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Jaicee said:
HylianSwordsman said:

In regard to your feminist identity, I'm aware of a good bit of the terminology around feminism but am not remotely as well read on the subject as yourself. I'm more familiar with the liberal feminists than the radical ones. I can appreciate the desire for cultural reform, however, because if liberal feminists limit themselves merely to political and legal reform, they will never achieve equality. Culture around women itself must change. I've a question for you though, you say you describe yourself as a "lesbian feminist" and say that the lesbian label adds specificity to your feminism. How so? Is it simply a matter of your being a lesbian informing your perspective? Or are you hinting that you're a lesbian separatist? Or does your lesbianism inform your ideology in some other way that differentiates you from a heterosexual feminist? Sorry if I'm reading too much into it.

You provide a lot of perspective here that I simply don't have comparable experience to respond to. You make a powerful and compelling argument. I confess I haven't given it as much thought as the politicians in those countries that have tried to put some form of legalized prostitution into practice. Based on what you present here, it sounds like the Nordic model is more or less what I described in my first step, that is, decriminalizing being a prostitute, so that we stop punishing survivors of human trafficking and discouraging them from reporting abuses against them. I had my skepticism that brothels and pimps could be legalized in a way that wouldn't be inevitably exploitative, so it sounds like there's a great deal of evidence that my instincts were right on that, and that brighter minds than I have tried and failed spectacularly to make it work without it leading to sex slavery and the like. That said, I maintain that if you had someone who was able to maintain full control over her own bodily autonomy, working autonomously and independently, able to refuse any service with any person for any reason without fear of legal retribution, it may be possible to have prostitution without it being exploitative. I'm sure you're right that most prostitutes today hate working as prostitutes and would rather do something else, and for the vast majority, personal liberty isn't a factor. But if there's even one woman out there would not just be willing, but actively desire to sell sex with her as a service, given that she could choose which services and with which people, and given that she didn't arrive at this decision as a result of or informed by experiences of drugs or sexual abuse, shouldn't that woman be free to do so? If it could be shown that such a woman cannot exist, that inherently, prostitution has to be exploitative, then I'd agree with you that the Nordic model is where things should stop. But look at your example of the teens that wouldn't sell sex for less than $2 million. Note that it says "sex with someone they didn't want to" as the condition. If prostitution were the selling of sexual services, but you could choose to sell them to only those you do want to, it completely reframes the question. We have sex with people we do want to have sex with for free, and don't consider that abuse. Imagine you could get money for it too? I'd bet that many people of both sexes would be willing to prostitute themselves in that case. I don't understand how that is exploitative.

I myself am quite skeptical of identity politics, as I see it as inherently exclusive, not inclusive. I also think that all that "progressive" identity politics tends to do is to replace a rightwing, straight white male identity politics with multiple leftwing, other identity politics. Good progressive politics should combat identity politics, undo the straight white male identity politics already in place (like the laws aimed at disenfrancising certain voters of certain races, or racial gerrymandering, or not allowing gays to adopt, or allowing businesses to not serve LGBTQ people, or the failure to stop the rape of women in the armed forces), and not replace them with identity politics of opposing identities but merely creating an inclusive politics that is fair to everyone. I too agree that it is quite possible for even a majority of a group to act against their better interests. Case in point, white women in the 2016 election. They did vote majority for Trump (if only barely), and I maintain that the Democrat's rhetoric was self-defeating and took those women for granted, but those women were definitely voting against their best interest. But I don't think that prostitution as a concept is inherently against the interests of women. I think in reality it is, but we could change that reality to empower women and fundamentally change the industry so that instead of creating sex trafficking victims, it instead gives them the power to make money off their sexual choices if that's what they want.

I haven't ever read Vogue or Cosmopolitan, but I'm aware of what they are. I detest them. Every time I would see the cover of one of their issues at a grocery store checkout line, all I could think was how vapid they looked, and how toxic the underlying message to women was. I guess I'm aware that they tend to lean left politically, but I never got the impression that their endorsements were all that valued or sought after by any politicians I gave a damn about, and I maintain that I've never seen a Democrat propose policies that seemed designed to appeal to the beauty industry. I wouldn't consider them major allies to Democrats or the left.

In regards to lesbian feminism: one of the first political actions I remember noticing on TV was coverage of the first Dyke March in 1993, which made national headlines. The action was called because lesbians had reached a place of feeling marginalized within the gay rights movement and concluded that autonomous actions by lesbians were necessary for lesbian political visibility. That event left an indelible impression on me over the years, functioning to highlight the idea that lesbians aren't just synonymous and interchangeable with gay men and all their interests. Having the opportunity to attend the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival a couple times (thanks to the generosity of some very kind women in paying some of the necessary travel expenses), which was basically lesbian heaven, also left a definite impression on me in a similar way.

(Although certainly not an organized movement, as an aside, I think that another easy way to tell that a clear difference between the political interests of gay men and lesbians exists today here in the U.S. can be seen in the spontaneously divergent ways that the organized queer movement and gay men overall on the one hand and many lesbians and bisexual women in contrast have responded to the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg.)

Although lesbian feminism isn't a major trend here in the U.S. anymore, it remains a significant political trend within feminism in places like South Korea and southern Europe to this day and many of its present-day thought leaders live in the UK, so it's not actually dead or dying.

There are a range of different views within the spectrum of lesbian feminism, but the basic idea of it as a distinctive philosophy is that women should direct their energies toward the aid of other women rather than men (which is a premise obviously at odds with many elements of contemporary intersectional feminism). Personally, I'm more or less aligned with the thinking of Dr. Sheila Jeffreys and her ideas about what it should entail, which include these principles:

-An emphasis on women's love for one-another.
-Separate organizations for women.
-The development of autonomous culture.
-The idea that life as a whole is political, especially those areas consider personal (such as the practice of sex).
-Rejection of social hierarchy.
-A critique of all forms of male supremacy.

The combination of these views often leads toward certain specific conclusions. For example, the last three ideas together result in lesbian feminists typically opposing sexual sado-masochism in that it's viewed as the enactment of hierarchy and non-indigenous to lesbians; an import from the culture of gay men involved in the gay rights movement.

It's also worth saying that lesbian feminists (like Jeffreys) tend to define lesbianism broadly, in a way that doesn't require sex with other women, but simply a conscious rejection of sex with men. In this sense, and defined this way, lesbianism is typically viewed and approached as political choice that women should make by the movement. Jeffreys has made the argument that, in contrast to today's conventional wisdom, in reality people are basically asexual by nature and are simply pressured into a large volume of (specifically heterosexual) sexual activity in order to perpetuate patriarchal social relations, which hinge entirely on the act of sex.

(Also, obviously I don't uphold all these principles in an especially rigid way or I wouldn't spend any time here.)

Okay, I spent a lot of time addressing that one matter just now, so let me get to your bolded query real quick: I think your perspective on that reflects a more individualistic mindset than I possess. I believe that the collective interests not only of prostituted women themselves, but also of women overall, outweigh what arguably might genuinely be the "fun" of a small minority of prostitutes in importance. It's not even only prostituted women themselves who are victimized by the institution, but women as a whole. For example, every woman who lives anywhere near a brothel, a strip club, a massage parlor, or other similar institution (and make no mistake, there's a great deal of overlap between them) or an understood red light district in the abstract has a greatly heightened chance of being randomly propositioned or even sexually attacked on the street if she should find herself there alone on any given day or night. The mere presence of sex industry institutions by itself creates a hostile climate for women as a whole within their vicinity, regardless of whether they are employed or enslaved in that field.

On your final point, the influence of the beauty industry is absolutely pervasive throughout society, but mainly and most especially in more urban, cosmopolitan areas where elaborate beauty regiments are often more practical owing to the fact that rural women, by contrast, often work outdoors in manual labor-oriented types of occupations that make extensive beauty regiments comparatively futile and pointless. I could go into a whole thing about the ways our everyday dress and routines are influenced by the ideas of the beauty industry whether we think about it or not, about the average woman loses hours out of every day, not to mention lots of money that men aren't obliged to spend, to beauty regiments and how the end result of these regiments is often severe limitations on one's freedom of movement and according lifestyle options, but that's a topic for another day.

Wow, thanks for taking the time to explain. Interesting article you linked, too. It seems lesbian feminism, as you've described it here, is somewhat comparable to intersectionalism in that it tries to appreciate the unique challenges faced by those who are both female and lesbian, but is also clearly distinct from intersectionalism. That said, it seems so concerned with lesbian and female issues that it almost sounds like a sort of identity politics in itself, in that it seems to want to promote the concerns of one group to the exclusion or even deliberate expense of others (in this case, men). I like the last three principles of Dr. Jeffreys. I'm not sure what the third one means though. It almost sounds separatist in nature. The second principle definitely sounds separatist. The first I don't understand the necessity of. As for BDSM, I see that kind of sexual play as a potentially healthy way to role-play hierarchy in a safe environment that can create an outlet for fantasy and help to separate it from reality. For example I don't like social hierarchy either, but in the bedroom, as well as in video games, books, and other creative outlets, I'm okay with playing around with the idea of hierarchy in fantasy, but wouldn't bring that to real life (at least not more than reality imposes hierarchy upon me). Sado-masochism in particular though, I do have some concerns about and harbor a great deal of skepticism that it comes from a healthy place psychologically. That bit you mention about "importing culture" though just adds to my perception that all this is an identity politics, as the politics of identity tends to concern itself with the purity of the culture it promotes. Be that the rejection of multiculturalism we see from white nationalists, or the identity politics leftist obsession with "cultural appropriation" and the jealous hording of cultural artifacts they deem belonging to one identity or another, there's always a disdain for cultural mixing, and I find that incredibly distasteful no matter where I see it. As for the idea of people being asexual by nature, that is patently absurd and unscientific, intellectually indefensible. I fear we risk getting too off topic with this, however.

Your response to that bolded bit definitely helps me grasp your point of view better. I try to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the collective, and I can definitely appreciate what you mean about the impact of those institutions on the women that live near them. My only answer to that would be that I don't know that I actually support any sort of institutionalization of sex work beyond the legal framework to regulate it for the protection of the sex workers. In other words, I don't necessarily support the physical institutions like brothels where the sex industry historically has done its trade, merely the right of any woman (or any person for that matter) involved to negotiate a price for sexual actions performed. I don't think the sex industry needs brothels, nor does it even need to be an industry per se, I just think that if a person's body is truly theirs to do with as they please, then they should be able to sell services involving that body. Be that manual labor, or in a more sexual sense, pregnancy (as with surrogates), or sex itself (as with prostitutes). Does there need to be an actual, physical, institution of business to accomodate the selling of that sex? I don't see why that's necessary. Indeed I really don't care about the rights of pimps to be pimps at all. I don't even like the concept of bosses in general in the everyday workplace; as I said, I'm not a fan of social hierarchy, so I've certainly no love or concern for pimps. My concern in this case is only for the person who wants to attach a price to sexual acts with themselves. I'd rather that person have full autonomy to do so as they please, without concern for the "client" or any sort of employer. In fact, across the scale of a whole society, assuming pimps were not involved and this was something any willing person could do and there was no need for dedicated places of business for it, I'd actually expect that such legalization could empower women more so than men.

You continue to mention the involvement of left-leaning women in beauty industry products in their private lives as evidence for the alliance of the beauty industry with the left, and I see your point and agree with the facts of the situation(indeed it makes sense that this comes from someone who sees the private and political as one as much as you do), however I still don't see an alliance. Yes, urban women will for practical reasons use beauty products more, and they lean left compared to rural women, and the industry knows its audience (the title of the magazine is Cosmopolitan after all). Nonetheless, I do not see any concerted effort on the part of left-wing politicians to advance the interests of the beauty industry. When they speak of it at all, it is almost universally in a negative light, that I've seen. However, perhaps "when they speak of it at all" speaks to your point. The only way I see any sort of political alliance with the left is that in spite of the left's criticisms of the beauty industry, they do very little to solve the problems it creates. But then that doesn't really make them a leftwing industry, does it? When the left does criticize them, the right defends them from a pro-business perspective. If the left were to try to do anything, they'd lose some of their coalition of more moderately minded upple middle class white women in the suburbs that can most afford beauty products. They fought too hard to get those women on their side as it is. I see their negligence in confronting the problems presented by the beauty industry as less an endorsement of the beauty industry and more a concession to keep their coalition together. There are so many cultural struggles the left has already taken on, and so many radical endeavors to restructure economics that they're fighting for right now, that the fundamental overhaul, both culturally and economically, that would be necessary to combat something as fundamental to our lives as the pervasive culture around female beauty that the beauty industry exploits, just doesn't seem worth the cost. So they pick around the edges of that culture, mostly in rhetoric, without much policy to show for it. I don't even know where they'd start policy wise. It's more a task for a social movement than a political one.