Feminist Men and Words that Wound

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susan davis susan davis's picture

2fruition wrote:

I'd just like to speak up in support of Susan Davis as well, and in support of all sex workers in their struggles against both systemic constraints and against wrong-headed ideological assaults.

Here is an interview I did with her a while back:


(note: there are some not-totally work-friendly, albeit harmless, ads on the same page as the story)



awesome article!!thanks for creating awareness about barriers facing us!!!


After I read this thread, I registered to rabble immediately because I have to speak up for other women like myself. I appreciate all the support everyone is giving Susan, but as a young woman who is trying to make a place for myself in a society focused on the desires and experiences of men, I am terrified of what legalizing prostitution will do to my efforts. I don't dress provocatively, go out on my own in the dark, go for runs by myself in the park, or smile at men I don't know, but my body is still often watched greedily by men as I pass them on the street and I am still the recipient of unprovoked sexual come-ons from time to time; the products of a porn culture, I suppose. I think men need to change and I think they need to be our allies in that change. But I don't think that legalizing prostitution helps any of us. Men will only feel validated in their USE of women's bodies - buying them, staring at them, violating them. If women really are committed to progress for their gender, then giving men more reasons for, and support in, treating women like objects is, for me, not the answer. I will never support it. Because as long as one woman is selling herself, I too, may appear up for sale.

I understand the desire to make life safe for sex workers, and I may be idealistic and naive to wish that a trade that's existed for centuries could just disappear, but I think that legalizing and regulating the work has the potential to be extremely damaging to women in our society. I think we need to support women to find alternatives to sex work, because current choice or not, when someone truly wakes up and becomes fully conscious, I don't think anyone would choose to degrade their bodies and their spirits by participating in sex work.

Also, thank you to the men who are posting about this. I appreciate the interest. We need to work together to create change so I am incredibly moved by the interest that you are taking in the subject.


never be silenced either!

I will break my vow of silence just to say that beyond the written rules, there's an unwritten convention that has developed in the feminist forum that requires men to do more listening than talking.  It's also convention that women starting threads can request the thread closed to male contributions, if that's what she wants.

It's largely self policing, and I've placed myself under arrest.


susan davis susan davis's picture

just to be clear...i am fully conscious.....lol....i am awake and choose sex work...why people believe i am in a comma i will never understand.

also, blaming sex work or adult film for violence aganist women is a bit rough...

through decriminalization and education of men we hope to raise safety of all women. if it's ok to kill sex workers, it's not far to reach that hurting any women is ok. i believe decrim will allow sex workers to be safer, educate our clientel on treating us with dignity and increase overall understanding and respect from men towards women.

sorry, i just don't buy the " i don't feel safe so sex work must be illegal" arguement.

adult film is legal so is exotic dancing and sex work for that matter. so i don't see how decrim will make it any less safe to jog by yourself in the park....i see it as a way to increase safety.

also statements like this contribute to the perception of all sex consumers as rapists.....not true.

my clients are vulnerable men and are not the boogie men they ar cast to be. a rapist is a rapist, whether he/she is raping sex workers or (as we say) square women. exactly how does sex work increase violence? we must as a society stop othering sex working women as is if we are different and violence against us is different. sorry women are afraid to jog in the park...my friends were murdered and mutlilated....it's time to stop comprimising sex worker safety in order to "protect" non sex working women. it doesn't work. by allowing us to be seen as less, criminals, disposable all women are diminished and over all safety for women is diminished as well.


Yeah, I could never quite figure out how it is okay and legal to pay someone to have sex with someone else while you film it, but not okay to pay someone to have sex with you. :) 

Star Spangled C...

Michelle wrote:

Yeah, I could never quite figure out how it is okay and legal to pay someone to have sex with someone else while you film it, but not okay to pay someone to have sex with you. :) 

During my mis-spent youth when I considered becoming a lawyer, I took a law class where it was actually explained. There was this big thing about how the presence of a camera or spectators makes something "entertainment" and thus legal whereas their absence makes it something else. So paying someone to have sex with you is "prositution" but if you film it and sell it on DVD it's pornography. Punching somebody in the face is "assault" but if you invite spectators to watch, it becomes "boxing."

writer writer's picture

Arriving late to add my voice of gratitude for the presence of susan davis. Many thanks for sticking it out.


Poor analogy to boxing, though, SSC.  Boxers agree to fight, porn actors agree to have sex.  An assault victim does not agree to be assaulted, but a prostitution transaction is generally agreed upon.  (Although I do realize that there are situations of coercion in prostitution - but then, there are sometimes in porn, too.)

martin dufresne

A French (male) writer recently wrote, in great irritation at feminists: "If ONE person in the world consents to being prostituted, it can never be treated as coercion."* I find this idealist view very common.

 (Quoted in Claudine Legardinier & Saïd Bouamama, Les clients de la prostitution - l'enquête, Presses de la Renaissance, Paris, 2006)



martin, how is that view idealist as it is true? Why do you continue to deny susan's voice and her continued assertions that she has choice and agency (as well as being fully conscious?) Her posts prove the truth of that quote and it is getting extremely annoying the way you use the term "feminists" to only mean those who agree with you about prostitution. You have been asked to stop, so please stop. There are plenty of feminists who believe in legalized or at least decriminalized prostitution, myself included.


I could never figure out either how porn can be considered okay and prostitution not. SSC's analogy was faulty,as Michelle pointed out. Coerced prostitution or porn acting should remain illegal, as well as assault. Consenting adults using their bodies as they see fit should not be.

martin: are you also against legalized porn and do you believe that no real "feminists" consiously support porn?

martin dufresne


1) I think the vew is idealist if all it takes is ONE counterexample to deny coercion as a structural factopr in the industry. That man wants us to only think of the idea of prostitution, not its statistical reality and patriarchal context.

2) I am not denying susan's voice by bringing in someone else's perspective. Indeed, for all I know, she may agree with him.

3) If this man rails at feminists, he not I is associating that word with the critique of the prostitution industry. There is some reality to that. And I certainly haven't suggested that I was in agreement with his general position. 

4) If you haven't noticed, I too am in support of extending full decriminalization - and support services - to prostituted women, just not to pimps, johns or brothel owners.

5) FWIW, I don't consider pornography OK, but that is another issue. Sure I know that some feminists consciously support porn; why suggest I think otherwise? Do you need straw men to support your own position?


susan davis susan davis's picture

sex worker...thank you for calling it an industry though....i am not a "prostituted woman". that was the whole point of the thread, please listen when we tell you some words wound....i am a sex worker.if you support decrim  of sex workers then stop using terminology that contributes to all of the tired old stereo types please.... SEX WORKER....dang it...

and do not agree, i am in full support of all the men who work in or puchase services of our industry. workers in sweden are telling us how many problems they experience with the criminalize consumers model. it will only serve to make it more difficult for us to make money and will compound our problems. we need rights, not rescue.


martin dufresne

I am sorry but, as you well know, only a minority of prostituted people identify as "sex workers", especially when this definition is extended to everyone in the industry, as it often is. Respectfully, I am NOT talking about you.


susan davis susan davis's picture

minority? based on what data? i disagree and will cite tamara o'dorety at SFU crim again....the majority of us are not victims and are offended by the label, prostitute.


i am also not including adult film or exotic dancing, tamara's research is with full contact sex workers only and sex workers across canada and the world agree, prostitute is the name of our oppression, sex worker is the word we choose to respresent our experiences

but if your research sample comes from a rape crisis line, of course you feel this way. but you were never a sex worker martin, and i assume you have never reviewed any sex worker positive material. please look at agenicies like maggies in TO, POWER in ottawa, WeSWEAR in winnipeg, stella in montreal, stars in hamilton, PACE, wish, MAP, PEERS, orchid, SWAN, BCCEC,CNCEW, WCCSIP in Vancouver..all organizations and members agree, sex worker, not prostitute. why do you choose to ignore the voice of women, workers who you claim to be defending?

i am in touch with these orgs and workers all across canada, it's my community i communicate with them everyday, online in places like this but sex worker run, in vancouver's eastend, by telephone, e-mail in meetings...what are you basing your assumption on?

martin dufresne

I never use the label "prostitute," but speak of prostituted women, prostitution being understood as an industry (on this we apparently agree, unless you were being sarcastic in post #62).

I am not using "sex worker" either, first because none of the currently or formerly prostituted women we work with at CLES in Montreal (NOT a rape crisis line) identifies as either "travailleuse du sexe" or "prostituée". They strongly and vocally resist these labels.

i assume you have never reviewed any sex worker positive material...

You are free to feel that way, but it is totally inaccurate. Indeed much of this material does differentiate women and men who self-identify as "sex workers" from other categories of women in prostitution. Others - like STELLA in Montreal - include under this label women trying to survive, pimps, johns, brothel owners, advertisers and even supporters of the industry. Which I simply don't find helpful to point out exploiters and to affirm women's right to escape sexual exploitation, another goal we have in common. Should self-identified "sex workers" be deemed representative(s) of all prostituted women, men and youths? That seems to be the issue of contention.


susan davis susan davis's picture

why must we diferentiate between and exploited woman/ person and a prostituted woman/person exploited in the sex industry? is not exploitation exploitation no matter the circumstances? it's this kind of othering that makes violence against us "different". why are there 2 sets of laws for exploitation?one for people exploited in the sex industry and those exploited in other ways? that is the issue of contention. all are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law...article one.

any person being exploited for any reason should be treated equally. the seperation of laws for exploiting sex workers seperates violence against us as not as important as violence against/exploitation of a non sex working person.

so why say prostituted person?why not say exploited person?

martin dufresne

Maybe because gender is central to the reality of buying sex.

susan davis susan davis's picture

i am refering to prostituted as opposed to exploited a man or woman can be exploited  in sex work. any person being exploited for any reason should be treated equally. the seperation of laws for exploiting sex workers seperates violence against us as not as important as violence against/exploitation of a non sex working person.so why say prostituted person?why not say exploited person?

martin dufresne

Maybe because the prostitution lobby denies that most prostituted persons are exploited. So one wouldn't want to mar the good name of prostitution by a general use of "exploited" instead of "prostituted".

It seems to me that to progress, one meeds to refer to real-life people and living conditions, e.g. those of sweat-shop workers or prostituted people, rather than being held back to using a general, unspecified qualifier such as "exploited people".