Journal of Romance Studies

Feminist testimony in the internet age: sex work, blogging and the politics of witnessing

Journal of Romance Studies (2009), 9, (3), 86–101.

Abstract

This article investigates how the second-wave feminist emphasis on women’s experience and first-person testimony manifests itself in feminist use of new technologies, in particular the web log or blog. Drawing on feminist theories of testimony and witnessing, as well as academic literature on the internet and new media, I analyse a number of feminist anti-prostitution and anti-pornography blogs in which the blogger positions herself as witness to the suffering of female sex workers. Although such blogs challenge different forms of exploitation in the sex industry, they tend to ignore the complexity of that industry and simplify the stories of women working in it, privileging experiences of suffering and victimhood and discrediting testimonies of sex workers who do not identify as victims. I conclude that although the blogosphere creates new fora for feminist networking and the creation of community, it simultaneously re-creates old forms of exclusion and divisions within feminism.

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Davis Kasl, Charlotte (1990) Women, Sex and Addiction (London: Mandarin). Women, Sex and Addiction Google Scholar

Dean, Jodi (2001) ‘Feminism in technoculture’, The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 23.1, 1–25. Feminism in technoculture The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 23.1 1 25 Google Scholar

Delacoste, Frédérique and Priscilla Alexander (eds) (1988) Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry (London: Virago Press). Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry Google Scholar

Douglass, Ana and Thomas A. Vogler (eds) (2003) Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma (New York and London: Routledge). Witness and Memory:The Discourse of Trauma Google Scholar

Dworkin, Andrea (1981) Pornography: Men Possessing Women (London: The Women’s Press). Pornography: Men Possessing Women Google Scholar

Eichhorn, Kate (2008) ‘Archival genres: gathering texts and reading spaces’, Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture 12, http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_12/eichhorn/ [accessed April 2009]. Google Scholar

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Gill, Rosalind (2007) Gender and the Media (Cambridge: Polity). Gender and the Media Google Scholar

Herman, Judith Lewis (1992) Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (London: Pandora). Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror Google Scholar

Herring, Susan C., Lois Ann Scheidt, Elijah Wright and Sabrina Bonus (2005) ‘Weblogs as a bridging genre’, Information Technology & People 18.2, 142–71. Weblogs as a bridging genre Information Technology & People 18.2 142 71 Google Scholar

Heywood, Lesley and Jennifer Drake (2007) ‘“It’s all about the Benjamins”: economic determinants of third wave feminism in the United States’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 114–24. “It’s all about the Benjamins”: economic determinants of third wave feminism in the United States Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration 114 24 Google Scholar

Hollibaugh, Amber L. (2000) My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home (Durham NC and London: Duke University Press). My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home Google Scholar

Jeffreys, Sheila (2002) ‘Trafficking in women and prostitution: a false distinction’, http://www.nswp.org/pdf/JEFFREYS-WINTER.PDF [accessed May 2009]. Google Scholar

Jenkins, Henry (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (London and New York: New York University Press). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Google Scholar

Kilby, Jane (2007) Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press). Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma Google Scholar

Lotz, Amanda D. (2007) ‘Theorising the intermezzo: the contributions of postfeminism and third wave feminism’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 71–85. Theorising the intermezzo: the contributions of postfeminism and third wave feminism Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration 71 85 Google Scholar

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MacKinnon, Catharine (1987) Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press). Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law Google Scholar

MacKinnon, Catharine (1989) Toward A Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press). Toward A Feminist Theory of the State Google Scholar

McRobbie, Angela (2008) ‘Pornographic permutations’, The Communication Review 11.3, 225–36. Pornographic permutations The Communication Review 11.3 225 36 Google Scholar

Minahan, Stella and Julie Wolfram Cox (2007) ‘Stitch’nBitch: cyberfeminism, a third place and the new materiality’, Journal of Material Culture 12.1, 5–21. Stitch’nBitch: cyberfeminism, a third place and the new materiality Journal of Material Culture 12.1 5 21 Google Scholar

Nestle, Joan (ed.) (1992) The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader (Boston: Alyson Publications). The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader Google Scholar

O’Sullivan, Catherine (2005) ‘Diaries, on-line diaries, and the future loss to archives; or, blogs and the blogging bloggers who blog them’, American Archivist 68.1, 53–73. Diaries, on-line diaries, and the future loss to archives; or, blogs and the blogging bloggers who blog them American Archivist 68.1 53 73 Google Scholar

Quiggin, John (2006) ‘Blogs, wikis and creative innovation’, International Journal of Cultural Studies 9, 481–96. Blogs, wikis and creative innovation International Journal of Cultural Studies 9 481 96 Google Scholar

Ray, Audacia (2007) ‘A day in the life of my vagina: the personal politics of sex blogging’, in Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing in on Internet Sexploitation (Emeryville CA: Seal Press), 92–132. A day in the life of my vagina: the personal politics of sex blogging Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing in on Internet Sexploitation 92 132 Google Scholar

Reed, Adam (2005) ‘“My blog is me”: texts and persons in UK online journal culture (and anthropology)’, Ethnos 70.2, 220–42. “My blog is me”: texts and persons in UK online journal culture (and anthropology) Ethnos 70.2 220 42 Google Scholar

Reiche, Claudia and Verena Kuni (eds) (2004) Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols (New York: Autonomedia). Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols Google Scholar

Scott, Joan (1993) ‘The evidence of experience’, in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, ed. Henry Ablelove, Michèle Aina Barale and David M. Halperin (New York and London: Routledge), 397–415. The evidence of experience The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader 397 415 Google Scholar

Tobias, Vicky (2005) ‘Blog this! An introduction to blogs, blogging, and the feminist blogosphere’, Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources 26.2–3, 11–15. Blog this! An introduction to blogs, blogging, and the feminist blogosphere Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources 3 11 15 Google Scholar

Tremayne, Mark (2007) ‘Introduction: examining the blog-media relationship’, in Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media, ed. Mark Tremayne (New York and London: Routledge), ix–xix. Introduction: examining the blog-media relationship Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media Google Scholar

Van House, Nancy and Elizabeth F. Churchill (2008) ‘Technologies of memory: key issues and critical perspectives’, Memory Studies 1.3, 295–310. Technologies of memory: key issues and critical perspectives Memory Studies 1.3 295 310 Google Scholar

Vance, Carole S. (1992) [1984] ‘More danger, more pleasure: a decade after the Barnard sexuality conference’, in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carole Vance (London: Pandora Press), xvi–xxxix. More danger, more pleasure: a decade after the Barnard sexuality conference Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality Google Scholar

Wajcman, Judy (2004) ‘Introduction: feminist utopia or dystopia’, in TechnoFeminism (Cambridge: Polity), 1–9. Introduction: feminist utopia or dystopia TechnoFeminism 1 9 Google Scholar

Waters, Melanie Waters (2007) ‘“Sexing it up?”Women, pornography and third wave feminism’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 250–65. “Sexing it up?”Women, pornography and third wave feminism Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration 250 65 Google Scholar

Whelehan, Imelda (2007) ‘Forward’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), xv–xx. Forward Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration Google Scholar

Wishnant, Rebecca and Christine Stark (eds) (2004) Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography (Melbourne: Spinifex Press). Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography Google Scholar

Wood, Elizabeth Anne (2008) ‘Consciousness-raising 2.0: sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons’, Feminism & Psychology 18.4, 480–7. Consciousness-raising 2.0: sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons Feminism & Psychology 18.4 480 7 Google Scholar

Agustin, Laura (2007) Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (London: Zed Books). Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry Google Scholar

Alexander, Priscilla (1988) ‘Prostitution: a difficult issue for feminists’, in Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry, ed. Frédérique Delacoste and Priscilla Alexander (London: Virago Press), 184–214. Prostitution: a difficult issue for feminists Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry 184 214 Google Scholar

Attwood, Feona (2009) ‘Intimate adventures: sex blogs, sex ‘blooks’ and women’s sexual narration’, European Journal of Cultural Studies 12.1, 5–20. Intimate adventures: sex blogs, sex ‘blooks’ and women’s sexual narration European Journal of Cultural Studies 12.1 5 20 Google Scholar

Bernstein, Elizabeth (2007) Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce of Sex (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press). Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce of Sex Google Scholar

Caruth, Cathy (1996) Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History Google Scholar

Davis Kasl, Charlotte (1990) Women, Sex and Addiction (London: Mandarin). Women, Sex and Addiction Google Scholar

Dean, Jodi (2001) ‘Feminism in technoculture’, The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 23.1, 1–25. Feminism in technoculture The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 23.1 1 25 Google Scholar

Delacoste, Frédérique and Priscilla Alexander (eds) (1988) Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry (London: Virago Press). Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry Google Scholar

Douglass, Ana and Thomas A. Vogler (eds) (2003) Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma (New York and London: Routledge). Witness and Memory:The Discourse of Trauma Google Scholar

Dworkin, Andrea (1981) Pornography: Men Possessing Women (London: The Women’s Press). Pornography: Men Possessing Women Google Scholar

Eichhorn, Kate (2008) ‘Archival genres: gathering texts and reading spaces’, Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture 12, http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_12/eichhorn/ [accessed April 2009]. Google Scholar

Everett, Ann (2004) ‘On cyberfeminism and cyberwomanism: high-tech mediations of feminism’s discontents’, Signs 30.1, 1278–86. On cyberfeminism and cyberwomanism: high-tech mediations of feminism Signs 30.1 1278 86 Google Scholar

Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub (1992) Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (New York and London: Routledge). Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History Google Scholar

Gill, Rosalind (2007) Gender and the Media (Cambridge: Polity). Gender and the Media Google Scholar

Herman, Judith Lewis (1992) Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (London: Pandora). Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror Google Scholar

Herring, Susan C., Lois Ann Scheidt, Elijah Wright and Sabrina Bonus (2005) ‘Weblogs as a bridging genre’, Information Technology & People 18.2, 142–71. Weblogs as a bridging genre Information Technology & People 18.2 142 71 Google Scholar

Heywood, Lesley and Jennifer Drake (2007) ‘“It’s all about the Benjamins”: economic determinants of third wave feminism in the United States’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 114–24. “It’s all about the Benjamins”: economic determinants of third wave feminism in the United States Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration 114 24 Google Scholar

Hollibaugh, Amber L. (2000) My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home (Durham NC and London: Duke University Press). My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home Google Scholar

Jeffreys, Sheila (2002) ‘Trafficking in women and prostitution: a false distinction’, http://www.nswp.org/pdf/JEFFREYS-WINTER.PDF [accessed May 2009]. Google Scholar

Jenkins, Henry (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (London and New York: New York University Press). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Google Scholar

Kilby, Jane (2007) Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press). Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma Google Scholar

Lotz, Amanda D. (2007) ‘Theorising the intermezzo: the contributions of postfeminism and third wave feminism’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 71–85. Theorising the intermezzo: the contributions of postfeminism and third wave feminism Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration 71 85 Google Scholar

Lovelace, Linda with Mike McGrady (1980) Ordeal (Secaucus NJ: Citadel Press). Ordeal Google Scholar

MacKinnon, Catharine (1987) Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press). Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law Google Scholar

MacKinnon, Catharine (1989) Toward A Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press). Toward A Feminist Theory of the State Google Scholar

McRobbie, Angela (2008) ‘Pornographic permutations’, The Communication Review 11.3, 225–36. Pornographic permutations The Communication Review 11.3 225 36 Google Scholar

Minahan, Stella and Julie Wolfram Cox (2007) ‘Stitch’nBitch: cyberfeminism, a third place and the new materiality’, Journal of Material Culture 12.1, 5–21. Stitch’nBitch: cyberfeminism, a third place and the new materiality Journal of Material Culture 12.1 5 21 Google Scholar

Nestle, Joan (ed.) (1992) The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader (Boston: Alyson Publications). The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader Google Scholar

O’Sullivan, Catherine (2005) ‘Diaries, on-line diaries, and the future loss to archives; or, blogs and the blogging bloggers who blog them’, American Archivist 68.1, 53–73. Diaries, on-line diaries, and the future loss to archives; or, blogs and the blogging bloggers who blog them American Archivist 68.1 53 73 Google Scholar

Quiggin, John (2006) ‘Blogs, wikis and creative innovation’, International Journal of Cultural Studies 9, 481–96. Blogs, wikis and creative innovation International Journal of Cultural Studies 9 481 96 Google Scholar

Ray, Audacia (2007) ‘A day in the life of my vagina: the personal politics of sex blogging’, in Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing in on Internet Sexploitation (Emeryville CA: Seal Press), 92–132. A day in the life of my vagina: the personal politics of sex blogging Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing in on Internet Sexploitation 92 132 Google Scholar

Reed, Adam (2005) ‘“My blog is me”: texts and persons in UK online journal culture (and anthropology)’, Ethnos 70.2, 220–42. “My blog is me”: texts and persons in UK online journal culture (and anthropology) Ethnos 70.2 220 42 Google Scholar

Reiche, Claudia and Verena Kuni (eds) (2004) Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols (New York: Autonomedia). Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols Google Scholar

Scott, Joan (1993) ‘The evidence of experience’, in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, ed. Henry Ablelove, Michèle Aina Barale and David M. Halperin (New York and London: Routledge), 397–415. The evidence of experience The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader 397 415 Google Scholar

Tobias, Vicky (2005) ‘Blog this! An introduction to blogs, blogging, and the feminist blogosphere’, Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources 26.2–3, 11–15. Blog this! An introduction to blogs, blogging, and the feminist blogosphere Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources 3 11 15 Google Scholar

Tremayne, Mark (2007) ‘Introduction: examining the blog-media relationship’, in Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media, ed. Mark Tremayne (New York and London: Routledge), ix–xix. Introduction: examining the blog-media relationship Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media Google Scholar

Van House, Nancy and Elizabeth F. Churchill (2008) ‘Technologies of memory: key issues and critical perspectives’, Memory Studies 1.3, 295–310. Technologies of memory: key issues and critical perspectives Memory Studies 1.3 295 310 Google Scholar

Vance, Carole S. (1992) [1984] ‘More danger, more pleasure: a decade after the Barnard sexuality conference’, in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carole Vance (London: Pandora Press), xvi–xxxix. More danger, more pleasure: a decade after the Barnard sexuality conference Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality Google Scholar

Wajcman, Judy (2004) ‘Introduction: feminist utopia or dystopia’, in TechnoFeminism (Cambridge: Polity), 1–9. Introduction: feminist utopia or dystopia TechnoFeminism 1 9 Google Scholar

Waters, Melanie Waters (2007) ‘“Sexing it up?”Women, pornography and third wave feminism’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 250–65. “Sexing it up?”Women, pornography and third wave feminism Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration 250 65 Google Scholar

Whelehan, Imelda (2007) ‘Forward’, in Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howier and Rebecca Munford, 2nd edn (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), xv–xx. Forward Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration Google Scholar

Wishnant, Rebecca and Christine Stark (eds) (2004) Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography (Melbourne: Spinifex Press). Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography Google Scholar

Wood, Elizabeth Anne (2008) ‘Consciousness-raising 2.0: sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons’, Feminism & Psychology 18.4, 480–7. Consciousness-raising 2.0: sex blogging and the creation of a feminist sex commons Feminism & Psychology 18.4 480 7 Google Scholar

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Hamilton, Carrie