Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk by Melinda Chateauvert
Expected publication January 7th, 2014 by Beacon Press
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A provocative history that reveals how sex workers have been at the vanguard of social justice movements for the past fifty years while building a movement of their own that challenges our ideas about labor, sexuality, feminism, and freedom
Fifty countries treat sex work as a legitimate job, and it has been legalized (with restrictions) in eleven others. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that continues to criminalize prostitution and, as Melinda Chateauvert reveals, these laws have put sex workers at risk. Documenting five decades of sex-worker activism, Sex Workers Unite puts prostitutes, hustlers, call girls, strippers, and porn stars in the center of civil rights struggles. Although their presence has largely been ignored, sex workers have here been recast as key activists in struggles for gay liberation, women’s rights, reproductive justice, union organizing, and prison abolition. By foregrounding labor, Chateauvert reframes sex work as work and argues that sex-worker rights are ultimately human rights.
I gave this book my very best, I went into it with the most open of open minds, and I just didn’t like it at all. Now, let me explain a little about myself here. I believe that prostitution and sex trade work will exist no matter how illegal we try and make it. It always has existed and it always will as long as there are people willing to pay for sex. I believe that a lot would be accomplished by legalizing prostitution. It would allow workers to be law abiding citizens again, taxes would be collected for the work, mandatory STD testing and condom use can be enforced, and prostitutes can work in safe environments with pre-screen clients and panic buttons and security on site. These are all great things that I think would be accomplished by legalizing prostitution. So with that in mind, this book should have been right up my alley.
The material in this book wasn’t necessarily bad. In fact i found a lot of what was presented interesting. I just couldn’t stand how it was presented. It felt like I was reading a dissertation about the tax code. It was so bland and dry and boring. Nothing about the writing captured my attention. It was fact, explanation, opinion, fact, fact, fact, explanation, opinion. There was nothing to make me want to keep reading no matter how interesting the actual material was. I nearly fell asleep and drooled on my Nook a few times during this book!
The book came across as preachy and prejudiced. Very early in the book I ran across this ‘….exploited by savage (read: black) pimps’ Um, so you as the author assume that I assumed savage pimps meant they were black. Nice job assuming that your audience and society at large is racist. And this didn’t just happen once, it happened at least once every 3 pages. It annoyed me a lot. The writer used the word “queer” more times that I cared to count. Supposedly this was being written with the mind of being an advocate for the sex worker’s community, which means a decent percentage of them are part of the LGBTQ community. I’m fairly certain that using the term “queer” is offensive, so stop using it. I can sum up this book in one sentence….”blah blah blah, prostitutes are great, blah blah blah, everyone is a bigot, blah blah blah, you bigot!, blah blah blah, everyone is a hooker, blah blah blah, you bigots!” That’s how I felt when reading this.
I also fell off course with the author on several other points. 1. The author states several times that all woman are prostitutes, some are just smart enough to hook for money instead of a ring, love, marriage, or whatever else. Yeah, that’s not offensive and off-putting at all. 2. The author doesn’t seem to believe that it’s possible for people to be trafficked into the sex trade or people cannot be coerced into prostitution. That bothers me for way more reasons than I care to enumerate. But I’ll leave you with this quote: “the FBI arrests sex workers as trafficked and claim their associates held them in sexual slavery.”
Also, I sincerely hope this gets a really good editing before it’s released. The grammar and spelling were absolutely atrocious. The punctuation was worse. I could barely understand what the book was trying to say. So if this get a good editing it will be fine, but if it’s released as is then dear God.
I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher, no guarantees or promises were made in exchange.