What is the difference between prostitution and marriage

feminism: Sex work and prostitution are not the same


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Hardly any other topic is as controversial among feminists as sex for payment: some demand acceptance of the profession, others want to forbid the purchase of sex. These fronts also differ in the choice of words: some speak of "sex work", others of "prostitution". But what if we could use both terms?

What exactly happens when someone pays a woman for sex? Those who speak of "sex work" have the following scenario in mind: There is a person who has sexual needs and who entrusts the satisfaction of these needs to a professional sex worker. This in turn chose the profession of her own free will because it brings good money. Anyone who speaks of "prostitution", on the other hand, has a patriarchal system in mind that forces women to have sex with any men, the main beneficiaries being brothel operators, pimps and suitors. Both sides can refer to the victims themselves: sex workers talk about the opportunities and the meaning of their work, former prostitutes about the degrading and misogynistic conditions from which they have escaped.

What if both were correct? Perhaps there is a good reason that both terms are so stubbornly held onto. Then the argument about which term is the better would be unnecessary.

Sex work and prostitution are not the same thing, but both exist. Whether one speaks of sex work or of prostitution is not a question of principle, it only becomes interesting in a specific case: When you have to decide what you are dealing with in a certain situation - sex work or prostitution.

If I decide to speak of "sex work", then I present the situation in a neutral, accepting way, without a negative evaluation. A "sex worker" is a professional service provider who offers a certain service in order to earn money with it. She associates this work with neither shame, discomfort, nor low self-esteem. The word "sex work" draws a parallel to other professions: Here, too, not every aspect of the work is freely chosen, because what you can earn money with depends on many factors, your own talents and abilities, social circumstances, legal framework, material circumstances, the market situation. Anyone who speaks of "sex work" wants to say: What happens here is normal and not morally worse than other things people do to earn a living.

To speak of "prostitution", on the other hand, implies a negative evaluation. In the past, this assessment was made by the woman herself: the word "prostitution" comes from Latin and means "to put something forward", that is, to reveal oneself and to exhibit. Prostitutes do something that so-called decent women do not, they give themselves to strange men, and that too for base motives such as money. Today it is no longer frowned upon when women want to portray themselves in public or want to earn money. But the term prostitution still has a negative connotation, just with a different focus. The criticism, especially the feminist one, does not apply to women, but to a system that, supported by a hierarchical and misogynistic gender order, markets sex with women (and young men) as a commodity, and in a way that is not only dignified of the women concerned, but the dignity of women in general.

In many cases the distinction is easy. A student who earns a living as an escort and who finds this job okay compared to what the job market has to offer is not a prostitute, she is a sex worker. This is not contradicted by the fact that things are not always rosy and that the entire advertising environment of your escort service is deeply sexist. No woman lives in a culture free of sexism, we all come to terms more or less. And female freedom also includes the opportunity to gain personal gain from sexist relationships.

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In the evening at 10 after 8, the out-of-the-way becomes relevant, the established is questioned and the invisible is revealed.

We are a diverse collective of female authors. We write ourselves and look for texts that open up new worlds or let familiar ones appear in a new light. We invite writers, journalists and scientists, but also experts in special fields, to write with and for us; We have guest authors who are no longer allowed to publish in their countries or whose countries are barely reported on at the moment. We are curious about new perspectives, new stories, text for text, with us, twice a week, always at 10 past 8.

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About the authors

The editorial staff of 10 after 8 consists:

Marion Detjen, Contemporary historian
Hella Dietz, Sociologist, family and organizational advisor
Heike-Melba Fendel, Author and agency manager
Annett Groeschner, freelance writer
Masha Jacobs, Journalist, co-editor of the magazine Pop. Culture and criticism
Stefanie Lohaus, Head of Communication EAF Berlin and editor of the Missy Magazine
Lina Muzur, deputy publishing director at Hanser Berlin Verlag
Catherine Newmark, Cultural journalist
Annika Reich, Writer and activist
Elisabeth Wellershaus, Journalist

But not every woman who has sex with customers for money is a sex worker. A drug addict, for example, who is disgusted with touching the penises of strange men, but does so anyway because a pimp regularly supplies her with substance when she “buys”, is not a sex worker. In her case the word would be a euphemism, a trivialization. Here it makes sense to speak of prostitution to denote a system of sexist dominance that enables men to exploit this woman's plight for their own profit and sexual desires. The reference to the already forbidden forced prostitution is not enough, because this system is more subtle and is not based on direct, justiciable coercion. The reference to the fact that women are also exploited in other industries also falls short: It makes a difference whether a woman has to clean although she does not want to, or whether she has to let the penises of some men in, although she does not want to .