without exception. This acceptance makes all women susceptible to being prostituted: all that remains is to fix their price. From this point of view, there is no relevant between a post-modern anthropologist and the hundreds of Chinese girls in the apartment brothels of Eixample [district of Barcelona] or the Romanian girls waiting in a corner of the Raval borough [near the port area]. The first one “conceptualizes” prostitution as a job – but it is always a job for others, whose “culture” predisposes them to embrace such a strategy. Underneath the cultural relativism so characteristic of late post-modernity, one merely finds racism. Underlying this “amorality” that deems itself “transgression” is the irrepressible impulse of neo-liberalism that claims to dissolve all boundaries and wishes to turn everything and everyone into commodities.

Prostitution, as a multi-billion dollar business that is built on the exploitation of women and the denial of their humanity, represents the perfect symbiosis between patriarchy and capitalism. May their outrageous spokespersons forgive us, but more than ever, we want our country to adopt the Nordic model – which is caring and respectful of prostituted women and defends women’s right NOT to be prostitutes, a model which is implacable with the pimps and belligerent with the “clients”. The fight promises to be close and extremely difficult. On the one side as on the other, the stakes are high. If feminism and the Left do not wake up, we will become the largest brothel in southern Europe. And that will alienate any real prospect of social progress or emancipation.

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