In my now, three years of studying politics and practicing feminism, I can honestly say that I have not come across an issue which splits feminists so dramatically and consistently as sex work. This semester I studied ‘Sex work, theory and practice’ with a large group of other, mostly female, students. From the very first session it was clear that this subject matter would split the group in two, and passionately so. I didn’t think I would ever have so much to disagree upon with my fellow female, but I did. So here are the two main arguments surrounding one of the issues we discussed, stripping…
It has become a popular phenomenon, young women selling their bodies in strip clubs and lap dancing bars, not to pay for an expensive drug habit, or to experience the love and desire missing from their lives, but to pay their way through university. But does that make the act itself ok, does the fact that it is young intelligent girls, with their heads metaphorically screwed on that are out there shaking their butts in return for a quick buck make it more socially acceptable than if they were uneducated vulnerable girls with nowhere else to go?
There are two main schools of thought that exist on this issue, and from talking to a cross section of the student population I’ve found that both schools have a great deal of support. I would say that our opinions as young women are split. We don’t really know what we think about using our bodies to make money because we’ve been bombarded with completely opposing arguments in recent years, both of which are well grounded in feminist theory.
The first school of thought includes those who argue, why not? Why not use our bodies to make money, it isn’t our fault that society sees us the way it does, it isn’t our fault that men are so gosh darn attracted to us that they are willing to part with their money just to cop an eyeful of breast on a Thursday evening. This school of thought (in more extreme cases) even includes those who argue that stripping is a feminist act. These girls argue that feminism has come so far that we should be taking advantage of the opportunities we as women have to make a quick dollar really by doing nothing but flashing our flesh. It’s society, these girls argue, that should answer the bigger questions about the sexualisation of women and the harmful effects that could be having. We’ve come so far, that we have the power to take advantage of men, our bodies are our property and we can (thankfully) do what we like with them. We have become empowered, rejoice!
The other school of thought states that any argument in favour of women being objectified is a direct attack on feminism, and equality for the sexes. Caitlin Moran, in her book “How to be a Woman”, says that many young women have admitted to paying their way through education by stripping, “clever girls are doing it – in order to become middle class professionals with degrees! Ipso facto GIRL POWER!” However, she goes on to argue that until we see young men engaging in the same sorts of activities and on the same scale, then there is still a problem, “if women are having to strip to get an education, in a way that male teenage students are really notably not – then that’s a giant political issue”.
If anyone reading this is thinking about making money this way, their primary focus should be their safety, and not the opinions of others.