No woman is born to be a whore
She was sexually exploited during six years, from she was nineteen. Today she combines her life experience with the theoretical and political debate on gender issues, human trafficking and prostitution.
I’ve listened to the talk of her with great respect and interest. However, the last three minutes of it have caused me much perplexity and inspired me to know about a survivor of prostitution, but an example of ideological incoherence. Fifteen minutes into the talk, after having explained that prostitution is a violation of social, economical and cultural rights, and that it is not “the oldest business” but the oldest violence, She suddenly invites the audience to reflect in a state of induced relaxation on seven questions:
- How many times do you feel it’s your own fault?
- In which cases can’t you say “no”?
- What things aren’t you saying you are afraid?
- What are you afraid of?
- When you say “enough”, how much more do you tolerate?
- How many things do you give up for protection?
- In how many other things have you prostituted yourself?
What are these questions rather belonging to New Age type self-help books that promise liberation but produce guilt by postulating that socially conditioned evils are products of people’s own mind and personality in a talk that aims to vindicate the right of all women of not being prostituted? Do not we have enough knowledge of how manipulative and intimidating tactics or direct violence can turn any woman into battered, prostituted, kidnapped person, independently from whether she had previously been a guilt-loaded or self-confident, fearful or daring, unsecured or assertive person? We can postulate that “no woman is born to be a whore” “but rather becomes one”. But how? Through social, economic and cultural conditions that converge to dis empower her or because of her own personality traits? If we point out the latter, the cure might be worse than the disease.
And if it was not enough with the victim-blaming clichés suggested in the first five questions, the last two questions insinuate one of the most astute pro-prostitution arguments: that of “all women are whores”, as if the situation of women who allegedly “sell themselves” in patriarchal woman-man relationships of the “submission by protection” or the situation of any person who in order to achieve some advantage gives up something (which is the everyday use, outside the context of the strictly meant prostitution, of the expression ”prostituting oneself”) were comparable to the reality of women systematically sexually exploited by the sex industry.
To top it off, the last word of the last question uses a terminology that over the centuries has contributed and continues to contribute to the fact that the existence of prostitution is attributed to the victims of that institution rather than the male demand: “…you prostituted yourself”.
She uses in her lectures and writings the word whore, which she has argued in a television program as follows:
“I like to call things by their name. I use the word whore because it does not permit to disguise or lie. If you say women in prostitution or sex workers, you’re making up reality. Prostitution is violence and humiliation, not work. Hunger and vulnerability creates whores, and it’s a serious problem that sexual exploitation is organized and globalized.”
I also like to call things by their name, and even like to be politically correct (a term I am still using in its original meaning, before the current neo-macho and neo-liberal times have turned feminism into an insult and ridiculed the effort to use a language as just as possible). For this very reason I agree in part and disagree in part:
- – I agree with that prostitution is not work, so to talk about sex workers is to be making up reality.
- – Hunger and vulnerability themselves do not create whores, that is rather the work of globally organized johns and pimps, taking advantage of hunger and vulnerability, and using violence and humiliation in order to sexually exploit their victims.
- – I can accept the word whore if it’s used by people who are or have been in prostitution, as a kind of resistance to stigmatization and claiming their dignity. I also accept that “persons in prostitution” (which I prefer to use) might be making up reality if does not include an explanation of how the person has come to that. So the contextual framework that defines the words has to be very clear. It is not the same thing to talk about a person who has been prostituted by johns and pimps as about a person who prostitutes herself!
“The prostitute is not a subject of rights, it is an object of use and abuse; there is no such thing as customer, there are only torturers who utilize prostitute, and that even can be the priest who is your confessor; prostitution is not a job, it’s a concentration camp. Argentina is an abolitionist country, so we have to fight against prostitution. If we are fighting human trafficking for sexual exploitation, we must fight hard against prostitution, because there is no free choice. You are choosing coerced, so there is no choice.”
If it’s so (and yes, it is), there is no place for victim-blaming questions nor wrong conjugations. No woman is born to be a whore, no woman prostitutes herself, no woman would be prostituted, if there were no men who want to use prostitutes.
Voiced by Sonia Sánchez.
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