By Rehana Sancho
Professor Samantha Majic, assistant professor of political science at John Jay, has unleashed a new wave of feminism and open-mindedness about the sex industry here on campus. Strutting down the halls with her high heels and often very fashionable outfits, Professor Majic has cast a spell on many young women who hope to follow in her advocate footsteps.
Professor Majic is teaching a class titled “Women and Politics” for the Political Science Department. The lectures include topics about the many types of feminist theories, such as radical feminism, liberal feminism, socialist feminism and modern feminism. The course also sheds light on some controversial feminists such as Beyoncé, and well noted modern political women, such as Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as other women in politics, both national and international.
At 36 years old, Professor Majic has received four degrees; a B.A from the University of Toronto, two Masters Degrees from both York University and Cornell University, and lastly a Ph.D. from Cornell University. She had written one book, “Sex Work Politics: From Protest to Service Provision” and is co-editor of another, “Negotiating Sex Work.”
According to the University of Pennsylvania Press, “Sex Work Politics” is “an excellent, important book. Samantha Majic’s detailed community research will transform our views of sex workers as well as our understanding of the potential for nonprofit community organizations and social movements to achieve lasting political change.”
Professor Majic based her research in California where she worked with the St. James Infirmary (SJI) and the California Prostitution Education Project (CAL-PEP). She worked with sex workers, volunteering, interviewing and grasping an overall understanding of how and why they became a sex worker. Majic came to the conclusion that “all sex workers aren’t victims,” and centered the thesis of her book around the understanding of why sex work should be decriminalized.
Majic argues that sex work should be decriminalized with policy considerations that would equate to safe and healthy sexual practices for both the sex worker’s and their clients. However, Majic is not advocating for total government intervention, because sex workers should have a say on how they want to be governed based on their experience with the sex trade.
Majic believes that people should think more broadly about sex work. She feels like a “poor women sexuality is policed,” and that there is an assumption that all sex workers are either criminals or victims. “sex workers are not just women who have been stuff in the back of a truck,” explains Majic. According to Majic, people often confuse sex work with sex trafficking which is when a person, involuntarily, is coerce into the sex trade by another person or group. Some people are making a personal decision to become a sex worker.
To introduce her research and open the floor to sex work conversation, Professor Majic spearheaded the “Sex Work Initiative” forum this fall in the Moot Court Room here on campus. Through six diverse events such as a book talk, film screenings/debate, and panel discussions with people who are involved in the sex work industry, students were exposed to an alternative view of the sex work field.
Students listened to excerpts and brief summaries of Professor Majic’s book, “Sex Work Politics: From Protest to Service Provision.” Majic explained that sex workers aren’t just prostitutes, they are also escorts, pornography stars and exotic dancers; people who choose to make a career or make money using their bodies.
After attending three of the sex initiative forums, Hadassah Yisrael, a sophomore, explained she felt like she was given a one on one experience other professors seldom offer. Yiseral explains that the forums were thought provoking. “Our ideas of sex workers are usually procreated by the media,” said Yisrael. “This is the best event I seen from a professor.”
After the forum, Yisrael said she is eager to take one of Professor Majic’s classes because of the testimonies she heard from the former sex worker at the event, and Professor Majic herself. “The world is so heteronormative. It doesn’t allow for fluid identities,” explained Yisrael. “I believe taking a class of her will allow me to continue to explore what I’ve learned from the forum.
M.G Robinson, a junior, is a student in Professor Majic’s “Women and Politics” class, “I have been so inspired by not only the forum, but the feminist theories she has introduced me too.” Robinson explains that meeting congressional woman Helen Rosenthal, in class, showed her that Professor Majic actually cares about her cause and her students.
But the females on campus aren’t the only people being influenced by Professor Majic, Abran Acosta, a junior, explained. “I never looked at politics as a gendered field, but learning about how long and hard women have fought for their rights, beyond suffrage, I can’t take the little things for granted anymore.”
Acosta went further to say, “Even though I don’t always agree with what she says in class, I do agree that the information she provides, to these classes full of women will increase women’s involvement in politics and ultimately increase gender equality.
Professor Majic’s research, classes, and forums has created a platform to discuss issues such as sex work and women’s equality. Whether or not everyone agrees with her research, judging by student’s reactions and her jammed packed forums, Professor Majic is providing John Jay students with three things they love; controversy, open-minded debates, and a source for inspiration.