When debating sex work there are usually one of two positions that can be taken. On the one hand, it can be argued that prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation, and should be curtailed at any cost. On the other, one could hold the position that sex work is work like any other and should be legalized and protected like any other trade. Below I offer a brief history of the “prostitution debates” and examine the question from the perspective of vulnerability ethics.

I think because I am pushed to think, not simply wish to.
Kyoo Lee

There is a lot going on in popular culture today: Beyoncé is calling herself a feminist; Nicki Minaj released the infamous “Anaconda” while insisting that she is still an empowered and self-aware female. In a post-feminist world where it seems like anything goes (because of her risqué looks I have a pretty good idea of what Rihanna looks like naked), pinpointing why we are so squeamish about black women performing their sexuality for an audience becomes increasingly difficult.

The concepts of “essentialism” and “identity politics” speak to black feminist thought and its usefulness for interrogating the experiences of black women in contemporary culture. These women “speak” from a specific position and place in society, one which is marginalized and “othered”, and seeks to critique the structures of domination within society. In her examination of the impact that an incorporation of this stream of thought can have in sociology, Patricia Hill Collins (1986) highlights its main tenets. I will be using her discussion to outline a rough picture of what black feminism is and its purpose.

Mainstream hip-hop is often admonished for its degradation of women and glorification of hyper-masculinity and violence. Referring to the music, bell hooks (1994) states that while these elements are present in hip-hop, critiques surrounding representation in this genre are largely ahistorical; the music does not arise out of a cultural vacuum – our society generally demeans women and praises hyper-masculinised, violent men.

“Not to worry! Not to worry!” The Philosopher hurried in, equipped with all of the tools necessary to abstract one from a painful existence. After combining some of the skin cells collected from the bodies of the diseased with some disinfectant, he added a drop of the solution to a tub of paint. A few minutes passed and he could begin to see the once-chocolate-coloured hue dissipate into the milky white liquid, so he took a brush, dipped, and painted liberally over a white canvas.

Starting at 6:07

When I was seven and a half I was raped. I won’t say severely raped – all rape is severe. The rapist was a person very well known to my family. I was hospitalized. The rapist was let out of jail and was found dead that night and the police suggested that the rapist had been kicked to death.

I was seven and a half. I thought that I had caused the man’s death because I had spoken his name. That was my seven and a half year old logic. So I stopped talking. For five years.