Feminist abolitionists and the religious right are in bed together, “empowered” sex workers and their supporters often say. They are in bed together, not having sex of course, because both groups are made up of sexually repressed Victorian prudes. By associating abolitionism with the religious right, the pro-sex industry lobby makes it appear to the average person that its position on prostitution is the only one that is progressive. The irony of this propaganda technique is that it is actually the pro-sex industry lobby and the religious right that have more in common with each other when it comes to how they view men, women and sex.
Both the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby hold views about society that are outdated, conservative, and androcentric. The religious right still abides by rules and laws that were written on stone thousands of years ago. They believe homosexuality, sex before marriage and using contraception are wrong because a bunch of old white dudes with beards said so. These old white dudes with beards also said that man should be in charge of the world, and that woman’s primary role in life is to provide man with sex and babies. Feminists call this system: patriarchy.
The pro-sex industry lobby also worships all that old white dudes say and support oppressive systems- oppressive systems like capitalism. Capitalism is patriarchy’s best friend, and any true lefty should be critical of it. Treating women like chattel and commodifying their bodies are practices common to patriarchy and capitalism. Treating women like chattel and commodyfying their bodies are practices supported by both the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby. “Prostitution is the oldest profession” is a common refrain spoken by sex workers and their supporters. And what this refrain demonstrates about all those who utter it is that they passively accept the status quo and fail to challenge both capitalism and patriarchy. To these people, the beliefs and practices of both oppressive systems might as well be written in stone since they are incapable of imagining any other way of organizing society.
Because the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby support patriarchal beliefs and, systems, it is not surprising that they share a male-dominated view of sexuality. More specifically, both groups promote the idea that women’s primary role when it comes to sex is to serve men. While the religious right encourages woman to serve the “sexual needs” of their husbands, the pro-sex lobby encourages women to serve the “sexual needs” of their johns. In both instances, women are not having sex because they really want it; rather, they are having sex to receive economic security/ financial compensation.
Having unwanted sex can be psychologically damaging, which is why the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby also realize that women need more than economic security/ financial compensation to keep them where they are. Thus, both promote the idea that servicing men sexually is “ennobling” and “empowering”. The religious woman is ennobled and empowered through her role as a virginal wife who pleases her husband and provideschildren for him, which in turn pleases her religious community and “God”. The “sex worker” is ennobled as she provides a “valuable service” to poor, lonely, and disabled men. She is empowered because she is financially independent, works on her own terms and makes money off of men whose sexual “needs” she exploits, so the argument goes.
Both the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby support the Madonna/Whore dichotomy of how men view women, but what is interesting about the pro-sex industry lobby’s most recent PR reframing of sex workers as saviours is that it seems to be trying to remake the image of the “whore” into that of the “Madonna”. The “whore” becomes respectable again because she sacrifices her own needs and sexual pleasure for poor, lonely, undesirable men. And without her, the pro-sex lobby cautions, the world would be a scarier place, a place where "pure women" get raped.
What all those who see beyond the view that man is the centre of the universe (a.k.a. feminists) should notice is that both the wives of religious right leaders and sex workers can only be “ennobled” and “empowered” through men. Neither the religious right nor the pro-sex industry lobby seem too concerned about women’s need for independent personhood, their desires or pleasure. Actually, when it comes to women’s sexual desires, both the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby seem to be in agreement that women should repress them. Both groups are terrified of women’s sexuality because if it ever got out of their control, women would insist on having sex on their own terms, for their own pleasure, and with people they are attracted to both outside of marriage and outside of the market place. The ultimate outcome would be the end of both the religious right and pro-sex industry lobby for neither could survive in a climate of women’s true sexual liberation.
When it came to having sex with their husbands, the Victorians advised women to lie back and think of England. Today, the pro-sex industry advises women to lie back and think of the money, while the religious right probably wants women to lie back and think of God. Thus, if anyone is “in bed together” when it comes to views on men, women, and sex, it is the religious right and the pro-sex industry lobby. And what we find happening in between the sheets of their shared bed is the same shit that’s been going on for thousands of years: women getting screwed.