The transactional model of sexuality is horrendous, and we know this already. But even outside of the paradigm of straight-up rape, it creates the implicit assumption that whenever women are having sex, it’s because they got paid for it somehow, and that whenever a man does anything nice for a woman, he’s entitled to sexual activity sooner or later—justifying rape, since the fact that she accepted the gift (or that he offered it at all) is taken as prospective consent.
Yes, that little bastard of an ideology is also the culprit behind any variation of, “all women are money-sucking whores.”
And it’s also the driving force—and one of the primary justifications behind—defenses of pornography and prostitution. That payment should ever be accepted as a sign of consent is absolutely anti-feminist. This is not the radical feminist stance, it is the feminist stance: that true consent cannot exist in circumstances that require one to “consent.”
When anyone is forced to submit to sexual activity in order to fulfill their basic needs (for example, trading sexual favors for food), we consider that sexual assault at minimum. It’s not like it’s hard to see why consent is problematic in that situation.
Even aside from the sex pox redefinition of “rape” to exclude having to submit to sexual activity because you will starve or freeze, though, the transactional model of sex is harmful to women’s sexual liberation in the view of sexual pleasure at all. Rape can and has been conflated with sex, often. However, as I mentioned earlier, the transactional model of sex also includes the tenet that all women demand money or gifts—payment—for sex, because women have no fundamental interest in sex itself. Men need sex; women do not. Women have no intrinsic interest in sexual pleasure or orgasm.
Because if women did have an intrinsic interest in sexual pleasure and orgasm, it would be unacceptable to approach sex without the assumption that you both were going to try to make sexual pleasure mutual… and it would be downright insulting to offer payment—whether it’s money, jewelry, clothing, relationship stability, whatever—whether sexual pleasure was going to be involved or not. Because it wouldn’t be necessary: if women are human, like men—if women belong to a species with an innate capacity for round-the-clock, non-estrus sexual pleasure—if women are human, like men, then women have an equal interest in mutual, reciprocally pleasurable sex.
Sex is pleasurable. And you can’t really argue that nature doesn’t actively encourage hedonism, even if it is tempered by empathy. Ergo, women have an interest in sex in their own right: because done right, it feels good. There is no reason for men to try to bribe women into sex—and in fact, a bribe implies that consent is not genuine.
And if men are willingly participating in and perpetuating a society that forces women to have sexual activity regardless of whether or not it’s pleasurable for them, but for survival—then men are actively encouraging sexual assault, not because women are not willing to have sex, but for only two reasons: a) men are not willing to consider women’s interest in sexual activity as just as valid as their own, OR b) men get off on sexually assaulting women, and that’s why they perpetuate a society where women must have sex for their safety and survival. Sexual assault comes in a continuum because consent does—however, unlike the sex poxes, I am absolutely unwilling to accept effectively forced consent as anything other than sexual assault.
Because sexual assault strips you of your personhood. It is perpetrated on you whether or not you like it, and often because you don’t like it. And all too often, you have to submit to it because to resist endangers your survival. This is a feminist statement: the decision to have sex should never have to be any part of a calculation on your survival and basic quality of life.
This is not sexy. Being paid for sex is not sexy. But then, anyone who’s been near a porn set knows that it is basically one of the unsexiest places in the world—hospices notwithstanding.
“Sex work is like any other job,” is part and parcel of the transactional model of sex because if you boil it down into its most succinct meaning, it is: “Sex is a job.” Or, alternately, “I have no problem with my lovers feeling as though sex is a job as long as I get laid.” It is something you do in order to get payment from it—without passion, without happiness, because it is a “choice” that is inherently forced, inherently constrained. Pleasure has nothing to do with it. You simply cannot say no.
And believing that is acceptable—that is anti-sex and anti-feminist.
I believe sex is a profoundly good and awesome thing, and that choice should mean something more than just a buzzword that allows you to do whatever the fuck you want, however exploitative, coercive, or depersonalizing it is. Your orgasms are not the only ones that matter. Welcome to women’s sexual liberation.