Unsolicited advice is often worth about as much as you pay for it, but I was so impressed by these two videos that I felt obligated to share them. The first is about campus ‘hookup culture,’ and without moralizing against casual sex in any way, makes clear how damaging hookup culture can be to the students who find themselves in it. The second is about how pornography is transforming actual sex, in ways very few of us would appreciated.
I mentioned recently that I’d read the horrifying, amazing work of Silvia Federici recently, specifically her book Caliban and the witch: women, the body, and primitive accumulation. The argument, summarized briefly, is that
Caliban and the Witch shows that the body has been for women in capitalist society what the factory has been for male waged workers: the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance, as the female body has been appropriated by the state and men and forced to function as a means for the reproduction and accumulation of labor. (16)
In another section, Federici argues that Marxist ‘primitive accumulation’ involves the ‘enclosure’ not only of communal lands but also of social relations that stretches back to the origin of capitalism in 16th-century Europe and America.” (9)
In investigating the history of the enclosure (or ‘capture’) of women’s labor and bodies, especially their reproductive capacities, Federici looks to the 16th century of Europe, immediately after the Black Death killed off 1/3 of the European population. The state response was frankly sexually domineering. The following is a lengthy quotation, but I dare you to stop reading it once you’ve begun (bold emphases are mine):
“As Jacques Rossiaud has shown in Medieval Prostitution (1988) in France, the municipal authorities practically decriminalized rape, provided the victims were women of the lower class. In 14th-century Venice, the rape of an unmarried proletarian woman rarely called for more than a slap on the wrist, even in the frequent case in which it involved a group assault (Ruggiero 1989:91-108). The same was true in most French cities. Here, the gang-rape of proletarian women became a common practice which the perpetrators would carry out openly and loudly at night, in groups of two to fifteen, breaking into their victims’ homes, or dragging their victims through the streets, without any attempt to hide or disguise themselves. Those who engaged in these ‘sports’ were young journeymen or domestic servants, and the penniless sons of well-to-do families, while the women targeted were poor girls, working as maids or washerwomen, of whom it was rumored that they were ‘kept’ by their masters (Rossiaud 1982: 22). On average, half of the town male youth, at some point, engaged in these assaults, which Rossiaud describes as a form of class protest, a means for proletarian men – who were forced to postpone marriage for many years because of their economic conditions – to get back ‘their own,’ and take revenge against the rich. But the results were destructive for all workers, as the state-backed raping of poor women undermined the class solidarity that had been achieved in the anti-feudal struggle.” (47-48)
Now, let’s read the most recent figures published by End Child Prostitution, Abuse, and Trafficking in Cambodia (ECPAT):
End Child Prostitution, Abuse, and Trafficking in Cambodia (ECPAT) published figures of rape, of sex trafficking, and of debauchery based on reports in five local newspapers: Koh Santepheap, Rasmei Kampuchea, Kampuchea Thmey, the Cambodia Daily, and the Phnom Penh Post-vp, where there were 322 cases of rape reported. The number increased by 16.77% compared to 2008, where there had been only 268 cases, and by 6.52% compared to 2007, where there had been 301 cases. The 332 cases victimized 337 persons, among whom 202 were underage girls and 2 were boys. Most of the victims were Khmers, but there were also Vietnamese, Cambodian Muslims, and Australians. It should be noted that gang rapes [when two or more men rape one girl] increased to 29 cases – in each case there were 2 to 7 perpetrators involved, and 5 victims were killed after they had been raped.
(translation via The Mirror)
Add in the notoriety of ‘bauk,’ the practice of gang rape that has become nauseatingly common in Cambodia, and some similarities become clear. On the other hand, there are important differences: rape is illegal in Cambodia, and has harsh penalties, though enforcement is almost non-existent, especially for the poor; women currently compose approximately 85-90% of the garment industry’s working class (a polar reversal of the 16th century French examples), though the gendered resentment might have similar wellsprings.
My short piece the other day on a Cambodian protest by Sex Workers against their criminalization, brutalization, and the abuse they therefore increasingly suffer at the hands of police has received tons of hits, most owing – no doubt – to the mere presence of the word ‘sex’ in the title.
More good sex worker news comes to us today courtesy of DAS.
Sex workers from around the world unfurled a banner reading “Sex workers support Ban Ki Moon” during his speech at the opening plenary of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. Sex workers thank United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon for his support of their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
On March 26, 2008, the Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia was released with a statement from the Secretary General. This excellent report calls for the decriminalization of sex work, and counsels governments and other actors to, “Avoid programmes that accentuate AIDS-related stigma and can be counterproductive. Such programmes may include ‘crack-downs’ on red-light areas and arrest of sex workers.” Realistic efforts to include affected populations including sex workers are critical to combat the spread of HIV – in fact, sex workers are generally leaders in sexual health when their human rights are respected.
Righteous. DAS also referred to this excellent video, which interviews a number of people involved in various aspects of sex work – from sex workers themselves to a few of their advocates. Powerful stuff, and very worth watching.
A refusal to be ashamed can be a heroic move. Bravo. Here’s some links:
Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)
Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)
I don’t normally deal with sex work here, instead preferring to stick to areas somewhat closer to home. But, since I dumped on someone else’s laudable intentions to help sex workers in Cambodia recently, perhaps I’m due. Much more importantly, Cambodia Sex Workers took collective action the other day, in a courageous way that I hope foreshadows the future.
One of my constant frustrations in talking to Americans about Cambodia is the ubiquity of two particular stereotypes: First, that Cambodia is a land of trauma and skulls, and Second, that Cambodia is a land of ubiquitous sex for sale, especially sex with children.
Of course, there’s a fair amount of truth in both statements: Cambodia has, and continues, to experience a massive amount of trauma (of course, the secondary issue there is that the continuing and contemporary traumas receive almost no attention compared to historical traumas). Cambodia also has a booming and predatory sex work industry.
So, whenever I see stories like that from Kate Hardy on Sex Workers uniting in Cambodia to protest the recent police crackdowns, I’m thrilled. The United States has recently upgraded the Human Trafficking status of Cambodia for the first time since 2006, due to a massive and unrestrained police crackdown. Continue reading
So quips jinja, who sent me this article. These sorts of things crop up all the time – some religious group (usually Christian, usually protestant of a congregational bent) decides to ‘save Cambodia,’ and of course, decides to save it in the way that they themselves do best. This is like a physicist deciding that in order to save Cambodia, what is really needed is not stable government, enough food, or labor protections, but instead, a new semi-collider. In other words, it’s narcissism. It’s usually better for my mental and emotional health to ignore these.
But I’ll print this one, just because it’s so freaking offensive. (Not as offensive as the missionary emails I used to receive, which were frankly racist, but still – this is a newspaper).”
“We get girls from their parents, buy them from pimps, get them from brothels,” Doneson said. “We teach them life skills and we get them a job. We give them a new life and a new hope and everything.”
Doneson is currently working with several local organizations to raise money for the project.
She has hosted several fundraisers over the past month, including one Monday at Culver’s that she said had a very good turnout. Her final shot at raising money will be May 31 at Zamrazil Hair Studio, where a donation will get clients a free haircut.
“This is a fundraiser to help me get over there, and the rest will go to the girls,” she said.
Doneson plans to be in Cambodia from June 8 to June 23.
“The goal is to take a group of students over there to get a taste of what it’s like,” she said.
No word on whether or not “getting a taste of what it’s like” includes being sold to brutal pimps, or gang-raped by a group of high school boys.