‘Why does radical feminism exclude sex workers?’

By Chelsea Geddes

In this post, Chelsea, a radical feminist who has had many years’ experience of prostitution in the legal brothels in New Zealand (NZ) answers some of the questions she’s tired of hearing – not only ‘Why does radical feminism exclude sex workers?’ [it doesn’t] but also, ‘Isn’t it paternalising to say men can be held accountable but women can’t?’ ‘Aren’t prostitutes in danger from the police? So wouldn’t it be better to hire security instead?’ and ‘How are prostitutes supposed to make any money if buying [sex] is illegal?’

Hi, I am a prostitute, this fact alone was a huge reason behind why I became a radical feminist. Radical feminism excludes pimps and rapists. When the pimp-funded propaganda tells you we “exclude sex workers,” they’re mad that we aren’t supporting pimps and they’re trying to trick you into believing supporting pimps is good for prostitutes. It’s not. The term ‘sex workers’ includes anything from cam girls to prostitutes to pornographers to pimps to traffickers. It conflates everything into one term so that you can’t criticise exploiters without being accused of hating prostitutes. Don’t use that word. Use the specific words for the specific things you’re talking about. Cheers.

Pimps/brothel owners/procurers include themselves as ‘sex workers’ and the richest ones control massive pro-prostitution propagandist efforts.

The johns/buyers fuck prostitutes regardless of whether prostitutes genuinely desire it, are coerced by financial inequality, or are outright trafficked. Johns cannot know and usually don’t want to know, but feel entitled to their choice to fuck them anyway. That behaviour classifies them as rapists, they sometimes rape non-prostitutes as well.

Radical feminism supports the Swedish/Nordic Model of prostitution reform which criminalises pimps and exploiters.

It decriminalises prostitutes, while providing comprehensive social services and support. And when/if prostitutes want to leave the industry there are exiting services to help them do that – because it is generally very difficult to exit, especially for those suffering PTSD or with lack of education, dependent children, addictions, etc.

And it fines johns/buyers, with higher fines for repeat offenders. Police are retrained to work with prostitutes as victims of crime rather than against them, and prostitutes can call police on johns/buyers at any time and have them arrested and fined. This addresses some of the power imbalance between prostitutes and johns/buyers. Because johns don’t want to be charged, they don’t push their luck violating prostitutes’ stated boundaries. Violence against prostitutes has decreased in Sweden under this model and there hasn’t been a single murder of a prostitute by pimp or john since it was instated in 1999.

The criminalization of pimps/brothel owners makes countries with this model unattractive to traffickers, and so trafficking is reduced.

The majority of prostitutes want to leave the industry but can’t because of lack of money and other issues but with the supports of this model many are able to access the help they need and are empowered to leave and enter their chosen career with career pathways support.

When the large number of prostitutes who want to leave are able to, the ones remaining have less competition and that further strengthens their ability to assert boundaries and to charge more money. Which means they’ll reach their goals sooner too.

Pimps don’t want this model to gain support because it threatens their $$ power by putting power and money back in the hands of prostitutes. So they promote a lot of bullshit propaganda and have colonised liberal feminism’s ‘sex-positive’ attitude by manipulation.

They try to say that this model denies ‘sex workers’ their agency, or that decriminalisation would empower ‘sex workers.’ (By ‘decriminalisation’ they mean decriminalising pimps and rapists since prostitutes are actually decriminalised in both models.)

They try to legitimise prostitution as ordinary ‘work’ by telling people that not recognising it as work would ‘stigmatise’ prostitutes. (It also means you can be charged income tax – your second pimp.) They tell people the word ‘prostitute’ is offensive (this can actually be true – depending) and that to use ‘sex worker’ is better for prostitutes. (This is a trap. Using ‘sex worker’ ensures conflation and confusion, and the inclusion of pimps, as well as backing up their ‘ordinary work’ line.)

They don’t want people to find out the truth so they slur radical feminists as ‘SWERFs’ who hate prostitutes, so that women don’t feel drawn to learning about radical feminism. And they tell libfems to support and promote these ideas themselves and to listen to ‘sex workers.’

Pro-prostitution lobbyists ask other stupid questions

Isn’t it paternalising to say men can be held accountable but women can’t?

Nope, let’s hold women/prostitutes accountable. Is prostitutes’ behaviour in regards to men whose consent is so enthusiastic that they even pay, evidence that prostitutes rape those men? Nope. It is not. Prostitutes have nothing to be held to account for here. Their own body is their own body, and the men’s demand is omnipresent and even backed up by evidence.

Aren’t prostitutes in danger from the police? So wouldn’t it be better to hire security instead?

In New Zealand police are extremely friendly and don’t carry guns, etc. They are amicable even to prostitutes and addicts. We should fully take advantage of this situation, because in America, say, we wouldn’t be able to due to their aggressive racist weaponized police force. ‘Safer communities together’ that’s the NZ motto, let’s do it together. I personally would like to take advantage of tech advancements like apps or even a wearable silent-alarm complete with GPS networking so police can be immediately summoned to my location in case of emergency.

Prostitutes and police can easily work together provided police are working on our side, meaning retraining the police is vital. Also since under the Nordic Model johns can be fined just for being johns and you don’t have to prove any additional violence to get them charged, it avoids the kind of familiar situations like rape victims being asked what they were wearing, etc.

I’m confident that the Nordic Model is a much safer option than hiring security which can be any kind of creep who likes to hang around prostitutes including gang members or opportunistic pimps. The set up should not be that police are pursuing prostitutes, as prostitutes are decriminalised. They should be partners and otherwise targeting emerging pimping/procuring activities which threaten prostitutes’ and all women’s safety.

How are prostitutes supposed to make any money if buying [sex] is illegal?

First of all thanks for the vote of total confidence in the Nordic Model’s ability to end demand for prostitution. Personally I believe prostitution demand will not disappear over night but would lessen slowly over time, complementing the lessening supply over time due to effective exiting programs for the majority of prostitutes who want to exit. According to the Swedish Ministry of Justice, prostitution across the country has fully halved in the 10 years since. And the cost of purchasing sex in Sweden is estimated to be the highest in Europe. Goals!

Another perk of this is women’s increasing representation in a wide variety of career positions and greater gender equality and pay equity overall. There are examples of career pathways that have already been successful. In India, prostituted women are being trained to become lawyers at the ‘School for Justice,’ and there have been other successful initiatives where prostitutes are trained in computer coding. Ideally prostitutes seeking services should be encouraged to determine career pathways of their choosing and the training programs created in response to that input – funding permitting.

Doesn’t the full decriminalisation model that pro-prostitution figures promote here in NZ sound wildly inadequate compared to what Sweden has achieved and what we could achieve here? It does, because it is.

And by the way the Nordic Model, which radical feminism promotes, is inclusive of the minority male prostitutes, including trans! Are you shocked? Though specific services like shelters would be sex-segregated for obvious reasons.

8 thoughts on “‘Why does radical feminism exclude sex workers?’

  1. “Isn’t it paternalising to say men can be held accountable but women can’t?” Gotta love this question! These people are constantly insisting that “not all sex buyers are men” and “not all prostitutes are women” then they ask a ridiculous question like this. Great article. Thank You.

    1. We have checked with Chelsea and she is happy for you to translate it. Please give us a link to the translated article when it is published so we can share it.

  2. Hi, there is something that I still don’t understand and I’m hoping for some clarification. I understand criminalizing the pimps (a new perspective, thank you for that), but I don’t understand about the buyers. Do you want to criminalize the purchase of sex (criminalizing buyers) or just when they violated the stated boundaries? Thank you.

    1. Hi there, this is the website of the Nordic Model Now! campaign group, which campaigns for the Nordic Model approach – which decriminalises those who are prostituted and provides those who want to exit prostitution with genuine routes out and it makes buying sex a criminal offence. The long term aim of this approach is to bring the system of prostitution to an end – but it does so in a realistic way – providing other options for those involved and penalties to help change social attitudes. Chelsea also supports this approach.

      You can read more about the Nordic Model here: https://nordicmodelnow.org/what-is-the-nordic-model/

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