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The question of whether obscenity is protected by the First Amendment has troubled the Supreme Court in the past half century. In the decision of Roth v. United States, Samuel Roth was convicted of violating the law by mailing obscene books and pamphlets. The Court's ruling defined obscenity as that which has no redeeming social value. The decision written by Justice Brennan stated: “the test as to whether materials are obscene should be whether the average person applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.
In the 1973 case of Miller v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual state could outlaw material based on local standards. This was clearly ambiguous and resulted in a great deal of additional litigation. In 1987, the Court ruled in an Illinois case that the standards must be national.
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Pornography, representation of sexual behaviour in books, pictures, statues, motion pictures, and other media that is intended to cause sexual excitement. The distinction between pornography (illicit and condemned material) and erotica (which is broadly tolerated) is largely subjective and reflects changing community standards. The word pornography, derived from the Greek porni (“prostitute”) and graphein (“to write”), was originally defined as any work of art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes.
Because the very definition of pornography is subjective, a history of pornography is nearly impossible to conceive imagery that might be considered erotic or even religious in one society may be condemned as pornographic in another. Thus, European travelers to India in the 19th century were appalled by what they considered pornographic representations of sexual contact and intercourse on Hindu temples such as those of Khajuraho (see photograph ) most modern observers would probably react differently. Many contemporary Muslim societies likewise apply the label “pornography” to many motion pictures and television programs that are unobjectionable in Western societies. To adapt a cliché, pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder.
In many historical societies, frank depictions of sexual behaviour, often in a religious context, were common. In ancient Greece and Rome, for instance, phallic imagery and depictions of orgiastic scenes were widely present, though it is unlikely that they fulfilled anything like the social or psychological functions of modern pornography (see phallicism). A modern use seems more likely in some of the celebrated erotic manuals, such as the Roman poet Ovid’s Ars amatoria ( Art of Love), a treatise on the art of seduction, intrigue, and sensual arousal. Some of the 100 stories in the Decameron, by the medieval Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio, are licentious in nature. A principal theme of medieval pornography was the sexual depravity (and hypocrisy) of monks and other clerics.
Japan possessed a very highly developed culture of visual erotica, though these materials were so much part of the social mainstream that many cannot legitimately be described as “pornographic.” Elaborate depictions of sexual intercourse—pictures notionally designed to provide sex education for medical professionals, courtesans, and married couples—are present from at least the 17th century. Makura-e (pillow pictures) were intended for entertainment as well as for the instruction of married couples. This interest in very frank erotica reached its height during the Tokugawa period (1603–1867), when new technologies of colour woodblock printing allowed the easy manufacture and circulation of erotic prints, commonly described as shunga (“images of spring” see photograph ). The volume of this type of material was so large by the 18th century that the government began issuing official edicts against it, and some arrests and prosecutions followed. Nevertheless, Japanese erotica continued to flourish, and the prints of artists such as Suzuki Harunobu (c. 1725–70) have since achieved worldwide renown.
In Europe too, new technologies (above all, the printing press) promoted the creation of pornographic works, which frequently contained elements of humour and romance and were written to entertain as well as to arouse. Many of these works harked back to classical writings in their treatment of the joys and sorrows of marital deception and infidelity. Margaret of Angoulême’s Heptameron, published posthumously in 1558–59, is similar to the Decameron in its use of the device of a group of people telling stories, some of which are salacious.
The modern history of Western pornography begins with the Enlightenment (18th century), when printing technology had advanced enough to permit the production of written and visual materials to appeal to audiences of all socioeconomic levels and sexual tastes. A small underground traffic in such works became the basis of a separate publishing and bookselling business in England. A classic of this period was the widely read Fanny Hill or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748–49) by John Cleland. At about this time, erotic graphic art began to be widely produced in Paris, eventually coming to be known in the Anglophone world as “ French postcards.”
Apart from its sexual element, pornography became a powerful vehicle for social and political protest. It provided a vehicle for the exploration of daring ideas that were condemned by both church and state, including sexual freedom for women as well as for men and the practices of contraception and abortion. Much pornography also focused on the misdeeds of royals and aristocrats, thereby contributing to the discrediting of the elites of Europe. Perhaps the most important author of socially radical pornography was the Marquis de Sade, whose books—notably Justine (1791)—combined orgiastic scenes with long philosophical debates on the evils of property and traditional social hierarchy.
By the time that Queen Victoria came to the throne in Great Britain in 1837, there were more than 50 pornographic shops on Holywell Street (known as “Booksellers’ Row”) in London. Pornography continued to flourish during the Victorian Age in Britain and in the United States despite—or perhaps because of—the taboos on sexual topics that were characteristic of the era. The massive and anonymous autobiography My Secret Life (1890) is both a detailed recounting of an English gentleman’s lifelong pursuit of sexual gratification and a social chronicle of the seamy underside of a puritanical society. An important periodical of the era was The Pearl (1879–80), which included serialized novels, short stories, crude jokes, poems, and ballads containing graphic descriptions of sexual activity. Such works provide a valuable corrective to conventional images of Victorian prudery.
In the 19th century the inventions of photography and later of motion pictures were quickly put to use in the production of pornography. Pornographic films were widely available no later than the 1920s, and in the 1960s their popularity enjoyed a massive upsurge. The development of videocassettes in the 1980s and digital videodiscs (DVDs) in the 1990s enabled the wide distribution of pornographic films and further encouraged their use because they could be viewed in private. Pornographic images and films became even more widely available with the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s. The pornographic industry became one of the most profitable on the Internet. Apart from providing a vast marketplace for commercial pornography appealing to many diverse tastes, the Internet also encouraged many amateurs to post images of themselves, images that often challenged traditional concepts of beauty and sex appeal. The use of webcams opened the industry even further to amateurs, allowing individuals to post live depictions of themselves, often for fees. The Internet also increased the availability of child pornography.
Pornography has long been condemned and legally proscribed in the belief that it depraves and corrupts both minors and adults and that it leads to the commission of sex crimes. Occasionally, important artistic or even religious works have been banned because they are considered pornographic under such assumptions. Those assumptions have been challenged on legal and scientific grounds. Nonetheless, the production, distribution, or possession of pornographic materials may be prosecuted in many countries under statutes dealing with obscenity. Although legal standards vary widely, most countries in Europe and North America permit depictions of sexual activity that would have been deemed grossly and criminally pornographic just a few decades ago. The only remaining taboo that is nearly universally accepted is the condemnation of child pornography.
Timeline and History of Marriage Rights
Marriage occupies an oddly central place in the history of American civil liberties. Although conventional wisdom would suggest that marriage is barely a government issue at all, the financial benefits associated with the institution have given legislators the opportunity to insert themselves into relationships they condone and express their personal disapproval of relationships they do not. As a result, every American marriage includes the enthusiastic third-party participation of legislators who have, in a sense, married into their relationship and declared it superior to the relationships of others.
Before same-sex marriage became the hot-button marriage controversy, laws banning interracial marriage dominated the national conversation, especially in the American South. One 1664 British colonial law in Maryland declared interracial marriages between White women and Black men to be a "disgrace," and established that any White women who participate in these unions shall be declared enslaved themselves, along with their children.
Although the 1664 law was brutal in its own way, legislators realized that it was not an especially effective threat - forcibly enslaving White women would be difficult, and the law included no penalties fo White men who married Black women. Virginia's 1691 law corrected both of these issues by mandating exile (effectively a death penalty) rather than enslavement, and by imposing this penalty on all those who intermarry, regardless of gender.
The State of Mississippi was the first state in the country to grant women the right to own property independent of their husbands. Eighteen years later, New York followed suit with the more comprehensive Married Women's Property Act.
The U.S. government was hostile to Mormons for most of the 19th century, owing mostly to the tradition's past endorsement of polygamy. In Reynolds v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which was passed specifically to prohibit Mormon polygamy a new Mormon declaration in 1890 outlawed bigamy, and the federal government has been largely Mormon-friendly ever since.
In Pace v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Alabama's ban on interracial marriages - and, with it, similar bans in nearly all of the former Confederacy. The ruling would stand for 84 years.
Divorce has been a recurring issue in the history of U.S. civil liberties, starting with 17th-century laws that banned divorce altogether except in documented cases of adultery. Oklahoma's 1953 law permitting no-fault divorces finally allowed couples to make the mutual decision to divorce without declaring a guilty party most other states gradually followed suit, beginning with New York in 1970.
The single most important marriage case in U.S. Supreme Court history was Loving v. Virginia (1967), which finally ended Virginia's 276-year ban on interracial marriage and explicitly declared, for the first time in U.S. history, that marriage is a civil right.
The first U.S. government body to grant any kind of legal partnership rights to same-sex couples was the City of Berkeley, California, which passed the nation's first domestic partnership ordinance.
The Supreme Court of Hawaii's series of rulings asked a question that, until 1993, no government body had really asked: if marriage is a civil right, how can we legally justify withholding it to same-sex couples? In 1993 the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled, in effect, that the state needed a really good reason, and challenged legislators to find one. A later Hawaii civil unions policy resolved the ruling in 1999, but the six years of Baehr v. Miike made same-sex marriage a viable national issue.
The federal government's response to Baehr v. Miike was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which established that states would not be obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and that the federal government would not recognize them at all. DOMA was declared unconstitutional by the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2012, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.
Vermont became the first state to voluntarily offer benefits to same-sex couples with its civil unions law in 2000, which made Governor Howard Dean a national figure and nearly gave him the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
18 U.S. Code § 2259 - Mandatory restitution
The date of enactment of this subsection, referred to in subsec. (d)(1)(D)(i), is the date of enactment of Pub. L. 115–299, which was approved Dec. 7, 2018 .
2018—Subsec. (b)(1). Pub. L. 115–299, § 3(a)(1), substituted “Except as provided in paragraph (2), the order” for “The order” and struck out “as determined by the court pursuant to paragraph (2)” after “of thePub. L. 115–299, § 3(a)(4), added par. (2). Former par. (2) redesignated (3).
Subsec. (b)(3). Pub. L. 115–299, § 3(a)(2), (3), redesignated par. (2) as (3) and struck out former par. (3) which defined Pub. L. 115–299, § 3(b)(1), (2), (5), substituted “Definitions” for “Definition” in subsec. heading, designated existing provisions as par. (4) and inserted par. heading, and added pars. (1) to (3).
Subsec. (c)(4). Pub. L. 115–299, § 3(b)(3), (4), substituted “under this chapter. In the case” for “under this chapter, including, in the case”, and inserted “may assume the crimePub. L. 115–299, § 4, added subsec. (d).
1996—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(1), inserted “or 3663A” after “3663”.
Subsec. (b)(1). Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(2)(A), reenacted heading without change and amended text generally. Prior to amendment, text read as follows: “The order of restitution under this section shall direct that—
“(A) the defendant pay to the Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(2)(B), struck out “byPub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(2)(C), struck out subpars. (C) and (D), which related to court’s consideration of economic circumstances of defendant in determining schedule of payment of restitution orders, and court’s entry of nominal restitution awards where economic circumstances of defendant do not allow for payment of restitution, respectively.
Subsec. (b)(5) to (10). Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(2)(D), struck out pars. (5) to (10), which related, respectively, to more than 1 offender, more than 1Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(3), (4), redesignated subsec. (f) as (c) and struck out former subsec. (c) relating to proof of claim.
Subsecs. (d), (e). Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(3), struck out subsecs. (d) and (e) which read as follows:
Subsec. (f). Pub. L. 104–132, § 205(c)(4), redesignated subsec. (f) as (c).
Amendment by Pub. L. 104–132 effective, to extent constitutionally permissible, for sentencing proceedings in cases in which defendant is convicted on or after Apr. 24, 1996 , see section 211 of Pub. L. 104–132, set out as a note under section 2248 of this title.
Roth test applied contemporary community standards in determining obscenity
The Supreme Court squarely confronted the obscenity question in Roth v. United States (1957), a case contesting the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting the mailing of any material that is &ldquoobscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy . . . or other publication of an indecent character.&rdquo The Court, in an opinion drafted by Justice William J. Brennan Jr., determined that &ldquoobscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press.&rdquo
He articulated a new test for obscenity: &ldquowhether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.&rdquo The Roth test differed from the Hicklin test in that it focused on &ldquothe dominant theme&rdquo of the material as opposed to isolated passages and on the average person rather than the most susceptible person.
In Miller, the Court reasoned that individuals could not be convicted of obscenity charges unless the materials depict &ldquopatently offensive hard core sexual conduct.&rdquo Under that reasoning, many sexually explicit materials &mdash pornographic magazines, books, and movies &mdash are not legally obscene. In this photo, Luther Campbell, leader of hip hop group of 2 Live Crew and president of its record label, points to the warning sticker on his shirt, identical to the one on the group's controversial album "Nasty As They Wanna Be" outside federal court Florida in 1990. The group filed a suit trying to stop obscenity arrests for the sales of their album. (AP Photo/Beth Keiser, used with permission from the Associated Press)
Retired Southwest Pilot Sentenced To Probation For Watching Pornography, Exposing Genitals On Flight
A former Southwest Airlines pilot has been sentenced to one year of probation after he allegedly watched porn and exposed his genitals to a female officer on a flight.
The incident occurred on August 10, 2020, during a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando. Federal prosecutors said Michael Haak, 60, “disrobed” once the plane reached cruising altitude, and got out of the pilot’s seat and began watching porno on a laptop computer in the cockpit, per the New York Post,
“As the plane continued its flight, Haak further engaged in inappropriate conduct in the cockpit, as the first officer continued to perform her duties as an assigned aircrew member,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Cunningham condemned the pilot’s misconduct, saying that he “had a duty to comport himself in a much more responsible manner.”
“This is not the kind of aberrant behavior that anyone should accept,” the prosecutor added.
Haak, who retired after the incident, was charged in April and pleaded guilty to committing a lewd, indecent or obscene act in a public place.
According to the reports, Haak apologized on Friday before US Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson before he was ordered to serve probation and pay a $5,000 fine.
“It started as a consensual prank between me and the other pilot. I never imagined it would turn into this in a thousand years,” Haak said during the virtual hearing.
His attorney Michael Salnick said in a court filing that his client deserves a lenient sentence given his “lifetime of hard work and kindness.”
“The embarrassment and resulting publicity of this incident has in and of itself been humbling to Michael Haak and has served as punishment in many ways,” he wrote.
Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz said the airline “does not tolerate behavior of this nature and will take prompt action if such conduct is substantiated.”
“Nonetheless, Southwest did investigate the matter and as a result, ceased paying Mr. Haak any benefits he was entitled to receive as a result of his separation from (the airline),” Mainz said in a statement.
We have to learn to look the past and its faults in the eye – Mary Beard
The classics professor Mary Beard asked a similar question in her TV series Shock of the Nude, which aired earlier this year in the UK. The programme explored the many ways male artists have tried to justify the existence of naked women in their paintings: reclining nudes are depicted as innocently ‘caught’, half-bathing or somehow sleepily compromised in a state of undress.
So is what we are looking at art or pornography?
“That is a complicated question and anyone who thinks they know the answer should reflect a bit harder!” Professor Beard tells BBC Culture. “My line is that the boundary between art and pornography is always a treacherous one and the point about the past is that we have to see it both in its own terms and ours. We have to learn to look the past and its faults in the eye.”
A contentious issue
For more than 100 years, feminists have drawn attention to sexist attitudes that exist within the art world. In 1914, the suffragist Mary Richardson attacked Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus with an axe. The painting portrays Venus looking in the mirror, turned away from the viewer with her bottom at the centre of the canvas. Richardson claimed her protest was partly at the way men gaped at the painting, which hangs in London’s National Gallery.
In 1914 the suffragist Mary Richardson attacked Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus in protest at its portrayal of the female nude (Credit: Getty Images)
“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” shouted one billboard poster put up by feminist art activists Guerrilla Girls in the 1980s. At the time it seemed they did – less than 4% of artists in the modern art section of the museum were by women, but 76% of the nudes were female. With smart, cutting messages delivered via large-scale billboard works, the Guerilla Girls sought to name and shame the art world for its unapologetic disregard for women and other minorities in art.
Pornography Facts: 20 that will shock you
1. A 2014 study by the Max Planck Institute found that men who frequently view pornography have decreased brain cells, specifically in the right caudate of the brain, making their brains smaller on average than those of men who do not view pornography.
2. According to the Huffington Post, 30 percent of the material streamed on the internet is pornography.
3. Additionally, the Huffington Post also states that in 2013, the porn site YouPorn streamed six times the bandwidth of Hulu.
4. Pornography has been shown to increase marital infidelity by 300 percent, according to a 2004 study in Social Science Quarterly.
5. Men who view pornography are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than men who do not use pornography, according to researchers from the Naval Medical Center of San Diego.
6. Among men between the ages of 18 and 24, 70 percent visit internet porn sites at least once per month as stated by United Families.
7. Though many people use porn to “relax” or “relieve stress,” it can cause more mental health issues in both men and women, according to a study published in 2013 by researchers in the University of New Orleans’ psychology department . These include anxiety, depression, insecurity, and body image issues, to name a few.
8. Though many porn users begin using porn which aligns with their morals and sexual tastes, porn, over time, has the ability to alter sexual tastes so that the users believe the acquired tastes are natural. Thus, porn essential rewires the brain with frequent use, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2000.
9. Porn users who are addicted to porn have damaged and shrunken frontal lobes, according to this 2013 study published on the National Institute of Health’s website . This can impede problem-solving abilities, researchers said.
11. Studies report that people who use porn feel less love for their spouse/partner and are more dissatisfied with their spouse/partner than people who do not use porn, according to the psychology department at the University of Arkansas.
12. Despite the high numbers of people who use porn, only 29 percent of Americans think that using porn is moral. Some 23 percent of women say that using porn is moral, compared to 35 percent of men. The numbers come from a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.
13. It is estimated that between 66 percent and 99 percent of people in the porn industry have herpes, as stated by this former porn star. In addition, she says the industry is rife with physical abuse.
14. One in three women use pornography at least once per week, according to a study conducted by Marie Claire.
15. The porn industry is very profitable , as stated by List25 . It makes more than the NFL, the NBA, and the MLB combined. From a news perspective, it makes more than NBC, CBS, and ABC combined.
16. Studies have shown, according to Focus on the Family, that the average age at which a child is exposed to pornography is eight years old.
17. Every day, there are 116,000 searches for child pornography, according to United Families.
18. The more people use pornography, the more likely they are to believe that violence against women is acceptable, research suggests. The study which drew this conclusion also noted an increase in overall aggression that came with pornography use.
19. Pornography websites receive more traffic and visitors every month than Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon combined, the Huffington Post reported.
20. People who view porn regularly are less likely to get married than those who do not. This is because users see porn as a substitute for marital sexual gratification, according to a 2016 study published in the Eastern Economic Journal.
The secret history of "cuckservative": The fetish that became a right-wing rallying cry
By Chauncey DeVega
Published August 9, 2015 9:59AM (EDT)
Humans are social beings. Humans invented politics in order to manage conflict and decide how resources should be distributed in society. It is almost inevitable then that politics would become a stage on to which we project some of the most basic -- and base -- parts of the self.
In a recent article at Salon, Joan Walsh did an excellent job in navigating the political effluence that is the American right’s newborn obsession with “cuckservatives.”
“Cuckservative” started showing up in my Twitter mentions last week, after I suggested Donald Trump supporters might not be the brightest bulbs. As I clicked around, I came to a shocking conclusion: I’ve been uncharacteristically downplaying the amount of racism and misogyny powering the right today. The spread of the epithet “cuckservative” is a sign that the crudest psycho-sexual insecurity animates the far right.
“Cuckservative,” you see, is short for a cuckolded conservative. It’s not about a Republican whose wife is cheating on him, but one whose country is being taken away from him, and who’s too cowardly to do anything about it.
OK, that’s gross and sexist enough already, but there’s more. It apparently comes from a kind of pornography known as “cuck,” in which a white husband, either in shame or lust, watches his wife be taken by a black man. Lewis explains it this way: “A cuckservative is, therefore, a race traitor.”
White supremacists have reinforced the racial intent of the “cuckservative” narrative. To that end, Walsh quotes one of their more prominent voices, Richard Spencer:
"The #cuckservative meme doesn’t make any sense without race. It’s all about race…What’s powerful about #cuckservative is that it is call for a racially conscious politics—and not the kind of shot-gun spray muckraking that Johnson specializes in."
But, as Walsh explains, usage the word hasn't been limited to white nationalist circles:
Rush Limbaugh helped spread the term to the mainstream when he praised Trump like this: “If Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he would have apologized by now, and he would have begged for forgiveness, and he would have gone away.”
At present, “cuckservative” is just one more signal of how the contemporary Republican Party and movement conservatism have become a carnival-like human zoo fueled by the talk-radio echo chamber, one where extremism is now mainstream, and the politically adolescent and immature obsessions of “men’s rights” victimologists -- with their “alpha males” and “cuckolding” anxieties -- are considered reasonable and respectable points of view.
The convergence of white supremacy and conservatism in the modern Republican Party -- spurred in part by a renaissance of toxic white masculinity -- has produced what, in the moment, appears to be a series of never-ending climaxes and crescendos wherein new levels of absurdity and paranoia replace previous peaks once thought unattainable. The extreme has become the new normal for mainstream American conservatism. As the Republican Party continues its death-spiral embrace of fascism, misogyny, patriarchy, and racism, the political insanity embodied by concepts such as “cuckservative” will become the new normal.
The Daily Kos’ Chris Reeves, offers up a particularly sharp insight on “cuckolding,” “cuckservatives” and the right-wing political imagination:
But for the Republicans using the term #cuckservative, they are doing so out of a place that mirrors what represents the. darker shades of any fetish. Republicans who have used this new term are the same Republicans who used phrases like 'Sodomite supporter," "whores." In that vein, they are now using #cuckservative not just based on the defined sexual act, but for the much darker racial tones that prevail in the rise of pornography that is sold online.
“Cuckservative” is fascinating language. However, even as used by Republicans and others on the White Right, it is also inadequate and somewhat misplaced in capturing the pornographic imagination as a type of political logic for conservatives in the Age of Obama.
Cuckolding -- which, again, is a type of pornography in which men allow their wives and female partners to be sexually “used” by other men while in front of them -- is ostensibly about humiliation. As the Daily Beast noted in 2010:
Cuckolded men (aka "cucks") only observe their wives’ infidelities, they don’t participate. And that's why they find it a turn-on: They're left out, looking on as the woman they love climaxes with a better man than them. It’s a form of psychological sadomasochism. Some people get turned on by whips, chains, and physical pain. Cucks get aroused by mental anguish.
Sexual fantasies wherein white men are cuckolded by black men -- with their stereotypically large penises (called “BBC” for “big black cocks” in the parlance of porn) and ravenous at the thought of white female flesh -- are then consistent with a centuries-old white male preoccupation, one that borders in fact on obsession, with the supposed threat of Black male virility. We see in the fascination with cuckolding the most feverish anxieties about the disappearance of white male hegemony.
(Paradoxically, this genre also positively reaffirms white supremacy in the interracial “BBC” scenario,the white racial frame's assumption that white women are desired above all other women is made explicit.)
So it is clear why the genre is popular: The combination of fetish and racial entitlement are, for a certain segment of white American men, an almost alchemical admixture.
But the internal logic of the “cuckservative” meme falls flat, because movement conservatives and the right-wing media -- even the ones who are now brandishing the term left and right -- are not titillated, as these porn enthusiasts are, by the perceived loss of power for white men. They are not in a state of political ecstasy from the thought that people who look like them may have to share more political and social power with people who don't. No, this camp of aggrieved and imperiled white men, drunk on toxic white masculinity, are terrified of their supposed status as “victims” in a more inclusive and cosmopolitan 21st century America. Whereas cuckolding has its foundations in eroticism, the term "cuckservative" has evolved from a related, but ultimately very different, psychosexual fixation: racialized castration anxieties.
White men saw themselves as the naturally dominant group in the United States from its founding to the present. The idea of white male privilege as “normal” and a given remains inexorably compelling -- especially to the “angry” and aggrieved white men who are the base of the Republican Party in the post-civil rights era.
The legacy of the South’s planter class -- the 1 percent its time, who profited from the blood of the slave plantations, work camps, tenant labor, sharecropping fields, and chain gangs -- is also seen in the contemporary Republican Party. When the Republican Party’s leaders and media elites talk about “makers and takers” and “lazy” American workers, when they wage war on the poor and the social safety net, what we're seeing is the new political economy of neoliberalism mated with the philosophical legacy of the planter class.
The Republican Party’s fetish for guns, its knee-jerk defense of white-on-black-and-brown police violence and abuse, and its theocratic Christian politics also have many wellsprings in the American South. The right's desperate efforts to control women’s bodies and reproductive freedoms are likewise a legacy and reminder of how white men’s power has historically extended to their (supposed) ownership over women’s sexuality and health.
Thus, white male anxieties spoken to by those who authored and circulated the “cuckservative” meme are really just evoking a misdirected feeling by some white men that they have lost political power and potency -- that they have been, so to speak, castrated.
If the Republican Party is a southern party, with all of the social, political, cultural, and racial baggage such a lineage entails, then the power and threat embodied by Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president, cannot be ignored. If the men on the white right are fearful of a loss of power -- be it through metaphors and analogies such as “cuckservatives” or more basic castration anxieties -- we cannot forget the (almost exclusively) Southern tradition of the lynching tree and the “strange fruit” it yielded.
The phallocentric, racist, and misogynistic obsessions of those on the White Right are reminders of how black men’s bodies were routinely burned, dismembered, how their genitals cut off -- all of these things while the victims of such white racial bloodlust were often still alive. The spectacular lynching and torture of black people was a ritual designed to remove Black Americans from political life and to reaffirm white power. The black body was and remains a threat because of that fact, it has been subjected to gross and cruel disciplines and technologies of punishment and control in the United States and the West more broadly.
Obama’s election was unsettling for conservatives. It drove many on the White Right to conspiratorial and delusional thinking, such as “Birtherism,” and also stirred up other more “old school” types of white racism, because the idea of a black man in the White House, as the United States’ President and symbolic embodiment of American power, was irreconcilable with a Herrenvolk logic that views “real Americans” as white by definition and tradition. The right wing’s fears of changing racial demographics, the mating of conservatism and racism, and the Republican Party’s creeping fascism in the present meant that Obama, as well as his cabinet and other appointees who were female and non-white especially, represented a particularly potent threat to embattled and insecure toxic white masculinity.
If the anxieties and fears of those on the White Right who construct dream worlds of a pornographic imagination, in which white men are being cuckolded and are “victims” of interracial sexual domination, who need to elect an “alpha male” Republican for protection, then Barack Obama is the biggest “BBC” threat of them all.
There is no way to defeat psychological chimeras. In their cuckolding fantasy nightmares, the American White Right is fighting its own psychological demons and projections. Republicans cannot beat their own political-racial-sexual id into submission. The White Right can however chase those shadows into the public sphere, and by doing so further wreck the Common Good. The Republican Party’s priapism may be their pleasure and our undoing.
Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.
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2.1 Should Some Sex Markets Be Prohibited?
Markets that subvert or erode fundamental moral and political values should be suppressed, according to Debra Satz. These markets tend to exploit the social vulnerabilities of others, lack informational transparency, pose unacceptably high risks for some participants, or contribute to the social marginalization of some groups. For example, markets in sexual services that (i) seek providers from stigmatized or disempowered social classes, (ii) fail to create conditions for informed consent, (iii) damage the health of participants, or (iv) reinforce pernicious stereotypes about women or other groups, are of questionable value. Although these features of markets are usually contingent, when they persist, states are justified in restricting or regulating such markets, especially if they can do so without producing more harm than good (Satz 2010). Anne Phillips contends that markets in sexual services arise only under conditions of social inequality. She writes, &ldquothe inequality that attends such markets is not just contingent it is an intrinsic feature&rdquo (Phillips 2011: 738). People offer sexual intimacy, or bodily organs or substances, primarily as acts of compassion, and do not in ordinary circumstances commoditize such bodily capacities. Phillips points out that few customers in such markets would be willing to enter as sellers. Those who do market their sexual, reproductive, or other basic bodily capacities do so only when background circumstance compel them to do so.
Carole Pateman argues that the work of a female prostitute is different from other jobs, as it expresses the inferior social and political status of women. Moreover, because people&rsquos bodies and sexual capacities are an integral part of their identity as men and women, the woman who works as a prostitute sells her womanhood and therefore herself (Pateman 1988: 207). Christine Overall similarly argues that prostitution is a transaction in which one person must be defined as a social subordinate who caters to the desires of another. She claims that the prostitute&rsquos work differs from that of other low-status workers in that it is a form of labor that cannot be reciprocated (Overall 1992: 718). Elizabeth Anderson develops this idea and argues that the good of sex is
realized only when each partner reciprocates the other&rsquos gift in kind, offering her own sexuality in the same spirit in which she received the other&rsquos&mdashas a genuine offering of the self. The commodification of sexual &ldquoservices&rdquo destroys the kind of reciprocity required to realize human sexuality as a shared good,
and may corrupt non-market sexual relationships by promoting the valuation of women in terms of their market worth (Anderson 1993: 154&ndash55 see also Radin 1996: 133).
Although Phillips, Pateman, Overall, and Anderson regard marketing one&rsquos sexual capacities as inherently degrading and oppressive, other feminist theorists contend that these features of the work are contingent. Shrage argues that sex markets, like other markets, often exploit sexist ideas that relegate women to subservient roles, and their existence in this form can perpetuate pernicious social myths that stigmatize women. Yet, the background conditions of such markets can change, especially as the norms of gender and sexuality evolve in ways that are less sexist (Shrage 1989: 357). Debra Satz writes that
If prostitution is wrong it is because of its effects on how men perceive women and on how women perceive themselves. In our society, prostitution represents women as the sexual servants of men. (Satz 1995: 78)
Satz suggests that the negative image of women promoted by prostitution &ldquoshapes and influences the way women as a whole are seen&rdquo (Satz 1995: 79). However, if the industry were restructured to be less sexist, then its impact on society would be different.
Martha Nussbaum questions whether the sale of sexual services genuinely damages the persons who provide them or women as a whole. Nussbaum points out that, two centuries ago, the use of one&rsquos artistic talents for pay, such as singing or acting, was regarded as a form of prostitution (Nussbaum 1999: 277). Nussbaum acknowledges that sex workers are currently stigmatized for their profession, but questions whether the stigma that attaches to their work is justified. By tracing this stigma both to aristocratic prejudice toward waged laborers and to moralistic attitudes and anxieties regarding female sexual expression, Nussbaum challenges the rational basis of this social stigma (Nussbaum 1999: 278&ndash79, 286&ndash88). She concludes that feminists should oppose the stigmatization of sex work, rather than oppose sex work for its contribution to the stigmatization of women. Nussbaum also questions seven common claims against prostitution: that it involves excessive risks, the prostitute has little autonomy, it violates the prostitute&rsquos bodily integrity, prostitution has a destructive effect on non-commercial intimate relationships, prostitution violates a person&rsquos inalienable right to her sexuality, it contributes to a male-dominated social order, and it relies on the economic coercion of workers. Nussbaum argues that the problems associated with prostitution are components of many other kinds of work and social practices, and that these problems are not inherent to the work but are often a function of the prostitute&rsquos working conditions and treatment by others (Nussbaum 1999: 288&ndash97, see also Moen 2012).
Scott Anderson resists the move to treat prostitution like other forms of work. He argues that normalizing prostitution undermines a person&rsquos right to sexual autonomy, which is an important value defended by radical feminists. Prostitutes waive their right to sexual autonomy because their jobs place them under contractual obligations to have sex, and thus diminish their control over when and with whom they have sex. Anderson acknowledges that all jobs, to some degree, diminish various forms of autonomy. He contends that sexual autonomy should be valued differently from other forms, such as a person&rsquos control over when and to whom they serve food, provide a massage or dance, offer expert advice, or talk philosophy. He writes
a person&rsquos sexuality almost always figures prominently as an aspect of his or her self-conception, status in society, and economic and social prospects&hellipIt is because sex plays such a pivotal role in the lives of most adults&hellipthat it creates its own special&helliprealm within which one can be more or less autonomous. (Anderson 2006: 386)
Anderson here echoes Pateman&rsquos contention that our sexual capacities and practices are an integral part of who we are as men and women. For this reason, a person&rsquos sexual autonomy should be non-alienable, because to alienate it is to destroy a person&rsquos wholeness or integrity.
In response to Anderson, Hallie Liberto distinguishes three ways of alienating a right or good. First, one can waive a right to (x) (in a weak sense) by granting someone access to (x) with the understanding that, at any moment, permission to use (x) can be revoked. Second, one can waive a right to (x) (in a strong sense) by granting someone access to (x) for a duration of time, with the understanding that permission to use (x) cannot be revoked during this period (presumably if other terms of the lease are met). Third, one can relinquish a right to (x) by transferring that right, as through a sale or gift. In this case, permission to use (x) is granted permanently and cannot be revoked if other terms of the transfer are met. Liberto points out that those who consider the marketing of sexual services a legitimate form of work assume that the sex worker, like other workers, will only be alienating her right of control over her body and sexual labor in a weak sense (Liberto 2009: 141&ndash43 see also Schwarzenbach 1991: 112). In a society in which any form of forced labor is prohibited (e.g., slavery, indentured servitude), workers are generally permitted to back out of labor contracts, although in doing so they typically relinquish all expected benefits (Shrage 2016).
Sex worker activists and advocates have long argued that they are not permanently alienating (selling) their sexual capacities, but rather are exchanging sexual labor for benefits (Schwarzenbach 1991: 112&ndash14). A sex worker&rsquos right to sexual autonomy is not undermined in contexts where she retains the right to withdraw from her labor contracts at any time (Tuana and Shrage 2003: 33 Shrage 2016). Carol Leigh and Norma Jean Almodovar suggest that anti-prostitution laws undermine sexual autonomy by not allowing adults to enter mutually advantageous sexual agreements (Leigh 2004 Almodovar 2002). Peter de Marneffe argues for limiting sex worker contracts in ways similar to other forms of dangerous and potentially harmful work. Restricting and regulating prostitution would balance respect for the autonomy of service providers (and consumers of sexual services) with society&rsquos interest in protecting its members from harm (de Marneffe 2010).
2.2 Can We Distinguish Human Trafficking from Consensual Sex Work?
Some markets in sexual services exploit providers who manifest weak agency (Satz 2010), such as people who are young, homeless, drug addicts, poor, oppressed minorities, migrants, undocumented, and so on. Gerda Lerna argues that to understand how prostitution evolved historically, we need to understand &ldquoits relationship to the sexual regulation of all women in archaic states and its relationship to the enslavement of females&rdquo (Lerner 1986: 124). Lerner writes
It is likely that commercial prostitution derived directly from the enslavement of women and the consolidation and formation of classes. Military conquest led, in the third millennium B.C., to the enslavement and sexual abuse of captive women. As slavery became an established institution, slave-owners rented out their female slaves as prostitutes, and some masters set up commercial brothels staffed by slaves. (Lerner 1986: 133)
Lerner speculates that prostitutes and concubines were used by rulers as symbols of wealth and power, and this practice was then emulated by other men of wealth and status (Lerner 1986: 133). Paupers were often forced to sell children, adding to the supply of labor for this purpose. Furthermore, as women&rsquos social respectability and marriageability became tied to their chastity, &ldquocommercial prostitution came to be seen as a social necessity for meeting the sexual needs of men&rdquo, (Lerner 1986: 134). In short, women who became prostitutes in ancient societies were typically enslaved, captive, or poor.
Gayle Rubin traces the origins of modern prostitution to the rise of patriarchal kinship systems in which women are exchanged as gifts among families to cement social bonds (Rubin 1975: 175). Rubin writes
If women are the gifts, then it is men who are the exchange partners. And it is the partners, not the presents, upon whom reciprocal exchange confers its quasi-mystical power of social linkage. The relations of such a system are such that women are in no position to realize the benefits of their own circulation. As long as the relations specify that men exchange women, it is men who are the beneficiaries of the product of such exchanges&mdashsocial organization. (Rubin 1975: 174)
In other words, in the very creation of society, women were allegedly subordinated through ritual exchange in order to create bonds of kinship among men as the foundation of the social order. Rubin writes
The &ldquoexchange of women&rdquo is a seductive and powerful concept. It is attractive in that it places the oppression of women within social systems, rather than biology. Moreover, it suggests that we look for the ultimate locus of women&rsquos oppression within the traffic in women, rather than within the traffic in merchandise. (Rubin 1975: 175)
Trafficking in women to create social bonds among men, on Rubin&rsquos account, explains women&rsquos social subordination as wives and ultimately, and as nonfamilial sexual servants.
Both Lerner&rsquos and Rubin&rsquos accounts link the rise of prostitution to the subordination of women, and overlook the enslavement and prostitution of men, both in ancient and modern societies. Lerner&rsquos account fails to explain why female slaves were sexually exploited more than male slaves. Rubin does not explain why women, rather than men or opposite-sex pairs, were exchanged or &ldquotrafficked&rdquo in early kinship systems, and thus her account begs the question in regard to the rise of patriarchal kinship and political systems (Shrage 1994: 105, 131&ndash32). While consumers of commercial sexual services have been predominantly male throughout history, factors other than gender subordination have influenced whose sexual labor was bartered or sold, such as colonialism and racial subordination (Kempadoo 1999). By trying to explain contemporary sex commerce in terms of the subordination of women, these accounts overlook important historical and cultural discontinuities. For example, commercial sex providers have not always been regarded as ineligible for marriage and have, in some places, been integrated into their communities to a high degree (Shrage 1994: 109, 115 White 1990: 19 Rossiaud 1988: 70).
Carol Pateman deploys the concepts of liberal political theory to explain the existence of prostitution in modern societies. She argues that the social contract, which establishes the rights and freedoms of men in a liberal political order, also establishes the terms of women&rsquos subjection. In particular, the patriarchal social order includes an implicit agreement among men that grants them sexual access to women (Pateman 1988: 2). Men acquire sexual rights to particular women through marriage and prostitution. In other words, men have a class privilege&mdasha right to sexual relief from women&mdashwhich they can exercise by asserting their rights as husbands or johns. Like Lerner and Rubin, Pateman challenges the notion that prostitution results from men&rsquos biologically driven behavior, and instead explains prostitution as the incorporation of a particular conception of masculinity into modern political and social structures (Pateman 1988: 198&ndash99). In this way, modern prostitution represents the survival of some aspects of older illiberal social orders within the modern liberal state. Both traditional marriage and prostitution, for Pateman, Lerner, and Rubin, give men access to and control over the sexual capacities of women.
Kamala Kempadoo argues that &ldquothe global sex trade cannot be simply reduced to one monolithic explanation of violence to women&rdquo (Kempadoo 2001: 28). Kempadoo claims that older feminist models, which see prostitution as reflection of male power backed up by a monopoly on the use of physical force, are &ldquoinadequate to capture the various histories, oppression, and experiences of women of color&rdquo (Kempadoo 2001: 35, 37). Kempadoo examines how histories of racism, colonialism, militarism, and globalization structure the choices of first and third-world women of color. Although Kempadoo urges feminists to understand prostitution in terms of a broader range of social forces, she maintains that feminist theorizing about prostitution should avoid overlooking the agency of women of color by treating them as mere passive victims of oppression (Kempadoo 2001: 43). Kempadoo writes
The agency of Brown and Black women in prostitution has been avoided or overlooked and the perspectives arising from these experiences marginalized in dominant theoretical discourse on the global sex trade and prostitution. Our insights, knowledges, and understanding of sex work have been largely obscured or dominated by white radical feminist, neo-Marxist or Western socialist feminist inspired analyses that have been either incapable or unwilling to address the complexities of the lives of women of color. (Kempadoo 2001: 40)
Rather than conceptualize prostitution in terms of the sexual exploitation and degradation of women, Kempadoo advocates understanding prostitution as a kind of labor that is often performed by marginalized people (Kempadoo 2001: 45 Kempadoo and Doezema 1998: 4&ndash5 see also Leigh 1997). In this way, prostitution is similar to labor performed in other industries, such as agriculture, manufacturing, or transportation. By analyzing prostitution as a form of labor, rather than a form of social decay or evil, feminists can avoid unrealistic abolitionist approaches (Kempadoo and Doezema 1998 White 1990 Shrage 1996).
A number of feminist theorists analyze prostitution and trafficking in terms of neoliberal and neocolonial economic relationships, in which women from poor countries in the global south are conscripted to provide &ldquocomfort and recreation&rdquo for military personnel and other men from rich nations in the global north. Sometimes social elites in poor nations tolerate and promote their own &ldquosex tourism&rdquo enterprises, in which local women provide sexual labor to attract foreign capital (Enloe 1989: 36, 86 O&rsquoConnell Davidson 1998: 75 Bishop and Robinson 1998). Laura Agustín cautions feminists not to conflate voluntary (though illegal) migrants who are seeking more lucrative forms of sex work with trafficked women (Agustín 2007). Although poor, third-world (and second-world) women are often exploited by traffickers, some may be choosing to migrate and work in sex businesses over other occupations available to them (factory or domestic work) both in their home and target countries. Harsh laws against trafficking often exacerbate the plight of voluntary migrant sex workers who may be undocumented and working illegally (Kotiswaran 2011 Rajan 2003 Kempadoo and Doezema 1998). Anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution efforts should focus on eliminating forced work and migration, child labor, exploitative working conditions, and hostile legal environments for migrants and sex workers (Kotiswaran 2011: 47&ndash8).
Because sex workers often come from marginalized social groups, their basic rights as workers and citizens are frequently violated (Butler, C. 2015). Feminist theorists who recognize sex work as a legitimate choice that some people make, among a constricted set of opportunities in order to earn a living, also recognize that sex markets can take many forms. In some cases those who supply the labor are relatively free and empowered agents, and in other cases they are not. The challenge is to devise policies that prevent the recruitment of children and socially vulnerable people as providers, and that also protect the rights of those who enter such markets even with informed consent.
2.3 Can Markets in Sexual Services Be Effectively Regulated?
Trafficking in persons (human slavery) for any purpose, including sex commerce, is universally condemned and rightly so. Feminists disagree about whether all sex markets involve forced labor and sex. Those who regard commerce in sex categorically as a form of involuntary servitude and violence against women generally support laws that punish people who exchange money for sex in all circumstances (Jeffreys 1998 Barry 1996 Stark and Whisnant 2004). Feminists who hold that some sex work is performed by people who exert autonomy and moral agency generally support policies that permit exchanges of sex for money among consenting adults (Shrage 1996 Nussbaum 1999 Ditmore 2005 Leigh 2004). Having such policies is consistent with vigorous efforts to stop human trafficking.
Peter de Marneffe distinguishes four approaches to laws governing prostitution. (1) Prohibition involves criminalizing both the sale and purchase of sexual services, along with related activities, such as soliciting or operating a brothel. (2) Abolition involves criminalizing only the purchase of sexual services, along with related activities such as curb (&ldquokerb&rdquo) crawling or procuring. (3) Regulation (legalization) involves governmental licensing and regulating of sex work businesses. (4) Decriminalization involves removing criminal prohibitions for acts of purchasing or selling sex among consenting adults (de Marneffe 2010: 28&ndash30 see also Kotiswaran 2011: 16). According to de Marneffe, one can defend decriminalization by appealing to the moral right to self-sovereignty, without supporting legalization, especially of large scale enterprises (de Marneffe 2013).
Most feminists who oppose all sex commerce support abolition rather than prohibition, because the abolition approach treats the provider of sexual services as a victim rather than a criminal. To prosecute women for selling sex, some argue, just compounds their victimization and oppression. Sweden was the first country to adopt this approach (Watson 2019). Other feminists support regulation, because abolition can endanger sex workers by forcing their work underground in order to protect customers. The Netherlands and Germany have adopted some form of regulation, which basically aims to reduce the harms of prostitution rather than eliminate it. Some feminists support decriminalization (the approach now taken in New Zealand) because most regulatory approaches (e.g., mandatory registration and health checks for providers, restricting work sites through zoning and brothels, etc.) aim to protect customers and third parties, not sex workers, and contribute to the stigmatization of prostitutes as diseased and sinful (Nagle 1997 Kempadoo and Doezema 1998 Almodovar 2002 Leigh 2004). By contrast, regulationists worry that a laissez-faire approach leaves sex workers vulnerable to extreme exploitation, and some explore how employment law and policy can protect sex workers, as well as clients and third parties (Davis 2015 Shrage 1994 and 1996).
In the U.S., many sexual service providers work for escort agencies, and thereby manage to get around anti-prostitution laws. Because the client pays the agency for the escort&rsquos time and the provider does not take money directly from the client but only from the agency, sex between a professional escort and her client is often ignored by law enforcers. When agencies become aggressive and brazen in their advertising or business practices, they are sometimes prosecuted as fronts for prostitution. Yet, the full force of anti-prostitution laws tends to be felt by women who are destitute, drug-addicted, or just amateurs, who solicit customers directly or in public places. Under regimes of prohibition, anti-prostitution laws are often used against people who engage in survival sex, such as homeless women or minors who are not able to work in safer venues. Rarely are they used against middle class women who serially date men in pursuit of expensive gifts, college tuition, or living expenses (Shrage 2015). Anti-prostitution laws are also used to prosecute men who sexually and commercially exploit women (e.g., customers and pimps), but they are sometimes used to prosecute the boyfriends and co-workers of prostitutes with whom they have consensual and supportive relationships (Almodovar 1993). Police practices in the U.S., historically, have focused on arresting and prosecuting prostitutes, especially street workers, who may receive enhanced penalties if they know they are HIV positive. Women make up the majority of prostitutes and the majority of those arrested, and minority women are overrepresented among those arrested (Marganski 2012).
Over the past few decades, a few countries have moved toward toleration and regulation of the work activities of prostitutes, yet the larger trend has been toward criminalization, often with increased penalties for customers and pimps (see 100 Countries and Their Prostitution Policies). Feminist campaigns against prostitution and trafficking have mobilized to win approval for abolitionist policies. Essentially, the feminist anti-pornography movement of the 1970s and 1980s has evolved into the feminist anti-trafficking movement of the 21 st century. Both movements treat markets in sexually explicit materials and services as a form of violence against women, and claim that tolerating them perpetuates the social subordination of women. Like the anti-pornography movement in the 1980s, the anti-trafficking movement is finding common ground with social conservatives who have religious objections to non-marital sex, and, more recently, with political conservatives who want to keep economic migrants out of their countries.
In response to these and earlier efforts to block sex markets, an international sex workers&rsquo rights movement has formed to advocate for decriminalizing consensual adult sex work. Sex worker activists, many of whom are also feminists, have challenged scholarly research about their lives and work, and argue that criminalization renders them less able to protect their health and exercise their rights (Almodovar 1993 Pendleton 1997 Highleyman 1997 Queen 1997 Sprinkle 1998 Quan 2001 Bernstein 2000 Leigh 2004). Sex worker organizations are forming alliances with queer activists, labor unions, and human rights advocates to advance their political goals (Beloso 2012). In 2015, an influential human rights organization, Amnesty International, approved a resolution calling upon countries to decriminalize adult consensual sex work, which represents a huge victory for the sex workers rights movement.
Adrienne Davis argues that the abolitionist movement has had more political victories because this side is more united in their aims. By contrast, feminists supporting sex worker rights are deeply divided over whether to support regulation or decriminalization. Davis shows that advocates for regulation exaggerate the similarities of sex work with other types of work, while advocates for decriminalization exaggerate the differences. Davis proposes a &ldquosexual geographies&rdquo approach to sex work, which recognizes that the potential harms depend on where and how the work is performed. Virtual sex work, where providers are relatively anonymous and meet with customers only online, is relatively safe. Outcall work, where sex workers meet with customers in private spaces, such as hotel rooms, and have physical contact with their customers is significantly more risky. Exotic dancers, who perform in public venues, such as bars and clubs, and have limited physical contact with customers, face an intermediate level of risk. Health and safety regulations need to encompass different kinds of work sites and risks, and include appropriate measures for each.
Davis notes where current employment law in the U.S. is insufficient to address some of the risks that sex workers face, such as assault by customers and co-workers and invidious discrimination (Davis 2015). Employment regulations typically offer greater protection for injuries acquired in the course of doing one&rsquos job than for incidental violence and attacks. Davis also points out that sexual harassment will be more difficult to define in sex work contexts. Furthermore, because preferences for race, like gender, may be built into customers&rsquo sexual tastes and fantasies, employers and courts might view generally irrelevant personal characteristics as bona fide occupational qualifications. Nevertheless, Davis favors decriminalization with regulation, and challenges feminists to improve employment regulation so that there are better safeguards for sex work, and other work performed in non-traditional and diverse work sites.
In her theoretically nuanced and fair-minded overview of both radical feminist opposition to prostitution and liberal feminist advocacy of sex worker rights, Prabha Kotiswaran carves out a &ldquomiddle ground&rdquo feminist position. Middle ground feminism pays attention to the empirical realities of various sex trades and the efforts of sex worker organizations to protect the civil and economic rights of their members. Middle ground feminists are aware of how the sex industry is gendered and, at times, critically and respectfully engage with the proposals of sex worker advocates. For example, they may be skeptical of the alleged needs of men that the sex industry aims to serve, while recognizing that sex workers are not passive dupes but agents who exploit less than ideal background conditions. Middle ground feminists do not treat sex commerce as monolithic, but pay attention to the different ways that labor and capital are organized in different trades. They recognize that much of sex work, like other low status service work, is menial and sometimes unpleasant, but it is not work that is inherently degrading or violent to those who voluntarily perform it. They also recognize that sex work is continuous with much of the caregiving work women perform, as wives, mothers, nurses, teachers, nannies, and domestics, and do not single out the sex industry for assigning to women a disproportionate share of caregiving work in society. In this way, they do not treat sex work as exceptional in terms of its risks, difficulty, and larger societal effects. And finally, middle ground feminists are less likely to make common cause with anti-feminist sexual moralists and anti-immigrant conservatives, and are more likely to find common cause with unions of sex workers that are grappling with challenging working conditions and economic realities (Kotiswaran 2011).