An answer to Carolyn

Carolyn Says:
March 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm

The studies (again actual academic studies…not those done by Farley) on clients actually talk about men wanting an actual emotional experience. That is why ‘the girlfriend experience’ is so popular. The most common activity requested is fellatio. Sex workers and clients alike report that many clients (a) just want to have no-strings attached sex due to being too busy in their careers to have girlfriends/wives or (b) are considered outcasts by society in some way and feel this is the only way to get female sexual contact. Sure there are horrible men that use women – but these are not exclusive to sex work clients – these men exist in society and treat all women in that way. Criminalization only serves to scare the “good” clients who don’t want to get in trouble…leaving all the jerks/abusive men. Like I said before. Is it a great job that people should aspire to? I don’t know. I can’t answer. Many men and women every day do this as their career. Are people victimized? Yes. But people are victimized every day in all sorts of jobs – sex work is not unique in that. We simply treat it as different because it uses genitals. My question/point is that why do we accord female genitals such a prominent place? Are women only defined by their genitals? No. In every career we only use 1 aspect of our bodies at a time. No one is crying out that “oh that poor academic. Look at that university using her for her brain only…don’t they know she is a multifaceted being? Why is she letting herself be used for her brain. Why is selling giving away great ideas/thoughts for money?” To me, I still haven’t received any cogent reason why we should treat sex any different – all the reasons go back to patriarchal and paternalistic notions that sex for women = emotional + sacred + intimate + purity + monogamy, etc. This is not true. Sex can just be sex. And is just sex for countless individuals who engage in recreational sex everyday.

Your understanding of sex as “work” is interesting, something I’ve considered writing on before. In a typical labor relation, there is a boss or many bosses. Generally, the emancipation of labor does not occur when the rest of society decides that labor is not exploitative. It happens when the workers own the means of production. As the means of production in this case is generally considered the woman’s body, that being the way in which she makes her living (not by giving emotional warmth), the idea of women owning the means of production is very little different than her having the completely unfettered choice to fuck for money. This is basically an absurd concept. Women are coerced by capitalism and misogyny, threats to their bodies and their sense of security. Just as others in the capitalist system are exploited for their labor, women are exploited by engaging in prostitution.

Those who seek to overthrow capitalism are seeking to overthrow the unfair conditions in which they live, work, and reproduce society more generally. The leftist’s solution is not to make this labor relation less exploitative in the eyes of society.

So how is prostitution a special case in these capitalist conditions? How does it differ than factory work or academia? Well, first off, these professions are not equal either in income or in occupational hazard. An academic probably makes more and has less to fear from getting killed or hurt on the job than a factory worker than a prostitute. For sure, there are ways of making it safer for factory workers – but why not particularly for prostitutes? In countries where criminalization of soliciting prostitution is low or not existant, conditions are still deadly and exploitative for women. They have been lifted from 120% hell to 90% hell, and then hit a “glass ceiling”. For sure, there are outliers in every profession, but trends are worth always worth studying, not the individual case studies. In any situation, we can find either the Harvard Department Head or an adjunct at a community college. The trends are what are worth studying.

Is there a reason for the trend of occupational hazard and level of income being as it is among prostitutes in both criminalized and decriminalized countries? There must be something in common in all cases. That commonality is probably misogyny, the idea that you can buy a woman to have sex with. No matter if the woman thinks she is selling sexual therapy or her pimp is selling her against her will, johns poll the same: they are paying to have sex with a woman. The conditions of purchase on moral grounds are not particularly important to them. This air of misogyny necessarily is part and parcel of a culture that is hostile to women. Can we destroy, smash this culture by telling ourselves that prostitution is an empowering profession? Can we smash capitalism by telling ourselves that it is a sustainable, fulfilling system in which to live? Can we end violence to women by legalizing and accepting it culturally? Big questions.

One response to “An answer to Carolyn

  1. Carloyn makes big errors in her approach:

    – The motivation of the buyer is but one factor in evaluating this question, and not the most important one either. Why are people (men, overwhelmingly) willing to buy sex? Conversely, why are others willing to sell it? Answering these requires investigating social relations and context, and Carolyn does not do this.

    – Decriminalization does not improve the john pool! Its only purpose to afford a prostitute/sex worker some legal rights/protection so that when they report being assaulted, raped, robbed, or worse they themselves are not arrested or prosecuted. No more, no less.

    – Sex for money’s sake is not the same as sex for sex’s sake.

    People who argue that sex work is alienated under capitalism need to understand and accept that there is no way to make it a nice, clean, safe, or fulfilling occupation and should stop pretending otherwise.

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