By Carole S. Vance
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Extra resources for Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality
2 They did so because their definition of prostitute included virtually all women who engaged in casual sex, whether or not they were paid. Second, feminists consistently exaggerated the coercive ness of prostitution. In their eagerness to identify the social structural forces encouraging prostitution, they denied the prostitute any role other than that of passive victim. They insisted that the women involved were sexual innocents, helpless young women who "fell" into illicit sex. They assumed that prostitution was so degrading that no woman could freely choose it, not even with the relative degree of freedom with which she could choose to be a wife or a wage earner.
The symbolic emphasis in prostitution is on ownership, possession, purchase by men, while in rape it is on pure violence. Rape can happen to any woman, while prostitution involves the separation of women into the good and the bad, a division with class implications, as we shall see, even when the division is blamed on men. Lest it seem trivializing to the real sufferings of women as prostitutes or rape victims to treat experiences as symbols or metaphors, let us emphasize again our subject: we are looking at how feminists conceptualized different sexual dangers, as a means of organizing resistance to sexual oppression.
They were, so to speak, upwardly mobile, and they wanted integration into the sexual world as defined by men. The man's orgasm remained the central event, although now it was preferable if a woman had one at the same time. (Ellen Carol DuBois and Linda Gordon, op. , p. ) It seems unlikely, without further evidence, that lesbians of the time defined sex in this way. Yet the problem is linguistic, as well as conceptual and political: do we have the words or an available apparatus that can simply and elegantly specify the subjects of study?