Sex Workers' Jobs Just Got Harder

Craig's List, the popular nationwide internet classifieds site, has made a pact with 40 states to crack down on users who use the "erotic services" section of the site to advertise prostitution. This page has, until now, been free to use for both people who place ads and those who respond to them. In an attempt to crack down on people who violate state laws as well as the website's terms of use, which prohibits offers for or the solicitation of prostitution, Craig's List is now implementing a policy which will force people who wish to post ads on this page to pay a fee with a valid credit card and provide a working phone number. Craig's List will then hand this information over to state law enforcement in response to subpeonas going forward. A good idea, I think.

Prostitution is illegal in most states, after all, and anything that can be done by the big, elusive interweb world to comply with the laws of the cold, hard, brick-and-mortar world is a step in the right direction in terms of regulation in the modern age. We move into the future with a new president on the heels of an election that was largely fought on the Internet, more than any before. A merger of the Internet realm and the tangible one is inevitable, but until now it's been easier to get away with shit on the Internet, mostly due to the ease with which anonymity can be achieved. So it's pretty easy for someone who shouldn't be looking for a good time who wants one to find someone willing to give him a good time who isn't supposed to.

Despite the positive steps this pact shows society making in terms of reconciling the internet and the streets, the fact is, it's going to make a lot of women's lives harder. I know the topic of prostitution in feminist circles is one that causes great dissention; there are those who believe sex work is damaging to women and those who believe it has the potential to be empowering. I fall into the latter camp. Sex work, like it or not, it real and necessary for many women to support themselves. The unavoidable fact that many women in the industry reached their positions due to shortcomings in education, sexual and physical abuse, or drug use probably has more to do with society's attitudes about sex. Unless conducted under the preconditions of marriage and the missionary position, the act has historically been treated as illicit, and has thus been exiled to those illicit areas of civilization. If we think it's bad to be a prostitute, then it is (and so will the women who think they "aren't good enough" to do anything else). We have a long way to go before sexual interactions between men and women are played out without preconceived ideas about what is supposed to happen; we take on roles in the bedroom, pick up mannerisms that we think are sexy or are supposed to be stimulating when, in fact, they have been met not organically, but through popular culture and the adult entertainment industry (which is essentially sex work that plays on stereotypes of itself–a vicious cycle, I'll admit).

What convinces me that sex work can eventually be a job that actually puts women in a position of power (not in a dominatrix-y kind of way) is that there are examples of good, alternative porn and stories of happy prostitutes out there. I realize they are hard to come by, but they do exist, and most women who operate in these categories are smart; they direct the porn, and think and write about their experiences with johns. Sex should be fun. Why shouldn't it also be profitable and marketable? Take away sex work and porn and you're not taking away all the problems our society has with gender roles and sex. That's like trying to solve the problem of obesity by taking away McDonald's and Wendy's and leaving Burger King and Taco Bell. People should be able to eat that garbage if they want to; they just need to understand how. It's a holistic problem that deserves a holistic solution. We don’t need a hatchet or a scalpel, we need societal yoga.

Author: Cherchez La Femme

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