Patriarchy: Sex work and Body work.

The following text has been first written by Islam Khatib on her personal Facebook account and has been republished here following her authorization.

Two stories from Lebanon & Bosnia:

1- An ex-sex worker told me about her mid-nights working at a plastics factory (somewhere near Tripoli)
She said that the atmosphere was bitter and fraught with conflict between workers, supervisors and managers, and it was hell for Lebanese and non-Lebanese men and women alike, but she said that the women she worked with were under constant attack. She said she was always tired so I asked her why and she broke it down for me: “Well, I used to go home and bring the kids to school the same time my husband usually gets home for lunch, and he got really upset if didn’t make him something and stayed up and ate with him. The kids used to back home from school at 3, and then I had to make supper and clean the kitchen. I used to sleep from 7 until 9, and then got up for work. Funny how working in a nasty brothel was easier than working in a factory.” She said that once she got to the factory, she and other women were barraged with verbal abuse from whoever the supervisor happened to be. She told me a “funny” story about this religious supervisor who didn’t think God wanted women in the workplace, and constantly conspired to have the women on his shift fired.
That factory closed ages ago, but this shit still happens in ALMOST every local “factory” or “shop” or ”offices” that happens to hire non-Lebanese women or Lebanese women who have no one to turn to.

2- A Bosnian woman who came to Lebanon with an “artist” passport (also related to sex-work, if you don’t know about the “artist passport” please google it) told me about an incident that happened in 2013. She decided that she wanted to give up her Bosnian citizenship and take the German. She had to go several times to the Bosnian embassy 70 miles from where she lived. They’re the only ones that are responsible for her federal state and they know how dependent people are on them, there are no alternatives, apart from traveling to Bosnia, which is no alternative, either. So she requested the deprivation of citizenship and brought a ton of papers to look at. One guy in his 40ies sat face to face with her and checked on them. So in one of the papers it was listed that she used to work as “an artist” in Lebanon and then he asked her “Have you ever tried older guys?”

Does this remind you of an official institution that casually harasses non-Lebanese women in Lebanon?
Such situations are especially vile, because those guys know how much we need them. And there’s no one in charge of them. Well, the state, but c’mon, this is a culture where they would tell harassed “what’s your problem? Consider it a compliment”. So, back to that lady’s case, had that official had a bad day, he could’ve told her “no older guys? okay, no paper work done for you” and she wouldn’t have had anyone to turn to.
This literally happens here EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Then comes your typical sexist man and goes like “looool at this feminist defending sex workers stupid silly masculine go get married”

Forever laughing at the shit that sexist men say with a satisfied grin, that fades as his righteous anger subsides and the blood rushing in his ears gets replaced with the ever present, all encompassing silence of an empty life.

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