Radicalism is a term utilized on both sides of the argument, but it here it will refer to the radical feminist perspective that views sex work as an “appropriation of female sexuality by a man” (Zatz 288). Radical feminists, unlike Marxist feminists though argue that there is something inherently special about sex that separate it from other acts of work.
Andrea Dworkin is one of the most notable radical feminist scholars on the topic of sex work. Her work on the subject does not differentiate sex work from rape, or trafficking. In the eighties Dworkin gave many speeches and became known for her anti-pornography movement against the US government. Below is an excerpt from a movie that she made to raise awareness of the harms of sex work. Warning that sex abuse is discussed explicitly.
Unlike liberal feminism, radical feminism is less concerned with the legality of sex work, and more so with the theoretical internalizations of societal issues (Zatz 290). This internalization is seen as the manifestation of patriarchal abuses on women, much the same as traditional marriage (Zatz 290). Dworkin’s almost exclusive use of the term “prostituted” as a passive verb rather than “prsotitute” as an active verb reflects radical feminism’s lack of autonomy granted women and argues that no woman who was safe and sane would willingly choose to prostitute herself. Often prostituting oneself is a concept that is not often taken on, and instead it is depicted as solely being prostituted by a man (Dworkin). In this way “the ‘sex industry’ [is a] a euphemism for the sexual enslavement of women” (Dworkin, 138). Dworkin holds that “virtually all of those adult women were put into pornography as children” (Dworkin 138), a claim that is still hotly debated. At times the discourse used by this radical feminist approach seems to not only point out women’s secondary status, but reinforce it; “[she] puts on her miniskirt and does her hair and she is the same dumb bitch when she walks out on the street as all those young men like to sing about in their songs. That’s why she needs a political movement” (Dworkin 140).