Daniil V. Zhaivoronok

European University at St. Petersburg, Russia

Articles.Theory
 
Debates about commercial sex occupy a prominent place on the agenda of both global and Russian-language feminist communities. Sex wars have a major impact on the organization and political imagination of the feminist movement. On the other hand, some sex workers and their representatives consider some feminists (neo-abolitionists) to be one of the biggest enemies in the struggle for their rights. Trying to understand this contradiction, the article raises issue on how neo-abolitionist discourse is designed and what political impact it produces. The author proceeds under the assumption that the neo-abolitionist discourse about commercial sex is a way to cope with the two fundamental anxieties of the feminist movement: the anxiety of foundation and the anxiety of translation. This hypothesis is tested through an analysis of Russian and English-language feminist texts on commercial sex, as well as through analysis of existing research literature. The author comes to the conclusion that the construction of sex work as a homogeneous situation of patriarchal violence against women allows it to be used as a metaphor. One of its effects is the legitimation of universalist and essentialist constructions of radical feminism/neo-abolitionism. At the same time, this discourse excludes the voices of women engaged in sex work and reduces the diversity and heterogeneity of their experience. As a
result, neo-abolitionism becomes problematic if we consider feminism an inclusive and emancipatory project. In conclusion, the author calls for the formation of a more inclusive and polyphonic version of feminism towards people engaged in commercial sex.
 
Keywords: gender studies, commercial sex, social construction, feminism, epistemology
 
Download