Whorephobia affects all women

From The Guardian, Jun 23. And it’s written by a male sex worker, which is refreshing, and he seems pretty fucking on the ball.

Whorephobia can be defined as the fear or the hate of sex workers. Sex workers like me would argue that it also embraces paternalistic attitudes that deem us a public nuisance, spreaders of disease, offenders against decency or unskilled victims who don’t know what is good for them and who need to be rescued.

In its most violent form, whorephobia kills. Sex workers are far more likely to be murdered than the rest of the population: the recent killings in Bradford are the most recent and saddening example. However, it would be a mistake to think that sex workers are the only targets of these murderers. Attackers often target sex workers because they look like easier prey. Sometimes it is only once a non-sex worker is killed that the police take an investigation seriously. Until sex workers are safe, no woman is safe.

If men are the ones who attack physically, women are sometimes more prejudiced than men against sex workers. In most languages, the most common sexist insults are “whore” or “slut”, which makes women want to distance themselves from the stigma associated with those words, and from those who incarnate it. The “whore stigma” is a way to control women and to limit their autonomy – whether it is economic, sexual, professional, or simply freedom of movement.

Women are brought up to think of sex workers as “bad women”. It prevents them from copying and taking advantage of the freedoms sex workers fight for, like the occupation of nocturnal and public spaces, or how to impose a sexual contract in which conditions have to be negotiated and respected. Whorephobia operates as a way of controlling and policing women’s behaviour, just as homophobia does for men.

One solution could be to reclaim the insults. Yet the English Collective of Prostitutes was criticised by the rest of the feminist movement in the 1970s for its slogan: “All women are prostitutes.” It was indeed misunderstood – despite being a beautiful effort to unite sex workers and other women and to identify them as similarly oppressed and sexually and economically exploited.

The first step in the fight against whorephobia is to name the oppression. Feminist theories help to identify it as at the intersection of gender, class and sexuality. A further step would be to fight the hate crimes sex workers suffer instead of criminalising us. The work of Shelly Stoops in Liverpool is a good example: her Armistead Street outreach project and collaboration with the Merseyside police have helped to build trust between officers and sex workers, who feel now able to report crimes.

Baby is breast-fed by wrong woman at Virginia Hospital Center

Via today’s Washington Post

The day after her first child was born in January at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County, Suzanne Libby discovered that he was missing from the hospital nursery. Searching frantically, she found Spencer in his hospital bassinet — in another woman’s room. Standing next to him was a hospital aide, a stricken look on her face.

The relief that Libby felt at finding her son was later replaced by fresh anxiety: The woman, it turned out, had breast-fed her newborn.

More than two hours passed before hospital officials told Libby, 34, and her husband, Reed, 36, how the mix-up had happened: The aide had neglected to match Spencer’s ID bands with the other woman’s. The next day, hospital officials told the couple that results of blood tests run on the woman showed she did not have HIV or hepatitis B or C, diseases that can be passed to a baby through breast milk.

It’s impossible to know how often breast-feeding mix-ups happen, because many states do not require hospitals to report them unless there is serious harm.

But Ruth Lawrence, a breast-feeding expert at the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that she hears about them occasionally.

At least eight other mix-ups have occurred in recent years, including two at other Washington area hospitals where babies were given to the wrong mothers but not breast-fed.

Although some experts say the potential for harm to infants is minimal, federal authorities say the possible exposure to HIV or other infectious diseases should be treated just like an accidental exposure to other body fluids…

Read the rest Here

What do you think about this? Defiantly some interesting ethical issues in play here.

(submitted by Bellekid)

Thanks for the submission, Bellekid. You’re right, this is certainly an interesting piece of news. I’m not going to comment on it directly, at least not in the sense of making some sort of moral judgement except to say that this was a massive oversight on the part of the hospital and thankfully the baby is fine.
It does, however, bring up two interesting points.

1) The culture of fear we live in, particularly with regards to HIV/AIDS and protecting our children. Yes, HIV and Hepatitis can be transmitted through breastmilk from an infected mother, but the risk of this is relatively low. In Western heterosexual populations the rate of infection in women who do not engage in high-risk behaviours (selling sex, shooting drugs) is low. Very low. Hepatitis is also primarily associated with sex work and intravenous drug injection. Now, it seems unlikely to me that a sex worker would be on a maternity ward (screaming brats are not good for trade, and her vag would be out of action for a while), and if if she were, AND INFECTED WITH HIV, why on earth would she be breastfeeding her child (or a child she believed to be hers)? It just doesn’t follow. Similarly, junkies (as opposed to casual drug injectors—they do exist) are unlikely to be, should they fall pregnant and find themselves on a maternity ward (insurance issues complicate this in the US; in the UK and other places with a NHS you would skip with step), the baby would be very ill whether or not the mother were infected with HIV or Hep, on account of the drug use. Or, if the woman were a former junkie with HIV or Hep, and whose foetus has not been exposed to drug use, i would imagine she would not be so stupid (and i would imagine the hospital would not allow her) to breastfeed a baby she believed to be her own and risk infection
Another facet to this is: Why the jump to conclusion of HIV/Hep, which are associated primarily with drugs and sex? Why not (both the parents and the newspaper) worry about the far more likely scenario of a woman on medication passing traces of it (and side effects and potential anaphylaxis with it) on through lactation? I’ll tell you why:
because none of these consequences perpetuate the stigmatising of those with HIV/AIDS/Hep, those involved in sex work and intravenous drug injectors. Sex workers and IDIs are viewed, by and large, as dirty. These people are marginalised and stereotyped and—still, after decades—(usually) conveniently left out of HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives.
I think part of this is because IDIs and sex workers exhibit a degree of freedom with their bodies (however dangerous or misplaced it might seem (which is another story for another day)) that contemporary society just isn’t comfortable with. In the case of IDIs, i don’t think it’s the *addiction* that simultaneously attracts and repulses us (and thereby breeds the disgust/marginalisation/steretyping &c. i’ve mentioned above); it’s the perceived abandon, the rebellion, the perceived corporeal liberation that comes with drug use that results in the othering/abjection of IDIs. It seems like a similar sort of deal with sex workers: Prostitution is the oldest profession, yet even today in the twenty-fucking-first century sex (work) is taboo. Women and sex especially so. “We” are not ‘supposed’ to talk about sex, not supposed to think about it. In today’s cultural climate (as it ever was) our bodies aren’t our own. Our bodies belong to religion, to politics, to doctors, to husbands and wives, to the media. We are aliens to our corporeal existence: we deny ourselves self-knowledge, we disgust ourselves with our desires, we chastise ourselves, we disgust ourselves again. The only remedy? we reject sexuality. We remove it from ourselves. Yes, yes, society still has sex—of course. By the bucketload. But we’re damned if we’ll talk about it. So, we remove sexuality from ourselves, ostracise those we perceive as not doing the same, particularly sex workers… and envy; want/reject; their freedom. Quietly… 
What i mean is that IDIs and sex workers exhibit a corporeality that we don’t/want; we have no choice but abjection.

Wow, that’s really long. I didn’t quite anticipate writing that much on my first point. I shall save the second for another day, but, just to tease you, it’s to do with Melanie Klein…

My first point in a nutshell: this article provides the perfect base to wax lyrical on the body politics/sex work/drug use/HIV/sex/stigma/fearmongering; is reflective of a larger structure of corporeal autocracy within society right now; is disappointing in this regard but not, i’m afraid, unsurprising; symptomatic of, in particular, the unwavering influence of social conservativism in modern society; food for thought.

NB: By “we” i don’t mean all of us, only the general trend, what i think is going on. I certainly don’t think the way that “we” do according to the above.

Everybody: feel free to submit things to me. This was my first submission and i really enjoyed offering a commentary on it.
Oh, and comments. If you’ve got something to say… say it. Comment below, reblog a response or use the askbox  up top.


Elizabeth Pisani, PhD., epidemiologist and author of ‘The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS’ (Granta, 2008), throws some potentially life-saving, policy-changing HIV/AIDS statistics around. Very illuminating. Well worth watching.