Once upon a time Feminism was the natural bed fellow of the civil rights movement, the gay liberation movement and the human rights movement. As a gay man I felt a natural empathy with feminists and their struggle against the common enemy the patriarchal system that oppressed gay people and women and men equally. I remember the slogans like “Make Love Not war” as capturing and epitomising a moment of idealism that could change the world. Now however instead of all lovers of liberalism and all idealists standing together resolute in the face of growing fundamentalism and radicalism we are divided.
It is a sad realisation that advocates for liberalism in thought and deed today find themselves oppressed by feminists or at least by those who have adopted the feminist mantle as a cloak to hide their true intent. Those comrades have now adopted the very mantle of the patriarchal system that feminism once battled against and have become patriarchal apologists. The patronising and disingenuous war waged by those who have adopted the feminist Cause and who have corrupted it into a radical ideology of oppression is especially obvious in the anti sex work rhetoric of Melissa Farley, Julie Bindel and Cath Elliot. They have perhaps been duped by the system or perhaps they have duped true feminists.
By attacking sex workers and equating sex work with rape and as universal abuse of women they ignore that true feminism is about empowering all individuals, both men and women and supporting all regardless of gender or sexual orientation or choice of labour. The ideal of the feminist struggle was surely a realisation that we are all oppressed by a system that equally traps men as it does women in assuming roles that maintains a status quo which allows a patriarchal hierarchy to flourish and which dismisses individual liberty of thought as dangerous and sexual freedom as decadent.
It is no coincidence that whores and gays equally have historically been the scapegoats for a society that enforced prescribed and rigid gender roles that severely constricted sexuality. Society enforced social conformity through religion and class while punishing by law and social exclusion those who do not easily fit false societal norms.
Whores and gays challenge the hierarchal hegemony that equally stifles individualism while fearing uncontrolled sensuality. Sex is perhaps the strongest human impulse. The patriarchal sex quilt trip and legal penalties imposed on sexual behaviour is because of a realisation that sexual liberation is about more than allowing an unchecked libido free reign. Sexual freedom challenges the rigidly prescribed norms of the patriarchal system that defines men and women equally, imprisoning them in roles that support and perpetuate the oppression of that system. Sex is not always about duty and nor should it always be about confirming societal expectations that effectively produces machines who fornicate only in prescribed socially engineered and unchallenging institutionalised parameters. Love and sex are powerful and wonderful emotions. They are experiences that the patriarchal system fears and has corrupted into structures that are often intrinsically violent.
Men have been traditionally marshalled into harsh and emotionally stifling institutions where they are encouraged to conform and to view sex either as a shameful weakness or as a means of control while women have been corrupted into believing that their sexual impulses are intrinsically morally corrupting and therefore dangerous. Both men and women have equally been duped into making war on themselves and to deny sexual gratification in order to maintain a society that perpetuates sexual oppression as a means of control.
Just as gay sex defines gay men because it is a hedonistic act that is not about reproduction or class but rather a definition of existence and the joy of that existence then whores equally challenge the institutionalising of women as wives, mothers or virgins. Sexual liberation is a rebellion against the rigid prescribed normality of the patriarchal state that produces unthinking and blinkered cannon fodder and is the exact opposite to the free thinking individuality that once feminists and gays and liberals jointly adhered to in order to challenge patriarchy and its assumptions on gender and the roles of men and women in society.
When Julie Bindel and her friends use the feminist label to attack whores and their clients they are not liberating women but rather redefining the patriarchal mantra of conformity to their prescription of narrow gender roles and thus redrawing the stereotyped scapegoat of the pervert and the fallen woman. Is it surprising that so many young women reject any association with feminism when feminism in the hands of some has assumed the role of oppressor?
When radical feminists stereotype all men as oppressive rapists and predators who objectify women while at the same time castigating whores both as victims and accommodators to male aggression they are literally reiterating age old stereotypes that are unjust to men and infantilise women as weak and powerless. The truth is that men are not predatory rapists and whores do not institutionalise the sexual objectification of women. Julie Bindel and her colleagues deliberately confuse and hyper emotionalise societal guilt by reaffirming age old prejudices. When Julie Bindel refers to the vaginas of prostitutes as “Spittoons for male seamen” it seems to me that she is vocalising a deep rooted misogyny with in herself that is alarming for one so vocal in establishing herself as a voice for the feminist movement. Confusing the horrors of modern human trafficking with the wrongs with in an industry as stigmatised and criminalised as the sex industry is not soliciting universal liberation for women but simply re packaging and re branding prejudice and shame and confirming institutionalised intolerance.
Many leading radical feminist have too easily assumed the mantle of “good women” who instruct rather than listen. They rejoice in encouraging the law to infringe on individual liberty and choice and in denying labour rights to men and women who refuse to kneel to their oppressive liturgy of intolerance. True feminists would embrace the whore and understand the power of the whore and understand that far from epitomising male violence the whore challenges social oppression of both men and women by refusing to conform to narrow oppressive role prescriptions.
The radical feminism espoused by those who negate whores and pimps and johns are by their attacks doing nothing radical. What they do is reinforce the prejudice that supports the traffickers and abusive pimps and the degrading conditions often unfairly associated with sex work. When they deny the possibility of alternatives and refuse to listen to sex workers and use negative language that stereotypes sex work they are not liberating women but upholding an abusive legislature and discriminatory culture. When Julie Bindel and friends choose to distort the realities of the experiences of the majority of sex workers they support rather than challenge the patriarchy that also allows the abusers in the sex industry to prosper. Arguing for and encouraging social exclusion and legal abuse against sex workers secures both the radical feminists in their distortion of the truth and allows them to secure arguments by attempting to wipe out the conditions that would allow alternative working conditions for sex workers to flourish. This is the exact opposite to the liberal idealism from which modern feminism was born.
Thus Radical feminism is anything but radical but rather a betrayal.