Rewire.News' Views on Legalizing Prostitution and 'Sex Workers' Rights
To verify Chart's claims about her former employer legitimizing prostitution under a "public health" approach, CP reached out to Rewire.News and interviewed its editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson. CP did not disclose anything about the interview with Chart regarding her termination. (The full transcript of the interview with Jacobson can be read here.)
Jacobson explained in an April 12 phone interview that she does indeed support the legalization of prostitution from both a "public health" and "human rights" perspective. When asked if she saw any potential downsides to decriminalizing prostitution and what age limits there should be, she declined to offer specifics.
"Well, you know, there are always downsides to everything," Jacobson said.
"And I can't speak to an age limit because I'm not up on what the advocacy community in that regard would advocate right now, so I don't want to speak to that."
Jacobson repeatedly stressed that "trafficking" and "sex work" are two separate things entirely and that it's an error to conflate them. Jacobson also said she was not talking about "child" prostitution.
"And let's look at, for example, in India where groups that have mobilized around protecting and fighting for the human rights of sex workers are also the very same groups that are most prominent in working to eliminate child trafficking because they know who these people are bringing in," she asserted.
Jacobson went on to say that the first people who will tell you how to reduce "reliance" on sex work are the sex workers "and they know what they need."
Allowing individuals to sell sex as an alternative is a viable option in certain contexts around the world where the only source of employment is the one mine or factory in town, an enterprise whose bosses exploit them, she argued, adding that problems are compounded when these factories or mines close down.
"And so, women go into sex work," she explained.
"And not only women. We talk about this as though there's like a uni-directional pattern here. There are married women in sex work. There are LGBTQ persons in sex work. Some men are in sex work. And so you have people who literally have no other option. Either they have no other option and they are working in a factory and being exploited. And often times they decide they would rather engage in sex work because they can decide when they get to go to the bathroom. They can decide who they take on as a client. They can decide what their rates are."
When asked about the objections of feminists who spurn the notion that "sex work" can be a positive choice for women and regard such an idea as a male-dominated narrative, particularly since men drive the trade, Jacobson reiterated that sex workers consider the practice of selling sex an empowering option they choose for themselves, particularly because they are motivated by other things.
"[Sex workers] need their kids to get education and not be discriminated against," she continued. "They need not to have intergenerational poverty. They need the kinds of things we all need, right? They need fair wages, they need protections. And they will tell you these things. If the narrative is 'just wipe out my only chance of surviving right now' or 'put me into a place where I might die in a fire because I can't get out of the factory because all of the doors are locked,' I choose this [sex work].'"
Jacobson said she rejects the "savior-type narrative," the idea that sex workers need to be rescued from the sex trade. She believes that too often people are not listening to their experiences.
"I've never met a group of people facing a challenge who did not themselves often times know what they needed most, and first."
"And it also begs another question," she said. "You know, sex is a natural, biological and human function in the whole universe, not just human [sexual activity]. And so people meet their sexual needs in different ways. And I think part of the narrative, just to sidestep, is that 'women are the only victims and therefore we have to save them from themselves' as opposed to 'women knowing or sex workers per se knowing what they are doing'."
"Because, hey, look, I'm not saying everybody [who] is in sex work wants to be in sex work. But I am saying that they will tell you what they need to get out of it, or what they want for the next generation. And barely anyone listens to them. They are the least powerless people. They are the most regulated, criminalized people apart from the traffickers and the pimps. It doesn't make any sense to me."
CP asked Jacobson to clarify and elaborate more on what she meant by how "people meet their sexual needs in different ways" since it seemed to suggest that men have a license or right to sex with a woman however they want, whenever they want, legitimizing a kind of "boys will be boys" ethic.
She replied in an April 13 email: "The narrative of 'men's license' is, for me, both shallow and misrepresents the issues."
"As I noted yesterday, this whole frame assumes only women are sex workers, which is far from the truth. There are male, female, transgender, LGBT sex workers. Also, 'the sexual needs of men' assumes women and other persons have no sexual needs and basically makes sex a bad thing. Sex per se is not a bad thing," she asserted. "Coerced activity of any kind is a bad thing, whether you are coercing someone into sex or you are coercing someone into sewing garments for 16 hours a day in a factory with no bathroom breaks, no food breaks, paid pennies an hour, and sexually harassed or raped by your bosses.
"It also assumes that 'sexual needs' are a bad thing, which they are not."
Conservative-Leaning Christians and Radical Feminists Together?
"It's funny how when a pillar of what you thought was universal social consensus drops out from under you how much common ground you find with other people," Chart told CP.
She is a member of the Hands Across The Aisle coalition, an ideologically diverse group of women that includes radical feminists, liberals, lesbian activists, Catholics, and conservative Christian women resisting transgender ideology, particularly political efforts to replace "sex" with "gender identity" in the law.
Chart explains that if women want to work in left-wing politics these days, no matter the issue, women have to be "neutral, quiet or supportive" of the sex trade and gender identity, mainly because it's men who are funding the projects. When feminists dare to build coalitions with people whom they usually disagree, like social conservatives, they will be infantilized and derided, she said, pointing to a September 2016 Daily Beast column that dismissed the overlap some radical feminists share with Christian conservatives on issues like transgender ideology, surrogacy, pornography, and prostitution.
"And if you'd asked me a few years ago if anyone would be arguing that women don't really exist and can't be defined [as a category of people], I would not have understood what you were talking about," Chart added. "If you'd asked me a few years ago if I thought that the minor sex trade was a good idea, I would have said, 'Of course not, nobody supports that, right?'"
"At the very least, on these two fundamental issues, women exist and children should not be sold for sex. I can't even fathom that there are people who have decided that these things are up for discussion. It's bizarre to me and unsettling."
The gender identity movement and the sex industry want everyone to agree with them, she continued, and they will talk to anyone who will listen in order to get there, because that means they win.
"And if this movement proves successful it means that males will win the absolute right to be naked in front of women in public accommodations or to watch us undress, for male sex offenders to be incarcerated with women, for the sex industry and its clients to degrade and exploit women in every way without any fear of accountability," she said.
"This stands in contradiction of principles of women's human rights that were widely supported less than 20 years ago and portends the erasure of very old rights everyone has come to take for granted. I think this is an emergency. And yes, I am interested in talking with people of different ideologies and faiths who also think it is an emergency."
In years past when feminists have had their arguments dismissed they have been derisively called "Christian moralists" even though they are not particularly religious themselves or speaking from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.
The way Chart sees it, many on the left perceive that if one is socially or religiously conservative, generally speaking, nothing sexual outside of a heterosexual marriage is acceptable.
"Yet the left has kind of come at this from a very male perspective, in my opinion. 'So that must mean that everything outside of a heterosexual marriage is fine because we disagree with them,'" she described the line of thinking and the influence of authors like Marquis de Sade, whose writing celebrated unrestrained sexuality of every kind.
"The idea is that whatever God and the Church abhor is great," she said. "And I think that that's more of the moral paradigm that too many people on the left have come around to accept."
Radical feminists have never completely bought into this "anything goes" approach, she maintains. Moreover, even when speaking of the institution of heterosexual marriage that conservatives value so much, an "anything goes" ethic can be practiced from within it. Spousal rape was not outlawed until relatively recently, she points out.
"But just because some man has an interest in doing it, it doesn't mean it's good for women. Just because some man wants the right to walk down the street and buy sex with a stranger, it doesn't mean that's good for women."
Left-wing proponents of legitimizing the sex trade are not coming at this from a feminist tack, but an "oppositional, rebellious son perspective," she asserts, and "women have been bullied into accepting this anything goes mentality as feminism because you get criticized as a prude if you don't."
"Our position is that women should be able to say 'No.' No, don't touch me. And that is something that a lot of men on the left who think they are so feminist are utterly allergic to hearing from women."
Though many conflate the two, and the politics of most feminists tilt to the left, she stressed that liberalism is not synonymous with feminism even though many liberals like to pretend that it is.
"Feminism isn't about women being other people's property ... and for liberals to say, 'Oh, you have this overlap with Christian conservatives so that must mean you're conservative,' it's because we don't buy into the liberal, libertine notion that everything that any church has ever disapproved of is therefore good."
"There is no form of 'what is forbidden is therefore compulsory' that I endorse as a feminist."
She concluded: "And it's highly offensive to me that a lot of women who are carrying forward the #MeToo movement are being politically harassed out of being able to speak about a full range of feminist concerns. They've brought up the larger idea of workplace harassment where women are punished for speaking out, where they are coerced and pressured because they said 'no' to a man who wanted to put his hands all over them. But women are not allowed to speak out against the men who have decided that they are going to use feminism as a vehicle to finally get respectability for the sex industry."
"I think that's just gross."