Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Prostitution Prism by Gail Pheterson (1996)

As the books I’m reading all tend to blur, it’s probably a sign of saturation. Pheterson’s book emphasizes the differences between female and male deviance. Men can use or not women sexually as long as these are within specific relations (husband, lover, customer of a prostitute). However, women are deviant if their sexuality is practised or even made known outside of every context except marriage – and even then it can be deviant if their desires and perceived rights do not coincide with their husbands’ perceptions. She points out that females can be dishonoured as a ‘whore’ without ever having received money for sexual services (the common definition of prostitution) but are considered dishonourable because of class, race, or deviance from expected female behaviour. She thus displays the unfairness of the accepted standards of our society, as well as showing that every women (and even some men) are not as separate from prostitutes as most of us would like to think. This lack of distinction between prostitutes and the average woman in some ways is a means to build solidarity and thus an ear for her proposals for legal reform concerning mainly prostitution.
Although I agree with her to some degree, especially about the unfairness of society’s standards and the depiction that none of us are really all that different from those we might want to condemn (see John 8 and the story of the woman caught in adultery), I’m not comfortable with a lot of the assumptions she has made about the amount of validity inherent in both feminism and prostitution.

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