How to know what is “whorephobic”

Edinburgh University Student Association is holding an election. The EU Feminist Society interviewed the candidates for the Women’s Liberation Group Convenors.

We also sent this email to the candidates for Women’s Liberation Group Convenor to ask them some questions. Before you read their replies below, we’d like to remind everyone that FemSoc passed a policy stating we support sex workers’ rights, which means we back the decriminalisation of sex work and condemn all forms of whorephobia.

Two candidates have answered so far. The first to answer gets a trigger warning at the top.

Magdalen Berns

TW: whorephobia

“Whorephobia”? Really? She expresses hatred of prostitutes in her reply? No, of course  not.

3. EUSA and Femsoc both passed policies supporting sex-workers. What is your opinion on this?

I think we all agree that those who sell sex for money should be decriminalised and safe from harm, which is the most important thing. With that said, I have not yet seen any credible evidence produced by Scot-PEP (or their associates and the mainstream media narrative), a self described campaigning and lobbying group established with the express purpose of campaigning for full decriminalisation of all aspects of the sex trade, which remotely suggests that decriminalisation of pimps and buyers of sex would in any way make women and children impacted by the sex trade safe from sexual violence. Since evidence does suggest that the main perpetrators of sexual violence towards prostituted people are actually the demographic of men which Scot-PEP have been lobbying to fully decriminalise, it deeply concerns me to find that so far female students have not seen fit to scrutinise the motives, background, associations or the unrepresentative sex demographic of the leadership of this organisation, before assuming good-will and deciding to collaborate with them.

The facts speak for themselves: women in prostitution have been more comfortable in reporting sexual crimes committed against them in Nordic countries and they are not being murdered there; in stark contrast to full decriminalisation regions, where prostituted women are still being killed and reports of indigenous victims being trafficked into sexual slavery are still not being taken seriously by the authorities.[2,3]

As women, we are not stakeholders in the systemic sexual commodification of the female sex which is the very core of the rape culture we all of us experience in our lives. Feminists who oppose the gendered exploitation of the sex trade do so because:
* We recognise there is nothing inevitable about prostitution or its associated male sexual violence
* We understand that the worth of a woman should no longer be measured by patriarchal standards
* We see that women must no longer be defined by patriarchy
* We value sexual consent such that we see it as too priceless to be taken away via social, economic, psychological, chemical or physically coercive methods.

Buying or selling access to a woman’s body is not a right: it’s male privilege. I do not stand for the role of Women’s Liberation Convenor to pander male entitlement, I stand for women’s human rights.

How does any of that qualify as “whorephobic”?

It’s explained on the EU Feminist Society Facebook page.

[Person 1] Where was Magdalen Berns being whorephobic??

[Person 2] I think it was the fact that she doesn’t support the prostitution industry, which like… I don’t think that’s ‘whorephobic’ at all? Like, let’s face it most women in the sex trade don’t /want/ to be prostituted. They do it because they don’t have a choice.

IDK how it’s “””whorephobic””” to ensure that exploited women don’t get in trouble for their circumstances, while making sure that the men who are taking advantage of their situation /do/ face consequences.

[Person 3] “Buying or selling access to a woman’s body is not a right: it’s male privilege.” This part is, I think, and another quote slightly above which says something similar, because this sentence takes all the agency from sex workers and puts it into the hands of their clients? It is the SW’s body, and it is her who is choosing to use her body how she wants, and this is really framed as if the SW is a piece of meat on a table and men come and take a part when they want.

She’s choosing it. She’s choosing it, just as she might choose to be beaten, or raped, or imprisoned in her house. She’s choosing it just as she might choose to stay married to and obey a man who told her she could not get a job outside the house, could not get further education, could not meet her friends for coffee, could not travel without him, could not talk on the phone without his supervision.

By the same token, workers choose to work in poultry plants, in mines, in seasonal fruit-picking; workers choose to work in dangerous conditions, for long hours, for bad pay.

They all have agency, and if you say those choices are not wholly free, you are framing them as pieces of meat, and you are a dangerous Phobe.

Person 1 disputed what Person 3 said, and the EUFS stepped in.

Edinburgh University Feminist Society Our members who are sex workers are entitled to a safe space, so they have the right to be warned about statements that deny their bodily autonomy

Person 3 amplified.

As not-a-sex-worker, you don’t have the right to decide if something is not sex worker phobic.

It’s not clear how Person 3 knows that Person 1 is not-a-sex-worker, but who knows, maybe they know each other. Then again it’s also not clear that Person 3 is herself a sex worker, and if she’s not, how does she have the right to decide if something is sex worker phobic? How does anyone? Is whoever put the trigger warning at the top of Magdalen Berns’s reply a sex worker? Do we know that? Is the EU Feminist Society a sex worker? How does the EU FS get to decide if something is or is not whorephobic if it’s not a sex worker? The epistemology of all this is very confusing.

24 Responses to “How to know what is “whorephobic””