It seems pretty unlikely that myself and Sofie are ever going to agree over this, seeing as she's not anti-porn, but I think there are a couple of things I'd like to say about our respective positions.
Sofie's objection to my use of the term 'rape' to describe sex work is, I think, a liberal one. My use of the argument 'you can't buy consent', means that all sex workers are not capable of consent, and this I will return to later. But as I say in my article, what happens in porn is only in the best case happening for money. Vast numbers of women are in bonded labour. Some women are there because of sex trafficking, some because they owe a 'debt', many because - as with prostitution - their partners, or at least a man with power over them, have forced them into doing it to get money, whether just to live, or as is far more common, to finance a habit. These women do not have a choice. It is not controversial to point out that this is not a choice.
To return, then, to the example that is beloved of liberal defenders of the sex industry: women who decide that sex work would be a good way to earn money and work in liberating conditions that allow them to freely withdraw their labour at any time. It doesn't matter that that's an absurdly small minority of women, because I recognise that for my argument to stand up I must show that that too is exploitative.
For a start, in the basic Marxist sense of exploitation, all labour is so. When the labour is required to come from specific people, in, again, the simple Marxist sense, it is obvious that capital will exploit those people the most. Indeed in the attempts to continually increase profitability, vast efforts will be made to maximise the profit available from the labour and the bodies of these people, and this will be reinforced by (in the case of women in pornography) the fact that most women try not to be part of such an industry, and of course by the patriarchal power structures that have historically and do currently force women into positions of less power. Examples of this 'less power', lest I am again accused of thinking women 'feeble', might include the way many women are talked over, the way many women are paid less (in conventional wage-labour), and the way many women's opinions are dismissed as mad or irrational. There are, of course, many women who fight the conditions of this power, and their victories are many and brilliant. But I'm sure me and Sofie are in agreement that patriarchal power structures make many things very hard for most women, and for some, destroy their whole lives.
Most women who work in pornography have 'agents' - people better described as pimps, who take a cut of the money that the woman is paid. Again, in the strict Marxist sense, these too are exploiters, who force women to do more and more work in higher and higher paid films so that they can live on the profit. I should also say that the pay in porn films is correlate with how difficult it is to find people to work in them - which usually means things that most women would refuse to do. In the Marxist sense, these people living on the 'surplus' of the labour are the ruling class, and the reason they are able to do so is because they have power over - an orthodox Marxist might even say 'own', but I shan't- the woman. After all, if they didn't have this power, why on earth would the women give them a cut of their pay?
Consent in capitalism is a bourgeois privilege. For example, the proletariat are forced to sell their labour. It's not even true that they have genuine choice where they can sell their labour. Their consent was not given for this, nor is it possible that they could ever have given consent. I argued in my article that commodity fetishism - put very roughly, the commodification of human relationships into relationships between objects - meant that consent was becoming impossible to give, as women were increasingly - due to the commodifying effect of pornography - being viewed as objects from which commodities were extracted.
I think, therefore, Sofie's accusation that I presented women as objects is entirely correct. I did so deliberately, as I was attempting to point out how the industry operates. As the industry treats women as objects, I described the way it does so. I'm genuinely very sorry for its being upsetting reading, but as a polemic against a horrifying industry I felt it necessary not to shirk the realities.
However, this point:
"If a sex worker cannot consent, even within more-or-less constrained circumstances, why does it matter when she is raped?"
-is a very poor one indeed. Certainly I think that sex workers do not have the ability to consent. But of all the terrible things that are done to their bodies, if there are some they decide are beyond the pale, then why on earth would Sofie think I would not think that was rape? Of course it's rape. Of course it matters, any such incident matters if someone in that position says so, and there is nothing in what I have written that suggests I would think that a sex worker saying she's been raped shouldn't be taken seriously. It's a completely unfounded accusation.
I suppose I should mention that I worked with several sex workers in Scotland, when I was a mental health caseworker. I certainly think it's vital not to patronise these women, and I know very well that the patronising approach of giving sex workers a hug and telling them you understand that it's all rape is going to get you little more than contempt. But in much the same way, I wouldn't approach a rubbish collector or a secretary and give them a hug and tell them I understand it's all slavery. Naturally, to say so is utterly unhelpful and a complete ignorance of the day-to-day realities of these women. But that doesn't mean it isn't true. I agree that the end to the sex industry will not come from white men telling sex workers they're being raped. But neither will it come from liberal feminists saying that these women choose to be sex workers.
Frankly, accusations that I am denying sex workers agency are liberal arguments, and if that's Sofie's position then certainly we shall never agree. Agency in patriarchal capitalism is frighteningly low, and I think arguments that it is higher tend to the liberal, arguments that it is the lower, tend to the Marxist.
I do not ever claim to speak for any women, let alone all women, I merely intended to show the danger of the commodity fetishism in pornography. Yes, I certainly stated that women are being denied choice by porn, yes I did it in polemical language, yes I think porn is causing men to treat women as objects, yes I think porn is diminishing the agency of women. But these are obviously terrible things. It's a lament, not a celebration.
However, I am a man, Sofie is a woman, and while there have been women pleased with the article there are several women disgusted with it, and I must obviously bow to them. To all those disgusted, I am sincerely sorry. I hope that our differences are merely different schools of feminism; I have tried to show this in this response. If I am wrong, I am sorry.
UPDATE 16/01: A response to a few more criticisms aimed at me from twitter and Mhairi McAlpine's article.
I do not intend to suggest that it is impossible for consensual sex to exist. I merely wanted to explore the ways in which it was being eroded. The final paragraph is in future tense; this is deliberate, as it is only a theorised outcome. It is not intended to describe the facts of sex for every woman in the world. Indeed, I couldn't describe the facts of sex for any women of the world. It is only a theoretical exploration of forces that are making things more difficult for women.
Mhairi (and others) make the very good point that exploring what is making things harder for women is all very well, but it is important to recognise that even despite the vast array of forces and powers against them, women are very far from the passive actors I described, and even in the toughest circumstances they challenge and subvert their oppression. This is of course perfectly true, and I will certainly admit that it is something of a glaring omission from my article. By intending to explore only the increase in oppression that women face from porn, I precluded myself from describing what women do to fight this. I recognise that this is something I should have written, however. Part of the reason I did not is my expected audience: writing for the Anti-Porn Men Project, I had in mind a mostly male audience who might have been unconvinced of just how serious the effects of pornography are, and so I was intending to make them aware of what their porn use and their actions might be capable of doing. I also based the entire article around a series of conversations I have had with women about their sexual experiences, and while there are not quotes, these are some of the problems they described to me. However I realise that it isn't enough to say that I wrote it for those men based on what some women have said: I should have been more fully aware of how women might respond.
As for the question of women being 'unrapable'; frankly I find it extremely frustrating that I have been repeatedly accused of denying the possibility of rape for women. I certainly intended to point out that rape might be much more common than many people think; but I never intended to 'dilute' or trivialise the definition of rape. As it was put to me on twitter, I was creating an 'all cats are grey' situation, a logic puzzle where it is impossible to say which cat is grey; but this is a fallacy, as it assumes that I would, should a cat approach me and say 'I'm grey!', deny it was so, so to speak. The idea of some rapes being more serious than others contains within it an implicity that some rapes might not matter, and this certainly is a terrible thing. Every rape is different, yes, and every rape is terrible. The idea of comparing them or suggesting some have equivalence and some do not, is a terrible thing that would be a slippery slope to rape denial. Nowhere in my article is there the slightest suggestion that I would establish such rape hierarchy or deny rape. In fact, I have been roundly attacked for the reverse, ie suggesting that there is more rape than we might be aware of.
Lastly, a final word on sex workers: I understand the points made here as a liberal argument. Conflating the positions of all-sex-work-is-rape and rape-is-'part of the job description' is based on the assumption that sex work can be considered a 'job' in the liberal sense of the word. Dismissing the rape of sex workers as irrelevant due to their 'job' is clearly an abysmal thought, but crucially, one that can only exist on the basis that sex workers freely choose to be in the work they are. If one approaches this from the Marxist view that their work is not something they have a choice about giving, it means that that which their labour demands of them is not their choice to give either. To talk specifically, if we understand sex work as something that is not entered into freely (as is the case with all proletarian work), then any and all rapes that occur during the sex work cannot be understood in any sense as the fault of the sex worker. Somebody who might say that 'rape is part of the job' to a sex worker is therefore actually saying that rape is something happening repeatedly and completely out of the control of the sex worker, and shows clearly that the sex worker is in a terrible position indeed. Vegan Vixen says, "Rape against prostitutes needs to be taken seriously, and recognized as rape, not just a necessary danger that’s bound to happen in prostitution. [my italics]" Indeed, its seriousness is paramount, but the conception of necessity is a liberal one that implies conditions in choices. The Marxist argument that there is no work choice removes the possibility that there can be conditions to a choice, and thus the possibility that responsibility can be assigned to the sex worker for being attacked, and incidents dismissed on the grounds of 'you've made your bed, now lie in it'.
As a result, then, a position of complete humility to sex workers follows, I think, naturally: what boundaries and behaviours as they need must be given to them, and dogmatic seriousness must be given to any and all reports they give of any oppression, whether rape or otherwise.