We live in a culture that oppresses women. Many women have internalized that oppression. It is sold us every day on tv and in womens magazines, in social interractions, in common views and myths about gender differences and rape, in the mainstreaming of pornography. We are told how to look, how to dress, how to please our men. We have filled our breasts with silicone, turned our bodies orange, starved ourselves, learned what is expected of us in the bedroom (everything) and waxed our bikini lines to nothing to be what we’re told men want us to be. We now say we do it to make ourselves feel good. We are taught we’re not good enough as we are, we change ourselves and sexually objectify ourselves to be accepted and we say that say we choose it. It makes us feel good: we’ve done what we’re told that we ought to.
Does saying that we choose this make us powerful or powerless? Where do we get our norms and ideals? If the sex industry tells us that when a woman looks a certain way, acts a certain way - always sexually available - and ‘uses’ her sexuality by selling herself, that this is the height of women’s liberation and empowerment, does that make it true? Or have we been conned by a change of goalposts and a change of language?
In such an environment of oppression, is it fair to say, as do those who argue in favour of porn and prostitution, that individual women freely choose to engage in ‘sex work’? The word ‘choice’ implies an even playing field, a number of feasible options to be chosen from, freedom from financial, physical and mental constraints, the possibility to reverse a decision and quit at any time without repercussions. The statistics around porn and prostitution clearly indicate that this is not the case*. What the pro-sex industry lobby term ‘choice’ I call internalised oppression. That’s the very opposite.
* See: www.object.org.uk