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Prostitution and lesbianism have opposite logic

2 novembre 2006

par Ana Popovic, community organizer for Laval Women Center

It has emotionally affected me to see that, amongst the reactions to the article of the Laval Women Center, some sort of parallel is made between prostitution and lesbianism. This surprises me a lot, as I myself am a lesbian.

Both the discovery of my lesbianism and the process which brought me to assert it were very meaningful in my life. Not only, was I asserting my desire and my desire for the woman I loved and who loved me, but I also asserted the fact that I did not desire men and was not subjected to their sexual domination. Whether one is unmarried or a lesbian, this privilege departs from the patriarchal order. Maybe I am taking part in promoting lesbianism.

At the Laval Women Center, some women feel easier to question and assert their sexual orientation since many of us have started to openly display it. So much the better ! Yet, I feel that the path to prostitution follows some other logic. Because it implies a marketing value for it, it does not understand the legitimate desire of the women we are. Whether it is in order to reach a patriarchal heteronorm, or to respond to the hypersexual standards, or simply because we feel that our body is being subjected to a gesture which we reject as our soul screams in protest "No, I don’t like this !", we feel that our integrity is being raped when our desire is not being respected. Sexual freedom includes a space where we can say "no, I do not want it" and "yes, it is wonderfully reciprocal". This is not the case in prostitution, but it is, in lesbianism.

In our Center, we strongly fight against the prejudices against women. Just as women who are victims of marital violence, of aggressions that have a sexual connotation, prostituted women are the victims of branding while aggressors - including johns and pimps - are legitimized. The criminalization of prostituted women is not acceptable. It is a secondary revictimisation of women. We are ferociously opposed to it.

As a matter of fact, at the Center, we fight against the numerous revictimisations of women, including those of women who are the victims of marital violence or whose children are sexually abused. Because their story was not given credit or because their ex-partner’s violence was minimized by the institutional system, mothers are being accused of parental alienation and cannot protect their children against partners who have either acquired custody of the children or the famous "right of access".

If we want to help women remove themselves and recover from the violence they were submitted to, it is important to fight against their multiple revictimisations. It is also important to make their aggressors accountable. Even when paid for, rape cannot be a job.

Women’s voice has always been hushed, more so the voices of women who stand up for freedom. "It (speaking of prostitution) is not a life", I have heard this as recently as this morning. These women who want better living conditions have a right to be heard. Indeed, we agree that any political measure must consider its implication on women’s lives, while we also believe that political measures add in structure to social changes. Let us decriminalize prostituted women but let us criminalize all forms of violence done to women !

At the Laval Women Center, we love one another. We love all women. Whether with similar ideological status or not, we think that we certainly have a common interest : That of abolishing patriarchy. And, patriarchy cannot be abolished without the abolition of prostitution, without the abolition of women’s sexual enslavement. We’ll succeed !

Ana Popovic
Community organiser at the Laval Women Center.

Translated for Sisyphe by Sylvie Miller.

On Sisyphe, November 19, 2006

Ana Popovic, community organizer for Laval Women Center

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