The trafficking of women and children is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Exploitation of the female body is not an issue of the past, nor is it an isolated one. All over the world, men profit from the suffering of women.
Here, in Canada, we are by no means exempt from this issue. But modern liberal feminists have taken an interesting approach to the sex industry. It was more common in my Canadian High School to hear defenses of the sex industry than criticisms. Cries of ‘sexual freedom’ and ‘empowerment’ were echoed by many of my feminist peers.
These defenses of the sex industry are alienating by their very nature. When feminists advocate for the de-stigmatization of sex work, for its recognition as a job like any other, they ignore the millions of women for whom participation in the industry is not a choice.
Privilege allows many western feminists to be blinded to the issues affecting the women of the world, and even to their own oppression. Often, they do not consider the implications of the choices of individual women, but rather consider any choice, as long as it’s made by a woman, to be empowering. In general, they conflate the empowerment or financial freedom of a single woman for a stride taken in women’s liberation.
Using sexuality to play the game of the patriarchy for personal advantage is not new or revolutionary- it is a tactic as old as time. The few women who are able to achieve financial freedom through sex work must understand that they are not representative of the majority of prostituted women. It is the marginalized and vulnerable women of the world who are the primary victims of sex-based oppression. They take the brunt of the violence of the patriarchy, and they are the targets of its worst forms of exploitation.
Along the same vein, pornography is often justified and defended by modern feminists as an opportunity for the expression of sexuality and financial freedom. But pornography is full of power dynamics that toe the line of consent, or even cross it. It is full of violence and degradation directed towards women. It is a prime example of how women, and the female body in particular, are exploited and commodified for male pleasure. It is also intrinsically linked to sex trafficking, as many of its ‘stars’ are in the industry against their will. And yet many feminists maintain that it can serve a feminist purpose.
It is interesting, or rather worrying, how often the very things praised by these feminists coincide exactly with patriarchal expectations and aims, and in the end it is men once again whose interests are served. The defense of the sex industry is an alarming example that I see in western society of the way feminism has been twisted to fit patriarchal aims.
In defending the sex industry, modern feminists alienate and actively endanger the very women for whom they claim to advocate. Unwittingly, or perhaps uncaringly, they side with the oppressor, and demonstrate allegiance to a patriarchal system.