Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Sex Work
February 28, 2022 4:18 PM - Season 9, Episode 2 - Subscribe

This week.... The invasion of Ukraine by Russia. And Now: A Look Back at Notable Moments in History. Main story: sex work (25 minutes), and how terribly sex workers are treated by the system. And Now: A Fond Farewell to the Wendy Williams Show.

F.37: "Scotus Nominus," KETANJI BROWN JACKSON
posted by JHarris (3 comments total)
I loved the sunflower seeds lady. Slava Ukraini!
posted by Paul Slade at 12:24 AM on March 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Good on Oliver for using pronouns right without making an iota of fuss about them.
posted by porpoise at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

While watching the sex work segment, I couldn't stop comparing and contrasting it to a contentious MetaTalk thread ten years ago where the same arguments that John Oliver makes were largely dismissed, and angrily so, by the majority here.

One of the disconcerting experiences of growing old is watching opposing views and preferences repeatedly cycle in and out of fashion among what is broadly an ideologically similar-minded group.

Sometimes I find that my own opinion has changed in lockstep with my peers, other times I'm out of step. And still other times my views coalesce and then remain stable either ahead of or behind my peers. Being in dissent is never comfortable, although sometimes more than others I'm quite sure of the rightness of my position. Sometimes when I'm dissenting but largely sure of myself, I remind myself that when the roles are reversed, this is what the other person thinks.

Left-of-center, there have been few topics that has shifted through several positions being dominant, most of them contradictory, than the issue of sex work.

The intersection of human rights, feminism, individual choice, sex, capitalism, and policing is a place that pushes several hot-buttons on the left, with the position on each particular sub-issue well-intentioned and largely consistent with progressivism. But how these different parts are prioritized has a powerful effect on overall views of sex work and this quite often leads people on the left to believe that those they disagree with are much worse than merely mistaken.

While watching the segment, I was very interested in the audience's reaction, which seemed quite muted to me. I couldn't help but imagine a running commentary of skeptical responses to Oliver's arguments from both the right and the left — I had the sense that those imagined skeptical voices were not at all persuaded by him.

I was kind of left with the overall impression that the issue is in the middle of another transitory period on the left such that sentiments are unsettled and confused. I wondered whether Oliver was fifteen years behind, five years ahead, or just idiosyncratic.

One thing I think has changed is that the left has become aware in the last few years of how the Christian right has systematically and disingenuously shaped the discourse around sex work to be one exclusively conflated to "human trafficking" — there was a FPP just in the last month about this, as a matter of fact.

That for awhile there was an odd but powerful alliance between Christian conservative activists and leftist activists that equated all sex work with human trafficking is reminiscent of a similar odd alliance between the Christian right and second-wave feminist TERFs in their transphobia. In both cases, the Christian right has adopted the language of anti-oppression to enlist the ostensive left in what are really moral pogroms against their perennial "other".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:29 PM on March 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

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