When talking about sex work, words matter. Amnesty International voted Tuesday to develop a policy supporting sex workers’ rights. The new resolution recommends that the policy call for worldwide decriminalization
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The presence of money does not remove one’s ability to consent. Consent; in and out of sex-work; is not just given, but constructed, and from multiple factors: setting, time, emotional state, trust and desire.Desire is contingent on all of these.
Consent and desire aren’t states frozen in our bodies tapped-into and felt or offered. They are formed. Money rather than serving as a tangible symbol of consent clarifies that consent to any sexual-interaction isn’t a token given from one person to another like a few-bills changing hands. Money is just one factor, even if it is in many cases the most important-one in constructing consent. It would be a mistake then; to confuse desire with consent.
There is much that sex workers do in their work that they will not enjoy doing and yet they do consent and have legitimate-reasons for doing so. Writer and prostitute Charlotte Shane terms this ‘unenthusiastic consent.’ a flip to the recent feminist-call to demand enthusiastic-consent a ‘yes means yes’ to fight for alongside ‘no means no.’ Shane isn’t saying ‘yes means no,’ but rather. as she writes at the blog, ‘Tits and Sass;’ ‘There is a stark-difference between the times I’ve agreed to undesired-sex with clients and times I have agreed to certain types of sex with clients. Labelling all of those experiences ‘rape’ erases the truth, my reality and my agency.’
We have an understanding through advocacy of feminist anti-rape activists that even if our consent is violated we can feel, despite ourselves, pleasure. The corollary then is that pleasure isn’t necessary for one to have offered consent and the absence of pleasure should not be construed as a withdrawal of consent. If rape isn’t just bad sex, just ‘bad sex.’ even at work; isn’t rape.
‘Playing the Whore: the Work of Sex Work’ by: Melissa Gira Grant