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Why Are Leftists Against Sex Work?

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

On The Whorizon Interviews Juniper Fitzgerald

Blog Post Written By: MelRose Michaels

 

Juniper Fitzgerald is a mother, a former sex worker, and holds a PhD in sociology. She considers herself an anti-capitalist and has written extensively on the intersection of motherhood and sex work. Juniper is the author of How Mamas Love Their Babies and Enjoy Me Among My Ruins, which comes out this summer.


On the Whorizon sat down with Fitzgerald to talk about how so many who fight for labor rights particularly the Marxist left — can be so aggressively anti-sex work.


There's a lot of pushback against sex workers from leftist circles.


Juniper Fitzgerald: It's kind of the bane of my existence to see, you know, I call them baby commies on Twitter, lampooning the sex industry...


I lived in a post-communist country, and people don't understand that communism as we have seen it play out in contemporary society has been just as oppressive as the regimes that we as leftists claim to fight against, and so I get concerned that baby commies on Twitter dot com have not experienced the wrath of contemporary communism… This idea that sex work wouldn't exist post-revolution — it's such an abstract thing to say and I think it's unmistakeably a dog whistle for "I think sex workers are gross.”...


I teach sociology and under the communist regime in what was formerly called Czechoslovakia, sociology was outlawed. So whenever I see baby commies asking stuff like, "Would your job exist post revolution?", it's like, “Actually no, my discipline would be outlawed.” So this heightened focus on sex work is concerning to me… The sex industry is super diverse, a lot of people feel great in their work. I can't say that that's necessarily my experience with sex work. I think people who do have that experience are valid, but I get to say I've engaged in shitty labor in a lot of different labor sectors, and I still deserve labor rights. And, if we think about, you know, any other form of shitty labor, the leftist position is to support those laborers and demand labor rights in service to this nebulous, abstract revolution. I don't know why the same wouldn't be true for sex workers…


Why do you think they are picking out sex work in particular?


JF: For the same reason that the alt-right is. You know, some of these so-called Marxist and baby commies on Twitter dot com are also TERFs, and that is a really important thing to acknowledge — that most of the time when people are anti-sex work, they're also really transphobic. I think that's because they have a very essentialist worldview about gender, femininity in particular. And even though they claim to be a leftist, they're still adopting these very traditional, essentialist ideas of white womanhood. I mean, it's a white supremacist conception of what womanhood should be. And I think that any diversion from that essentialist notion is an attack on their core values.


How do you think sex work should be imagined within the framework of leftist and labor politics?


JF: Not that this is a perfect analogy at all, but the feminist movement by and large, no matter what wave we're talking about, allows for complexity and conversations about abortion. Some people have a really hard time with choosing to terminate a pregnancy, and some people are like, “Fuck yes, this saved my life.” I am in the latter for that — I had an abortion that I thank, like, the universe for every day… We're all navigating bodies and overarching social structures and our interpersonal lives, and we can afford that same complexity to sex workers.


We can make room for people who are like, "Sex work was fucking horrible for me. If I had had more labor rights, it probably wouldn't have been so shitty," as well as people who are like, "Sex work saved my life." … I mean, think about how many straight jobs can legally deny different marginalized people employment? That's a material reality. The material reality is that some people would not be able to survive without sex work… I don't even know what we're trying to get at by taking the material experiences that people have and trying to theorize about them… It's just a disingenuous argument…


Why do you think we aren’t allowed to have those nuanced discussions?


JF: I think when I listen to the rhetoric of usually straight and cis, usually white, second wave, feminists, I mean, I always get this, like, jealous partner vibe. I know that that's really simplifying things, but it's like, there's a kind of a maintenance of monogamy and heterosexuality, I think, at the root of those arguments and a fear that goes back to patriarchy — a fear that sex workers are going to disrupt married women's access to resources. And it's like,”You don't have to live like that, join us!“…


You're right to point out that not everyone can make those choices. But I also think that to claim that sex workers never have any choice or that they just have to do whatever clients say, is also just inaccurate.


JF: For sure. The one client that I always think about when I think about a time that I engaged in sex work when I didn't necessarily want to — the client was fine, I was fine, I just really hated sucking his dick. Like, I get to say that [laughs], and just cause I fucking hated it doesn't make it rape. And I also think about this woman that I knew in grad school, who was married at the time, and she said something like, "Well, I have sex with my husband, in exchange for him doing chores." And it's like, if somebody wants to make that choice… that's great, but I would much rather give a blowjob that I'm not particularly fond of, and have like, $200 — which is what I was charging at the time — than chores, to be quite honest. And we all get to make those choices, like what’s worth it to us.


Some parts of the above interview have been condensed or edited for clarity. To hear the full interview with Juniper Fitzgerald, listen to On The Whorizon, Episode 7: Sex Work After The Revolution.


Follow Juniper Fitzgerald on Twitter @JuniperFitz. You can find her book, How Mamas Love Their Babies, on FeministPress.org. Her memoir, Enjoy Me Among My Ruins, is available to pre-order on FeministPress.org.




Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SexWorkCEO or MelRose Michaels. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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