“Sex negative” and “sex positive” are relatively useless terms in terms of discussing feminist approaches to issues of sex and sexuality. The terms convey the message that “sex positivity” equals support for a vision of sex and sexuality that is defined by patriarchy and one that is primarily libertarian. What’s defined as “sex positive feminism” tends to translate to: non-critical of the sex industry, BDSM, burlesque, and generally, anything that can be related to “sex.” “Non-judgement” is the mantra espoused by so-called “sex-positive feminists,” which is troubling because it ends up framing critical thought and discourse as “judgement” and therefore negative. Since I tend to see critical thinking as a good thing, the “don’t judge me”/”don’t say anything critical about sex because it’s sex and therefore anything goes” thing doesn’t sit well with me.
“Sex negative,” on the other hand, tends to be ascribed to feminists who are critical of prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, burlesque, BDSM and, really, sex and sexuality as defined by patriarchy and men. The reason that feminists are critical of these things is because they want to work towards a real, liberated, feminist understanding of sex and sexuality, rather than one that sexualizes inequality, domination and subordination, is male-centered, and is harmful and exploitative of women. To me, that sounds far more “sex positive” (from a feminist perspective, anyway), than blind support for anything sex-related, because sex."
this is an interesting piece, but i still find it problematic. while i encourage critical debate on any feminist issue, i find the pro or anti-sex worker debate so frustrating because it rarely asks or takes seriously the voices of actual sex workers. this is what makes belle knox’s public reveal as the duke porn star so valuable. while meghan murphy did not mention her in this particular article, she decries belle knox for perpetuating the patriarchy in another piece, “feminism is the new misogyny.” for murphy to imply that she knows better than knox, an actual sex worker, the true nature of her line of work is as bad as the pro-life men who want to control women’s bodies in the abortion debate. we as a society need to consider sex workers agents of self determination and not simply victims (or ruined “whores”) to be governed by those who know better.
i would also argue that sex work is a radical way of dismantling male-centric sexuality. if radical feminism is the understanding that gender is a tool used by those in power to oppress—meaning that those in power (men) use sex work to reinforce subordination among those without power (women)—then for women to support the legitimization of sex work is to destabilize this very notion. a prostitute unafraid of legal implications or society’s taboos is able to wield economic and social power on her own terms. that equates to complete self-agency over her body, her sexuality, and her labor. this is enormously subversive to the patriarchy.
moreover, i reject the notion that sexuality is only healthy or liberated if it is an expression of affection/love/babymaking, which seems to be a subconscious argument of this article. the idea that our society should be somehow progressing to a point where sex is never entwined with power or economics is ignoring the reality of human sexuality. sex is used and expressed as an economic tool every single day in subtle as well as more overt ways. same with exercises in power. complicated sex is not simply a symptom of oppressive power structures, and it is not “tainted.” it’s a symptom of the human condition.