Book Reviews

Whores and Other Feminists edited by Jill Nagle – Book Review

“It’s no wonder that whore stigma attaches itself more viciously to women than to men, for in this society a sexually emancipated woman is threatening and despised; neither ‘slut’ nor ‘whore’ is a name most women want to wear. Sex workers cross this line, either proudly or not, for money, adventures, or rebellion.”

This is an informative, well-contributed, anthology with essays from various members of the sex industry. These people range from prostitutes, to strippers, to porn stars and porn writers, to sex phone operators, to dominatrixes, to peepshow workers. Each of them give their insight into the sex industry, and explain how their jobs contribute to their feminist perspectives.

The truth of the matter is, traditional feminism views many sex jobs as objectifying, and demeaning towards women. Such is that these sex workers, who feel empowered and confident in their jobs, feel excluded from the feminist category, despite their activist mindsets.

The stories from these women, and men, are really fascinating. Many of them acknowledge that not everyone in the sex industry is there willingly, and that not everyone who is in it willingly will enjoy it. For them, though, being a sex worker enhances their confidence and well being, and for some it even becomes liberating. I really enjoyed reading from these perspectives, as well as learning from this gray area of the world.

“It is antisex sentiment, or erotophobia, that leads to such a strong distinction between sex work and other types of work available to women on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.”

My biggest complain is that not every essay mentions how feminism ties into the specific jobs these people are engaging in. Many of them simply explain what the job consists of, and leaves out the struggle of keeping the feminist label while being a sex worker. That’s something I would have liked to see throughout, but then again, some essays were just too short. Regardless, I highly enjoyed this collection. It’s even more interesting that it’s set in the 90’s, so there have obviously been some changes since then. I’m not sure if peepshow workers still exist.

I recommend this to fellow feminists, or anyone interested in feminism and the sex industry. It could be simple seeing these two things as complete paradoxes, but they do have strong connections, especially in an individual sense.

“Sex has historically been key to controlling women. The hatred of women began with the fear of our sexual power.”