Cheyenne Dorsagno, Copy Editor
Sporting hoop earrings and green nail polish, psychologist Adrian Garcia opened his talk “Refocusing on White Supremacist Capitalist Heteronormative Patriarchy” on March 30 by saying, “I decided to just put all of the [expletive] in the title.”
Garcia works for the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS), counseling men who have purchased sex from prostitutes. He focuses on how men’s sexuality develops in America’s objectifying culture.
Garcia said that both men and women raise their children with toxic stereotypical values. Growing up, boys are often forced into emotional isolation, they are prided in talking less, never crying, and flat lining their feelings. Women are taught to be a subservient prize for men with this behavior. Prostitution is believed to be both instigated and condemned at the fault of the roles that everyone has instilled in them from childhood.
Garcia described the Mordic Model as an approach to prostitution, one in which it is illegal and should be completely stopped because all sex workers are victims. In this idea, punishing the buyers will help them learn to have “healthy sexual lives” and eliminate the demand for prostitutes.
Some contend this model because it could cause prostitution to operate more secretively. This would make it harder to give help to sex workers when it is needed and get honest statistics from them that aren’t skewed by stigma-induced shame.
Many places are looking to decriminalize selling sex and focus on the buyers. Organizations such as Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) fights for sex workers’ human rights, attempting to give them an environment safe from being arrested or abused. Many believe that prostitutes are entitled to their freedom to—between consenting autonomous adults—fulfill their career choice and express their sexuality.
By legalizing prostitution, it could be regulated with laws, as opposed to the “free for all” that decriminalizing it would enable. Prostitutes could then have safe, consistent working conditions but Garcia warned that it could further institutionalize misogyny.
A drawback of this approach is that in legal areas, there is a higher demand, partly from drawing in a crowd. The demand may not be fulfilled and could cause people to search through other means such as sex trafficking. This activity can trickle into surrounding areas where all sex work is illegal.
Garcia explained that as society is presented with this conflict, the Patriarchal Entitlement Moral develops. This identifies some men’s ideology, particularly those in power, in which they have a moral obligation to controlling women’s lives. In their mind, they know what’s best for women.
On the other hand, prostitution can be viewed by some men as their sexual entitlement to women and making them fulfill male need. This viewpoint is rooted in biological determinism, in the belief that genes, anatomy, and other biological attributes define sex which causes related gender behavior. This idea treats many gender stereotypes as innate and natural.
At the fault of both of these objectifying beliefs, prostitution has the highest rate of sexual violence.
Garcia quoted feminist Liz Kelly in saying, “Sexual violence occurs in the context of men’s power and women’s resistance.”
He described this as part of a larger narrative where the dominant group pushes back against the opposing group when striving for equality. Garcia said that women are particularly at risk to be murdered when leaving an abuser. He also cited a survey in which men and women were asked about their biggest fear in the opposite sex.
Men largely reported that their fear is being made fun of by women, while women responded with fear of being murdered by men. The female respondents recognized what possible, extreme punishment may come to them if they threaten the power dynamic. Having the upper hand, some men adopt concern for remaining validated by women.
Garcia showed the sexual violence continuum, a spectrum of behavior that begins with enforcing rape culture to committing sexualized murder. By making a rape joke, for example, someone who may not understand the issue can make light of a highly gendered problem in which women are too often a victim and very reasonably afraid.
Garcia dove into other acts on the spectrum, such as coercion. While many may see it as “technically a yes,” others would argue that one shouldn’t be pressured into this intimate act and should only engage after an enthusiastic, positive yes.
An interesting dialogue opened with a guest who asked about where “checking someone out” stands on this continuum. In the discussion, Garcia differentiated appreciating someone’s beauty from ogling them or “cat calling” them. When someone acts on another, even visually, they should be receptive and respectful to the comfort level of the person being acted upon.
“I am a feminist,” said Garcia.
However, he is weary of falling into the White Knight Complex in which a man may feel that he needs to save the day. He said that he does not want to silence women by assuming authority in their issues or an understanding of their experience. Instead, he wants to help reveal and resolve patriarchal society with his work.
He encouraged everyone to be willing to have difficult conversations in which they share their gendered, intersectional experiences. People need to “leave their ego at the door” in the spirit of awareness, progress, and equality.