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Shut the Subaltern up! And if you can’t do that, deride her.

June 30, 2009

Partially cross-posted at

I was appalled to read Donna Hughes’s opinion piece in the Providence Journal entitled “R.I.’s Carnival of Prostitution ,” where she resorts to ad hominem attacks on women who speak for themselves about their experiences in the sex industry. She is an endowed chair at the University of Rhode Island’s Women’s Studies Program, and I am forced to wonder what her students are learning. She condescendingly refers to one woman as “tattooed,” and derides another (while constantly mentioning her ethnicity) for referring to her profession as “it.” As one commenter pointed out,

That never ever ever happens with other professions, right? I mean who, when asked if they enjoyed teaching women’s studies for example, would say “oh yes, I love IT.”

It has been a long-standing issue with sex workers that we are silenced by the media and others; spoken for and about but never with . People even caution others to not listen to us, as we are under “false consciousness” about what we choose to do with our bodies. Now we are being derided by the very people who proclaim to wish to “rescue” us.

Sadly, both the RI house and senate have decided that it is a good thing to criminalize sex workers.

Someday, folks will realize that sex workers are people too, and that we have a voice. And they may just one day begin to listen to us.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. perrybc permalink
    July 7, 2009 12:03 am

    Donna Hughes borders on insanity in defense of her particular anti sex work perspective. I had to quit her listserv years back when she and some other posters were arguing that free condoms shouldn’t be provided to sex workers b/c “it only encourages them” or something to that effect. Brutal. Must be nice to sit in an ivory tower all day and cast judgment on all of these lesser women (and men) who have the nerve to inconvenience a narrow (and quite privileged) worldview by engaging in sex work. Ugh.

    Great point about the media silencing, by the way. Very true.

  2. eroticundulation permalink
    July 7, 2009 2:40 pm

    Thanks for the comment Perry. It never ceases to amaze me, though, how people like Hughes get so much credibility. One would imagine that an academic institution had some responsibility to balance; but I suppose her tenure protects her from such inconveniences.

    About silencing–it is striking how far the Swedish govt. has gone to silence us. In Pye’s video, she speaks about how important a trend listening to people about whom they were making legislation became, espcially when it came ot the children. The legislators insisted that the children’s voices be heard at every step while making legislation that affected children. However, as Pye pointed out, sex workers were completely shut out of any dialogue about legislation that afected them. Their voices were considered even less important than children’s voices. Not one was allowed to speak, to voice her (or his) concern about how the legislation might affect them.

    To me, that is unacceptable, decidedly unprogressive, and bordering on criminal.

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