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Time for Media and Feminists To Penetrate Prostitution: On The Issues Magazine Challenges Stale Stereotypes


NEW YORK: Prostitution penetrated the news in a major way in recent months -- from ex-governor Eliot Spitzer of New York and his paid binges with women to the suicide of DC madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey and the Showtime fluff of “Secret Diary of A Call Girl”

But the media, politicians and feminists have not grappled with the real complexities of prostitution. In its new Online edition, “Works Hard for Her Money: Feminists and Prostitutes,” ON THE ISSUES MAGAZINE releases compelling original content -- diverse articles, art and poetry that challenge current notions and urge new thinking.

“The issue of prostitution has divided feminists for years,” writes publisher and editor-in-chief Merle Hoffman in “Divide, Conquer and Sell.”

“Is the prostitute herself a victim of an oppressive patriarchal system, or a free agent choosing sex work as a rational career choice in difficult circumstances?” Since sex is “a continually renewable resource -- unlike other body resources (sales of kidneys), it does not self-exhaust; it can just keep giving …. We ask who owns that resource, who has the power to use, abuse, buy and sell it,” writes Hoffman.

Angela Bonavoglia’s “Of Victims and Vixens” describes the feminist abolitionists who link prostitution to violence against women and their clash in worldview with women who run sex-for-pay services and see it as empowering. Juhu Thukral explains how differing interpretations of human rights by feminists has become a flashpoint in new anti-trafficking legislation in “Feminist Divisions Cause Real-World Repercussions.”

Major thinkers and artists offer other perspectives. In “Pimping: The World’s Oldest Profession,” Kathleen Barry frames in vivid terms why some feminists see prostitution as bondage. Carol Leigh, aka “The Scarlot Harlot,” describes the frustration of erotic laborers who are denied basic rights. Artist Suzanne Lacy, featured by art editor Linda Stein, narrates a display of her travels with a prostitute.

To these provocative topics, Shere Hite, known for her work on female sexuality, calls for a redefinition of women’s pleasure in “Female Orgasm Today.”

The range of the voices on the topic also includes Alexis Greene on a gripping play by Lynn Nottage about war, rape and prostitution in Africa; Sonia Ossorio of NYC-NOW on stricter anti-trafficking laws; Ann Jordan on hardships caused by brothel crackdowns in Cambodia; poets Minne Bruce Pratt and Erin Whitfield with two views on the aftereffects of prostitution. Other works are by: Bernadette Barton, Rita Nakashima Brock, Ariel Dougherty, Mahin Hassibi, Norma Ramos, Jane Roberts, Nicole Witte Solomon and artists Audrey Anastasi and Tiana Markova-Gold. Several videos are mounted, including “Turning The Corner” by BeyondMedia.

ON THE ISSUES MAGAZINE will probe the topic further with new commentary in its unique feature, “The Café,” with incisive feminist voices.

A print publication from 1983-1999, ON THE ISSUES MAGAZINE ONLINE offers full archives and all content for free as a committed public service to upgrade the level of feminist conversation. Visit


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