Thursday, 13 May 2010

Riding The Third Wave

Feminism has had a resurgence recently. The third wave is finally here! In the UK there are feminist organisations sprouting up everywhere, dealing with issues such as equal pay, violence against women, objectification in the media, sex-work and lap-dancing.

And there's the rub. I do not identify with these feminists, because my attitude towards sex, sexuality and sex work is almost diametrically opposed to that of the 'third wave feminists' around me. If I feel so differently from them on these important subjects, maybe I am not in agreement on many others either.

Two new pieces of Uk legislation, achieved through lobbying by high-profile feminist groups serve to underline my point of view. The first means lap-dancing clubs now have to apply for a special 'sex establishment' license, which costs money to obtain. The second criminalises clients of coerced sex-workers. I oppose these laws. The feminist lobbyists did not consult sex workers about their proposals. The laws will mean sex-work will go further underground, and will probably lead to sex-workers being forced to work in more dangerous unregulated conditions. Also, these feminists seem led by puritanical motives: they feel offended by sex work, and they want to remove it from their sight, from their nice suburban neighbourhoods.

My kink has become more and more important to my feminism as time goes on. Sexuality is a vital aspect of how we express and identify ourselves. When the UK also made a law criminalising viewers of extreme pornography, which passed unopposed by most feminist groups, I realised kink is more than identity politics; it involves the politics of civil liberties and minority rights as well. So now I wear my kink proudly, along with my support of sex workers' rights, my belief in the equality of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, and my campaigns against racism and prejudice everywhere.

Your feminism is not my feminism and that's ok. But in setting up this Blog Carnival, I am delighted and relieved to find myself amongst people whose feminism IS similar to mine. I am also looking forward to exploring the diversity of our kinky interests in a safe and accepting space. Let's ride the third wave together and change the way it rolls onto the shore.


  1. I'm a feminist who agree with the new laws towards lap dancing clubs and criminalising clients of coerced sex-workers. I'm not commenting to challenge the fact that you don't. I just thought you might like to know why. I can see how it might seem like I am led by puritanical intent but in fact, that has very little to do with it. I am very much in favour of free sexuality. The thing is, I don't believe that freedom to be sexual can occur in a society in which it is acceptable to buy and sell women.

    I think that if we lived in a perfect world where women weren't defined as sex then I wouldn't have much to say about lap dancing and such. But we don't live in that world. There is very little differentiation between women and sex in our society. For example, when people say "sex sells" they usually mean that a naked woman sells. Men do not have to trade on their appearance the way women do. I want my sexuality to be part of being a woman - I do not want it to define my womanhood. When this attitude is combined with the ability to purchase women (whether this be through a lads mag, a lap dance or sex work) I think that it very much reduces the status of women to that of objects. What we have to say and what we do ceases to be as important as our ability to be sexual. This dehumanises women in the eyes of men which makes it pretty easy to oppress us in many areas AND be blind to the fact that it is happening. I don't think any woman escapes this objectification.

    Basically, I feel that the selling of sex actually puts sexuality into a little defined box and it becomes more difficult for us to express and explore that aspect of ourselves. I think it dehumanises women whether they take part or not. I think it allows people to make arguments justifying the dominance of men. I also believe that selling anything means that a black market will inevitably spring up around it - this is why it is illegal to sell your kidney.

    I don't particularly have a problem with they way you see it. I sometimes get a little sad that my position is defined as "sex-negative" because that isn't what I'm about at all. But I'm with you - I want us all to ride the third wave together. I want us to argue and get angry and then laugh about it and work it out and see each others point of view. It's a long and difficult road but if there is one thing that can never be stopped it's change!

    I'm not sure which blog carnival you are referring to thought?

  2. hi Thanks for your comments it is much appreciated!
    You put your point of view very clearly.

    I dont like how womens bodies are used to sell goods either, tho I do think men's are used as well to a much smaller degree.

    As for sex work it is very problematic. But I think feminists need to talk to sex workers and listen to their needs and views. some of them are even feminists too! And some choose to do what they do, not because its ideal but becuase it is one option in a difficult environment.

    This piece is for my intro to the new kinky feminist blog carnival:

  3. I'm totally in agreement that feminism ought to be sex-positive, or at least have a strong sex-positive aspect. I'm less sure on a lot of the specifics, particularly where I'm not familiar with the terms.

    I've no idea quite what a "sex establishment" license implies about a place, for one thing, or what other legal businesses exist which would also require one. It might make sense to treat a lap-dancing club differently than other places of business in some regard, but it seems like this is intended to be punitive, or at least censorious. I don't see that that's productive, and like you say it may well stem from a puritanical aversion to such establishments.

    And who counts as a "coerced" sex worker with regard to this second law? My immediate mental image painted a very grim scenario in which any clients would amount to being rapists, but I've heard the word "coerced" applied to a very broad scope in the past. There's a limit to quite how permissive I'm okay with, but it's way way further than where most of society puts its restrictions.

    Hmm, this whole comment is really just an advert for how little I know about anything. I guess there are worse places to start.

  4. Hello cubiksrube
    Thanks for your comments. To admit you don't know about something is very honourable and the only way we learn. One of my problems with feminism is that some feminists assume they 'know' about things like prostitution and don't do adequate research into the issues. I will find some links from a number of perspectives to add to your sex industry education!

    As for the two laws: the lap dancing one is punitive because it will cost clubs quite a lot of money to get a license. I think other 'sex establishments' would be swingers clubs and sex shops. also local people can campaign to disallow the license on the grounds of 'noise' or 'traffic' etc. A kind of NIMBY approach.

    Sex work and coercion is a much more complex issue and I will find some links on it.

  5. Sometimes I have no idea what I think, I'm not a fan of strip clubs, lad mags etc & the constant objectification/sexualisation of women but I hate the constant need amongst feminists to ban them. I hate to say it's puritanical as I really don't believe that, a lot of the time the language that's used does suggest a puritanical motivation, but sometimes I wonder if the motivation is actually 'I dislike this & find it tacky so will dress it up as feminism to further my cause'- I don't know, I really can't decide. I just feel like deciding that women stripping/appearing in porn/doing anything that men may find sexually appealing is yet again placing the blame on women for their actions rather on (some) men for theirs & also deciding that (whilst I can agree most porn presents a very narrow definition of women's sexuality) women can't be sexual.

  6. I know what you mean about questioning if the people calling for censorship/laws are puritanical. When I say puritanical I dont mean they are against sex but that they have a limiting and moralistic view on certain types of sex/sex work.

  7. Well I'm a third-wave feminist and I think the third wave is all about reassessing gender and sexuality.

    I agree that people should not be seen as sex objects as a general thing, but if it's as part of a scene that someone has consented to, that's entirely different.

    As to how far sex workers are coerced or not - when there are no sex workers who are addicted to drugs and forced to work to fuel their drug habits; when there are other options for poverty-stricken women than sex work - only then can it be said to be a fully chosen career. I do know there are sex workers who like their jobs and have chosen to do sex work, but as to how far they are the norm, I am not sure.

    I think that brothels should be run as a co-operative, owned and managed by the sex workers themselves.

  8. @Quiteriotgirl: Here's another one who shares your kind of feminism. I'm a sex worker and very aware that there are massive problems in this industry. But i'm so sick of many feminists claiming they want to help the poor women, and then campaining for measures that will harm exactly those women. "Helping those poor women" in this case is just a disguise for the general dislike of selling sex. If it's only about ideology, one shouldn't claim to care for the actual people.

    @Scheherazade: What about construction workers? In many parts of the world, there is slave labour in this area. That doesn't hinder us to consider it a chosen career. I totally agree with how brothels should be run.

  9. Hi @Sina thanks for your comment! LOve the avatar too. Have you seen this youtube vid made by young women about feminism and sex work, it is great:

    (I am @quiet riot girl by the way)

  10. Yes, i've seen it on the Harlot's Parlour Blog. Great indeed:-) Although I don't agree with everything they say.