"Whore"

  Image by Jon Kopaloff

Image by Jon Kopaloff

A few weeks ago, if you’d asked me who Stormy Daniels was, you’d have been met with a raised eyebrow and a shrugged shoulder. My knowledge of the porn world is limited to listening to The Butterfly Effect, and to late-night wank sessions spent blindly scrolling through Pornhub (inevitably ending up in the ‘female friendly’ category – inevitably being disappointed). I have no idea who any of the actors are. I’m just in it for the erotic spanking.

But you can be damn sure I know who she is now.

In the wake of Ms Daniels’ revelations regarding an alleged affair with the current President of the United States, and her claims of the subsequent harassment, intimidation, and cover-up in an interview she gave on 60 Minutes, there have been a whole host of articles about the adult entertainment star, many riffing on a similar theme:

“Stormy Daniels is a Feminist Heroine”
“Stormy Daniels is emerging as the feminist hero from the Donald Trump affair”
“Stormy Daniels is a feminist hero”
“Justice For Stormy Daniels Is A Feminist Issue”

Stormy Daniels (real name, Stephanie Clifford) is speaking truth to power. She is refusing to be silenced or shamed by those who would dismiss her as a “whore”, and she is risking everything by standing up to influential men who are used to leveraging their power over “inconvenient” women. That’s pretty heroic, in my book. Furthermore, she’s proving to be a royal pain in Donald Trump’s arse, and while this scandal is unlikely to be the one to topple his presidency, I find great satisfaction in the idea that it might be a woman who brings the empire crumbling to the ground. No pressure, Melania. We believe in you.

And yet…

The dubbing of Stormy Daniels as a feminist hero has proven highly controversial.

If you want proof of this, you only have to venture into the comments sections of any of the aforementioned articles. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Reading the comments is tantamount to sticking your brain in a blender. It’s noisy, it’s painful, and it’ll do your IQ no good.

But fear not, gentle readers. Ever the pioneer, I have delved in deep so that you don’t have to.

The first, and most obvious (unimaginative) argument is that Daniels is a whore. A slut. A prostitute. Her coming forward has nothing to do with any noble feminist goals – she is simply in it for the media attention and the money. As charming chaps put it…

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Or....

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There is an overwhelming desire to define Daniels by her profession and, as a result, to place undue focus on her sexual history. We don’t trust women who make a living using their bodies in this way. Female sexual agency is something to be feared and reviled (even as it is fetishised), and so the women who make a living from sex work are demonised in a way that their (predominantly) male clients are not. According to this logic, a woman who sells her body is apparently incapable of being worthy of our respect, much less of being a hero.

The second - and perhaps more troubling - argument, is that sex work is inherently un-feminist. This comes from the radical feminist school of thought that defines sex work not “as a commercial transaction but rather, as blood money exchanged for abuse that can only ever happen in a world where women are unequal. That selling sex somehow reduces every woman to a commodity, valued exclusively for the extent to which we’re found fuckable.” - Lauren Rosewarne (2017). For example…

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And....

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At best, this narrative denies that anyone could choose sex work of their own free will, and instead frames all sex workers as victims who have fallen into a pattern of self-objectification. At worst, it can be used to exclude swathes of women from feminist discourse, effectively silencing their voices by slut-shaming in the guise of concern. There is no room for the idea that a woman could actually choose and enjoy sex work in this worldview. It smacks of paternalism and speaks more of an aversion to the act of sex itself than of genuine care for other women.

Fuck that noise.

But what both of these (piss poor) arguments fail to recognise is that literally none of that matters. The point is that anyone who is prepared to stand up and fight for what is right - despite great personal, professional, and financial risk - is a hero. And if that person manages to disrupt the patriarchal ‘powers that be’, and in so doing helps to create an environment where slut-shaming can no longer be used as an effective silencing tool, that person is a feminist hero.

Does Stormy Daniels identify as a feminist? It doesn’t matter.

Is she actively trying to further the feminist cause? Not really relevant.

But does she have sex on camera for a living though?

SO LITERALLY NOT THE POINT OH MY GOD.

Because regardless of her politics, regardless of her intent, and regardless of her sex life, Stormy Daniels is changing the landscape. Her refusal to be shamed is one small step towards a world where shaming and degrading will cease to be an option for those who would yell “SLUT” and “WHORE” when our words and our power scare them. She’s literally helping to neutralise the weapons of the patriarchy, bruh! If that doesn’t make her a feminist hero, I don’t know what does.

 

Article by VERVE "She Said" Contributor Sarah Bradnum

Personal: @SarahBradnum

Podcaster: @HungleQueens