Earlier this month the Village Voice made public the findings of a study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which looked to define the most vulnerable population of sex workers: underage prostitutes. According to the study, "The typical kid who is commercially exploited for sex in New York City is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp." The study found that 45% were boys, 45% got into the business through friends, 90% were U.S. born, most serviced white, wealthy men and struck deals on the street (as opposed to the Internet). Importantly, 95% of respondents—70% of whom had sought assistance through a child service agency within the past year—said they exchanged sex for money "because it was the surest way to support themselves." According to these researchers, even the most at-risk segment of the sex worker population—underage sex workers—are going it alone, selling sex on their own volition, and perceive themselves as making a choice given their circumstances. Only 10% were involved with what the researchers labelled a "market facilitator" (aka pimp).
As important as it is for activists to establish sex work as work, it is equally important we acknowledge that not everybody who sells sex calls themselves a sex worker. As the current feminist debates about the Slutwalk march make all too clear, there is power and privilege in reclaiming a word and—like slut—to call oneself a "hooker" or even a sex worker is not everyone's preference, nor is it a privilege everyone can afford.
Full disclosure: I have had misgivings about Slutwalk from day one. "Slut" has never been a term used against me. Though the idea of reclaiming the word seems to resonate with many young, white heterosexual women, it is not clear to me that it's something that can unify all women. It felt alienating and exclusionary to me from the start.
Of course I'm offended by the PETA ad campaigns. As a long-time radical lesbian feminist, I abhor the explotation of the female body and the objectification of women as nothing more than sexual beings.
I would never give a dime to PETA even though I am also strongly in favor of the humane treatment of animals
However, how does its strategy of using "shock" to draw attention differ from your magazine? After all, isn't calling yourself "BITCH" simply a way to show how chic and clever and modern you are, how 'in your face' you can be, and how you like to flaunt convensional standards of language and cultural acceptance
The word bitch (unless applied to certain animals) has always been and is still a derogatory and borderline vulgar term for women. Old fashioned ideas? Sure. But so is not displaying naked women in suggestive poses just to sell products or ideas.
For "Bitch" to complain about PETA is disingenuous and hypocritical.