Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


We're different from classic feminists.
May 6, 2011 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Kiev's topless prostestors (NSFW) Facebook used to block their pages and Ukraine's secret service has threatened them with violence:
"With a mix of political protest and eye-catching eroticism, the women's rights group Femen (wiki) has inspired fear in Ukrainian authorities with its fight against prostitution and sex tourism."
Non-Violent Civic Resistance in Ukraine has a history with Maidan.
The nude radicals: feminism Ukrainian style.
posted by adamvasco (97 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks cold.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2011


Ukrainians have a long history of getting naked when pissed off about something. It's one of the things that makes us the most loveable people in Europe.

And in one of lifes crueler ironies, the Ukrainian diet is least conducive to a people given to stripping down as form of protest. Or maybe that's what makes it so powerful a statement.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:49 PM on May 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Naked emotion is powerful.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I clicked through just to look at boobies. One of us is doing it wrong.
posted by Legomancer at 1:51 PM on May 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


We have the right to use our bodies as weapons. It was men who made breasts into a secret.

True that. Good for them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


Sex tourism/trafficking/prostitution is something men should really have a word with themselves about.
posted by Summer at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's on the agenda for the next meeting.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:00 PM on May 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


You've caught my attention.
posted by Trurl at 2:00 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of lumping prostitution and sex trafficking together. It's like lumping smoking a joint in with terrorism because drug revenue can fund bad things.
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [24 favorites]


"I clicked through just to look at boobies. One of us is doing it wrong."

From the article:

"I think men like women's breasts," says activist Inna Shevchenko, "but they don't like it when a woman has something to say as well."
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:05 PM on May 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


It was men who made breasts into a secret.

That is a wonderful turn of phrase. Poetic even.
posted by emjaybee at 2:06 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah I do wonder to what degree FEMEN risks having their message(s) not communicated effectively because of the toplessness, but then I also wonder if that's one of their messages, but then I also wonder if that communication loses efficacy because of other aspects of their protests. Basically as a heterosexual dude I'm going to recuse myself from having a decided opinion on this, because I'm part of the problem anyway.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:07 PM on May 6, 2011


I live in San Francisco, where situations that involve both nudity and protesting result in seeing people that you would never want to see naked in a million years. These ladies look great. More power to them. Love this photo, specifically – it's a weird combination of life/death/sex/freedom. And yes, sex tourism is a horrible and damaging to society and women, so good on them for bringing attention to the problem.
posted by quadog at 2:08 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of lumping prostitution and sex trafficking together. It's like lumping smoking a joint in with terrorism because drug revenue can fund bad things

They're not really equivalent. Trafficking only exists because prostitution does. I guess it would be like condemning someone smoking a joint because people die in the drug trafficking chain. But to make it really equivalent you'd need the bodies in the room with you when smoking the joint.
posted by Summer at 2:11 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


There really isn't anything that nudity can't fix.

Or maybe there is. Only one way to find out.
posted by brundlefly at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I firmly support their form of protest. yey! We need more detailed information on their views about prostitution however. European legal systems have generally upheld a woman's right to prostitute, while outlawing pimping as exploitation. I'd imagine Femen also holds this viewpoint, probably simply objecting to some Ukrainian mafia controlled brothels or sex trafficking, but wikipedia doesn't make any assertions about the details.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2011


They're not really equivalent. Trafficking only exists because prostitution does.

And drugland gang wars only exist because people desire drugs. I think it's a pretty decent analogy.
posted by Justinian at 2:14 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan of lumping prostitution and sex trafficking together.

I'm not a huge fan of the "hurf durf boobies" comments by people who aren't fighting desperately for their personal autonomy while facing threats of violence from their government and from sex traffickers.

But that's me.
posted by emjaybee at 2:19 PM on May 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


I didn't make any of those comments.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


And drugland gang wars only exist because people desire drugs. I think it's a pretty decent analogy.

Well, if you pay for a trafficked woman the evidence of abuse is right there in front of you and you yourself are then adding to the abuse. But I understand not all prostitution is like that. I'm not even anti prostitution per se.
posted by Summer at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of the "hurf durf boobies" comments

FWIW, Legomancer's comment seemed like a cleverer way to say the same thing I did.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2011


I agree with you; anyone who knowingly exploits a trafficked woman is... something I don't have a word for.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2011


Yeah I do wonder to what degree FEMEN risks having their message(s) not communicated effectively because of the toplessness

I'm not going to click the links, which means I'm not going to really get their message, except through these comments. I'm not going to look now because I'm using a work computer. I'm not going to do it later because I'm sympathetic to what I think I'm reading that they're trying to say, which means the last thing I would want to do is objectify them. But I am self-aware enough to know that viewing women topless will on some level almost always arouse me. (This is the same reason I won't be buying the MetaFilter nude calendar.) And while I'm guessing that this taking back the objectification cognitive dissonance is partly the effect they are going for, if that makes me too uncomfortable to participate because I don't want to be that guy - well, maybe it doesn't work on some level.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm not really the intended audience, anyway.

On the third hand, is the intended audience getting the message, or just enjoying a quick thrill? Not sure. But I'm always glad when people stand up for themselves, however they decide to do it. So good for them.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


people who hire prostitutes may not be aware that they are purchasing trafficked "goods".

the movement seems a little disorganized to me,
"We understand that the root causes for many of the problems in Ukraine run very deep," says Victor, one of Femen's few male members. "That's why we take the concept of prostitution one step further: The entire Ukraine is a brothel."
but the ideology behind being topless seems somewhat thought out.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:32 PM on May 6, 2011


Prostitution is one of those things I support from a "who am I to tell someone what to do with their own body" viewpoints, but I can't shake the idea that the very large majority of prostitutes would either really rather not be a sex worker or are being coerced into sex work.

The first step to fixing that would seem to be making prostitution legal and pimping illegal, as noted above.
posted by maxwelton at 2:35 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder which is more effective: Message then nudity, nudity then message, or both at the same time?

I'm being serious about this. Does the mind's ability to remember affected more by a 'reward' like this before, during, or after the information is given? How does sexual arousal influence the creation and retention of memories?

Of course, I'm just beanplating the pointing finger, and not what it's pointing to. But if it gets the plight of these women addressed in some way, and not hidden and ignored, so much the better.
posted by chambers at 2:36 PM on May 6, 2011


the movement seems a little disorganized to me

This is true.

But people are talking, becoming aware. Women who felt as though they had no power are doing something, rather than nothing.

It's a start.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 2:38 PM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Underneath it all, mother Russia really does have boobs.
posted by stbalbach at 2:39 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, Legomancer's comment seemed like a cleverer way to say the same thing I did.

That's not cool. Don't stifle someone's attempt to live up to a stereotype by pointing out the facts.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:40 PM on May 6, 2011


The problem with the drugs/prostitution analogy is that legal drugs (alchohol, tobacco) don't really have any criminal attachment at the moment. So it stands to reason that legalized, regulated prostitution wouldn't result in much human trafficking.

Have you ever heard of sex slaves being forced to work in Nevada's legal brothels? I haven't. The idea that prostitution and human trafficking are inseparable is absurd. And beyond that humans are often trafficked for non-sex related work anyway.

---

I also think people critical of FEMEN for showing their boobs in order to get their message across are kind of missing the point. First of all, it isn't at all as big of a deal to go topless in Ukraine as it is here in the U.S. There are lots of topless beaches, etc there.

The other part is that they felt that they couldn't get any attention for their causes without going topless. In the U.S. people are used to listening to women but in Ukraine it was really hard for them to get their message out or feel like they were being heard.
posted by delmoi at 2:42 PM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


My first impression was that, indeed, this is not a very effective way to get the message across. But on reflection this is only half the story; the fact is I'm hearing about this movement which is occurring 6000 miles away and I almost certainly would not have heard about it absent a shtick like this. So I think they know what they are doing.
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Prostitution is one of those things I support from a "who am I to tell someone what to do with their own body" viewpoints, but I can't shake the idea that the very large majority of prostitutes would either really rather not be a sex worker or are being coerced into sex work.

maxwelton, that's a pretty uneven lumping.

I would really rather not be an engineering worker. But it's what pays the bills best, so I am.

I am not being coerced into engineering work.

I am part of the very large majority of engineers who would either really rather not be a engineering worker or are being coerced into engineering work.

My point is that freely choosing to be a prostitute, even if it's not your dream job, is an acceptable choice for an adult. Being forced, by economic hardship or slavery, to do so is unacceptable.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:47 PM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


In case I wasn't clear, I'm not critical of FEMEN. I was just adding a data point in response to the question of how the toplessness effects the message. Like I said, I may not (probably not) be the target for this anyway. And I definitely think it's a positive thing to do, whether it reaches everyone who needs reaching or not. It's still progress. No communication is universally translatable.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2011


I can't say for certain that the amount of attention drawn to the cause nude sexy protesting outweighs the downsides of self-objectification here. But I can say that it did at least make me aware that sex tourism is a problem in the Ukraine. And it made me think that these women protestors had been sprayed by Duff.
posted by ignignokt at 2:51 PM on May 6, 2011


"I think men like women's breasts," says activist Inna Shevchenko, "but they don't like it when a woman has something to say as well."

Not all men...

that's right, baby, keep it on message... on message... on messss—
posted by Eideteker at 2:51 PM on May 6, 2011


Hey! Quit objectifying her brain!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:53 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Kyiv Post(2008, SFW) discusses a little bit more about the group and the background and speaks about sex tourism. Interestingly, the group leader is against legalizing prostitution.
“A woman in this country is born as a sex object,” Svyatskiy said. “The mentality from the film “Pretty Woman” prevails in our culture and I don’t like it.”
sex tourism is apparently very popular in the Ukraine despite it being technically illegal. I suppose a good start for the group would be to get the government to enforce the laws on the books. Perhaps catching johns in the act and on video tape then disseminating it would be effective. Especially if said john's were powerful and rich foreigners.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:54 PM on May 6, 2011


"I can't shake the idea that the very large majority of prostitutes would either really rather not be a sex worker or are being coerced into sex work." One reason you can't shake that idea is because Western culture fairly shouts it from the rooftops. People who have done sex work who have had positive experiences, and/or were not coerced at all are shamed and shouted down and not given airtime.

I have personal experience in the sex industry. I was not coerced. No one I know was coerced. As long as you aren't addicted to anything, such that the addiction is controlling your decision-making process and leading you to take risks you wouldn't otherwise, and so long as you are independent or work with a reputable agency, "prostituting" or escorting is a great way to make good money while retaining control of your schedule and having lots of free time to engage in other pursuits. I personally feel that the majority of jobs are much MORE exploitative. The company generally controls more of your time, and pays you less. Also--and most people have already pre-decided not to believe this--but escorting can be genuinely enjoyable. You often get to help people feel good, have pleasure, talk out problems, feel lovable again. A genuine, albeit temporary, connection between two human beings can be made. This doesn't fit into many people's concept of what's possible, but that doesn't stop it from existing.

Of course, what I'm presenting here is anecdotal evidence from my own personal experience and a handful of people I've known who also did sex work, but it's interesting how quickly many people are willing to shove stories of real people aside in favor of their assumptions, or in favor of one or two very vocal anti-prostitution folks who shriek about how all prostitutes are coerced and damaged.

Prostitution is going to continue to exist. Protesting against it is sort of like protesting against air, or trees, or water. It's a fact of life, and for it to stop existing, people and society would have to be so wildly different as to be almost unimaginable. It's funny and sad that these protesters are using their bodies to sell their ideas--ideas about how it's not ok for other women to sell their bodies for their own reasons.

Sure, maybe something can be done to create more jobs for women in the Ukraine. That seems like a separate issue that doesn't require activists to shit on people who make choices other than the ones they have made.
posted by parrot_person at 2:58 PM on May 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'm just here to RTFA.
posted by Splunge at 2:59 PM on May 6, 2011


"People who have done sex work who have had positive experiences, and/or were not coerced at all are shamed and shouted down and not given airtime."

I have to strongly disagree. I think that white, relatively independent, and relatively well-off escorts get much more of a voice than women of color, the poor, the underage...
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:04 PM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have to strongly disagree. I think that white, relatively independent, and relatively well-off escorts get much more of a voice than women of color, the poor, the underage...
Sure but what happens when those people want to work real jobs? There was an article in salon a while ago about a woman who had been a prostitute, and wrote positively about it. And then she got fired from her job as a teacher, and now she can't find work. So slut shaming is alive and well for women who want to speak out about not having a horrible experience as a prostitute.
posted by delmoi at 3:07 PM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Actually it was just a couple days ago here's the article
posted by delmoi at 3:09 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, that definitely happens, and I'm not denying that. But the fact that you know about that is what I mean about them having a voice. They get published in venues like Salon. There are TV shows about them.

Like a lot of feminist issues, the most privileged women tend to dominate the discourse and I think it really does a disservice to a great number of women who are coerced, or don't want to be in sex work, or who suffer from violence and sexual assault on a regular basis.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:11 PM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


the most privileged women tend to dominate the discourse and I think it really does a disservice to a great number of women who are coerced, or don't want to be in sex work, or who suffer from violence and sexual assault on a regular basis.

First of all, if you read the article it doesn't sound like she came from a privileged background:
In the community where I grew up, girls didn't become writers and teachers; they became strippers.
And now she's unemployed and can't find a job. So how is that privileged?
posted by delmoi at 3:15 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean really...being slut shamed is bad, but if it's the worst thing that happens to you as a result of being a sex worker, you're really, really lucky. And there is a lack of perspective about that that crowds out genuine discussions about the harmful nature of sex work for a lot of women.

The women in this article are in the Ukraine, they are students (70% of whom are approached on the street and propositioned for paid sex). They come from a culture where women have significantly less power than they do here in the US.

I don't think we should dismiss or criticize their experiences and opinions because they aren't positive enough about prostitution based on a narrow, privileged viewpoint.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:15 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm going to step away from this thread. I find it really interesting to talk about sex work, having been a sex worker and having had intimate experience with people being trafficked for sex work, but it gets too frustrating to get people to acknowledge the fact that the first priority in discussion and activism doesn't always need to be sex positivity (or high-fives for their personal choices).
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:23 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


young rope-rider: you are making a lot of assumptions. I am white, but hardly "well-off". One of the people I know who used to escort and was entirely happy to do so is quite poor (happily so now, raising her daughter). And one is a gay male, multi-racial and bi (about as un-privileged as it gets!) Yet I am telling you what my experiences were, and those of people I know, and you are willing to shove those aside because they don't fit what you want to believe to be true. You aren't hearing about "privileged" people here, I assure you.

There are all kinds of venues for people who are trying to help sex workers get out of the "life". These charities--and some of them are great, I support GEMS in NY myself, actually--get lots of airtime. Did you know there are organizations where sex workers band together to try to help each other stay safe AND continue to do sex work? I am guessing you don't, and that's because those don't get airtime, they don't get play in the media. What gets play for the most part is either 1. prostitutes are evil, let's lock them up or 2. prostitutes are misguided, let's "help" them do what we think they should be doing.

Fewer sex workers would "suffer from violence and assault" if prostitution were legal, and if sex workers were looked at like any other worker and seen as worthy of protection.

American culture (I can only really speak to that) is still based on the Christian idea that pleasure for pleasure's sake is morally wrong. And despite being a nominally free country, many of us still believe we have the right, or even the duty, to control what other people choose to do with their bodies. These young women in the Ukraine also seem to fall into that category.
posted by parrot_person at 3:24 PM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I mean really...being slut shamed is bad, but if it's the worst thing that happens to you as a result of being a sex worker, you're really, really lucky.
You don't view losing your job and career as a serious problem?
The women in this article are in the Ukraine, they are students (70% of whom are approached on the street and propositioned for paid sex). They come from a culture where women have significantly less power than they do here in the US.

I don't think we should dismiss or criticize their experiences and opinions because they aren't positive enough about prostitution based on a narrow, privileged viewpoint.
What are you talking about? All I said was that legal prostitution, like in Nevada combined with regulation and enforcement would solve a lot of the sex trafficking issues. My other point was that we don't hear a lot from people who has positive experiences in sex work specifically because if they do so they cut themselves off from polite society. And then I said the author wasn't privileged.

The women in FEMEN aren't sex workers, they are women who are opposed to sex work in their country, as well as other women's issues.
posted by delmoi at 3:25 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, the siskografy their selling is actually pretty clever ... they're fighting the good fight, so I went ahead and ordered it.
posted by geoff. at 3:25 PM on May 6, 2011


their = they're ....
posted by geoff. at 3:28 PM on May 6, 2011


"I don't think we should dismiss or criticize their experiences and opinions because they aren't positive enough about prostitution based on a narrow, privileged viewpoint."

I for one certainly don't dismiss *anyone's* actual experiences, or their opinions based on those experiences. I support anyone's right to express that they dislike sex work or don't want to do it.

However, I don't support anyone who tries to dictate what other people may do with their bodies. *They* are the ones not being respectful of differences of opinion.
posted by parrot_person at 3:31 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, they're doing this to prove that the Ukraine is NOT a brothel?
posted by Leisure_Muffin at 3:36 PM on May 6, 2011


Wait, they're doing this to prove that the Ukraine is NOT a brothel?

:facepalm:

I'm not sure it is possible to be more wrong on more levels about anything in a single statement.
posted by perspicio at 3:55 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


My point is that freely choosing to be a prostitute, even if it's not your dream job, is an acceptable choice for an adult.

I acknowledge this, agree with it, and thought about it when writing my comment, but I guess I should have clarified my statement: In an environment where prostitution is illegal, I can't help shake...etc.
posted by maxwelton at 4:04 PM on May 6, 2011


From Shit Parade's link: Hutsol is adamantly opposed to legalizing prostitution in Ukraine. “We live in a wild country. You can’t do it here,” she said. “More women will slip if we make it legal.”

On the surface, this seems prescriptivist and paternalistic, as if to say, 'Women don't have the right or the intelligence to choose wisely for themselves, so we must choose for them.' On the other hand, it does seem like she could be saying sex work isn't bad in and of itself, just that it would be impossible to create the necessary infrastructure to ensure workers' safety.

I'd be interested in where FEMEN stands on adult films. And I'd really like to see a longer conversation with Hutsol with more focus on the issues and less on the tactics used to get people's attention.
posted by brina at 4:19 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the general issue is that "sexpats" go to Ukraine pay money to have sex with young women and then go home and most Ukrainians don't think twice about it even though it is illegal. This understates the cultural impact such a practice, once it becomes common, does to views of female equality.

I imagine a lot money flows into Ukraine because of sex tourism so the government is in no hurry to stop the practice and is instead threatening the leadership of FEMA for shaking up the status quo.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:28 PM on May 6, 2011


If Donald Trump would get naked for his stupid birther causes I might consider voting for him

Actually, he could run naked up my driveway and roll around on my patio honking like a goose and I still wouldn't vote for him.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:34 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


maxwelton: I should have clarified my statement: In an environment where prostitution is illegal, I can't help shake...etc.

Well the US is an environment where prostitution is illegal, yet there is a steady trickle of people who have been willing to write that their sex work experiences were positive. It's likely that in a place like the Ukraine where there is a much greater historic power imbalance and the wealth of the sex tourists dwarfs what ordinary people can earn, that trafficking and negative experiences prevail and so the attitude of the FEMEN ladies is understandable.

While there is such a trafficking tier in some parts of the US too, there is also a tier where the sex workers are paid well and their primary risk is due to the illegalization, not their customers or work conditions, and at that tier you do have people who snort it all and end up with nothing but you also have people who save, invest sensibly, and retire when they are 30. Kind of like in any other well paying occupation. And those people who did well occasionally write books or articles trying to explain that it's not all that bad, or even that it was fun. The longer I think about it the more such examples pop into mind from over the years.

One thing that should be clarified is that it is the illegalization that makes trafficking possible. It's the need to stay underground and avoid dangerous connections that makes the role of the pimp useful where it exists. Take it above ground, regulate it, and make normal legal recourse available for sex workers who are assaulted in the course of their work, and it solves the trafficking problem. You can't be a pimp if your slaves can just walk into a police station and safely complain about what you're doing to them.

So in this sense, while I admire FEMEN for their daring and dedication (as well as the scenery they provide), I think they may be lobbying to make things worse instead of better in the long run.
posted by localroger at 4:56 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


and it solves the trafficking problem

I certainly hope this is true. Have there been studies in countries like Germany to verify this? They seem to be the best case example of legalized and regulated prostitution -- if that does stamp out most traficking it's a powerful argument.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:59 PM on May 6, 2011


Power to the people! Free [indert political prisoner/asshole/whatever here]!

Also: BOOBIES!
posted by jonmc at 4:59 PM on May 6, 2011


wildcrdj, I suppose it's overstating to say that it totally solves the trafficking problem since you can still have people brought into a strange country on false pretenses and their documentation stolen, etc. But the big thing is that a sex worker should not have to fear the consequences of going to the police if she is mistreated. That is the single most important thing that makes trafficking possible.
posted by localroger at 5:10 PM on May 6, 2011


If Donald Trump would get naked for his stupid birther causes I might consider voting for him

His whole body or just his damned head?
posted by jonmc at 5:14 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every single photo contains strikingly beautiful topless women. Wouldn't this encourage sex tourism by creating/reinforcing a stereotype that Ukrainian women are all supermodels?
posted by basicchannel at 5:21 PM on May 6, 2011


Ultimately I agree with arguments for legalizing most anything, but in Ukraine I can't say what the immediate impact would be considering:
"Our government has done everything to develop sex tourism – you don't need a visa to come here. Prostitution in Ukraine is illegal, but in the centre of Kiev there are so many brothels, and the police know about them and do nothing."
sex tourism seems to wrapped up in a larger issue of decent job and woman rights. The first thing any protest needs to do is gather enough momentum and volume to actually bring the issue into the forefront of people's consciousness.

Also, just an observation, but when beautiful people protest I suspect there is a general bias against them.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:28 PM on May 6, 2011


the young rope-rider : I have to strongly disagree. I think that white, relatively independent, and relatively well-off escorts get much more of a voice than women of color, the poor, the underage...

Way to bring the US's screwed-up obsession with race into the discussion.

Look at the pics. Do you see anyone not white (and more than a handful not blonde)? You can probably get away with complaining about the patriarchy in this one. But your race card just got denied as overdrawn.


basicchannel : Every single photo contains strikingly beautiful topless women. Wouldn't this encourage sex tourism by creating/reinforcing a stereotype that Ukrainian women are all supermodels?

Heh, I had wondered that too - In the US, run-of-the-mill prostitutes have something of a reputation for looking either underage, or "damn people pay for that?", or both. 2/3rds of the women in these pics, OTOH, could probably work as some form of model in the US. How odd. Bias on the part of the photographer, I wonder?
posted by pla at 5:30 PM on May 6, 2011


BEST..PROTEST..EVER
posted by ReeMonster at 5:34 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of lumping prostitution and sex trafficking together.

If Ukrainian women want to make the association - women directly affected by both issues - then that's fine by me.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:34 PM on May 6, 2011


On the deeper issues this movement raises I've got nothing useful to contribute here. But I did have two thoughts. posted by benito.strauss at 5:37 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm listening to your protests. With my eyes open. Wide. .
posted by buzzman at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2011


yet there is a steady trickle of people

I think I noted that my statement wasn't absolute; there will always be some people engaged in prostitution where it is illegal who enjoy their work, aren't put in danger by it, aren't exploited, etc. My point was, and remains, I think their numbers are a very small minority of people involved in illegal sex work. I'd love to learn otherwise.
posted by maxwelton at 6:18 PM on May 6, 2011


maxwelton: I think their numbers are a very small minority of people involved in illegal sex work. I'd love to learn otherwise.

Unfortunately, the illegality itself is what makes it impossible to determine this. All we have are anecdata. For each person who breaks silence, how many are quietly hiding their pre-retirement history? I would venture to guess the answer to that is "a lot." I would venture to guess that there are both a very large number of genuinely exploted women in the US, and a very large number of women who simply wish the government would let them pursue their very lucrative career track. But as long as we threaten the latter with arrest and ruinment if they go to the authorities, we will never know the ratio.

And simply making prostitution legal fixes the whole problem, because then the latter group can self-represent without risk, and the former can run from their enslavement without risk of being thrown into an even worse situation.
posted by localroger at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


maybe another way to ask the question is, how many sex workers would work for free?

Remove from the equation the necessity of making rent and getting food, how many people would find the work in-of-itself enjoyable?
posted by Shit Parade at 7:00 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not sure what that tells you. How many people would work for free in any job? I mean I have a great job with an awesome company --- but I wouldn't do it for free.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:02 PM on May 6, 2011


I think it tells us something very important about ourselves and human endeavors in general -- wouldn't a Utopian goal be for everyone to essentially work for free. I think plenty of people would do all sorts of "jobs" for free under the assumption the need not worry for basic necessities.

But more to the point, between two jobs that pay the same, one being prostitution, the other something else (something non-sexual but otherwise equitable, hospitality etc), how many would choose prostitution because they enjoy the work? I assume the answer is non-zero, but i doubt it is anywhere close to a majority.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:10 PM on May 6, 2011


If Ukrainian women want to make the association - women directly affected by both issues - then that's fine by me.

Are you similarly okay with people affected by drugs lumping pot in with terrorism or murder? I'm not.
posted by Justinian at 7:12 PM on May 6, 2011


But more to the point, between two jobs that pay the same, one being prostitution, the other something else (something non-sexual but otherwise equitable, hospitality etc), how many would choose prostitution because they enjoy the work?

More to what point? I'm not being snarky, I don't know what point you mean. For example, how many people would work as cashiers at the grocery store simply for the enjoyment? As you say in your comment, I believe the answer is non-zero but not anywhere close to a majority.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


we could ask how many people would want to be a cashier over a prostitute if given the same pay?

Look, the obvious answer I'm arguing is that most humans do not desire to be a prostitute.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:17 PM on May 6, 2011


perhaps I could make a postulate:

All else being equal, most people most of the time would rather not suck cock.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:19 PM on May 6, 2011


I thought it said "Kiev's topless professors" and was starting to think about taking online courses. Drat.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:32 PM on May 6, 2011


There are a lot of shitty, dangerous, and poorly paid jobs out there, and people work them. Sex work can pay a lot and with proper protection can be very safe.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:38 PM on May 6, 2011


Breasts are a social construct.
posted by kcds at 8:01 PM on May 6, 2011


I just have a feeling that we're working backwards from our assumptions: the US has a problem with sex => we make prostitutions illegal => this prostitution is worse than legal prostitution => enlightened countries have legal prostitution => Ukraine should legalize prostitution and all shall be better.

All of those statements have some shaky ground, and the certainly don't imply each other. The US may have a problem with sex, but then again, so does Italy, Germany, and France. The US does indeed mostly have illegal prostitution, but that may not mean that the lack of legality is what does the most harm. We think of countries in Europe as being more enlightened than us (a silly assumption) and they tend to have legal prostitution, therefore enlightened countries should legalize it, but that doesn't take into effect the culture of the Ukraine and the protection of women in that country. It might only degrade women's societal place, not help it.

The point being is that we need to unpack our own baggage from this and not bring a ready answer to the table as if no sane country would ever prevent prostitution. Perhaps Ukraine fighting for women's rights by preventing one of the largest objectifications of women is what they need to do. I just hope that we are willing to listen to these women rather than dismiss their methods and aims immediately because they do not square with our mindset about how we feel about prostitution.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:09 PM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


American culture (I can only really speak to that) is still based on the Christian idea that pleasure for pleasure's sake is morally wrong. And despite being a nominally free country, many of us still believe we have the right, or even the duty, to control what other people choose to do with their bodies. These young women in the Ukraine also seem to fall into that category.

America doesn't really believe this. Well, no more than any other culture. The myth of Puritan religious control and stamping out of sex has more to do with Nathaniel Hawthorne than a review of US history. Do you think that France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands have healthy views of human sexuality? I sure as hell know that Italy doesn't. I know that some in the US see Europe as some sort of candyland where they do everything right, but I don't see us being any more screwed up about sex than a lot of our friends across the Atlantic. And plenty of countries stop a woman selling herself into slavery or for someone from selling blood beyond what is healthy to do so. There are all sorts of limits we place on personal freedom when it could endanger the individual or the society around them. And by "we", I mean plenty of first world countries. France doesn't allow school children to wear the hijab in school; that sounds like telling people what to not wear, which certainly sounds like controlling those students. I'm not saying it's wrong or right; I'm just telling you that the US and its history are not as different from Europe and hers as you think they are.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:16 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was men who made breasts into a secret.

Citation please.
posted by rahnefan at 10:12 PM on May 6, 2011


All else being equal, most people most of the time would rather not suck cock.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:19 AM on May 7 [+] [!]

Speak for yourself. What exactly is wrong with sucking cock? What are you, some kind of homphobic, self-hating male? Cocks are beautiful, tend to be quite tasty, and highly exciting. Have you ever sucked one?
posted by Goofyy at 12:40 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think most of the discussion here has spectacularly missed the point, which is that Ukrainian women feel they're being pimped out to the world by their own country. I don't think sex workers rights/attitudes are really the issue.
posted by Summer at 1:17 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Citation please.

Genesis.
posted by Summer at 1:18 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phil Collins is a bit of a tit, but I don't think he's at fault here.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:38 AM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


meet Ukrainian girls in your area
posted by the noob at 5:37 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spot the cultural difference: In Ukraine protesters publically bare their breasts to call attention to social injustice. In the USA nipple exposure (only one) leads to a $550,000 fine.
Most of the commentators in this thread are from USA and as Summer so ably points out most of the commentators in this thread got it wrong.
posted by adamvasco at 6:21 AM on May 7, 2011


Speak for yourself. What exactly is wrong with sucking cock? What are you, some kind of homphobic, self-hating male? Cocks are beautiful, tend to be quite tasty, and highly exciting. Have you ever sucked one?

I have, and there's nothing wrong with it at all. I think it's definitely part of a balanced diet. But I don't know if I'd like doing it for an eight-hour shift.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:40 AM on May 7, 2011


Shit Parade writes "maybe another way to ask the question is, how many sex workers would work for free?

"Remove from the equation the necessity of making rent and getting food, how many people would find the work in-of-itself enjoyable?"


I bet you'd find a lot more people willing to do sex work for free than be a septic truck operator or hot tar roofer.
posted by Mitheral at 8:50 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bet you'd find a lot more people willing to do sex work for free than be a septic truck operator or hot tar roofer.

I for one would much rather have septic truck operation or tarring roofs forced on me by circumstances than engage in sex work.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:58 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bias on the part of the photographer, I wonder?

No, they all look like that. I believe it's the law.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:09 AM on May 7, 2011


I think plenty of people would do all sorts of "jobs" for free
Look, the obvious answer I'm arguing is that most humans do not desire to be a prostitute.

These are caught up together though. I disagree with your premise - I think most humans would rather not have to work at all. One of the big factors for a lot of people is a sort of "how much do I like the job" vs money tradeoff. I could see prostitution being appealing depending on one's views towards sex and the pay. Extreme example -- if 1 week of prostitution equaled a whole year's pay cleaning toilets, I definitely know people who would choose the former. If the pay was equal, maybe not.

I don't see whats wrong about considering the combo of environment + job satisfaction + pay. Thats how most people choose their jobs.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live in San Francisco, where situations that involve both nudity and protesting result in seeing people that you would never want to see naked in a million years. These ladies look great. More power to them.

I'm late to the party, but from far upthread - this is precisely the wrong attitude to have, because it's basically "you can show your body for artistic or political purposes if and only if it's a body I want to see; other bodies disgust me and should be hidden". Honestly, it's pretty disgusting to be like "hey, hot women are protesting, go women! I'm glad you're not fat or old or otherwise make me uncomfortable, so I support your struggle!"
posted by Frowner at 5:39 PM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Legalizing prostitution can certainly do a lot of good, but there is no way it solves "the problem."

Social stigma: The problem of what a person who has supported themselves from prostitution for a couple of years should put in her resume, when she applies for her next job.

Economic pressure: People in dire economic straits and with fewer educational and human resources will still have a less free choice about working in prostitution. And is it really just the same as any other work? I think this came up when it was being legalized in Germany. If you lost your job and went for your unemployment check, should the office be able to tell you, 'Well, such and such brothel is hiring and you're an eligible candidate, and the salary is in the same range as your last job, if you haven't applied there we can't give you the check."?

Trafficking: There continues to be international sex slave traffic even in countries that have legalized prostitution. And men from those countries continue to travel to other countries where prostitution is more like sex slavery.

Exploitation/coercion: Saying that a person is less vulnerable to to coercion if they don't have a drug problem is true, and it also doesn't make people stop having drug problems. Or some forms of untreated mental illness. Or unsupported developmental delay. It doesn't make government social services magically capable of protecting the bodies and interests of all the people they couldn't protect before.

Legalization isn't a panacea. If it's not part of a larger (ideally global) program that advances social and economic empowerment, equality, civil rights, etc, it could potentially be a less effective method for improving women's lives (in a particular cultural/political setting) than other means of addressing the issue. We can't just legalize and wash our hands of it.

Also, prostitution is NOT pleasure for pleasure's sake. It's pleasure for money's sake.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:26 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Arthur Laurents (wiki), writer of the libretti for...  |  Leonard Nimoy and a beeping ro... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments