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I t was in the early s, when the British feminist Sheila Jeffreys migrated to Housewives wants real sex Industry, that she realised just how huge the global sex industry had become. Prostitution had been legalised in Australia in and, looking through the newspaper one day, she realised with horror that women were being advertised for sale alongside their photographs. In line with the government, many Australian feminists had come to view prostitution simply as a form of work, and Jeffreys found herself appalled by this "neo-liberalism" - the complete lack of moral outrage about the buying and selling of women's bodies.
As professor in political science at the University of Melbourne and a long-term activist against sexual violence, Jeffreys' books include Anticlimax, which laid bare the myth of the s sexual revolution, and Beauty and Misogyny, which uncovered the brutalities of the beauty industry. She tells me that The Industrial Vagina came about when she realised that the sex industry was "spiralling out of control".
Jeffreys' book explores how the sex trade has been transformed from a small-scale, furtive, vilified industry, into a hugely profitable and legitimised one. As such, the text teems with startling figures. Or the detail that the pornography business is now so successful and mainstream that it is covered by the financial newspapers, with some companies, such as Beate Uhse - Germany's most successful sex-shop chain - listed on the stock exchange. This has been happening at a time when women's power has supposedly been increasing. Why would prostitution, Housewives wants real sex Industry and pornography become more popular as women take a stronger public role?
Jeffreys tells me that because women are now "able to say 'no' more often to degrading sexual practices", the use of prostituted women is a way for men to uphold their traditional privileges. Jeffreys has also discovered just who is making money out of this market. It is, of course, a huge earner for pimps, traffickers and brothel owners, but many others are profiting too: hoteliers make extra revenue by supplying prostitutes to businessmen; taxi drivers make commission by delivering male Housewives wants real sex Industry to particular brothels.
Where is the criticism from the left of this gross capitalist industry? We can slate the tobacco and nuclear industries, but not the sex industry, in which the poorest and most disenfranchised women are abused. The women involved rarely make money from prostitution, she claims, despite the popular view that the work is highly lucrative for them. Jeffreys has never been afraid to address controversial topics, a trait that has gained her many detractors, as well as admirers.
In she was one of the authors of Love Your Enemy, a booklet that questioned just how committed heterosexual feminists were to the women's movement. She has also criticised lesbians for using pornography, and has claimed that sex reasment surgery is a form of self-mutilation. She says that she would love to write a history of the women's movement from a "revolutionary feminist perspective"; the common theme of her work is her firm belief that men maintain power over women by the act of sexual intercourse, and that heterosexuality is therefore bad for women.
This belief is reflected in The Industrial Vagina in her description of marriage as a type of prostitution; a legal transaction that has traditionally guaranteed sexual access to women's bodies in return for subsistence. She writes that even in the case of employed, well-paid professional women "the right of men to women's bodies for sexual use has not gone but remains an assumption at the basis of heterosexual relationships".
She uncovers other, more glaring links between marriage and prostitution - such as the growing issue of mail-order brides. The mail-order bride industry is essentially a form of trafficking, she maintains, with many of Housewives wants real sex Industry women who are advertised on marriage agency websites later being sold into prostitution by their husbands. The majority of men who access these services are white and from wealthy countries, and their brides come from cultures where the female stereotype is subservient and docile.
The strength of Jeffreys' new work lies in just how many aspects of the sex industry she covers, and her understanding of their intersections. For instance, she points out the links between mail-order bride sites and pornography; between lap-dancing clubs and trafficking operations. She believes that the use of prostituted women by the military, which has long taken place around US bases in Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines, has been the most important factor in the globalisation of the sex industry.
In countries Housewives wants real sex Industry the industry thrived under military occupations," says Jeffreys, "and the Netherlands where brothel prostitution is legalised, men flock from elsewhere to gain access to prostitution services.
These states are directly colluding in maintaining women's inequality. As we speak, Jeffreys is preparing for a trip to Europe where she will be lecturing on prostitution as a harmful cultural practice, on a par with female genital mutilation.
I ask if she is expecting criticism from her audience. But women will continue to be harmed by it so long as we continue to believe the lies. The feminist author Sheila Jeffreys has never shied away from controversy. Now, with The Industrial Vagina, she takes on the global sex trade.
Julie Bindel meets her. Julie Bindel. Topics Women Prostitution Feminism Sex trade features. Reuse this content.Housewives wants real sex Industry
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