Stacey Swimme

Innovative Thinking On The Sex Industry & Social Justice

Sex Workers and Feminists Unite! (5 of 6)

Excerpted from a post I contributed at Sex In The Public Square on February 25th, 2008.


Women have been at the forefront of raising awareness about human trafficking and the economic exploitation of women. Sadly, there is conflict among feminists in developed nations. The conflict is a result of a generation divide as well as differences in attitudes toward sex, gender and sexuality. This often results in the exclusion of sex workers, immigrant workers, transgender women and young women in forming an effective response to human trafficking. This practice of exclusion is making the battle to change bad policies affecting women’s health increasingly difficult.

It also means that the anti-choice political forces don’t have to put as much effort into restricting access to birth control and safe, legal abortions because women are divided and working against each other rather than together. This division is killing the women’s movement and will have terrible domino effects for future generations of women and girls.

Most feminists fully support a woman’s right to choose on all matters of sexuality and understand that one woman’s choice to say ‘yes’ does not compromise another woman’s right to say ‘no.’ We have to question the motives of those who are the loudest and most influential in the human trafficking debate:

“Mainstream feminists like to say [Bush is] anti-woman, but by supporting the abolitionist work against the global sex trade, he has done more for women and girls than any other president I can think of. . . . Years from now, when the anti-Bush hysteria has died away, I believe he will be recognized as a true advocate for women’s freedom and human rights.” –Donna Hughes National Review (January 26, 2006)

Feminists know that when it comes to abortion and women’s rights, religious fundamentalists and the Bush administration in particular are not our friends. Why would any feminist claim that Bush has done “…more for women and girls than any other president I can think of…?” The first thing that Bush did when he got into office was re-implement the global gag-rule on abortion that limited funding to organizations who provide a variety of health and prevention services to women globally. [President Obama repealed that ban upon entering office.] Because of the limited funding, these organizations are unable to provide a wide variety of health services including counseling, condom distribution and well-woman care.

The anti-choice forces understand that by lumping prostitution into the abortion debate they can persuade women to abandon their right to choose for the sake of prohibiting prostitution- at least from an economic standpoint. PEPFAR is just one example of how the right to choose and the right to charge are both being attacked by the same anti-woman forces that keep Plan B from being sold in some pharmacies and the same forces attempting to require minors to get a parent’s signature in order to access safe and legal abortions. Feminists have to reconsider our attitudes toward sexuality, promiscuity and monogamy to adopt a more inclusive approach. If we don’t work together, we all lose.

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