Sex workers are not all victims. Stories from China demonstrate this. Pink Space is a NGO based in China working on sexual rights with people who are oppressed due to their gender or sexuality. At one of the Pink Space meetings, I heard Jin’s story. Jin was a house wife until she found out about her husband’s affair. She left home and took a job as a masseur. As part of her work, apart from giving massages to her clients, she sometimes dressed up and went out with them, and sometimes she had sex with them. She had lots of fun and was amazed at how much money she could earn from it. She refused to go back with her husband, who begged her to go home with him and look after their kids. Jin said from being a housewife and depending on her husband financially one can only expect a broken heart, whilst from working in the massage house she has her own money and enjoys freedom. She said that she can decide where to work and who she works for, so having a husband is no longer her dream.
Jin also said she supports her kids and her parents with her own income, she is a mother and a daughter. I would say Jin is a feminist, however she may not want that identity herself, since there are other feminists there framing her and her co-workers as victims.
It is a real pity that some people call themselves feminists viewing sex work as objectifying women’s bodies, and as the commercialisation of sex. They fail to see sex work leads women to freedom from unpaid house work and liberates women from patriarchy kinship and households that are often ruled by men. These people also fail to see women’s bodies are not there to be exploited by men, but to be made use of by the women themselves for their own purposes.
For these feminists, they see themselves as savers and saving victims who are falling into the sex industry and being exploited. They would feel lost if the sex workers themselves are willing to take sex work as work, as liberation, as freedom; and they would then have no-one to save but themselves.
If these feminists haven’t learnt a lesson from real life, then the sex worker can teach one: emotional and intimate relationships cause more violence than sex worker and client relations. Studies show that one-third of domestic violence happens within families and intimate relations. Feminists should really challenge the marriage institution, save women from entering violent relationships and becoming house wives, rather than saving sex workers.