Strange allies

Reason (the libertarian website) agrees with the libertarian feminists, of course. Elizabeth Nolan Brown says the usual things:

In a recent interview with Time magazine, feminist icon Gloria Steinem—currently promoting a new travel memoir—says that the biggest threat to reproductive rights today is “patriarchy… the very definition (of which) is that men control women’s bodies in order to control reproduction.”

The way johns do, for instance. But Brown isn’t having any of that, thanks.

It’s a nice sentiment—but alas, Steinem’s concept of human rights and bodily integrity only applies to certain people. Steinem has been an outspoken proponent against sex workers’ right to bodily integrity.

Over the summer, Steinem was one of a group of Hollywood celebrities and high-profile feminists condemning the human-rights group Amnesty International for its support of completely decriminalizalizing prostitution.

Or rather, decriminalizing pimps, brothel owners and johns. They favor the decriminalization of prostitutes aka sex workers. So Steinem isn’t in fact “an outspoken proponent against” (i.e. an opponent of) sex workers’ right to bodily integrity.

In 2014, Steinem said it was wrong to use the term “sex work,” a preferred term of many women who willingly work in the sex trade, because prostitution is merely “commercial rape”—a “body invasion” that is “not like any other work.” Never mind that a lot of grown women choose to be sex workers and do not experience prostitution as commercialized rape; that’s how Steinem sees it, and so pity the poor sex worker who thinks she gets to define her own experience.

But by the same token a lot of grown women and underage girls do not choose to be sex workers; they are forced into it and/or trapped in it. Which group is more likely to have various kinds of privilege that should be checked? I say it’s the group that doesn’t choose. The more options you have (and privilege amounts to more options), the less likely you are to “choose” to be a chicken-processor or a coal miner or a prostitute. The more desperate you are, the more likely you are to do jobs that you wouldn’t touch if you could survive any other way. The fact that some women think prostitution is a fabulous way to get both sex and money is not all that relevant to the desperate ones.

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