Damaged Goods

andreadworkinProstitution in and of itself is an abuse of a woman’s body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple. (…) In prostitution, no woman stays whole. It is impossible to use a human body in the way women’s bodies are used in prostitution and to have a whole human being at the end of it, or in the middle of it, or close to the beginning of it. It’s impossible. And no woman gets whole again later, after.”  — Andrea Dworkin

6 thoughts on “Damaged Goods

  1. Steersman

    As a guy who has availed himself of the services of more than a few sexworkers over the years – some 3 decades, off and on – I certainly find that type of argument more than a little disconcerting at best: am I worse than Adolf Eichmann? And something which has caused no small amount of soul searching, as well as some very public and in-real-life efforts to defend both my actions and the profession itself.

    But one thing that repeatedly amazes me about the whole issue is the extent to which it is so polarized – so many people on both sides of the issue, many though not all clearly motivated by honestly held perceptions, and valid concerns for potential or actual victims: “honest people may disagree”. Unfortunate manifestations though of the fact that very different assumptions or misapprehensions can lead to diametrically opposite and antithetical conclusions – rather analogous to aspects of the game of Sudoku. But not easy to find a way off the horns of such dilemmas.

  2. Anne Marie

    I would like to know what Marijkes point was when posting this? Because, as is, it seems to be fairly “anti”. Not a positive post to get emailed.

    Maybe a discussion on the quotes origins? It just feels empty without some background or reasoning behind it.

  3. Steersman

    Anne Marie:

    Good question. Maybe to point to another, fairly common, perspective on the sex trade? As a way of opening a discussion or dialog on the topic?

    While, as I mentioned in my first comment, I tend to be quite supportive of the profession and those in it, I also think it important to recognize that there are some rough patches to both, and that some aspects are less than edifying or exemplary. Somewhat apropos of which, you might want to take a look at this recent article – Prostitution Is Not Just Another Job – in the Huffington Post.

    While I’m a strong proponent of decriminalization and some degree of legalization, I also think that the sexworker community is kind of shooting itself in the feet by, from what I’ve seen, being reluctant to address those “problematic” aspects of the profession, if not actually turning a blind eye to them. The British politician Stanley Baldwin, by way of criticizing some of his opponents, characterized them as enjoying “power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”. Which certainly seems to me to be the crux of the matter, and, to some extent at least, likely to be a major reason why clamouring for decriminalization tends to fall on deaf ears.

  4. Geirr

    A woman does not become damaged or is no longer whole after she has had sex after being paid for it. As long as the sex was consentual, in my opinion, it is no different from sex between people without a monetary exchange. If a sex worker does not experience the sex she has as being damaging, then it is not damaging. She and only she can decide whether or not her work is damaging to her. Same as anybody else who works any other job. Who are these people to decide how other people are supposed to feel about their own job?

  5. Margarethe

    In the 80s I studied (applied physics) in Hamburg (Germany) and in order to supplement the small allowance I received from my parents I moonlighted as a call girl. The hours were much more flexible than jobbing for the beer tap industrial complex or the office cleaning industrial complex; and the pay was way better as well. Learnt a lot; a lot about myself and my sexuality; a lot about men, their sexuality, their insecurities and their hang ups and a lot about sex and sexual techniques and tricks. I started with my eyes wide open and by the time I had to stop because of my Phd work, I stopped. Even after all these years, not a shred of emotional or psychological damage has come to the surface. Save to say I was not damaged on bit and lived on as a fully functional and sexual women; not as damaged goods. And don’t bother to gimme any unsubstantiated crap (Marxist fairytales) about false consciousness.

    The relentless fanaticism, with which these shrieking harpies on the extreme left keep repeating all manner of variations of the “damaged goods theory” never ceases to amaze me. Do they have anything to hide? One wonders … Or is it only about power? The power to define female sexuality and to gain absolute and authoritarian control over all females in society? That would explain their ever willingness to cosy up to and collude with extremely conservative and reactionary protestants, catholics, salafists and wahabi muslims.

    Unfortunately we cannot afford to shrug it off and ignore this never ending barage of anti women, anti sex, anti sex work and anti sex workers propaganda and all the nonsense and all the outright lies. We live in uncertain and turbulent times and the authoritarians, the reactionaries, the vile, the vicious, the violent and the vindictive are about to march again through our streets and through the halls of power … The ancient Chinese malediction “may you live in interesting times” is about to come true … If we let down our guard long enough and let it happen.


    On a lighter note … I found this a couple of years ago and it made me smile … cynically:

    Prostitution Laundering or Sex-for-Nonsex

    Prostitution is the voluntary exchange of anything sexual for anything non-sexual.

    Sex-for-money is too broad a definition. Not all prostitutes receive money and not all prostitutes give sex. Before money was invented, a prostitute might have received cattle, and even today she might receive drugs or political favor. Instead of intercourse, she might be hired to spank and humiliate a man or even just wear a negligee and act like she enjoys it.

    The definition of prostitution as the voluntary exchange of any sexual activity for any non-sexual payment is the only definition that amply covers all the colors in the prostitution spectrum. Once we realize this, however, we have to face some uncomfortable truths.

    (Having sex to have a baby is, of course, the notable exception. Sex for the purpose of children is not pleasure or prostitution but a third thing we’ll call procreation.)

    This sex-for-nonsex definition means that anyone who’s ever had sex for anything except pleasure and babies is guilty of participating in the beautiful symbiosis that is prostitution. -A woman who has sex with her partner not for pleasure but for emotional closeness or stability. A man who provides intimate companionship to a woman not because he’s attracted to her but because she is powerful or famous. A woman who flirts with her professor for good grades. Any man or woman who sleeps his/her way to the top.

    Prostitution is less about the actions and more about the intentions. If you sleep with someone for pleasure and then they give you something (goods or services) you weren’t expecting, that is your good fortune. If you sleep with someone because you want something from them besides pleasure (or procreation), that is prostitution.

    Because prostitution is (still) illegal in the majority of developed countries, it is often laundered in various ways to turn the illegal sex-for-nonsex exchange into a legal goods-and-services transaction.

    Many unionized professional sex workers use the date method to launder their prostitution. The john invites the sex worker to a dinner or a party for an agreed upon fee, and anything that happens after that is simply between consenting adults.

    Non-unionized, freelance prostitutes are also quite fond of this method. Sometimes the agreed upon fee is just the price of the dinner or a movie.

    Some non-unionized prostitutes take it even further to where the date method becomes the girlfriend method and possibly even the wife method. The wife- and girlfriend- methods are some of the most effective ways to launder prostitution. Anything material a man buys for or any favors he bestows on his wife or girlfriend will never be called into question under prostitution laws. Similarly, any sexual activity she grants him in payment for those goods or favors will be mistaken for simple partnership or marital affection. The exchange has been completely and thoroughly laundered.

    Another popular method of prostitution laundering is the spa method. In this method, the unionized sex workers gather under the shelter of a “spa,” the customers pay a door fee for entrance, and then may tip extra for sexual services. Non-unionized prostitutes also sometimes use this method, usually amplifying it to the bar method or club method. Like the spa method, the bar- or club- methods involve the non-unionized prostitutes gathering under the shelter of a bar or club, the customers paying a door fee for entrance, and then tipping extra (usually in the form of drinks) to ensure sexual services.

    There are many ways to launder your prostitution. How do you launder yours?


    Unfortunately I lost the link to the blog of the gentleman I nicked this from; I hope he’ll forgive me 😉

  6. Marijke Vonk Post author

    I understand what you mean, I should have clarified. It’s shit anti’s say, so I can link to it later.

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