Talking about sex work without isms: Dublin Anarchist Bookfair

As everyone knows, I don’t play around with isms. I thought in the 60s that feminism might work but by the early 70s had already realised there were multiple versions – feminisms – which perhaps negates the whole point of an ism, which is a doctrine, theory or philosophy that Explains Things. It turned out that feminism(s), while useful and fascinating, could not provide a whole thought-system to explain how all women feel – or What Women Want, as Freud complained.

I didn’t even think about feminism and prostitution as a ‘problem’ until decades later, when I went back to school. And after reading dozens of books and hundreds of articles and essays on the subject, I realised that this ‘problem’ would never be solved. Many people find it endlessly interesting to hammer at each other about the meaning of prostitution and/or sex work, with the goal of winning, but I don’t. So I began trying to avoid talking about feminisms just to keep things interesting for me, but it is very hard, as some kind of tidal force relentlessly pulls conversations back to that argument. None of which means I don’t think of myself as a feminist – I obviously am one.

I did write Sex as Work and Sex Work in a marxian way for The Commoner, whose editors requested I depart from a post-argument position – as though we’d already accepted that sex can be work, paid or unpaid. It’s been republished several times, by Jacobin and, which both can encompass both marxist and anarchist ideas, at least sometimes (and also by Arts & Opinion). I used the term marxian rather than marxist for my own contribution precisely because it doesn’t address all the key factors in marxism.  There’s no such thing as marxianism.

Now, I’m doing two talks in Dublin a few days apart in April. At the first, at University College Dublin I’ll take an hour and describe how migration, trafficking, sex work and the Rescue Industry are related. This is the time needed to join these ideas up so that people aren’t confused and frustrated when I stop talking. Then we’ll have a half hour for questions – not for statements of protest and ideology. Then we’ll have respondents – abolitionists and sex workers among them.

At the Anarchist Bookfair I’ve got 30 minutes to talk, followed by 30 minutes of discussion, so I won’t be talking about all that. I was asked to talk about Feminism and Sex Work, so I’m going to talk about how feminism(s) are interesting but perhaps not essential to a discussion of sex work, or at least don’t have to be granted determining status of outcomes. I’ll expect questions afterwards not  to try to pull the topic back to the classic, closed-circle debate. I know – Good luck with that. I also won’t be modelling a perfectly coherent view according to marxism, anarchism or any other ism. Ha! someone on the facebook page for the Bookfair has accused me of liberalism, after reading approximately 25 words of my work.

All I ask for is a moderator – and if there isn’t one, I’ll get tough.

6 April 2013, 1220-1320

Thinking about Sex Work as Work with Laura Agustín

at the 8th Anarchist Dublin Bookfair

Doors open at 10am and first meetings start at 1130. The venue is Liberty Hall, Eden Quay, next to the River Liffey, shown here on a map. Enter on the ground floor and go up one flight for the talk. The bookfair itself – the books – are underground!

Other events in the Bookfair include an evening in The Pint pub, Eden Quay, on Saturday and a walking tour on Sunday at 1400 focussing on the Irish Banking industry (catalysers of economic collapse). These events are organised by Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland).

For those who cannot conceive of a sex-work conversation without nattering endlessly about feminisms, try Sex as Work and Sex Work. It can be done.

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

9 thoughts on “Talking about sex work without isms: Dublin Anarchist Bookfair

  1. marxsist_feminist

    Oh how fucking novel! Another spineless bourgeois “post-ideologue” that can’t commit to an ideology. Yes, it’s much more “interesting” to flounder around the post-modern landscape writing books that ask questions but answer none.

    I am sure the exploited around the world appreciate your intellectual rigor and the strength of your ideology-resistant reason.

    1. Laura Agustín

      You obviously haven’t read my work. My worldview and the conclusions I’ve drawn for the past 20 years in this field reflect a clear sense of moral and ethical values, as well as political vision.

    2. nada

      The exploited around the world would indeed appreciate new ideologies that can actually help the situation by rigorously looking at actual research and developing new ideas rather than support old ideologies that are obviously never going to work for our times.

    3. Thaddeus Blanchette

      I dedicate this to the person calling themselves “marxist_feminist”. Of course, they’d probably spit nails at my gall… Imagine, comparing a committed revolutionary café-crawler like them to a mere anarchist!

      However, if the foo shits…

      Dave Rovics got your number, comrade.

  2. Babettchen

    Oh how fucking novel! Another spineless bourgeois “radical feminist” who can’t tolerate the idea that men aren’t the devil and sex workers own their own lives.

    I’m sure that those you exclude from your hate-filled brand of “feminism” are astounded by your “my ideological way or the highway” and only mind being excluded from it because it exploits them further by denying their existence and agency, which appears to chafe you.

  3. Pingback: Las leyes sobre la prostitución y la muerte de las putas | El estante de la Citi

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