feimineach.com

The women in porn are almost always presented as passive to the male gaze, unyielding, with no complication of a personality, no danger to the male ego of possibly hearing the word “no,” existing only for the pleasure of men’s eyes. The women in advertising are often cut up into body parts—just a midriff, just a pair of legs—or turned into objects. Those are the times a woman’s form and sexuality are acceptable. But if you are a woman just feeling yourself and expressing your sexuality, presenting yourself the way you feel like at any given moment, or leveraging your own power or sexual energy, you are condemned and disrespected, maybe even threatened, assaulted, or killed.

When a woman is feeling good about the way she looks—empowered, beautiful, or confident in her appearance—and expresses this feeling by taking a photo of herself, clothed or nude, and sharing it online, we punish her. We call her names like “slut,” “trash,” “attention-starved,” “a bad mother,” “a bad role model.” If her photos are stolen, we say she deserved it. The message is that it’s okay to commodify a woman’s body, it’s okay to co-opt female sexuality, as long as the woman in question is passive in it and it’s for someone else’s commercial gain or the express use of men’s sexual titillation and gratification.

It’s telling that when women are demeaned for expressing their sexuality they are called whores, hoes, hookers, and prostitutes—words used as slurs for sex workers. The idea that sex work is not inherently immoral or shameful, and that sex workers should have the same rights and value as all women, is so radical that mainstream feminism still has a hard time accepting it. But the use of these slurs shows that our culture’s scorn of sex workers is, at heart, a basic feminist issue. We love to commodify women, but hate and fear women who commodify themselves.