October, 2013. 18-year-old Saaya Suzuki came home to her Tokyo apartment to find her ex-boyfriend hiding in her closet brandishing a knife. He plunged that knife into her stomach twice. When she crawled for the door he jumped on her and stabbed her in the neck, before fleeting the scene. Suzuki attempted to call for help, dragging her bloodied body out onto the balcony, but died of her injuries soon after. The community was outraged by the murder, until it was discovered that Suzuki had been sending sexually suggestive photographs to her murderer, 21-year-old Charles Thomas Ikenaga, a realisation that changed the tone of Tokyo’s chatter drastically. ‘He was too pure for her’ I heard someone comment. ‘He was in love, and she corrupted him to madness with her indecency’. ‘Yes he killed her,’ sniggered a taxi driver one night. ‘But can you really blame him? She was a bit of slut, wasn’t she?’
June, 2014. The dismembered body of a retired porn star Federica Giacomini, who went by the screen name Ginevra Hollander, was found stuffed in a suitcase and dumped in a lake. Each sawed-off body part was placed in a separate plastic bag and tightly bound with cello tape by her murderer and former partner Franco Mossoni. The news story, which made it’s rounds on the internet, was followed by echoes of ‘She was a porn star. Who cares?’, ‘Her life was scum and so was she’, ‘[The murder] was 100% her choice!’, and of course that question on everybody’s lips: ‘Why are we mourning a slut?’
August, 2014. 23-year-old porn star Christy Mack was brutally assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, MMA fighter Jon Koppenhaver (aka The War Machine), who came to her home unannounced, and upon finding her there with another man, forced her to strip down and shower in front of him, after which he proceeded to break 18 bones around her eyes and 2 bones in her nose. He knocked out her teeth, kicked her until he ruptured her liver, blinded her in one eye, sawed off her hair with a dull knife and stabbed her in her hand, ear and head. She escaped within an inch of her life, and though the tale of her ordeal was chilling enough, the comments that followed were sickening. ‘Both just doing their jobs’ one man commented. ‘I just had a tug to her yesterday! Feel slightly sad now’, ‘She was dating an MMA fighter named ‘War Machine’, what did she expect?’, ‘Not condoning hitting females but if my girl [cheated] she woulda been looking like Christy Mack’,‘She’s a whore, and she deserved it. Plain and simple.’
There are people in the world, terrible people, whose happiness we would enthusiastically protest. There are child killers that we banish from society, and rapists, murderers and terrorists whose suffering we want with such morbid hunger that we would rejoice at their deaths, and celebrate their pain. There are people in this world, terrible people, who commit such heinous crimes that we deem them less than human. We send them to prison in the hope that they will live out the rest of their days, caged like the animals they are. But those aren’t the only kinds of people upon whom we wish death and suffering. When we laugh at a dead slut, we declare her guilty of a crime- a crime most unforgivable, a crime so terrible it strips her of her human status, a crime on par with murder itself- the crime of female sexual autonomy. We laugh at her life, we laugh at her body- devoid of human worth and significance- we laugh, not at a person, but at something much less.
We live in a world in which the worst thing a woman could do is claim ownership of her own body and sexual life; to make choices about where she puts her body, what she does with it, and to whom she offers or refuses it. We live in a world where women’s bodies are commodified to no end- wrapped up and ribboned for male consumption in mainstream media and advertising, online and print porn, strip clubs, human trafficking and forced child prostitution, virginity auctions and arranged marriages in return for dowry- many of which are forced upon girls and women, sometimes illegally, yet as soon as a woman profits from willingly performing labor for which there is tremendous demand, she is rubbish, she is worthless, she is less than human, and she will be punished for breaching the laws of female decency.
The policing of female bodies has always been seen as vital for maintaining order in the society and in the home. Female sexuality has been approached as dangerous, as before the advent of DNA testing, male paternity could only be assured through the female’s absolute monogamy. Female infidelity is deemed far more offensive than male infidelity. This comes from the age-old belief that women are property, and that men are more entitled to ‘collect’ sex from various female bodies, somehow being ‘needier’ of it than their female counterparts. The entitlement that men feel over women’s bodies is generally the first defence brought up against domestic violence and jealousy related murders. While male infidelity is treated as inevitable, female infidelity is viewed as the ultimate betrayal- of the men who ‘have’ them, of the society that polices them, of the terms of decency upon which they are allowed to walk the world unharmed- so much so that such betrayal actually constitutes grounds for murder. This deeply engrained double standard realises itself on our streets in the form of acid attacks, in which rejected men throw acid at women to burn off, and deform their faces. Women are still being murdered systematically for their infidelity in the form of honour killings, often in cultures that encourage polygamy in men. Insufficient dowry can often rouse men to lacerate their young bride’s faces with razor blades until they are permanently scarred beyond recognition. Eerily similar is the case of the more recent attack on porn star Christy Mack, who is now in need of a facial reconstruction after having her skull crushed in by an MMA fighter’s vengeful fist. Ultimately, these ideas about male entitlement over women’s bodies, and the policing and restricting of female sexuality and sexual activity stem from nothing but fear. Systems of sexual double-standards, of slut shaming, victim blaming and the normalisation of female sexual passivity, as well as the great social denial of female sexual agency upon the insistence that sexual indifference in women is biological- are seen as the fishing net that contains women within the lower end of the heterosexual power dynamic- fulfilling the ultimate patriarchal goal of ‘keeping our women in the right beds’.
Sex workers are the poster girls for this curious culture of ours, which shuns women for sex in a world where they are defined by it. Sex workers have the arduous task of being simultaneously desirable and disgusting. They are the women who are publicly crucified on this witch hunt; the women who are used, abused, and left to bleed out in the public eye. They are made examples of, so other women, ‘normal’ chaste women, can learn fear. Fear of being that worthless body. Fear of being that fuckdoll, that empty vessel, that hole in the wall whose sexual humiliation men cum to, whose deaths men laugh at. The push and pull towards and away from what constitutes acceptable female sexuality (what satisfies men) and what constitutes unacceptable female sexuality (autonomous, self-gratifying or profitable) is, frankly, exhausting. Fearing the slut is getting tired. There are people in this world, terrible people, who we deem less than human for their offensive lives. Sluts do not deserve sub human status. Neither do prostitutes, or porn stars. But if you jerk off with your right hand and point with your left, perhaps you do.