Coercion versus Consent: ethics in feminist analysis

A) Sex workers
Phrase introduced in the 1970s to enable postmodern feminist analysis of prostitution, pornography, phone sex, strippers, and other occupations in the sex industry.

1) Provides alternative to

a. conservative framework: moral depravation. Prostitute as figure of evil. Problematic because morality can be used to enforce obedience for sexist norms.

b. Liberal framework: victims. Prostitute as weak and lacking ability. Problematic because women as weak passive victims is part of the sexist mythology used to justify protection by men.

2) Yes, sex workers are often forced into the occupation due to economic or social problems. But we should critique coercion – economic, legal, social – as it appears in all occupations, not just sex industry occupations. Many people find themselves forced to do a job they might otherwise choose not to do, and can only seek dignity, respect, and better labor relations.

3) Some women in the sex industry report a psychological gain of control over sexuality (eg against abusive childhood).

4) Sex workers can be providing psychological counseling for clients, seeking alternative lifestyles, rebelling against middle-class norms, etc.

5) Harm reduction (similar to needle exchange for drug abuse) is often a better approach to reducing social ills than coercive legal enforcement.

B. Cybersex in marriage

Anthropologist Sherry Turkle reports in interviews with couples in which one or both partners engaged in interactive real time text exchanges (eg chat room) with other entities (probably humans but you never know).

1) In some cases this was by consensual agreement; no problems. (eg non-monogamous, not seen as “real,” seen as mere erotic literature).

2) In other cases one partner “tolerates” a behavior in the other that they are not entirely comfortable with.

3) In some cases strong disapproval; this threatens marriage.