April 28, 2009


Wendy Chapkis’ article discussed the emotional labor of sex work, a subject that is easily overlooked. When most people think of careers in this industry, rarely does the emotional strain of the worker come to mind. Chapkis focuses on this element throughout her work by citing various sources, ranging from sheriffs to researchers to sex workers themselves. I found it interesting to see the various views of different people, particularly the sheriff and the researcher. The sheriff that Chapkis uses in her article condemns the work of those in the sex industry, comparing it to a “professional breakfast eater”. The researcher had a completely different view, stating that ones sexuality must be an object that a sex worker can manipulate and transfer. These impressions alone imply the demanding emotional labor that sex work entails. For one, sex workers have to accept that some people view them as inadequate to the rest of society by not even recognizing their profession as a legit job. Secondly, sex workers need to learn how to split themselves into an object, which is a task that many in the professional world might be incapable of doing. As a sex worker, this demanding stipulation could easily take its toll on the mentality of the employee. While some people criticize sex work, you have to wonder if these same people would be capable to successfully tolerate this line of work. After reading Chapkis’ article, I know that I have a different view of sex workers due to the emotional labor that sex work entails.

Blog 10

Chapkis argues that sex work is both empowering and exploitative depending on a workers own experience and how long they have worked in this industry. I feel that this is a very round way of thinking of the issue, because it acknowledges the obvious negative effects that sex work can have on women’s bodies and psychological issues that can arise for sex work, but it also gives important emphasis to the fact that women can be very empowered by the attention that they get from men, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. It is important to look at the issue of these women needing attention from men to feel like they are worth something, because it really has the capability to take the power away from women. Suddenly these women need attention from men to feel like they are worth something and we should reinforce the idea that women are more than just beautiful objects and bodies. Chapkis view on sex work will help feminists with different opinions find a middle ground where we do not discredit women’s sexuality as a negative part of patriarchy, but instead an expression of an aspect of women’s lives and their passions.

Chapkins and Sexual Morality

Chapkins view on sex as a form of work rather than an emotional experience definitely caused me to re-consider the sex work industry. Prostitution and sex work has always held a societal scrutiny as being incorrect. Though our government aligns itself with no one religion, the overall moral consensus of right and wrong has typically placed sex work in the “wrong” category. Interestingly, for sex to be generally viewed as acceptable it has to be tied with the emotional and intimate side of the action. Chapkins brings to the table an entirely new aspect, however. She distinguishes the difference between the sexuality of a person and the physical act of sex. If prostitutes are able to control the output of their emotion, as according to sex worker Annie Sprinkle, “[she] confirms that in managing her emotions through the commercial sexual exchange, she is able to create real compassion for a client for whom she otherwise would have no interest”. In this event the compassion and the emotion of sex can be controlled in order to perform for a customer. Chapkins depicts this separation as bounds for prostitution as being reasonable, “Once sex and emotion have been stripped of their presumed unique relationship to nature and the self, it no longer automatically follows that their alienation or commodification is simply and necessarily destructive.” This argument raises the question that if prostitution is sex as work as opposed to emotional attachment, does that make prostitution moral?

Response 5

I agree that sex work can be both exploitative and empowering because of the disrespecting and abusive language clients used as compliment to them. Rachel quoted, They’ll say, “Turn around bitch, I want to see your ass. I’m paying.” Just to talk to someone in away you’d never in a million years think of talking to someone in any other business or social interaction. That’s just not allowed; they get thrown out, but still to have to deal with that at all is a real drawback. That’s not something you have to contend with systematically in other jobs.” (Barton: 593) The language these women heard are not the language they would hear from everyday jobs like government jobs. Every women share the same timeline in their career as a sex worker because they are happy when they received positive experience and depress when they received disrespecting experience. It is not these sex worker that is the bad symbol or image, but the language. This is what feminism has to fight for. Fight for the elimination of disrespecting and abusive language so that sex worker can have a positive environment where the bad experiences do not outweigh the good experience. Sex work is a place where women can make money, but it is not a place to disrespect women. There is nothing wrong with making money. The language men used upon them is making them look bad and destroying their day.

Chapkis and labor

Wendy Chapkis had some interesting takes on sex work, specifically as in the world of labor. I think her perspectives, while only one view of the issue, are definitely important to consider while perceiving the issue in its entirety. She cited several examples of different women and their experiences, in contrast and agreement with different arguments made. The chapter discussed the emotional labor of sex work, and made many definitions that ultimately wrought the effects of sex work on all women - the commodity of female emotion. At the same time, she cited Arlie Hochschild extensively, in her work of the concept of self. She denotes feeling as a commodified object. Hochschilds argument is not black and white, that sex work is detrimental to self and emotion. The explanation, as it should be, is far more complex. Emotion and feeling have been deconstructed within this chapter, and so is the effect that sex work has on identity. The containment of feeling, though, is that necessarily empowering or destructive? I think it definitely important to make the connection, first of all, that there are incredibly diverse experiences. But even more importantly, there is a broader issue of work at hand. The most interesting point of discussion within the chapter, I thought, was the relation of alienation to all work. Chapkis noted Marx's argument that all workers are alienated under a capitalist system. I don't think this belittles the sex work industry, but that it actually captures the entire system that women face in controlling their own bodies both as human vessels and as working vessels.

Barton and Sex Work

Barton proposes the idea that sex work can be both exploitative and empowering at different times in a dancer’s career. In Barton’s study, she examines the perspectives of feminists involved in “sex work” and other radical feminists. She uses these different perspectives to show that both can be right depending on the time in the dancer’s career. In her interviews she describes detailed characteristics such as age, sexual orientation, educational background, and length of time working in the “sex” industry. By doing this, Barton was able to prove that, regardless of these factors, the pattern of their timelines were basically the same. Although many women reported that they were happy with their work, as time went on, many found the work to be emotionally draining. A common theme that Barton found was that most women reported that no matter the number, the bad experiences held much stronger weight on their satisfaction than did the positive experiences. As time passed, the job began to weigh down on the dancers’ self-esteem and self worth. Women began to no longer find it empowering and it was solely satisfying them financially. This proposal was a helpful way to go about thinking about the question of sex work and how feminists should address it. By including multiple perspectives, Barton effectively explored this issue and truly made me reexamine it. In my opinion, dancing falls on a spectrum. Some may report satisfaction. However, in the end, it takes a huge toll on the dancer’s self-image and self-worth.

April 27, 2009

Barton Rocks

When reading the articles the one I believed had the best proposal was the Barton article. I liked the way that she took the good parts of both the articles to come up with a good way to view the sex wars debates. Barton’s proposal was extremely helpful in the ways that anyone can view sex work no matter what one’s personal feelings are about sex work. I think that article has a lot of worth simply because she went out and talked to dancers who ranged in education levels, ages and economic situations. The articles really gives you a chance to see why varies kinds of people decide to partake in the sex industry. I think that feminists can be so busy with their own feelings and agendas with the sex industry they forget about the actual women who have to do the work and how they think and feel about the industry. The articles brings up a good way of how feminists should address the sex industry simply as something that one can be happy with then have a slow decline of the enjoyment out of the work that they are doing. Then women feel kind of trapped into the lifestyle that does not make them feel the empowerment or the happiness as it once did. I do not know if there is one effective plan of action when it comes to sex work. In a perfect world women would be able to do it just for their own happiness something that continuously empowers them. Sex work would not be a way to afford college or to support your family because you do not have the education level to make the same amount of money. I think that if feminists began to see sex workers more as individuals with various reasons for joining the sex industry rather than a side of the debate it would lead to more effective discussions about sex work.


I liked Barton’s article, on the complexity of sex work/dancing. Barton did a good job of explaining the different stances radical feminists have compared to those of sex radical feminists on the issue of sex work/dancing. Sex work is a very complicated arena to discuss because it is a private issue that has become political. There are no clear standards or rules for sex work which further complicates the issue. Barton sums the sex war battle up best when she says, “With the sexual and the sexiest as “closely intertwined” as they are in our culture, it is difficult to assess what is truly freeing and what is subtly undermining of women’s long-term health and happiness” (pp 600). I believe that sex work should be a private choice that does not enter the political realm of feminism; unless minors are involved or a woman’s choice to partake in sex work is no longer her own choice because she is enslaved by a pimp. Barton’s article did not make me think any differently about sex work/dancers except for she depicted dances as drunks and alcoholics. She mentioned more than once that dancers were “heady with alcohol and drugs” (pp 595 & 598). Which I know is not true for many dancers.

Barton Analysis

I really enjoyed Barton’s study on sex workers. Almost calling for a middle ground, Barton compared the opinions of sex radical feminists and radical feminists, arguing that both were right in different periods of time during a dancer’s career. She categorized the dancers by age, sexual orientation, level of education, and length of time spent dancing. Her finding that women usually enjoyed working under the three-year mark, and then after a substantial time period in the industry, became less satisfied with their work. During the first three years, she found that many women found it empowering as well as monetarily satisfying to dance. After about three years, the job began to weigh down on them emotionally. Instead of developing a thick skin, many dancers self-esteem became tied to how much money they were able to pull in. This study changed my opinion on sex workers, in this case, exotic dancers. Dancing in my opinion is a matter of extremes. There are stark highs and lows in the job, from making $500 for a simple conversation to being called a dirty slut. In examining the role that dancing played in determining the women’s self image over a period of time, Barton showed a more effective way to examine sex workers against different feminists ways of thought.

April 26, 2009

BARTON proposal

I am going to discuss Barton's proposal on the sex wars. Barton looked at sex work on a timeline view which was very interesting to read about. I think that it was a very helpful way to think about the question of sex work and how feminists should address it because her work mostly showed a decline in happiness with one's work as time went on in a sex worker's life. I think it's worth noting too that she defines very explicitly who she interviewed and their ages, sexual orientation, and length of time working in their area. It didn't matter how old/young the women were, their patterns stayed the same besides maybe one woman: the longer they continued working in the sexual 'field' the more unhappy they became. The main fact that stood out to me the most is that in all of the stories that the various woment told, the one bad comment could outweigh all of the good comments. Barton says, "In the first month, the novice dancer is still aglow with the compliments and the money. Maybe she’s had only two or three negative experiences. After six months, she may still enjoy the attention and the income, but now she may recall more than a dozen unpleasant events" (pg. 596). So these dozen unpleasant experiences drastically outweight the assumedly many pleasant experiences of a dancer. Also, as one of the dancers says, "To dance the least and make the most, I think that's the goal" (pg. 596). If this is the case, if all of these negative experiences lead to dissatisfaction despite other positive ones, and if less dancing is desirable to the workers, then I feel that this says something about sex work. Obviously it's not beneficial for women, it causes them to critique themselves all the time; it is a quick fix both ways around, for men it's obviously just something temporary, they don't develop a relationship with these women outside of the places they work. For the women, too, in the beginning it's a power trip until they realize that they are being used. This article definitely made me see this issue differently; it made me realize that this sort of thing happens to women even when we cannot hear it. When a woman dances inside of glass box where she is oblivious to the comments and thoughts of the men watching her, this sort of degrading thinking is still going on. The same with magazines; it's fine to be an empowering, sexual woman in your life, but there you have CONTROL over who gets to view your body in such a way, not just any paying customer.

April 24, 2009

Blog 10: April 27

By framing their debate over sex and sex work in terms of sex as good or bad, as exploitative or empowering, or as a matter of choice, feminists have found it difficult to develop meaningful analyses of how sex/sex work functions within the patriarchy. Their theories on sex have frequently pitted feminists against each other and failed to give any attention to the concrete experiences of actual sex workers. The readings for this week address these concerns and all argue, in different ways, for the reframing of debates over and analyses of sex work. Chapkis argues for thinking about sex work as a form of work and focusing on the working conditions/experiences of actual sex workers. Henry suggests that we develop a feminism that brings the different perspectives on sex and the different generations of feminists together to forge more vital and productive coalitions. Barton offers up the idea of the mobius strip transformations as a way to think about how sex work can be both exploitative and empowering at different times in a dancer’s career.

Questions: Discuss one of the author’s proposals. Is the proposal a helpful way for thinking about the question of sex work and how feminists should address it? Did it make you think about the issue differently? Could it lead to more effective strategies/plans of action for feminists as they engage in contentious discussions about sex work?