Tag Archives: freedom of expression

Freedom of Expression

On 19 May I published a poem entitled “Her Mother’s Daughter” (see http://newauthoronline.com/2013/05/19/her-mothers-daughter/). In the poem I address how a mother oblivious to the fact that her young daughter is engaged in sex work would react if she discovered her involvement in prostitution.   My poem provoked the following response from a lady engaged in sex work

“This is fucking horrible. This entire project is vile. What the fuck are you even doing creating a whole project about sex workers as a non-sex worker based on shitty stereotypes, asinine paternalistic bullshit and inane drivel? As a sex worker myself, this is gross. For the sake of humanity, please stop. You are propagating stereotypes and lies about us and this causes us DIRECT HARM. STOP STEREOTYPING SEX WORKERS. Stop speaking for us. We can speak for ourselves.”

It goes without saying that sex workers can (and do) speak for themselves and that they have every right to do so. However I am extremely concerned regarding the implied view that anyone who is not a sex worker does not have the right to express a view on the issues pertaining to prostitution. If we follow this reasoning to it’s logical conclusion then only black people should speak about matters pertainig to blacks, only white people on issues relating to whites etc. This way of proceeding would stifle literary and, indeed artistic expression and would lead to a debased cultural landscape in which writers and society more generally is frightened of expressing an opinion as it might, just possibly offend some one or other. As someone who is blind I dislike the stereotypes which some misguided individuals hold concerning visually impaired people. However I have no wish to prevent the expression of opinion. If I disagree with views being voiced I can (and will) challenge those views, not by calling for their suppression but by arguing against them as any believer in freedom should do.

As regards the substance of the above quoted criticisms, the commentor makes no attempt to express a contrary perspective. Rather she indulges in that age old trick of shooting the messenger rather than attempting to engage him in debate.

In point of fact I accept the right of sex workers to sell sex and the right of clients to purchase services provided that both parties are of legal age and coercion in the form of threat or violence is absent from the exchange. However that is not at all the same thing as accepting that prostitution has no harmful effects on those engaged in it. Ultimately in a free society individuals have the right to make choices which may harm them (that is an important right which should be respected), however that is not the same thing as saying that one has no right to express concerns regarding said choices. In a democracy free and open debate is essential.