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Coercion–>Compliance v Consent/Choice

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“My point about consent is that it is intrinsically not an equal concept. It was originally created to legitimize the state in its rule over people within it. It’s about the relation between rulers and ruled. This is a hierarchy. It does not belong in an equality theory. Consent exists to rationalize the power of the powerful over the powerless. That is what the concept is for. We attribute to somebody who can’t leave, who can’t stop the situation, who can’t prevent it, who can’t avoid it, we attribute consent to them, in order to rationalize what is being done to them. Consent is seen as valid when sex inequality is not considered. But once sex inequality is the approach to the problem, the concept of consent has no valid role in the analysis.”

– Catharine MacKinnon


“First, people don’t make choices in a vacuum.  They do it in the context of the social relations they’re enmeshed in and the options they have within those relations — which are not of their own choosing.  They confront those relations, they don’t choose them……if people feel for whatever reasons that they want to choose to harm themselves and others, we’re going to struggle with them — but we’re not going to blame them.  We’re going to show them the source of all this in the system, and call on them to struggle against that system, and transform themselves in the process.  Just because a youth ‘chooses’ to sell drugs, or a woman ‘chooses’ to commodify herself sexually, doesn’t mean that they chose to have those choices.  And, there is no other way besides fighting the power, and transforming the people, …bring about different social relations and conditions.”

Bob Avakian – Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA


According to a study by Farley, Baral, Kiremire and Sezgin (1998), the average age to enter prostitution is 12, when those children are not old enough to consent to sexual contact with anyone under any circumstance. Coercion [–>Compliance]: As one woman said, “If I really wanted to be there, why would he have to pay me?” Another said: “I consider [the payment] to be an out of court settlement – the amount he has to pay me so that I don’t report him to the authorities for raping me, because make no mistake – prostitution is sexual assault of the girls doing it.” In addition, there are many other coercive tactics employed to keep women in prostitution (e.g., threats, violence, forced drug use, etc.).

Farley, M., Baral, I., Kiremire, M. and Sezgin, U. (1998). Prostitution in five countries: Violence and post-traumatic stress disorder, Feminism in Psychology, 8(4), 405-426. * I added the word [compliance]


“Philosophically, the response to the choice debate is not to deny that women are capable of choosing within contexts of powerlessness, but to question how much real value, worth, and power these so-called choices confer.  Politically, the question becomes, should the state sanction the sex industry based on the claim that some women choose prostitution when most women’s choice is actually compliance to the only options available?  When governments idealize women’s alleged choice to be in prostitution by legalizing, decriminalizing, and regulating the sex industry, they endorse a new range of conformity for women.  Increasingly, what is defended as choice is not triumph over oppression but another name for it.”

Raymond, Janice G. (2013) Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths About Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.  Washington D.C.: Potomac Books


“Women’s silence and ‘consent’ can be bought — I remember how much mine cost…allowing a minority of women in prostitution to argue ‘choice’ on the backs of the majority who are out there, in a perfect storm of oppression, neglect, abuse, and human trafficking.”

Trisha Baptie, Canadian journalist and survivor

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