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Anti-Sex League Favors "Purity" Over Women's Health

Hostility to women perceived as "sexually loose" cripples efforts to protect women's rights and health.

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The anti-prostitution pledges tied to HIV relief and anti-trafficking funding only reinforce the sense that hostility to women perceived as "sexually loose" has taken priority over actually helping these women.  Functionally, anti-prostitution pledges set aside non-trafficked prostitutes as a class of women who don't deserve real health services. Service organizations are required to denounce the work these women do. Sex worker activists have (with good reason) repeatedly accused legislators of the deliberate conflation of trafficked persons with consenting sex workers.  All of this serves to place negative attitudes about women's sexuality and fantasies about sexual purity in the center of the debate when, really, its women's health and freedom that should be at the center. 

If we put the health of women's bodies and minds at the center of these discussions instead of an obsession with the state of women's sexual "purity," funding decisions would look very different indeed.  And it's not just because we'd have compassion for women who've already suffered from coercion, and therefore a desire to avoid adding more coercion to her life. The actual health results would improve.  Trying to push unwanted pregnancy on women who are already under the stress of attempting to recover from abuse cannot result in the same healthier pregnancy outcomes for both mother and baby as when the pregnancy is a free choice made at a time right for the mother.  More obviously, taking measures to reduce the spread of STDs means less STDs.  Our national discourse on this subject is so thwarted with sexual shame, just stating that taking effective steps to reduce the spread of STDs will result in less STDs is seen as a controversial statement.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the popular blog Pandagon. She is the author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments .