Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard about the Feds raiding the gay escort advertising site Rentboy. Despite previous similar raids on sites such as MyRedBook, and the adult services sections of Craigslist and Backpage, this one garnered outrage. Why this is has been discussed by many sex worker rights activists. Two of the best articles include the one written by Lily Burana for NY Mag’s The Cut section, “Big Bad Rent Boys, Sad Little Call Girls, and the Language of Sex Work.”; and one written by Melissa Gira Grant for RH Reality Check, “How Sex Workers’ Rights Made the Mainstream.”
There’s a rather twisted sense of vindication with this whole Rentboy fallout: the general public is FINALLY starting to see the sexism inherent in so much anti-sex trafficking/rescue industry/prohibitionist propaganda. In fact, their screeds are also finally being recognized as propaganda by the general public who don’t have any “skin in the game”, so to speak. Those of us in the industry and especially anyone who has been even briefly involved with activism have been seeing this for decades. Hell, older activists have been seeing this exact same sexist language emanating from the mouths of “concerned feminists” and other ersatz “rescuers” longer than my 34 years of life.
“It’s Different For Boys” is an essay by Julian Marlowe in the anthology Whores and Other Feminists and my goddess is it ever so apt right now. Anti-sex work feminists are going to be forced like never before to make one of the following choices:
- Admit that women are inherently weaker in mind, body, and spirit, and that we’d be better off going back to days of sanctioned chaperones, not working outside the home (for the middle classes), and not having a say in any part of our lives…including the political process; or
- Admit that it’s the sex part of sex work that pisses you off and makes you feel icky and since you feel icky everyone else should be legally obliged to feel icky too; or
- Admit that your brand of feminism is nothing more than a modern Marian cult desperately trying to invent yourselves as modern-day Marys and woe betide the Magdalenes and Jezebels who get in the way.
In any event, this summer has been an interesting one for sex workers’ rights and hopefully, a positive trajectory.