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The sexual sadism of our culture, in peace and in war

The Abu Ghraib images have all the hallmarks of contemporary porn.
I received some horrific photographs by email yesterday. Purporting to be from Iraq, they depicted the sexual abuse of women by US servicemen. On some, chadors were hitched up over the women's heads. On others, the women were naked while they were raped by groups of men. It is impossible to tell whether the photographs are real - those images we know have been seen by American senators - or faked. They make you sick to your stomach. And they look strangely familiar - like the XXX films in hotel rooms, like those "live rape?!" emails sent to internet users, like porn. If the photographs are genuine, they are the visual evidence of the sexual abuse of Iraqi women - abuse which we already know is common, with or without these grotesque images. We know that such images exist, because a US government report confirmed it. And we know that Iraqi women are being raped throughout the country, because both Amal Kadham Swadi, the Iraqi lawyer, and the US's own internal inquiry say that abuse is systemic and widespread. We also know this because all wars feature the abuse of women as a byproduct, or as a weapon...
Read full story: The sexual sadism of our culture, in peace and in war- The Abu Ghraib images have all the hallmarks of contemporary porn, par Katharine Viner, The Guardian

Sexual Domination In Uniform: An American Value, by Linda Burnham

The Abu Ghraib portraits of sexual humiliation and submission have exposed the unbelievably tangled strands of racism, misogyny, homophobia, national arrogance and hyper-masculinity that characterize the US military. Militarized sexual domination is neither "contrary to American values" nor simply the work of a few "bad apples." It is, rather, a daily practice. The "bad apples" defense is both unspeakably inadequate and completely disingenuous. While narrowing the scope of inquiry to individual transgression may provide a convenient protective shield for the military, it also deflects attention away from very troubling realities. The photos of Abu Ghraib reveal as much about our nation as they do about the soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company.Read full story

Globalization and the Sex Trade: Trafficking and the Commodification of Women and Children, by Richard Poulin, professor, Ottawa University Read full story

As countries are considering legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry, Janice G. Raymond urge us to consider the ways in which legitimating prostitution as "work" does not empower the women in prostitution but does everything to strengthen the sex industry. Read full story

The Legalisation of Prostitution : A failed social experiment, by Sheila Jeffeys

Sheila Jeffreys shows that the social experiment of legalising brothel prostitution which took place in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s has failed in all of its objectives i.e. stopping the illegal industry and police corruption, reducing the harm to women, stopping street prostitution. Read full story

"Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part One and Two)", by Janice G. Raymond.

Janice G. Raymond analyses a controversial 1998 report of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the official labor agency of the United Nations, calling for economic recognition of the sex industry. Citing the expanding reach of the industry and its unrecognized contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of four countries in Southeast Asia, the ILO urges official recognition of what it terms "the sex sector."
Read full story

Others English Articles on Sisyphe


- Ten Raisons for Not Legalizing Prostitution, by Janice G. Raymond
- Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work: UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry- Part One and Two, by Janice G. Raymond
- The Legalisation of Prostitution: A failed social experiment, by Sheila Jeffreys
- Prostitution: Rights of Women or right to women ? by Elaine Audet

Feminist Critics

- Elisabeth Badinter distorts feminism the better to fight it, by Elaine Audet
- A report from Status of Women Canada about the discursive denial of gender inequalities, by Micheline Carrier
-The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax: Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes, by Laura Flanders


- Friendships between women good for health, by Gale Berkowitz
- Canadian Women's Health Network, by CWHN
- Good clone, bad clone?, by Abby Lippmann
- Hormone Replacement Therapy, the "Magic Bullet" Ricochets, by Abby Lippmann


- Children of divorce need our protection, by Michele Landsberg
- Divorce Bill's flaws inadvertently aid abusers, by Michele Landsberg


- Problem isn't little boys, it's little minds, by Michele Landsberg

Poems for Peace

- Poem for Peace, by Elaine Audet
- Peace Rally Speech of a 12 year old American Girl, by Charlotte Aldebron

- Short cut for all english articles on Sisyphe

* The Sisyphe web site delivers cutting-edge analysis of current aspects of women's condition, including big issues such as wars, biotechnologies, violence, globalization, power relationships, the men's movement, etc. Sisyphe also offers sections dedicated to literature, poetry, education, history and a growing English section. No pop-ups, no advertising, no cookies. A great way to brush up on your French. Visit English Section on Sisyphe! Bookmark it now! Or hyper-link to it.

Sisyphe Home Page (French)
English Section

Sexual capitalism destroys lives 13.Jul.2004 15:15


Sing it from the rooftops, sistafriend.

excellent article - and here are some related articles 13.Jul.2004 20:13


consenting adults: their business, not yours 14.Jul.2004 12:04

Already Published

I once shared a house with a prostitute.

One of the most generous, kind, and compassionate people I have ever met, he, like a percentage of women in the industry, enjoyed his work.

Male prostitues are always ignored in these discussions.

I wonder why?

And of course, he was utterly honest with you, right? 14.Jul.2004 12:27


So all male prostitutes love their work? Is that so? Do tell.

Answer my question first 14.Jul.2004 13:06

Already Published

Male prostitues are always ignored in these discussions.

I wonder why?

PS - don't mis-re-present me 14.Jul.2004 13:21

Already Published

**ALL** male prostitutes, Gringo?

I once had a lot of respect for you.

You never asked a question 14.Jul.2004 14:13


You made a statement, then inexplicably ended it with a question mark. I don't know why, honestly. You are implying something, but I do not know what. Seriously: Do tell.

sexual transactions 14.Jul.2004 14:51

Already Published

Me: "...HE, like a percentage of women in the industry, enjoyed his work."

Gringo: "So ALL male prostitutes love their work? Is that so? Do tell."

Male prostitues are always ignored in these discussions.

Why do YOU think this is so, Gringo?

The first post provides oodles of evidence 14.Jul.2004 15:57

sexual health advocate

My best friend from junior high school is an alcoholic prostituted man currently living in NYC. He has described some of the rapes to me, some of the drug use to me (and shared with me back in the day) and even though he has AIDS (let's not start about that here, just relating facts) he is still turning tricks because welfare doesn't provide enough money for him to live.

He used to alternate between saying he disliked prostituting and saying he loved the lifestyle, but eventually it really came down to loving the money that prostituting gave him but hating how he made it and the STDs that he caught. He's kicked the drug addictions but still struggles with the alcohol addiction that has put him in the hospital several times (alcohol is a constant torment to him because it is constantly available.)

I have known several sex workers intimately, not just my JHS friend but also a woman I had a sexual relationship with for several months who spent years as a stripper and, like most sex workers, floated among the various forms of legal and illegal prostitution. She is a seriously debilitated, traumatized person, and I thought I could love her enough to make it better, show her that physical love can be about sharing instead of controlling and using. Some days she'd say that her stepfather molesting her was a good thing because it opened her mind to alternative sexuality, and other days she'd fitfully cry about how he sexually abused her and rage at him for causing her to leave home as a teen (the #1 cause of runaway children is sex abuse in the home). Some days she would say stripping was liberating to her because it was the only way she made enough money to support herself, and other days she'd break down crying at the mention of stripping and all the bad memories it evoked until finally the subject itself became verbotten in our relationship. I tried to go along with her stated desire to ignore the ugly truth about how sex work affected her because I thought she might be ready to talk about it in time, but instead it was the first of several wedges that eventually destroyed our close friendship. I couldn't love her enough to erase the years of being sexually abused and misused by men.

But really, these are just two anecdotes to counter your housemate's anecdote, and when the experiences of prostituted people as a whole are put together there are disctinct patterns that can be observed and they are not pretty. There are always a few exceptions to every rule, but that just goes to prove there's an overwhelming rule to make exceptions to in the first place. Let's start there.

Well 14.Jul.2004 16:07

Devil's Adv.

Gringo is sexist.

I am honestly not well-researched enough to answer that 14.Jul.2004 16:27


...but thanks for diverting attention from the article onto a personal squabble. That's helpful. {sarcasm}

Innuendo does lend itself well to online discussion, just so you know, AP. Please. Do tell. I do not know for sure that male prostitutes are an intentional omission. I am not as intelligent as you credit me for - I still don't know what you are implying.

peer-reviewed surveys of prostitutes bears out the original post 14.Jul.2004 17:02


To quote sexual health advocate, from another thread:

"In just one study of 475 male, female and transgendered prostitutes 92% said they wanted help getting out of prostitution immediately and 100% said they did not want anyone they loved to have to prostitute themselves. I have never seen a credible study that showed dramatically different results"

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Prostitution Research & Education Website

Portland's very own Lola Greene Baldwin Foundation

sexual transactions 15.Jul.2004 01:19

Already Published

Obviously the motives for prostitution in Australia - which has legalized prostitution AND a welfare safety net AND PUBLIC medicine for all - are different to those of the United Snakes of Captivity.

the fiction of Hollywood "love" 15.Jul.2004 01:44

Already Published

"show her that physical love can be about sharing instead of controlling and using"

Physical "love"[?]

Do you mean sexual intercourse? Fellatio? Mutual masturbation?

Whatever you may think you mean, sex is the pursuit of orgasm.

Love is a collection of neurochemicals, occassionaly resulting from sex.

what you're missing 15.Jul.2004 10:19

sexual health advocate

First, it makes me sad to see the limited way you've learned to experience sexuality.

Second, the legalization expriment in Australia has failed according to all criteria for success. Excerpts from links provided above:

"The real growth in prostitution in Australia since legalization took effect has been in the illegal sector. Over a period of 12 months from 1998-1999, unlicensed brothels in Victoria tripled in number and still operate with impunity (Sullivan & Jeffreys, 2001). In New South Wales where brothels were decriminalized in 1995, the number of brothels in Sydney had tripled to 400-500 by 1999, with the vast majority having no license to advertise or operate. In response to widespread police corruption, control of illegal prostitution was removed from police jurisdiction and placed under the control of local councils and planning regulators. However, the local councils do not have the resources to investigate illegal brothel operators.

"Debbie Neilson, president of the Queensland Adult Business Association, which represents licensed brothels, put the ratio of illegal to legal brothels at 100 to 1 and said it's impossible to compete with organized crime."

"Child prostitution has increased dramatically in the state of Victoria compared to other Australian states where prostitution has not been legalized. Of all the states and territories in Australia, the highest number of reported incidences of child prostitution came from Victoria. In a 1998 study undertaken by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) who conducted research for the Australian National Inquiry on Child Prostitution, there was increased evidence of organized commercial exploitation of children (ECPAT Australia, 1998)."

"Jan Wade, the State Attorney-General of Victoria (where prostitution was legalised in the mid 1980s) said in 1999, 'Worst of all, the hope that the existence of safe legal brothels would overcome the lure of street prostitution has not been fulfilled.'"

"A 1999 United Nations Save the Children report found that the States of Victoria (legalised mid 1980s) and New South Wales (decriminalised 1995) are the two worst States for child prostitution."

Illegal Does Not Mean Unethical 15.Jul.2004 18:29

Already Published


sex work is not reliant or produced by capitilism
by Saul Isbister Thursday July 15, 2004 at 12:59 PM

Over history sex work has occurred in homes, brothels and other places, even temples - whether ruled by capitilists, monarchs, socialists, communists.
For some of us it prostitution goes beyond just the sex part of the work. For me it is literally my spiritual calling and a highly developed vocation. Since becoming a whore 15 yrs ago, at the not so tender age of 28, I have blossomed and become a highly motivated contributor to society at many levels beyond the bedroom.
I am humbled to have been a willing participant of many thousand deep intimate encounters with strangers, where with clothes laid aside, two souls connect through acts of sexual pleasure.
I have been equally delighted and balanced by the other pure earthy & raunchy sessions I have had with the broadest range of clients - men, women and trannys from male and female backgrounds.

The spiritual, economic, mental and sexual independence I enjoy as a self employed sex worker are what threaten others who would try and use Shame to control me onto their moral paths. To them I extend a warm welcome to come and get fucked in the nicest [possible ways.

Beyond happy,
a blessed whore


The myth of the "fallen woman" V "happy prostitute"
by Hard workin whore Monday July 12, 2004 at 11:09 PM

Thank you for taking the issue seriously enough to write an article GMAB. It is a serious issue and I appreciate your contribution.

Now firstly, I think that you need to make a distinction between abuse, sex slavery, etc and prostitution generally. Yes sex slavery is probably more damaging to the individual than other kinds of slavery... But when you talk about for example the clothing industry, you dont say that sewing clothes for a living is inherently degrading because some workers are kept virtually as slaves. If you work in an office and your boss and clients regularly beat the crap out of you that is quite different from a normal office job. The same goes for prostitution.

As someone who has worked in the industry I can tell you from my own experience and that of my friends and co-workers, that while this may be more common in the sex industry; but it is in no way the norm. There is also no reason why you should put yourself at risk of disease (at leat no more than say, a doctor would) if you work in a safe environment and use precaution. Many brothels and agencies are very carefull about supplying information as well as condoms, dams etc to workers. Most brothels also have heavy security and there is no need to put yourself at risk (again, no more than any doctor or person who works in other peoples houses etc. would).

You mentioned the need for decriminalisation and reasons for that and I fully agree. But I would also add that the main problems workers in the industry face are caused by both the semi-legal nature of the industry. Also moralistic attitudes force workers to hide their occupation and this is one of the main things that makes organising difficult. If you are terrified of your friends and neighbours finding out what you do, or if you know that the police will not take you seriously then you are far more likely not to take a stand against abuse.

I think also that many of your statements show an ignorance and slightly qliched views about the industry and prostitutes themselves.

I certainly do not base me self-worth on how much someone will pay to sleep with me. I only do sex work occasionally these days (because I live in a very small town I only work when I am away); my other job is working in a super-market and I also study full time. I have a lot of pride in myself because I work hard at whatever I do and I support myself. I dont consider sex-work very different to the supermarket job, infact the clients tend to be a lot more respectfull in brothels.

I have met all kinds of people who work as prostitutes (they say about 1 million Australian women are engaged in the sex industry at any time, and given the transitory nature of the industry this means a hell of a lot of people have done it). I have met plenty of people who like the work, some who like the sex, some who like the councelling aspect and so on. I have also met a lot of people who are clearly trapped or using it as a last resort.

I probably fell in to it because of the last resort thing but I actually found it to be quite a reasonable job in the end. Infact, very different from what I had expected (due to all the anti-sex-industry brainwashing I had taken in). Many people who I have worked with have had similar experiences.

Also you conveniently forget the fact that there are many male prostitutes (though granted, most clients are men). It is not as cut and dry as just an issue of commodification of womens bodies. I know from experience that it is closer to being a massage therapist or a councellor than it is to being sexually abused or even having sex.

The myth of the "happy prostitute" is a myth... BUT no more a myth than that of the "fallen woman". The truth is that it is work.

Try talking to some whores - they don't seem to be ashamed of their profession here:


as for this:
First, it makes me sad to see the limited way you've learned to experience sexuality.[!]

It makes me sad to see that you've adopted the Hollywood non-definition of "love".
I recommend that you do some research on phenylethylamines, dopamine, seratonin, noradrenaline [norapinephrine] and--most importantly--oxytocin (the bonding hormone):

 link to www.google.com

gee, it's nice to know that there are two happy hookers 16.Jul.2004 00:46


...since a majority of prostitutes are deeply unhappy with their job. Anecdotes are of very limited use, compared to the studies which show most prostitutes are more prone to suicide, chronic hard drug use, and depression than non-prostitutes.

Prostitutes rarely are candid with acquaintances, and will put up an untroubled front in order to gain customers, maintain self-respect, and pre-emptively deflect criticism.

Wherever prostitution is legalized, child prostitution and human trafficking rise markedly. Prostitutes are lightning rods of rape and physical abuse from johns. male and female prostitutes are almost entirely patronized by males. It's all about what males want, when you live under a patriarchy.

As they say: I don't hate the player. I hate the game.


ying yang 16.Jul.2004 14:17


It's nice to know there's two categories of people in the world prostitutes and non-prostitutes :)

There are thousands of categories of people in the world 16.Jul.2004 14:56


But thanks for the strawman non-argument. ;)