Pippa Evans on The Now Show gives some good advice - don't touch people who don't wanna be touched, even if you wanna touch them.
Content Warning. Discussion and examples of sexual violence. Examples of repulsive language describing women.
It’s remarkably odd, isn’t it, that even those things that one already know, or are widely known generally, once they are confirmed – or perhaps just reaffirmed – can hit you for six. This has happened to me twice recently, and one example is the “metoo” hashtag on social media.
Many people seem to have been shocked by this thing that we all already knew – that women and persons presenting as female, feminine, or trans, and gender queer, are subject to a great deal of unwanted sexual attention and forms of violence, sexual and otherwise. Certainly anyone who has studied, even at basic level, criminology and/or feminism “knew” this already, just as they “know” that large percentages of these violent incidences do not figure in official statistics.
This social media phenomenon is associated with an actress called Alyssa Milano, although Milano has acknowledged an “earlier #MeToo movement” began by black activist Tarana Burke. This latter movement, assuming that they are separate, went viral on social media in October 2017 to denounce sexual assault and harassment, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.
According to Slate, Milano tweeted “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Since then, I’ve seen many of my Facebook friends post about their experience of sexual abuse and harassment. Many have also spoken about their shock at the apparent prevalence of the issues that have arisen: rape, molestation, attacks, unwanted touching, being subject to aggressive sexual insults, etc.
Whether we really “knew” before, we sure know now. As a heterosexual man, I can think of several examples that had underlined my “knowing” of such issues. Apart from academia, studying and then teaching subjects such as feminism and critical criminology, the following places immediate jump to mind.
In Kirby, I was initially shocked to find that many men would call their female partners, “me tart.” One woman, Ruth, put up with tremendous amounts of verbal abuse – not just banter, real nasty stuff – from her partner. One day I asked her why and she said that, when they were alone, her partner was nice and caring but she thought he felt the need to present a very masculine self in public. Indeed, I was also told that girls and young women are told to learn how to walk in a “hard” manner to reduce the possibility of being attacked on the street. As we’ll see below, verbal abuse is one means by which sex workers’ self-esteem is severely damaged.
I was the Chief projectionist in Kirby, and I had a “number two” who I’ll call Bill. I distinctly remember that whenever we walked together through the shopping centre that was attached to the J&A entertainment centre where we worked, he would regularly point at women and say, “I’d f*** that, and I’d f*** that, and I’d f*** that.” I told him this was unacceptable but I don’t remember him stopping – I think I may have just stopped walking with him. To this day, I’m sensitive about language issues, not least in relation to human relations with other sentient beings.
I can group British Steel and Fords together, although the following was worse in the Dagenham car plant as I recall. There were plenty of “pin-ups” on the car assembly line, and some in the canteen areas of the steelworks. Both were overwhelmingly male environments, and both involved shift work. When we did see female staff, it would be canteen cleaners, or those working in administration. They were subject to sexualised calls from some of the men and, if young, whistling. More than that, though, I got my first taste at what some men will say to other men about females when in a group. Some say absolutely horrendous things. Violent sexualised language pours out of some men. What they want to do to any given woman, and what they assume “she wanted” or else “would get anyway.”
Prison was also “very male,” with even more reason, as far as both the staff and “inmates” appeared to believe, to be and act “manly.” Female staff were seen less frequently here. However, some women worked in the education department and one person, who I got to know quite well, would address the “induction wing” about the delights of the prison’s Education Department. After she had gone, the same old, same old, happened: what they were going to do to her, and what they thought “she wanted.” One nasty character could not stop talking about the assumed size of her “piss flaps.”
There’s more “pin-ups” in these prison locations – but much, much, more graphic pictured pornography too. In Armley jail in Leeds, I remember seeing one cell which was literally covered wall-to-wall with pornographic pictures. More than that, the guy in the cell had so many pages from porn magazines that some had to be overlapped over others. Except for scenes of oral sex, he chose to cover the heads of the women, resulting in picture after picture of headless female body parts in a variety of explicit sexualised poses.
I’ve included the case of “chris” below and she is one of those people who were deliberately bred by sex rings to be exploited as babies onwards. As part of her “training,” she says that she was taught how to adopt these stereotypical “porno” poses as a child.
Finally, I was getting on a bit when I was playing football in Wales. Being one of the guys with a car, I got the job of picking up three or four other players for away games. I sat through their tales of sexual conquests of the night before in Bangor’s only “nightclub” called the Octagon. The locals called it the “meat market” and the way the lads talked about women was frightening.
Around the same time, I was teaching in Wales and finishing my PhD. In one chapter, entitled ““Dehumanisation: "Using" the Species Barrier,” I looked at the issue of pornography as part of dehumanisation and depersonalisation processes – or “othering.” In part, I looked at male attitudes, and some of it can be a difficult read, so please take care of yourself… I began,
And a final extract,
So, all that is why I started this blog entry in terms of what I already “knew.” Some men, when they talk about women in particular, say the most vile, awful, vicious things.
I spent a couple of hours preparing material that was unfamiliar to me for this blog entry. What did I find? Predictably, more disturbing news.
For example, in Mother Daughter Revolution (1994), Elizabeth Debold writes
Writing in the Washington Post in 2016, Gail Dines said
All of these studies were published in peer-reviewed journals.
In the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Michelle Oberman writes
In the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Bennett and Fineran write,
According to a couple of those sites about slang language, some men use terms such as “drilling,” “blasting,” hammering,” “beasting,” “riding,” “boning,” “doing the nasty,” “slapping uglies,” “kicking it,” “giving her the bone,” “whoring,” “hot beef injecting,” “porking,” “beating,” “cowgirling,” “pounding the duck,” and “smashing the bitch,” to describe “doing” sex.
There is a huge male demand for paid sexual services. Brothels can be found in most towns and certainly cities – several in many cases. Each contains a number of sex workers, “servicing” several “customers.” Then there are the “street walkers," and the independent sex workers who work without pimps, at least “official pimps.” Their friends and partners may do that job at times.
As we might imagine, the language is the same, or worse, when it comes to men describing or talking to sex workers. The things men say to them during sex, and how they talk about them afterwards, is very, very, nasty. Research suggests that men feel a sense of entitlement when buying sex. They get to tell the sex worker what to do, and how to be, even though some data suggests that some men buying sexual services are timid and even shy. It appears to be the “habitual buyers” of sex who are the worst problem in terms of their attitudes and behaviour towards others. This group is likely to want violent sex but all men seem to want sorts of sex from dehumanised sex workers that they cannot obtain from “a real human being” like their own wives. Data suggests most sex worker users are married men. Many tend to see sex workers as little more – or nothing more in some cases – than objects and receptacles.
Sex workers seem always in severe danger of being violently attacked and raped. Not just sex workers, but female academics too. In a paper entitled, “Intersections of Sex and Power in Research on Prostitution: A Female Researcher Interviewing Male Heterosexual Clients,” researcher Sabine Grenz had to take precautions because she was propositioned by respondents and even had to be “less friendly” to interviewees than is usually recommended:
For sex workers themselves, they get lots of advice in the hope of keeping them safer. One piece of advice being, don’t have a pillow in your room because it could be used to smother you.
A hospital that treats sex workers said this in 2004,
New Zealand issued a 100-page guide for sex workers in 2004 which included information on repetitive strain wrist injuries from masturbation of the customer by the prostitute, warnings to carry a flashlight to inspect customers for STDs, and instructions for setting up a brothel.
Does it seem realistic for a sex worker to get to check for sexually transmitted diseases? Other advice is about the installation of “panic buttons.” However, one sex worker testified to the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that she was forcibly restrained from pressing a panic button while a “customer” raped her in what she described as one of her “paid rapes.”
There are some, including feminists, who forcefully argue that sex work can be fulfilling, satisfying, and even empowering for those who do it, although personally I find it hard to see how. If there are such cases, surely they represent an infinitesimal number in terms of the total of sex workers that there are? One suggestion is that indoor sex work is much safer than outdoor sex work – which does sound like common sense.
However, according to Farley, et al., criticising Weitzer’s position, “What is wrong with prostitution cannot be fixed by moving it indoors. The same harms are there whether she is in a trick’s house, a back alley, his car, or a room at a hotel. And the same physical violence occurs whether it is in a pimp’s massage parlour, the private booth of a pimp’s strip club, a pimp’s legal brothel, or on a pimp’s street turf.
On interviewing 100 women, Farley, et al., 2005, found an extremely high prevalence of lifetime violence, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 82% of respondents reported a history of childhood sexual abuse, by an average of four perpetrators. This statistic (those assaulted by an average of four perpetrators) did not include those who responded to the question, “If there was unwanted sexual touching or sexual contact between you and an adult, how many people in all?” with “tons,” or “I can’t count that high,” or “I was too young to remember.”
72% reported childhood physical abuse, 90% had been physically assaulted in prostitution. Of those who reported physical assault, 82% of the perpetrators were their “customers,” and 78% had been raped in prostitution, with 67% of those raped having been raped by “customers” more than ﬁve times.
89% had been physically threatened while in prostitution, and 67% had been physically threatened with a weapon. 72% met the criteria for PTSD, while 95% said that they wanted to leave prostitution. 86% reported current or past homelessness with housing as one of their most urgent needs. 82% expressed a need for treatment for drug or alcohol addictions.
In studies by Silbert and Pines in 1981 and 1982, 70% of women surveyed said that they had suffered rape in prostitution, with 65% having been physically assaulted by “customers.” One survivor described prostitution as a ‘harrowing metamorphosis’ that included frequent physical assaults and which ultimately resulted in a “neutralization of the body” or “somatic dissociation.” Dissociation refers to a compartmentalisation of experience: elements of the experience are not integrated into a unitary whole, but are stored in memory as isolated fragments…The continued use of dissociation as a way of coping with stress interferes with the capacity to fully attend to life’s ongoing challenges.
67% of Farley, et al’s., interviewees reported that pornography was made of them in prostitution; and 64% had been upset by an attempt to force them to perform an act that customers had seen in pornography. Again, how any of this is supposed to be “empowering” escapes me. With camera technology not only so good but everywhere – on virtually any phone – the sex workers who are filmed do absolutely no favours to other persons who may be in even worse circumstances than they are, such as those who are trafficked. How does adding to the huge weight of internet porn – much of it violent and non-consensual I expect - do anything but bolster and support the ideology of patriarchy which does so much damage to women’s (indeed, everyone’s) interests?
Many sex worker respondents who reported physical violence cited stabbings and beatings, concussions, and broken bones (such as broken jaws, ribs, collar bones, ﬁngers, spinal injuries, and a fractured skull), as well as cuts, black eyes, and “fat lips.” 50% of these women had head injuries resulting from violent assaults with, for example, baseball bats and crowbars. Many had their heads slammed against walls and against car dashboards. Sex buyers regularly subjected them to extreme violence when they refused to perform a speciﬁc sex act.
Farley, et al., found that a fear of men was pervasive. One woman told them that being hit and bruised were "just your common aggressiveness from men."
The verbal abuse in prostitution is socially invisible just as other sexual harassment in prostitution is normalized and invisible. Yet it is pervasive: 88% of research respondents described verbal abuse as intrinsic to prostitution.
Baldwin argues that the verbal abuse against prostituted women is seemingly reﬂected in the names that all women are called by violent men during sexual assaults. The epithets seem intended “to humiliate, to eroticize, and to satisfy an urge for self-justiﬁcation.” Readers won’t be surprised to discover that the names sex workers are called include “whore,” “slut,” “cunt” “bitch” “motherfucker,” and “pig.” These are names often verbalised during sex acts, as well as instructions like, “get on your knees,” “spread your legs,” “open your mouth,” “swallow everything you bitch,” and “suck it now.”
On motives for seeking sex workers, police arrested “clients” were asked by researchers to agree or disagree with 13 statements designed to reflect popular and scholarly understandings of the reasons men seek out prostitutes. Many conventional understandings were supported by the results.
Respondents said that it was easier to have sex with sex workers without the use of condoms than it was with their wives.
The idea that johns think of sex workers as objects is obvious. But it’s also important to note that “customers” believe that the bodies of sex workers are available for their use in any way they choose.
Some academics have suggested that the ability to treat women as objects is part - or perhaps even all - of some sex worker users’ real interest in prostitution. It is a grossly unequal power relation in which one is apparently allowed to say the most vile things to the other while suggesting degrading sexual things to do.
Academics talk about “habitual buyers,” and these seem to tend to have psychological problems and possibly sexual addictions such that they can only relate to women in sexualized or extremely violent and degrading ways. Some men have such a distorted view of those they buy sex from that they need to attend an educational programme before they can even begin to realise that sex workers “have feelings, too, like everyone else.” However, one study revealed that 76% of “habitual buyers” (the ones who are most likely to be sexually violent) said they would continue buying sex even after attending a so-called “john school.”
In Off Our Backs: A Women’s Newsjournal (2002), chris grussendorf and jill leighton tell of their personal experiences. jill says,
Jill was held captive for three years until Bruce was arrested. Chris says,
chris was told that she was a “good fucker” by “prostitute ring men,” and concludes: “I was a sexual commodity, groomed, seasoned and taught how to be raped and how to be a sexy plaything for men. This was my childhood. It was my life and, because I cannot escape the memories of it now, it is still my life.”
Traffickers routinely beat, rape, starve, confine, torture, and psychologically and emotionally abuse others, usually women. The buyers, too, are sometimes violent and often force sex workers to engage in degrading or abusive sexual acts. If victims attempt to escape, they bear a high risk of being caught and severely beaten or even killed by their traffickers.
Some buyers of trafficked sex workers like violent or sadistic sexual acts, including slashing, burning, or whipping the women.
#MeToo has merely reminded us of what we already know. Capitalist patriarchy, or patriarchal capitalism, is very dangerous for female identified persons. I wait to see how any of the above can be described as “empowering.”
Pro-intersectional vegans should be at the forefront of exposing and denouncing this massive tide of suffering, abuse, and rights violations.
 When one thinks about it, the cleanliness of “customers” must be an issue for sex workers.
I don’t know whether there would be a possibility to do something about a “dirty client.” Certainly, it seems unlikely that those sex workers in the least advantageous circumstances would have the opportunity – or facilities – to wash their “customers,” especially if there is a group of them. In the course of preparing this blog entry, I did something that was ill-advised (and twice). Because of my interest in language, I thought I would see what sort of titles there are in modern pornographic films. I thought of some key words and googled, “Irish amateur xxx.” Several sites came up. I want to make it crystal clear that I did not watch any of the, apparently, hundreds of films that are on every site – I just jotted down a number of titles.
Whether the films actually correspond to the titles, I cannot confirm. Some sites had static “galleries” of the various film clips on offer (they all appeared to be free) but one was set up so if a computer cursor was hovering over a picture, then a slide show of about 4 pictures would begin. Assuming they are stills from the film itself, then, for this site at least, the titles seemed “accurate.”
The sites themselves included titles and “blurb” such as, “Irish amateur sex tube, free porn videos,” “Irish amateur xxx movies. Irish amateur xxx movies is a new word in the world of high-quality free Irish Amateur porn. Only here can you find hundreds of exclusive…” [I could not see the rest because that would have required clicking on the link], “Search Irish – XXX Amateur porn – Amateur XXX girls Amateur girls porn, Start your filthy adventure,” “Free amateur Irish Creampie Fuck clips and hard amateur creampie sex films!”
In relation to the point, one film was entitled, “Irish ex sucks smelly cock.”
Other titles included, “Irish slut rough reverse cowgirl,” “Finger ruby pussy,” “Teen fucking,” “Irish teen masturbation,” “Hottest collection of Oral St. Patrick’s Day and Readhead porn movie scenes,” “Frotting and cumming,” “Irish girlfriend sucks and rides,” “Irish Pawg,” “Dildo fucking,” “Pregnant Irish redhead,” “Irish wife sunday afternoon,” “Irish slut face fucked,” “Irish wife hotel sex.” “Irish fuck slut big pussy,” “Irish slut from behind,” “Irish car sex,” “Blonde Irish girl sucks,” “Bound and fucked,” “Irish bird sucks dick,” and “Having anal.”
The reason I looked again is that I vaguely remembered the reference to the unclean penis but wasn’t sure. I was shocked to discover that this film clip now took a scroll to find, whereas it was prominent as a first film the first time I looked. I’m not sure whether this means that the films load randomly each time, or this indicates the daily rate of uploads (there was a day between visits). If the latter, that is deeply worrying to me, and suggests that sex workers who are filmed when “performing” sex acts must find themselves online regularly. Indeed, chris says, “When I pull up pornographic websites on my computer I find the first twenty-odd years of my life on display, splayed, trussed, raped, bruised, and chained. I see myself in the faces and poses of the women and girls for sale on my computer screen. I see myself when I was a sex slave, a girl child bred to be a prostitute, bred to make money for men” (in grussendorf and leighton, 2002: 36)
Baldwin, M. A. (1992). “Split at the root: Prostitution and Feminist Discourses of Law Reform.” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 5, 47–120.
Bennett, Larry, and Susan Fineran (1998.) “Sexual and severe physical violence among high school students: Power beliefs, gender, and relationship.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 68, Iss 4, (Oct): 645-652.
Farley, Melissa. (2005) “Prostitution Harms Women Even if Indoors. Reply to Weitzer.” Violence Against Women, Vol. 11, 7: pp. 950-964.
Farley, Melissa, Jacqueline Lynne, and Ann J. Cotton. (2005.) “Prostitution in Vancouver: Violence and the Colonization of First Nations Women.” Transcultural Psychiatry, Vol. 42, 2: pp. 242-271.
Grenz, Sabine (2005.) “Intersections of Sex and Power in Research on Prostitution: A Female Researcher Interviewing Male Heterosexual Clients.” Signs, Vol. 30, No. 4, New Feminist Approaches to Social Science Methodologies Special Issue, Editors: Sandra Harding and Kathryn Norberg (Summer), pp.2091-2113
grussendorf, christine and jill leighton. (2002) “reader discretion advised: Stripping as a System of Prostitution.” Off Our Backs, Vol. 32, No. 1/2 (January-February), pp. 34-40
Martin A. (1999.) “Focusing on the Clients of Street Prostitutes: A Creative Approach to Reducing Violence Against Women.” Monto Ph.D. Document No.: 182859. Date received: October 30, 1999
Oberman, Michelle. (1994) “Turning Girls into Women: Re-Evaluating Modern Statutory Rape Law.” J. Crim. L. & Criminology 15.
Whowell, Mary. (2010) “Male Sex Work: Exploring Regulation in England and Wales.” Journal of Law and Society. Vol. 37, No. 1, Regulating Sex/Work: From Crime Control to Neo-liberalism? (Mar.), pp. 125-144.
Yen, Iris. (2008.) “Of Vice and Men: A New Approach to Eradicating Sex Trafficking by Reducing Male Demand through Educational Programs and Abolitionist Legislation.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Volume 98. Issue 2 (Winter), Article 6.
Dr. Roger Yates is a rights advocate and sociologist